Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Leaven of Herod (Part One)

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat.  "Be careful," Jesus warned them.  "Watch for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod."

They discussed this with one another and said, "It is because we have no bread."

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them:  "Why are you talking about having no bread?  Do you still not see or understand?  Are your hearts hardened?  Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?  And don't you remember?  When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?"

"Twelve," they replied.

"And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?"

They answered, "Seven."

He said to them, "Do you still not understand?"  (Mark 8:14-21)

       All my life I've heard the cliché, "God helps those who help themselves."  As a matter of fact, I can't remember a time in life when I haven't heard it.  I still hear it from time to time!  It's as if those words were as old as the hills from whence I came.  Theologically sound, or so it seems, most wouldn't question the validity of the statement.  After all, if we put forth the effort necessary to accomplish the "good" things in life, won't God help us to achieve that which we've set out to do?

       Miracles are wonderful, but if they don't teach us anything, if they don't affect any change in our lives after we have witnessed them, then it's as if they become null and void for us.  They are rendered insignificant by our unbelief or spiritual dullness, and are quickly overlooked.  Jesus must then reiterate to us, for our sakes, that which He rhetorically asked His twelve disciples:  "Are your hearts hardened?  Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?"  (Mark 8:17-18)

       How then do Christians need to respond to miraculous interventions in our lives and those of others?  Allow me to elucidate.  If I'm terminally ill and Jesus were to heal my body, the wonder and amazement of how God Almighty can invade the natural with His supernatural should fundamentally bring to me a sense of awe.  The result of my experience with God's miraculous divineness must be that I, in the deepest recesses my heart, understand that with Christ all things are possible (Philippians 4:13) AND without Him nothing is.  Progressively, that realization needs to change my heart such that I begin to lean upon Him for everything in life; nothing is excluded!  Ultimately, I will surely choose to no longer control the circumstances of my life.  I freely, of my own volition, surrender that right.  When all is said and done, the miraculous healing I received from the Lord will have had the desired effect for which it was designed to have.  I am forever changed for the better.  I will no longer be in charge of my life, nor will I trust in any of my talents and abilites.  Jesus Christ is my everything, my all in all.  I will have surrendered my entire being to His tender care.

       Contrast the above process that concludes with my sweet surrender to God because of His divine grace afforded me in the form of the miraculous healing of my body against the aforementioned cliché, "God helps those that help themselves."  We quickly, and hopefully, begin to see that the ever-famous saying begins to lose it theological weight.  It simply isn't valid.

       The twelve disciples had witnessed the mighty, life-changing power of God through Jesus when He replicated five loaves of bread and two fish in order to feed a multitude.  Despite that the disciples were there as witnesses to the event and even helped to distribute the food, the wondrous miracle did not change their outlook.  They still didn't see Jesus for Who He was:  the Son of God.  For them, the miracle was, for the time being, lost in a sea of unbelief and/or dullness of their spiritual eyes.

       The disciples were at that point no better off than the Pharisees, who were unwilling to believe Jesus.  (They had already demanded a sign from the Lord, but didn't get one.  Signs must follow our belief, never proceed it.)  Their godless minds were still closed as to how God can and still does alter the affairs of the human race.  (Unfortunately, many Christians today say that God can perform miracles but they really don't believe it else it would change how they approach the Lord.  They would start to genuinely trust Him for the needs of their lives instead of trying to accomplish things by using their own ingenuity.)  The Pharisees had the mindset of one who is given over to a pervasive influence found in the church today, the leaven of Herod.

       What is the leaven of Herod?  To get an answer to this, we begin by consulting God's Word in Matthew 2:1-12.  Synoptically, we read the story of the wise men that came from afar by following the star leading them to Israel where the Christ Child was to be born.  Upon their arrival in Israel, they announced His birth and inquired where is birthplace was so they could worship and give Him gifts.  King Herod was shaken to the core of his being at this news consequently he gathered the religious echelon together to discover the validity of this announcement given by the wise men.  A search of the scriptures in Micah revealed the location of the Child's birth:  Bethlehem of Judea.  In secret, King Herod sent the wise men to Bethlehem telling them to seek the Child and when they had found Him, let the king know the location so he too could worship the Baby.  King Herod's evil plan was thwarted when God spoke to the magi in a dream warning them not to return to the palace afterwards.

       Indeed, Herod had absolutely no intention of bowing his knees to the Baby Jesus!  Scripture teaches that he plotted the demise of the Baby by ordering that all male babies two years old and under be slaughtered!  As far as the king was concerned, he himself was the king; there was no other.  He was in charge.

       Further investigation of Herod affirms his incredible achievements as the ruler of Israel, as well as a fierce desire to remain as such!  The Compact Bible Dictionary states, "Herod the Great established his authority and influence through a centralized bureaucracy, well-built fortresses, and foreign soldiers.  To assure his continued rule, he slaughtered all male infants who could possibly be considered legal heirs to the throne.  His wife Mariamne also became a victim.

       The territories under Herod's rule experienced economic and cultural growth.  His business and organizational ability led to the erection of many important buildings.  Hellenistic (Greek) ideas were introduced into Palestine through literature, art, and athletic contests.  His major building project was the timple complex in Jerusalem, which according to John 2:20, had taken 46 years to build up to that time.  From the Jewish perspective, this was his greatest achievement."  (Youngblood Ronald F., Bruce F.F., Harrison R.K.; Compact Bible Dictionary; Thomas Nelson Publishers 2004, Nashville, Tennessee; p. 265.) 

       Clearly, Herod realized numerous monumental achievements in the arts and humanities as well as architecture and sports, and ruled with an "iron fist," evidently.  In light of this knowledge, one is compelled to ask why would anyone of that influencial caliber bow on bended knee to worship the Baby Jesus Who was born in a nasty, filthy manger of common ordinary people?

       In reality, the question of bowing to Jesus for most people in modern-day society is one that perhaps should be posed in many churches of today.  Why should numerous people that sit in the pews Sunday after Sunday of the rich, elite congregations worship Jesus Christ?  (But honestly, do they really?)  There's hardly any reason to do so.  So many church-goers, many of whom are self-professed successes in every right as far as the world is concerned, flaunt a portfolio of endless accomplishments that piles high to the heavens.  Many of them are financially well-to-to, and certainly have no need for God's daily bread, neither spiritual as well as financial.  Yet, lest we think only the rich and well-accomplished are the only ones that fall under the hypnotic, evil spell of the leaven of Herod, beware!

       Many of the church's "poorer" operate under the same hellish influence, the leaven of Herod and therefore are as guilty as their rich counterparts.  You see beloved, the leaven of Herod is a mindset that transcends socio-economic status.  It is an influence that was birthed, and is still propagated, in hell itself and  the world has obviously bought into it. This powerful, seductive influence is the spirit of the antichrist at work stealthily and most subtly that unfortunately has crept from the world into the church, infiltrating the same at every level.  Certainly, one of the leaven of Herod's mainstays is that "God helps those that help themselves," a statement that is not biblical and must at all costs be refuted by any follower of Christ.  Because of the presence of this satanic attitude in the church, many faithful attenders will not bow to Jesus Christ much less allow His Lordship to influence them in the least.  Outwardly, it may appear that they submit to Christ's Lordship, but in their hearts they wouldn't dare.  And why should they?  They don't need Jesus because they already have their lives "together" without Him.  What can He offer them that they don't already have?

       Stay tuned to this blog site for the upcoming Part Two of "The Leaven of Herod"........

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