April 26 “Dances”

Dances

There are all kinds of dances: musical, psychological, political, mental, and deadly.
While Jesus was trying to do some good in Galilee, events beyond His control were unfolding down in Jerusalem. John the Baptist was imprisoned by King Herod, the evil son of the Herod who had slaughtered the innocents when Jesus was born, because John had denounced Herod’s marriage to his sister-in-law. I don’t claim to know how good King Herod was on the dance floor, but he was good at the political dance—keeping opposing forces under control to keep the peace with Rome. John had just gone too far, that was all, denouncing the private life of the king. Prison was where he belonged. It was not enough for his new wife, Herodias. She wanted John punished and eliminated. Her new husband didn’t feel that was necessary. Herodias knew how to dance the dance of manipulation. She arranged for her daughter to entertain the King and his guests. It is good not to try and imagine the young woman’s dance, but, coached by her mother, it pleased the king. Inflamed by her dance, Herod made a rash promise.

“Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.”

Still out of breath from her sensual dance she panted out her demand.

“Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter.”

Surprised by the demand, Herod’s ardor quickly cooled. He realized he had been danced into a corner. For the sake of his guests, he felt he must honor his promise. What’s one prophet more or less, anyway? He ordered the execution. The party was suspended until a servant returned with the severed evidence of a promise kept. Herodias was the only one who still had an appetite. John’s disciples took his body away for burial and representatives came to tell Jesus.

Jesus Receives the News
Herod had convinced himself that Jesus was really John resurrected. His political dance had failed to bring any peace to his soul. It is certain that both John’s disciples and those of Jesus considered this a serious threat to the Lord. Hearing the sad news of His friend, cousin, and forerunner, Jesus needed to be alone. He was not a dancer, especially not the political kind. He hated plots and saw through them easily. His enemies were never successful at covering up their political schemes against Him. Neither did Jesus dance with words. He was the original man who said what He meant and meant what He said. Those who tried to dance around Him with clever words and trickery always ended up tripping and falling on their faces.

Sometimes it is good to be alone.
Here we see the humanity of Jesus. The death of a good man saddened Him. The murder of a friend broke His heart. He wanted to be still and quiet so He sought solitude. It wasn’t long before the multitude discovered His location and came bringing their needs to Him. There was little time to grieve the loss of His friend or to ponder the opposition of a powerful politician. There were sick people to heal, demons to scatter, and there was a message of hope to preach. This was no time to dance with grief.

Scripture:
Matthew 14:1-13
At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the report about Jesus and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” For Herod had laid hold of John and bound him, and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Because John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And although he wanted to put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter.” And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus. When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, the news of the death of John the Baptist broke Your heart. You had to get alone with the Father for a while. Give me the wisdom to get alone with You. You said the Father was in the Secret Place. I want to join Him there today. When I am alone with You, I am not really alone at all! Your Spirit abides within me so I am never alone.  Thank You, Lord!

Song:
Shut in with God
Traditional

Shut in with God in the Secret Place.
There in the Spirit beholding His face.
Gaining new power to run in the race.
Oh I long to be shut in with God.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

March 11, 2017

 

Silence

Psalm 83:1
“O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still.”

The human soul cries out against silence when silence is the very thing that will heal us.

We want noise, so we fill our work spaces, resting places, traveling spaces with sound—recorded books, music, podcasts, anything but silence. We especially do not want God to be silent. We want to hear His voice, the music from His Throne Room, and the hum and clatter of His creation.

In our humanity we are convinced that silence is sinister, masking plots, hiding secrets, exciting our fears and suspicions.

Sometimes silence is the sound of progress.
Perhaps, the Kingdom of God advances in silence as much as it does in shouted sermons and in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Could it be that ambient noise is more dangerous than silence? Are there sounds that are only heard when the deluge of random noise we select each day subsides?

It was so in Gethsemane. Jesus’ tortured prayer to His father was answered with silence. And this silence also, the Kingdom was advanced.

The Noisy Soul
Before Isaiah was a prophet, he was a historian writing the story of his hero, King Uzziah. When the King failed God, the noise in Isaiah’s soul must have been deafening—His hero had fallen! King Uzziah lost track of his role in the Kingdom of God and supplanted the ministry of the priests. It cost him everything, position, pride, health, legacy.

Finally, a Profound Silence
In an amazing moment of worship, the noise of confusion in the heart of Isaiah was driven out by the sound of praise from the Throne Room of God—sound so great it shook the doorposts of heaven. Even as the room was filled with smoke, clouds of confusion seemed to clear before the eyes of Isaiah and He saw the Lord “high and lifted up.” This astounding vision justified the sounds of heaven. There followed a moment of cleansing when an angel took a coal of fire from the altar and touched Isaiah’s lips pronouncing his absolution.

I imagine that there followed a profound silence—angelic hosts waiting breathlessly to hear the words of God.

Into this silence God spoke. “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

I am sure this question echoed through the still trembling walls until falling into a deep silence. Into this silence, the shaken prophet spoke: “Here am I. Send me!”

Worship Leaders seek this high sounding praise. We want to see the Lord high and lifted up and well we should. But there should follow this manifestation of grandeur a silence as we listen for His voice.

And in this silence, the Kingdom is advanced.

Scriptures:
Isaiah 6:1-8 NIV
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Habakkuk 2:20 NKJV
“But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, there is a time for me to speak, to praise you with a loud voice, to cry out to You in pain, and to sing with saints and angels as we worship You. Help me know when to quiet my soul and listen for Your voice. The Bible declares that You are speaking today. Forgive me for letting this noisy world muffle Your lovely voice. Save me from the cacophony of these times. There is a place where I can go to hear Your voice and drink deeply from the pool of Your presence. You called that place the Secret Place of Prayer. You said the Father was there. I seek this silent solitude, this peaceful quiet communion with You. Thank You, Lord.

Song:
The Solitude of Silence
Words: Stephen Phifer; Music: Angela Danadio

1. In the silence of my soul, Lord, I will seek You.
In the stillness of my spirit I will stay.
I will flee from all the rush and noise around me.
In the solitude of silence I will wait.

Refrain:
For Your voice cannot be heard above the clamor.
Your presence does not rest upon our haste.
In the silence of my soul I will find You.
In the solitude of silence I will wait.

2. I will ask the singing winds to serenade me.
I will let the sunlight dance upon my fears.
Thinking back to all who listened here before me:
Silent laughter, silent prayers, and silent tears.

Refrain

3. In the pages of the Book Your heart is calling
As the ancient words fall soft upon my ear.
Like an early season snowfall, cool and healing,
Heaven’s peace, a glistening blanket, quells my fear.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved