Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Keep yourselves in the love of God.”
“Fruit ripened in the sun is sweetest.”
Today’s Study Text:
“For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife…But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, ‘Give me here John the Baptist’s head in a charger…and he (Herod Antipas) sent, and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.”
Matthew 14: 3, 6-8, 10, 11
“Long after whatever personal investments you may leave your children are spent, a spiritual legacy will only compound daily and pay rich dividends throughout all eternity. The man (or woman) who leaves only a financial inheritance for his (or her) children leaves them poor.”
What lessons can we learn from the lives of Jezebel and Herodias and how their behavior left a devastatingly evil imprint on their children’s lives?
“Those around us impact us.”
R. Larry Moyer
“History is what comes before us; legacy is what comes after us. When you know your history – you know where you have come from – and you know your purpose, you are uniquely positioned to pass what you’ve learned on to others. You live your life with a sense of legacy – thinking about the differences you can make in the world and what people will say about you.”
Florence Littauer, Marita Littauer and Lauren Littauer Briggs
I really appreciate the quote above because I had the pleasure of meeting Florence Littauer a number of years ago. My sister was in charge of arranging family seminars at her local church and she scheduled Florence for one of their programs.
As it happened, just a couple months before the seminar took place, my father dropped dead without warning. As Florence Littauer pointed out so effectively, when events such as divorce, separation or death happen in families, the dynamics of the interaction among the surviving members of that particular family can be thrown into complete disarray. So Florence asked if she could use our family as an example. I’m not sharing any family secrets here, for my mom and my sister are in complete agreement that if what we learned is able to benefit another family, it would be worth reviewing all the pain and struggle we went through at that time. Even though my dad was outnumbered three to one in the gender department, (he used to joke that even the cat and dog were female), my father’s presence was a very important and critical balance when it came to what I’ll refer to as the “communication” issues in our family. On an even more personal note, while my dad and I butted heads on more than one occasion, the fact is we were very much alike. And as time went by, thankfully, we were both able to recognize that our similarities, while sometimes causing the greatest friction, also became our greatest bond. What we all learned was that a parent or parents have, within their grasp, the potential to guide the young lives of their children, as my parents did. However, there comes with this responsibility, the potential for decisions to be made that, may in the end, not be in a child’s best interest. An example in my own life was the unbending insistence of my parents that I take nursing, even though I did not want to. Furthermore, I had absolutely no natural, inborn interest in this field of education. But right after high school graduation, only three weeks later, off to nursing school I went. And like the obedient child I was trained to be, I worked myself silly, applying for enough scholarships to pay my entire tuition until I received my R.N. I’ll add, during the time I worked in the nursing profession, I excelled at my job. I’m not bragging, it was what was expected of me. Period!
However, it didn’t take too much time for my parents to realize that my natural talents, what I call my God-given abilities, lay in a very divergent area. To be honest, it has taken me nearly 30 years to even begin to see, on the horizon, a hope of fulfilling the vocational dreams God put in my heart.
It was during Florence Littauer’s seminar years ago, that I began to uncover the essence and roots of why I felt so dissatisfied with my life and especially my work. This is why the quote I used in which Florence Littauer makes a clear distinction between our history, what comes before, and our legacy, what is left behind – so aptly applies, not only to our own lives but also to the lives of Biblical women.
Today, the woman in Herod’s life, Herodias, his wife, is one woman whose story draws us back to the Old Testament book of Kings where we find the wily and willful Jezebel pulling the strings, not only in the life of her husband but her son Ahaziah, to the point that both mother and son received lethal injuries when they fell out of windows from upper chambers. Like mother, like son. Like parent, like child.
And here’s where the word “legacy” comes into play. The dictionary reveals that a legacy is “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” In personal terms, it is what you and I would call, our “heritage.” Despite any imperfections which I might recall in our family life, I can tell you with total honesty that I am one blessed child who carries a treasured heritage of a Godly family. Sadly, the same could not be said about the offspring of Ahab and Jezebel. Not only was Omri, Ahab’s father, “evil” before God, but the Bible tells us Ahab turned the dial up a notch – especially when he married the Phoenician princess, Jezebel, whose moral compass was non-existent.
Now, is one of those moments in Transformation Garden when we “stop.” For we are going to move down through time, hundreds of years in fact, and what do you know, we find history repeating itself. Jezebel has competition and her name is Herodias, the wife of Herod Antipas. However, I really am misstating the situation for Herodias was in reality, Philip, Herod Antipas’ half-brother’s wife.
Here’s how this mess is described in “Women of the Bible.” “Herodias became an orphan when her grandfather, Herod the Great, executed her father and grandmother. He arranged for Herodias to marry her half uncle, Herod Philip, and they had one child, Salome.” But the incestuous family affair didn’t stop here. Apparently, historians believe, when Salome was about ten years old, she and her parents were living in Rome when Herod Antipas, half uncle of Herodias and half brother Philip, paid them a visit and guess what, Herod Antipas set his sights on Herodias. Then he divorced his own wife and took the woman he wanted as his own. I think using the popular phrase, “it’s complicated,” would be an understatement.
Bearing witness to this sexual frolicking was John the Baptist, who was sent, like Elijah, to call wayward Israel back to their God, Jehovah.
Not only under Jewish law was the behavior of Herod Antipas forbidden, more importantly, in John’s heart and soul, God’s law trumped everything. Not being one to mince words, John called out the despicable behavior of these two who were making a mockery of marriage.
Well, as might be expected of Jezebel’s competition Herodias, John the Baptist’s call to revival went over like a ton of lead. And so just as we watched the scheming Jezebel plot to destroy Naboth so she could get his vineyard for her depressed husband, Herodias showed up at her husband’s birthday party with an evil plan of her own. For the cherry on top of the dessert, none other than Herodias’ sexy daughter would be served up, dancing for the lust-filled Herod Antipas. Mom had everything planned down to the last detail.
As Salome danced before the gushing Herod, with the strings being pulled by her puppeteer mother, Herod asked, “My sexy dear, what is it that I can give you? Anything you want is yours!” These words of folly, spoken by a drunken lush, concluded with John the Baptist’s head being carried in on a platter.
Just recently, I was given a new version of the Bible, published in 2012 by Thomas Nelson Publishers, renowned for their lengthy history of producing Bibles. This version is called The Voice. The best way I can describe this text is that the format reminds me of a script, as it lays out for the reader who the speaker of a specific passage is. I have found this Bible to be tremendously illuminating, and nowhere more than in the way the events surrounding Herod’s birthday party are portrayed. Here’s how our study text for today is captured in The Voice:
“Herod’s brother Philip had married a woman named Herodias, who eventually married Herod. John denounced Herod’s marriage to her as adulterous…There John sat (in prison) until Herod’s birthday. On that night, Salome, Herodias’ daughter by Philip, came and danced for her stepfather and all his birthday guests. Herod so enjoyed her dancing that he vowed to give her whatever she wanted.
Salome: (after whispering with her mother): ‘Bring me the head of John the Baptist, displayed on a platter.’
This is not what Herod expected – he imagined his stepdaughter would ask for a necklace or maybe a slave.”
As I read this description, I began to think of the legacy, the heritage passed from mother to daughter in the case of Herodias and Salome. What mother could conceive such a terrible act? But then, by the same token, what daughter would ask for a head on a tray! The answer is really quite simple – a mother like Herodias. A woman who was a competitor to Jezebel’s high-handed title of “wicked queen” Jezebel. This was the legacy of these women and sadly, it was the infiltration of their evil that permeated their children, too.
I want to end our devotional with a poem by one of my favorite poets, John Greenleaf Whittier, entitled Destiny, which focuses on what we leave behind, not only as a record of our own life but imbedded in the lives of those we touch as well. Let us pray that our legacy is never that of Jezebel or her competition.
“We shape ourselves the joy or fear
Of which the coming life is made,
And fill our future’s atmosphere
With sunshine or with shade.
The tissue of the life to be
We weave with colors all our own,
And in the field of destiny
We reap as we have sown.
John Greenleaf Whitter
Prayer At a Child’s Window
“So brief a time I have them, Lord,
To steady them with Thy bright word;
A narrow span of childish days
To set their feet in Thy great ways –
A few swift nights to know them warm,
Close-gathered now from any harm,
Looming in shadowy years ahead…
How can I help but be afraid?
The little wisdom I have won
Is not enough to guard my son.
The grace I grope for, deed by deed,
Cannot assuage my daughter’s need;
Nor wit, nor courage hold at bay
The moment, that imperiled day.
For which no foresight may prepare –
Nor even love, not even prayer.
Be to them, God, all I would be
In that far time I shall not see;
And guide me now, their friend, their mother,
To hear their prayers, to smooth the cover,
And leave their windows wide upthrust
Beneath that Heaven of my trust,
Whose pity marked a sparrow’s fall
And bends in mercy over all.”
Frances Stoakly Lankford
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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