Wednesday we began studying the book of Esther. It is an amazing historical account of how God’s people were victorious over an evil decree designed to kill every Jew in the Persian empire in the 5th century b.c.
Spoiler Alert: The horrible decree in Esther, that all Jews would be destroyed, is ultimately brought to nothing and the event turns into a victory for God’s people – an occasion for joy, not sorrow. This victory is celebrated every year in the Jewish festival of Purim.
Did God do this? I believe He did! But one of the fascinating things about the book is that it does not mention God and there are no miracles recorded.
Similarly, God promises to watch over us, hear our prayers, and provide for our needs but finding tangible proof (like the word “GOD” in Esther) of such action is difficult.
The words of Mordecai are interesting on this point. When encouraging Esther to use her position as queen to intervene for the Jews, His instruction to her was not, “God put you here for this reason Esther”, but rather, “who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). “Who knows” describes what we might call “the uncertainty of providence”.
Question: In our lives, can we ever confidently say “God did this” regarding some specific, personal event? If we lack tangible evidence, does it diminish the confidence we have that “God is in control”?
The night of His betrayal Jesus sat down with the 12 apostles in the upper room and said, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15).
He observed the Jewish Passover meal with his apostles and then gave instructions concerning what becomes known as Lord’s Supper for Christians. (See also 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Something unique about both of these memorials (Passover and Lord’s Supper) is that they were created or instituted PRIOR to the event they commemorated. Memorials are usually created after some tragedy has occurred, sometimes remembering the heroics of people who responded to some unfortunate event.
Can you think of any other memorials that were created before the event they commemorate?
What does the fact that these were instituted prior to the event teach us about God? Consider Isaiah 46:9-10, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning…”.
Instead of a Wednesday Recap this week we have a Sunday Preview – something to think about before we all go out to worship God tomorrow. Consider two examples of how those who returned from captivity in the days of Ezra honored God:
“And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:5).
“And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for one -fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God” (Nehemiah 9:3).
#1 – When the word of God was read “all the people stood up”.
#2 – The assembly lasted 6 hours – 3 hours of reading and 3 hours of confessing and worshiping!
#3 – They “lifted up their hands”.
Do you think it would be good to have the church stand during the reading of God’s word? If so why? Does anyone have any experiences from the past where this was done? If so, how do you feel it impacted the worship?
The length of worship is quite a contrast to the “clock watching” attitude in the meetings of many modern American churches. Why are we like that? What change would we need to make in our hearts to become more like those in Ezra’s day?
It says they “lifted up their hands”. Google “worship” and select “images” and you will see how this is commonly associated with worship in our culture. More important that what our “culture” does is the fact that there are other references to this in both the Old and New Testaments. See 1 Timothy 2:8 and Psalm 28:2 and 134:2. What good purpose might it serve?
Last night we studied a great text in Titus that concludes: He (Jesus) gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:14, 15).
We are to be zealous for good works!
This idea is also emphasized in Titus 3:8 and 3:11:
This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men (3:8).
And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful (3:11).
Question: Why, according to these verses, is it so important that Christians be zealous for good works? See also Matthew 5:16 and 1 Peter 3:12.