Saturday 10 November, 2018

Esther 4:1-17

4 When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. 2 But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. 3 In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes. 4 When Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther summoned Hathak, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why. 6 So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. 7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people. 9 Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.” 12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” 15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” 17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.

Anyone who has ever faced something overwhelmingly unjust, or a situation where events are completely out of your own control, will have glimpsed Mordecai and Esther’s world. I have never been a royal queen like Esther, but I think at times we all face situations that are much bigger than we are and over which we seem to have no control. It is reasonable to question ‘where is God?’ in the midst of a crisis when feelings are running high. But the answer to that is easy. God is ALWAYS there and has already dealt with everything. Mordecai did not know how, but he definitely knew that God had a plan. He was confident in the big picture – God would rescue the Jews.

So in the middle of the crisis, when there seems to be no hope, are you and I prepared to step up and be brave and trust God? Esther had no way of knowing she wouldn’t be killed for approaching the King, but she was challenged to be brave (ie do it scared but do it anyway) and play her part. The ‘brave’ thing is trusting God, the outworking of that faith and trust is the actions that we take. Esther could have said ‘no’, God would have found another way. But by choosing to step up Esther was rewarded with being able to help save her people and her inspiring actions have gone down in history.

Are we trusting God, regardless of the situation or how we feel? Our challenges may not be as big as Esther’s, but big or small God calls us to trust in Him. Are you and I prepared to be brave and step up to play our part in God’s plans when the time comes?

Lord God help me keep my eyes on you. Help me to be brave and act with your wisdom and grace. Help me Lord to trust in you at all times. In Jesus name. Amen

Written by Christine Knight

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Friday 9 November, 2018

Esther 3:12-15

12 Then on the thirteenth day of the first month the royal secretaries were summoned. They wrote out in the script of each province and in the language of each people all Haman’s orders to the king’s satraps, the governors of the various provinces and the nobles of the various peoples. These were written in the name of King Xerxes himself and sealed with his own ring. 13 Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. 14 A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for that day. 15 The couriers went out, spurred on by the king’s command, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.

Hasn’t the Jewish race suffered incredibly over history. This passage is yet another account of the severe persecution that the Jews are about to face by this decree to have them all slaughtered in a single day. And why? We need to refer back to what we have read previously in this chapter. The Jews were different. They kept themselves separate, their customs were different, and they did not obey the king’s laws. King Xerxes was therefore advised that this should not be tolerated, and that they should be destroyed.

I ponder with what God is teaching us today by this passage. I believe a key challenge is “conformity”. If the laws of our land changed in a way that was contrary to God’s laws and ways, how would I respond? If our Christian customs, eg being part of a church community, prayer meetings, connect groups etc all suddenly became illegal, would I remain faithful to God, even to the point of death?

I like to think that I would remain steadfast, and it is a worthy challenge for us all to contemplate how we would personally respond.

Thank you Father that we live in a tolerant country, and that our expression of our faith and belief in You is not illegal. Continue to build our faith such that in any scenario of potential persecution, we grow in strength of faith. Amen.

Written by Steve Fell

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Thursday 8 November, 2018

Esther‬ ‭3:7-11‬ ‭

7 In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the first month, the month of Nisan, the pur (that is, the lot) was cast in the presence of Haman to select a day and month. And the lot fell on[a] the twelfth month, the month of Adar. 8 Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. 9 If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents[b] of silver to the king’s administrators for the royal treasury.” 10 So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 11 “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman, “and do with the people as you please.”

As we dive down to the low point of this story I am reminded that evil sometimes looks like it is winning. In fact this part of the story goes further, not only is evil succeeding but those who are being faithful to God are being singled out to be the recipients of disaster.

These are the moments we most ask ‘why?’

No answer is found in this short passage of scripture. I must read on in the story, hoping that the author has a plot change in store. This is the message to me: in life I must trust and hope in the Author of my salvation. If my life takes a plot twist where evil is winning and faithfulness seems futile, I must hang on to the Author, knowing that this is not the end of His story!

Author of my salvation, right now I see that not all is right, much evil needs to be overturned. Thank you for destroying the evil in my life, increase my hope for your Kingdom to come and your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Written by Andrew Mellor

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Wednesday 7 November, 2018

Esther 3:1-6

3 After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. 2 All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor. 3 Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” 4 Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew. 5 When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. 6 Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.

Here is a story about various men who hold influential leadership positions in the King’s kingdom. We find them sitting at the king’s gate: Haman, Mordecai, and two royal officials.

In the previous passage, Mordecai had overheard a plot to assassinate King Xerxes. He uses his position of influence to save the life of the King by passing the information onto Queen Esther who in turn tells the King. As a result, Mordecai is honoured.

In this passage, we read that Haman was honoured, and by the King’s command, all his servants were to bow down to him. However, Mordecai refused to. Here we see some interesting reactions: the two royal officials stir up trouble by constantly harassing Mordecai. They take the matter further and report it to Haman to see how he would respond. They even do a bit of mud-slinging, saying that Mordecai is a Jew. Haman reaction is one of rage against Mordecai and the Jewish people.

By contrast, Mordecai is a man of integrity. He knows what he stands for and will not be persuaded or pressured by those around him. His heart is motivated by the plight of his people.

As I read this, I cannot help but ask myself what kind of person am I? What does my leadership look like? Do I live according to integrity and conviction? Do I live with others in mind? Or am I insecure and get jealous or self-serving?

Lord help me to lead from a position of integrity and strength that is found in You. May I do what I can to help others and influence others for good.

Written by Gab Martin

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Tuesday 6 November, 2018

Esther 2:19-23

19 When the virgins were assembled a second time, Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate. 20 But Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up. 21 During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. 22 But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. 23 And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were impaled on poles. All this was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king.

Esther was a foreigner in the king’s palace. She was hiding her identity from those around her, and I imagine that in the palace there was always someone around her. The text does not speak to it, but I wonder if it was difficult to hide her identity? I wonder if she felt like a foreigner? I wonder if there were customs and practices that offended her or violated her sense of what was sacred? I wonder if she felt alone or not truly accepted?

How vital Mordecai would have been to her in the palace. Someone who knew her, who loved her and was for her, because of who she was rather than her physical appearance or political status.

Thank you God that Mordecai captures something of your character. You know us, love us and accept us for who we are, rather than our appearance or usefulness. We’re your family. Help me to be like Mordecai, a person with whom others can rest, knowing that they are loved and accepted for who they are, sons and daughters of the Most High God. Amen.

Written by Bethany Waugh

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Monday 5 November, 2018

Esther 2:12-18

12 Before a young woman’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. 13 And this is how she would go to the king: Anything she wanted was given her to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace. 14 In the evening she would go there and in the morning return to another part of the harem to the care of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She would not return to the king unless he was pleased with her and summoned her by name. 15 When the turn came for Esther (the young woman Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail) to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her. 16 She was taken to King Xerxes in the royal residence in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. 17 Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. 18 And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality.

Esther is an intriguing character in the Bible and this is one of the more… um… uncomfortable passages of the old testament.

We have a dodgy beauty pageant, which leads to a night with the pagan king, that he is so impressed by, that he wants to marry Esther. It all sounds very dodgy.

And what does God say? Not much. In fact, God isn’t even mentioned in the book.

Yet God’s blessing on Esther, Mordecai and even on the king is evident throughout the narrative of the book.

This passage is a reminder for me, that the kingdom of God is primarily about God’s love for us, even though we don’t deserve it.

Lord, thank you for your grace, that while we were yet sinners, you loved us, and send Christ to save us through his death in our place.

Written by Ps. Justin Ware 

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Sunday 4 November, 2018

Esther 2:1-11

2 Later when King Xerxes’ fury had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what he had decreed about her. 2 Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. 3 Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful young women into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. 4 Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it. 5 Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, 6 who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah. 7 Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died. 8 When the king’s order and edict had been proclaimed, many young women were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under the care of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. 9 She pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven female attendants selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her attendants into the best place in the harem. 10 Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so. 11 Every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her.

The Jews find themselves in Babylon, which is probably the last place they expected to be. After all, Israel was their promised land.

As I read this passage, I began to think of what it would have been like to be a Jew in this story. Where was God? Had he abandoned them? What about his promises to Abraham? And to David? The king was no longer on the throne, in fact he was a slave to the Babylon King.  Cut of from their land, did they have a future?

The big question is, where was God in all of this?

God was there, even if they didn’t see him. God was definitely at work, putting key people into key positions for events that were yet to happen.

This particular story is how Ester was positioned by God, to be the next queen. Why Ester? She had no idea now, but later she would.

I have also asked the same question, where is God in all of this – in my life when things are not as I expected or planned?

Even though Esther had no idea what was to come, God was working things out for Israel. Specific moves – Esther to queen (sounds like chess) to counter the move Haman would later make against the Jews.

In the same way, God is working on my behalf, for things that are ahead of me that I don’t yet see.

God’s promise to us never changes – that he causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Father I thank you that you are at work on my behalf. I don’t need to know how, but I trust you, because you do.

Written by Andrew Martin

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Saturday 3 November, 2018

Esther 1:10-22

10 On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him—Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Karkas— 11 to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. 12 But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger. 13 Since it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice, he spoke with the wise men who understood the times 14 and were closest to the king—Karshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena and Memukan, the seven nobles of Persia and Media who had special access to the king and were highest in the kingdom. 15 “According to law, what must be done to Queen Vashti?” he asked. “She has not obeyed the command of King Xerxes that the eunuchs have taken to her.” 16 Then Memukan replied in the presence of the king and the nobles, “Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. 17 For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ 18 This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord. 19 “Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. 20 Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.” 21 The king and his nobles were pleased with this advice, so the king did as Memukan proposed. 22 He sent dispatches to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each people in their own language, proclaiming that every man should be ruler over his own household, using his native tongue.

This is one for all the girls out there…

You are not an object to be exploited – to be looked at and ogled.

You are not to be disadvantaged because you have the courage to say no.

You are valued and loved by God. You are elevated by Him, even when men try to push you down.

You deserve to be respected – your thoughts and opinions matter.

You deserve to have a husband that treats you right – a man that says “I will fight for ‘oneness’ with you. Not dominance over you”

You deserve to have a husband that says “I love you and I will sacrifice my life for you because that’s what Jesus did and I will follow His example”

You are a daughter of the King! There is no higher standing!

Written by Boudy Van Noppen

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Friday 2 November, 2018

Esther 1:1-9

1 This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush: 2 At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, 3 and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present. 4 For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. 5 When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king’s palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest who were in the citadel of Susa. 6 The garden had hangings of white and blue linen, fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other costly stones. 7 Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king’s liberality. 8 By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink with no restrictions, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished. 9 Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes.

Although I have read this narrative many times, I’ve never really stopped to take note of the level of detail in the early part of this chapter, which sets up the whole story.

For instance, I noticed for the first time that King Xerxes held celebrations and feasts for all of the nobles of the region that lasted 180 days – about 6 months of partying! Some of the things that we read about later in the book of Esther make a sense when read in this context.

There is an old saying “the devil is in the detail”. Wikipedia tells me that this idiom is said to be derived from an earlier phrase “God is in the detail”, expressing the idea that details are important.

As we continue to read the book of Esther we will see that indeed, God is in the detail, in that He uses all of the many details of this story to bring about His purposes for His people.

I can certainly testify to this experience in my own life – God can and has worked things together for His good purposes even when I had no idea what He was up to.

I am grateful that God is in the detail!

Written by Shelley Witt

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Thursday 1 November, 2018

Ruth 4:13-22

13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” 16 Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. 18 This, then, is the family line of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, 19 Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, 20 Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, 21 Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, 22 Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse 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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