Wednesday 11 June, 2014

Esther 8:9-17

9 Right away the king sent for the royal secretaries. It was the 23rd day of the third month. That was the month of Sivan. They wrote down all of Mordecai’s orders to the Jews. They also wrote them to the royal officials, the governors and the nobles of the 127 territories in his kingdom. The territories reached from India all the way to Cush. The orders were written down in the writing of each territory. They were written in the language of each nation. They were also written to the Jews in their own writing and language. 10 Mordecai wrote the orders in the name of King Xerxes. He stamped them with the king’s royal seal. He sent them by messengers on horseback. They rode fast horses that were raised just for the king. 11 The Jews in every city could now gather together and fight for their lives. The king’s order gave them that right. But what if soldiers from any nation or territory attacked them? What if they attacked their women and children? Then the Jews could destroy, kill and wipe out those soldiers. They could also take the goods that belonged to their enemies. 12 A day was appointed for the Jews to do that in all of the king’s territories. It was the 13th day of the 12th month. That was the month of Adar. 13 A copy of the order was sent out as law in every territory. It was announced to the people of every nation. So the Jews would be ready on that day. They could pay their enemies back. 14 The messengers rode on the royal horses. They raced along. That’s what the king commanded them to do. The order was also sent out in the safest place in Susa. 15 Mordecai left the king and went on his way. Mordecai was wearing royal clothes. They were blue and white. He was also wearing a large gold crown. And he was wearing a purple coat. It was made out of fine linen. The city of Susa celebrated with great joy. 16 The Jews were filled with joy and happiness. They were very glad because now they were being honored. 17 They celebrated and enjoyed good food. They were glad and full of joy. That was true everywhere the king’s order went out. It was true in every territory and every city. Many people from other nations announced that they had become Jews. That’s because they were so afraid of the Jews.

I’ve wrestled with this passage.

There is a sense of justice that, as with Haman, the evil their enemies intended is turned back on them. And it could be argued that it was Xerxes’ pride that prevented simply repealing the previous evil law. But it still seems harsh to “kill, slaughter and annihilate” their enemies. Is God saying it’s ok to take revenge? Is it acceptable to use extreme force to prevent evil?

(The book of Esther does not say what God thinks about this. In fact, God is not mentioned at all. It only records that this was done.)

Jesus said “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. … You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” (Matthew 5:38-9, 43-45)

Justice is good, but grace is better.

Certainly I’m grateful that God’s grace applies to me rather than the justice I deserve. But does that mean that evil should be unrestrained?

I would find it very hard to simply stand by and allow someone to be attacked. I suspect there are times that evil needs to be restrained. But it’s vitally important that I not become evil in the process. I need to act in love for the victim, but also in love (not hate) for their oppressor.

Father, give me a heart that is always appalled by acts of hatred and evil; give me courage to stand against it; and especially wisdom to know when and how to stand not only against evil but for you.

Written by David Cornell

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