Saturday 31 May, 2014

Esther 2:5-11

5 There was a Jew living in the safest place in Susa. He was from the tribe of Benjamin. His name was Mordecai. He was the son of Jair. Jair was the son of Shimei. Shimei was the son of Kish. 6 Nebuchadnezzar had forced Mordecai to leave Jerusalem. He was among the prisoners who were carried off along with Jehoiachin. Jehoiachin had been king of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylonia. 7 Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah. He had brought her up in his own home. She didn’t have a father or mother. Hadassah was also called Esther. She was very beautiful. Mordecai had adopted her as his own daughter. He had done it when her father and mother died. 8 After the king’s order and law were announced, many virgins were brought to the safest place in Susa. Hegai was put in charge of them. Esther was also taken to the king’s palace. She was put under the control of Hegai. He was in charge of the place where the virgins stayed. 9 Esther pleased him. He showed her his favor. Right away he provided her with her beauty care and special food. He appointed seven female attendants to help her. They were chosen from the king’s palace. He moved her and her attendants into the best part of the place where the virgins stayed. 10 Esther hadn’t told anyone who her people were. She hadn’t talked about her family. That’s because Mordecai had told her not to. 11 Mordecai tried to find out how Esther was getting along. He wanted to know what was happening to her. So he walked back and forth near the courtyard by the place where the virgins stayed. He did it every day.

We don’t really know anything about Esther’s personality, was she adventurous and outgoing or cautious and quiet? Either way I imagine that the succession of changes that occur in this passage took some getting used to. One day you wake up in what was probably a modest dwelling, living as an exile in a foreign land and help keep house for your guardian. The next day you wake up in the palace complex and start a process of preparing to be ‘tried’ to see if you would make a good queen …. I’m sure Mordecai’s visits and the knowledge that he was looking out for her were of great encouragement and comfort – he was someone who knew her true identity and her history.

I’m thankful that God never allows us to experience things beyond what we can bear, and that He helps us through life, positioning people around us to encourage and comfort us.

God please help me to recognise the Mordecais’ you’ve put in my world, and to see where I can be a Mordecai for someone else. Amen.

Written by Beth Waugh

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Friday 30 May, 2014

Esther 2:1-4

2 Later, the anger of King Xerxes calmed down. Then he remembered Vashti and what she had done. He also remembered the royal order he had sent out concerning her. 2 At that time the king’s personal attendants made a suggestion. They said, “King Xerxes, let a search be made for some beautiful young virgins for you. 3 Appoint some officials in every territory in your kingdom. Have them bring all of those beautiful virgins into the safest place in Susa. Put them in the special place where the virgins stay. Then put Hegai in charge of them. He’s the eunuch who serves you. He’s in charge of the virgins. Let beauty care be given to the new group of virgins. 4 Then let the one who pleases you the most become queen in Vashti’s place.” The king liked that advice. So he followed it.

This is the story of an event which occurred during the reign of King Xerxes of Persia. The Persian empire spread from Northern Thrace near Greece (N) to western Africa and Egypt, and eastward to India.

The book relates how a foreign power under Satan tried to eliminate the Jewish race and how God sovereignly preserved His people who had stayed in the new Medo-Persian Empire.  Susa, was the town in which the Kings of Persia had their winter residence.

Esther reminds us that throughout the world God is always active even in the most unlikely situations. King Xerxes had no idea that his predicament with Vashti his queen would lead to an amazing vindication of the Jewish people living in Persia. He was looking for consolation by replacing his former queen with a young beautiful woman.

What a confirmation of the greatness of the God we serve. It confirms that even the seemingly impossible situation can resound to God’s glory. If I look to God there is no need to be anxious about how everything will work out, for I know He has an irrefutable plan for my life.

Lord, I praise you for your sovereignty because You reveal that no matter how alien a situation may seem, You are there actively pursuing your purposes in my life.

Written by Keith Bennett

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Thursday 29 May, 2014

Esther 1:10-22

10 On the seventh day Xerxes was in a good mood because he had drunk a lot of wine. So he gave a command to the seven officials who served him. They were Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Carcas. 11 He told them to bring Queen Vashti to him. He wanted her to come wearing her royal crown. He wanted to show off her beauty to the people and nobles. She was lovely to look at. 12 The attendants told Queen Vashti what the king had ordered her to do. But she refused to come. So the king became very angry. In fact, he burned with anger. 13 It was the king’s practice to ask advice from those who knew a lot about matters of law and fairness. So he spoke with the wise men who were supposed to understand what was going on at that time. 14 They were the men who were closest to the king. They were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena and Memucan. They were the seven nobles of Persia and Media. They were the king’s special advisers. In fact, they were the most important men in the kingdom. 15 “You know the law,” the king said. “What should I do to Queen Vashti? She hasn’t obeyed my command. The officials told her what I ordered her to do, didn’t they?” 16 Then Memucan gave a reply to the king and the nobles. He said, “Queen Vashti has done what is wrong. But she didn’t do it only against you, King Xerxes. She did it also against all of the nobles. And she did it against the people in all of the territories you rule over. 17 “All of the women will hear about what the queen has done. Then they will look down on their husbands. They’ll say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought to him. But she wouldn’t come.’ 18 Starting today, the leading women in Persia and Media who have heard about the queen’s actions will act in the same way. They’ll disobey all of your nobles, just as she disobeyed you. They won’t have any respect for their husbands. They won’t honor them. 19 “So if it pleases you, send out a royal order. Let it be written down in the laws of Persia and Media. They can never be changed. Let the royal order say that Vashti can never see you again. Also let her position as queen be given to someone who is better than she is. 20 “And let your order be announced all through your entire kingdom. Then all of the other women will have respect for their husbands from the least important of them to the most important.” 21 The king and his nobles were pleased with that advice. So he did what Memucan had suggested. 22 He sent messages out to every territory in the kingdom. He sent them to each territory in its own writing. He sent them to every nation in its own language. The messages announced in each nation’s language that every man should rule over his own family.

At the beginning of this story of Esther, we see in Queen Vashti a very different kind of woman to Esther. When the King summoned Queen Vashti, she had the audacity to ignore the command of her King.

For whatever reason, Queen Vashti thought herself above the commands of the King. Her independence was short-lived, however, as her rebellion cost her everything when she was thrown out of the palace.

As part of my allegiance to King Jesus, I have been given a royal inheritance – the Bible calls believers a “royal priesthood”. I need to be reminded, however, that I am neither equal to nor above my King. Absolute respect and obedience is required and there are dire consequences for pride and an independent spirit.

As we will read later in this book, Esther’s humility and obedience is a stark contrast to Vashti’s arrogance and independence. May I live in the place of humbly serving King Jesus, not thinking of myself more highly than I ought.

Written by Shelley Witt

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Wednesday 28 May, 2014

Esther 1:1-9

1 King Xerxes ruled over the 127 territories in his kingdom. They reached from India all the way to Cush. Here is what happened during the time Xerxes ruled over the whole Persian kingdom. 2 He was ruling from his royal throne in the safest place in Susa. 3 In the third year of his rule King Xerxes gave a big dinner. It was for all of his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media were there. So were the princes and the nobles of the territories he ruled over. 4 Every day for 180 days he showed his guests the great wealth of his kingdom. He also showed them how glorious his kingdom was. 5 When those days were over, the king gave another big dinner. It lasted for seven days. It was held in the garden of the king’s courtyard. It was for all of the people who lived in the safest place in Susa. Everyone from the least important person to the most important was invited. 6 The garden was decorated with white and blue linen banners. They hung from ropes that were made out of white linen and purple cloth. The ropes were connected to silver rings on marble pillars. There were gold and silver couches in the garden. They were placed on a floor that was made out of small stones. The floor had purple crystal, marble, mother-of-pearl and other stones of great value. 7 Royal wine was served in gold cups. Each cup was different from all of the others. There was plenty of wine. The king always provided as much as his guests wanted. 8 He commanded that they should be allowed to drink as much or as little as they wished. He directed all of his servants to give them what they asked for. 9 Queen Vashti also gave a big dinner. Only women were invited. It was held in the royal palace of King Xerxes.

We all love stories. In the New Testament Jesus used many stories as parables to say what he wanted to say. Here in the book of Esther the writer is setting the scene for a story. The scene involves great wealth, magnificent extravagance and a display of generosity. In this passage we do not yet enter into the story of what happened following this banquet. Despite that, I think we can learn from this passage.

There is much detail about the furnishings and opulence of the banquet. No words are wasted in the Bible so we can ask why the vivid description? I think the answer is that King Xerxes seemed to rely on his wealth and opulence for his satisfaction. Jesus said “Where your treasure is your heart will be also”. King Xerxes’ heart was shown in his gold goblets, ornate decorations and free flowing wine.

My response to this is: “Where is my heart? Am I relying on God; making my relationship with him the most important thing in my life? Or am I relying on material possessions, experiences, status, friends or family to make me feel secure?” I need to always come back to seeking God first. Only when my priorities and my heart are right will I have true satisfaction.

Heavenly Father, I give you my heart afresh today. Thank you for loving me so much. Help me to always put you first in my life. Amen

Written by Megan Cornell

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Tuesday 27 May, 2014

Ruth 4:13-22

13 So Boaz got married to Ruth. She became his wife. Then he made love to her. The Lord blessed her so that she became pregnant. And she had a son. 14 The women said to Naomi, “We praise the Lord. Today he has provided a family protector for you. May this child become famous all over Israel! 15 He will make your life new again. He’ll take care of you when you are old. He’s the son of your very own daughter-in-law. She loves you. She is better to you than seven sons.” 16 Then Naomi put the child on her lap and took care of him. 17 The women who were living there said, “Naomi has a son.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David. 18 Here is the family line of Perez. Perez was the father of Hezron. 19 Hezron was the father of Ram. Ram was the father of Amminadab. 20 Amminadab was the father of Nahshon. Nahshon was the father of Salmon. 21 Salmon was the father of Boaz. Boaz was the father of Obed. 22 Obed was the father of Jesse. And Jesse was the father of David.

This passage gets me excited! Not because of the love making but because of where it fits in the history of humanity!

Ruth and Naomi were on death’s door, living as widows with no means for income. Ruth was within her rights to leave her mother-in-law Naomi, but she stayed and attached herself to the fate of Naomi and entrusted herself to the God of Naomi.

I may feel confused or lost, but I can attach myself to God’s people, throw my lot in with them, even when I am unsure of where I am going. In doing so their blessing becomes my blessing, their clarity my clarity. I become more aware of the goodness of God in the community of God’s people.

Ruth is grafted into God’s people and over time received blessing, provision and clarity – we see the culmination of this here.She would become the grandmother of the greatest king ever to rule in Israel, King David, and she would be an ancestor in the human blood line of Jesus Christ.

“Lord I am not an island, I throw my lot in and acknowledge that without your people I will wither and die. I am attached to the body of Christ – the Church. I suffer with the Church and rejoice with the Church. Ultimately I will live forever with the Church and our Saviour! Amen”

Written by Andrew Mellor

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Monday 26 May, 2014

Ruth 4:7-12

7 In earlier times in Israel, there was a certain practice. It was used when family land was bought back and changed owners. The practice made the sale final. One person would take his sandal off and give it to the other. That was how people in Israel showed that a business matter had been settled. 8 So the family protector said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he took his sandal off. 9 Then Boaz spoke to the elders and all of the people. He said, “Today you are witnesses. You have seen that I have bought land from Naomi. I have bought all of the property that had belonged to Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. 10 “I’ve also taken Ruth, who is from Moab, to become my wife. She is Mahlon’s widow. I’ve decided to get married to her so the dead man’s name will stay with his property. Now his name won’t disappear from his family line. It won’t disappear from the town records. Today you are witnesses!” 11 Then the elders and all who were at the gate spoke. They said, “We are witnesses. The woman is coming into your home. May the Lord make her to be like Rachel and Leah. Together they built up the nation of Israel. May you be an important person in Ephrathah. May you be famous in Bethlehem. 12 The Lord will give you children through this young woman. May your family be like the family of Perez. He was the son Tamar had by Judah.”

I love Boaz. He’s such a compassionate, honourable man.

He probably could have simply married Ruth, but he takes an enormous risk in offering both Naomi’s property and Ruth to the closer relative. Fulfilling both the spirit and the letter of the law, down to every detail of witnesses and sandals was important to him. In the process he not only redeems Ruth, he also redeems her inheritance and the promise for Ruth and her children.

He’s another of those people that God puts throughout the Old Testament who are pictures of Jesus: Jesus who fulfilled both the spirit and every letter of the law; Jesus who paid an enormous price to redeem me, to bring me back into my rightful family (with God as father); and Jesus who redeemed my inheritance and promise and future.

I love Jesus too. I love that he redeemed me in just the right way. There is no legal loop hole that I can fall through.

Written by David Cornell

1 (reply)
  1. David Newton says:

    A beautiful reminder that we are not saved by a legal system we are are saved by a person!

    Thanks David, it is always good to hear your thoughts.

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Sunday 25 May, 2014

Ruth 4:1-6

4 Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there. The family protector he had talked about came by. Then Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend. Sit down.” So the man went over and sat down. 2 Boaz brought ten of the elders of the town together. He said, “Sit down here.” So they did. 3 Then he spoke to the family protector. He said, “Naomi has come back from Moab. She’s selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. 4 I thought I should bring the matter to your attention. I suggest that you buy the land while those who are sitting here and the elders of my people are looking on as witnesses. “If you are willing to buy it back, do it. But if you aren’t, tell me. Then I’ll know. No one has the right to buy it back except you. And I’m next in line.” “I’ll buy it,” he said. 5 Then Boaz said, “When you buy the land from Naomi and Ruth, who is from Moab, you must get married to Ruth. She’s the dead man’s widow. So you must take her as your wife. His name must stay with his property.” 6 When the family protector heard that, he said, “Then I can’t buy the land. If I did, I might put my own property in danger. So you buy it. I can’t do it.”

V1. Boaz went to the town gate and took a seat there.

I like Boaz. He has family business to attend to – so he goes straight to it – positioning himself at the town gate – where the town people pass by, positioning himself for success in his family business.He has promised Ruth he will sort things out for her future – and he immediately puts it at the top of his agenda. There is no mention of anything else Boaz does after he speaks to Ruth – except this.

I live in a culture where it is easy to put family business lower down on the agenda than it belongs. For me – family business is God’s business. They are not in opposition. Just as it was for Boaz – his commitment to Ruth was part of God’s plan.

I want to do what I say I will do, when I say I will do it. I want to position myself where I need to be. I want to sort out things that need to be sorted out in order to move forward. I need your help to do this. Thank you for hearing me and answering me today.

Written by Ps. Linda Quinn

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Saturday 24 May, 2014

Ruth 3:6-18

6 So she went down to the threshing floor. She did everything her mother-in-law had told her to do. 7 When Boaz had finished eating and drinking, he was in a good mood. He went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Then Ruth approached quietly. She uncovered his feet and lay down there. 8 In the middle of the night, something surprised Boaz and woke him up. He turned and found a woman lying there at his feet. 9 “Who are you?” he asked. “I’m Ruth,” she said. “You are my family protector. So take good care of me by making me your wife.” 10 “Dear woman, may the Lord bless you,” he replied. “You are showing even more kindness now than you did earlier. You didn’t run after the younger men, whether they were rich or poor. 11 Dear woman, don’t be afraid. I’ll do for you everything you ask. All of the people of my town know that you are a noble woman. 12 “It’s true that I’m a relative of yours. But there’s a family protector who is more closely related to you than I am. 13 So stay here for the night. In the morning if he wants to help you, good. Let him help you. But if he doesn’t want to, then I’ll do it. You can be sure that the Lord lives. And you can be just as sure that I’ll help you. Lie down here until morning.” 14 So she stayed at his feet until morning. But she got up before anyone could be recognized. Boaz thought, “No one must know that a woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 He said to Ruth, “Bring me the coat you have around you. Hold it out.” So she did. He poured more than fifty pounds of barley into it and helped her pick it up. Then he went back to town. 16 Ruth came to her mother-in-law. Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?” Then Ruth told her everything Boaz had done for her. 17 She said, “He gave me all of this barley. He said, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law with your hands empty.’” 18 Naomi said, “My daughter, sit down until you find out what happens. The man won’t rest until he settles the whole matter today.”

This passage of scripture, with some straightforward observations speaks really loudly.

The first for me is the way Ruth describes herself.  Previously Ruth was introduced to us as Ruth the Moabitess or as Naomi’s daughter in law.  Now, as Ruth is beginning to get on with her life she describes herself as Boaz’s servant.  Here is Ruth describing her future.  She is proposing marriage, by lying at his feet, and this description doesn’t reflect on her past, or her nationality, it is future focussed, vision oriented.

How do you describe yourself?  Do you do so in relation to others, I am the son of, the daughter of, the employee of, the friend of.  There is nothing wrong with this of course.  Do you describe yourself in relation to your role, husband, father, mother, wife, builder, plumber, doctor, accountant… again nothing wrong here.  Or do you describe yourself with the future in mind?

In different situations we describe ourselves differently, at work, at church, at home, in a team.

Yet there is an important power to describing ourselves with the vision of God in mind.  How often do you do this – for Ruth it was “I am your servant…”  Speaking what we believe is a powerful principle of faith (2 Corinthians 4:13)  Let’s continue to practice this principle.

Father, fill our mouths with vision that we speak out over our lives!

Written by Ps. Richard Botta

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Friday 23 May, 2014

Ruth 3:1-5

3 One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi spoke to her. She said, “My daughter, shouldn’t I try to find a secure place for you? Shouldn’t you have peace and rest? Shouldn’t I find a home where things will go well with you? 2 You have been with the female servants of Boaz. He’s a relative of ours. Tonight he’ll be separating the straw from his barley on the threshing floor. 3 “So wash yourself. Put on some perfume. And put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor. But don’t let Boaz know you are there. Wait until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 Notice where he lies down. Then go over and uncover his feet. Lie down there. He’ll tell you what to do.” 5 “I’ll do everything you say,” Ruth answered.

This is one of those passages where it’s tricky to work out what to say. It may mean more than is appropriate to talk about in such a blog – we don’t really understand some of the ways they approached matchmaking. However, we can look at Ruth and how she approached life to see what we can learn.

Ruth was committed to supporting Naomi, her mother in law. She had come with Naomi from her home to be with her in Naomi’s home. That’s a big deal. Naomi tried to talk her out of it a number of times. Ruth held true to what she believed she was to do.

In this passage Naomi is trying to look after Ruth in return (and herself). Ruth again stays true to what she believes. She trusts Naomi to know what is appropriate and good for her.  She doesn’t argue or question. I find her approach amazing – going to parties is not my favourite thing and putting myself in risky situations is also something I struggle with. But Ruth trusted that Naomi knew what was needed and was looking to help provide a future for Ruth.

We have times when we struggle to do what God has asked us to do. Sometimes we don’t want to do whatever it is, sometimes we are scared, sometimes we just think we heard wrong. But look at Ruth’s response – I’ll do it!!

Lord help us to learn from You what the plan for our life should be. Help us to choose to stick with that plan even when it gets tricky. Help us to be willing to follow You, to choose to believe that You are for us more than we can possibly imagine and You are trustworthy.

Written by Therese Manning

1 (reply)
  1. David Newton says:

    I am not sure about some aspects of Ruth either but your main point and your prayer are so relevant for me at the moment it’s scarey.
    Thanks Therese

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Thursday 22 May, 2014

Ruth 2:14-23

14 When it was time to eat, Boaz spoke to Ruth again. “Come over here,” he said. “Have some bread. Dip it in the wine vinegar.” She sat down with the workers. Then Boaz offered her some grain that had been cooked. She ate all she wanted. She even had some left over. 15 Ruth got up to pick up more grain. Then Boaz gave orders to his men. He said, “Suppose she takes some stalks from what the women have tied up. If she does, don’t make her look bad. 16 Instead, pull some stalks out for her. Leave them for her to pick up. Don’t tell her she shouldn’t do it.” 17 So Ruth picked up grain in the field until evening. Then she separated the barley from the straw. It amounted to more than half a bushel. 18 She carried it back to town. Her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out the food that was left over from the lunch Boaz had given her. She gave it to Naomi. 19 Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you pick up grain today? Where did you work? May the man who noticed you be blessed!” Then Ruth told her about the man whose field she had worked in. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said. 20 “May the Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “The Lord is still being kind to those who are living and those who are dead.” She continued, “That man is a close relative of ours. He’s one of our family protectors.” 21 Then Ruth, who was from Moab, said, “He told me more. He even said, ‘Stay with my workers until they have finished bringing in all of my grain.’” 22 Naomi replied to her daughter-in-law Ruth. She said, “That will be good for you, my daughter. Go with his female servants. You might be harmed if you go to someone else’s field.” 23 So Ruth stayed close to the female servants of Boaz as she picked up grain. She worked until the time when all of the barley and wheat had been harvested. And she lived with her mother-in-law.

Boaz continues to provide food & opportunity for Ruth to work & harvest from his fields.  It is not until the end of the day that Ruth finds out who Boaz is – a relative.

I see in these paragraphs a story of reputation.  Ruth’s reputation has gone before her – her faithfulness and loyalty precedes her and has been told to Boaz.  Boaz’s responds to Ruth’s reputation and shows kindness, safety and generosity towards her due to her relationship with Naomi.  His reputation is now forever recorded.

Kindness, faithfulness, loyalty, generosity & security – I have thought about these character traits and wondered about my reputation, what precedes me to others?  Am I showing Christ like character?  How do I respond to others … is it in kindness, generosity, do I offer security to others, am I loyal and faithful in my relationships?

Father thank you that you have challenged me through the character of both Ruth and Boaz, that reputation is something to be valued and guarded and more importantly it is to be a reflection of you in my life.

Written by Suzie Hodgson

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