Sunday 31 October, 2021

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 Ps. Bethany Waugh

3 replies
  1. Sue Botta says:

    Just thinking again – Mordecai was a champion of Esther. They didn’t understand it all but in doing the right thing – we’re finally rewarded and changed history.

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Saturday 30 October, 2021

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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Friday 29 October, 2021

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 Esther was positioned by God, to be the next queen. Why Esther? 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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Thursday 28 October, 2021

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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Wednesday 27 October, 2021

Esther 1:1-9

1 This is what happened during the time of Xerxes,[a] the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush[b]: 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

2 replies
  1. Richard says:

    What extravagance a 180 day ‘show off’ is followed by a 7 day feast. The king was certainly extravagant and had the wealth to back it up! Ruling from India to Ethiopia is no small amount of territory so it stands to reason he was wealthy. This story includes significant details about the nature of the feast as well. From the people included – which seems to most if not all in the land plus the food and drink.

    Military parades still abound in nations of our world and if you have come from Ethiopia to Susa by camel or similar you’re likely to stay for a while and certainly appreciate a feast at the end. Kings like to show off to demonstrate their might.

    God doesn’t tend to show off, He takes a humble route yet He has all the power! What a contrast to the kingdoms of our world.

    Father keep me from the inclination to show off, in large or little ways.

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Tuesday 26 October, 2021

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

2 replies
  1. David Newton says:

    Thank you for your insights Andrew. It is good to be reminded that this origin story applies to (us) all of God’s people.

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Monday 25 October, 2021

Ruth 4:7-12

7 (Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.) 8 So the guardian-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal. 9 Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!” 11 Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to 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

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Sunday 24 October, 2021

Ruth 4:1-6

4 Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along. Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down. 2 Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. 3 Then he said to the guardian-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek. 4 I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.” “I will redeem it,” he said. 5 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.” 6 At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot 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. Lord, 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 23 October, 2021

Ruth 3:6-18

6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do. 7 When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 In the middle of the night something startled the man; he turned—and there was a woman lying at his feet! 9 “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.” 10 “The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. 11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character. 12 Although it is true that I am a guardian-redeemer of our family, there is another who is more closely related than I. 13 Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to do his duty as your guardian-redeemer, good; let him redeem you. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.” 14 So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, “No one must know that a woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 He also said, “Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and placed the bundle on her. Then he went back to town. 16 When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?” Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her 17 and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’” 18 Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled 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 22 October, 2021

Ruth 3:1-6

3 One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for. 2 Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. 3 Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.” 5 “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.

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

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