Update on Today’s Post

Hi folks,

Apologies for the second post… this is the first time I have incorporated a video link, so am having to learn as I go.

For those of you receiving this post from email, you will need to click on the blog header hyperlink in your email (“God’s Providence”) and go to the website to see the video there.

Blessings,
~kevin

God’s Providence

Throughout our study of the book of Esther, we have considered God’s Providence, the reality of God working behind the scenes through normal, ordinary means to bring about His will and care for His own.

If you missed the introduction to the book of Esther, where we looked into the idea of Divine Providence, or if you just want to review, click here for the link to that post.

Below is a video link that demonstrates the idea of providence at a human level.  If we can love others unconditionally with our finite resources and limitations of time and space, how much more does our Heavenly Father love us?

The video is just under nine minutes; if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, fast forward to the 5:55 mark and watch the last three minutes.

Blessings,
~kevin

Esther Chapter 10

A Tribute to Mordecai

10 King Xerxes imposed tribute throughout the empire, to its distant shores.And all his acts of power and might, together with a full account of the greatness of Mordecai, whom the king had promoted, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Media and Persia? Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.
(Esther Chapter 10 NIV)

The author ends the story by paying tribute to Mordecai and the good he did for the Jewish people.  God used Mordecai to watch over His people while serving a gentile king.

God raised up Mordecai to the office of Prime Minister (second-in-command only to the king), similar to Joseph under the Egyptian Pharaoh, and Daniel under the Babylonian rulers.  Like Joseph and Daniel, Mordecai served well under the king, and brought peace to the land during his tenure.  The Jewish people had not experienced peace with their captors / neighbors in a very long time, so this was truly a blessing from the hand of God.

Verse 1 states that the king instituted a “tribute” (tax) from one end of the kingdom to the other, even to the remote islands.  While this statement seems a little out of place, it was likely mentioned because the king put Mordecai in charge of collecting the tax from the various provinces.  Mordecai likely made sure the tax was administered fairly, and there was no corruption or scandals within the governmental ranks.

Throughout this book of Esther, we have seen God’s Providence, His quiet movement behind the scenes to protect and provide for His own.  How much that applies to us today, as we go about our daily lives, where the Lord uses people and places and things and circumstances to bless others and protect and provide for His own.

God is working all around us; most of the time, we are not even aware.  As we lay down our busy schedules at the foot of the cross, we make way for “divine interruptions” where God can use us to encourage and love and care for those around us.  God doesn’t need our skills or abilities (although He often uses them) – rather, He is mainly interested in our availability to serve Him and humbly be part of His plan and work.

May we have eyes to see, and ears to hear God at work around us, and faith to step into His calling.

Blessings,
~kevin

Esther 9:20-32

The Feast of Purim Established

20 Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, 21 to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar 22 as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration.  He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.

23 So the Jews agreed to continue the celebration they had begun, doing what Mordecai had written to them. 24 For Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite,the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them and had cast the pur (that is, the lot) for their ruin and destruction. 25 But when the plot came to the king’s attention, he issued written orders that the evil scheme Haman had devised against the Jews should come back onto his own head, and that he and his sons should be impaled on poles. 26 (Therefore these days were called Purim, from the word pur.) Because of everything written in this letter and because of what they had seen and what had happened to them, 27 the Jews took it on themselves to establish the custom that they and their descendants and all who join them should without fail observe these two days every year, in the way prescribed and at the time appointed. 28 These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never fail to be celebrated by the Jews—nor should the memory of these days die out among their descendants.

29 So Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, along with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter concerning Purim. 30 And Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews in the 127 provinces of Xerxes’ kingdom—words of goodwill and assurance— 31 to establish these days of Purim at their designated times, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had decreed for them, and as they had established for themselves and their descendants in regard to their times of fasting and lamentation. 32 Esther’s decree confirmed these regulations about Purim, and it was written down in the records.(Esther 9:20-32 NIV)

Mordecai wanted the Jewish people for all generations going forward  to remember what God had done for them, how God had given them rest from their enemies.  So he established the Feast of Purim and sent an official letter out to all the Jews across the Persian empire with a reminder about the nature of the feast, and how to celebrate.

In true Jewish fashion, good news was to be celebrated.  Listen to David’s words:

You turned my wailing into dancing;
    you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy…
(Psalm 30:11 NIV)

Mordecai wanted this memorial time to be one of feasting and celebration for what God in His Providence had done for the Jewish people.  This celebration was not to be about what the Jewish people had done for themselves, bur rather how God had intervened in their day of distress.

Verses 29 – 32 tells us that Esther also sent out a letter to the Jews across Persia to reinforce what Mordecai had written.  Note that neither of these letters were signed by the king, so they were not laws to be enforced, but rather, celebrations to be enjoyed.

God often instructed Moses to mark days on the calendar as official celebrations of what God had miraculously done on behalf of His people.  Examples included the Feast of the Passover as they left Egypt, the picking up of the twelve stones from the bottom of the Red Sea as they passed through, and the building of the alter on the other side with those stones as a memorial, the Feast of Booths, etc.

What “markers” or memorials do you have in your life or your family’s life, of how God intervened, either miraculously, or through His Divine Providence using regular means, for your good?  Do you celebrate those times each year, remembering and praising the Lord for His provision?  If not, now is a good time to make your list and add it to your calendar…

Blessings,
~kevin

Esther 9:1-19

The Day of Reckoning

On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the edict commanded by the king was to be carried out. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them. The Jews assembled in their cities in all the provinces of King Xerxes to attack those determined to destroy them. No one could stand against them, because the people of all the other nationalities were afraid of them. And all the nobles of the provinces, the satraps, the governors and the king’s administrators helped the Jews,because fear of Mordecai had seized them. Mordecai was prominent in the palace; his reputation spread throughout the provinces, and he became more and more powerful.

The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased to those who hated them. In the citadel of Susa, the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men. They also killed Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Vaizatha, 10 the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews. But they did not lay their hands on the plunder.

11 The number of those killed in the citadel of Susa was reported to the king that same day. 12 The king said to Queen Esther, “The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men and the ten sons of Haman in the citadel of Susa. What have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? Now what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? It will also be granted.”

13 “If it pleases the king,” Esther answered, “give the Jews in Susa permission to carry out this day’s edict tomorrow also, and let Haman’s ten sons be impaled on poles.”

14 So the king commanded that this be done. An edict was issued in Susa, and they impaled the ten sons of Haman. 15 The Jews in Susa came together on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar, and they put to death in Susa three hundred men, but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.

16 Meanwhile, the remainder of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also assembled to protect themselves and get relief from their enemies. They killed seventy-five thousand of them but did not lay their hands on the plunder.17 This happened on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.

18 The Jews in Susa, however, had assembled on the thirteenth and fourteenth, and then on the fifteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.

19 That is why rural Jews—those living in villages—observe the fourteenth of the month of Adar as a day of joy and feasting, a day for giving presents to each other.
(Esther 9:1-19 NIV)

The dreaded day had finally arrived – the day that Haman’s evil plot to annihilate the Jews was to be carried out.  But it was also the day when, due to God’s Divine Providence, the Jews were able to defend themselves against their enemies.

Verse 1 says that the enemies of the Jews were confident they would win, but the Jews fought back and prevailed.  Note that the Jews did not attack their enemies, but simply defended themselves against their enemies, and God gave them the victory.  Haman’s ten sons were among the attackers, and were all killed.

Note verses 10, 15, and 16… “but did not lay their hands on the plunder.”  The author is careful to point out that the Jewish people were not in this fight for the plunder (money or property), as Haman had planned in his evil schemes (Esther 3:9).  Instead, the author notes that the Jewish people defended themselves and sought relief from their enemies (v. 16).  The word “relief” is the same word as “rest” that Jesus offered:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
(Matthew 11:28 NIV)

When we read about 75,000 people being killed, that sounds like a mighty battle.  Considering for a moment that Persia had 127 provinces (states) at the time, that averages out to about 600 people per province picking a fight with the Jews (and losing, thanks to God’s protection and support of the Jewish people).  From this, we see that Haman’s hatred was shared across the whole Persian empire, even more so in the provinces than in the capital city of Susa (v. 12).

Once again, we see God’s Providence at work to protect and care for His own – a promise He extends to us as followers of Christ as well.  That does not mean an absence of battles, but it does mean that God’s justice prevails in the end.

Blessings,
~kevin

Esther 8:15-17

Mourning Turns to Joy

15 When Mordecai left the king’s presence, he was wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen. And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration. 16 For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. 17 In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.”
(Esther 8:15-17 NIV)

Just 24 hours earlier, Mordecai was a condemned man, marked for death by the powerful official Haman.  And now, Haman is dead, and Mordecai controls Haman’s estate and has Haman’s job as Prime Minister of Persia.  Truly God is working through His Divine Providence to protect and provide for His own people.  God’s promise made to Abraham and all his Jewish descendants long ago was not forgotten:

I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.
(Genesis 12:3 NIV)

The sight of Mordecai wearing the royal colors of Persia (v. 15), plus the king’s new edict written by Mordecai allowing the Jews to defend themselves (vv. 9-14) were cause for great celebration by Jewish people in Susa (v. 15) and across all of Persia (v. 17).

Haman had proudly breathed out threats against God’s people; Mordecai humbly stood by his promise to serve God and God alone.  Once again, the truth of Scriptures rang true:

When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice;
    when the wicked rule, the people groan.
(Proverbs 29:2 NIV)

The news of the king’s decree allowing the Jews to defend themselves, as well as Haman’s demise and Mordecai’s promotion quickly spread across Persia.  Verses 16 – 17 tells us that the Jewish people rejoiced everywhere the news was proclaimed – it was a time of celebration because the black cloud of death was lifted from over their heads.

The good news also had another effect of spiritual revival across Persia.  Verse 17 tells us that many people became Jewish proselytes, converting from their foreign gods to the God of Israel.  These people saw the power and awe of God, and chose to follow Him.

Becoming a Jewish proselyte meant even though they were not Jewish by race, they could become a follower of the God of the Jews by willingly submitting themselves to all of God’s Word, His practices, and worship, just as the Jews did.

God had already laid out the process for non-Jewish people to follow Him.  All males would have to undergo circumcision (Genesis 17:9-14), and after that, could participate in the Passover (Exodus 12:43-49).  They were expected to follow God’s Laws, such as keeping the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11), not blaspheming God’s name (Leviticus 24:13-22), and presenting offerings to the Lord (Numbers 15:14-16NLT).

Truly God’s hand of Divine Providence was evident to all – He kept His Word and made it clear to all His love for His people and anyone who chose to follow Him.  And God’s love for those who follow Him continues even to this day.

Amen?    Amen!

Blessings,
~kevin

Esther 8:1-14

Haman’s Decree Superceded

That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came into the presence of the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her. The king took off his signet ring,which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed him over Haman’s estate.

Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping. She begged him to put an end to the evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews. Then the king extended the gold scepter to Esther and she arose and stood before him.

“If it pleases the king,” she said, “and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king’s provinces. For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?”

King Xerxes replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Because Haman attacked the Jews, I have given his estate to Esther, and they have impaled him on the pole he set up. Now write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring—for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.”

At once the royal secretaries were summoned—on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan. They wrote out all Mordecai’s orders to the Jews, and to the satraps, governors and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. These orders were written in the script of each province and the language of each people and also to the Jews in their own script and language. 10 Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king’s signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king.

11 The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children,and to plunder the property of their enemies. 12 The day appointed for the Jews to do this in all the provinces of King Xerxes was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar. 13 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 that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.

14 The couriers, riding the royal horses, went out, spurred on by the king’s command, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa.
(Esther 8:1-14 NIV)

So much has happened on this day!  God has been at work, upholding His promise to protect His own (Genesis 12:3).  The king’s heart was softened toward Esther and hardened toward Haman, quite the reversal from 30 days ago, when Haman had more face time with the king than Esther.  Truly, God changed the king’s heart (Proverbs 21:1).

As was true in ancient Middle Eastern culture, a traitor’s property was seized by the king.  The king exercised this custom, and immediately gave Haman’s property to Queen Esther.  Esther then put Mordecai in charge of Haman’s former property, as the estate was quite large (Esther 5:11).

But the day is not over yet.  The Jewish people were relieved that Haman was gone, but his death sentence still hung ominously over their heads.  The king, thinking that he had set all things right by having Haman put to death, giving Haman’s estate to Queen Esther, and elevating Mordecai to Haman’s former position of top noble, leaves Esther and Mordecai and goes back to his throne.

Verse 3 tells us that Queen Esther goes back to see the king, again uninvited.  This time, she does not wait for the king to invite her in – she humbly places herself, weeping, at the king’s feet, begging for mercy on behalf of all Jewish people in Persia.  The king extends his scepter to her, and hears her plea.

Once again, God is working in His Divine Providence – the king’s heart is softened again toward Esther.  The king addresses Mordecai and tells him to take care of the matter.  The king can’t go back on his word – once a matter is signed and sealed, it stands forever.

So Mordecai gathers the scribes and issues another decree to counteract Haman’s decree.  This decree did not contradict the king’s original order, but instead, gave the Jews across Persia the right to fight back and protect themselves.  Mordecai trusted God’s promises, and wisely found a way to empower the Jewish people in this difficult matter of life and death.

May we be like Esther, and humbly, yet boldly approach God’s throne of grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Blessings,
~kevin