Esther Speaks

My heart is heavy lately.  I watch the news and see what is going on in our world and my heart aches.  It aches for our brothers and sisters who are suffering for His Name’s sake.  I aches seeing how backward our world has become.  It aches with the knowledge that our nation is currently on the wrong side.  It aches to see Israel suffer at the threat of annihilation.  As you may be able to tell by now this will be a different kind of article.

I believe God is giving us a message as to the time in which we live.  We are quickly approaching Purim, the festival that commemorates the Jews defeating those who sought to annihilate them in the Persian Empire.  Esther, or should I say Hadassah the Jewess, was put into the position of queen of that empire for a time such as that by God Himself.  She was put into that position to protect her people from those who sought to destroy them.

As I said, we are quickly approaching Purim and God has once again given Israel a leader who wishes to protect them, Benjamin Netanyahu.  He is in this position for such a time as this.  Once again on the eve of Purim Persia, Iran, seeks to destroy them again.  Let me say it clearly, I do not believe the timing of Netanyahu’s speech in Washington is by accident.  I believe it is divinely ordained.  This time our leaders are playing the part of King Xerxes and Benjamin Netanyahu is playing the part of Esther.

As Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to come and speak to our leaders in Washington we need to praying and fasting with him and for him, just as the Jews in Esther’s day did for her.  We also need to be praying and fasting that God would give true godly wisdom to our leader’s.  Just as Esther went before Xerxes and God made him favorable toward helping her and her people so we need to be praying that the same will happen this time with the leaders of the United States.

This is a very serious crossroad, one which has huge implications.  We may very assuredly seal our future if we side against Israel at this hour.  Then again we may seal a blessing if we side with and stand with Israel no matter what the rest of the world may think.  That is the choice we have before us, blessing or curse.

God said, “I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you.”  It is my prayer that we choose blessing.  This could be a moment of great victory, a victory from God, for both us and Israel, together.  We need to stand with Israel or else we will fall.  If we bless them, we will be blessed.  If we curse them, we will be cursed.

We must wake up to the hour in which we live.  This generation has a decision to make.  God is watching and He is our Judge.  What the rest of the world thinks is irrelevant.  We do not answer to the rest of the world, we answer to the One who created this world.

Benjamin Netanyahu is speaking to Congress on March 3rd the day before Purim begins.  May it be a time of rejoicing and not mourning.

U.S. Congressmen and Senators this time you are Xerxes.  Please lower your scepter and speak words of life.  Listen to God, He is speaking to you.  Benjamin Netanyahu is Esther and he is pleading for the life of his people and the land of Israel.  Do not turn a deaf ear or God’s scepter will fall in judgement.  Yes, He is watching!

Let’s pray!

Vicky

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The Celebration of Purim

 

We have come to the discussion of the annual celebration of Purim that is celebrated on the 14th and 15th of Adar. For those in the rural areas it is the 14th while for those in the city it is the 15th. This is due to the extra day of fighting in the city of Susa, the city of the king in the time of the events.

They are days of rejoicing and celebration. Life has been granted. Life can once again be lived and lived to the full so there was feasting. God is praised and worshiped. The people once again begin to love, help and look out for each other’s daily needs in life. That is why they share portions of food – a daily need – with each other.

Mordecai then steps in again and with the power and position God has given him writes down the events and also sends a letter to all the Jews in the kingdom of Xerxes, even those in Israel, to instruct them to hold this celebration annually. They were to be remembered as days when mourning and sorrow were turned to gladness. God had given them rest from their enemies, true rest – a Sabbath rest. Yes, God is the one who gives rest, rest from work, rest from sin, rest from our enemies and from death – rest, peace and safety. This rest allowed them (and us) to live life the way God had always intended, truly devoted to Him, loving Him, worshiping Him and loving others. This life put Him and His kingdom first and seeks after His treasures.

The Jews were now free to live that life once again. Mordecai wants to make sure they understand that these days need to be remembered. However, full and complete rest had not yet come, the poor were (and are) still among them so Mordecai also calls on them to celebrate this rests with gifts to the poor.

As for the Jews, they did adhere to the words of Mordecai. They were thankful for his position in the kingdom and they praised God for it. In other words, they were not jealous of the position God had given him. God had done it for a reason just as He had with Joseph.

Judgment came to Haman, the enemy of the Jews, and to his son’s on the authority of the king. Our enemy and all his sons will also be defeated and judged by our King. Just as Haman’s schemes were turned on him so will the schemes of Satan be turned on him. Haman had used the pur, the lot, to decide the time and so the time would be named Purim. Only what the enemy meant for death and distruction would now be used for life and celebration. (Romans 8:28)

So because of what Mordecai had written to them and because of what they had seen and experienced themselves the Jews established and received this celebration for themselves, their seed and for all who allied themselves to them (all those who became Jews – for us this would be all of those brought into the nation of Israel as adopted sons and daughters by the blood of Yeshua our Messiah, our King). They would hold this celebration annually. The days of Purim were not to pass away or the memory of these days and from among their seed.

Then Queen Esther and Mordechai wrote with full authority of the kingdom another letter to the Jews. In other words, this was an official letter of court, of the court of Persia. This official letter was one of peace and truth regarding the events. Notice this, it was a letter of peace and truth, not one of confusion and lies. Yes, there would come a day when some would attempt to rewrite history and tell lies, but Queen Esther and Mordechai did everything within their power to make sure the truth was told all throughout the kingdom of the king.

Also, take note that the days of Purim were also entered into the official court records and that the Queen and Mordechai were not asking the rest of the Jews to do anything they themselves or their seed were not doing. Queen Esther and Mordechai knew these days well and had experienced the full brunt of them. They knew that not only were they now days of celebration, but also that many days of fasting and lamentation had preceded these days of celebration. They had been on their knees before God Almighty and he had heard their cry for help and they also wanted to make sure everyone remembered that as well. That is why they also gave instructions for the Jews to have days of fasting and lamentation before celebrating the festival of Purim, which they still do today. All of these customs for the celebration of Purim were established at the command of Queen Esther and written in the book. I believe the book that is spoken of here is the book we know of as Esther. That’s right, I believe the book known as Esther was written at her command and therefore bears her name.

Epilogue: Chapter 10 seems to read more like an epilogue written after the deaths of Xerxes and Mordechai. It acknowledges both men, but primarily Mordecai and the position he was given by Xerxes, second only to Xerxes, and how he was held in high esteem by his people. Mordecai was always looking out for the interests of his people and they knew it. He loved his nation and they loved him. And let this fact at the very end truly sink in, all these things were written in the annuals of the Kings of Media and Persia.

God be Praised,

Vicky

 

In the Presence of the King

Esther had asked Mordecai to have all the Jews of Susa fast for her for three days.  She would also fast for three days along with her maids.  At the end of this time of fasting she would go before King Xerxes.  She was resolved that if she perished, she perished. This is where chapter 5 of Esther picks up.

“On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court the palace, in front of the the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.” (NIV)

Did you catch it? Esther had asked Mordecai to fast for three days and it was on the third day that she adorns herself in her royal robes.  Allow me to point out that it was also on the third day that Jesus rose from the dead and thereby was adorned in His royal robes.  What a picture!  Especially considering the time of year it was, right around Passover and Pentecost and what is after Passover, Feast of First Fruits or Resurrection Sunday. 

Yes, Esther approaches King Xerxes with boldness and fear, knowing her life is in the hands of God alone. She approaches him in her royal best on the last day of the fast.  She comes to the court and waits to be noticed by Xerxes. She is not pushing her way in past other royal officials, but quietly stands and waits for her husband to notice her. She has approached the throne with dignity and grace.

The king does notice his bride. He see his Queen standing in his court and that pleases him. Xerxes holds out the scepter and in that moment Esther’s life is spared. She approaches her husband, her king, and touches the scepter. God is revealing Himself to her. God does have a plan and He is setting it in motion, and doing it through her.

I want to discuss what Esther has just done. She has taken great care in approaching her king. Here is the question, do we take such care in approaching our King? After all, our King is King of kings and Lord of lords. In discussing this I want to look at Daniel 7:9-14 to see what it says about the throne room of our God. Beginning in verse nine it says,”As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were open. Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire.  (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.) In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

Now does this courtroom sound like a place where one can be cavalier? You are absolutely correct, it is not that kind of place. This is the ultimate courtroom and it is no mortal king who sits on the throne. This throne is occupied by God himself. He is the only One who can hold out that gold scepter and his scepter is His Son at His right hand. We may only approach the throne if we have held out our hand to touch Yesuah. In other words, to take Him as our Lord and Savior. 

Then comes the next point.  Esther approached her king very carefully and in her royal best, but how do we? In Revelation 19 the bride is given her royal robes to wear at the wedding of the Lamb.  The royal robes are fine linen and represent the righteous acts of the saints.  In other words, our royal robes represent our obedience to the acts He has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).  Thereby making our obedience to our King equivalent with wearing our royal best.

Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  The word here for “confidence” means to have all outspokenness, frankness, bluntness, publicity, assurance, bold, confidence, freedom, openness, and plainness. We are to approach the throne with boldness and assurance so that we can freely and openly speak to our God. However, it does not mean we can do this in a cavalier way.

Ephesians 3:12 says, “In him and through faith in him we may approach with freedom and confidence.” The word in this verse for “freedom” is that same word used for confidence in the Hebrew passage above. However, the word used for “confidence” is another word, which means reliance, confidence or trust. We have this reliance or this sacred trust to know that when we come before God and we are in Him and our faith is in Him He hears us.

I want to look at some more verses, so please bear with me today. I truly believe this is an important topic because we far too often approach God casually and really with very little thought as to whom we are approaching and where we truly are, His courtroom. The first one I want to look at is John 14:12 – 16 which states,”I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.  If you love me you will obey what I command.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever”.

I love these verses and the truth is that in most of our Bibles such as the NIV, which I have quoted here, separate these verses right in the middle. When these verses are separated we do not get the importance of the second part, which is to obey His command. Yes, we do have confidence and freedom in approaching our King, but we are also to put on our best, and what is our best?  It is our obedience.

Now let’s look at another verse and John 16:23-24 that says, “In that day you will no longer ask me anything.  I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

Know this, that in order to ask in the name of Yeshua we must not be disgracing or taking His name in vain.  This is foundational. We can not expect to receive what we ask if we are disobedient children who also blaspheme the name of Yeshua.  And to be sure that we all understand what this means, let me be clear.  We often think of blasphemy or taking the Lord’s name in vain as something we say and yes, it can mean that. We must also keep in mind that it is also about how we live the life we say belongs to Him. If we are living a disobedient life as His child we take His name with us into disgrace, let it never be. If we live that life of disobedience we can be sure He will not hear our plea in His court until we allow Him to deal with the topic of our disobedience.

There are many other verses on this subject in Scripture that I would hope you would take the time to look up.  As you look at more verses you will find that in coming to the throne room we approach God with rejoicing and confidence in him, asking in his name and will. The requirement is always our obedience to all that He has commanded, which is to believe in Him and to love one another.

So, before we get back to Esther let me recap a little.  When we approach our King we must realize that we are in the courtroom of The King and that His court is in session.  We may approach Him with confidence and freedom.  We must also be in our best, true obedience or humility ready to confess our disobedience.  And as I Peter 4:7 says we must “be clear minded and self-controlled” so that we can pray.

Now, let’s get back to Esther. The fast Esther called Mordecai and the Jews to participate in was a fast with a purpose, it had a focus. It was not just a general mourning, wailing, fasting and call for deliverance, but it was very focused and specific on where the deliverance would come from. There was now a plan for deliverance in place or at least the person, Esther. So she approaches the King.  She is clear minded and self-controlled about who she is to be in his presence and what she wants from him.  She makes her request.  She asks for Xerxes and Haman to come to a banquet that she has prepared.

Xerxes had told her that even up to half the kingdom it would be hers. This was not, as we will see later, just a euphemism, but dare I say it, a limitation. Keep this in mind for later in the book. However, she does not ask for half the kingdom, but for him and Haman to come to a banquet.

So the question is, why did she need to go to court to invite Xerxes and Haman to a banquet? It was necessary because what she would eventually discuss with Xerxes was a matter of official Persian business, the edict to annihilate the Jews. However, she knew that she must handle the situation with care and love. Yes, it was a matter of official Persian business, but it was also personal in that she was about to reveal something about herself to her husband, that up to this point she had kept secret. She would have to tell Xerxes that she was a Jew. Do you see the problem? She had to tell her husband in a loving way that he had made a big mistake, dispatching the edict to annihilate her people, and at the same time not point the finger at him. I believe that is why she also invited the enemy. She needed someone else to point the finger at.

However, at this banquet she does not reveal her petition, but states,”If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question.”

Can you hear it? She is basically saying that if Xerxes really loves her then he needs to give careful thought to whether or not to grant her request because this ones going to be a doozy. Xerxes must be resolved to answer her request, her petition, with a resounding yes if at all possible because this request will by no means be a small thing.

It is at this point that Haman goes home to brag, but is again confronted with the presence of Mordecai at the king’s gate and Mordecai does not acknowledge him at all. This riles him to no end. He wants to brag about his day and yet he cannot get Mordecai out of his mind. So his wife, whose name we ironically have, Zeresh, along with his friends and relatives tell him to hang Mordecai on the gallows. So Haman has them erected.

We will discuss what happens next time.

In the presence of our King,

Vicky

For Such a Time as This

We have arrived at chapter six where the famous phrase of Esther “for such a time as this” occurs.  What leads to that statement and what is meant by it ?  More importantly what is the end result of it?  The last question we will not be able to answer until we get more toward the end of the book.  However,  the other two we will deal with today.

We already know that Haman had sent out an edict declaring a day of destruction for the Jews and that to this point both Haman and Xerxes are comfortable in that decision.  This is where we pick things up in chapter 4.

In this chapter we find Mordecai responding to the news.  Remember this edict would have gone out to the city of Susa at the time of Passover, The Feast of Unleavened Bread and The Feast of Firstfruits.  these are Times of sacrifice, but also times of rejoicing as the people of Israel remember how God brought them out of the land of slavery in Egypt.  However, this year they were not celebrations of feasting and rejoicing in a past deliverance.  For Mordecai it would become a time of mourning.  I want to take a specific look at what Mordecai was doing because it is hard to completely convey it in our English translations.

For starters, his mourning was not a closet experience.  Mordecai did not find a quiet spot to be alone with his wailing and mourning.  No, he actually went to the middle of the city (remember this was Passover time) in sackcloth and ashes and publicly announced his mourning.  It was a mighty cry of proclamation.  He was letting everyone know of his bitter heart and its cause.  He was also in the place where proclamations are given, the city gate (remember he works at the city gate).  This was not done in secret.  There was something terribly wrong and he was letting everyone know about it and  was also letting everyone see how he cried out to God for help.

This makes me wonder about our situation in this country and in our churches today.  how does our day compare to his?  Is something terribly wrong?  Would we be willing to go into the middle of the city and make a mighty proclamation of bitter mourning and plea to the only One who can truly help us?  Makes one think!

It was not only Mordecai, but wherever the edict went there was great weeping and wailing among the Jews.  This was coupled with fasting.  In a book that does not directly mention God or prayer, these acts of contrition and fasting are as close as the writer comes to speaking of a direct appeal to God for deliverance.

Word does come to Esther about how Mordecai was behaving at such a time of celebration.  Perhaps others in the city came to join him after his public display of mourning.  Esther would have wanted to, of course, know the reason, but in the meantime she sent him some appropriate clothes for the festivals.  Can you imagine her surprise when they are rejected and were brought back with a message of tribulation?

It is interesting to note here that Mordecai knew the exact amount of money that Haman promised to put into the treasury for the destruction of the Jews.  Obviously his position would have given him access to that information, which makes what we mentioned in an earlier post about the extra Biblical evidence of a Mordecai being mentioned as a high level accountant during the reign of Xerxes so significant.

Mordecai also instructs the attendant to explain the edict to Esther.  I do not believe that this was because she could not read, in fact I believe the exact opposite.  However, the explanation probably came in the form of him telling her about the events that led up to the edict, not the edict itself, that would have been plain.  Esther needed to know Mordecai’s role in the chain of events.  She also needed to realize that she would not be exempt from such a decree.

It was time for her to do what he had done.  Announce that she was from the family of Israel.  Mordecai specifically asks her to go to the court of the king to beg for the lives of her people. What a thing to ask of her!  He was not asking her to have a private conversation with her husband, but to go before him at court.  Remember, she may have very well have had a court of the women to operate herself, we do know that Xerxes’ mother did.

It was dangerous, even for the queen, to go into the court of the king without being summoned.  That’s right, when Esther speaks of not being summoned before Xerxes for thirty days she is talking about not being called to the king’s courtroom for thirty days to perform her duties beside him as queen.  She knew that she too would need for him to hold out his golden scepter to avoid potential punishment like Vashti had received.

Yes, this concerns her, for she like most women, knows her husband.  He had proven he could be easily angered and she needed the help of God to make sure this was not one of those times.  Only God could make sure that when she entered the court that he was not right in the middle of a most pressing matter and therefore more annoyed at her presence than joyful.  Only He could make sure the mood of her husband was more than ready and willing to see her.

Mordecai had also made it clear that if she chose not to obey him at this point that she would not escape the destruction decreed by her husband.  In fact her entire family would not.  This may have meant only her and Mordecai.  However, it could also be referring to possible children that Esther may have had with Xerxes up to this point or possible brothers and sisters.  Either way, she would pay the price of remaining silent.  Remember, Mordecai made two very public proclamations at this point.

Again, this causes me to think about the price of remaining silent in our culture and in our churches about unbiblical behavior and practices, even edicts and laws from our government.  We, like Esther, think we are safe in our silence.  If we don’t say anything then no one will know how I feel about this matter.  But like Esther if we do remain silent and do not understand that God has us where we are, each of us, for such a time as this, and that He expects us to speak when he says speak, then we too will pay a high price or even worse see our children pay that price.

That’s right, Esther was in that place and time for such a time as was before her.  And as Mordecai says, “Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” God has His ways and we are only to follow and obey.

These words above remind me of Joel 2:12-14 where the prophet says, “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”  Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.  Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.”  Yes, who knows!

And yes, there is a time to remain silent and a time to speak as Ecclesiastes 3:7 reminds us.  This, however, was definitely a time to speak.  In fact, the word in these verses in Esther 4 that we translate silent actually means “to conceal” and carries with it the idea of secrecy.  Here Mordecai is telling Esther that the time for concealing and keeping the secret is over.

Mordecai also tells her that if she does remain silent that relief and deliverance will come from another source.  This is her opportunity to follow God herself and do the thing He is asking her to do and not to leave it to someone else who is not of her position and honor.

What I find so amazing about this section is the word for “relief”.  This word in the Hebrew means “room, enlargement or space”.  Yes, this is a relief that comes with the blessing of enlargement, not just a return to the status quo.  As we continue to study the book we will see how God brings this enlargement about.

In fact, it is my belief that this enlargement is at least one of the main reasons God allowed this all to take place.  God always has His reasons, His plans that even come out of what we would call catastrophes or tribulations.

It is at this point that Esther, for the first time, gives instructions for Mordecai to follow.  Up until now it has been the other way around.  Here Esther tells Mordecai to gather all the Jews of Susa to fast for three days, day and night, for her.  She would need God’s help of strength and courage if she was going to do this.  She also promises him that she and her servants would do the same.  Only an appeal to God Himself would get her and her people through this.  Only God could deliver His people once again.  Remember we are right around the feast of Passover and here they are again needing His deliverance.  She ends it by taking on herself the full responsibility of action, but leaving the responsibility of success with God.  If she perishes, she perishes.  It was in God’s hands not hers.

For Such a Time as This, (let us speak)

Vicky