Vs. 7, “Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.” About four years have passed between chapters 1 & 2….we are now introduced to Esther and she truly must have been very beautiful. Xerxes meanwhile came back from a crushing defeat against the Greeks and must have been looking for something to console him when he returned. Now we see the beginning of the search for the queen. We are also introduced to Esther’s older cousin, Mordecai who raised her like his own daughter. Naturally, Mordecai wanted the best for Esther and devised a plan that I believe was out the Will of God, but God’s providence overruled Mordecai’s bad judgment (vs. 11 shows his uneasiness about the situation). Esther would undergo a whole year of beauty treatments required during that day to have an audience with the king. Favor was upon Esther, much like Joseph when taken into captivity. As the story unfold, we have an “American Idol” type of beauty contest and Esther wins by a landslide. Esther is now the Queen.
Regarding application…God’s Providence. Esther is living proof that God’s providence will prevail. Even though Mordecai & Esther’s intent might not have been in God’s will, God allowed it…for it would be the circumstance that He would use to save His people. God works in mysterious ways and sometimes allows some pretty crazy events to transpire. The important thing here is not to judge Esther or Mordecai, but to just appreciate that even as an imperfect people, God looks at far beyond our weaknesses. Of course, God could have us all perfect beings and worshipping without a choice…but we have the value of a relationship and choice. I look back at all the times I disappointed God and strayed from His will…yet His love & providence has helped me navigate this world just like all of you who are reading this. When tough times come, know God is on our side.
The book of Esther tells a dramatic story of intrigue, danger and deliverance. A beautiful Jewish girl named Esther becomes Queen of Persia and later risks her life on behalf of her people. Esther is the only one of two books in the Bible named for women. The other is the book of Ruth. We don’t know who wrote this true story about the people of Israel while they were living as exiles in Persia. The name of God is not mentioned in the book, but His providential hand can be seen as clearly as in any book of the Bible. The setting is the Persian Empire covering a ten year period from 483-473 b.c. Though in captivity far from the Promised Land, this story shows how God cared for His people in order to keep His promise to bring them back to their homeland. (NIV Audio Bible).
Vs. 1, “This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush…” We are introduced to the Persian King Xerxes (Greek name…his Persian name was Khshayarshan) who reigned for 21 years and was the grandson of King Cyrus the Great. We begin this chapter with much intrigue…it has all the ingredients for a blockbuster movie! The story is compelling from the start…Xerxes is having a lavish banquet in lieu of a coming war with Greece. It is the last banquet of a 180 day feast and Xerxes now wanted to show off his beautiful wife & Queen Vashti (Vs. 11). But Vashit refused to come, perhaps because she knew there was vast amounts of alcohol (not much has changed, huh?)…and was concerned with the rowdiness of the party. Xerxes obviously was stunned by her refusal and his pride was hurt. His close advisors gave him bad advice and instructed him to depose of her (a decisioin he would later regret)…he was a puppet king and was easily influenced.
Regarding application…Alcohol. Vs. 8, “By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink in his own way, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.” What a foolish thing Alcohol is. It’s suprising how socially acceptable it is within the church these days. Just a few years ago, I would have college students lamenting to me how foolish they were and are when it came to their alcoholic practices in college. Now, it is normal to see Christian college students socially drinking and “buzzing” at any given party or hangout. If we only knew the price of alcohol (not monetarily…but how it literally destroys lives and families.) It is an incredilby foolish slippery slope to walk on and I challenge any student or adult to justify drinking beyond a glass for celebration at a wedding or special event. The moment alcohol enters our system our judgment is impaired (believe me, I know this all to well from my past). Yet, the answer often given is that it’s “social” drinking and I know when to stop. Brothers & sisters…for anyone who knows me…I see many things black & white and this biblical example is another reason why we should not step down the path of Alcohol.
Vs. 1, “Keep on loving each other as brothers.” The book of Hebrews is heavey with many biblical truths…and in this final chapter, we are given some practical applications. As we are exhorted to love each other, we are also given a long list of ways to show that love. There is an emphasis of doing good to others (vs. 2-3, 16-17)…probably because there so many trials in their lives, it made sense to reach out to each other. In fact, it is believed that many of the leaders that they were exhorted to follow had been martyred, yet, they were still encouraged to remember their teachings.
Regarding application…Stability. Vs. 8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” In a world that respects the ability to change and often embraces it (education, politicial views, etc.)…we have the incredible security in knowing Jesus does not sway back and forth. When I interview candidates to be employed at the bank, one of the questions we ask them is based on their ability to adapt and change. The world values the ability to change your thoughts and be progressive as new ways of thinking and technology advance. But we can find solace in knowing that there will always be stability in Jesus. We will have different spiritual leaders in our lives, we will have different churches we attend, etc…but we will never have to have a different Jesus who changes to accomodate the majority thought.
Vs. 2, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Today is Good Friday…and what a fitting verse as we remember Jesus who endured the cross. In the previous chapter we looked back at the Hall of Faith…now we look forward to fixing our eyes on Jesus. The author of Hebrews wrote to encourage all of those who were going through tough trials in their lives. Sometimes it is human nature to feel like we are being punished unfairly for life situations we find ourselves in. But don’t forget that we endure harships because of God’s loving discipline (Vs. 7-11). We travel this road of life to endure something better to come.
Regarding application…Bitterness. Vs. 15, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” We can actually allow so many of our trials to affect us that we miss out on God’s grace! Why is this happening to me? Life is not fair! My life is too tough. Rotten bitter thoughts can infiltrate our spiritual health and in turn hurt all of those around us. It’s time for all of us to look in the mirror. When I’m not working out and taking care of my physical body, I will actually avoid looking in the mirror at my weak muscles and growing belly. Likewise…I think when we are spiritually weak, it’s not easy to want to really look at some of the side-effects. Bitterness towards parent(s) for not living up to what we hoped them to be. Bitterness towards life situations that have caused us to not enjoy where we are at (School, church, work…) Bitterness towards others for causing hardships in our lives. But when are not only hurting ourselves, we are hurting and defiling many as the end of vs. 15 states. Brothers & sisters NOW is time to stop looking horizontally at our lives and start looking vertically to Jesus. I remember David Choi shared a message a long time ago to the youth group about letting Go and letting God!
Vs. 1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” I’ve shared this illustration before of the movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. The character is at the edge of a deep chasm and some 30 feet away is the entrance for which he needs to go through. By faith, he steps out into the deep chasm and before he knows it he finally sees a bridge that guides him to the other side. Question: Is that real faith? Faith is not a leap into the unknown…Faith is a leap into the things we are certain of but is unseen. Missionary Dr. J. Oswald Sanders put’s it better, “Faith enables the believing soul to treat the future as present and the invisible as seen.” As we continue on in the chapter we read of the Hall of Faith. Michael Jordan recently was announced as one of the inductee’s into the Basketball Hall of Fame with great players like John Stockton and David Robinson. As great as these men were at their careers (and you all know Jordan is my favorite)…they don’t even compare to the men and women of the Hall of Faith!
Regarding application….Perfect Plan. Vs. 40, “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” I love the fact that something better is planned. There are so many hopes & dreams that we store up as our lives unfold before us. Some dreams are shattered, others are realized…but I would contend to say that many of them are not exactly what God had planned for us. Until we are able to completely surrender our hopes and dreams…God cannot force His perfect plan. Tomorrow is “Good Friday” as we remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross…but don’t forget it was this very night, Thursday that Jesus gave up His will and followed the perfect plan in the Garden of Gethsemane. “yet not my will but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42). God had something glorious for His Son. It was not an easy road…but a road filled with faith and hope for something better for all of us. Praise God!