Whose Opinion Matters Most?
DAY 1:Read Mark 6:14-29. It’s easy to read this and walk away thinking, “Herod is bad, Herodias is spiteful, and John the Baptist got a pretty raw deal, but I’m not in this story.” However, our lives reflect all of these characters in more ways than we would be comfortable to admit. This week’s devotional focuses on seeing past the ancient story and bringing it into our modern lives at a personal level. Pray that God would help you to see these four characters as real people, at a real time, in situations filled with pressure, fear, love, loyalty, and all of the human emotions that have the ability to make free will not seem so freeing. Take the time to re-read Mark 6:14-29 a second time. This time, take notes on the emotions and thoughts that Herod, Herodias, and John the Baptist portray and/or feel. Pray that you could recognize critical situations in your own life and identify what emotions and thoughts influence your decisions.
DAY 2:Herod is clearly a central figure in this story. Looking at verses 17-28, Herod is pressured into a decision that he didn’t want to make. His decision resulted in a scale of violence that our decisions typically do not, but we’re all at risk of rash decisions in pressured situations. Solomon Asch, a psychologist, conducted an experiment on peer pressure with astonishing results. He asked random samples of people a very basic question where the first person asked purposefully gave the wrong answer. 75% of respondents then responded incorrectly as well. In a private setting, less than 1% of the answers where incorrect. Herod, even though a king who was accustomed to making his own decisions, fell right in line with Asch’s findings. Self-awareness is key to the situations we find ourselves in, so our reference will be on Jesus’ Kingdom’s ways, not the pressure of the situation and following our fear. Pray that God’s presence and ways would lead you in these situations.
DAY 3: Herod is backed by the Romans overseeing one of the most politically tumultuous periods in middle east history. Much like English rule in colonial America, Israel is one movement, leader, or event shy of a revolt. Revolutions threaten the people in power, especially a King who has been backed by the occupying Romans. Herod sees this potential revolution in Jesus and his followers. Understandably, it terrifies him. Herod, having regrettably ordered the beheading of John the Baptist, has not forgiven himself nor sought forgiveness from God. Paul wrote to forget what is behind and stain toward what is ahead (Phil 3:13). If we focus on or pretending away past mistakes, we are likely to make poor decisions in the future. God calls us to ask forgiveness of Him and forgive ourselves and learn. Spend some time reflecting on guilt. Are you in need of forgiveness? Seek it, give it, to self and others. Share it with a follower who can help remind you of God’s radical love and forgiveness. God does not see you as your darkest moments!
DAY 4: Herodias is living the dream. Although she was already a part of the royal family by being married to Phillip, King Herod’s brother, she was eager to be married to the king himself. Most of us have wanted to improve upon were we are. We associate being a little higher up with the needed change or solution. “If I made a little extra money… If I was the one in charge… If I could organize the solutions… etc.” We can get so caught up in this idea that we lose track of the ways of Jesus. Often good people end up doing bad things to get to the place we believe will offer those much needed answers or changes. And once we’re there, our problems follow, along with new problems created by our actions to get to the new position. This led Herodias to wish for the execution of an honest man and leads us to live outside of the Kingdom. What would it be like to submit to God as to where we should be? Faith looks like trusting God is with us where we are.
DAY 5:Read Proverbs 29:25. Today, we will look at the victim of this story, John the Baptist. Yes, he was imprisoned for speaking the word of God, but he was not killed for it. John was murdered by an insecure king, pressured by his wife, seeking to save face with his guests. Nobody wants to be the victim. So much so that we frequently read and teach these stories in a way that makes John a hero and not a victim. We want the “good guys” to have good things happen to them. Proverbs 29:25says, “Whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” How does this add up? John the Baptist trusted in the LORD and was beheaded as collateral damage from a political/social scandal. God calls us to be faithful and to trust in Him always (Isaiah 26:4). This is an “even if” mentality, not a “so that” mentality. An “even if” faith leads toward discipleship and sacrificial love, where a “so that” faith is really just faith that bad things won’t happen to me. Where in your life are you using a “so that” faith? What would it look like to realign this to an “even if”? Pray that God would use this week’s message and devotional to shape you for critical situations, that you might experience trust in Him when it is hard, that you will have faith “even if” it will not result in our preferred definition of safety.