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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Women and Bitterness (Mark 6:19, 21a)

"So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to. . . . Finally the opportunity came."

"Bitter, party of one, your table is ready," said my daughter to me in response to a whiny statement I made to her about some injustice done to me. Ouch! Every mother needs a daughter like my Jen. No one likes being around a bitter woman. Bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping it kills the other person. In this case, however, it really does.

John the Baptist confronts Herod for marrying his brother's wife Herodias. She resents his righteous intrusion, "nurses a grudge against John," and waits for an opportunity to punish him. Why is it that Herodias steams while Herod seems to blow off the confrontation with imprisoning John? Do women have a more difficult time than men processing criticism and becoming bitter?

When an opportune moment comes she prostitutes her daughter to dance lewdly before Herod and his men. In return, Herod offers the daughter "anything up to half of the kingdom," but at her mother's instigation she demands and receives the head of John the Baptist. For Herod, imprisonment is enough while Herodias won't settle for anything less than his death.

Driven by pride ("How dare anyone say anything about how I live, etc."), women with bitterness:
  • Smolder over grievances (both real and perceived) and blow them out of proportion
  • Look for an opportunity to take their revenge (sometimes it is only in the form of words)
  • Sacrifice the well-being of loved ones to have revenge
  • Use others to exact their revenge
  • Substitute retaliation for greater wealth
You might be bitter when:
  • You can't handle being criticised
  • Hearing the name of the offender/s stirs up anger
  • You "mental script" revenge instead of interceding on their behalf
  • You "report" their offence to others (especially family members) in order to receive their sympathy and support
  • You avoid them intentionally
  • You feel freshly "hurt" or "wounded" every time you see the person who hurt you or hear their name mentioned
This is the very reason the writer of Hebrews cautions the person who "falls short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (12:15). Bitterness consumes the lives of many women in our churches today as they focus on those who have wronged them. They feel that if they release the grievance to the Lord then the guilty party will get away with their wrong.

Bitterness is a deadly poison. Many are sick from its drink. Wellness comes when grievances are released to the Lord. There has to be a one time submission to the Lord in this area and then maintenance-submission and release as fresh offenses occur.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading
Mark 6:14-29; Matthew 14:1-12; Luke 9:7-9
  • How do the people seek to explain Jesus' miraculous powers?
  • Why was Herodias so angry with John the Baptist?
  • Why was Herod unable to refuse his wife's request at his party?
Mark 6:12-13; 6:30-44; Luke 9:6; Matthew 14:13-21; John 6:1-15
  • Why does Jesus seek to withdraw with His disciples?
  • What prohibits the disciple's withdrawal?
  • How does Jesus' response to the crowd differ from that of the Apostles?
  • What does this tell you about Jesus?
  • Why does He command the Apostles to feed the crowd?
  • How does Philip's response differ from Andrew's?
  • How does the crowd respond to the food multiplication?
  • What does this tell you about people?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to show you if you are harboring bitterness in your heart toward anyone. Release that person to the Lord. Choose forgiveness or it will eat you up and you will find yourself "be-heading" others.