The Bible as a whole is a masterpiece, divinely filled with stories that interconnect and, ultimately, always point to Christ. There are three stories, two of women who were offered up to half of the king’s kingdom and the last is where Jesus was offered all the kingdoms; all three of these offer us insight into how the context of any story applies, consideration of who the offerer is, and how our responses mirror what our hearts reflect. Each of these passages could draw multitudes of lessons to learn from, but I’ve chosen to focus on the aspects we must be aware of whenever someone holds enough power to offer us part of it and where our replies can show us the truth about ourselves that we may need to see.
After being providentially placed as queen, alongside King Xerxes, Esther is prompted by Mordecai (who was her cousin, but had adopted her as a daughter after her mother and father had died) to use her position to persuade the king into relieving the injustices happening to her people under his kingdom. Esther pleased the king, by standing in her royal robes before him, so much that he asks, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request?” and then offers her, “Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you” (Esther 5:3). She patiently and carefully proceeds, not immediately answering what she is intending to ask until two days later when she’s offered up to half of King Xerxes’ kingdom for the third time (7:1-2). Esther’s answer to his offers was wisely used to the advantage and advancement of the Jews who were being sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation by the vile Haman who’d be hanged for his offenses (7:4-10). In her vulnerability, Esther used the offer from the king who held the power to grant her whatever she asked. She used it for good, even though she needed to be pushed by Mordecai to seek help for her people. She used it methodically and, through her patience, she was victorious in her pursuit.
Fast forward to the book of Mark, in the times that Herod was king and held John the Baptist prisoner. The girl who danced before Herod at his birthday banquet is left unnamed, only known as the daughter of Herodias, Herod’s unlawful wife (Mark 6:18). “The king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.’ And he promised her with an oath, ‘Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom'” (Mark 6:22-23). There it is again, a king in power, offering up to half their kingdom. Herod made a mistake in his offering, as this girl consulted her mom, Herodias, on what she should ask for and the end result was John the Baptist’s head (6:24). Herod, though he imprisoned John, “feared and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man” (6:20). We can read that this girl, regardless of the circumstances we could excuse her with, abused this offering. There was no hesitation, no consideration, no contemplation in how she replied to the king; “At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: ‘I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter'” (6:25). Herodias got what she wanted, the death of John, through misusing the sexuality of her daughter; Herod, the man in the power position, did what he did not want to do because he trifled with his own authority, driven by lust and a prideful concern for how he’d appear to others if he were to recant his offer.
The last offer is the one given to Jesus, when “the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me'” (Matthew 4:8-9). This offer is given by one that holds more power than the two kings in the previous stories, given to One that neither uses, nor abuses, but refuses it by responding, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'” (Matthew 4:10; Deuteronomy 6:13). Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, with the caveat that He must serve him before serving God.
Offers of all the kingdoms, or even up to half the reigning king’s kingdom, are nothing compared to the offer the King Himself gives each of us to enter into His kingdom. It would seem unfair to compare Esther or Herodias’ daughter to Jesus, but when considering the temptations that each recipient faced while being offered parts of, or the whole of, any or all earthly kingdoms, we can still see the importance of being mindful of our place in, and His power over, the only kingdom that really matters. If, or when, we’re confronted or tempted to give in to an offer from one other than God, we must remember that whoever the offer comes from, or whatever the offer consists of, pales in comparison to being His. So while we’ll likely come across instances where we will be offered, or perhaps be the offerer, to remain grounded in the fact that since God is sovereignly doling out the offers our eyes and ears witness, we can justly discern whether our responses ought to be used, abused, or refused.