2538.) Acts 19:23-41

January 23, 2019

This single column and parts of the foundation are all that now remain of the Temple of Artemis (Diana) in Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  Archaeologists have been digging in Ephesus on and off since 1863.

Acts 19:23-41 (NLT)

The Riot in Ephesus

This is a reproduction of the Temple of Artemis (Diana) from Ephesus (present day Turkey). The original was beyond beautiful, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, measuring 425 ft long, 220 ft wide, and 60 ft high. It was supported by 127 pillars, each 60 feet high, and was decorated with great sculptures. It was lost to history until it was discovered in 1869, and its main altar was unearthed in 1965. 

It was described by Antipater of Sidon, who compiled the list of the Seven Wonders:

I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, “Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.”

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Acts19 Artemis

When the goddess Artemis was represented in stone and metals, she bore upon her head a mural headdress, representing a fortified city wall; from it, drapery hung upon each side of her face to her shoulders. The upper part of her body was completely covered with rows of breasts to signify that she was the mother of all life. The lower arms were extended.  In later times her Greek followers represented her with stags or lions standing at her sides. The most renowned of her statues stood on the platform before the entrance to her temple in Ephesus, shown above. As the statues indicate, she impersonated the reproductive powers of men and of animals and of all other life.

–E. J. Banks

23 About that time, serious trouble developed in Ephesus concerning the Way. 24 It began with Demetrius, a silversmith who had a large business manufacturing silver shrines of the Greek goddess Artemis. He kept many craftsmen busy. 25 He called them together, along with others employed in similar trades, and addressed them as follows:

“Gentlemen, you know that our wealth comes from this business. 26 But as you have seen and heard, this man Paul has persuaded many people that handmade gods aren’t really gods at all. And he’s done this not only here in Ephesus but throughout the entire province! 27 Of course, I’m not just talking about the loss of public respect for our business. I’m also concerned that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will lose its influence and that Artemis—this magnificent goddess worshiped throughout the province of Asia and all around the world—will be robbed of her great prestige!”

28 At this their anger boiled, and they began shouting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was filled with confusion. Everyone rushed to the amphitheater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, who were Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia. 30 Paul wanted to go in, too, but the believers wouldn’t let him. 31 Some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, also sent a message to him, begging him not to risk his life by entering the amphitheater.

The mob gathered here, at the Great Theater of Ephesus, which, when completed, seated some 24,000 people.  If you ever sit there, you will hear its excellent acoustics!  It was severely damaged by an earthquake in A.D. 262.

32 Inside, the people were all shouting, some one thing and some another. Everything was in confusion. In fact, most of them didn’t even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander forward and told him to explain the situation. He motioned for silence and tried to speak. 34 But when the crowd realized he was a Jew, they started shouting again and kept it up for two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

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Music:

Imagine the racket! The chanting could no doubt be heard all over the city.  HERE  is a song to answer them:  Chris Tomlin’s “How Great Is Our God.” Truly!

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35 At last the mayor was able to quiet them down enough to speak. “Citizens of Ephesus,” he said. “Everyone knows that Ephesus is the official guardian of the temple of the great Artemis, whose image fell down to us from heaven. 36 Since this is an undeniable fact, you should stay calm and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, but they have stolen nothing from the temple and have not spoken against our goddess.

38 “If Demetrius and the craftsmen have a case against them, the courts are in session and the officials can hear the case at once. Let them make formal charges. 39 And if there are complaints about other matters, they can be settled in a legal assembly. 40 I am afraid we are in danger of being charged with rioting by the Roman government, since there is no cause for all this commotion. And if Rome demands an explanation, we won’t know what to say.” 41 Then he dismissed them, and they dispersed.

“This chapter teaches us all a permanent lesson: that when disciples have a true revival, society gets a revolution. When the Spirit moves mightily upon children of God we may look for other might mighty movements among unbelievers, and need not be surprised if the devil himself comes down, having great wrath, as though he knew that his time were short.”

–Arthur Tappan Pierson

It has often happened in the history of Christianity that when God moves among His people and they become very serious about their Christianity, that it affects the livelihood of those who trade in vice or immorality. For example, in the early years of the Salvation Army, they were so effective that pimps and bar owners in southern England organized a “Skeleton Army” to oppose them with threats and violence – and even a few Salvation Army workers were murdered.

–David Guzik

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
Images courtesy of:
Temple of Artemis (ruins).   http://www.bibleplaces.com/images/Ephesus_Temple_of_Artemis_ruins2_tb_n010500.jpg
Artemis.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/2de70-diana2.jpeg
Temple of Artemis (reproduction).    https://www.ancient.eu/image/180/model-of-the-temple-of-artemis/
Great Theater of Ephesus.    http://www.bibleplaces.com/images/Ephesus_theater_from_west,_tbn010501.jpg
taking God seriously.   https://quotesthoughtsrandom.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/taking-god-seriously.jpg
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2537.) Acts 19:1-22

January 22, 2019

map of Paul’s Third Missionary journey

Acts 19:1-22 (NLT)

Paul’s Third Missionary Journey

1 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers. 2 “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them.

“No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

3 “Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked.

And they replied, “The baptism of John.”

These Ephesian disciples had only a basic understanding of the Messiah Jesus and His ministry, only what could be gained through the message of John the Baptist. They were in the same place as Apollos before Aquila and Priscilla explained the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:24-26). They could have received John’s baptism from the hands of John himself; or perhaps from some of John’s disciples who continued on in his ministry after John’s death.

–David Guzik

4 Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.”

5 As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

Let me look at my own life. Is there a conspicuous presence of the Holy Spirit? Is there an obvious power of the Lord Jesus at work in me? Do I shine as a witness for Christ? Oh, God, let this be a genuine cry of my heart!

Paul Ministers in Ephesus

Few places have made such an impression on me as the ruins of Ephesus. Such a life-like-ness! It is as though all the Ephesians just stepped out. I nearly expected to run into Paul around the next corner.

8 Then Paul went to the synagogue and preached boldly for the next three months, arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God. 9 But some became stubborn, rejecting his message and publicly speaking against the Way. So Paul left the synagogue and took the believers with him. Then he held daily discussions at the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for the next two years, so that people throughout the province of Asia—both Jews and Greeks—heard the word of the Lord.

It seems likely that Tyrannus lectured there in the cooler morning hours, leaving the hall to Paul afterward. Paul may have worked his trade in the morning to support himself, and then taught in the afternoon. One can readily see that two years’ worth of Paul’s teaching and discussion would have a pervasive effect.

11 God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles. 12 When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled.

13 A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. 15 But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” 16 Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.

Because the seven sons of Sceva had no real relationship with Jesus, they had no spiritual power against the evil spirit. They left the encounter naked and wounded. It was dangerous for them to take the reality of spiritual warfare lightly.

–David Guzik

This fragment of an ancient Greek papyrus contains remedies for an earache.

from Lord, Who Are You?  The Story of Paul and the Early Church,
by Mark Link, S.J.

Roving exorcists were common in Paul’s day, especially in places like Ephesus, where magic and superstitions were widespread. In his Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare refers to Ephesus as the city of “dark-working sorcerers,” “soul-killing witches,” and “prating mountebanks.”

Ancients used the term “Ephesus Writings” to refer to magical papyri or to magical formulas to be placed in lockets and worn around the neck. Archaeologists have found papyri scrolls that contain a number of exorcist rites.

17 The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored. 18 Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. 19 A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire.

Apparently, before the sons of Sceva incident, many believers did not know they were involved in the demonic. They saw their actions in a far more innocent light, until they knew the reality of demonic activity. The sons of Sceva incident also prompted Christians to renounce any remaining connection to the demonic. They renounced the demonic by confessing and by burning their magic books, disregarding whatever value such items may have had.

The value of the books was several million dollars. 20 So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect.

A wonderful result!

“The Sermon of St. Paul at Ephesus”  by Eustache Le Sueur, 1649 (The Louvre, Paris)

21 Afterward Paul felt compelled by the Spirit to go over to Macedonia and Achaia before going to Jerusalem. “And after that,” he said, “I must go on to Rome!” 22 He sent his two assistants, Timothy and Erastus, ahead to Macedonia while he stayed awhile longer in the province of Asia.

It is only by the merest hint that Luke gives us an indication here of something which is filled out in Paul’s letters. He tells us that Paul purposed to go to Jerusalem. The church in Jerusalem was poor; and Paul aimed to take a collection from all his Gentile churches as a contribution to it. We find references to this collection in 1 Corinthians 16:1 ff; 2 Corinthians 9:1 ff; Romans 15:25-26. Paul pressed on with this scheme for two reasons. First, he wished in the most practical way to emphasize the unity of the Church. He wished to demonstrate that they belonged to the body of Christ and that when one part of the body suffered all must help. In other words, he wished to take them away from a merely congregational outlook and to give them a vision of the one universal Church of which they were part. Second, he wished to teach them practical Christian charity. Doubtless when they heard of the privations of Jerusalem they felt sorry. He wished to teach them that sympathy must be translated into action. These two lessons are as valid today as ever they were.

–William Barclay

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Music:

HERE  is a familiar old hymn, “We’ve a story to tell to the nations,” but to a lovely new tune by Cindy Berry! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
Images courtesy of:
map.   https://www.conformingtojesus.com/images/webpages/pauls_third_missionary_journey1.jpeg
Ephesus, main street.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/ephesus-ruins.jpg
papyrus.    https://arts.st-andrews.ac.uk/science-and-empire/prescriptions.shtml
Le Sueur.    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a3/Eustache_Le_Sueur_-_The_Preaching_of_St_Paul_at_Ephesus_-_WGA12613.jpg

2536.) Acts 18:24-28

January 21, 2019

map of Paul’s second missionary journey

Acts 18:24-28 (NLT)

Paul Returns to Antioch of Syria

Here is the end of Paul’s Second Missionary Journey. Let’s review what happened:

Paul and his companion Barnabas left for the Second Missionary Journey from Jerusalem, in late Autumn 49 AD, after the meeting of the Council of Jerusalem where the circumcision question was debated. They stopped in Antioch where they had a sharp argument about taking John Mark with them on their trips, as in the previous trip he had left them and gone home. Unable to resolve the dispute, Paul and Barnabas decided to separate; Barnabas took John Mark with him, while Silas joined Paul.

Paul and Silas initially visited Tarsus (Paul’s birthplace), Derbe and Lystra. In Lystra, they met a disciple named Timothy, who was well-spoken of by the Christians who were at Lystra and Iconium, and decided to take him with them. Meanwhile, the number of believers kept growing daily (Acts 16:5).

In Philippi, they met a woman named Lydia, a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God and welcomed them in her house, and then Paul cast a spirit of divination out of a slave girl. Her masters were upset about the loss of income her soothsaying provided (Acts 16:16-24), so they turned the city against the missionaries, and Paul and Silas were put in jail. After a miraculous earthquake, the gates of the prison fell apart and Paul and Silas could have escaped but remained; this event led to the conversion of the jailor (Acts 16:25-40). They continued traveling, going by Berea and then to Athens where Paul preached to the Jews and to the believing Greeks in the synagogue and to the Greek intellectuals and philosophers in the Areopagus/Mars’ Hill.

Around 50-52 AD, Paul spent a year and a half in Corinth. In Corinth, Paul met Priscilla and Aquila who became believers and helped Paul through his other missionary journeys. The couple followed Paul and his companions to Ephesus, and stayed there to start a Church. In 52 AD, Paul and Silas sailed to Caesarea to greet the Church there and then traveled north to Antioch where they stayed for about a year before leaving again on their third missionary journey.

–ConformingtoJesus.com

Apollos Instructed at Ephesus

24 Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. 25 He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism.

Because Apollos knew of the work of John the Baptist, it is likely that he preached that the Messiah had come and we must repent and respond to Jesus, but he probably had little knowledge of the full person and work of Jesus Christ.

–David Guzik

26 When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.

27 Apollos had been thinking about going to Achaia, and the brothers and sisters in Ephesus encouraged him to go. They wrote to the believers in Achaia, asking them to welcome him. When he arrived there, he proved to be of great benefit to those who, by God’s grace, had believed. 28 He refuted the Jews with powerful arguments in public debate. Using the Scriptures, he explained to them that Jesus was the Messiah.

When Apollos went to the region of Achaia, it probably means he went to the city of Corinth in the region of Achaia. From what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, he apparently had a remarkable ministry there. 

1 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV)

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”

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Music:

HERE  is a song about growing in the Lord. MercyMe and “Greater.”

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
map.   https://www.conformingtojesus.com/images/webpages/apostle_paul_second_missionary_journey_map1.jpg
watering little plants.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/seed-water.jpg

2535.) Psalm 97

January 18, 2019

Psalm 97 (The Message)

God Rules

G. Campbell Morgan summarized this Psalm: “The effects of His judgments are declared. His adversaries are destroyed, His glory is revealed, His people are filled with joy.”

Rejoicing in the Greatness of God

God rules: there’s something to shout over!
On the double, mainlands and islands—celebrate!

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Music:

HERE  is an old (well, not that old — copyright 1996!) favorite — “Rise Up and Praise Him!”

Let the heavens rejoice
Let the earth be glad
Let the people of God
Sing His praise all over the land
Everyone in the valley
Come and lift your voice
All those on the mountaintop
Be glad and shout for joy

Rise up and praise Him
He deserves our love
Rise up and praise Him
Worship the Holy One
With all your heart
With all your soul
With all your might
Rise up and praise Him

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2 Bright clouds and storm clouds circle ’round him;
Right and justice anchor his rule.

3 Fire blazes out before him,
Flaming high up the craggy mountains.

4 His lightnings light up the world;
Earth, wide-eyed, trembles in fear.

5 The mountains take one look at God
And melt, melt like wax before earth’s Lord.

6 The heavens announce that he’ll set everything right,
And everyone will see it happen—glorious!

Instructing the People

7-8 All who serve handcrafted gods will be sorry—
And they were so proud of their ragamuffin gods!

modern day idols

On your knees, all you gods—worship him!
And Zion, you listen and take heart!

Daughters of Zion, sing your hearts out:
God has done it all, has set everything right.

9 You, God, are High God of the cosmos,
Far, far higher than any of the gods.

10 God loves all who hate evil,
And those who love him he keeps safe,
Snatches them from the grip of the wicked.

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

Psalm 97:10 — O ye that love the Lord, see that ye hate the thing which is evil.

Do we hate enough? I hate all evil ways, the writer of Psalm 119 said in verse 104, and in verse 128, All false ways I utterly abhor.

Do we truly hate every false way? Or are we covering up something which will one day come out to our shame before God and His holy angels? There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known (Matthew 10:26).

Do we hate unkind suspicions, whisperings, backbitings, all unlove?

Do we hate all weakening things, or are we sliding along in an easy kind of tolerance that is far removed from the “hate” of such verses as this?

Do we hate laziness and slackness and all kinds of selfishness?

See that you love all that God loves, but see also that you hate all that He hates. They are two sides of the same coin.

11 Light-seeds are planted in the souls of God’s people,
Joy-seeds are planted in good heart-soil.

12 So, God’s people, shout praise to God,
Give thanks to our Holy God!

“He began with bidding the world be glad. He now bids each of us concentrate that universal gladness in our own hearts.”

–Alexander Maclaren

Quick! What can you thank God for today? 

Make it a long, long, all-day-long list!

_________________________

The Message (MSG)   Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Images courtesy of:
Psalm 97:9.  http://wallpaper4god.com/wallpapers/psalm-979_5526_1280x960.jpg
bright clouds, storm clouds.   https://www.pixcove.com/florida-vacation-travel-light-bright-storm-clouds-sky-blue-clouds-sunset-vapors-storm/
lightning.   http://www.smsbase.co.za/2011/11/storms-will-come.html
modern day idols.  http://images.christianpost.com/full/48009/modern-day-idols.jpg
hate evil.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/psalm97_10.jpg
Dear God . . .    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/dear-god-from-the-bottom-of-my-heart-i-want-to-thank-you.jpg

2534.) Esther 9 and 10

January 17, 2019

The King of the Jews was also executed, like a criminal, like Haman. But Christ’s death was not punishment for his sin — it was forgiveness for all of our sin, plus the destruction of our worst enemy, death.  And Christ’s resurrection is a day of gladness!

Esther 9 and 10   (NRSV)

Destruction of the Enemies of the Jews

Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day, when the king’s command and edict were about to be executed, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain power over them, but which had been changed to a day when the Jews would gain power over their foes, 2the Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who had sought their ruin; and no one could withstand them, because the fear of them had fallen upon all peoples.

The Jews definitely had their enemies, those who wished to destroy them. Yet they had someone great on their side: the king, with all his resources. With the king for them, it didn’t matter who was against them. We have our own enemies to deal with; but with the King of Kings on our side, we have no reason to fear – What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) 

–David Guzik

3All the officials of the provinces, the satraps and the governors, and the royal officials were supporting the Jews, because the fear of Mordecai had fallen upon them. 4For Mordecai was powerful in the king’s house, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces as the man Mordecai grew more and more powerful.

Considering the fates of Mordecai and Haman:

Proverbs 11:5-6 (NLT)

The godly are directed by honesty;
the wicked fall beneath their load of sin.

The godliness of good people rescues them;
the ambition of treacherous people traps them.

5So the Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, slaughtering, and destroying them, and did as they pleased to those who hated them. 6In the citadel of Susa the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred people. 7They killed Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, 8Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, 9Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai, Vaizatha, 10the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews; but they did not touch the plunder.

11That very day the number of those killed in the citadel of Susa was reported to the king. 12The king said to Queen Esther, “In the citadel of Susa the Jews have killed five hundred people and also the ten sons of Haman. What have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? Now what is your petition? It shall be granted you. And what further is your request? It shall be fulfilled.”

13Esther said, “If it pleases the king, let the Jews who are in Susa be allowed tomorrow also to do according to this day’s edict, and let the ten sons of Haman be hanged on the gallows.”

"Queen Esther" by contemporary painter Fr. Jim Hasse, SJ (to accompany his poem above)

“Queen Esther” by contemporary painter Fr. Jim Hasse, SJ (to accompany his poem following)

Queen Esther

Her people are saved.
Haman hangs
On the gallows
He prepared for the Jews.

The people rejoice and
The Feast of Purim
Is celebrated.

But Queen Esther reflects,
“Haman is hanged.
His ten sons are hanged.
His followers are slaughtered.
But I cannot rejoice.

Lord, send a better way
To achieve Salvation.”

–Fr. Jim Hasse

14So the king commanded this to be done; a decree was issued in Susa, and the ten sons of Haman were hanged. 15The Jews who were in Susa gathered also on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and they killed three hundred persons in Susa; but they did not touch the plunder.

16Now the other Jews who were in the king’s provinces also gathered to defend their lives, and gained relief from their enemies, and killed seventy-five thousand of those who hated them; but they laid no hands on the plunder.

It is disconcerting, at best, all the death and hangings. The battles at the end of Esther remind us that violence can be rooted in the desire for peace and security. Yet human experience teaches that peace is a precious, fleeting commodity, rarely won by escalated aggression. The Hamans of the world must be exposed and brought to justice, and providential forces may yet redeem what is out of joint in the messy circumstances of life.

–Patricia K. Tull

“Now it was God’s intent that a last conflict should take place between Israel and Amalek: the conflict which began with Joshua in the desert was to be finished by Mordecai in the king’s palace.”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

17This was on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth day they rested and made that a day of feasting and gladness.

The Feast of Purim Inaugurated

18But the Jews who were in Susa gathered on the thirteenth day and on the fourteenth, and rested on the fifteenth day, making that a day of feasting and gladness.

19Therefore the Jews of the villages, who live in the open towns, hold the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a day for gladness and feasting, a holiday on which they send gifts of food to one another.

PURIM PARTY!

The most festive of the Jewish holidays, when fun is not only permitted, it is commanded! The entire Esther scroll (the Megillah) is read aloud! Whenever Haman’s name is mentioned, the listeners make as much noise as possible with shouts or noisemakers to drown out the name of that evil man! Kids put on masks,


dress up in costumes, and stage skits! Special three-cornered pastries called Hamantashen are made, filled with poppy seeds or prunes or fruit jellies! 


And gifts are given! Participants are authorized (by long-standing rabbinic tradition) to drink until they cannot tell the difference between “blessed by Mordecai” and “cursed be Haman”!

20Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, 21enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year, 22as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.

Psalm 116:12-13 (NIV)

How can I repay the LORD
for all his goodness to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.

23So the Jews adopted as a custom what they had begun to do, as Mordecai had written to them. 24Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur—that is “the lot” —to crush and destroy them; 25but when Esther came before the king, he gave orders in writing that the wicked plot that he had devised against the Jews should come upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. 26Therefore these days are called Purim, from the word Pur. Thus because of all that was written in this letter, and of what they had faced in this matter, and of what had happened to them, 27the Jews established and accepted as a custom for themselves and their descendants and all who joined them, that without fail they would continue to observe these two days every year, as it was written and at the time appointed. 28These days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, in every family, province, and city; and these days of Purim should never fall into disuse among the Jews, nor should the commemoration of these days cease among their descendants.

29Queen Esther daughter of Abihail, along with the Jew Mordecai, gave full written authority, confirming this second letter about Purim. 30Letters were sent wishing peace and security to all the Jews, to the one hundred twenty-seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, 31and giving orders that these days of Purim should be observed at their appointed seasons, as the Jew Mordecai and Queen Esther enjoined on the Jews, just as they had laid down for themselves and for their descendants regulations concerning their fasts and their lamentations. 32The command of Queen Esther fixed these practices of Purim, and it was recorded in writing.

Psalm 30:8-12 (NIV)

To you, O LORD, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:

“What gain is there in my destruction,
in my going down into the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me;
O LORD, be my help.”

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

10)   King Ahasuerus laid tribute on the land and on the islands of the sea. 2All the acts of his power and might, and the full account of the high honor of Mordecai, to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the annals of the kings of Media and Persia? 3For Mordecai the Jew was next in rank to King Ahasuerus, and he was powerful among the Jews and popular with his many kindred, for he sought the good of his people and interceded for the welfare of all his descendants.

Can I be like Esther and Mordecai, and step forward on behalf of people in need, with small acts of courage and grace, even when I can hardly see that it will do any good? O Lord, be my help!

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Music:

Although the name of God is never mentioned in the book of Esther, God is clearly present throughout the unfolding of the events. We close our reading of Esther praising the name of the Lord!   HERE  is “Blessed Be Your Name,”  by Matt Redman.

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The END of the book of Esther! Now you’ve been given the whole Megillah! Praise God! What in Esther’s story spoke in a new way to you? Share your impressions at “Reply” below!

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
The King of the Jews.    http://www.avdefense.webs.com/king%20of%20the%20jews.jpg
Righteousness – Wickedness.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/righteousnessvswicked.jpg
Hasse.  http://api.ning.com/files/N-ItP5k*YltB5TRbBrwWjYGRF8WImqNCHZEHSRxeZx9*Rz-ITQZnHWqJKnwA738gyQvsabjzTFldxb3Oa02NlVQSu0jVFil7/QueenEsther.jpg
shalom dove.   http://www.windstarembroidery.com/cw2/Assets/product_full/2127_250.gif
masks.  https://www.judaica.com/purim-masks-set-of-3.html
hamantashen.   http://www.infobarrel.com/media/image/11845_featured.jpg
Jewish musicians under the moon.    https://halabedi.eus/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/musicians.jpg
the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz.     https://www.theodysseyonline.com/how-can-courage-be-shown

2533.) Esther 8

January 16, 2019
Queen Esther from the movie "One Night with the King."

Queen Esther from the movie “One Night with the King,” released in 2006.

Esther 8   (NRSV)

Esther Saves the Jews

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Music:

HERE  is “Our God Saves”  by Paul Baloche. Think about it, for you personally and for our world — our God saves!

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On that day King Ahasuerus gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews; and Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her. 2Then the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. So Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.

Haman’s estate goes to Esther.  Haman’s job goes to Mordecai.  

Psalm 94:20-23 (NLT)

Can unjust leaders claim that God is on their side—
leaders whose decrees permit injustice?
They gang up against the righteous
and condemn the innocent to death.
But the Lord is my fortress;
my God is the mighty rock where I hide.
God will turn the sins of evil people back on them.
He will destroy them for their sins.
The Lord our God will destroy them.

3Then Esther spoke again to the king; she fell at his feet, weeping and pleading with him to avert the evil design of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews. 4The king held out the golden scepter to Esther, 5and Esther rose and stood before the king. She said, “If it pleases the king, and if I have won his favor, and if the thing seems right before the king, and I have his approval, let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote giving orders to destroy the Jews who are in all the provinces of the king. 6For how can I bear to see the calamity that is coming on my people? Or how can I bear to see the destruction of my kindred?”

Even though Haman was defeated, the decree of the king still stood against the Jews. How could God’s people be preserved when a decree of the king cannot be revoked (according to Esther 1:19)?

7Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to the Jew Mordecai, “See, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows, because he plotted to lay hands on the Jews. 8You may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king’s ring; for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s ring cannot be revoked.”

One cannot help but be incredulous about how free the king is with his signet ring! And further — who enacted such a silly law, in which the ring is more powerful than the person wielding it? This is not Middle Earth!

9The king’s secretaries were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day; and an edict was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded, to the Jews and to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, one hundred twenty-seven provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language.

Just FYI — At 43 words in Hebrew, verse 9 is the longest verse in the Hebrew Bible.

10He wrote letters in the name of King Ahasuerus, sealed them with the king’s ring, and sent them by mounted couriers riding on fast steeds bred from the royal herd.

11By these letters the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to assemble and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, with their children and women, and to plunder their goods 12on a single day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.

The king could not revoke the previous decree, so he simply made another decree giving support to the Jews against their attackers.

We might think of Haman as in the place of our enemy, Satan, and joyfully await the day God puts him away. But we still must deal with the righteous decree of God that demands our death: The soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4). In our sins, we not only have an enemy (Satan), but we also have a legal decree from a righteous God against us.

God solves the problem, not by compromising His decree for eternal justice, but by fulfilling justice in taking the punishment we deserved – His counter-decree saves us; that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26).

–David Guzik

13A copy of the writ was to be issued as a decree in every province and published to all peoples, and the Jews were to be ready on that day to take revenge on their enemies.

the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar — the very day Haman had chosen to be the day of their mass murder  — but now the Jews can defend themselves.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

14So the couriers, mounted on their swift royal steeds, hurried out, urged by the king’s command. The decree was issued in the citadel of Susa.

"So the posts that rode upon mules and camels went out." by James Shaw Crompton

“So the posts that rode upon mules and camels went out.” by James Shaw Crompton

15Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king, wearing royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a mantle of fine linen and purple, while the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. 16For the Jews there was light and gladness, joy and honor.

Psalm 97:10-12 (NIV)

Let those who love the LORD hate evil,
for he guards the lives of his faithful ones
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

Light is shed upon the righteous
and joy on the upright in heart.

Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous,
and praise his holy name.

17In every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his edict came, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a festival and a holiday.

PARTY!

They can breathe again! They can think of the future again! Joy replaces sorrow, confidence replaces fear, life replaces death. What a wonder!

Furthermore, many of the peoples of the country professed to be Jews, because the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them.

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Queen Esther.  https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/esther.jpg
How the mighty have fallen.     https://preachingthenewlectionary.com/tag/king-saul/
Lord of the Rings.  http://www.impawards.com/2001/posters/lord_of_the_rings_the_fellowship_of_the_ring_ver1.jpg
Adar.     http://www.templeinstitute.org/images/adar-joy.jpg
Crompton.  https://bibledrivethru.blogspot.com/2017/08/from-sadness-to-celebration.html

2532.) Esther 7

January 15, 2019
"The Banquet of Esther and Ahasuerus" by Dutch Baroque era painter Jan Victors, 1640's (Staaliche Museen, Kassel)

“The Banquet of Esther and Ahasuerus” by Dutch Baroque era painter Jan Victors, 1640’s (Staaliche Museen, Kassel)

Esther 7  (NRSV)

Haman’s Downfall

So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther.

PARTY!

But Haman, I’m afraid the meal won’t agree with you . . .

2On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.”

3Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me—that is my petition—and the lives of my people—that is my request. 4For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated.

Esther knew the decree by heart.

Esther 3:13

Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces, giving orders to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day . . .

If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.”

5Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?”

6Esther said, “A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!”

Esther 7. E accuses H

“She understands full well the delicate and precarious nature of her position. The threat against her and her people has two perpetrators, Haman and the king, and both are present with her. She must somehow fully expose the culpability of Haman, while at the same time never appearing in any way to be bringing any charges against the king. Hence, her response is extremely well thought out and presented with the utmost tact.”

–Frederic W. Bush, Word Biblical Commentary

Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen. 7The king rose from the feast in wrath and went into the palace garden, but Haman stayed to beg his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that the king had determined to destroy him.

8When the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman had thrown himself on the couch where Esther was reclining; and the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?”

As the words left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face. 9Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.”

And the king said, “Hang him on that.”

Proverbs 26:27 (CEV)

If you dig a pit,

you will fall in;

if you start a stone rolling,

it will roll back on you.

Proverbs 16:4 (New International Version)

 The LORD works out everything to its proper end—
 even the wicked for a day of disaster.

And now, from your English teacher  🙂  —  In the words of Jane Austen, Haman has ‘delighted us long enough’ (Pride and Prejudice, ch. 18) and we are glad to see him go.

10So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.

"Haman haning on the gallows" by Jewish artist Arthur Syzk, 1950 (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). Note the swastika on Haman, and the traditional Purim pastry in the writer's hand.

“Haman hanging on the gallows” by Polish-American Jewish artist Arthur Szyk (1894-1951), 1950 (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). Note the swastika on Haman, and the traditional Purim pastry in the writer’s hand.

For Haman’s epitaph:

Proverbs 6:16-19 (NIV)

There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:

haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,

a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies,
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

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Music:

Good-bye, Haman, but in the celebratory spirit of Purim, on the light side.  HERE  is a slightly adapted version of “Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This”  by the Shirelles, an American girl group of the early 1960’s.

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Victors.   http://www.wga.hu/art/v/victors/esther_a.jpg
Esther accuses Haman.
Szyk.  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arthur_Szyk_(1894-1951)._The_Book_of_Esther,_Szyk_and_Haman_(1950)._New_Canaan,_CT.jpg