August 15, 2017

Today you should read: Esther 7:1-10

If you haven’t already done so, you should definitely check out the Bible Project summery for the book of Esther.

The story of Esther is, let’s face it, crazy. As we step in to chapter 7, it’s time for the big reveal. (Drumroll) Esther is Jewish! Because of this, the wicked Haman has been plotting to have her people, the Jews, killed. You can imagine the color fading from Haman’s face learning that he’s trying to persecute the queen.

The queen was so beloved by the king, Haman knew his fate was sealed. His only recourse was to beg for his life. The king then left, perhaps, to figure out his next move.

What happens next may not make a whole lot of sense to modern audiences (i.e. why was the queen laying down on a couch in front of Haman?). In ancient Persia, as in much of the ancient world, people would recline to eat. The feast they were enjoying was meant to take some time and it was likely that everybody was a little blitzed from too much wine. As the king returned, it may have been that in begging for his life, Haman drunkenly stumbled and fell on Esther’s couch. We can safely assume that with all the attendants, and servants coming and going, no assault was going to take place. However, the king saw Haman splayed out, and with all the rational decision-making power of one so sloshed, he thought Haman was trying to do something terrible.

The ever-helpful Harbona stepped in to inform the king of the giant spike, fifty cubits high, on which Haman was going to impale Mordecai before he was honored in chapter 6. Thus, although several English Bible’s read hanged, Haman was impaled on a giant spike that he intended for the Jew, Mordecai.

Any time we study the Bible, we must ask, “Am I being told what happened (descriptive) and am I being told what to do (prescriptive)?” Deciding whether a text is descriptive or prescriptive can save you from a lot of error in applying the Bible to your life. This story is definitely NOT prescriptive. There is nothing here that you should imitate. This story is simply telling us what happened.

So, what did happen? God kept his promise and he used Esther and Mordecai to do it. Esther was extremely brave (I’m not trying to undermine the grit it took to approach the king the way she did), but the story isn’t so much about her. It’s about how God can do impossible things with improbable people.

Hopefully, in your own life, you’ve not conformed to the culture so much that when you tell people you’re a Christian it would require a drumroll. Instead, when a person finds out, they simply say, “Oh, that figures.” God calls us to be a peculiar people. And although we all still struggle with sin, He wants to do the impossible through you. His verbal silence in the book of Esther should incline our hearts to understand that God is all but silent in our lives. He is constantly at work using improbable people to do impossible things.

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate

August 14, 2017

Today you should read: Esther 6

Is God serious about accomplishing His purposes? I’m not sure you could read the book of Esther and think otherwise. Even though God’s name isn’t mentioned, you sense His hand strongly throughout the whole book. I love what Courtney Joseph, a prominent speaker & blogger says in summary of Esther:

• The King is drunk when he requests Queen Vashti to come to his royal court.

• Queen Vashti refuses and is removed as queen.

• Esther, a Jewish orphan girl, ends up…the new queen.

• Mordecai discovers a plot to assassinate the king and the king is saved…but Mordecai is not rewarded although his name is recorded in the royal records.

• Haman plots to annihilate the Jews. A letter is sent out in all the kingdom to destroy the Jews.

• Esther has not been with her groom, the king, in 30 days and going to him could mean death!

Everything. is. out. of. control.

And then it happens…the people pray. God hears their prayers. The king can’t sleep so the royal records are opened and there the king discovers his need to honor Mordecai for saving his life. Mordecai is honored. Esther gathers the courage to speak. Haman is hung. God saves his people! God is the Hero!

Courtney goes on to say, “The star of this story is Esther, whose name actually means “star”.  Esther shined in a dark culture and God used her in a place where no one else could be used.  God raised her up for “such a time as this!”  He displayed his power through her. And God has raised each one of us up, so he can display his power through us.”  

I appreciate this because it reminds us of our place in God’s story. Though our day-to-day obedience might seem lackluster at times, we never know how God can use us where He puts us. He did great things through Esther to preserve the Jewish people and prepare for the Messiah. Now, He uses us to proclaim the Messiah and to see His Kingdom come and His will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6).

Two questions for reflection: 

  1. What did God teach you through today’s chapter? 
  2. What has been your favorite part of the story of Esther?

By: Todd Thomas — Worship & College Pastor

August 12, 2017

Today you should read: Esther 5:1-14

I love the book of Esther. It’s such a beautiful picture of redemption, God’s sovereignty, courageous faith and taking risks for the protection of others. Today we read about two crucial steps in the plot of this intriguing story. The first steps of Esther’s courageous yet risky plan to save God’s people and the first steps of Haman’s evil plan to kill Mordecai and eventually, God’s people as well.

First, we see how Esther takes a risk to get the King’s attention to make a request before him to eventually save God’s people from Haman’s genocide. As we learned from the last chapter, this type of request to the king was not custom within this culture and is why Esther told her uncle “if I die, I’ll die.” But Esther was wise with her opportunity because she knew that if she would’ve just accused Haman of his evil plan, she would risk the king not believing her and have no proof of such a plan. Instead she requested a big party to win the king and Haman’s favor. As she takes initial steps toward truth and righteousness, Haman takes additional steps toward deceit and sin as he expands his evil plan by building hanging gallows to kill the people he did not believe deserved to be in such a high and prestigious position. As both Esther and Haman take these steps further away from each, it’s important to see the different characteristics displayed in each person.

  • The wisdom and patience of Esther
  • The pride and hatred of Haman

Esther displayed great wisdom in not making her real request known right away and patience as she trusted in God’s will and timing to do so. Wisdom and patience are essential in any plan we make as God’s people. With the importance and urgency of the situation, I’m sure it was tempting to get it all out as soon as possible but it was certainly not the wisest move. The same goes for our plans, even the plans with the best of motives. We should make sure that God’s wisdom and patience is always included in our plans.

Haman reveals his pride and ego right away in this passage as he brags about his riches, his family and his position with the king. However his hatred toward Mordecai and God’s people surpassed his pleasure in the above things. He was then influenced to take the steps of building hanging gallows to kill these people and secure his position with the king.

These same characteristics displayed in Esther and Haman are displayed in God and Satan. We not only represent both when acting out on them but when making plans based off of them. Let this be a reminder as we do our best taking steps toward God’s will and fulfilling his calling and commission on our lives.

By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor

August 11, 2017

Today you should read: Esther 4:1-17

What we see in this chapter is the aftermath of what we saw yesterday: the decree had been sent that all Jews would be killed (3:13). The Jews were understandably distraught at this news. They traded their clothes for sackcloth (3); sackcloth and ashes are basically an outward representation of the inward torment that the people are experiencing. Sackcloth was a coarse material made out of black goat’s hair, which made it uncomfortable to wear. The ashes signified desolation and ruin.

Mordecai wants Esther to go before the king on behalf of her people. Esther responds by reminding Mordecai that any person who comes before the king without the king holding out the golden scepter, dies. What is really interesting is Mordecai’s response to Esther:

“Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (14-15)

Mordecai is confident that God will deliver his people, even when he is unsure of where the deliverance will come. He also sees Esther as someone who might be sovereignly placed in position of power for “such a time as this.” Esther’s response is to take a step of faith and ask for the prayers and fasting of her people as she prepares to risk her life for the sake of many.

Even though God is not explicitly mentioned in this chapter, it’s still all about Him! We are in the middle of an account that serves as a declaration of his sovereignty. We see God use a man like Mordecai, who had huge faith in the sovereignty of God. And we see God use a woman in Esther, who understands the part she is playing in the unfolding plan of God.

God’s sovereignty should change how we view ourselves. We should understand that where we are in life is not an accident; rather it should be seen as God intentionally putting us in a place for his plan and glory to go forth.

How has God strategically placed you in life to glorify Him? How can you see Him at work even when the plan hasn’t completely unfolded yet?

By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice