You could say the story of Esther is the story of two decrees. The first, sponsored by evil Haman authorized the destruction of all Jews, men, women, and children and the taking of plunder from their possessions (3:13).
After the King learned of Haman’s true character and had him hung, Mordecai the Jew was allowed to write a second decree allowing the Jews to “destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province that would assault them, both little children and women, and to plunder their possessions (Esther 8:11-12).
Wednesday night we studied that the day came and instead of being destroyed (according to the first decree), “the opposite occurred”, and “the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them” (9:1).
Twice the narrative observes that as the Jews defeated their enemies they did not lay hands on the plunder. This is interesting because in the decree it specifically says they were allowed to plunder the possessions of those they destroyed.
Similarly, the decree stated that not only men but also little children and women could be killed. Yet when the day come only men are listed among the dead.
What does this restraint (not taking the plunder, not killing women and children) show about the disposition of the Jews?
How can we practice similar restraint today? (See Romans 12:17-21).
Wednesday night in our Esther class we saw that God got the Jews through their crises. Haman was killed and King Ahasuerus authorized a second decree allowing the Jews to defend themselves.
When the Jews thought they were going to die, chapters 3 and 4 described them as “perplexed”, “mourning”, “weeping and wailing”. Chapter 8:16 and 17 describes the Jews now as having “light and gladness, joy and honor. And in every province and city, wherever the king’s command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday”.
God got them through their crises. He will do the same for us! In our dark times we need to “wait on the Lord”. Things will get better, usually in this life, but if not in this life, certainly in the next!
8:17 adds this: “Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them”. One of the good things that came out of this horrible ordeal was many non-Jews turned to God.
Question: No one wishes for trials to come, but if through our trials some are led to Jesus or brought closer to Jesus – is it worth it? If that is the case how does that make us like Jesus?
Peter wanted to know how many times he should forgive his brother who sins against him and he offered “up to seven times”? He must have been shocked by Jesus response “”I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven”. (Matthew 18:21-22).
God’s expectation is WAY BEYOND ours! Sometimes our best efforts are just “scratching the surface” of what we really should do.
I like the phrase “Forgive Everyone Everything”, but want to qualify it with a couple of considerations:
(1) We cannot ignore the consequences of sin. We cannot give someone hope that “all is well” with God unless they are willing to address the sin in their lives.
(2) God alone forgives sin (in the sense of absolving the sin, declaring someone “not guilty”). Our “forgiveness” involves our expressing love, moral support, willingness to accept and restore. We should be willing to do that for anyone!
Question: How is our forgiving others (1) good for ourselves, and (2) good for the person who sinned against us?
The results of Sunday’s Poll Question: Would you be here today if you knew it could cost you your life?
67% – Yes
8% – No
25% – I Don’t Know.
I admire the courage of those who said “yes”, and the honesty of those who said “no”, or “I don’t know”.
We know the “right answer”, but frankly, here in America, we are so far removed from such life and death choices I think it is hard for us to imagine. In other places of the world this an actual decision facing believers today.
To be willing to suffer takes great faith. The great chapter on faith, Hebrews 11, tells about real people who “experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.
Those verses sound almost exactly like what the religious minorities in Iraq are going through at this moment.
Their faith helped them make the right choice. Hebrews 11 also describes them as men “of whom the world was not worthy”. How do some other versions put that? What does it mean to you?
Isaiah 40:27 expresses well the feelings of people who, because of hard times, may feel that God has forgotten them: “Why do you say, O Jacob, And speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the Lord, And my just claim is passed over by my God”?
Ever feel like that?
The Jews in Esther’s day may have felt that way when evil Haman had arranged an unalterable law that decreed the extermination of all the Jews.
In our Wednesday night Bible study we are learning about the amazing way that God rescued them from this evil plan.
When we face dark and difficult days we should not doubt that God sees all we are going through and that he will keep his promise to protect and bless his people.
The Isaiah passage goes on to tell us that in such times, “those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
Today’s question: What does it mean to wait on the Lord?
In Deuteronomy 5, after reviewing the 10 Commandments, Moses explained why they should keep the commands: “that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess (Deut. 5:33).
Even though we are not under the Law of Moses today, nations that have a strong respect for God, family, and neighbor (what you see in the 10 Commandments) will “live”, “it will be well with (them)”, and they will more likely “prolong their days”.
In our Sunday class we expressed sadness and sorrow over the fact that today in the United States we do not take these commandments seriously. There is great disregard for “honor your father and mother”, “do not commit adultery”, “do not take the Lord’s name in vain” (whether referring to cursing or perjury), having “no other Gods”, etc. In light of Deuteronomy 5:33 its hard to be optimistic for our future.
Question: Do you agree that these same principles are at work in our country, making us strong or weak? Is there anything we can do? Suggest one way one person can make a difference.
In Esther 2 Mordecai had revealed a plot against the life of King Ahasuerus (aka Xerxes). The Persian officials investigated it and the men who had planned to kill the king were executed.
What recognition did Mordecai receive for exposing the plot? None! No reward. No promotion. Not even a thank you.
Mordecai could have been resentful. He could has said, “This is the thanks I get?”. He might have even felt forgotten by God. Mordecai was a faithful me. Later he refused to bow down to Haman, risking his own life and the life of the Jewish people. Is this his reward for such faithfulness?
Finally, some 5 years later, by chance the king comes across the record of Mordecai’s good deed and honors him for what he had done. This is found in chapter 6:1-3.
As it turns out, it was actually “for the best” that Mordecai was not honored 5 years earlier. Even though it was 5 years late, the timing of when the King finally honored Mordecai resulted in the saving of his life. Looking back it was best that he was not honored when it seemed he should have been.
Question: Do you think Mordecai might have been resentful when he was not recognized for saving the King? Would we have felt slighted it were us or if we were similarly mistreated? This unjust treatment actually turned out to be a great blessing! How can this story encourage us when we feel we are not getting what we deserve?
Thanks for your thoughts!
Our Esther study continues on Wednesday nights through August.