So how do we respond to those steps that He took as the Bridegroom? How do we respond? Who are we? How do we accept this offer of marriage? Well, as you might guess, because He loved us first and because we would not have known how to love Him without that, our steps are a little bit different than His. The same, but a little varied.
The first one, of course, is that we must accept His pursuit. Remember, there was a pursuit set in motion. We must accept that pursuit. In other words, sooner or later, it’s got to grab our attention. We must accept the fact that He is pursuing us. John 6:44 says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”(NIV) The Father makes the arrangements, the Father calls the Bride to the Son.
We also see that in Isaiah 54:5&10; 55:1-8 scripture says, “For your Maker is your husband–the LORD Almighty is his name–the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit–a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God. “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer. “To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you….”Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples. Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.” Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.”(NIV)
Do you see the pursuit? The invitation and the pursuit. God pursued the nation of Israel, His people, after they had abandoned Him and made them a Light to the nations. His Son, the Son of David, is His ultimate Light. He is in pursuit of a people, a people to call His own. He is in pursuit. In pursuit of a Bride for His Son. We have to recognize His pursuit and follow. Come to me while I may be found.
And, of course, we know that when Jesus went to His disciples in pursuit He said, “Come follow me.” Come you who are thirsty, come drink from the waters of life, come follow me. There is a pursuit set in motion. Therefore, our first step is to accept His pursuit when He calls us to follow Him. For today is the day of salvation. (2 Cor. 6:2)
In the ten months that followed the issuing of the second edict there was a great time of rejoicing within the Jewish community. It was such an outward expression of joy that it was clearly seen by their friends and neighbors, even by those who had before wanted to attack them. After the second edict came a time of gladness a time when their light of that joy shined onto those around them. They became a witness to the power of God, a light to the Gentiles.
I believe this to be an initial fulfillment (the ultimate fulfillment of the following passage I believe will be fulfilled in the end) of Zechariah 8:23 which says, “This is what the Lord almighty says: “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘ Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”"(NIV) It is interesting to note that Zechariah was written in the time of Xerxes father Darius and even in the early part of Xerxes reign.
This is what the ancient world was seeing. Many peoples were coming to the Jews and following their God. God had made it obvious that He was with His people and the Gentiles did not want to be caught on the wrong side.
Remember that the first edict was sealed with the king’s signet ring, but so was the second. The people now had a choice as to which edict they would follow. Before the second edict came out there was but one choice and it had to be obeyed. Now, however, there was hope. Hope in the God of the Jews.
Here is where most people miss the blessing of the book of Esther. It is not just that God rescued his people through Mordecai and Esther, but that He used them to also start a chain reaction, so to speak, that overflowed to the rest of the peoples of the kingdom. It is clear that because of the fear of the Jews many became Jews. Yes, it does take looking beyond the surface to see the object of that fear. It is God Himself.
Remember that even Haman’s wife knew that his downfall began with parading Mordecai, a Jew, through the streets of Susa. Because the King’s honor went to a Jew, she knew he would surely come to ruin. She knew who truly lead the Jews, it was their God. It was their God that caused her to predict the ruin of her own husband.
Here too, we see the peoples of the kingdom understanding that the fear of the Jews is God. Their only hope was in trusting in this God of the Jews and thereby becoming Jews themselves. We must not think that becoming a Jew was a casual thing. It was not and is not. It involves, and did then as well, a public ceremony declaring your allegiance to the God of the Jews, immersion (called mikvah) for both men and women, and circumcision for the men. It is and was no small thing to become a Jew.
What we see at the end of chapter eight is a mass revival. We see people from different tongues, tribes and nations coming to God through the joyful witness of His people. We see the heart of God giving us a glimpse of what he would one day do.
Why do I say it like that? Because this was a short lived revival, it only lasted one generation. After the death of Xerxes, his son, Artaxerxes would declare Zoroastrianism the official religion of the kingdom. It is important to remember here that it was the Zoroastrian priests who helped conspire against Xerxes and largely gave direction to the coup against him that put Artaxerxes on the throne. One must ask the question why? Why would the priests feel the need to do that? Perhaps Xerxes himself turned and followed the God of his new adopted family. He had publically aligned himself to that family and perhaps, we can hope, to their God.
Either way, God had moved among the nations and given His invitation to the peoples of the Persian Empire just as He had with Egypt (The Exodus), Assyria (Jonah), and Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar’s turning to God). God’s heart has always been that His people, Israel, be a light to those far away so that they can be brought near.
Let us also not forget that the Northern Kingdom of Israel was dispersed into this area by the Assyrians. They may very well be a part of this revival. We think of them as lost, but God never lost them and never stopped wanting them back. We see in Ezekiel 37 that God would once again bring the house of Israel and the house of Judah back together to be one. This event in Esther may very well be that event or at least a part of that process. Remember Ezekiel was a prophet during the time of the Babylonian exile about 100 years before the account of Esther.
We also know that by the time of the first century that the Jews once again saw themselves as the twelve tribes. We see this in the opening verse of James where he addresses his letter “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations”(NIV). The scattering James is referring to is not the exile but the diaspora in the first century after the stoning of Stephen.
Here in Esther we see God once again drawing people to Himself. This is the heart of our Father. We should never neglect to see the working of His might Hand.
Ephesians 4:17 Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their thoughts. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts… 20 But that is not how you learned about the Messiah… 24 you put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth. 25 Since you put away lying, Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and don’t give the Devil an opportunity… 29 No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. 30 And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by Him for the day of redemption. 31 All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
Ephesians 5:1 Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. 2 And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God… 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light — 9 for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth — 10 discerning what is pleasing to the Lord…15 Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk —not as unwise people but as wise — 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit: 19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music from your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.(HCSB)
I admittedly skipped over parts of the passage and I encourage you to read the whole passage in Scripture, but I did it this way to point out some specific things. I want to start at the beginning of the passage with the discussion of Gentiles. If you notice Paul is saying that his readers are no longer Gentiles because Gentiles are “excluded from the life of God”. They are not apart of His family. That may sound harsh, but Paul is definitely using them as a stark contrast to what a believer is and looks like. Gentiles live in darkness, in every aspect of their life, and a believer in Yeshua is the exact opposite, they are people of the Light.
When a person becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ they are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and what a masterpeice God makes of them. In this passage Paul says that they are created in God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of truth. Did you catch that? They are created in God’s likeness, in His image. What was twisted and marred with the fall, God repairs. We were always intended to be in Him, to be like Him, to be imitators of Him. We are to reflect Him and so our actions must match that.
That is truly what this passage is about. We are His and we are to be like Him. Therefore, we are to look dramatically different than the rest of the world who live in darkness. We are to live differently and live in such harmony with our fellow believers that it marvels this dark world.
We are members of one another and as such we are to live with each other in certain ways. We are to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave us in Christ. We are to speak to each other in such a way as to only say what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. How do we do this? We speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music from our hearts to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. All the while submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
Is that to say that one believer never gets angry at another? Not at all. But we do not allow that anger to take root by “sleeping on it”. We speak the truth to one another, in love. And yes, expect them to do the same. The main game of the enemy is to divide us. He wants to put a wedge between us. Makes since doesn’t it? Jesus prayed that we would be one and so the Devil seeks to do the exact opposite, tear us apart. Question is, who do we allow to win those battles in our lives? I pray the answer is that we always seek to make the prayer of Yeshua a reality through the power of the Spirit, who fills us and seals us.
As we live, filled with the Holy Spirit, we are not only capable of living as children of light (discerning what the Lord’s will is), but we are expected to. Children of the One Light, whose light they reflect, are expected to walk step by step with that One Light. Otherwise they stray into darkness and when there we become easy targets for the enemy to pick off and destroy.
And what is the Lord’s will for us as children of Light. It is to be one with one another, living out the mystery. Submitting to one another. How we do that in our daily lives in everyday relationships is what Paul deals with next. I look forward to talking to you about that.
I want to back up some today to hit a certain topic a little harder, so to speak. Ephesians 1:6 says, “to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”(NIV) That glorious grace is the light of grace. I want to take a specific look at the Light of God, His Glory. I want to do so by taking you back through the awesome journey I had today.
I was reading in II Timothy today for my personal reading time and I came across this verse, “having a form of godliness but denying its power.”(II Timothy 3:5a)
The term “power” caught my eye because of what we are studying in Ephesians together. I went back to Ephesians and began to read chapter 1 into the first part of chapter 2. As I read the Glory of God, His Light, His Brilliance just popped off the pages at me.
The word “glory” or a form of it appears throughout the chapter. It hit me that godliness IS powerful and that godliness is letting the glory of God or the light of God shine in us.
What a leap, right? Let me explain my leap. God is light (I John 1:5) and Jesus is the “radiance of God’s glory (light)”(Hebrews 1:3) and Jesus in the Light of the world (John 8:12). When Paul speaks of his conversion in Acts 22:11 the KJV says that he (Paul) “could not see for the glory of that light”. And as we all know Jesus was that light he saw.
Going back to Ephesians, back to the prayer in chapter 1, do you remember? It is light of God, the glorious Father, or the rays of His light (“enlightened” meaning to shed rays) that Paul prays God will give or shed upon His people. Why is all this important?
In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”(NIV)
It is the rays of His light, of His Glory, that He sheds on us that lights our lives. Just as Jesus is the radiance of the Father, we are the radiance of the Son. “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.”(Colossians 1:13). In the light of Jesus the Father wants us to “shine like stars in the universe”(Philippians 2:15). “For God , who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”(II Corinthians 4:6)
There is even now a battle between the realm of darkness and light and we are a part of that battle. At the end of Ephesians Paul speaks of putting on the armor of God to fight the darkness, but in Romans 13:12 he calls it the “armor of light”. It is the light that pushes back the darkness, it is a powerful light. He is the Powerful Light. In Him there is no darkness (I John 1:5).
We must see to it that there is no darkness, sin, in our lives. The darkness is the way of the world that Scripture makes many lists of, among them are hate, strife, division, factions, envy, doubt, bitterness, fear, sexual immorality and many more. Those are the schemes of the devil, those are opposed to the light of life.
The light is the way of the Spirit and in His ways we find love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. These are the things we need in our lives and only these things. Or as Paul says it in Philippians 4:8, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”
God’s light brings righteousness, holiness and godliness (godliness with power). We are His children (adopted into His family), children of light (I Thessalonians 5:5).
So let us fight with the power of His light, that He has shed on us, and put in us by giving us the Holy Spirit. Let us push back the dominion of darkness with love, righteousness and truth, clothed in His armor of light. We must be good soldiers, fighting to the good fight, standing strong in the grace of our Messiah, His glorious grace, that He lavished on us.
Now in light of all this, let’s go back to Ephesians chapter 2.
EPH 2:1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.(NIV)
This passage starts out with reminding us that we were once a part of the dominion of darkness and disobedient, gratifying our sinful desires.
Likewise, those in the world who are still living in disobedience are still a part of the dominion of darkness and therefore subject to wrath as we once were. But because of God’s great love for us, in accordance to the pleasure of His will, which He purposed in Christ Jesus, God reached down and made us alive with Christ even while we were still dead in our sins He gave us His Son.
He gave us His Light, a light we did not deserve. He resurrected us in His power from the dead, to eternal life and did this with His glorious grace. His glory burst onto the scenes of our lives and filled us with His light and made us a new creation in Him. He says, “Let there by light!” We were rescued from darkness by His grace and brought into the kingdom of light, the kingdom of the Son He loves.
Not only did God resurrect our lives from death to life, but also “raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms”. Now, this spiritual reality has not yet been seen, but one day it will be sight and we will live in His light. For in the New Jerusalem there will be no sun or moon but “the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp”.
God did this so that He could show us His super (hyper) riches of His grace, riches found in His “glorious inheritance” in the saints upon whom He has shed His grace. God expresses this out of His kindness in Yeshua the Messiah. Remember that part of the fruit of the Spirit is kindness. Yes, God is kind. He did all these things in kindness and will bring us together (both Jew and Gentile) with each other and Him in His kindness.
Again Paul says we have been saved by grace, by His glorious, light giving grace, through faith. Just so his readers don’t become conceited Paul states very plainly that this faith to believe and follow Him is not from us.
We were dead in our trespasses and sins when He saved us. We were still a part of the dominion of darkness and were not capable of seeing the Light. It was Him who reached out for us behind enemy lines and brought us out. We were not capable of such faith on our own.
Even if it were possible for us to have intellectual assent to who He is and what He has done for us there is still No Way we would have had the strength to follow Him in godliness and life. One cannot live in the light while still in the dark.
This faith is a gift, an undeserved gift. The ability to follow Him is a gift. The Holy Spirit in us to teach us, guide us and be the down payment of our inheritance a gift, a gift of God. We do nothing to earn or deserve this gift.
We did not flag Him down and cry out, “I am over here, come get me”. No, He came in and got us when we were in the dark capable of nothing. Jesus said in John 15:5b that “apart from [Him we] can do nothing”.
He does not even want us to have this boast at our disposal. Our boast is to be in Christ Jesus and Him crucified.
Now get this. God has made us His “workmanship” meaning His masterpiece.
We are His finest work of art. He has put His light, His glory, His Spirit in us. He created us in Christ Jesus, the light of the world, to reflect Him. We are His greatest masterpiece because when people see us they really see His Son.
They see the light in our life and it is His light they see. In the movie The Lakehouse a father and son are talking about great works of architecture and the statement is made, “it’s all about the light”. You see when you have a masterpiece the first thing you do after hanging it is shine light directly on it.
He created us this way to do good works. But what good works? We have been implying it all along. To shine His light on others as stars in the universe, not hidden under a bowl.
We cannot hide in our comfortable air conditioned homes watching our TVs or even in our beautiful, godly looking, churches.
No, we must be about His work, to make disciples, to let the world know that He sent His Son so that we can be one with each other and with Him. This is the work that God prepared in advance for us to do. It was always His plan for His light to shine through us into this dark world.
Live the life that is worthy of our calling! I say that to myself, as well.