Archive for February, 2014

Esther 8

Esther 8 has the tables being turned now that Haman is gone.  The king gave Esther “the house of Haman” and brought Mordecai in after Esther explained who he really was.  And the king took off his signet ring, and gave it to Mordecai.  Esther made Mordecai the head of what used to be Haman’s house.  So what had been intended for evil – hanging Mordecai and getting rid of the Jews – was not only stopped but God turned things completely around and puts Mordecai into the place Haman had for years, the number two man in the kingdom.

But there was one remaining piece of evil that remained – the edict Haman sent to kill all the Jews.  “Esther spoke again to the king. She fell at his feet and wept and pleaded with him to avert the evil plan of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews”.  She took another risk by going to the king without being summoned.  It worked the first time, so she probably thought it would be a safe thing to do, but it was still potentially a life ending decision on her part.  But she asked the king to “let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman”.

The king receives her and the request well and gives the queen and Mordecai the authority to “write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king’s ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s ring cannot be revoked.”  That is a pretty big concession considering just a while previous the king had empowered Haman to do the same thing.  But God gave favor to Esther and they sent out a letter sealed with the signet ring the king had given Mordecai to leave the Jews alone.

The letter went out by courier to all 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia.  It was sent to the leaders in each one.  And a copy was to be displayed publicly for all to see.  Mordecai is now the man in charge right below the king.  There was celebration everywhere.  And scripture tells us “the Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor….feast and a holiday”.  What a story of trusting God and being obedient as He leads.  The story would have ended very differently had Esther not seized the moment for such a time as this.  Mordecai wisely counselled her, but she had to take the risk to be obedient and take advantage of the opportunity God gave her to change history.  We need to walk as God leads.  He is in control of all things!

Esther 7

Esther 7 has Queen Esther executing her plan that resulted from God putting her where she was “for such a time as this”.  Remember the dilemma?  Esther took a chance and went before the king who granted her a wish and request.  And now she is going to ask for it after the second of two feasts she prepared for the king and his right hand man Haman, who was the enemy seeking to kill Esther’s people.  As the king asks her again in this chapter, this time Esther gives the wish and request.

If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king”.  Can you imagine Haman’s jaw dropping wide open as he hears this request?

But it gets worse for Haman because the king immediately asks who is behind this, and Esther calls him out.  “Haman was terrified before the king and the queen”.  It isn’t looking good for evil any more.  The king explodes and goes outside into the palace garden to cool off a bit.  While he does that, Haman was caught “falling on the couch where Esther was” making his plea to be spared.  He begged for his life realizing that the king was going to do something about his little plot and plan.  So he presses the queen and the king walks in – not happy with his approach.

That little mistake caused the king to blasts Haman, and one of the others in the palace who served the king let the king know that the gallows which Haman had made to get rid of Mordecai before he was honored by the king, were standing at Haman’s house some 50 cubits high.  What Haman had built for destruction to use against Mordecai, now is being turned upon him.  “And the king said, “Hang him on that.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai”.  Haman’s plot of evil was turned upon him and he gets the punishment he had intended for Mordecai and Esther and her people.

Esther 6

Esther 6 has the king struggling to sleep.  You’ve probably had those nights, I know I sure do.  Toss and turn and can’t get to sleep.  So the king “gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king”.  He decides to take a look at the history of the kingdom.  I remember history could be a bit boring….but in this case it is God nudging the king down a path that will completely change the plans of evil that were on the cusp of being committed. 

As the king read from the history books, he came across the story of Mordecai who had some time earlier saved his life by uncovering a plot to kill the king by two of the king’s men – Bigthana and Teresh.  You may recall that Mordecai had heard their plot and reported it thus saving the king.  And after reading the history and story, the king said “What honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?”  Going through it the king had treated it sort of like another day at the office, but as he looked back, he realized just how important this historical event had been. 

His assistants tell him nothing had been done to honor Mordecai, and the king decides to change that.  As fate would have it (not really fate, this is a God moment for certain) Haman who is the current evil guy in the kings patch comes in with the plan to ask the king “about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for him”.  Haman has plans for evil, but God is going to turn the tables and make them plans for good.  The king asks Haman what should happen for a man in whom the king delights, and Haman falls hook, line and sinker likely thinking the king is talking about him and lays out a plan to honor the man the king delights in.  Imagine the look on Haman’s face when the king tells him it is Mordecai. 

Just minutes earlier Haman was planning to kill Mordecai, and now he is ordered to honor him.  And not sometime, the king tells him to go do it now.  “So Haman took the robes and the horse, and he dressed Mordecai and led him through the square of the city, proclaiming before him, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.”  Can you imagine the frustration Haman felt?  After completing the king’s orders, he goes crawling home to his wife and his wise men and told them what had happened.  They tell him that this is the beginning of the end.  And “while they were yet talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried to bring Haman to the feast that Esther had prepared”.  God’s plan is in full motion and Haman will be treated to the next step in that plan in the next chapter.  Evil never wins – not really.  God is in control and has a plan.

Esther 5

Esther 5 has the queen putting on her royal robes and and entering the king’s quarters.  The king was “sitting on his royal throne” when she came in.  The magic worked “And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand”.  This was a calculated risk Esther took.  It was three days later from the time she had discussed the plan with Mordecai, but God had obviously prepared the way.

The penalty for approaching the king without being summoned was death, but “Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter” which the king extended to her.  That gave her permission to be in his presence.  The king asked “what is it, Queen Esther”?  He had no idea why she had come to him.  But He quickly told her that whatever the request, it would be honored, “even to half of my kingdom”.  She had found favor with the king and he was more than willing to give her whatever she asked for.

But Esther doesn’t blurt out her real request.  She instead requests “the king and Haman come to the feast that Esther had prepared”.  As they wrapped up the feast, the king asked again what he could do for Esther.  Her request was for the king and Haman to come again to a feast tomorrow which Esther would prepare.  Haman was feeling pretty proud.  Scripture says he was “joyful and glad of heart” but he had no idea what lie ahead as the queen prepare for tomorrow.

As Haman left through the king’s gate, there was Mordecai who once again refused to show any respect to the number two man in the kingdom.  And Haman was once again furious but contained his anger.  He went home and told his wife Zeresh and friends about the day he had experienced and was boasting about all that had occurred.  But there was one part of the day that he was irritated about – Mordecai – and he was planning to get rid of him.  He said “all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate”.  He was focused on ridding the kingdom of Mordecai and all the Jews, and his wife encouraged him to do it the next day.  Haman loved the idea and had the gallows prepared.

Esther 4

Esther 4 is one of my favorite chapters in scripture.  Mordecai learns of Haman’s plan to kill all the Jews, and puts on sackcloth and ashes and hangs out at the city gate.  He can’t go in because no one could enter the city in sackcloth.  The news has spread “and in every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes”.  The Jews have been mistreated, inprisioned, passed around, and all sorts of things before, but they are going to be wiped out if Haman gets his way.

Esther hears of the plan, and calls for her assistant to go to Mordecai and get the details.  “Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews”.  She went to the best source of truth she knew, which was Mordecai himself, rather than accept the messages that came to her.  “Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people”.

So Esther is between a rock and hard place.  She obviously wants to save Mordecai, and her fellow countrymen, along with herself.  But it wasn’t as easy as Mordecai made it sound.  Going to the king without being summoned would likely mean death.  You just don’t walk in to the kings chambers without being asked, even if you are the queen.  “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law – to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live”.  Esther is rightfully fearful.  She can’t just show up at the king’s throne.

Then Mordecai says some of the most insightful words in all of scripture.  “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this”.  Mordecai reminds her that she is in this place ‘for such a time as this’.  Each of us are in a unique place because God has put us their.  Each of us have specific things God intends us to accomplish as part of His plan.  We are where we are for such a time as this.  We can’t just sit back and watch.  We have to be active in walking as God leads so we can do what God intends.

Esther 3

Esther 3 is a great example of what not to do as a leader.  “King Ahasuerus promoted Haman….and advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him”.  Haman becomes the number two in charge, and brings his desire for power and position to his place of authority.  But whiel all the rest of the people bowed and honored this new leader, “Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage”.  He was not going to pay honor to Haman based on what he knew of the man and his ancestry.

The other servants of the king “spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai’s words would stand, for he had told them that he was a Jew”.  Some fellow friends these guys were.  Mordecai wasn’t doing what they were, so rather than respecting his conviction, they went and told Haman of the situation.  Of course, Haman being a guy obsessed with power, is furious with Mordecai’s unwillingness to do as commanded and determines to get even.  But he doesn’t want to just address this issue, but rather use it as a means to “destroy all the Jews”.

So Haman goes to the king and says “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them. If it please the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed”.  It seemed like a reasonable request given the information provided.  There wasn’t a pro and con discussion here, just a recommendation to wipe out this group of people that were resistant to doing things the way Haman dictated.

So the king falls for the request and signs the edict.  Haman writes up the law and has it prepared.  “Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month….and to plunder their goods”.  Haman makes sure that the couriers “went out hurriedly by order of the king” before anything could be changed.  The letters arrived and there was confusion amongst the people.  Yesterday all these folks were part of the kingdom.  Today they are all marked to be destroyed.  It just doesn’t make sense outside the view of a man corrupted by power, possession and position.

Esther 2

Esther 2 has King Ahasuerus back from war with Greece and now focusing on his replacement of Vashti as queen.  His assistants told him to “Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king….gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in Susa the capital, under custody of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women”.  They are searching the kingdom far and wide to find the most beautiful of the young women to bring to Susa for a year of preparation to come to the king.

Esther was one of those who was chosen and came to Susa where she was cared for by Hegai and she “pleased him and won his favor”.  He provided her the best of food and cosmetics and helped prepare her for her time in front of the king.  Esther had been raised by Mordecai.  She was the daughter of his uncle and had no mother or father.  Mordecai cared for her and “every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her”.

Finally the time came and Esther was to go before the king.  “She asked for nothing except what Hegai the king’s eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised”.  Her wisdom was to listen carefully to the man who knew best how to please the king.  She did that and listened to his counsel and “Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her”.  She enters the kings palace and “the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen”.  Talk about love at first sight.  The king had a steady parade of women in his place for months and when Esther enters, he immediate selects her to be queen.

As the chapter ends, Mordecai is sitting in the city and hears a couple of the kings men talking about killing the king.  “This came to the knowledge of Mordecai, and he told it to Queen Esther, and Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai”.  The plot is investigated and found out to be true, and these two goons were hanged in the gallows.  Mordecai saves the king and preserves the queenship of Esther.  It could have been a very short run as queen had these guys killed the king so quickly after Esther was crowned.

Esther 1

Esther 1 is a man’s dream scripture if interpreted incorrectly.  The short story is that the queen disobeyed the kings request and he, following the suggestion of his advisor, put her away to never come before him again.  It would be easy to interpret this passage as saying that man is the ruler of woman and if she does not obey, she can be put away for ever at his whim.  Sounds pretty appealing doesn’t it?  But that isn’t exactly what this passage is about, so lets dig in a little deeper.

It is true that King Ahasuerus threw a big party to celebrate with people from all over the world at that time.  They came and “he showed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness for many days, 180 days”.  Not only did they eat, and drink, and drink, and be merry, but there was some chest pounding going on as well.  The king allowed his staff to enjoy the party and also allowed Queen Vashti to give “a feast for the women in the palace that belonged to King Ahasuerus”.  Everyone was having a good time and enjoying the party.

But on the seventh day, “when the heart of the king was merry with wine”, the king asked his men to bring Queen Vashti “before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at”.  Now the show and tell was going beyond his riches and glory to showing off the Queen. And in his drunken stupor, it is believed he wanted her to show with only her crown – in the nude as a display for the other drunken men of his court.  But that wasn’t the result.  The Queen refused the king’s command that was delivered by his eunuchs.  She disobeyed his order and the King got extremely angry.

One of his key men, Memucan, suggeseted that this might get out of control if left unchecked.  All the women of the kingdom would believe they could treat their husbands in the same way, and that could not be tolerated.  The king had to take action to correct the disobedience to his order.  “For the queen’s behavior will be made known to all women, causing them to look at their husbands with contempt”.  He convinces the king to issue a decree that “that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus”.  Probably not a just punishment given the request that he had made.  But the king followed the suggestion and sent letters to every province that “every man be master in his own household”.  This sets a search in motion to find a new queen

Zechariah 14

Zechariah 14 is described by the scholars as difficult to interpret with lots of different options offered.  Coffman says “Jesus defines some truth in the 24th chapter of Matthew where the subject under discussion is exactly the same as the theme of Zechariah here, “the destruction of Jerusalem (and the temple),” and “the time of the end of the world” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus’ reply comprises the whole subsequent chapter, in which he clearly indicated that Jerusalem the literal city would be destroyed, making it at the same time a type of events of final world conflict and the Second Coming of Christ.”

What we do know is that “Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle….Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him”.  The battle will be the Lords.  When God determines what He will do, it will not depend on our might or power, it will be a battle that will be taken on by the Lord Himself.  We won’t be fighting alone.  And in fact, we may not be fighting at all.  God will be in control.

Scripture says “On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light”.  God isn’t limited to the standard fighting schemes.  He has control of the entire universe.  He can manipulate the light and dark, the cold and heat, the weather and every other facet of the day.  God will win when He decides to enter the battle.  The fight will not be ours, but will belong to the Lord.

We need to “worship the King” as the victor.  God is not only worthy of our praise, He deserves and demands it.  We need to place Him where He belongs, on the throne of our lives and His creation.  We need to focus on pointing to His holiness and goodness, and give Him the honor and glory He is due.  We need to present ourselves as His servants and children, and walk with Him as our Lord.  God desires a relationship with us.  He wants us to hold Him high as Lord and Master of His universe!

Zechariah 13

Zechariah 13 tells us of God’s purification of His people.  “On that day there shall be a fountain opened….to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness”.  God not only opened the fountain, but it remains open to cleanse us from sin.  Spurgeon wrote “This provision is inexhaustible. There is a fountain opened; not a cistern nor a reservoir, but a fountain. A fountain continues still to bubble up, and is as full after fifty years as at the first; and even so the provision and the mercy of God for the forgiveness and the justification of our souls continually flows and overflows.”

God has a plan to set us free from sin.  He dealt with it then through His fountain, but has since created a fountain of forgiveness and cleansing for us through the shed blood of Jesus on the Cross.  That never ends either.  God sent His Son to the cross to provide a way to cleanse us from sin and uncleanness.  He did that once for all.  It doesn’t matter when we are born or when we die.  Jesus blood covers a multitude of sin and will set us free and cleanse us.  But we have to receive that gift of grace.  We have to take it as our own.

Zechariah tells us that idols will be removed, and false prophets stripped of their place.  God is in the business of making things clean and pure.  And that extends to our lives as well.  He is going to purify us.  “I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested”.  We will go through difficult times to be refined.  The dross must be burned out of our lives.  It is not just easy sailing – there is junk that has to be removed.

But God doesn’t send us through that testing alone.  He is there with us all the way.  “They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God”.  Our God stays with us.  He will walk with us through the fire.  That doesn’t make it easy, but we certainly will not be alone.  We will not have to face it on our own.  Are you clinging to the Rock that will sustain and uphold you through times of trial?  He is there.  He is willing.  He is able!

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