Archive for the ‘Esther’ Category

Project 66 – Nehemiah, Esther, Job

Today we are running the gamut of the Old Testament…backwards!

Nehemiah and Esther are near the end of the Old Testament period (around 400 bc) while Job is considered to be a book placed somewhere back in the days of Abraham.

I took nearly 2 months off Project 66 (aside from refreshing my memory of the verses in my head while I drive) in order to concentrate on teaching a 10-week course on the History and Geography of Israel. But that is complete, so I’m returning to my Route!

Nehemiah – God’s Response to Brokenness

Nehemiah is a great book to turn to for leadership characteristics and strategies. But even more, it is a man of God doing what God called him to do…very convicting, this book!

The verse chosen from Nehemiah is 2:18:

[Nehemiah wrote]
And I told them
of the hand of my God
which had been good upon me,
and also of the king’s words
that he had spoken to me.

So they said,
“Let us rise up and build.”

Then they set their hands to this good work.

This relates to the enormous task of building up the crushed and shattered walls of vulnerable Jerusalem. What a blessing that Nehemiah had an “us” to help him! Indeed, it is not good for a person to be alone!

The convicting part comes from the “rise up” portion. It indicates a readiness towards activity. To move forward even with the prospect of failure and disapproving people. Just Get on Your Feet.” I get stuck there every time.

Oh Lord, enable me in my 44th year to become more like Nehemiah!

One more portion of this phrase is the word “build”!

Building is something positive, constructive, and uplifting. The opposite of destruction, tearing down, and breaking.

Even if I don’t know what exactly to build (like others did – Noah, Solomon, Jesus, Paul) I want to be a builder, a restorer! Of myself, of others and of Christ’s Cause!

Esther – God’s Response to Certain Death

The name of Jehovah is not in this book, but His fingerprints are all over it. I’ve often wondered if she was stripped of the opportunity to have true love, in order to fulfill this call to be the queen of Xerexes.

Whatever the case, God called Esther to a great task, and she got on her feet and did it! Convicting yet again!

I originally had wanted to memorize the longest verse in the Bible which is found in Esther 8:9, but the warmth of devotional thought from it (as well as the difficulty of it!) compelled me to choose a different verse!

Instead I selected Esther 4:16! Esther says:

gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan,
and fast for me;
neither eat nor drink
for three days,
night or day.
My maids and I will fast likewise.
And so I will go to the king,
which is against the law;
and if I perish, I perish!”

Just like Nehemiah, she gave no mind to success or failure, just the mere call and need compelled her to action, even to the loss of her very own life.

What has to happen to make a person so recklessly abandoned to do God’s bidding? I believe I want it, as if there is nothing to lose.

It isn’t so much death or perishing that frightens me (perhaps a lack of reality makes it that way for me), but loneliness, or lack of community, or wastedness. For me the battle would be to say “If I must be lonely, I must be lonely!”

However, even in the surrendering over to the Lord, I’m also glad, that in Esther as well as Nehemiah, there is an “us”. She had people praying for her. Fasting for her. Even serving her. I don’t suppose we can all be Esthers, but we can be a part of Esther’s faith!

Esther is one of those books I could go on and on about, but I must move on to Job!

Job – My Heart Yearns within me for  Hope

Job 19:25-27

“For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!”

Just like Job, only one thing I know, “My Redeemer Liveth!” I shall see Him face to face. With my own eyes. Accepted in the Beloved. Fully. Unconditionally. Eternally.

“Oh how my heart yearns within me!”

Restoring the People, Rebuilding the Temp

Restoring the People, Rebuilding the Temple...Let me a part of this Great Work

Personalized Leadings from God!

Esther 1:3 & Esther 2:16 gives us indication that the “After these things” found in 2:1 doesn’t just mean “after the party that had a flopped-finale,” but is broader than just the events of the previous chapter. These verses show us that there was a four-year span between chapters one and two.

During that time King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) made an unsuccessful invasion of Greece and he came home a defeated man, wanting to cheer his heart through sensual diversions. There was no Vashti to soothe his weary-worn state. So……..let’s have a “Miss Persian Empire” contest.

It seems that Esther didn’t really have a choice about whether she was going to a participant in this event or not. And yet we see how God can used the evil of man. God did not make Ahasuerus drunk, or make him demand that his queen present herself in an immodest way before the governors of the kingdom; yet God allowed this sinful action of man to fulfill a purpose in His greater plan.

I find assurance in the truth that no other person, no matter how evil they are, can defeat God’s plan for my life, no matter what they have done to me or will do to me.

Esther and Mordecai were part of the large Jewish community that was forced to relocate out of Judah, and then decided not to return with Ezra. I wonder how many returning Jews judged Mordecai and Esther for staying behind in “the world” and partaking in its system. And yet we see just how remarkable Esther’s life has been so far.

She was the child of Jewish exiles, who both died (or were they murdered as the movie depicts it?); she was raised by her cousin in a foreign and often hostile land; she was taken by compulsion into the king’s harem; she found favor with all whom she met; and she was finally selected to be the queen of the realm.

Is it possible that God could lead some to return to “God’s Country” and just as certainly, lead some to stay behind in “worldly Babylon”?

Great Shepherd, thank You that You are not just a book full of rules that we can turn to for guidance, but that we can come to You individually, personally and intimately. Thank You that You know exactly what we were made for, with our characteristics, our traits and sensitivities and You have a plan for us. I pray You would help me to walk in Your way for me and discover the joy of it all! Also, grant me discernment when to “judge” and when not to! In Your name, Amen.

Boldness to Protect God’s Child

Wow! The St. Philip’s 3-year-reading plan is zipping through Esther at 2 chapters a day. I’ll probably get a little behind here as a result, but it is such an interesting book, perhaps we will be able to make it through them all in good time. As long as I keep taking the time to meet with God, I shall be more than content!!

Before I scribble on, I will just say, that there is a pretty good rendition of Esther put out by Hollywood called One Night with the King”. It’s a clean edition, some critics have said ‘too clean.’ But I found the movie very enjoyable and just fine without having to change the rating from PG.

Anyway, Esther is said to be the only book in the Bible that the name of God does not appear (though I still haven’t found God or Lord in the Song of Songs). But the providence of God is throughout the whole book, perhaps even the purpose of the book.

It’s like the book of Esther is a commentary, or an example, of the truth found in Romans 8:28:

All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

The whole book of Esther occurs chronologically between Ezra chapter 6 & Ezra chapter 7. Zerubabbel took a group of Jews back to Jerusalem, while most stayed behind in Persia. Hence, we have the book of Esther, the meanwhile, back at the palace kind of perspective of the story of the Jews.

The Persian Empire was the largest the world had ever seen. It covered Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel; and also parts of modern day Egypt, Sudan, Libya, and Arabia.

The Royal Court threw 3 feasts, apparently as a matter of pride and with hopes that they might win some allies as they prepared to take on Greece 3 years later.

1) The first feast was ½ year long! A party that never seems to end! But Xerxes did just that, with the upper echelon of society as the participants.

2) He threw another feast, this time for every citizen of the capital, but it only lasted 7 days!

3) Meanwhile, Queen Vashti was throwing her party for the women in the royal palace.

I’m sure the Xerxes popularity went up in the opinion polls during this time (except for the few naysayers who understood that it was probably the public treasury that was footin’ the bill!)

As the parties were all coming to a close, the King, with his wine-impaired mind, thought it would be a great idea to use his wife’s beauty as the grand finale for all men to google at! And, as is often the case, we shall find the king regretting the deeds done and decisions made while in the intoxicated state.

But what strikes me most strongly in this chapter is Vashti’s sense of values as well as her strength to follow through with those values despite being in a very dangerous position with the king. With the understanding that this was a drunken revelry where emotions can go from merry to furious in a heartbeat, Vashti wisely choose not to put herself in the midst of it.

Some argue that the king was asking Vashti to come out and be immodest. But even if he wasn’t asking for anything immodest, the idea of putting such a beautiful and desirable woman in the presence of men with authority, who are drunk beyond reason…who cannot commend Vashti for not exposing herself to “a group of drunken Bacchanalians”*. Her prudence and modesty and courage should be emulated.

*Adam Clarke’s commentary

By the king passing his decree, he instead gave men everywhere throughout his whole kingdom the right to coerce their wives into unwise and dangerous situations. As a result, all respect was lost, for respect comes only when their a choice (which could lead quite nicely into a blog about free will!!)

BTW: Ahasuerus = Xerxes depending on which translation you are reading, and the events of this chapter occurred around 483 BC when Greece was celebrating their 79th Olympic Games!

Lord Jesus, thank You for giving us worth, purpose, and joy. It is a gift from You and it seems to be the way that we can best glorify You…is to walk in that way of joy. I pray You would give us the same boldness and courage that Vashti had, to protect Your children as well as to protect Your name. Grant us discernment to know when it is just being plain ole selfish and when it is righteously protecting purity and honesty. Thank You for being a tender, gracious, loving, patient King! In Your name we pray, Amen!