Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tamar - Fashion Forward

Genesis 38:12b-14 When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him. When Tamar was told, "Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep," she took off her widow's clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.

Judah was done grieving. Over, done with, out of his mind. Time to get the boys together and do some sheep shearin'. The thing about sheep shearing was that it was also a time of partying. Judah was over his time of sadness and now he was ready to have a little "fun".

Tamar hears of this upcoming trip. It doesn't say who tells her, or how much time she has to prepare, so let's discuss what happens here. Tamar takes off her widow's clothes - which apparently she has been wearing since her first husband died - Stacy London from "What Not To Wear" would have had a field day with Tamar. Anyway, she then puts on a veil and sits on the outskirts of the city waiting for Judah - she was attempting to look like a prostitute. My question is: where did she get the clothes to dress like a prostitute on such short notice? Now I may have one or two dresses in my closet that I think may be too revealing in public, but I know I don't have anything that could be misconstrued as something Julia Roberts might wear in Pretty Woman while she was 'on the streets'.

While waiting there for Judah to appear - guess who she sees - Shelah! All grown up, no less. Yet again, she was not given to him as a wife. The anger that must have festered inside of Tamar as she waited - maybe that was the fuel that kept her strong to her task - kept her from chickening out.

We all have situations that we do not look forward to, but we know it has to be done. If we can just let God be our fuel and keep us running through the storms and the troubles - we'll get through it with amazing results!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tamar - The Reality

Genesis 38 11-12a Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, "Live as a widow in your father's house until my son Shelah grows up." For he thought, "He may die too, just like his brothers." So Tamar went to live in her father's house. After a long time Judah's wife, the daughter of Shua, died.

So Judah is sending Tamar away - telling her to go back to her own house -' you know, just until my youngest son gets older to fulfill his duty.' And then the truth is told to us when the scripture says "he thought he may die too, just like his brothers". Judah had no intention of letting Shelah give Tamar a child. Here's where our foreshadowing from before comes in - He was lying about Shelah.

Tamar, who has been trusting this whole time - doing what she was told by these wicked men who were supposed to be raised by a man of God - went home to wait.

This would not have been a joy to her family. When she walked in the door - used and childless and widowed - surely her family must have been disappointed. "But wait", Tamar must've said, "It's only temporary until the youngest son is old enough". That false hope we put in people instead of trusting in God.

Then in verse 12 - the truth is told. Judah's wife dies 'after a long time' - long enough for Shelah to have grown up. I think this might be where Tamar gets the realization that Judah has no intention of fulfilling his promise. That Tamar would be childless and live in her father's house. This must have weighed on poor Tamar. What was she going to do? It had been years and now, there was not even a woman left in the house to care for the household - what was Judah waiting for??

What a feeling in the pit of our stomachs when we realize we have put our trust in the wrong thing. We have wasted time in stress and agony when we could've given it to God. But God is always watching and working . . . Even in Tamar's situation.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tamar - Rated "R"

Genesis 38:6-10 Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the LORD's sight; so the LORD put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, "Lie with your brother's wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother." But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother's wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the LORD's sight; so he put him to death also.

So, the time had come for Er to marry and it was up to Judah to arrange that (as was custom during this time). Keep in mind that this was not the same respect that Judah gave his dad, as he did not wait for an arrangement.

See what it says here about Er, not too much: God found him wicked and killed him. WOW. How bad must he have been for our loving and patient God who is just and forgives to outright kill him? And what about Tamar having to marry such a man as this. Even so, her husband (duty, job, etc.) did not give her a child - so as we mentioned before, someone else had to step up.

Judah told his second son, Onan, that he was responsible for giving a child to Tamar for Er. Couple of things here - there were no fertilization clinics at this time - no labs, no petri dishes - for this to happen, Onan had to have sex with Tamar. As we all know, pregnancy does not always happen on the first time around either. So, that thought alone that Tamar had to marry a wicked man at a young age to begin with - and then as a widow to sleep with her brother-in-law. . . yuck!

Onan, however, was not the man he should've been either. He did not want to give his offspring to Er - he was selfish and wanted his own line. But that certainly didn't stop him from having sex now did it. From what the Bible tells us - everytime he did sleep with Tamar he removed himself before his "seed" could reach her egg. How demeaning that must have been for poor Tamar. She knew the only reason to do this was so that she could get pregnant and continue for Er's children, but that would never happen if Onan kept doing that.

Turns out God thought that was just awful too, so Onan was "put to death". Now the Bible doesn't say how either brother died - it justs says they were put to death. Perhaps a heart attack in their sleep, maybe they slipped and hit their head - or it could've been two completely different ways that they each died - However, one thing was for sure - they were both married to Tamar when they died. Judah had to notice that as well . . .

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tamar - A Woman's Place.

Genesis 38:2-5 There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and lay with her; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er. She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan. She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. It was at Kezib that she gave birth to him.

There are many things to look at in these few verses listed here. Numero Uno: Judah married a Canaanite woman - not someone that would make daddy proud. Deux: The information that is given on her is very limited - we know her religious affiliation because she was from Canaan and we know that she was fertile. We are not even given her name.

It was very important during this time period to give your husband a son to carry on the line. Judah knew this - especially since it was his family that was so blessed by God and was promised to have many nations. So mentioning that she bore three sons, pretty much gives us her usefulness at this point. It never mentions her having any change of heart or doing something wonderful for the Kingdom - she was a Canaanite and she bore Judah's sons.

The last thing that I find very interesting is that it mentions where the last son was born. Why? Why is this land so signficant to mention? It is still in the lowlands of Judahs' territory - but here lies the pertinance: Kezib, by definition, means "Liar". The foreshadowing that is seen in these few verses can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit writing it - Can't you just hear the suspenseful music playing as the screen fades to black and the commercial comes on...

Tamar - The Setup

Genesis 38:1 At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah.

This if the beginning verse of the chapter that is going to introduce us to Tamar. It is important to understand a little of what has happened up to this point.

Judah is one of the sons of Jacob. Jacob is the one who's brother was Esau and their father was Isaac. Isaac was the son of Abraham and Sarah - remember the old couple and how Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac? Now that we have the history, we can note that Judah is the great-grandson of Abraham.

A good portion of what is meant to be grasped here in this chapter would be lost without knowing the history. The story of Jacob (Judah's father) and his family is quite the soap opera - and I may go into that in a later blog, but for now - we'll talk about Judah - his son.

Obviously this man comes from a line of Godly men - I mean, he's the great-grandson of a man God promised would be the father of nations! Genesis 17:5-8 However, as human as we often are - so was Judah. When the verse states "At this time" - It's referring to the time when Judah helped sell his little brother Joseph into slavery - don't forget about ripping his colorful coat. Not only that - but he's associating himself with an Adullamite - remember what we said about hanging out with the wrong people.

We all make bad decisions - even as God's children- the question is, when will we realize it - and how many people will we hurt until we do realize it? Thus begins the story of Tamar...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Esther - Ends

Esther 9:16-Ch 10 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.Purim Celebrated 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. 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. Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar 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. So the Jews agreed to continue the celebration they had begun, doing what Mordecai had written to them. 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. 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 hanged on the gallows. (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, the Jews took it upon 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. 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 cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory of them die out among their descendants. So Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, along with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter concerning Purim. And Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews in the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Xerxes—words of goodwill and assurance- 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. Esther's decree confirmed these regulations about Purim, and it was written down in the records. 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 to which the king had raised him, 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.

This is such a great history lesson on the holiday of Purim. We get to see why it is celebrated, when it is celebrated and how it is celebrated. But more importantly there is something else to see here.

The Jews are celebrating because an order from the king came allowing enemies of the Jews to kill them, then another order from the king came and said Jews could defend themselves - then they were victorious. This is all they knew. They didn't know that Haman was jealous of Mordecai and that Haman should have never been born and that Mordecai had refused to bow and that Haman had built a gallows to kill Mordecai on - all they knew is that their lives were threatened and they were victorious. Only in the end, when Mordecai issued a letter to everyone explaining exactly what had happened, did they completely understand. How wonderful.

We are so different today - we hem-haw and procrastinate before we finally give in. My kids do this - I tell them to do something and they want an explanation of why they have to do it, how long they have to get it done, or can they do it later. If we simply are obedient to God - we will be victorious. God will let us know exactly what came about and why it needed to be done in His time - and then we will see the reason to celebrate.

Many of us who have been through trials and yet stayed obedient to God and saw the miracle that came of it - are able to look back and understand why things happened the way they did, even though we didn't understand while it was happening. Maybe we will never know in this life, but being obedient to what God asks of us will always lead to victory.

The story of Esther began with a feast of pagans and ended in a feast for God's people. We, too, will celebrate one day at our own feast and Jesus will be the host. Thank you for joining me as I studied the book of Esther - I look forward to what the next blog will be.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Esther - Live Free or Die Hard

Esther 9:1-16 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 seeking their destruction. 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 killeday their hands on the plunder. 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. Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Vaizatha, the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews. But they did not lay their hands on the plunder. The number of those slain in the citadel of Susa was reported to the king that same day. 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." "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 hanged on gallows." So the king commanded that this be done. An edict was issued in Susa, and they hanged the ten sons of Haman. 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 hands on their plunder.

And so it began... The war that everyone was suiting up for, the war everyone was preparing for, had finally come. The Jews were victorious. Miraculously victorious. The king approached Queen Esther and began discussing the battle. "Wow, the Jews have already killed 500 people just here around the castle, I wonder how many more they've killed in the surrounding areas." And again, the king asked Esther whatever she wanted, he would give. One might ask why? Why would he ask her what she wanted? Simple, the Jews were being backed by a much higher power than he. Even the king recognized God's hand in this defeat. Not only did they kill 500 in Susa, they also killed all the sons of Haman - thus finally fulfilling God's judgment - see the previous blog.

So Esther answers the kings question about what else he can do - she wants to continue the battles for one more day. Let the Jews be able to continue defending themselves until tomorrow. The King agreed. "Also", Esther said, "Hang the dead sons of Haman on the gallows" - that was 10 men who were already dead - why? Here's why - if those sons were to have lived, in only a matter of 10-20 years, that line of King Agag could've increased in the hundreds. Their bodies being hung on the gallows was a sign to all the people - "Don't mess with God". 300 more people were killed in Susa the following day and 75,000 people were killed throughout the kingdom. Only approximately 7,000 men were killed in combat during the Revolutionary War, and that was from both sides. These Jews were regular men and women, simply trying to protect their freedom - isn't it ironic how the past parallels the present.

If only in the present we could remember - God is why we are victorious, it is through Christ we can do all things, if only in God would we trust. . . Mordecai and Esther new it, and led a nation - when will we?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Esther - Die Hard with a Vengeance

Esther 8:7-17 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 hanged him on the gallows. 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. 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. The king's edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies. 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. 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. The couriers, riding the royal horses, raced out, spurred on by the king's command. And the edict was also issued in the citadel of Susa. Mordecai left the king's presence 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. For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. In every province and in every city, wherever the edict of the king went, 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.

You can't make up stuff this good! The bad guy has been killed, the guy he kept bullying took his job, the romantic interest is still heating up, and a war for the good of the people is about to ensue.

It's been obvious by the way the king has treated Esther that he loves her. He's always glad to see her, he listens to what she has to say - he's offended if another guy hits on her :) But yet, even after knowing this, Esther still approaches the king with honor and respect - again begging him for the lives of her people. So the king gives Mordecai his ring and says - "I can't do anything about people wanting to kill you - but come up with something contradictory"

What a position for Mordecai. I wouldn't have known what to write. But he was led by God so there was no doubt as to the outcome. The jews would defend themselves and had the right, if attacked, to fight to kill and then take the property of the man who attacked. Pretty good.

Now verses 12-14 explain the time frame for us. they used the fastest means available to spread the word to all the land before the allotted time of war - and word got out and people feared the Jews. Many people turned to God because they could see His hand in all this and knew that He was who they needed to follow.

What a testimony for us. It doesn't say Mordecai went into the streets and carried signs saying "Repent or go to Hell", It doesn't say he handed out tracts at every corner on the sidewalk - he simply stood by God, remained in a close relationship with Him, set an example for the Kingdom - and people were saved. God can work through us in our everyday lives if we promise to be faithful to Him. Setting examples such as being kind in public and patient with others is just as strong a witness as handing out tracts. See a dear friends blog on this exact subject.

We are witnesses for Christ if we call ourselves Christians - let's hold true to our title.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Esther - Die Harder

Esther 8:1-6 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?"

This would be the part in the action movie where the mean monster has been shot and he's laying there dead and then the main character walks by and the monster flinches and then grabs the guys leg and he has to kill him again.

Haman is dead, but it's not over yet! The law is still in place for anyone to kill a jew and get all their stuff. This is not unlike today - how many times you see it on the news - a person is found injured and someone else takes their wallet.

The king gives Esther all of Haman's things - his entire estate. But this is not what Esther wants - can't you see her sighing politely. "No honey, the law says I'm still going to be k
illed - Haman's stuff is not going to help that." Again she begins to beg the king.

So often, that's how we handle our own issues. Someone comes to us with a problem and we are so quick to just slap a bandaid on it and not look at what really needs to be done.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Esther - Die Hard

Esther 7:6b-10 Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen. The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life. Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining. The king exclaimed, "Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?" As soon as the word left the king's mouth, they covered Haman's face. Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, "A gallows seventy-five feet high stands by Haman's house. He had it made for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king." The king said, "Hang him on it!" So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king's fury subsided.

Such a series of bad decisions comes to light in these verses. In an instant, Haman realizes that he will be killed. The king leaves, he could've immediately ordered him to be killed, but he doesn't - he leaves. Perhaps he was wanting to think it over - to not do anything rash - to count to ten, if you will. Maybe the king, because of his feelings for Haman, wanted to not be so hasty as he was with Vashti. This may or may not be true, but when he walks back in to the dining room any hope Haman may have had for grace - was dashed because, again, he had made a bad decision.

Haman was begging the queen for his life. How awkward was this for Esther? This man whom she has only had dinner with once before, sitting at her feet. We are not told anything more than that his intentions were to save his neck, but I'm sure that's not what it looked like when the king walks back in and sees Haman all over his queen. If any anger had subsided with the fresh air, this was sure to double it.

The guards then took him away - what I find fascinating here is that - First, the guard who takes Haman away is aware of the gallows that Haman had built only a day before. It's not like there were paparazzi taking pictures and putting them in newspapers every morning - how did THIS guard come by THIS information... Second, how bold was this guard to offer this information to the king - how did he know it would be relevant for this situation. Wasn't the guard at all afraid that to speak to the king, especially during his fury, might be risking his own neck?

So all this irony comes to light at the end of chapter 7, Haman is killed on the gallows he made for Mordecai. The question is, towards the end, all these decisions sort of snowball and the end comes so quickly. Would there have been a moment when Haman could have turned it around? Sometimes we do the same thing - we make a few bad decisions, then all of a sudden our world seems to go spiraling out of control - how do we stop it? Is there a place where we could have made a change before our life got so off track? Absolutely. When Haman when back home after walking Mordecai around town, and got the advice from his wife and friends that he shouldn't be messing with the jews - he could've torn down the gallows - then at the first start of dinner he could've apologized to the king and told the story there. Too much pride. How do we do it in our own lives? Humble ourselves, admit we are wrong, and apologize to the King. Doing the right thing is never easy - but the end results are always amazing.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Esther - Smart Gal

Esther 7:1-6 So the king and Haman went to dine with Queen Esther, and as they were drinking wine on that second day, the king again asked, "Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted." Then Queen Esther answered, "If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king. King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, "Who is he? Where is the man who has dared to do such a thing?" Esther said, "The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman."

Bom bom boooooom...

And there we have it. Now while we can see these passages as the "closer" to Haman's villainous treachery - there's actually something completely different I'd like to look at:

Esther has been told by the king - once again - to tell him what she wants. It could be anything, up to half the kingdom, and she could have it. I don't know about you, but I might've been tempted to stutter-step here a bit. Maybe a new room with a nice king-size bed and a dishwasher that actually works and a refrigerator whose door closes all the way. A personal trainer for this insidious cottage cheese that keeps appearing on my thighs - oh the list goes on. But not Esther, she did not falter, she did not stumble, she kept true to her mission.

How about the way she convinced her husband - hmmm? First she says "If I have found favor with you, O king" - In other words - 'Honey, I really do hope that I make you happy because I love you so much'. Then she basically states that because someone is trying to kill her, it will take away his happiness that she is wanting him to have - how sly is that?? Then as an afterthought - oh, and my people too. She goes on to tell him that if it was just something else that would cause her alone pain, that would be fine because he was too important to be bothered with that. Can't you see how this way of wording might work with a spouse? First - let him know how important he is and that you want him to be happy because you respect him. That you want to be the reason for his happiness. Second, let him feel that he is the one making the decision- less stress on us anyway - right?

How angry the king got - who was this man who was trying to hurt his queen (and in essence, him)? God has given us such wonderful guidelines to follow - through people and direct rules. What a wonderful story to know that all things work for the glory of God, if we just trust Him.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Esther - Is it Too Late?

Esther 6:10-14"Go at once," the king commanded Haman. "Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king's gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended." So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, "This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!" Afterward Mordecai returned to the king's gate. But Haman rushed home, with his head covered in grief, and told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him. His advisers and his wife Zeresh said to him, "Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him—you will surely come to ruin!" While they were still talking with him, the king's eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared.

Talk about a lesson in humility! Pride comes before the fall and all those other cliches that mean 'you just got punked'. Haman is forced to use his own suggestions and prance Mordecai through the city in the king's robes proclaiming that he is one who the king delights in!

As with many of us, whether it's our own doing or by happenstance, when we are left running home with our "tail between our legs" we seek out the comfort of our loved ones. Oops, bad idea this time.

Sometimes the truth is hard to hear - especially when it's not what you want to hear. What his loved ones had realized that he had not yet grasped is something we see in
Romans 8:31. If God is for us, who can be against us? God was for the Jews! Before Haman had a chance to think about what that meant - he was whisked away to the feast that the queen had prepared.

The problem is: is it too late for Haman? We'll see in the next chapter whether it is or not, but for us, as long as we are breathing, it's never too late. We may fall, we may stumble, we will make bad decisions - but it is never too late to ask God to forgive us and to use us for His glory - the question is, will we?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Esther - Oh The Irony

Esther 6:4-9 The king said, "Who is in the court?" Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai on the gallows he had erected for him. His attendants answered, "Haman is standing in the court.""Bring him in," the king ordered. When Haman entered, the king asked him, "What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?"
Now Haman thought to himself, "Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?" So he answered the king, "For the man the king delights to honor, have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king's most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, 'This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!' "

Now morning had come - and the king had not slept well at all and had gotten up early because he wanted to take care of rewarding Mordecai. The flip side to this is that Haman could not sleep well either - he wanted to get rid of Mordecai. All this lost sleep over one man. Haman had gone in as early as possible to see the king before the king got distracted with the business of the day - he was going to make his request to have Mordecai hung. OH THE IRONY.

The king gets up and wants to know if there is anyone here yet. The picture in my mind is an office with empty cubicles all over the place, the boss comes out of his office and looks around because he got there at 7:00 a.m. and he needs something done - so he looks at the receptionist, who's always there, right? and says - has
anyone come in to work yet? The reply is, 'yes, Haman just walked in'.

Now the king didn't bother to take the time to ask why Haman got there so early that morning, he had things to do. He asks Haman for his advice: What do I do to honor someone? Haman goes into this long list of things to do to praise someone - of course thinking it was he who would get the honor. Now the question is - what should Haman have done?

Actually, Haman did the right thing this time, unbeknownst to him. If someone is asking for our advice, we need to look at it through God's eyes, not our own. Someone who saved the life of the king should've been rewarded in this manner - regardless of who it was. Haman's answer was to reward himself, but it was the right answer in how you reward someone who honors his king. His jealousy will get the better of him -
and we all know the pitfalls of jealousy - see my daughters blog.

Is not the same true of our King? If we accept Christ as our King then we ho
nor Him - and He will reward us in heaven? Mordecai didn't get his reward right away - and didn't ask for it. God does not promise us that life will be easy as Christians - but because we live our life for Him, we will be rewarded! And it's going to be so much better than a horseride - which is pretty good though. . .

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Esther - Quiet Time

Esther 6:1-3 That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes."What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?" the king asked."Nothing has been done for him," his attendants answered.

The king had just had a nice feast, everyone had gone and he went to lie down. In the quiet of the night, when there was nothing pressing to be handled - he found himself restless and unable to fall asleep.

Don't we do the same in our busy hectic lifestyles? We finally get the opportunity to stop and get some rest and we can't fall asleep. The king, like
many of us, decides to read - or course, since he's the king, decides to have someone read to him. He asked for "The Book of the Chronicles" - which is basically his journal of his years of king.

Now here's the thing - he didn't tell his servants what page to turn to or what year of his reign to read, they just happened to pick the page about Mordecai. So then the king asked - "What did we do to reward Mordecai for this?" The answer was nothing - which also goes to Mordecai's character. He had revealed the plot against the king, but had asked for nothing in return - he had simply done it because it was the right thing to do.

So what can we get out of these three verses? In the quiet of night, in the moments where there is nothing pressing and no urgent matters to be taken care of, when you find yourself alone and unable to rest easy - let God grab your attention and listen to the plans He's laying out for you.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Esther - Satan's Enemy

Esther 5:9-14 Haman went out that day happy and in high spirits. But when he saw Mordecai at the king's gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai. Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home. Calling together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. "And that's not all," Haman added. "I'm the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king's gate." His wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, "Have a gallows built, seventy-five feet high, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai hanged on it. Then go with the king to the dinner and be happy." This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the gallows built.

Misery loves company. Isn't that how the old saying goes? These verses really speak that truth. Haman was at the top of the ladder, right under the king, had just had a banquet served by the queen and is heading home for the evening. Who does he run into? Good ol' Mordecai. Once again, Mordecai just sat there, didn't say anything to Haman and Haman got angry. He ran home to his wife and called all his buddies together.

Now, there are a couple of things to look at in the next two verses (11 and 12). First, we see Haman go on and on about how good he's got it. He's got money, position, sons and he was the only one invited to the banquet by the queen, and invited back - how charming he thought he must be. But, he admitted, none of it made him happy because Mordecai bothers him so much

Are we the same way, we let one small thing that irritates us overshadow all the blessings that we've been given? We focus so much on
that one thing that the only solution anyone can see is to wipe out the problem. Before we go on, I'd like to note the second thing. If we can read between the lines here at what must've happened at dinner that evening. Haman is so excited that he's been invited back - how must Esther have behaved? This young orphan girl, ripped from her family and home, obedient to go to the king and request the banquet and then to pretend during the evening that she was so impressed with Haman - this man who wanted her people slaughtered - she wanted him to come back the next night! I think she could've won an Oscar for that performance. The strength she must have had to build up, the patience and will power to keep her mouth shut - truly God was guiding her.

At the end of Chapter 5, we see the advice that Haman's friends and wife have for him. Build a gallows and kill Mordecai. Now remember, he already had everything in place to have him killed when they attacked the rest of the Jews, but this just wasn't fast enough. So he had the gallows built that very night! Now we've already discussed the importance of choosing your friends wisely, and this is not what Haman had done.

But looking at the big picture, Mordecai was only praying at this point. During the dinner Esther had with the king, during the building of the gallows and Haman's evil plan - Mordecai didn't know about any of this - he simply prayed. I don't think we know even half of what the devil has in store for us each day and how much of it gets thwarted because we choose to pray and ask God to guide our steps. When God's people pray, miracles happen. My husband shared this with me the other day: "When she rolls out of bed in the morning and her feet hit the floor, Satan says, 'Darn, she's awake!'" I want to be that woman - don't you?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Esther - Taking it Slow

Esther 5:1-8 On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king's hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. Then the king asked, "What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you." "If it pleases the king," replied Esther, "let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him." "Bring Haman at once," the king said, "so that we may do what Esther asks." So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared. As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, "Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted." Esther replied, "My petition and my request is this: If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king's question."

Esther got all dolled up before she went to see her husband. How many of us have pulled this trick? There's a new dress at the store, or the garage needs cleaned or mom is coming over for dinner and we pull out all the stops to do what we think is going to attract the attention of our husband.

Only upon seeing his wife, she didn't even have to speak, and he said "what can I give you, whatever you want?" You can't get a much better response than that! If Esther had known that this was going to be the kings reaction to her, do you think she would've prepared such a big banquet for him and her enemy? Is that the way we do it sometimes, we try to take the shortest route possible, do the least amount of work - just enough to get the job done.

When we take the time to pray and listen to what God tells us to do, there should be no shortcuts.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Esther - Superhero?

Esther 4: 6-17 So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king's gate. 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. 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 urge her to go into the king's presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people. Hathach went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, "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 he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king." When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, 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. 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 royal position for such a time as this?" Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: "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 maids 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." So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther's instructions.

So Esther finally gets to the bottom of Mordecai's pain. All her people are about to be killed and he is telling her it is up to her! No pressure. Esther has a valid concern. In those days, if the king has not called you, and you try to approach him, his guards will kill you - unless he holds out his gold sceptor to you. Esther hadn't been called by the king for a month. This alone could be a lesson in itself - breakdown in communication in the marriage...

Anyway, when Esther voices her concerns of being killed to her cousin, he reminds her that she, also, is a jew and will perish - so it's either now or later. Valid point. So, why the fasting diet for all the jews? Did she think her people needed to get into shape to get ready for the battle?

The idea behind fasting is for prayer. More than just appreciating what God provides for us on a daily basis, but to remember to pray. Whenever those hunger pains kick in, you remember why you're hungry and you pray. It makes since that she would ask to do it for three days - I think during the first day you can probably go pretty easy without food and not feel it too much. During those second and third days though, I bet an awful lot of prayer was being lifted to God by the Jews. Esther had already given her plan, her intentions, so why all the prayer. I believe she needed courage.

When we take it all to God, even a decision that we've already been forced to make, won't His hand be in it regardless? God can take any situation and use it for His glory - a small little orphan girl like Esther - to save the desecration of a nation. God gives us the strength we need to get through every situation - it is supernatural strength. When you feel like the situation you're in is pushing down on you from every angle - why do you try to handle it alone? God is waiting for you to ask, willing to give, wanting to take it for you... Let Him.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Esther - What's Wrong?

Esther 4:1-5 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. But he went only as far as the king's gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. 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. When Esther's maids and eunuchs 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. Then Esther summoned Hathach, one of the king's eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.

Have you ever thought about the little kid in class who did something he wasn't supposed to and the teacher found out what it was and punished the whole class for it. I wonder what that little kid feels like - is he happy that he doesn't have to suffer by himself, or is the guilt eating away at him?

Mordecai has found himself in the same situation. Although his actions were righteous, he made the 'teacher' mad and now everyone is getting punished for it. He has the latter feelings in our previous example. He is wrought with grief over what is going to happen to all the Jews, and he's not afraid to share those feelings.

Let's look at Esther for a moment in these few verses. She's told of Mordecai's actions and sees that he's upset about something and the first thing she does is what? Sends out clothes for him to change into. Was he crying because he forgot to do his laundry? Was he crying because the sackcloth was itching him? No.

Like many of us, me especially, we want to solve a situation with a 'change of clothes': quick answer, a quick cover-up and hope it's enough to do the job. We look at the outside and make an assumption that we know what the cause of the problem is and work quickly to solve it.

Esther immediately realizes her mistake and sends out Hathach to fix it.
There was no way for Esther to know exactly what was wrong with Mordecai until she talked to him about it and got to the heart of the problem.

Are we willing to do that? Are we willing to go beyond what we think is the 'quick fix'? Are we willing to take the time to stop assuming and get to the real issues that are bothering someone? Are we willing to do it for ourselves?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Esther - Roll the Dice and Take Your Chances

Esther 3:7-15 In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the first month, the month of Nisan, they cast the pur (that is, the lot) in the presence of Haman to select a day and month. And the lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar. Then Haman said to King Xerxes, "There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king's laws; it is not in the king's best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will put ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury for the men who carry out this business." 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. "Keep the money," the king said to Haman, "and do with the people as you please." 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. 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 little children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. 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. Spurred on by the king's command, the couriers went out, 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.

Isn't it ironic how God uses even the evil things people do for His purpose. Haman is 'rolling the dice of chance' to see when he should have all the jews killed. It turns out that 'chance' is telling him they should be killed 11 months from the time they consulted their 'sources'. As we will see, eleven months is just enough time for a retaliatory action to be put in place. Let's look at the king in these verses. Haman plans his evil idea. Obviously, nothing can be done without the approval of the king, but Haman has gotten himself in a pretty good position to make what he wants happen. He goes to the king, convinces him that there are a group of 'people' disregarding the ways of the kingdom and that they should be killed. Haman even says he'll pay the king to get this plan under way.

What does the king do, he says "okay". What happened to our earlier wisdom of 'innocent until proven guilty'? The king doesn't ask who these people are or what they had done or where they came from, he simply lets Haman take control. The king gives him his signet ring, which basically says - you can do whatever you want - perhaps he should've checked out before handing over his identity. Inevitably, Haman sends out his notice from the king to all the land saying, if you're a jew, you will die in eleven months.

But notice what happens in the last verse....
The kings entire kingdom had received the no
tice and wondered, "what the heck?" They had no idea why someone would do something like this to an entire people, for what seemed like no reason. But the king would not know the confusion of his people, Haman was too busy getting him drunk again.

If ever there was an example in the Bible of how hanging out with the wrong people will bring you down, this is it. The king had entrusted his entire credibility to a man that was in it for himself. He gave up his identity to a man whose only intention was to use it for his own jealous plot, no matter the cost to the king. King Xerxes let Haman confuse him by keeping him drunk and out of sorts so as not to figure out what Haman was up to.

We, as Christians, have one source that we can go to that will lead us down the right path - and that is Jesus. If your friends are not walking down that same path to head towards that same source - then why would they be walking beside you? Be wise in who you seek for friendship.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Esther - We Bow Down, or Not.

Esther 3:2-6 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. Then the royal officials at the king's gate asked Mordecai, "Why do you disobey the king's command?" 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. When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. 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.

Okay, so Haman is rewarded. We all know that sometimes life isn't fair - that it seems like the bad guys always win. However, there is something interesting here. Everyone was ordered to bow down to Haman - you know - full down on all fours in homage, and Mordecai refused to do it. Now, it doesn't say Mordecai shouted at the top of his lungs, "No, you jerk! you don't deserve this position and I'm not gonna bow to the likes of you!" He just wouldn't bow.

This was when the guys at the gate started asking Mordecai, "Why aren't you bowing?" To which he replied simply "I'm a Jew". While this may have been a simple reply - it certainly held a lot of weight. Simply stating that you were a Jew meant that you worshiped one God, The God, and would not bow to anyone, or anything else.

Now here's the thing, Haman didn't even notice that this was going on. He was
so busy in 'Haman Land' enjoying his high position, that he didn't care what else was going on. Until, the guards came and tattled on Mordecai. Instantly Haman became angry. So angry that he didn't want to kill just Mordedai, but all Jews that believed this way. It was in his blood, remember.

I think we can still get something out of Haman's behavior. If we set our sights on God and do what He's called us to do - don't let all that's going on beneath you send you spiraling downward. Now we know that Haman wasn't a good person, but his actions of letting others' behavior anger him are ones we've all experienced. Just keep reaching for God and don't let the tattletales pull you down.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Esther - The Plot Thickens

Esther 3:1 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. 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.

If you don't already know the story of Esther, Haman is not a good guy. His true nature will show shortly, but there is so much inside this one verse that to ignore it would be to miss the huge relevance that it shows. Let me tell you a story:

A long time ago, there was a man by the name of Moses. He was leading God's people through the wilderness. It was a hard time - people complained, they kept doubting God, even miracle after miracle. Then came a group of people called the Amalekites to destroy God's people (Exodus 17), He again performed another miracle and as long as Moses kept his hands in the air - the Israelites would win. At the end of this battle, God makes a promise that he will destroy the Amalekites. Now there's a nice promise, I will destroy the people who tried to destroy you. HMMMMMMM

Then, years pass and a man named Saul has been told that he will be king, and been told by God to destroy the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15) - Here we go - now they will be destroyed, promise fulfilled. God tells Saul to kill everyone but do not touch their stuff. However, Saul did not 'completely' obey - He killed everyone - BUT the king, King Agag, and kept just a few cows and sheep. What's the big deal, right?

Here's the deal - and we see it in Verse 1 of Chapter 3 of Esther: Haman - the Agagite - a descendent of King Agag - who was, by order of God, supposed to be killed by Saul years ago.

There is no choosing when it comes to being obedient to God. This is such a hard lesson to learn. If it's 'partial' obedience - then it is "TOTAL DISOBEDIENCE". Either we choose to follow God and do what He tells us, or we are not followers of God. We do not get the option to pick and choose which things we like and which ones we don't.

The question is, are we willing to do everything God tells us?