Monday, October 23, 2017

Chance of a Lifetime

O. T. #1085 "Chance of a Lifetime"
Oct. 23, 2017
Esther 2-Part 3
And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.  Esther 2:17

LET IT GLOW

They say some opportunities only come around once. We call it a chance of a lifetime. Have you had any come your way? I can think of a few-some I let pass my by and others I took; some with regret and some with satisfaction. Esther had a chance in a lifetime. does she blow it or take it?

There must have been a lot of maidens brought to the palace for the queen's contest, after all, there was 127 provinces in Persia. Esther was one of those beauties chosen. In preparation, each girl was given beauty treatments for 12 months. Each girl was then assigned a night to spend with the king. When her time came, she was given whatever clothing and jewelry she wanted. Afterwards, she was transferred to live in the permanent harem of the king. Unless summoned by the king, she would not see him again. Every girl desired to be the queen, yet only one would win the position.
Here was a chance of a lifetime. Esther remained true to what she was taught and obedient to Mordecai's counsel, believing he knew what was best for her.

Esther was deeply loved by her cousin Mordecai, who adopted her as his daughter. He would daily walk by the courtyard of the harem to find out how she was. (Remember, he was some kind of Jewish official and could do that.) What a guy! He was the only close family she had, evidently.

Are we showing our children and grandchildren how much we love them by being involved in their lives? Sometimes a listening ear is all they need. Going to watch them play sports, enter contests, perform in programs at school, doesn't cost much, except our time. Our involvement is what makes lasting memories for them later in life. And they will in turn do the same for their children. How can we show love this week? Shall we extend it to the children in our church? They need to feel loved and important, also.


LET IT GROW

(Reading the key verse above, we know how this contest turns out.)
And then the night came for her to spend time with the king of Persia. From among the hundreds of beautiful young women Esther was chosen to be his queen. Undoubtedly, her qualities beyond beauty attracted the king. Her real beauty arose from within, from a gracious, lovely spirit, and a strong character. A star shown out among the hundreds. A Star named Esther.
What traits did Esther have that caused her to stand out and shine?

The Preacher's Outline and Sermon Bible suggests:
  1. First, she pleased Hegai and King Xerxus. This points to the traits of kindness, graciousness, humility, and love. Can we see God's providential control here?
  2. Second, Esther was a woman of wisdom. Keeping her nationality a secret demonstrated wisdom. Esther knew that if her neighbors were aware that she was a Jew, she would be persecuted and become the object of prejudice and discrimination.
  3. Third, the reference to Esther's being an obedient child (verse 20) demonstrates that she was trustworthy, dependable, faithful, and loyal.
  4. Fourth, being chosen by King Xerxus to become the queen points to her being an intelligent and industrious woman. Xerxus must have detected these traits, for he knew that she would be capable of handling the official duties of the queen, which were bound to be many.
Aren't these traits needed by all women today? Are we teaching our girls to develop inner beauty:
kind, gracious, humble, loving, wise, virtuous, obedient, trustworthy, dependable, loyal, faithful, intelligent, industrious?
So much money is spent on the beauty products industry. And think of the time spent using them. It is understandable since our society's emphasis in one the outward beauty of women.

So many Scriptures guide us in this task. Romans 12:9,10; Ephesians 4:32;  Matthew 18:4, 22:39; Proverbs 10:4, 11:16, 15:14, 29:23; 1 Corinthians 7:1-5; Titus 2:3-5.


LET IT GO

Trust God with the events that come into my life to be for my best.
Focus on my inner beauty today.

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Star's Character

O T. #1084  "A Star's Character"
Oct. 20, 2017
Esther 2-Part 2
A gentle and quiet spirit, ...of great worth in God's sight.  1 Peter 3:4

LET IT GLOW

Growing up, I had was of a quiet nature. But, being a school teacher for 15 years, I developed  bossy and stern ways. Now I realize that I don't need those qualities and have been trying to work on having a gentle and quiet spirit. For some of us, it takes an effort to achieve. However, for Esther, it came naturally. This star's character shone out with the love of God in her heart. She was shining above the other maidens.

Last time we talked about Esther being brought to the palace, along with other maidens, in order to eventually be in a beauty contest for the position of queen of Persia. We mentioned that she was an orphan after both of her parents were dead. Her cousin Mordecai took her in and raised her. They were both Jews.

Who is this Mordecai?
He was a fourth generation of deported Jews. To explain that, we need to look into Israel's history.
It divided into two kingdoms after King Solomon's reign. The Northern Kingdom, called Israel, which included 10 tribes, eventually turned to idolatry, thus God allowed Assyria to conquer them. The Southern Kingdom, made up of  Judah and Benjamin, had a few more faithful kings, but they eventually turned from worshiping God to idols, also. Jehoiachin, the young king of Judah, only wore the crown three months when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered them. Jerusalem was destroyed, as well as the Temple, which had its holy contents made of gold, silver and bronze taken away to Babylon. Then Babylon fell to the Medo-Persians. Ahasuerus became king of the vast Persian empire, about a hundred years after the fall of Jerusalem.

Mordecai was a descendant of those exited Jews. His great grandfather actually experienced the deportation. Kish represents a Benjamite family name which can be traced all the way back to Saul's father. Since their exile, the Jews had increased in population, had great freedom, were allowed to run a business, and hold position in government. Mordecai was probably born in Susa and inherited an official position among the Jewish captives that kept him around the palace. However, he instructed Esther to remain quiet about her being a Jew.

If we have been born into a family of believers in Jesus Christ, we are blessed.

Life Application Study Bible advises us:
While boldness in stating our identity as God's people is our responsibility, at times a good strategy is to keep quiet until we have won the right to be heard. This is especially true when dealing with those in authority over us. But we can always let them see the difference God makes in our lives.


LET IT GROW

Esther impressed Hegai with her lovely, gracious character. He gave her special privileges and care by:
  • giving her additional attention beauty treatments, and choice food;
  • seven maids;
  • the best room in the harem. (verse 9)
It was more than Esther's beauty that attracted her to Hegai, the one in charge of the maidens. It was bound to be her sweet, gracious, lovely, and kind spirit. This star's character shone out from the other young women. (The Persian name Esther means Star.) Her humility and grace were rewarded with those things mentioned above.
Nowadays a movie star is often selfish and self centered, prideful, boisterous. It isn't her outward beauty that makes her a beautiful person. Her kindness, sweet attitudes, and giving spirit do in my books.

How is our character measurement? Can folks say the same about us as revealed Esther?

LET IT GO

Keep showing a gentle and quiet spirit toward others and situations.
Graciously think of others before myself.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Combing the Hills and Hair

O.T. #1083  "Combing the Hills and Hair"
Oct. 19, 2017
Esther 2
...Esther was brought also unto the king's house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women.
Esther 2:8

LET IT GLOW

After these things... What things? Well, after Queen Vashti was divorced and dethroned by King Xerxes. You will recall that she refused to be a made a spectacle of his highness to the drunk male guests. Then, the king launched his disastrous campaign against the Greeks, returning home humiliated instead of honored. Oh, he was a dejected and despondent king, in despair and anguish.  He had no one in which to share his deepest emotions, find comfort, and receive encouragement. Did Xerxes miss Vashti? Was he longing for true love?

So 4 years passed between chapters 1 and 2. The king's personal attendants noticed this about the king. They came up with a plan to secure him a new wife:
  1. By appointment, agents in each province to search for beautiful virgins.
  2. These girls were brought into the king's harem at Susa.
  3. They were placed under Hegai's care and given beauty treatments (which lasted a year).
  4. The maiden that pleased the king the most would be made queen
The idea pleased the king so it was implemented.
Do we know people who are like King Xerxes? They are morally corrupt, engaging in one sexual exploit after another. This has been hitting the news lately.
God and His Word forbids adultery and illicit sex. Marriage between a man and a woman is His guideline for us. A home, companionship, love, meeting needs, and nurturing  aide us in leading a life of happiness and contentment. This is found when God's guidelines are followed. (In a sense, that is what those illicit relationships are seeking.)



LET IT GROW

The decree went out as headlines in all the newspapers-Miss Persia Beauty Contest to be Held in One Year. Well, maybe it wasn't like that. so behind the lines is a girl named Hadassah (Jewish name meaning myrtle, fragrance). Esther is her Persian name, meaning star in reference to the star like flowers of the myrtle, but like a star in the sky.

What are the two things we learn about Ester in verse 7?
  1. She was an orphan, raised by her Jewish cousin, Mordecai.
  2. She became a young woman of incredible beauty.
At this point, Esther has not the slightest inkling that one day she would be crowned the most beautiful woman in the kingdom and the new queen of Persia. She knows nothing of palace politics, a lonely king, nor what the future holds for her.

So the appointed men combed the hills for the beautiful maidens in the land. Esther found herself on her way to combing her hair to meet the king. She was brought into the king's palace along with other virgins and placed under the care of Hegai. (I couldn't resist such an analogy.)

I wonder if Mordecai was worried about his sweet cousin. Was he reluctant to let her go away into such an environment, although he didn't have a choice about the matter? All he could do was trust her life with God. She also.

Where are you on your own journey today? Are you thinking how insignificant your life is? What good can come from where you live and what you do?

Remember, God's hand is not so short that it cannot save, nor is His ear so heavy that He cannot hear. He is at work in your life this very moment. (Swindoll)

His ways are higher than ours. Trust Him, dear one.

LET IT GO

Stand up for marriage being an institution by God.
Trust God when things are not foreseen.
Remain committed to the things of God, bringing hope to a world in need.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mundane Days

O. T. #1082  "Mundane Days"
Oct. 18, 2017
Esther 1-Part 2
A gracious woman retaineth honor: and strong men retain riches.   Proverbs 11:16

LET IT GLOW

Are you living in mundane days, where everything is ordinary, going the same day after day? Watch out, for in the snap of a finger, our life can change drastically. It did for one queen. Want to find out how? Follow along, friend.

It is the seventh day and King Xerxes' party is continuing. This Persian king's banquet actually lasted 6 months. Join me as we observe behind the curtains in the garden court. Can you hear the loud music, see the wild dancing, too much eating, and excessive drinking? This great king was so prideful that there were no limits, since he was one of the wealthiest people in the world at that time.
His guests consisted of political leaders, businessmen, military leaders, people from his 127 providences, as well as those in Susa. King Xexres' purpose for such an extravagant banquet was to launch a campaign  economically and militarily. He desperately desired to conquer Greece, although his kingdom was a world power.

As the guest became drunk, they probably filled with lust from watching the slave girls' seductive dancing.

Persian kings loved to flaunt their wealth, even wearing precious gemstones in their beards. Jewelry was a sign of rank for Persian men. Even soldiers wore great amounts of gold jewelry in battle. (Life Application Study Bible)

Then something happened. One of those unexpected but pivotal moments that change everything. The king, whose heart was merry with wine, in other words he was drunk, commanded his 7  eunuchs to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown in order to display her beauty to the people and the princes, for she was beautiful. She was another prize, physical beauty, which the king wanted to show off to his guests.


LET IT GROW

Shall we walk over to  another banquet going on at the same time the king's was since the other one had gone down hill? Queen Vashti, Xerxes' wife, held a separate banquet for the wives, sisters, and mothers of the nation's leaders. Her feast was held in the royal house.

Although we don't know a great deal about her, evidently the queen was a strong-minded, independent-thinking woman who was not afraid to go against the wishes of her husband the king.
When Vashti got the king's order, how did she react? The queen refused, just saying no. Her beauty was her own and her husband's, not for show to hundreds of drunk men.

Don't you admire this queen? She took a stand against the greatest power in her world in order to keep her respect and dignity. Would we do the same?

Submission to husbands does not mean that a wife is a sexual pawn in he carnal desire of her husband. What the king asked of his wife was not submission; it was sexual slavery. (Swindoll)

Anger burned in the king. King Xerxes' advisors told him to get rid of the queen and replace her with another more worthy than she. So let it be written, so let it be done. The Persian law could not be altered. The beautiful Queen exited. So he king divorced the queen because she wouldn't cooperate. Those men were afraid other women would follow her example.

Here is some encouragement as Swindoll, in his book, Esther, A Woman of Strength and Dignity, points out:
  • God not only moves in mysterious ways, He moves in mundane days. His hand is not removed from this (or any other) scene.
  • God's plans are not hindered when the events of this world are carnal or secular. Those involved may not be glorifying Him, but never doubt He's present. He's at work.
  • God's purposes are not frustrated by moral or marital failures. He is a God who applies grace to the long view of life.

Do we need that? Is there someone in our life that needs that?

LET IT GO

See God's grace.
Trust His hand  is in control, even when sinful people do horrible things.
Stay committed to the things of God, even in the mundane days, no-big-deal days.
Beware of lust, power, pride, pleasures.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

An Extravagant Party

O. T. #1081  "An Extravagant Party"
Oct. 17, 2017
Esther 1

LET IT GLOW

What kind of parties have you attended? Throughout the years, I have been to a few parties held in  extravagant homes. But the difference is the attitude the owners had. They were not flaunting their possessions, but were using them as a way to share with others and meet their needs. I felt welcome and valued, not out of place. And then the opposite has been experienced as the owners bragged about their extravagant possessions. I certainly felt out of place there. Today we will read about a king which held a party in an extravagant palace. Shall we which kind of host he was?

The first three years of Ahasuerus' reign was consisted of just another king living in ordinary days, year in and year out. Ahasuerus was not the name of the king, but the title of his position, which means high father or venerable king. Xerxes the Great of Persia was the name of the one who reigned over a great empire stretching from India to Ethiopia. This kingdom was divided into 20 regions and 127 provinces ruled by governors. (Modern Pakistan and Sudan were in this area.) Persia was the largest empire ever formed through military conquest. It included the Fertile Crescent, the heartland of the world. (The city of Susa housed the king's winter palace, that is modern Iran.) Cyrus had conquered the land of the Meedes and his grandson, Xerxes, had conquered the Persians. However, Xerxes's father failed to conquer Greece.
Notice that the name of this king is mentioned at least 175 times in this book, yet God's name is not. Although this is so, God's hand is not missing.

Wiersbe describes these events as God  "standing somewhere in the shadows" ruling and overruling. He notes the evidences of God's providential workings:
  1. Esther being chosen queen over all the other candidates. (2:15-18)
  2. Mordecai discovering the plot to kill the king. (2:21-23)
  3. The casting of lots for the day to destroy the Jews resulting in a date later in the year, giving time for Mordecai and Esther to act. (3:7-15)
  4. The king's welcome to Esther after ignoring her for a month. (5:2)
  5. The king's patience with Esther in permitting her to hold another banquet. (5:8)
  6. The king's insomnia that brought to light Mordecai's deed of kindness. (6:1)
  7. The king's apparent lapse of memory in 6:10-14, that led him to honor one of the Jews he had agreed to slay.
  8. The king's deep concern for Esther's welfare, when he had a harem to choose from. (7:5)
God's sovereignty prevailed so the Jews were saved. Since King David and King Jesus were to come through the tribe of Judah, this family had to be preserved.

Are we trusting our God to preserve His Word and children?
Can we see His hand working in our life?
Is He standing in the shadows as our family lives?
Are we thanking Him for all He does?


LET IT GROW

An ordinary day became an extraordinary day. King Xerxes had a lavishing banquet, displaying his wealth and power to his delegation brought from each province. This banquet lasted a total of 180 days, which was a smorgasbord for 6 months.

Come, let us go in and observe this extravaganza. It is being held in the enclosed garden at the palace. Scriptures tell us what we see whenever we look around:
  • White, green, and blue drapes hung on marble pillars by silver rings;
  • Couches were made of gold and silver;
  • Mosaic pavement was red, white, blue, and black costly stone lay in the courtyard;
  • Gold goblets, each uniquely designed, were used for wine;
  • An abundance of wine was served. (verses 6-8)
The officers attending the banquet were not compelled to drink the available wine, but did so according to every man's pleasure. (verse 8)
This king was a man of enormous wealth whose life was one of extravagance, pleasure, luxury, comfort, and ease. Seems he delighted in boasting and showing off his wealth.

We are warned of such ways in Mark 4:19, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the Word, and it becometh unfruitful.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. and having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
(1 Timothy 6:6-8)

Content, in the Greek language, gives the idea of raising a barrier, to ward off; be enough; be sufficient.

Are we content with what we have?
Are we thankful for all we have?
Do we use it for the glory of God?
If we are content, do we resist the extravagance of the world?

LET IT GO

Learn to be content.
Don't flaunt what I have, but use it to serve others and meet needs.









Monday, October 16, 2017

A Woman of Faith

O. T. #1080 "A Woman of Faith"
Oct. 16, 2017
Introduction to Esther

LET IT GLOW

Where do I begin to tell the story of Esther? This is one of the two books in the Bible which are written about the life of a woman, with Ruth being the other. Surrounded by books and commentaries, I realize each has a little different perspective as they write about this female hero of the Jews.
So who was this Esther?
  • Her name in the Hebrew language was Hadassah, which means myrtle, but in the Persian language, Esther  means star.
  • She was an attractive orphan girl, since both of her parents were dead. We don't know the details of this.
  • Esther's uncle, Mordecai, a Persian governmental official, raised her as his daughter. (2:7, 15)
  • She is raised from the low status of an orphan to the highest position in the nation-Persian Queen. 
  • Growing up a Jew, Esther must have had a strong love for her family. Her faith was challenged as she was faced with the decision of a possibility of death in order to rescue her family from death.
  • Her strong faith took the chance, trusting God with her life.
Will we be known as a hero in our family?
How strong is our faith in God?
Are we a nobody who becomes a somebody?

LET IT GROW

Historical Background

While the author of Esther is unknown, it is suggested to have been either Mordecai, Ezra, or Nehemiah. This one must have been acquainted with Persian customs, etiquette, and history, as well as the palace at Sushan. Also, he had knowledge of the Hebrew calendar and customs, which are  evident.

The date of these events occurred  before Persian King Ahasuerus died by assassination in 465B.C. and somewhere during the time of the events of Ezra 4-10 happen. Prophets Haggai and Zechariah spoke during this time of the events to come concerning Israel and Judah.

MacAruthur dates this book as covering the years of83-473 B.C. during the portion of the king's ruling from 486 to 45 BC. H says the event occurred during the time of the first return of the Jews after the 70 year Babylonian captivity and the second return led by Ezra. Nehemiah's journey, the third return from Susa to Jerusalem occurred later in 445 B.C.

Although God is nowhere mentioned in Esther, His hand on the events is evident.

Swindoll, in his book Esther, A Woman of Strength and Dignity, said:
God's unsearchable mind was working in concert with His unfathomable will, carrying things out under His sovereign control. God's presence is His invisible providence. Providence means "seeing ahead of time" which is what Almighty God does. But our invisible God, in His providence, is continually, constantly, and confidently at work. His mind His will, His power, and His presence are working in concert on every page in the story of Esther.
Are we convinced that God is working in our circumstances?
Although we can't change some events, God can.
If we need rescuing, He can do it. But are we convinced?
Does our faith take a chance, as Esther did, trusting God?


LET IT GO

Ask God to make me a woman of faith.
Trust Him in my life situations.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Remain Faithful

O. T. #1079  "Remain Faithful"
Oct.12, 2017
Summary of Nehemiah

LET IT GLOW

In review of the history of the Jews up to this point in time, they had been taken in captivity for 70 years in Babylon/Persia. Zerubbabel was allowed to take the first group, being 46,697 Jews, to Jerusalem to resettle and rebuild the Temple in 515 B.C. The journey took 4 months to travel 900 miles. King Cyrus gave them the captured Temple vessels, including those made of  silver and gold to be returned to their right place. Zerubbabel was appointed the first governor and Jeshua the first priest in the new community. Adversaries had cause the reconstruction of the Temple to stop for 14 years, but it was eventually completed.

During the next 57 years, the Jews slipped away from the Lord. Then Ezra took the second group of 1,754 Jews to Jerusalem. His mission was to teach God's Law, stir revival and reformation, and renew Temple worship, which was accomplished. King Darius supported this effort.

There was a gap of 12 before Nehemiah led the third group of Jews back to Jerusalem. King Artaxerxes supported them, making Nehemiah governor. His purpose was to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, which only took 52 days. Nehemiah remained there for 12 years before returning to Persia.

When Nehemiah heard about the terrible oppression and defeated spirits of the Jews, he was deeply grieved and spent days in prayer. Being a cupbearer to the king, Nehemiah was allowed to go on the journey. (An unknown number of Jews accompanied him.) His constant and wholehearted devotion to God is seen throughout this book. Also seen is God's faithfulness to His children as He guided, protected, and provided whatever was needed in each circumstance.

Have we experienced this same God working in our life?
Great is Thy faithfulness Lord unto me.


LET IT GROW

As Nehemiah encouraged the Jews in their repairing and rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, he faced external opposition. Enemy leaders of surrounding lands were afraid the Jews would conquer them. They used ridicule, insults, mockery, conspiracy, and lies in the effort to discourage the builders.

Internal struggles came as the poor Jews did not have enough food for families while building, so they mortgaged fields and homes to buy food, and borrowed money to pay Persian taxes. Nehemiah led the Jews to restore their love for their neighbor families.

Through it all, the wall was completed. Jerusalem was safe from their enemies. Revival came to the people and the nation of Israel. Fear, discouragement, and selfishness were overcome. Guards were placed on the wall at the gates. The wall was dedicated. sons were sung. The Word was read. People prayed, recommitted to serving God, gave tithes, loved their neighbor. Yep, I'd call it a revival.

Then it happened, gradually, while Nehemiah returned to Persia to give his report to the king, for about 3 years. Jerusalem became a mess spiritually. When he returned, Nehemiah found the Jews were violating God's Laws. They intermarried with unbelievers, desecrated the Temple, ignore the tithe and Sabbath. We read this week of Nehemiah's strong arm of discipline and the reform of Jerusalem.

But this book ends on a good note, not like the sour beginning. Nehemiah held a purification service for the priests, reestablished the offerings, and prayed for God to remember and favor him. Here his last words recorded, found in Nehemiah 13:31b are Remember me, O my God, for good.

The purpose God had for Nehemiah's life was accomplished. This man of prayer was also a man of action, responsibility, vision, and compassion. Through it all he remained faithful to God and God remained faith to him.

LET IT GO

Remain faithful to God.
Serve Him with my life.