Monday, 23 June 2014

(175) June 24: Esther 7-10 & Acts 6

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

To discover:­­
As you read note how God turns the tables on Haman.

To ponder:
At her second banquet Esther answers the king’s query as to her petition. She is a model of gracious respect in addressing him, and wisely asks first for her life, appealing to his feelings for her, and then those of her people. Her comment that they have been “sold” alludes to Haman’s offer of a bribe. She then quotes the very words on Haman’s edict: “destruction and slaughter and annihilation,” stressing she has only raised the issue because it is most extreme. When the king’s anger is aroused, she then tells him the “adversary and enemy is this vile Haman.” She had invited Haman there just for this reason. Providence then causes things to worsen for Haman as the king’s brief exit meant he returned to think Haman’s protestations to the Queen were an attempt to molest her. And so Haman was arrested and hanged on the very gallows he had erected for Mordecai. Considering the favour Esther had found in the harem, the eunuch who pointed out Haman had erected this gallows may have been one of her friends. And so with great irony, the one who stood against God’s man, brought his own curse on himself. Indeed, things progress quickly. “That same day” the king gave Haman’s estate to Esther who appointed Mordecai over it, and on hearing of their relationship, gave Mordecai the signet ring Haman had been given, and so his authority. There’s a hint here to how God’s people who are so despised in this life, will eventually inherit what their despisers have cherished – the earth itself.
            In what follows we see the same on a larger scale. Esther is emboldened to plead with the king in tears to put an end to Haman’s plans. He extends his sceptre allowing her to live, and with further tact and diplomacy she suggests he write an order to overrule the previous one - as the first cannot be revoked. And so the king tasks Esther and Mordecai with issuing the order and sealing it with his ring. This one was also speedily sent to every province in the language of its people, and of the Jews too. They were given the right by law to do exactly as was to be done to them (8v11), but only to those who actually attacked them. On the specified day they were therefore to be ready to avenge themselves.
We should not see this as a personal vendetta, but God’s means of vengeance through Persian state. Indeed, although through Christ the Christian is to love and forgive their enemies, leaving God’s promise of vengeance and relief to the last day (Rom 12v19-21, 2 Thess 1v6-7), it is still at times appropriate to appeal to government to punish those who persecute them (Rom 13v3-4).
            Mordecai is now dressed like a king, and the city of Susa, that was bewildered by Haman’s edict, is joyful at this one (3v15, 8v15). Indeed, the Jews celebrated with feasting throughout the empire, whilst others became Jews in fear. This is how utterly God can reverse misfortune. Just when Satan seemed to have won in destroying Christ at the cross, Christ was raised and exalted, defeating and disarming him. And now reigning, his people celebrate their freedom from Satan’s oppression too.
            And so we read how the “tables were turned” on the enemies of the Jews. It seems some still sought to attack them on the designated day, but “none could stand against them” because people wouldn’t help them for fear of the Jews, and the rulers assisted the Jews out of fear of Mordecai (9v2-3), who became increasingly powerful. So the Jews struck down their enemies, as they had when a kingdom in their land. The king is rather blasé about this, and happily accepts Esther’s request for a second day of the same in Susa, with Haman’s sons being hung on gallows. No doubt she requested this because there were more allies of Haman in the city. In all, 75,000 people were killed throughout the empire, although it is repeatedly stressed that plunder wasn’t taken despite this being permitted. This may have been to emulate Abraham (Gen 14v23) showing utter trust in God and purity of motive.
The book ends explaining how this led to the feast of Purim, with the extra day in Susa explaining why city Jews celebrated a day later than rural ones. Mordecai recorded the events and ordered that they be commemorated each year with a feast and the giving of presents and charity. It’s a hint at the appropriateness of Christians establishing feasts to commemorate God’s great acts even if not prescribed in the Bible - as long as this is not done legalistically (Rom 14v5-6). We then read how Mordecai became second in rank to Xerxes and was held in high esteem for speaking up for his people. The last and least therefore became the first and the greatest. Again, it’s an encouragement to always do what is right, knowing the Lord will acknowledge it in the end (Matt 18v1-5).
Praying it home:
Praise God for how he can turn the worst situation to good. Pray that you would entrust any vengeance to God.

Thinking further:
Congratulations. With almost half a year covered, we have finished the history books of the Old Testament.
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