Sunday, 19 October 2014

Esther saves the people!

It wasn't over yet. Haman had been killed for his plot to kill all the Jews and Esther had been given his estates, with Mordecai in charge of them. Not only that, but the king had reclaimed his signet ring from Haman and given it to Mordecai.

But the Jews were still not safe, because a royal edict had already been written, sealed and distributed. The order to massacre still stood.

Esther still had work to do: she threw herself at the king's feet and begged him for the lives of her people.

So:" So the king’s secretaries were brought in on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan, and the order regarding the Jews was written word for word as Mordecai dictated and was addressed to the satraps, governors, and officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces in all, to each province in its own script and each people in their own language, including the Jews in their script and language."
Esther 8:1 - 10

Friday, 17 October 2014

You reap what you sow...

"Then Harbona, one of the king’s aides, said, “Sir, Haman has just ordered a 75-foot gallows constructed, to hang Mordecai, the man who saved the king from assassination! It stands in Haman’s courtyard.”
“Hang Haman on it,” the king ordered.
So they did, and the king’s wrath was pacified
." Esther 7:9 - 10

The 'You Version' notes comments on this nicely:
"Revenge is a plot that plays out in movies or TV shows, but not reality. The same with making strategies to harm people. While we may not plan physical harm to others, often we do it with our words. We harm reputations. We spread gossip. We plant seeds of doubt in people's minds. But over time, we become known as someone who cannot be trusted, whose advice is not worth listening to. Our own reputations are damaged, and we become trapped by our own devices."

Proverbs 26:27 in The Message says: "Malice backfires; spite boomerangs" and in the Living Bible it is: "The man who sets a trap for others will get caught in it himself. Roll a boulder down on someone, and it will roll back and crush you."

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The tables turned...

Here we see the truth of "The Lord works out everything to its proper end—
even the wicked for a day of disaster,
" (Proverbs 16:4)

Haman is about to get his comeuppance..

"The king, raging, left his wine and stalked out into the palace garden.

Haman stood there pleading with Queen Esther for his life—he could see that the king was finished with him and that he was doomed. As the king came back from the palace garden into the banquet hall, Haman was groveling at the couch on which Esther reclined. The king roared out, “Will he even molest the queen while I’m just around the corner?”

When that word left the king’s mouth, all the blood drained from Haman’s face."


If Haman had feared for his life before, now, with his apparently compromising behaviour, he had sealed his fate.

Actually, the king would already have decided. We see Haman's actions as arising out of morbid hate and pathological jealousy of a man which extended to a whole nation: and (or so he thought) Haman had the power to annihilate them. Yet the king now has a face - his beautiful queen - to this people whose death he had acquiesced to. Perhaps he now realises the enormity of what Haman is about to do. Perhaps he sees the extent of Haman's ambition: indeed, what guarantee does Xerxes have that Haman is not about to overthrow him on his throne?

Haman recognises that HE, not Mordecai and the Hebrews, now faces death.

How afraid Esther must have been before this happened: she had faced death by approaching the king in the first place and now the king is angry: who knew where his anger would focus on.

The plot revealed...

So the king has again asked Esther what he should give her. I wonder, was he used to people not saying straight away what they wanted? Unlikely.

Yet Esther has kept him waiting two days. This is the third time he has asked her what she wants.

Now she tells him.

"Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favour in your eyes, O King, and if it please the king, give me my life, and give my people their lives.

“We’ve been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed—sold to be massacred, eliminated. If we had just been sold off into slavery, I wouldn’t even have brought it up; our troubles wouldn’t have been worth bothering the king over.”

King Xerxes exploded, “Who? Where is he? This is monstrous!”

“An enemy. An adversary. This evil Haman,” said Esther.

Haman was terror-stricken before the king and queen."


Esther 7:3 - 6

Clever. She wasn't going to bother the king just about proposed slavery - was he then so heartless, that he wouldn't care? Or was this just a ploy to get him to realise how disastrous this would be for him, to lose so many of his subjects aka potential tax players.

Whatever, King Xerxes - the account now uses the Persian version of his name, rather than the Hebrew one - explodes in anger. He must have been really fond of Esther...and she was really brave. Her life hung on a knife edge. Haman was, after all the king's favourite and most trusted adviser - and here she is, attacking him. How she must have hung on to these words from Joshua...

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
       

Yes, be bold and strong! Banish fear and doubt! For remember, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

 


Sunday, 12 October 2014

The king, drinking wine at Esther's second banquet, again asks what he can do for her.
A second chance. Why didn't she ask the first time? Too nervous? To keep him guessing, tantalising him as, no doubt, she had been taught to do sexually in the harem?

It has all happened quickly. Very quickly, for a Bible story where, often, events take place over months and years. This is merely DAYS. Mordecai has learned of the edict; goes to see Esther immediately; they fast for three days; Esther goes to see the king and invites him for drinks that same evening; later that night, the king can't sleep; the next morning, Mordecai is honoured; and now they are all back for a second evening banquet.

This is GOOD rush. Mordecai is desperate to save the Jews and the edict needs to go overturned as soon as possible.

So, when we look at what has happened, we can see how Esther, waiting on God, sensed the need to be patient with HER timing, which gave space for Mordecai to be established in the king's opinion as a good and faithful servant.
Philippians 4:6 - 7 shows this truth:
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Good advice for me at the moment, facing a huge life choice....life is also rushing along at breakneck speed. I suspect I need to make sure that I keep up with God...
Esther 7:1 - 2

Second chances

I've been thinking of second chances recently. Jonah: given a second chance to obey God.  Jacob: reconciled with Esau, after tricking Esau out of his inheritance (Genesis 32 - 34). Jacob sent Esau gifts before their meetings, afraid Esau would destroy his family, but was given a second chance at a relationship. Moses: a murderer and an exile whose countrymen turned against him, given a chance as leader. Samson - got revenge on the Philistines, given another chance to defeat the enemies of Israel. Naomi - given another chance, through Ruth, to be a grandmother. Peter - given another chance to be restored in his relationship with Jesus.

Given another chance. Over and over again.

Notice what happened in these lives before God gave them their second chance:

Jonah “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble,
and he answered me.
I called to you from the land of the dead,
and Lord, you heard me!
You threw me into the ocean depths,
and I sank down to the heart of the sea.
The mighty waters engulfed me;
I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.
Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence.
Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.


“I sank beneath the waves,
and the waters closed over me.
Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.
I was imprisoned in the earth,
whose gates lock shut forever.
But you, O Lord my God,
snatched me from the jaws of death!
As my life was slipping away,
I remembered the Lord.
And my earnest prayer went out to you

in your holy Temple.
Those who worship false gods
turn their backs on all God’s mercies.
But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise,
and I will fulfill all my vows.
For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.”

Then God saved Jonah from PHYSICAL death when he 'ordered the fish to spit Jonah up onto dry land.'

Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”  (Jonah 3:1 - 2)

And Jonah did. God gave him a second chance.

Moses, too. In more than one way. A murderer, he had fled from Egypt, fearing for his life, but God took him back there again. The fugitive had become a leader who would confront the very man who had power over life and death.  Not only that, even when carrying the stone tablets, "the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets", he lost his temper so badly that he threw the work of God on the ground. The tablets broke. Nevertheless, after the Israelites suffered various punishments and consequences, God gave Moses and the people a second chance. God gave the rules all over again.  "...he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin." Then Moses, at God's direction, wrote down God's commandments. (Genesis 34:1, 28)

God gave Moses - and the people - a second chance. He gives us second chances, too.

These people experienced: all hope gone - desolation; desperation; restoration.

So what do we do, when we regret something we have done, or something we should have done, but didn't?

It's never too late. We have a God who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, loving, forgiving...

We can, like Jonah:
Remember that we have a loving and gracious God and cry out to him, as needily and humbly as small children.
Ask God, like Jacob did, to save us from the consequences of our actions, doing our best to put things right.
Be obedient, as Moses was, listening to God and doing what God tells us to, not knowing where this will take us.

With God, it's never too late. God says in the book of Joel: "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm —
my great army that I sent among you.
You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
"

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Shame

"Afterward Mordecai returned to the palace gate, but Haman hurried home dejected and completely humiliated.

When Haman told his wife, Zeresh, and all his friends what had happened, his wise advisers and his wife said, “Since Mordecai—this man who has humiliated you—is of Jewish birth, you will never succeed in your plans against him. It will be fatal to continue opposing him.”

While they were still talking, the king’s eunuchs arrived and quickly took Haman to the banquet Esther had prepared.
" Esther 6:12 - 14

So Mordecai, who had been honoured in the highest way imaginable, just returned to his normal duties at the palace gate. He did not assume that he was now elevated to position of court favourite or that other honours would come his way. Indeed, he must have been surprised to have had his deeds recognised after such a long gap.

And Haman is hugely embarrassed. He doesn't even get much consolation from his family and friends, apart from advice to recognize the inevitable: that he won't win against Mordecai. They now recognise the power of God, Yahweh, the God of the Jews. This is confirmed by the 'wise advisers' - the Magi.  (And I wonder: the wise men from 'the East', were they also from Persia, and had they also studied and learned about the God of the captured Jews? Did they know the lineage of the king they were seeking?)

And now, events start to happen at speed: Haman has not had time to even reconcile events in his mind, let alone get over his disappointment, before he is summoned 'quickly' to Esther's second banquet...

Perhaps, even now, he is plotting a way to elevate himself and get Mordecai ignored and safely relegated to obscurity before the edict to annihilate the Jews comes into force. Or is he afraid that the king will realise Mordecai is a Jew and have the order cancelled because Mordecai's service has been recognised and honoured? Perhaps he thinks the king won't even care. 

Or is there dread in Haman's heart on hearing the words of his 'wise advisers' that his plans are doomed to fail: that the God whom Mordecai worships is bent on saving the Jews, his people? Yahweh has said: "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt." Is Haman's pride still carrying him, or have cracks begun to appear in the flimsy foundations on which he has built his life?

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

"Go and do it,” the king said to Haman. “don’t waste another minute. take the robe and horse and do what you have proposed to mordecai the jew who sits at the king’s gate. don’t leave out a single detail of your plan.”
So haman took therobe and horse; he robed Mordecai and led him through the city square, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man whom the king especially wants to honor!”

Angela at Love God Greatly says: "In Romans 12:3 we are urged not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought, but rather think of ourselves with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given us. In other words, don’t be prideful.
“Pride is a state of the heart that, sooner or later, is betrayed by the mouth.”- Beth Moore
Isn’t that true in Haman’s case today! The pride that has been bubbling up in his heart finally spills out...
Pride flows from Haman’s heart through his mouth and he’s about to have a royal mess to clean up.
You see, sweet friend, it’s not that Haman thought well of himself – it’s that he thought a little too well of himself. His identity wasn’t grounded in Christ, but rather in who he (Haman) was and what he did. His identity was grounded in what the world valued rather than what God valued. He preferred to be honored in front of men, not in the eyes of God...
For today, realize this truth. God doesn’t call us to poor self-esteem. Rather, He wants us to find our self worth not in what we do but rather in whose we are. Our self worth is found in our identity in Christ, and in Him alone.
Let’s stop living for the applause of many and instead live for the applause of the only one who truly matters anyway. May our dreams be different from those of the Haman’s of this world. May our lives not be about “us,” “me,” or “I,” but only about Him… Not for our honor, but for His."


Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Conceit

Oh, the effrontery of it! Haman, thinking the king is talking about HIM as the man to be honoured, asks to wear a royal robe previously worn by the king, riding a royal horse with the royal crest, and all this to be delivered to him by one of the royal princes! The prince himself is to ceremonially put the robes on 'this man'.  Then he is to be paraded through the streets for all to admire, telling everyone that this is because the king has honoured him.

When I was younger, occasionally when an outsider in a group, I mistakenly thought I was being included in a joke, a conversation...I presumed that I was part of the inner circle, responding to a remark that was NOT addressed to me. I felt embarrassed and conceited, having mistakenly thought I was 'being honoured' by being included.  I wouldn't have considered that I was conceited, but it felt like it: how could I, a relative stranger, think that I was worthy of inclusion?

This says more about me than the people I was with, but it taught me a lesson: not to think of myself as more worthy than others, to turn Philippians 2:3 on its head: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,"

Monday, 6 October 2014

Pride goes before a fall...

"The king said, ‘Who is in the court?’ Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about impaling Mordecai on the pole he had set up for him.

His attendants answered, ‘Haman is standing in the court.’

‘Bring him in,’ the king ordered.

When Haman entered, the king asked him, ‘What should be done for the man the king delights to honour?’

Now Haman thought to himself, ‘Who is there that the king would rather honour than me?’ "  
Esther 6:4 - 6
So... the king has been awake for hours and now wants to take action to reward Mordecai, but Haman knows nothing of this. (Had Haman also been awake for hours, stewing over Mordecai and anxious to get rid of him? Was Haman at the palace unusually early?)
And so Haman assumes the king means him. Pride has once again claimed a victory, as it does every time we think too much of ourselves. When I feel slighted or overlooked, it is one-nil to Pride. When I feel jealous of another's achievements, it is because I think too highly of myself. When I assume I should be respected or appreciated...pride is ruling my thoughts and emotions.

It is the ugliest of sins. 
Pride pushes the idea of myself forward, shouting, "Look at me! Look at ME!" 
Pride drives me to selfish ambition.
Pride refuses to let me react humbly.
Pride stops me from serving.
Ugly.
Proverbs 16:18 reminds: 
"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall; Too much pride will destroy you; First pride, then the crash—the bigger the ego, the harder the fall." (NIV, CEV, The Message)
"Pride is evil in all its forms. It is self-serving and believes that it is self-sufficient. Pride relies on its own wisdom and tends to chose which parts of the Bible it wants to obey. Pride ultimately pushes God aside thinking it knows better and for this reason it will be brought down. Pride requires justice and will be destroyed either through repentance or through ruin.
We should fear pride in our lives and work at rooting it out because it will end in our dishonour whereas humility will end in honour." (Love God Greatly reading plan notes)

Words to live by from Philippians 2:3: "Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand."  or "Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble thinking of others as better than yourselves."