Friday, January 4, 2013

Friday, January 4 ~ tammi

Today's Bible In a Year reading: Genesis 7-8; Psalm 4; Matthew 4
Today's scripture focus passage: Esther 2:19-3:15

Mark Driscoll Esther series sermon: Jesus Died a Better Death

Well, first and foremost, IT'S GOOD TO BE BACK!!  I enjoyed my hiatus, but I found I sometimes missed the necessity of digging a little deeper.  I read through my Bible again last year (woot, 4th complete time in 5 years!) but not having to post weekly made me a little lazy and my searching was less organized and purposeful.  So here I am!

I listened to the first three Driscoll sermons, but I'll confess, I did NOT listen to this one.  I did skim the transcript briefly while in the process of posting, but my week suddenly got away from me.  I am excited, however, to pass along a little tidbit that caught my attention when listening to John MacArthur's one and only message on the book a few weeks ago.  I'll get to that, but I'm going to share mostly just my thoughts on the passage itself and let Driscoll wow you with his brand of history, humour, and metaphors.  (again, I'm a huge proponent of listening to the messages.  Skimming this one tonight reminded me again just how much you miss when you don't hear someone's tone of voice.)

Okay, so digging right in... Esther's been crowned queen, though it's obviously significant for the writer to note the events he's about to describe occur after "...the virgins were assembled a second time."  Man, I don't even wanna know WHY that's significant!  The way Driscoll describes it in the last sermon, this is all kinds of degrading, and I can't imagine why the virgins need to be assembled a second time when there's already a queen.  Gross.  Anyway, Mordecai's serving the king now in some official capacity, but his and Esther's nationalities have still not been publicly made known.  They're still a little cowardly about that for some unknown reason, but Mordecai becomes a hero when he hears of a plot to assassinate the king and sends word through Esther to warn the king.  (Driscoll's take on the reason for the attempt is humorous ~ if rather speculative!)  Bigthana and Teresh receive the death penalty for their treasonous plans.

Interesting aside:  (well, to ME, anyway!) The term "hanged" in the book of Esther actually refers to being IMPALED on a high post or tree, not swingin' in the breeze by the neck like they do in old western movies.  (upon doing a bit more skimming, I noticed Driscoll talks a bit about this, too, and surmises that based upon what historians know about when and where the idea of crucifixion came from, this could actually be that.  ::shudder:: )

At some point after this, Mordecai begins to let people around him know he's a Jew.  It's not hard to imagine that perhaps saving the king's life had given him a sense of security.  So by the time Haman comes on the scene as one of the king's closest confidantes, it seems common knowledge that Mordecai is Jewish.  This, combined with his refusal to bow to Haman, stirs up Haman's hatred for all Jews.

You see ~ and this is where the interesting tidbit comes in ~ Haman was an Agagite.  Agag was a Canaanite king way back in the days of Saul.  Mordecai is a descendent of Saul's.  Guess what God told Saul to do to King Agag and his nation?  That's right:  annihilate them.  Saul didn't follow God's command completely, and let King Agag himself live, but that nation was all but obliterated.  Except for Saul's disobedience, Haman would never even have been born.  But now, given the importance of ancestry to the people of those days, you can BET Haman saw this connection between his forefathers and Mordecai's and he sees his chance for some pay-back time.  (I see Driscoll has also made this connection! Well, it was new and exciting for me in any case!)

So anyway, he lobbies for these "certain people" in the kingdom of Persia to be wiped out the way they decimated his ancestors.  In the text it almost seems as though Haman very deliberately keeps it a secret from the king exactly who this people group is, and Xerxes, being the pathetically self-absorbed, spoiled ruler that he was, obviously never did any research on this plan.  He just agrees to it without knowing whose death warrant he was signing, but it appears that the commands the couriers took throughout the countryside made it very clear who was to be killed off.  And everyone is suddenly confused.

Which makes me wonder why Mordecai was so concerned about people knowing he and Esther were Jews in the first place.  If the residents of Susa were confused as to why they were suddenly supposed to kill their Jewish neighbours, that says to me they were living side-by-side quite happily until this point, so why the need for secret identities?  I don't understand.

But, if Driscoll's made anything clear, it's that the Bible is not about "good" people and "bad" people, it's about bad people ~ flawed, messed-up sinners ~ and JESUS.  Amen.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year reading: Genesis 9-10
Monday's scripture focus passage: Esther 4


Miriam said...

I read that about Haman in the notes about the book of Esther in my study Bible. It had never occurred to me before that killing all the Jewish people in the kingdom just because one man wouldn't bow down might indicate a pre-disposition against Jews on the part of Haman, but it does make sense.

LaughingLady said...

I really think Haman hated the Jews all along. This irritation with Mordecai was simply the impetus he needed to get the ball rolling with his extermination plan, and his new-found audience with the king suddenly gave him the ability to actually carry it out.

Pamela said...

Hmmm...I did not know about that connection between Saul not completing obeying and Haman being born because of it. I guess it's just another illustration that there are always consequences to disobedience.

TammyIsBlessed said...

I love all the historical background that Driscoll has given us, it sheds so much light on so many things.

I really appreciate his point that Christians tend to read the Bible - this is the good guy, this is the bad guy, I need to be like the good guy, not like the bad guy. When we're all bad guys and all in need of grace. I am totally guilty of this - I've always read Esther assuming that both Mordecai and Esther were godly right from the get go. Now, the Bible isn't explicit in saying that they were not, but Driscoll makes some good points for the fact that, at best, they were stagnant in their faith. They were living in Persia when they should've been in Jerusalem - that's probably one of the biggies.

I also, really appreciated the connection between King Saul not obeying God fully and the Haman/Mordecai connection. It really does show how absolutely huge the consequences to our sin can be. And the amazing flip side, that God can still use us, despite our sin, to accomplish His purposes.

I am loving this series!