Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday, January 11, 2013 - Roxie

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 21, 22; Psalm 9; Matthew 9
Today's scripture focus is Esther 8
Today's Driscoll sermon: Jesus is a Better Missionary

The mysterious banquets’ purpose revealed. The king learns of his queens courage...and her heritage. The villain is deposed and executed. Then,

1 That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came into the presence of the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her. 2 The king took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed him over Haman's estate. 

“The same day” the Haman is impaled on a gallows of his own making, his entire estate, including the authority given him by the king, is handed over to Mordecai. Esther has not perished. Mordecai is now wealthy and powerful beyond our imaginings...and still there is no mention of God’s name. No mention of Passover celebration. What? You ask. When did this become about the Passover?? 

Donald E. Curtis writes,

Note the date in Esther 3:12, “the thirteenth day of the first month.” The decree to annihilate the Jews went out on the 13th of Nisan. Among observant religious Jews, here is what should have been going on:
Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight’” (Exodus 12:1-6, emphasis mine). 
Haman’s decree went out on the eve of the slaughter of the Passover 
The frantic planning began just as the Jews were to begin their Passover celebration. Instead of celebrating and remembering the miraculous deliverance that God, Himself orchestrated in years past, God’s exiled people were called upon to fast and pray. Esther, through courage, charm and what has started seeming like a little bit of manipulation, saved herself, beginning with a plea for her own life and then for her people. A plea that resulted in a command to hang Haman, but did not leave Esther satisfied as she waited for her king to act...and waited...and waited. Three months (approximately, depending on what time of the month events fell) passed before Esther went back to the king to follow up on her request. Don’t forget that Mordecai had the king’s own signet ring the whole three months, which makes me wonder, where on earth did he go? And why is Esther’s neck on the line again if Mordecai is now the second in command?

3 Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping. She begged him to put an end to the evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews. 4 Then the king extended the gold scepter to Esther and she arose and stood before him. 5 "If it pleases the king," she said, "and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king's provinces. 6 For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?" 

I have to also wonder how devout Esther and Mordecai were. So many times, Esther is lauded as a heroine of faith. And yet, here she misses the significance of God at work, saving His people, once again, during the time of the Passover celebration; a celebration specifically remembering a time of salvation from death. She falls at the feet of a mere man, a drunken carouser, for that matter and begs HIM to save her people. So, the man who made her wait for three-ish months and has great difficulty making decisions on his own, sends Esther and Mordecai off to plot the response of the Jews.

7 King Xerxes replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, "Because Haman attacked the Jews, I have given his estate to Esther, and they have hanged him on the gallows. 8 Now write another decree in the king's name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king's signet ring--for no document written in the king's name and sealed with his ring can be revoked." 9 At once the royal secretaries were summoned--on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan. They wrote out all Mordecai's orders to the Jews, and to the satraps, governors and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. These orders were written in the script of each province and the language of each people and also to the Jews in their own script and language. 10 Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king's signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king. 11 The king's edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies. 12 The day appointed for the Jews to do this in all the provinces of King Xerxes was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar. 13 A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies. 14 The couriers, riding the royal horses, raced out, spurred on by the king's command. And the edict was also issued in the citadel of Susa. 

Mordecai and Esther wrote what they thought was needed to save the exiled Jews. It exactly mirrors Haman’s own edict and gives only one day of permission for annihilating violent neighbours. The king takes it one step further to emphasize the importance of this edict: the couriers ride the king’s own horses, bred specifically for his own use. 

15 Mordecai left the king's presence wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen. And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration. 16 For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. 17 In every province and in every city, wherever the edict of the king went, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.

Fear of the Jews. No wonder! A Jewish orphan had become queen. Her adoptive father elevated to second in command. The whole Jewish population given the right to bear arms and use them against the Natives of Ahaseurus’ empire. The sudden shift in power was enough to make all but the Jews wary of this community of exiles. With that, the preparations begin for a battle that seems to repeat itself over and over in the history of the Jews.

How often do we miss it? The power of God when we wonder how we will ever make it one more day, one more hour, one more moment? The grace of God as He still works, even when our doubt is at its deepest? The continuing patience of a God who loves us so much that even when we are not paying attention, He brings us to the exact place, the exact moment where He can work through our weak, self-centred humanity and pour on courage and hope to the point of overflowing where there once was none?

May we have even more courage than Esther, more hope than the Jews of Susa and remember well, not only Who supplies us, but also the One who works incredible things through us!

Until next time,

Technologically challenged, Roxie
 (That means, "boy, do I ever hope this worked!)

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Esther 9:1-19
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 21, 22


LaughingLady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LaughingLady said...

It worked ~ good job!! ;) (and WHEN you come out for that weekend "in the New Year" like your husband promised, I can show you a few more tekkie blogger tips!! ;)

I have to admit, I find myself not respecting Esther and Mordecai quite so much after this more indepth study. But, like has been so often pointed out, thank goodness God doesn't just want perfect people to accomplish His work!!!!

LaughingLady said...

I'm not sure I agree that the new decree was offensive in the same way Haman's was. I believe the Jews were given the right to defend themselves and their property; the right to respond in kind to what was coming their way. It seems like they specifically did NOT have that right up until then. They were not given authority to actively "seek and destroy" their enemies but to defend against their attack. In my mind, anyway, that's a pretty huge distinction.

And I think it changes then, how we read that the Jews were "feared" after that day. That same word is the same word that's used throughout the Bible to talk about reverence for God's holiness. I think people the world over in that day suddenly gained a respect and reverence for the God of the Jews, a God who could deliver His people when all hope seemed lost.

TammyIsBlessed said...

Thanks Roxie!!

How do we know there was 3 months in between v2 and 3? I think I missed something.

I'm not entirely sure if Esther's asking the King for help is showing a lack of trust in God, or rather God using her high position to rescue the people.

I am definitely guilty of looking at biblical characters as "good guys" and "bad guys", but I think Mordecai and Esther were both ineffective believers (or even unbelievers) who gradually changed. I think Esther finally shows courage here. I also think she shows that she is concerned, not just for herself and her cousin, but for her people.

I find it so encouraging that God can use us, no matter where we are or how we got there, even if what got us there was wrong. He can use us in spite of our bad choices.

Mordecai was not able to affect change when he held a low position. But Esther and Mordecai together were able to affect change when they moved into prominent positions. I think Driscoll's point that believers should strive to be in situations that make us influential for the cause of Christ is a good one.

I, too, think that the edict was one of self-defence as if was written almost word for word the same as Haman's original edict.

Roxie said...

The passage of time shows in that Esther's banquets happen in the month of Nisan (the month when Passover happens) and then the decree written by Esther and Mordecai "at once the royal secretaries were summoned--on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan" (Esther 8:9a). It was mentioned in Donald Curtis' sermon and I then looked into the Jewish calendar for myself. Interesting.

I don't deny, either, that the edict of Esther and Mordecai was one of self defence nor do I deny the fact that we really don't know where their hearts were in relationship to God. All we know is that the author was silent on the issue...and it bugged me, maybe just a little too much, that Esther used the words "me" and "I" so often in her pleadings with Xerxes. I just couldn't help thinking of other Bible characters, Moses, Joseph and Daniel, standing before pagan kings (Exodus 5; Daniel 2:27-30; Genesis 41:16ff), answering with the Name of God on their lips, humble and aware of God's control of or power in the situation. I didn't sense that left me wanting more. For the first time since falling in love with the Bible's own "fairy tale", it left me wondering; wanting to know more about what God was thinking when He inspired this story, both the first time and when it was written. Not a bad thing, wanting to understand God better!

LaughingLady said...

Actually, Driscoll's sermon brings that up ~ especially with regards to the decision to extend the edict for a second day. So many other places, the Scriptures indicate how God felt about certain events, or they're mentioned in either a positive or negative light elsewhere in the Bible, but there's just NOTHING on this one! I guess figuring that out is probably not the focus God really wanted us to take on this story...

Pamela said...

Great thoughts and insights! I didn't realize it was three months either.