Tags: 1 Samuel 15, commentary on Esther, enablers, Esther 3, Esther 4, Haman, Mordecai, Purim, Sunday School lessons on Esther
Esther Chapter 3 introduces us to Haman. He was an Agagite, which probably means he was descended from Agag, king of the Amalekites, the long-time enemy of the Jews (I Samuel 15:8). God had declared war on the Amalekites and wanted their name wiped from the face of the earth because the Amalekites had attacked the weary followers of Moses who marched in the rear of the people (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). Saul had disobeyed God in failing to annihilate the Amalekites, and he lost his crown because of it. The Amalekites were descended from Esau (like the Edomites). Haman is one of the most despicable characters in the Bible. The more you learn about him, the less you like him. At Purim, the Jews have a feast to celebrate the account of Esther, and every time Haman is mentioned they stamp their feet and shout, “May his name be blotted out!”
Mordecai wouldn’t bow to Haman, and Haman devised a plot to kill him and all the Jewish people.
In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar.
Pur is the Babylonian word for “lot.” The providence of God gave the Jewish people a year to prepare for this horrifying event.
Perhaps some Haman-apologist out there could try to draw a parallel or revenge scenario with God’s decree against the Amalekites and Haman’s decree against the Jewish exiles.
Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.
I Samuel 15:3
And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.
However, we can see one big difference is that God’s people were prohibited from taking the spoils. Haman’s followers were commanded to take the spoils. This is an indication that the devil was involved (killing); the “world” was involved (profit); and the flesh was involved (Haman, and King Ahasuerus’s, pride).
And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king’s treasuries. And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy. And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee.
The posts went out, being hastened by the king’s commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed.
Mordecai’s behavior, actions, and appearance showed that he publicly stood for what was right, and that he had an attitude of repentance. We need this attitude today.
When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry;
He was able to get a message to Queen Esther. She wanted to send him some new clothes before inquiring as to why his clothes were torn and dirty. We must be careful of this when dealing with the needy. As Christians we should be quick to offer assistance without unrighteous judgment, but many times failing to inquire about the cause for the need leads to enablement rather than true help.
Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to shew it unto Esther, and to declare it unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people. And Hatach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai.
Tags: Acts 1, Acts 2, Acts 4, Acts 5, Acts 8, Christian unity, church attendance, church membership, unity in church
The second “C” in C.H.U.R.C.H. is for “C.ommunion.”
These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
Acts 1:14 (emphasis added)
In church we pray together. We should be in one accord, in common unity.
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Acts 2:46 (emphasis added)
There are times when we eat together – in common unity.
And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:
Acts 4:24 (emphasis added)
In church we worship God out loud together – in common unity.
And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.
Acts 5:12 (emphasis added)
In church, we discuss the wondrous things God is doing in our lives and the lives of people we know – together – in common unity.
And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
Acts 8:6 (emphasis added)
In church we listen to preaching together – in common unity.
One thing that is important about church is getting together, and having the same mind about spiritual things.
Tags: Abraham and Sarah, amazement, Christian marriage, fear, Genesis 18, I Peter 3, marriage counseling, Sarah, terror
An important though often overlooked principle in Christian marriage is the concept of “fear.” It is a concept addressed in I Peter Chapter 3, which also highlights some of the duties of Christian marriage.
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
I Peter 3:1-7 (emphasis added)
Verse 6 seems contradictory at first blush. What does it mean to not be afraid with any amazement? Apparently I am not alone in finding this phrase hard to grasp. I couldn’t find any real consistency among well-known Bible commentators, but the key seems to be in looking at the lives of Sarah and Abraham. The Greek word translated “amazement” has a connotation of birds fluttering away in startled terror, and it is clear from the Genesis account that Sarah was not the type to run away from a scary situation.
In Genesis 18 the Lord and two angels show up at Abraham’s tent unannounced in the hot part of the day.
And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.
Sarah may have been afraid because of Abraham’s frantic instructions, but she was not afraid “with any amazement.”
And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.
Notice that Sarah was in a tent, not in a palace, not in a mansion, not even in a house, but obediently, faithfully dwelling with her husband, Abraham, in a tent. Were there times when Sarah was afraid of the tent-and-altar, place-to-place, lifestyle of her husband? Probably so – but “not with any amazement.”
And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
Was she afraid when she heard this startling news? Maybe. Maybe even skeptical. But “not afraid with any amazement.”
Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?
Sarah called her husband her “lord,” an expression of respect and reverence, even though her response indicates that she wondered which was more unlikely: a woman of her age being fertile, or a man of Abraham’s age being able to impregnate her!
And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.
The Bible specifically tells us she was afraid, although we know from I Peter 3 that it was a fear without “amazement.” She was not punished for her laughter, nor even scolded, because God understands the difference between “fear” and “fear with amazement.” Sarah was courageous and confident in the face of her fear. In fact, fear is the sine qua non of courage. Satan would like us to hear God’s seemingly-incredible promises and respond with a “fright, flight, or fight” response. In other words, he would like us to reject God’s call upon our lives by giving in to terrified paralysis, running away, or obstinate refusal and rebellion. Sarah was shocked, but she stood her ground.
And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
The Lord said “I know Abraham and I know that his children and his household – including his wife – will keep the way of the Lord.” Sarah was trustworthy, and she was not “amazed into unfaithfulness” by fearful circumstances.
Let us husbands be bold – not fearful – to lead in faith, trusting God’s Word. Wives, do not expect to avoid fearful circumstances, but determine to stand at your husband’s side come what may. It is fearful to trust a man because men are fallen sinners, but you should not be afraid with any amazement to throw yourself on the faithfulness of God.
Tags: adultery, Biblical wisdom, followers, Jesus Christ, paths of righteousness, Proverbs 5, seduction
The Lord Jesus recruited disciples with this command and invitation: “Follow Me.” His, however, is not the only voice in this world that will beckon you. Therefore, we must beware of temptations that will lead us, like dull-witted sheep, astray.
The Bible warns us specifically of the sinful seductress, who, with enticing and deceptive words, lures us in a deadly direction:
Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.
It is risky to follow someone who promises something rewarding. It may lead to a great blessing or a terrible trap, and often we can’t know for certain until we take the chance. However, here the Bible gives us the gift of insight into the future. The feet of a “strange woman” lead ultimately to death, but her feet are already “taking hold” of the powers of darkness and pulling them toward the foolish follower lured by her false charms. Let us take careful heed to the wisdom and warnings found in Scripture. Following Jesus leads certainly to eternal life. Following the temptress in Proverbs 5 leads certainly toward damage, despair, destruction, and death.
Tags: attributes of God, commentary on Psalms, Egypt, Exodus, God's mercy, immutability, mercy, Psalm 136, Psalm 85, Sunday School lessons on Psalms
All 26 verses in Psalm 136 end the same way: “his [God’s] mercy endureth for ever.” When we see the great and wonderful and awe-inspiring things that God has done for His people in creation, in blessings, in salvation, and in deliverance, we become enthusiastic worshipers, and joyfully repeat the mantra, “His mercy endureth for ever,” over and over again.
He is the God of gods and Lord of lords! (vv. 2-3)
Yes! His mercy endureth for ever!
He made all the lights in the sky and the heavenly bodies! (vv. 7-9)
Amen! His mercy endureth for ever!
He killed all the firstborn sons of all the Egyptian moms and dads! (v. 10)
Praise His name! His mercy endur… Wait… Hold on a minute… Suddenly, we’re not so enthusiastic, are we?
To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever:
And what about verse 15? “But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.” How many families lost their loved ones in the watery grave of the Red Sea when the Egyptian army followed the Israelites into the parted waters? How many 15 and 16 and 17 year old Egyptian little brothers lost their lives, adding to the grief of their mothers and grandparents who had already lost their sons and grandsons and husbands by the hand of the Lord? This doesn’t sound like forever-enduring mercy to us.
See, in Christian ministry, our primary goal is to teach and to learn God’s Word so that we can apply it to our lives. But doing this often means doing the difficult task of staring straight into God’s revealed truth without dressing it up or watering it down. When we get happy about the truth of God’s mercy, we need to remember that God’s mercy toward some can at the same time be His judgment and vengeance toward others. God does not offer a smorgasbord of His attributes for us to sample. We don’t get to pick and choose what we happen to like about Him, or what is easy to understand about Him, and leave the rest.
Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:
And God’s mercy never needs to be reconciled with His righteousness, holiness, justice, or wrath, because, in God, His attributes are never at odds with each other. They simply flow from His divine nature in perfect sovereign harmony.
Shew us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation. I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly. Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
We did not cause God’s mercy; we were not the source of God’s mercy; and we do not get to dictate the terms of God’s mercy. It endures forever, because God endures forever. He is immutable, and all His attributes are likewise. He is the Redeemer. We are the redeemed. This makes us sing and shout, not dispute and doubt.
Tags: commentary on Esther, divine providence, Esther 2, God's favor, lust, myrtle trees, sovereignty of God, Sunday School lessons on Esther, Vashti
In Esther Chapter 2 the king deposed Queen Vashti. Then we meet Mordecai. Mordecai was one of the Jewish exiles who probably could have gone back to Jerusalem during the events described in Ezra and Nehemiah, but we see God’s hand of providence at work in keeping him in Persia.
Mordecai’s adopted daughter, Esther, was beautiful, and was taken into the harem for a tryout with the king. “Esther” was her Persian name and it means “star.” Hadassah was her Jewish name, and it means “myrtle.” Apparently, a myrtle tree flower looks like a star.
In the narrative of Esther we see God using all sorts of ungodly activities, exiled Jewish citizens, and even unbelievers, to carry out His will. This is the way God works among the nations of the world. Hegai, the keeper of the harem, gave Esther a year-long beauty treatment, including diet.
And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her things for purification, with such things as belonged to her, and seven maidens, which were meet to be given her, out of the king’s house: and he preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the house of the women.
Esther had some inexplicable favor with everyone she met, which helps us to see God’s providential hand at work in the story.
And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.
It is possible that Ahasuerus had become bored with an endless series of concubines, but that is not how sinful lust usually works. Typically, the man involved in sexual sin craves more and more perversity, so that feeding lust in an attempt to quench it is like throwing logs on a raging fire in an attempt to smother it out. The better explanation for the king choosing Esther is that God’s sovereignty was at work in making him somehow find Esther more favorable.
When the king chose Esther, he threw a big banquet. What else would we expect? This is the fourth one, and we’re only in Chapter 2!
In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king’s gate, two of the king’s chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those which kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. And the thing was known to Mordecai, who told it unto Esther the queen; and Esther certified the king thereof in Mordecai’s name. And when inquisition was made of the matter, it was found out; therefore they were both hanged on a tree: and it was written in the book of the chronicles before the king.
God allowed Mordecai to find out about the plot to kill the king. Mordecai told Esther, and she gave the credit to Mordecai, but Mordecai didn’t get a reward or recognition at that time. Instead, he got his name written down in the official account – which will be important later, in Chapter 6.
Lord, thank You for making me free from the bondage of sin, and from my old cruel slavemaster, Satan. Thank You that You have taught us to avoid getting caught up in the commercial pressures of this world, and to avoid getting caught up in unholy worldly traditions. Help me to truly rejoice in the freedom from worldly bondage. In the Name of Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 14, 1 Timothy 3, 1 Timothy 4, behavior in church, church members, church membership, hypocrisy, hypocrisy in church, order in church
The “R” in C.H.U.R.C.H. is for “Responsibilty.” There are great privileges that come with being part of a church. But there are also great responsibilities.
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
I Timothy 3:15 (emphasis added)
Christians should not be hypocrites. A hypocrite is someone who acts completely different in church from the way he acts outside of church. However, we do need to watch how we behave in church. Church is not a place where “anything goes.”
Let all things be done decently and in order.
I Corinthians 14:4
What are some things you would do outside of church that are not sinful, but that you should not do in church? When I go to the park to have a good time, I am free to run, yell, throw things, make a mess, speak loudly and freely. I might even dress in a way that allows me to sweat and have some freedom of movement. But church is a place where these things are rightly restricted. And it is a place where you do need to take special care about what you wear. Modesty and appropriateness in dress is important everywhere, but it is especially important in church.
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
I Timothy 4:12
If you are a young person, don’t give people at church a reason to excuse your bad behavior by saying, “He’s just a kid, what do you expect?” Don’t give anyone a reason to dislike you for being young. You need to watch older men and older ladies in church, depending on your own gender. Mark how they behave and follow their examples.
Tags: Acts 4, Christian marriage, confidence, endurance, Genesis 39, Isaiah 3, Job 31, marriage counseling, Matthew 5, principles for marriage
Confidence is not arrogance. One of the Bible words for confidence is “boldness.”
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
Acts 4:13 (emphasis added)
And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,
Acts 4:29 (emphasis added)
It’s not that the Apostles asked God to make them unafraid. It’s that they asked Him to make them irascible – able to face the fearful situation. What is the sine qua non for courage? It’s fear. God has not given us a “spirit of fear,” but that does not mean that God will keep us out of fearful circumstances. He has given us the ability to be confident in knowing that in Him we can overcome fear.
Are you courageous, constant, and confident enough to minister while being married? To stand at the gate that Satan is battering and to protect your marriage while still showing the love of Christ to a voraciously evil world?
I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?
In a world filled with illicit sexual imagery, it doesn’t take courage to look. It takes courage to look away.
Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts.
The immodesty we see in society is not only Satan’s assault on godliness – it may also be part of God’s judgment for our pride. It takes courage not only to keep from looking, but to keep from imitating.
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
That is the zenith of irascibility! Jesus is not promoting self-mutilation. He’s teaching about just how dangerous adultery is, for He turns immediately to the topic of marriage and divorce (Matthew 5:31).
Being married – and especially being a married Christian – in 21st Century America requires irascibility in the form of courage, endurance, and confidence in order to combat the pervasiveness of overt sexuality. Earlier I compared this irascibility to a more masculine attitude toward combat, but this “masculinity” is not based on a “tough-guy” caricature of manhood. It comes from a fear of God.
And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
Genesis 39:7-9 (emphasis added)
Joseph didn’t want to betray his earthly master, but, more than that, he was downright determined not to sin against his God! Fear and courage are not mutually exclusive. The first must be present for the latter to exist. The fear of the Lord provokes the greatest courage of all. If Satan knocks that wall down, I could lose my wife, my home, my kids, my job, my reputation. That frightens me. But what frightens me more is sinning against the God Who loved me and redeemed me and made me His Own.
Tags: Colossians 3, experience, Galatians 5, Judges 14, Judges 16, Psalm 119, Romans 7, Samson, Samson and Delilah
They say that the definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I don’t think that Samson was “insane” in the clinical sense, but we sure have to wonder about his tendency to repeat the same mistakes. They also say that those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Two times, with two different women, Samson was tricked into revealing a secret to his own detriment: Judges 14:16-18; 16:6-19. In fact, on the second occasion – with Delilah – he was fooled multiple times by the same ploy.
Where was Samson’s ability to gauge cause-and-effect? Where was his “nonsense” filter? Where was his aptitude to learn from his own mistakes? The same place yours and mine so often is: buried beneath a layer of sinful flesh.
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
If you are a Christian, then the Lord has set you free from the bondage of the Law by His love and grace. However, our march toward complete surrender to His will and total conformity to the image of Christ is more of an uphill climb over rocky terrain than a casual stroll though a peaceful park. Thankfully, God has given us His Spirit to indwell us, His Word to instruct us, and His body to influence us.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Experience can be a valuable teacher, but it is in our nature – apart from God – to repeat our mistakes. Our best method for learning from our failures is: (1) to yield to the Lord’s Spirit, remembering that He has set us free from the power of sin; (2) to stay focused on the Bible with the intention of obeying it; (3) to find brothers and sisters in Christ in a local Bible-teaching and -believing church who will hold you accountable in love.
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: