Sunday, 22 June 2014

(174) June 23: Esther 4-6 & Acts 5:17-42

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note the qualities displayed by Mordecai and Esther.

To ponder:
In response to the terrible decree, there was very public mourning by Mordecai and the Jews in every province. Esther was however ignorant. Only when distressed by her adopted father’s grief did she find out the situation by sending Hathach to discover why he was so upset. Mordecai displayed wisdom, telling every detail and showing the edict to prove the truth of what he said. He asked Hathach not only to relay this to Esther, but urge her to intercede with the King for the people – as Christ does with his father for us.
            Esther was reluctant, sending Hathach back to explain that if she approached the king and he didn’t hold out his sceptre to her, she would be killed. The suggestion is that as she had only seen him recently it is unlikely he would welcome her. Moredecai’s response is the theological centre of the book (4v13-14), and although God is never mentioned, he is assumed. Mordecai is confident that as God is sovereign he will deliver the people anyway. But Esther is still responsible to play her part, recognising that she may have gained her position “for such a time as this.” Indeed, if she does nothing, she should not assume that she or Mordecai’s family will escape. It’s a reminder that in putting us in our own particular circumstances, God gives us opportunities with which we can serve him. Indeed, at times, this may mean trusting him to put our position or lives on the line. Here we might consider our responsibility to speak up for God’s people to government.
            Esther’s reply models wisdom when faced with any difficulty. Like Christ in Gethsemane, she ask others to pray, and determines to do the right thing even if it means she perishes. So after all the Jews in the city pray and fast, she dresses rightly and goes and stands in the king’s court. As with previous key events, this takes place on the “third day” building the tension. With relief, the king extends his sceptre, saying he will give Esther up to half his kingdom (a figure of speech). She is too wise to accuse his right hand man immediately, so she invites the king and Haman to a banquet, and there, to another the next day. No doubt this increased the king’s anticipation and softening him into an accepting mood. Esther is as shrewd as a snake whilst being as innocent as a dove (Matt 10v16).
            During the twenty four hour delay, we see the signs of God’s hand at work. Haman went home joyful, boasting of his wealth, family, and honour before the king and his Queen. Yet at the suggestion of his wife and friends, he also built a gallows to hang Mordecai, against whom he continued to rage. Yet that very night, being unable to sleep, the king read of how Mordecai saved him from the assassins. And “just” when he was pondering the fact that Mordecai hadn’t been honoured, Haman walked into the court. So it turned out that the king asked Haman what he should do for the man “the king delights to honour,” and, assuming this was about him, Haman suggested the sort of honour that would make a man almost equal to the king (6v8-9). Suddenly Haman’s fortunes therefore reverse dramatically. Not aware that the decree he had allowed Haman to authorise was against the Jews (3v8), the king commanded that Haman honour Mordecai in the way he just outlined! Haman may have realised what this could mean if the king found out what he had done, and so rushed home in grief. His wife and advisors were cold in their response, suggesting he stood alone. They declared his “downfall” had “started” and that he couldn’t stand against Mordecai because he was a Jew. Perhaps they had heard of God acts for Israel. Whether they had or not, their words signal to the reader that these circumstances stemmed from God’s protection of his chosen people. The one who had sought to curse Mordecai not only inadvertently blessed him, but might now have to face God himself for his actions (Gen 12v3). It is at this timely moment, that Haman was taken to Esther’s banquet.
Praying it home:
Praise God for how delivering his people through Christ from all evil. Pray that you would have faith to do what is right whatever the consequences.

Thinking further:
None today.
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