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.
Esther is first introduced to us in chapter 2:7 as Hadassah the adopted daughter of Mordecai. We are told according to the NIV that she “was lovely in form and features”. What does that mean? These are two separate Hebrew words here that can both be translated “beautiful” and therefore emphasizing her physical beauty, however, the first can also be translated “pleasant” and the second translated “favored”. Both definitions are very important because it points out that not only was she beautiful in form but also in character. These second definitions are also ones repeated often in our story and so must be taken seriously.
When the edict of Xerxes went out many young women were brought to the citadel in Susa, but if you remember Esther already lived there with Mordecai. Therefore, Esther was one of the closest and therefore first to be brought to the harem within the actual palace of the king. She along with many others were entrusted to Hegai the eunuch in charge of the harem and the one responsible for preparing the girls to go into the king. This was a long process that would take a year to accomplish.
It was Esther who first caught the eye of Hegai. She “pleased him and won his favor” and so he immediately began to put her through the purification rites and to provide her with the best food. What is interesting about these two words her is that not only do they mean “pleasing” and “favor”, which they do and you remember these words are important, but both of these words can mean either “pleasing” or “favor” and they can also both mean “best”.
In other words, Hegai thought Esther to be pleasing, pleasing and the best, best and so he showed her favor, favor. I am emphasizing these words because of their importance and also to remind you that when a thought is repeated in Hebrew, either with the exact same word or not, it is done to add weight to the point.
Hegai not only began her purification, but also gave her seven maids from the king’s palace and moved her to the “best” accommodations within the harem. This again is emphasizing what he thought of her and her chances for being the one selected.
Then we find out that she has been commanded by her father, Mordecai, not to reveal who her people are or her homeland. The text makes it clear that she followed this command showing her to be obedient to her father and loyal to her people. She is a young women of character and distinction. She knows who she is and what that means.
We also see the love her father has for her as he goes everyday to inquire of her at the harem courtyard. These two, father and daughter, are very close and loyal to one another. It is not until verse 15 of chapter 2 that we learn that they are actually cousins.
This part of Esther’s biography reminds me of one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 45. It is found it verses 10 and 11 where it says, “Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house. Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.” This is the Psalm of a wedding that foreshadows the great wedding in Revelation 19. We are to forget our past focus only on our Lord, our Bridegroom. Here Esther is to do just that, she is to focus on her potential bridegroom. The difference is that Esther is doing it to protect herself and her people. She is also from God’s family, Israel, and it is the king in this case who will be joining through marriage, even though he does not yet know it. Remember, I said in an earlier post he is looking for a home for his heart.
Esther underwent her required twelve months of purification, no doubt having some religious significance within Zoroastrianism. When it was her turn to go to Xerxes, presumably one of the first, she asked for only what Hegai suggested she take.
It is at this point I find the statement in verse 15 quite interesting that states, “Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her.”(NIV) I find this interesting because it seems to be out of place or at the least unexpected at this point. We already know she has won the favor of Hegai and it is yet to speak of the favor of Xerxes so who might the text be referring to when it says “everyone”? Possibly, Shaashgaz, the eunuch in charge of the concubines, perhaps the other young women, perhaps her maids,
I can’t help but wonder if there is another important person this may be referring to. My thoughts go to Xerxes mother, Atossa. Remember she is still alive at this point and I find it hard to believe she had nothing to do with the selection process of the next queen, at least in her own mind anyway. If that is the case, this is a huge statement and not one so out of place. Notice though we are once again hearing how Esther won the “favor” of people.
Finally, she is taken to the king in December of 479 B.C. or January of 478 B.C. She would only return to the king if he called for her by name, until then she would remain in the part of the harem where the concubines dwelt under the protection of Shaashgaz.
Yes, this does imply that their night together was a physical one, an intimate one and Scripture gives us no indication that it was not. Regardless, she is now waiting to see if he will call for her again or if the rest of her life will be spent alone in the harem.
Scripture does not leave the reader to the suspense that Esther must have felt at first. Rather, it lets us know very quickly that Xerxes loved Esther more than the others. This love he felt for her was not purely physical, but much deeper than that; even to the point of friendship.
They liked each other in a genuine way that makes for a strong bond and marriage. It is obvious that he not only loved her for her beauty, but that they also enjoyed each others company as well. Esther won the favor of Xerxes, this word “favor” can also be translated “grace”, she found grace with him. She also won his approval, the word “approval” can also be translated “mercy”.
Therefore, with Xerxes, Esther found grace and mercy. He was pleased with her so he made her is wife and queen by setting a crown on her head presumably at their wedding.
Xerxes then throws a banquet and calls it, “Esther’s Banquet”. He is not showing off his own glory, but that of his Queen. She has become a reflection of him and his glory or majesty. He does not keep his bride hidden, but shows her off and once again the officials and nobles of the kingdom, i.e., family, are there. He doesn’t stop there, but declares a holiday in the provinces, which would have included Israel, and lavishly gave out gifts.
The symbolism in this portion of the account is breathtaking.
Remember in an earlier post I said that Xerxes is a type of Christ. Well, here it is obvious and shines through with abundance.
Yeshua our King has found his bride and paid for it all. He paid the bridal price, He paid the cost of the wedding and the banquet. He gives out gifts through His Holy Spirit. He has chosen us to be blameless and holy and made us so through the sanctification or purification of the Holy Spirit. He has made us a part of His family according to His good pleasure and will, by His grace and mercy. He has lavishly poured out His favor or grace upon us.
What an awesome picture of the wedding that is to come. What a glimpse of the fulfillment of the mystery of the Bridegroom and His Bride. It becomes so obvious doesn’t it? Now do you see why I said this book was also prophetic?
Today I want to talk about the armor of God in Ephesians 6. Everything up to this point in Ephesians has been about unity and what that is, what that looks like and to some extent how do we do this, but beginning in the passage we are going to discuss today Paul gets down to the brass tax so to speak on how to administrate the unity of the body. Here is the passage:
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. 20 For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.(HCSB)
We are to be empowered by the Lord and by His awesome power, the two words here for “vast strength” are two different words that could both be translated “power”. Paul is trying to remind us of the power he described to us earlier in the letter when he referred to the resurrection power. In fact, the two Greek words used here are the exact same words. This is power power, awesome power, resurrection power, from God Himself. This is the only power in the universe that is capable of changing and transforming lives. Only the resurrection power can resurrect in us what is dead in sin, yet created, created in His image, to be alive in Him.
Not only does God equip us with His power for the task, but He also gives us the tools we need to wield that power. To be sure this task will take the full armor of God, not just a part of it. We are in a battle against the realm of darkness itself, not mere flesh and blood men and women, but the original liar himself and his demons. They are crafty and we must be alert and on guard every moment so that in the end we will be left standing.
So, what is this armor? Obviously, Paul is using the Roman armor as a template, but is that all? If we look closely at this armor we will find its pieces referred to in the Old Testament as well. Remember, this gospel is about the mystery that makes us one with God and each other. The Old and New Testament are not two disconnected pieces, but two parts of a whole. One will always refer and define the other. The Old Testament, will define the New Testament for us and the New Testament explains much about the Old Testament that was hidden, yet right there. God is the God and author of both. Both of them together tell His story. So let’s look at what the Old Testament has to say about this awesome armor.
The first part of the armor is the belt of truth. We see that the Messiah is clothed in the belt of righteousness in Isaiah 11 where He is judging for the poor and needy and slaying the wicked. He will do that in righteousness, but notice the section before that when the Spirit rests on Him — the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge and the fear of the Lord — in fact the fear of the Lord would be His delight. In following the Messiah we can only do what is right and properly discern when we are listen to the Spirit of the Lord and the fear of the Lord is our delight. This belt holds the inner garments in place. For us only the truth can hold our inner being in place. He, the Messiah, is the truth. As we follow Him and strive to live righteous lives He and His truth holds us in place to continue the fight. We cannot fight the good fight in ignorance or falsehood.
Next, we put on the breastplate of righteousness. You see after knowing and believing the truth and in the Truth we must put on the breastplate of righteousness to protect our hearts from deception that leads us in the paths of death, not life. We are to strive in the fruit of the Spirit, part of which is self-control, to do the right that God calls us to do. In addition, the Messiah not only wore a belt of righteousness that held His inner part in place (remember He is the truth – John 14:6). He was always alert and clear minded, never distracted by His own thoughts or thoughts from the enemy. Can you imagine your prayer life like this and how awesome that would be?
The Messiah also wore a breastplate of righteousness. He covered His heart with doing what pleases God. Never did He waver. In Isaiah 59 15a-18a it says, “The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes.”(NIV) In this passage we see that His own righteousness sustained Him and was His breastplate as He did the work of salvation and He will be wearing that same breastplate when He repays wrath to His enemies.
In Psalm 132:9 we read the statement about Israel, “May your priests be clothed in righteousness..”(NIV) You see He is the High Priest with His breastplate in place, remember the High Priest of Israel wore a breastplate with all the jewels of the tribes of Israel on it, and we are called a royal priesthood in I Peter 2:9. Our breastplate reflects His – our righteousness reflects His righteousness. We will never win the battles in life without it. We cannot do our own thing and expect Him to bless it. We cannot follow the deceptions of our heart and expect to win the battle against the enemy, at that point we are following darkness and not the light and we will fall.
Thirdly, we put on the sandals of “readiness that comes from the gospel of peace”(NIV). Remember the gospel of peace is the good news of oneness with God, the mystery. We get to proclaim that to others, which is what Jesus called us to in the Great Commission. We are to take His message to the ends of the earth. In Isaiah 52:7(NIV) it says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”" That is the awesome blessing He allows us to be a part of and at the same time being a part of that is also a protection for us in the fight. The more we proclaim it and live it the more we come to understand what He did for us and grow closer and closer to Him and farther and farther from the arrows of the enemy.
Then we see the shield of faith with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the enemy that do come our way. We must hold it up, hold it up high. It does us no good by our side. We can be holding the shield and still get hit if we keep it down. We must use His strength, the strength that we spoke of earlier. It is only with His strength that we can hold up the shield and keep it up.
It reminds me of when Aaron and Hur held up Moses arms while Joshua and the Israelites were fighting the Amalekites. As long as Moses’ arms were up the Israelites were winning and when they were down they were being defeated. That is why Hur, from the tribe of Judah, and Aaron, the High Priest, held them up for him. He did not have the strength on his own and neither do we.
Yeshua, the lion of Judah and our High Priest, is the one who holds our arms up, He is our faith, our strength and our shield. It is when we humble ourselves that in due time He lifts us up. Let Him lift you up with His strength and power. We cannot be defeated if we use His strength to hold up that shield of faith. Hold it up, hold it up high.
After all of this is in place we can put on the helmet of salvation. This helmet not only protects the head, but keeps the head attached to the body. He is the head, we are the body. Just as in our discussion of the Bridegroom and the Bride we must stay with Him and do what is best for Him and He does what is best for us. As we have a helmet so does He. Back to Isaiah 59 we not only see the Messiah in a breastplate of righteousness as He works salvation, but also the helmet of salvation itself. He wants to stay connected to us and so we should want to stay connected to Him. So make sure that helmet is on. How can we fight the battle if we are cut off from the head. Protect your connection to Him. That is why the helmet and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, are spoken of together.
The word of God is one of the main things that protects that connection. Just as the body receives its instructions from the head so the body of Christ receives our instructions from His word. It is our offensive weapon as it was His when He met Satan in the wilderness. We must take this weapon and defend what He has given us, what He has entrusted to us.
The enemy wants to make us believe we are not secure, but if we know our weapon and we are attached to the head, if we hold up the shield of faith and wear the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of readiness, and the belt of truth, then this lie cannot enter into our hearts and deceive us. We are His and He is ours. Just as the master promised the slave to never leave him or forsake him, to abandon him, to pay his own debt on his own, our Master has promised to never leave or forsake us either.
With all of this equipment on we are to pray in the Spirit on all occasions. Remember the passage we mentioned in speaking about Yeshua wearing the belt of righteousness. He had the Spirit of God on Him and so must we. We must pray in the Spirit for the saints to be able to fight the good fight along side of us. We are in this together. We are not alone. He took those who were far and those who were near and made us one nation in Jesus the Messiah. We must stay alert to this fact and the fact that the enemy will also stay alert for any weakness in our armor. We must not let Him find one.
Finally, Paul asked for prayer for himself. Not to be released from his chains, but for boldness to proclaim the mystery for which he is in chains. Would you, would I, be willing to be in chains to proclaim the mystery, nonetheless, desiring to proclaim that mystery while in those chains. No matter our circumstances we must put on His armor in His resurrection power and pray in the Spirit. If we do we will be more than conquerors.
I want to first apologize for it being so long since I have written. We have been getting used to the new school year and then on top of it all we began to have computer issues. However, it did give me time to really think about this post. I am going to be discussing things in ways I have never really thought of them before and so for the extra time I am thankful.
Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, 3 so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land. 4 Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
5Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ. 6 Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart. 7 Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord. 9 And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them, because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him.(HCSB)
Let’s begin with the children. This command to the children is really a repeat of the fifth commandment that tells children to honor their father and their mother. That is what it is referring back to when it talks about being the first commandment with promise. In honoring them they are to obey, paying careful attention to them as they would the Lord and in doing so they are honoring the Lord who gave the command.
Then the fathers are to be careful in how they treat their children. Notice they are not given permission to do as they please to their children. They too are given instructions on how to bring up their children. They are to bring them up to love and obey the Lord, training them and instructing them in the ways of the Lord. This is a heavy task and one that bears total responsibility and purposefulness. Fathers cannot do this half-heartedly, it must be with the whole heart and with precise direction – toward the Lord.
Remember we are talking about unity in the home. If the Father or the children do not get their parts correct their is a break down in that unity. A father needs his children to obey him and to honor him and their mother. The children need to be loved and understood. They are not yet adults and do not do things the way an adult would. They also do not have the understanding of an adult yet long to be understood by their fathers. This is to be done with compassion and joy as they watch their children grow in the love and instruction of the Lord.
Here is where the mystery hits this passage. Scripture talks about us being the adopted children of God. As His children we are to obey Him without question, He is our Father. The Father looks on us with compassion as Jesus did the crowds. He understands us and knows how hard it is to avoid sin. As Hebrews 2 tells us, Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. You see He also knows the way to avoid the sin and if we are close to the Father, listening and obeying the Father, He will guide us through the temptation so that we can escape its grasp. This relationship is all important if we even hope to say no to sin. It works in unity, perfect unity. We are the children listening, obeying and thinking the world of our Father, standing in awe of Him and He is the loving Father beaming down in love and delight in His children.
As for the slaves and the masters I have often heard this passage preached from the perspective of employee and employer. I do not think this is accurate and here is why. This is not an example of an interpersonal relationship outside the home, but one within it. The home is the entire focus of these three examples in Ephesians. In Paul’s day slaves in the home were a reality and one that contributed to the unity of the home. Therefore it had to be dealt with as part of his conversation. He was not attempting to address the rightness or wrongness of slavery, but the behavior of both masters and slaves who have become voluntary slaves of Christ, knowing that how they act reflected on their Savior. Paul was effective in reaching both slaves and masters with the Good News of Freedom in Christ.
Slaves were to obey their masters as if they were serving the Lord. They were to do this in love for their master, not resentment. The Lord sees the heart and holds even the servant responsible for his own motives and attitude in his work. Slaves were an important part of many homes. If they did not do their work in a timely manner and well the home was not a good place to be. It reminds me of Joseph when he was the slave of Potipher in Egypt. God blessed the household of Potipher because of the efforts of Joseph who loved Him.
Likewise, masters are to deal with their slaves with respect as another human being. They are to treat them fair, knowing that they too have a Master in Heaven who is watching them. Yes, watching even the way they treat their slaves. Masters are not to leave or desert their slaves, they are part of their family, and thus, the masters are responsible for their care (keeping in mind the status of a slave was often the result of debts). This is the true meaning when it says, “without threatening them”, the threat is the threat to leave them alone. God holds each of us responsible for how we treat each other no matter our station in life. In Christ we are all brothers and sisters called to love and serve one another.
Now for the mystery within this example. We are the servants of God called to follow His commands. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands.” You see He is the Master. He is our Lord. He has every right to give the commands and we have no right to disobey them. As for His part, in love He has promised never to leave us or forsake us as a good master, our good shepherd, would.
Yes, Jesus does calls us His friends as well, but that does not negate our role as servants. Paul calls himself a bond-servant of the Lord, a servant by choice, following the commands of His Master. Let us never forget that Lord means Master. So when we call God our Lord and Savior we are really calling Him our Master and Savior and declaring ourselves His bond-servant bound to obey His commands.
God desires unity in every part of the relationship He has with us. Unity between the Bridegroom and Bride, between the Father and His Children, between the Master and His Bond-Servants. Is not our God awesome in what He desires with us? Truly His ways are above our ways and His thoughts above our thoughts.
Let us obey our Bridegroom, Father and Master as we love one another.
Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, 23 for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. 28 In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 since we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 32 This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.(HCSB)
Many people in our culture take offense at this passage because of how, on the surface and detached from the rest of the book, it would appear to be subjugating women. That is far from the reality of this passage. Never does God tell husbands to subjugate or lord it over their wives. NO Where! This passage is actually doing the exact opposite.
Imagine for me a human being. They have a head and a body, correct? If you detach the head from the body, what happens? The body dies. Both are vital and needed. Remember that Paul has already, back in chapter one, said that the Messiah is the head of the church, His body. Marriage here in chapter five is being used to illustrate a much larger truth than just how husbands and wives are to live with each other.
I want to deal with the specific issue of husbands and wives for a minute before moving on to the bigger picture. Notice what each are called to do. The wife is to respect her husband. She is to submit to her head. She needs him. To not respect is to say she does not need him and to effectually cut him off. She would be killing herself and him in the process.
Yes, she is submitting to the needs of her husband, his need for respect. This is a huge issue for men and it is the way God made them to be. It is their emotional blood flow, so to speak. They have a need for their wife to respect them because for them it is the wife saying, “I need you”. She is submitting to his needs above her own. Paul tells us that as believers we should allthink of each other as more important than ourselves.(Phil. 2:3) Obeying this mandate as a wife is doing nothing more than obeying the one in Philippians as a believer.
Next, God tells the husband to love his wife. Why? Because that is her need, her emotional blood flow. In order to live and thrive a wife requires love. It is how God made her. It is the husband saying, “I desire you in my life, in every area of my life. You are wanted”. In this the husband is to submit to her need above his own. Otherwise, he would be cutting off his own body and thereby killing himself.
In a marriage there must be this unity and this passage gives the way that is achieved. He, the head, belongs to the body and she, the body, belongs to the head. If they are going to survive they need each other and so each must be sure to give the other what the other requires to survive, respect or love. If this is done then the head and body function together with much greater ease and unity. In so doing they each survive and thrive.
That leads us to what God is illustrating to us. This relationship is what He wishes to have with His people. This is the story of the Bridegroom and the Bride. Yeshua is our Bridegroom and we who put our faith in Him, who follow Him, are His Bride. According to this passage, this is a profound mystery. Notice that our oneness with each other is called the mystery in Ephesians and our oneness with Him is called a profound mystery. This is beyond anything we could have thought of or imagined.(Chapter 3)
That is why it is so important to preserve the true picture of marriage because it speaks of the relationship He desires with us. To change the picture is to attempt to tarnish or twist the reality. For the last 50 years our culture has seen deliberate distortions and downplay of marriage.
Most prominently today, our culture, along with the enemy’s help in deceiving our culture, is beginning to accept more and more the distortion and calling it good.
Marriage is and from the beginning has been between a man and a woman, but our culture is debating redefining marriage to include being between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. What picture does that give of God? It is not two bridegrooms or two brides that offer us the accurate picture of the relationship God wants with us.
I am not saying that people in these relationships realize what they are saying, but to be sure the enemy does and he seeks to distort and twist all God wants for us. And to be sure God knows what it says, that is why this particular sin is called an abomination.
The enemy wants people to concentrate on their
“rights” to be happy and purposefully turns them away from what the reality of what they are doing says about God. That is why it is called deception. Eve sinned based on deception, but it was still sin.
The first relationship we see in Scripture is marriage of one man and one woman. The man represents the Son of God (Luke calls Adam the son of God) and Eve represents the Bride of Christ, the Bride of the Son. In the end we see the marriage of the Lamb and His Bride. One is the picture of the other and to distort and twist it into anything else is the enemy’s attempt to distort and twist what it represents, what it will be in the end.
It is for this reason the church must hold the line on true marriage because we must insist on reflecting the light of the true relationship God wants with His people. Anything else is from the realm of darkness and based on deception.
Bride of Christ – Hold the Line, no one said it would be easy to insist on the accurate picture to a world who desperately needs our Bridegroom when all it seems to want to do is reject Him.
Our Bridegroom wishes to have a spotless Bride, one without wrinkles or blemishes. He paid for us with His own blood. It is the least we can do to hold tight to His promise as His bride. One day He will come for us and call us to Himself.
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.
Ephesians 4:7 Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the Messiah’s gift. 8 For it says: When He ascended on high, He took prisoners into captivity; He gave gifts to people. 9 But what does “He ascended ” mean except that He descended to the lower parts of the earth? 10 The One who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. 11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head —Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.(HCSB)
It was the Messiah who gave the duties of being an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor and a teacher. He did not give them just because He felt like it, but for a very specific purpose. The One seeks for His people to be one. Do not miss that.
On a corner of one of our seminary buildings was verses 11 and 12 and it always bugged me because it stopped there. But Scripture does not stop there. These duties are assigned so that the saints can properly do ministry in such a way that grows the body up. You see, ministry can be done in such a way where the body does not grow up and it stays an infant. So, the question is, what does it look like when the body of Christ is grown up?
Verse 13 gives the answer to that question. You see, we are headed in a specific direction, not meandering aimlessly around on our own. With the help of the Spirit and those God equipped to lead the body the church is supposed to come to a place where they reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of God’s Son.
This part is very important, this unity is in doctrine. This is the area we like to ignore, but according to this passage we cannot. We must have unity in how we live for Him and in our doctrine. We cannot have unity in one and not the other and expect the world to see the Light of Truth in our lives. That is why so much of this book is given to this subject of oneness and unity.
I have often wondered how it is that so many people inside the church want to insist that there can be unity of the body and not unity of doctrine. It has also amazed me that no one really seems determined, within orthodox Christianity, to sit down together and pray together and pour through Scripture together until unity becomes reality.
You know, do the hard work our founders here in The United States did when they shut themselves up in a room, prayed, searched the Scriptures and talked together coming out of that hall with the Constitution.Where are those in the faith willing to do that?
The issue to my past wonderings may be found in the next phrase in verse 13, “growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness”. This can also be translated this way, “into a complete man with a maturity measured by Christ’s completion.” Look at that again, it says, “a complete man”. Does this remind you of anything already talked about in the book.
Back in chapter two Paul talks about the Messiah taking the two, the Jew and the Gentile, to make one man. You see we are not complete without each other. Up until recently in history the Jews were not coming into the faith of the Son of God in very large numbers. However, that is changing and with them we are seeing a resurgence of understanding in the faith.
Could it be that they had to be grafted back into there own tree before we who are in the faith could sit down and really seek unity, complete unity. Did they need to be at the table? I believe so. Why? Because they hold the key to so much that the Gentile church had left behind long ago and frankly no longer made much sense to us. That is why some could think it O.K. to abandon the Old Testament. But it is not O.K., we need each other.
I have often said that Yeshua/Jesus does not want a dysfunctional Bride, yet that is what we have been giving Him for quite some time. No, He seeks oneness, complete unity (John 17) for His Bride. The pieces are in place and we can learn from one another again. Jew and Gentile are no longer separate, but in Christ have become one man, a complete and mature man.
This is why we will not be tossed to and fro by the waves that sail our way. As one, knowing our faith and standing firm up against one another, the waves break on us instead of us breaking on them. False teaching does not stand a chance when the body stands together as one.
No, we speak the truth in love instead of following after false teaching and saying it’s O.K. to do so. We follow the one who is the One. We grow to be like Him who is our head. We grow by each one of us doing our assigned duty in love.
We have been given our marching orders and they are to stand up against one another in love and not to allow any false teaching in.
We must act and think as one, a properly trained military unit. We are His body. He is the head, the commander of the unit. No unit can do anything without the commands of it’s commander. And no unit will succeed when it disobeys its commanders explicit instructions. That is what we have, explicit instructions, commands, to follow. It is up to us to do the following. That is why Jesus said to His disciples, “Come, follow me”.
In the weeks ahead I hope to create a page on this website where we can come together in love to discuss our differences and learn from each other as we hear each others hearts.
It will be a place where we can be honest about what we think we understand, but at the same time are willing to hear from others who disagree with us.
It will be a place, not to win an argument, but a place to follow the leading of the Spirit.
Please invite people to come and join us here at Esther’s Legacy, people from different orthodox Christian backgrounds.
We need each other. The Gentile Christian needs the Messianic Jew and the Messianic Jew needs the Gentile Christian. Lest we forget, the different Gentile denominations need each other too.
Ephesians 4:1– “Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, 3 diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. 4 There is one body and one Spirit —just as you were called to one hope at your calling — 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”(HCSB)
Knowing the mystery and that he had been given the administration of this mystery, having prayed for the believers to know God’s power and love, Paul basically says “with that in mind let’s get down to brass tax”.
That is what he means by the “therefore”. To add weight to what he is about to say, to let his readers know that he understands how hard it is and will be he calls himself the prisoner of the Lord. He has chosen to walk this path that has taken him to prison and he is calling the others to walk it with him.
This is the life they had been called to and are expected to walk in a way that is worthy, worthy of the calling. And who called them?
The Lord did, not Paul – God called them to this life.
Is living the mystery as God wants it to be going to be easy?
Absolutely not. Loving and living as one will require their all and nothing less. It will take the Spirit filled life.
I want to break down this passage because it is so much weightier than how we often translate it to be in the English.
Beginning with the word “humility” we see that God is asking us to do something very contradictory to the flesh. This word means to think lowly of ones self, having humiliation of mind.
This is the exact opposite of the worldly message of self-esteem where we are called by the enemy to think highly of ourselves, to esteem ourselves instead of others and God. This is by no means easy, but highly necessary.
Our next word is “gentleness “. It is really the word “meekness”. Unfortunately we do not really understand this word.
It is not an absence of power, but a very intense power that is restrained and in control. Meekness means knowing you have power, but not always exerting that power, or right, on others.
Jesus is our greatest example of this. He had the angels at His disposal before His arrest and He restrained that power for the joy that laid before Him, for the sake of His Bride and in obedience to His Father. This is what this word is calling us to be.
Then comes “patience”, a word we simply do not understand. This word does not mean just sit around and wait while we twiddle our thumbs.
This word is the idea of fortitude, standing guard, being fortified. It is being longsuffering in action. Knowing you may be fortified, standing guard, for a long time, but willing to keep standing guard until God moves you.
Are you beginning to think, “O.K. that’s enough, please that’s enough”? Like I said this is not easy, but God does not stop here.
He talks about accepting or bearing with one another. However, the word for “accepting” really means to “hold yourself up against”, in this case, one another.
Are you getting the picture? We are to hold ourselves up against each other in love.
Now here is the idea. The idea Paul is trying to create is a military line. Like troops in formation, we are holding up against one another as a military line and the thing that glues us together is love.
I want to take the next phrase together.
It is “diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit”. The word “diligently” means to make every effort with speed.
O.K. what are we doing with speed and with every effort? We are keeping.
The word “keeping” means to watch as in a watchman on the wall, to guard from loss or injury or to hold fast.
We are on the ball, so to speak, and keeping watch on, guarding, and holding fast the unity or oneness of the Spirit. We do this with the peace or oneness that binds us together– our love for one another.
Oneness or Unity is hard work, work that requires every effort and determination to stay the course.
It is also something that does not automatically happen just because we are one body with one Spirit who lives in each of us.
No He will not force this upon us but gives us the directions to achieving it through the power of His Spirit.
We as the body are not one because we do not want it or seek it.
We do not think lowly of ourselves. We do not restrain our power or rights. We have little fortitude and longsuffering and are unwilling to hold up against one another in love.
We do not stand guard over the unity and oneness of the Spirit through any bond of peace. We do not love one another as He has commanded us to do.
We do not do this and I am sad to say that for the most part I am afraid we do not even really attempt it. We are comfortable being apart especially in our different denominations. This should, just as it was for Paul with the Ephesians, be a matter of prayer and concern for us today.
We are to hold fast or hold the line, so to speak, on the matters of doctrine and life that follow in the book. Staying firm on the fact that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, above all, through all and in all.
Church… you must hold the line, hold fast. You must stand guard over the oneness of the Spirit with all diligence.
Ephesians 1:9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him 10 for the administration of the days of fulfillment —to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.(HCSB)
Ephesians3:3 The mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have briefly written above. 4 By reading this you are able to understand my insight about the mystery of the Messiah. 5 This was not made known to people in other generations as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6 The Gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.(HCSB)
Ephesians 3:8 This grace was given to me —the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of the Messiah, 9 and to shed light for all about the administration of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.(HCSB)
Ephesians 3 defines the mystery for us as Gentiles and Jews sharing in the promise as co-heirs together in Christ Jesus. This is a true mystery that for ages past had been kept hidden although hinted at. The Old Covenant spoke of people of other nations and tongues coming to worship God, but the actual understanding that Jews and Gentiles would share equally in the promise was not even thought of by those who worshiped The Name.
As we saw in chapter 2 not only were these two to be co-heirs, but would become one man. Yeshua came to make us one together so that we can be presented to Him as a spotless bride without wrinkle or defect. Our God is so awesome and His ways are truly above our ways and His thoughts truly far above our thoughts.
God, however, does not stop by just revealing this mystery to us and then leaving us to figure out how to make this reality in our time for ourselves. Most of us, I would venture to say, do not even think it is really possible for us to truly act and be as one this side of the Messianic Age or heaven. We tend to leave things alone as they are and not strive for true oneness in this world where sin is still a reality. But Beloved, God’s plans are greater than ours and not only does He expect us to act and be as one now, He also gave us the road map of how to achieve it. That is what the rest of Ephesians is about.
Chapter 3 lets us know that God gave Paul the administration of this mystery or to say it another way, He gave Paul the way in which the body of Christ, the blessed bride of The Lamb, could actually carry out this mystery. It is that reality that speaks of God’s wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. When they see God’s Spirit filled people living out the mystery of being one with each other and with Him it screams volumes to the unseen realms of how only God could have thought of this awesome mystery.
It is with this truth that Paul prays the prayer of Ephesians 3.
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. 16 I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, 17 and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, 19 and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us — 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.(HCSB)
Paul begins pretty much where He left off in the prayer of chapter 1, with praying for power among God’s people. Remember this is no ordinary power as the world defines power, but the power that raised Jesus from the dead. That is what he prays will be in us, in our inner being through His Spirit. He prays that through faith, being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, faith that leads us to action not just intellectual awareness that Yeshua the Messiah will dwell, be tabernacled in us (we are the temple of God).
Paul assumes our rooting and firm establishment in love. The believer is rooted deep in God’s love, the love that sent His Son to die for us, and firmly established in our love for one another, a requirement for the believer based on the command of Jesus. He (Paul) knows that it is only in this love, the love God has for us and our love for each other, that we will together with all God’s people even begin to be able to comprehend the love of Christ – the width, depth, length, and height of His love.
It is only together that we will have our full strength to eagerly take hold of that kind of love. It is His love being made manifest in all of us toward each other that makes His love knowable to us just as us living out that life of the mystery makes His wisdom known to the unseen realms.
Paul prays for us to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God, which harkens back again to the prayer in chapter 1. We can only be all that God desires us to be as we live in power, faith, and love together. This life baffles the world, but also lets them know that the Father sent His Son.
Can this generation of believers live this life? Yes it can! And the rest of Ephesians instructs us in just how to live out this mystery. So as we study the rest of the book we will be approaching it from this perspective.
My family and I took a trip to Nashville this past Saturday and worshiped our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ/Yeshua the Messiah, with Kol Dodi Messianic Congregation. It was a heart warming experience. Heart warming because the people of Kol Dodi were very loving and welcoming from the first Shabbat Shalom to the last goodbye.
We spent six hours with them and by the end of our time with them felt like we were one of them. The first two hours were spent in worship with songs in both Hebrew and English, readings from Scripture, teaching, communionand prayer. I have to tell you it did not seem like that much time went by.
Our daughter spent the teaching time with the children after a blessing upon the children was given under a prayer shawl/canopy. While with the children she made a pottery communion cup and met a new friend. One of her teachers has a son who helps with the BCM here at our local university, what a small world.
It was a congregation made up of both Jew and non-Jew. A congregation worshiping in the Hebrew way together with the walls of hostility gone in the Name of Yeshua. It reminded me of the passage in Zechariah 8 where God says that ten men would take hold of one Jew because they know the Lord is with him. What an awesome sight to see Jew and non-Jew worshiping together and being a part of it.
The rabbi’s wife was very welcoming at the picnic as we talked and she invited me to visit with the other ladies and introduced me. I thought, “this is how it should be”. It was a great honor to visit with those ladies and hope to do so again soon.
The mikvah was amazing and started with the call of the shofar. We stood on the bank of a creek as two children and two women went into the water to be baptized in the Name of Yeshua. The two women gave awesome testimonies, one even including a confession that was something only God could accomplish, I pray she will continue to allow God to change her and transform her into the image of His Son.
I could not recommend more highly that each of us find a Messianic Congregation in our region to visit, worship with and participate with in their work. It will bless your heart and you will be awestruck at what God is doing in His Bride.