Tag Archives: Esther

Through the Bible, June 20

Reading: Esther 7-10

Summary: Though Haman is dead, the decree authorized by the king for the mass slaughter of the Jews is still in place.  Mordecai and Esther move quickly by the king’s authority to authorize their people to defend themselves against their enemies on the fated day set by Haman.  Exactly the opposite result that Haman planned unfolds as the Jewish people successfully defend themselves.

Devotional Thought:

The Transforming Power of Hope

Dread and fear debilitate, hope and opportunity invigorate.

You’ve experienced it haven’t you?  The threat of harm or oppression causes a dark cloud to shroud your thoughts and feelings. You are beaten down and defeated long before anything actually happens.  Suddenly a ray of hope appears.  There is a chance; an opportunity to overcome and emerge victorious.  Again, before anything actually, happens your disposition has been changed completely.  The dark cloud is gone.  Hope and possibility replace dread and woe.

Under Haman’s threat, the Jews were “fasting, weeping, and lamenting” (Esth. 4:3).  Given the opportunity to defend themselves they had “light and gladness and joy and honor” (Esth. 8:16).  Again, nothing had actually yet happened, but hope and opportunity changed everything.

Is this not precisely what God provides; hope and opportunity?  That changes everything, even before God has done anything.

Through the Bible, June 19

Reading: Esther 4-6

Summary: The drama further unfolds and Mordecai convinces Esther to take action on her people’s behalf.  Haman’s fool proof plan unravels in a matter of hours as he looses not only his powerful position but also his life.

Devotional Thought:

Silence Is Not Golden

Sure, there are times when silence is not only appropriate but very beneficial; a golden blessing.  But not always.

Mordecai urged Esther to not remain silent, but speak on behalf of her people (Esth. 4:14).  Her silence would have been a disgrace and tragic.  Our silence could be same.

Silence is tragic when…

  • the strong do not open their mouths on behalf of the weak (Prov. 31:9)
  • one’s given responsibility to watch do not warn of impending danger (Ezek. 33:7)
  • one generation fails to tell the next of the goodness of God (Psalm 78:3-4)
  • words of comfort and encouragement are kept from the discouraged and downcast (1 Thess. 4:18)
  • the gospel is not preached (Mark 16:15).

Mordecai further suggested that Esther was where she was for this very purpose.

It is true.  No matter where or with whom we are, something needs to be said.  Don’t be silent.

Through the Bible, June 18

Reading: Esther 1-3

Summary: After the first group of Jews returns to Jerusalem (as led by Zerubbabel, Ezra 1-6), but before the second group (as led by Ezra, Ezra 7-10), an incredible drama unfolds back in Persia and is recorded as the book of Esther.

No greater example of God’s providential care is found anywhere in Scripture than in the story of Esther.

Today’s reading sets all the pieces in place.  Esther is chosen to the position of queen as Haman also attains to a position of high prominence, but also plans his villainous plot to exterminate Mordecai and his people, the Jews.

Devotional Thought:

God is Nowhere and Everywhere

The book of Esther is odd.  Not one time is God explicitly mentioned in this entire book.  Not once.  But neither is the presence of God any more evident than in the events unfolded in its pages.

“God” is nowhere in Esther and God is everywhere in Esther.

A memorable cartoon pictures two figures sitting at the bar of a saloon.  One of them is impeccably dressed; broad-brimmed large cowboy hat, rhinestone studded and colorful western-cut shirt with pressed jeans held up by a belt sporting a very sizable, shiny buckle and tucked into highly-polished pointy-toed boots.  The other wore a crumpled hat, wrinkled shirt, sagging jeans, over dusty, mud (or something else) caked boots—a generally disheveled look.  The latter says wryly to the former, “I see by the way you are dressed that you are a cowboy.”

Externals are sometimes—not always—superficial.  Externals get noticed.  Externals can be seen by others.  Externals can also be deceptive. The appearance they give can belie the reality within.

A cowboy is evidenced more by what he does, not what he wears.  The presence of God in Esther is not measured by the number of times He’s called by name in that book.  Our place as a follower of Christ is not established by the jewelry we wear, the t-shirt logos we sport, or even the assemblies we attend or how loudly we praise Him.  It’s His presence in our lives. It’s His love reflected to others.  It’s His compassion for people in need. It’s His commitment to fulfill the Father’s will.

“God” isn’t in Esther but He is, just as Christ must be in us.

June Week 3 Bible Reading Introduction

Week 3: The Jews’ Saga Continues in Both Jerusalem and Persia

June 15-21

         The post-Babylonian captivity story of the Israelites continues on two fronts. In Jerusalem the people have become comfortable, having turned their attention from God’s house to their own homes.  Haggai and Zechariah play important roles in getting the people back on track for the task on which they are to focus.

Meanwhile, back in Persia, an amazing drama is unfolding in which by the incredible providential work of God, a beautiful Jewess, Esther, assumes a most unlikely position as queen.  From there she is able to literally save the Israelite people from extermination.

June Bible Reading Introduction

June Bible Reading Introduction

Old Testament History Ends

Captivity and Restoration

Books: Daniel, Ezekiel, Lamentations, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Old Testament history concludes with God’s people being restored to their homeland and rebuild their nation. It is of great interest to note that when given the opportunity, the majority of the Jewish nation did not return but remained in the lands where they had settled. But, many did return. And as the deportation of htejs3ws from Jerusalem and Judah had taken place in stages, so also would the return occur in stages.

Great emphasis is given in both the historical accounts and the prophetic messages of this time to the future glories of the Messianic kingdom.  It is of no small significance, that the highly symbolic New Testament book of Revelation relies heavily on the language and imagery portrayed in Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah (as well as many other Old Testament books) to convey the message of hope in the eternal kingdom of God.

This closing phase of the Old Testament’s record really does set the stage for much of what we encounter with the Jewish people in the New Testament. We find that more of them live outside of Palestine than in it. Also, there’s a greatly heightened sense of expectation for God’s work among them in sending a Messiah. Further, there’s a decidedly different attitude toward the Law and the gods of the nations, both of which had contributed so directly to their downfall and captivity.

My Delight is the Lord, October 7

Do What You Can

October 7, Friday: God’s Story (1)

Scripture Reading: Esther 4-7

One excellent piece of advice is to do what you can, with what you have, from where you are. It is quite easy to become paralyzed because of what we’re convinced that we cannot do. So, because we can’t do something we might think needs done, then we end up doing nothing. That’s horrible. Maybe it is that we think our resources are insufficient. If we just had more time or money or some effective leader then, we think, we could do much. But we should never allow what we don’t have to prevent us from using what we do have. Whatever that is, use it! But maybe we think we are in no effective position to take action. Has not God shown, not just His ability but His propensity to use the most unlikely of persons to accomplish His will? No greater example exists than that of Mordecai and Esther to do what we can, with what we have, from where we are.

Questions to Ponder:

  • How did Mordecai overcome Esther’s hesitancy? (4:13-14)
  • Up to what limit was the king willing to grant Esther’s request? (5:3)
  • Why was Mordecai to be honored? (6:2)
  • Of what was Haman accused? (7:8)

My Delight is the Lord, October 1

Of What Value is Bitter?

October 1, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Esther 1-3

Is it far-fetched to think that some of the Jews who had been taken off into captivity by the Babylonians were bitter against God for allowing such an awful fate to befall them? I don’t believe it is far-fetched at all. People do that. It’s a common response when bad circumstances come into their lives; especially if they have seen themselves as people of faith–ones who have trusted in God. Here’s the thing about bitterness–it’s very selfish. It’s an example of excessive inward focus stimulated by a sense of injustice and victimization. The problem is that bitter people are of no help to anyone, especially themselves. Neither Mordecai or Esther show bitterness. Consequently, they are able to serve a very useful purpose in God’s plan. So, if negatives have come into your life, bitterness is about the worst response you could have.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What rationale was given for deposing Vashti as queen? (1:17)
  • What was the relationship of Mordecai to Esther? (2:7)
  • What information did Esther withhold? (2:10)
  • What common mistake of logic did Haman make? (3:4-6)

The Joy of God’s Presence, September 29

September 29, Tuesday: Bible Story (1)

Scripture Reading—Esther 4-7

There is no way for this to happen. The opposing forces are too great. The leading adversaries are too highly placed. Actions and plans are authorized by the most powerful possible source. The victims are too weak, too vulnerable, and too powerless. All that is precisely true except for one factor—God. There is only one way for the plots of wicked men wielding the greatest human power on the authority of the highest rulers to be thwarted, overthrown, and turned back upon themselves by the weak and helpless—that is by the work of God. So, what insurmountable problem do you face? What is troubling you now and for which you see no solution? What question do you face that appears to have no answer? What part are you allowing God to play as you contemplate and think about these things?

Questions to Ponder:

  • How did the Jews respond to the king’s decree? (4:3)
  • What happened to anyone who approached the king unbidden? (4:11)
  • Why did the king wish to honor Mordecai? (6:2-3)
  • To whom did Haman turn to beg for his life? (7:7)

The Joy of God’s Presence, September 25

September 25, Friday: Bible Story (2)

Scripture Reading—Esther 1-3

Esther made what she was available to God’s service. Quite notably she possessed physical beauty. She had “a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at” (2:7). Think about it; had she not been queen she would never have been able to take the action she took to save her people. Had she not been selected over all the other potential candidates she would have never become queen. Had she not been a “beautiful, young virgin” she would never have been among the candidates to become queen. She did not act like she was not pretty, neither did she flaunt it. She used what she was to be able to be in a place to be useful to God. God expects us to use what He’s made us the best we can, whatever that is. He’ll do the rest—whatever that is.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Why was Vashti deposed as queen? (1:10-12)
  • From whom did the king get counsel? (1:13)
  • What did Esther keep secret when she became a candidate to be queen? (2:10)
  • Who hated Mordecai? (3:6) Why?

A Week in the Word, December 7-13

Theme: God — Providence 

That God is sovereign Lord of heaven and earth is an important reality, perhaps the most important.  As such He possesses all power and authority.   For the believer, no reservation exists to accepting the capacity and ability of God to accomplish what He pleases as He pleases.

The biblical record is replete with accounts of God’ miraculous activity.  Such activity is consistent with His sovereignty.  So also, though, is God’s activity that could not be classified as miraculous.  A miracle is out of the ordinary, spectacular, obvious, immediate (that is, not drawn out over time), and by it’s very nature arrests the attention of those present. It is a mistake to think of all of God’s work as miraculous.  He also works in ways that, though it also incorporates His power and authority, is not immediate, obvious, or spectacular. He can and does use ordinary, usual, and common processes and influences, but orchestrates them in such a way as to accomplish His intended purposes and outcomes.  This type of activity is referred to as God’s providence.

One of the primary differences between the miraculous and the providential is that God’s providence can only be witnessed by looking back over time, while a miracle is immediately evident.  Another important difference is that a miracles is intended to be evidentiary, that is, to serve as evidence that what is being done is accomplished by a powerful authority and the one through whom it is done ought to be heeded.  So the writer of Hebrews says that the miracles were to attest and bear witness to the messengers who preached (Heb. 2:3-4).  Thus, the purpose of miracles has been fulfilled as the completed revelation of God’s message has been given and is present in Scripture.  Consequently, we do not anticipate miracles (in the biblical sense) today.

The providence of God, on the other hand, is not to provide confirmation for a messenger or message delivered, instead it is the working out of God’s plan over time.  It is no less a work of God.  It is a work that can and does continue to the present day.

The Bible provides no explicit explanation of God’s providence but does implicitly indicate its reality.  For instance, God promises that all things will work together for good for those who love Him (Rom. 8:28).  No explanation is give as to how He will manipulate “all things” for “good”;  we just know He will and does.  Notice also Nehemiah’s confidence that it was “the good hand of God upon me” that led to his being able to accomplish what he desired in reference to returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the city’s walls (Neh. 2:8).  Nehemiah was confident this could not have been accomplished were God not at work behind the scenes.

Many of the accounts in the biblical record provide examples of God’s providence.  So, our readings this week will focus on some of these familiar stories.

 

Readings and Introductory Comments:

Genesis 37:1-36; 39:1-45:28; 50:15-21

The story of Joseph is an incredible series of events intended by God bring the family of Abraham’s descendants down into Egypt.  God used jealousy, deceit, lust, dreams, and intrigue to His ends and His purposes.  The fulfillment of God’s plan would not be the result of the wisdom and cunning of men, but rather by His own working despite the weaknesses and failings of men.  Notice that it was only upon looking back over this long series of events that Joseph was able to recognize God’s handiwork (Gen. 45:5-8).

Ruth 1-4

God had promised Abraham that through his seed blessing would come upon all the families of men.  That physical lineage at times seemed pressed to the point of breaking. This was certainly true in the case of Elimelech. He seems to have given up on God’s provision and care by leaving his native land during a famine to live among foreigners.  Conditions went from bad to worse when not only Elimelech but also his two sons died.  The story of Ruth is an amazing account of God using most unexpected persons and circumstances to preserve the promised lineage of Abraham.

Esther 1-10

Not only was the particular line from Abraham to Jesus at times threatened, so also was the entire nation, at least in one instance.  God worked in and through the life of Esther to save Abraham’s offspring.  It is interesting that wise Mordecai saw the possibility of God’s use of Esther though he was unwilling to speak definitively.  He only suggests, “Who knows…?” (Est. 4:14).

Philemon

Imprisoned Paul, in Roman custody, somehow encounters a runaway slave of an old friend, Philemon, from distant Colossae.  Paul converts Onesimus the slave and now sends this runaway back to his master with a letter in tow from the beloved apostle.  How in the world did such a circumstance come about?  Again, without saying it with assurance, but rather only a suggestion — “perhaps” God has brought this about (Phm. 15).

 

Study/Thought Questions:

Genesis 37:1-36

  • Which of his sons did Jacob love most and why? (v. 3)
  •  How did Joseph’s brothers feel about him? (vv. 4, 8)
  • What did his brothers originally plan to do and who intervened? (vv. 18, 21)
  • How did Joseph respond to their plans to sell him? (see 42:21)
  • What conclusion did the brothers lead their father to make? (v. 33)

Genesis 39:1-45:28

  • To what is Joseph’s success attributed? (39:2)
  • Against whom did Joseph say the sin would be against if he gave in to Potiphar’s wife? (39:9)
  • What did God do for Joseph in prison? (39:21)
  • How long was it from the time Joseph’s interpretation of the cupbearer’s and baker’s dreams were fulfilled and Pharaoh had his dream? (41:1)
  • How is Joseph’s age described when Pharaoh had his dream? (39:12)  How old was he? (39:46)
  • What qualifications did Pharaoh see in Joseph in order to elevate him to such a high position? (41:38-39)
  • At least how many years have passed before Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to buy grain?
  • On what stipulation did Joseph say his brothers could return to buy more grain? (43:3)
  • How did Joseph respond upon first seeing Benjamin? (43:30)
  • To whom did Joseph attribute his presence in Egypt? (45:5)

Genesis 50:15-21

  • What did the brothers fear once Jacob had died? (v. 15)
  • Why did Joseph say he would not seek vengeance? (vv. 19-20)

 Ruth 1-4

  • Why did Elimelech leave Bethlehem? (1:1)
  • How did Naomi say God had dealt with her? (1:20)
  • Into whose field did Ruth “happen” to go glean? (2:3)
  • Who was Boaz and Ruth’s great-grandson? (4:18-22)

Esther 1-10

  • What key piece of information did Esther keep secret? (2:10)
  • Why did Haman hate the Jews? (3:4-6)
  • With what words did Mordecai convince Esther to act on behalf of her people? (4:14)
  • About whom did Haman think the king was speaking when he asked how a man should be honored by the king? (6:6) About whom was he speaking? (6:10)
  • To what position did Mordecai attain? (10:3)

Philemon

  • Rather than a command, how did Paul appeal to Philemon (vv. 8-9)
  • What did Paul suggest about God’s working? (v. 15)
  • What confidence did Paul have in Philemon? (v. 21)

 

Meditation Thoughts:

Given the assessment of God’s treatment of Joseph (Gen. 39:21), remember his circumstances.  Are we willing to see God’s goodness toward us even in bad circumstances?

What attitudes or thought process had to be present for Joseph to be able to say that what had happened to him was for good? (see Gen. 50:20)

How should the possibility of God’s providential working in our own lives effect our thinking about and assessment of our circumstances (even very negative ones)?

 

Memory Verse: 

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:20)