For The Fear of The Jews

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.

For The Fear of our God,

Vicky

 

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For Her People

At the end of our last post Xerxes’ anger was subsiding and Haman was dead.  However, the real work was yet to come.  At the beginning of chapter eight, on the very day that Haman was hanged, we find King Xerxes and Queen Esther in court together and Esther officially presenting Mordecai to Xerxes and the court.  Xerxes not only accepted the Jewish girl as his wife, but also publically as his Queen in the full knowledge of what that meant.

A tremendous shift in power was made in this moment.  Mordecai becomes the King’s new confidant and trusted advisor.  The deceiving one is dead and the child of God takes his place.  The king no longer trusts the forces of evil, but is putting his trust and his confidence in the people of God.  Xerxes makes this change having all the information.  His wife is a Jew and the man who raised her, her adopted father, also a Jew, is now the one whom the king will rely on and trust.

Mordecai is also given great wealth.  The estate of Haman was given to Esther and she in turn gives the responsibility of the estate to Mordecai.  Mordecai is also robed in princely attire and given great honor.  This  is the Great Reversal within the book.  Mordecai, the Jew, becomes everything that the enemy had been and more.  He is not only given great honor and responsibility, but is publically seen as a member of Xerxes’ household.  Or should I say that Xerxes is publically seen as a member of Mordecai’s household, the very household Haman had sought to destroy.

However, even though Esther and Mordecai are now safe from danger there is still the matter of the people throughout the kingdom and the king’s edict.  Her people were still in danger because the edict was still in effect.

To address this, Esther once again finds herself on her knees before the king.  She would have had to step down off her throne as Queen and become just another subject to make such a request.  This time anger is not motivating Xerxes, but the cry and the heart of his wife.  She is begging for her people.  Her heart is exposed for she cannot bear to see her people suffer. 

She does not want to be like the last king of Judah, Zechariah, who was forced to see the death of his sons before losing his sight at the command of Nebuchadnezzar.  She wanted her people to be spared including those back in the land of Israel that Cyrus, Xerxes’ grandfather, had allowed to return.  She wanted her people, whom Darius, Xerxes’ father,  had allowed  to rebuild the temple to be able to protect themselves and all they had built.  After all, how could she stand by and watch all that be wasted?  How could he?  There was still so much at stake.

So Esther humbles herself before her king and husband in order to request the lives of her people.  She knows that he does not have the authority according to the laws of Persia to reverse the last edict, but she also knows there must be a solution.

Let us also remember that presenting herself in this way without an invitation would once again require the lowering of the king’s scepter.  However, this time there does not seem to be any hesitation on her part to do so.  Xerxes had proven himself to her and she was confident in his love for her.  And the scepter comes down and she stands to her feet.

She makes her appeal by saying these words, “If it pleases the king,…,and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me,…”(NIV)  She is reminding him once again that she does please him, that he does regard her with favor, or said another way, that the grace of the king is on her and that she pleases, pleases him. 

There is also the issue that the matter at hand is about right and wrong, good and evil.  She knows it pleases him to do the good and she trusts him to do it.  She is again showing her confidence in him as her king and her husband.

Xerxes gives Esther and Mordecai the authority to set things right and even hands over his signet ring to Mordecai.  I love the significance of that scene.  The King’s ring goes to the one whom God had intended it for. Mordecai is given the seal of the king.  I cannot help but think of the seal that the Messiah has placed in us, The Holy Spirit.  With His seal in us our security is fixed in Him and cannot be reversed anymore than an edict of the Persian kings that had been sealed with the king’s ring could be reversed.

Esther and Mordecai set out immediately to overcome the first edict with an edict of their own.  This new edict was to give the Jews the right to protect themselves against anyone who would follow the first edict and attack them, either as individuals or as armies.  They were also given the right to take the plunder of those who attacked them.  The latter is a privilege that they did not use.

This edict was also sent out on a specific date, Sivan 23.  This is important because it was shortly after Pentecost, the feast of the first harvest of the year.  Remember that the first edict went out at the time of Passover.  It had been about 2 months.  All of this had taken place in a little more than two months.  There was still about 10 months left to get the word out and for people to prepare, either way.

Her people were saved that day and Mordecai leaves the court in royal robes.  God is glorified by it all even though the book never mentions Him.  It is completely understood that the hero in the book is God Himself who reveals His power and plan through the orphan girl turned Queen and her adoptive father.  It pleased our King to save His people.

Our King Saves,

Vicky