Friday, March 25, 2011

The Book of Esther 8

The Book of Esther 
Esther 4:1-8

When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry; And came even before the king's gate: for none might enter into the king's gate clothed with sackcloth. And in every province, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.

 So Esther's maids and her chamberlains came and told it her. Then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take away his sackcloth from him: but he received it not. Then called Esther for Hatach, one of the king's chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend upon her, and gave him a commandment to Mordecai, to know what it was, and why it was. So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which was before the king's gate. And Mordecai told him of all that had happened unto him, and of the sum of the money that Haman had promised to pay to the king's treasuries for the Jews, to destroy them.  Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to shew it unto Esther, and to declare it unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people.

In a crisis situation, how would you say you typically respond? Do you become hysterical, fearful, pray, seek counsel, try to run away, or react in some other way? Why do you think you respond in this way? Have you made some decisions that required great courage, humility and trust? Esther and Mordecai are in such a crisis in their lives. As the story unfolds, try to allow yourself to be placed in the same situation and be conscience of the stress they felt.
Mordecai in Sackcloth
The great mourning of Mordecai peaked the curiosity of Queen Esther, who then learned from him the decree that had been published throughout the land. Mordecai realized that his nationality had been publicly announced and this brought Haman’s wrath upon his people causing him tremendous grief. He tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes and lamented loudly before the people bitterly. Wearing sackcloth was an outward picture of what was happening inwardly, suggesting signs of distress, turmoil, and humiliation. In every providence where the decree had arrived, there was great mourning among the Jews with weeping, wailing, fasting and many laying in sackcloth and ashes. (This could be a picture of true repentance and lamentation for personal or national deliverance through prayer.)
Esther Takes the Lead
There was a law against wearing sackcloth in the king’s gate which was not surprising in light of the superficial and shallowness of spiritual life in the royal court. Esther sends clothes for Mordecai to put on but he, in his anguish and torment, refuses them. Esther  then summons Hathach, a trusted eunuch in the kings palace and one who attended to her specific needs, be given special instructions to help Mordecai. Mordecai must have trusted  Hathach too, for he revealed Esther’s true nationality placing her in a dangerous position. Hathach was told of the exact sum of money that enticed the king in allowing this deadly decree to transpire and be executed on the day appointed. The betrayal of the people for the exchange of money was insufferable, extreme, and to perplexing to bear. Hathach was given a copy of the decree and was instructed to show this edict to Queen Esther. Mordecai knew that Esther must go before the king which placed a heavy burden upon her to earnestly, humbly and fervently beg for the lives of her people.
Thought: Communication between Mordecai and Esther had to be done through mediators to protect her during this national crisis. Hathach, and his trustworthiness was impactful and admirable which made him a man of high moral character. When you’re at a crossroads in your life and a crucial decision must be made that will have far-reaching consequences, can it be said of you, “They are without a doubt a person of trustworthiness, integrity and high moral character?”

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Book of Esther 7

The Book of Esther
Esther 3:7-15

 In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar. And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them.  If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king's treasuries. And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews' enemy. And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee. 

Then were the king's scribes called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded unto the king's lieutenants, and to the governors that were over every province, and to the rulers of every people of every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king's ring. And the letters were sent by posts into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey. The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, that they should be ready against that day. The posts went out, being hastened by the king's commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed.

The Casting of Lots
The casting of lots was a common practice throughout the ancient eastern world and some have thought it to be a means of guidance. Hamon was not choosing guidance, but a day that would prove itself lucky, even if it meant waiting a whole year before he could act. The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD. (Proverbs 16:33) In other words, the lot is cast, but it’s every decision is from the LORD. Casting lots was a method that was often used to reveal the purpose God had in a matter despite the fact that human responsibility was subject to God’s unquestionable control. 
Hamon suggests that certain people that were scattered throughout the land having gone their separate ways across the one hundred twenty-seven providences, be destroyed. He omits naming the people involved on purpose, knowing that they are Jews. He calls them troublemakers, rebellious and dangerous to the Persian Empire, if they are allowed to continue disobeying the king’s laws. Haman occupied himself in playing on the intense greed of the king and offered ten thousand talents of silver to be placed into the king’s treasuries. This was a tremendous amount of money equalling approximately two-thirds of the annual income of the entire empire.
The King’s Edict
The drawing up of the edict or decree was translated into all languages of the empire and dispatched throughout the providences by couriers on horseback. The seal of the king’s ring was upon the letters pronouncing death to the Jews indicating total annihilation. The decree would not take place before the thirteenth of Adar, eleven months later, the day Haman chose, by casting lots. The people of the land were permitted to plunder Jewish goods (gain spoil) as an incentive to follow through with the proclamation in exterminating the Jews. While the king and Haman sat down to drink, the city of Susa was in utter turmoil.
Thought: Do you think the people of Susa, not of Jewish decent, had concerns and feared for themselves over this decree that was so cruel and oppressive? Do you think they questioned, “Who would be next to be delivered into the hands of destruction at the whim of such a foolish ruler?” In the midst of all this turmoil, God’s hand is moving, for we know;  He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.  Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. Psalm 121:3-8

What does the Bible tells us about our source of peace? Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Isaiah 26:3. The only way to keep from worry and fear is to trust in the Lord our Peace, Jehovah-Shalom. When fear comes upon you, you can either think about the thing you fear, or you can call on the Lord, Jehovah-Shalom.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Book of Esther 6

The Book of Esther 
Esther 3:1-6

After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him. And all the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence. Then the king's servants, which were in the king's gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king's commandment?  Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai's matters would stand: for he had told them that he was a Jew.  And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath.  And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.

Mordecai Refuses to Bow
Haman had become elevated to a favored position in the kingdom and demanded respect and reverence from those in the king’s gate. Mordecai, knowing that Haman was a preferred courtier  in the king’s palace, still refused to show homage or bow before Haman. The custom of the Eastern world was to bow in recognition of age and honor. The people of Israel were of the same eastern courtesies giving obeisance supremely to God and the king, bowing to express indebtedness or when seeking favor. Whether or not Mordecai was following the Mosaic Law in the second command of God, or continuing a family feud between the Benjamites and the Agagites, the latter of the two seems to be more likely. Mordecai’s stubborn refusal to bow before Haman for any reason showed a general lack of respect for Haman as a man. Mordecai made it known to the kingdom he was a Jew and his continued obstinacy provoked a reaction from Haman.
Haman’s Anger
Haman didn’t take notice of Mordecai’s willful refusal to bow before him until the men in the gate made it known to him to watch and see if Mordecai bows. Haman’s reaction was furious and  he sought vengeance towards Mordecai and his race. It seems evident that Haman and those in Shushan had anit-Semitic attitudes towards the Jews which could be the reason why Mordecai and Esther were quiet about their ethnic background. Haman was being used satanically to focus his evil fury upon the Jews in an attempted genocide which was an unsuccessful effort to change the course of God’s redemptive plan for Israel.  Ephesians 6:12  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. The word wrestle or struggle is a term used in hand-to-hand combat depicting deception and trickery which Satan and his hosts render to do against God’s people.
Thought: Since the Garden of Eden, Satan has tried to thwart the redemptive plan of God when appearing before Eve as an angel of light to bring doubt to her mind and lead her to suppose the true interpretation of what God said. We must see that God’s plans never fail and His providential care of His people, Israel, through the covenant He gave them would stand. God has a plan for our lives as well and nothing that Satan does will alter His purpose for us. We must trust Him at His Word and know that He is in control of all situations.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Book of Esther 5

The Book of Esther  
Esther 2:8-16

So it came to pass, when the king's commandment and his decree was heard, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the palace, to the custody of Hegai, that Esther was brought also unto the king's house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women.  And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her things for purification, with such things as belonged to her, and seven maidens, which were meet to be given her, out of the king's house: and he preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the house of the women. Esther had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not shew it.  And Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women's house, to know how Esther did, and what should become of her.

Now when every maid's turn was come to go in to king Ahasuerus, after that she had been twelve months, according to the manner of the women, (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, and with other things for the purifying of the women;)  Then thus came every maiden unto the king; whatsoever she desired was given her to go with her out of the house of the women unto the king's house.  In the evening she went, and on the morrow she returned into the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king's chamberlain, which kept the concubines: she came in unto the king no more, except the king delighted in her, and that she were called by name.

Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her for his daughter, was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king's chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed.  And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her.  So Esther was taken unto king Ahasuerus into his house royal in the tenth month, which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.
Esther Instructed
Many young women were gathered at Susa the capital of the kings palace. There is no number given as to how many young ladies were summonsed but, as Josephus writes, “there could have been as many as four hundred virgins brought there.” Some have written that the women could have been brought to the palace against their will but there does not seem to be any unpleasant situation to constitute such belief.
Esther, through the instruction of her cousin Mordecai, was directed to keep her nationality a secret as she began her purification process. We are not sure why her cousin instructed her to do this but we can assume that possibly, it was for her protection. There were anti-Semitic sentiments during this time with Hamon and other like-minded people. Whatever the reason was for Mordecai to keep Esther’s race a secret, Hegai’s, the chief chamberlain’s choice of her, points to God’s providential control. 
Unlike Daniel who kept himself pure from the defilement of the king's food, Esther would be silent about her Jewish race and make no protest about eating the unclean foods of the Gentiles. Obviously, Esther’s life was different from Daniel’s, she would be expected to sit at the kings table, if chosen queen, and would be responsible and committed to eat with the king sharing his meals.

Thought: How Esther’s life would change in just one day. Have you ever thought about how one event could reshape your life for good? If Esther were not chosen as queen, she would probably still have to live in the palace as a concubine along with the other women taken in. This plan or procedure would definitely alter her life forever.
In God’s providential and well-timed events, we will see His hand guiding and moving through His continuous care, knowing He will work in the lives of His people all things for good and His glory. Only God knows the heart of man and He alone saw the heart of Mordecai and the heart of Esther. Not all is written in this book why they stayed silent of their heritage, but we will see God use them in spite of what we may think or feel.