2531.) Esther 6

January 14, 2019
"The Triumph of Mordecai" by Pieter Lastman, 1624 (Rembrandt Museum, Amsterdam)

“The Triumph of Mordecai” by Pieter Lastman, 1624 (Rembrandt Museum, Amsterdam)

Esther 6  (NRSV)

The King Honors Mordecai

On that night the king could not sleep,

–another King who does not sleep!

Psalm 121:3-4 (New International Version)

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

and he gave orders to bring the book of records, the annals, and they were read to the king. 2It was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had conspired to assassinate King Ahasuerus.

This was a remarkable example of Providence in action. King Ahasuerus can not sleep, and he can choose 20 different diversions to fill his sleepless night – but he commands that a book be brought to him and read. The one commanded to bring the book could have brought any one book of the records of the chronicles, but he brought one particular book. The book could be opened to any page, but it was opened to the exact page telling the story of Mordecai and how he saved the King from assassination. God guided every step along the way.

–David Guzik

3Then the king said, “What honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?”

The king’s servants who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.”

4The king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for him.

5So the king’s servants told him, “Haman is there, standing in the court.”

The king said, “Let him come in.”

6So Haman came in, and the king said to him, “What shall be done for the man whom the king wishes to honor?”

Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king wish to honor more than me?”

7So Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king wishes to honor, 8let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and a horse that the king has ridden, with a royal crown on its head. 9Let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials; let him robe the man whom the king wishes to honor, and let him conduct the man on horseback through the open square of the city, proclaiming before him: ‘Thus shall it be done for the man whom the king wishes to honor.’”

10Then the king said to Haman, “Quickly, take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to the Jew Mordecai who sits at the king’s gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.”

So ironic! Really, doesn’t this scene make you laugh out loud?!

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”
— Albert Einstein

11So Haman took the robes and the horse and robed Mordecai and led him riding through the open square of the city, proclaiming, “Thus shall it be done for the man whom the king wishes to honor.”

12Then Mordecai returned to the king’s gate, but Haman hurried to his house, mourning and with his head covered.

Proverbs 16:18 (NIV)

Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.

13When Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him, his advisers and his wife Zeresh said to him, “If Mordecai, before whom your downfall has begun, is of the Jewish people, you will not prevail against him, but will surely fall before him.”

Zechariah 2:7-9 (NIV)

“Come, Zion! Escape, you who live in Daughter Babylon!”  For this is what the LORD Almighty says: “After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye—  I will surely raise my hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me.

14While they were still talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman off to the banquet that Esther had prepared.

_________________________

Music:

And to whom is honor really due? We know!  HERE  is “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” arranged by F. Melius Christiansen and sung by the St. Olaf choir, 1975.

_________________________

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:
Lastman.  http://www.codart.nl/images/LastmanTriumphOfMordechai1624RembrandthuisW.jpg
God at work.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/god-at-work-sign2.gif
all about me.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/aboutme1.gif
Haman and Mordecai.    http://www.amightywind.com/purimf/hamanmodecai.gif
red apple.   http://newyorkapplesales.com/apples/rome-also-called-red-rome/
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2530.) Esther 5

January 11, 2019
"Esther Preparing to Intercede with Assuerus" by Rembrandt, 1633 (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa)

“Esther Preparing to Intercede with Assuerus” by Rembrandt, 1633 (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa)

Esther 5  (NRSV)

Esther’s Banquet

On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, opposite the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne inside the palace opposite the entrance to the palace. 2As soon as the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won his favor and he held out to her the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the top of the scepter.

3The king said to her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.”

Verse 3.  it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom—This mode of speaking originated in the Persian custom of appropriating for the maintenance of great men, or royal favorites, one city for his bread, another for his wine, a third for his clothes, &c., so that the phrase denoted great liberality.

–Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

4Then Esther said, “If it pleases the king, let the king and Haman come today to a banquet that I have prepared for the king.”

5Then the king said, “Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther desires.”

Literally the Hebrew says, “so we may do the word of Esther.” This is a deliciously ironic twist on a king who only three chapters before was terrified that women might not do the word of their husbands. Vashti was banished for not coming when the king called, but now Esther has gotten away with coming when the king did not call. The king who worried about women obeying their husbands is now obeying his wife, and ordering Haman to obey her as well. And to add irony to irony, Haman not only obeys a woman, but delights in being hosted by a Jew—a Jew passing as a Persian so splendidly that she puts the lie to all he said about her people’s disruptiveness. 

–Patricia K. Tull

So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared.

PARTY!

Quite cozy — the Queen dines with her husband, the King, and his right-hand-man, Haman.

Why did Esther invite Haman?

Rabbi Eliezer said: She set a trap for him, as it is written (Psalms 69:23): “May their table be a trap for them.”

Rabbi Joshua said: She learned this from her father’s house: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him bread” (Proverbs 25:21).

Rabbi Judah said: So that they shouldn’t realize that she is a Jew.

Rabbi Nechemia said: So that the Jewish people should not say, “we have a sister in the palace” and refrain from praying to G-d for mercy. (When the Jews would learn that Esther was befriending Haman, they would no longer rely on her to save them.)

Rabbi Yosi said: So that he should be available to her at all times (and she’d be able to utilize every opportunity that comes up to turn the king against him).

Rabbi Shimon ben Menasia said: To induce G-d to perform a miracle.

Rabbi Gamliel said: Achashverosh was a king who was constantly changing his mind (thus she needed that Haman should be there when she turned Achasverosh against him).

Rabbi Elazer Hamoda’i said: To make the king and the ministers jealous of him.

Raba said: “Pride comes before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18).

Abayei and Rava both said: “In their heat I shall make them drunk…” (Jeremiah 51:39, where the prophet describes how G-d destroys the wicked as they drink and feast).

Rabbah bar Avuha met Elijah the Prophet and asked: According to which of these sages was Esther’s reasoning? Replied Elijah: According to them all.

–from the Talmud

6While they were drinking wine, the king said to Esther, “What is your petition? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.”

7Then Esther said, “This is my petition and request: 8If I have won the king’s 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 that I will prepare for them, and then I will do as the king has said.”

Esther 5. Scarlett

“Tomorrow is another day.” —  Tomorrow?!

Esther. why wait? The king has asked you for your request, twice! The enemy is right there beside you! Every day your fellow Jews are suffering!

BUT! — God will use the next 24 hours to accomplish important things! The king will have insomnia, and Haman will initiate a construction project. . .

What are you waiting for the Lord to do for you? As you wait, God is at work on your behalf.

Psalm 130:5-6 (NIV)

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.

My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Haman Plans to Have Mordecai Hanged

9Haman went out that day happy and in good spirits. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, and observed that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was infuriated with Mordecai; 10nevertheless Haman restrained himself and went home.

Proverbs 14:17

Then he sent and called for his friends and his wife Zeresh, 11and Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the ministers of the king. 12Haman added, “Even Queen Esther let no one but myself come with the king to the banquet that she prepared. Tomorrow also I am invited by her, together with the king. 13Yet all this does me no good so long as I see the Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.”

14Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged on it; then go with the king to the banquet in good spirits.” This advice pleased Haman, and he had the gallows made.

We should never underestimate the destructive and distorting power of hatred. The same irrational, violent hatred that made Haman want to see Mordecai hang to his death is the same irrational, violent hatred that made man want to hang Jesus on a cross.

–David Guzik

_________________________

Music:

The NIV has the verse 13: “But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.” Or, as Proverbs 27:20 says, “The eyes of man are never satisfied.”  Poor Haman! What a gift to be a person with  “A Satisfied Mind”! Done  HERE  by Joan Baez.

How many times have
You heard someone say
If I had his money
I could do things my way

But little they know
It’s so hard to find
One rich man in a hundred
With a satisfied mind

Once I was waiting
In fortune and fame
Everything I could dream of
To get a start in life’s game

Then suddenly it happened
I lost every dime
But I’m richer by far
With a satisfied mind

No, money can’t buy back
Your youth when you’re old
Or a friend when you’re lonely
Or a love that’s grown cold

The world’s richest man
Is a pauper at times
Compared to the man
With a satisfied mind

When my life is over
And my time has run out
My friends and my loved ones
I’ll leave, there’s no doubt

But there’s one thing for certain
When it comes my time
I’ll leave this old world
With a satisfied mind

_________________________

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:
Rembrandt.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/d5eba-Rembrandt-EstherPreparingtoIntercedewithAssuerus.jpg
Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind.    http://modernkiddo.com/15-characters-that-inspired-me-alix/
A quick tempered man.   http://whisper.sh/whisper/05198ca49ced6b4169396aa8085ed640814ea7/A-quick-tempered-man-does-foolish-things-

2529.) Esther 4

January 10, 2019
"Esther and Mordecai" by Aert de Gelder, 1685 (Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest). Actually, Mordecai and Esther communicated through Hathach, since Esther was protectively confined to the king's harem.

“Esther and Mordecai” by Aert de Gelder, 1685 (Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest). Actually, Mordecai and Esther communicated through Hathach, since Esther was protectively confined to the king’s harem.

Esther 4  (NRSV)

Esther Agrees to Help the Jews

When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went through the city, wailing with a loud and bitter cry; 2he went up to the entrance of the king’s gate, for no one might enter the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth.

From here we learn that one should ought not enter the synagogue or study hall (“the King’s gate”) with a sad face (“wearing sackcloth”). Thus it is written (in 1 Chronicles 16:27): “Strength and joy are in His presence.”

–Rabbi Eretz Hachaim

3In every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and most of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.

The expression "sackcloth and ashes" has come to mean being publicly penitent.

The expression “wearing sackcloth and ashes” has come to mean being publicly penitent.

4When Esther’s maids and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed; she sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth; but he would not accept them. 5Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what was happening and why.

6Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate, 7and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. 8Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther, explain it to her, and charge her to go to the king to make supplication to him and entreat him for her people.

9Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. 10Then Esther spoke to Hathach and gave him a message for Mordecai, saying, 11“All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—all alike are to be put to death. Only if the king holds out the golden scepter to someone, may that person live. I myself have not been called to come in to the king for thirty days.”

Much has been made of Esther’s hesitation, with various commentators calling her cowardly or selfish. Please! Give her more credit! Considering what happened to Vashti when she did something Ahasuerus didn’t like, it seems reasonable, at the very least, for Esther to pause to think before acting here.

12When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, 13Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”

4. Such_a_time

Each of us is placed in a unique setting, with a specific sphere of influence, “for such a time as this.” Are we speaking the truth and doing the right things, as unto the Lord? Are we kind in word and deed with our family members? Do we appreciate the kindnesses done by others for us by expressing our gratitude or leaving a good tip? Do we regularly say “Please” and “Thank you” and “I love you”? These are simple yet concrete ways in which we can share the love of God with our world in “this” time.

15Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, 16“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do.

THE OPPOSITE OF A PARTY!

Three days with nothing to eat or drink, for Esther and Mordecai and the Jews of the city. The name of God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, nor is prayer — but I think we can safely assume that these people were fasting and praying to the Lord!

Joel 2:12 (NLT)

That is why the Lord says,
“Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.”

After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.”

Romans 14:8 (English Standard Version)

For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”

–missionary Jim Elliott

“I am only one.  But still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something;
and because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

–Edward Everett Hale, US author and clergyman (1822-1909)

17Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “For Such a Time as This” (from Esther 4:14), written and performed by Janet Roller (Miss South Carolina 1997).

Quiet my hands
Quiet my soul
Quiet my mind to remind me
that You are in control
And I’ll be still in Your Presence until
I know I’m in Your Will
You have brought me to this place…
For Such a Time as This.

__________________________

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:
Gelder.  http://www.wga.hu/art/g/gelder/esther.jpg
sackcloth.   https://preacherpollard.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/sackclth.jpg
cat with Rubik’s cube.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/give-me-a-minute.jpg
“For such a time.”  http://www.rhondadavisministries.com/Ministries/conference/fall04/images/Such_a_time.jpg
black balloons.    http://images.celebrateexpress.com/mgen/merchandiser/43099.jpg?is=300,300,0xffffff
Proverbs 3:6.   https://quotestopics.com/images-of-quotes-about-listening-to-god/#quote-22

2528.) Esther 3

January 9, 2019

Over and over. “Let a decree be issued to destroy them.” ~Haman. “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: ‘by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.'” ~Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf

Esther 3   (NRSV)

Haman Undertakes to Destroy the Jews

After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and set his seat above all the officials who were with him. 2And all the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and did obeisance to Haman; for the king had so commanded concerning him.

"But Mordecai bowed not. . . " by James Shaw Crompton

“But Mordecai bowed not. . . ” by James Shaw Crompton (1853 – 1916)

But Mordecai did not bow down or do obeisance.

3Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” 4When they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai’s words would avail; for he had told them that he was a Jew.

5When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or do obeisance to him, Haman was infuriated. 6But he thought it beneath him to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, having been told who Mordecai’s people were, Haman plotted to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.

Blood feud!

There is a history to this hatred. Haman was an Agagite, a descendant of Agag, king of the Amalekites. The Amalekites were ancient enemies of the Israelites. God had told the Israelites to utterly destroy the Amalekites because of their wickedness. Mordecai and Hamen may well have been taught as children to hate each other’s peoples.

7In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur—which means “the lot” —before Haman for the day and for the month, and the lot fell on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.

Proverbs 16:33 (ESV)

The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the LORD.

Was Haman disappointed that he would have to wait nearly a year? He should be nervous, because a lot can happen in all that time!  

8Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and separated among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not appropriate for the king to tolerate them. 9If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued for their destruction, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king’s business, so that they may put it into the king’s treasuries.”

10So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 11The king said to Haman, “The money is given to you, and the people as well, to do with them as it seems good to you.”

Signet rings in the ancient world served as personal signatures. Free access to the king’s ring meant power! This ancient ring is from Giza, Egypt, and is made of pure gold. (The Brooklyn Museum)

12Then the king’s secretaries were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and an edict, according to all that Haman commanded, was written to the king’s satraps and to the governors over all the provinces and to the officials of all the peoples, to every province in its own script and every people in its own language; it was written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king’s ring. 13Letters 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, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. 14A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province by proclamation, calling on all the peoples to be ready for that day.

_________________________

Music:

Martin Luther also knew what it was to have a sentence of death upon him.  HERE,  “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” tells us to whom we ought to turn in times of trouble.

_________________________

15The couriers went quickly by order of the king, and the decree was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city of Susa was thrown into confusion.

DON’T INVITE ME TO THIS PARTY!

The king and Haman celebrate their productive day while thousands of Jews weep in fear for their lives.

Psalm 83:1-4 (NIV)

O God, do not keep silent;
be not quiet, O God, be not still.

See how your enemies are astir,
how your foes rear their heads.

With cunning they conspire against your people;
they plot against those you cherish.

“Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation,
that the name of Israel be remembered no more.”

_________________________

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:
yellow star. http://vitalperspective.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/jude2_1.gif
Crompton.   http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart/est%203%20-%202%20but%20mordecai%20bowed%20not.jpg
Hatfield-McCoy historical marker (Kentucky/West Virginia).    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/410460953511187767/
ring.  https://jerryandgod.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/250-1.jpg

2527.) Esther 2

January 8, 2019
"Esther" by Minerva Teichert (1888-1976)

“Esther” by American artist Minerva Teichert (1888-1976)

Esther 2   (NRSV)

Esther Becomes Queen

2. crown

After these things, when the anger of King Ahasuerus had abated,

In between chapters 1 and 2, Ahasuerus took out his navy and fought the Greeks at Salamis. He was soundly defeated and came home feeling the pain . . .

he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her. 2Then the king’s servants who attended him said, “Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king. 3And let the king appoint commissioners in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in the citadel of Susa under custody of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; let their cosmetic treatments be given them. 4And let the girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This pleased the king, and he did so.

The ancient Jewish historian Josephus says that Ahasuerus had a total of 400 women selected.

5Now there was a Jew in the citadel of Susa whose name was Mordecai son of Jair son of Shimei son of Kish, a Benjaminite.

Why was Mordecai still in Babylon/Persia? Cyrus, the great Persian ruler who had overthrown the Babylonian Empire, had earlier given the Jews permission to go back and rebuild their temple and re-institute the temple offerings and worship. Returning to rebuild the temple of God should have been his priority.

God’s response to Mordecai was gracious, however. God’s faithfulness to us is not dependent upon our faithfulness to Him. And our unfaithfulness to Him never leads to His unfaithfulness to us.

Daniel Schaeffer, Dancing with a Shadow

6Kish had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with King Jeconiah of Judah, whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had carried away. 7Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is Esther, his cousin, for she had neither father nor mother; the girl was fair and beautiful, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai adopted her as his own daughter.

Esther’s two names represent the two cultures she belongs to:  Hadassah is Hebrew and means “myrtle,” a fragrant flower often used in perfumes, and Esther is Persian for “star.”

8So when the king’s order and his edict were proclaimed, and when many young women were gathered in the citadel of Susa in custody of Hegai, Esther also was taken into the king’s palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women. 9The girl pleased him and won his favor, and he quickly provided her with her cosmetic treatments and her portion of food, and with seven chosen maids from the king’s palace, and advanced her and her maids to the best place in the harem.

10Esther did not reveal her people or kindred, for Mordecai had charged her not to tell. 11Every day Mordecai would walk around in front of the court of the harem, to learn how Esther was and how she fared.

12The turn came for each girl to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their cosmetic treatment, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with perfumes and cosmetics for women.

2. pink cosmetics

Candidates for queen came to the king’s palace in Susa from “all the provinces of his kingdom” (Esther 2:2). The Persian Empire extended east toward India and west toward Greece. It encompassed expansive deserts and a sub-tropical area along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The climate in most of the kingdom was hot, dry, desert or semi-desert. Droughts and shortage of rainfall were common. Weather along the two rivers was humid, but regions distant from the Tigris-Euphrates plain suffered blistering heat. Southern winds blowing off the Persian Gulf kicked up sandstorms, and dry winds blew down from the north.

One of Hegai’s objectives was to ameliorate the effects of heat, wind and evaporation. His plan placed skin care first. Six months of oils addressed troublesome conditions such as cracking, wrinkling, wind damage, sunburn, healing of sores and skin diseases. Several of the oils available in Esther’s time had disinfectant and anti-fungal properties. Because every young woman underwent a thorough oil exfoliation, skin disorders were noted and treated. The king was protected from picking up skin diseases and infections that could have been introduced into the harem.

After six months of basic skin health care, Hegai’s attendants incorporated oils, spices and fragrances to enhance (polish) each girl’s natural beauty. The scriptures do not say whether the cosmetics of Egypt such as kohl for the eyes, henna for hair color, pomegranate juice for blush and lip stain figured in the finishing process.

–Karen Meeker

13When the girl went in to the king she was given whatever she asked for to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace. 14In the evening she went in; then in the morning she came back to the second harem in custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines; she did not go in to the king again, unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name.

It sounds wonderful – a year of constant spa treatments. Yet the destiny of these women should also be considered: one evening with the king. If he chose them from the 400 others to be his queen, then she would be his companion (until she displeased him). As for the 399 who lost, they were banished to the harem where they stayed the wife or the concubine of the king, but rarely if ever saw him afterwards. And they were never free to marry another man, essentially living as a perpetual widow.

–David Guzik

15When the turn came for Esther daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had adopted her as his own daughter, to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king’s eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was admired by all who saw her.

He set the crown upon her head" by James Shaw Crompton

“He set the crown upon her head” by James Shaw Crompton

16When Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus in his royal palace in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign,17the king loved Esther more than all the other women; of all the virgins she won his favor and devotion, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.

How much did the king choose Esther — or how much was Esther chosen for the king?

Psalm 75:6-7 (NIV)

No one from the east or the west
   or from the desert can exalt themselves.
It is God who judges:
   He brings one down, he exalts another.

Proverbs 21:1 (NIV)

The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD;
he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.

18Then the king gave a great banquet to all his officials and ministers—“Esther’s banquet.” He also granted a holiday to the provinces, and gave gifts with royal liberality.

PARTY!

Given by the king to honor his new queen, with a banquet for his ministers, many gifts for his friends, and a holiday for the masses.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “God Save the Queen” —  the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with the Fanfare Trumpeters of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines — Buckingham Palace, June 2001.

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Mordecai Discovers a Plot

19When the virgins were being gathered together, Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate.

“sitting at the king’s gate”

–a position of some responsibility, as for a royal official.

20Now Esther had not revealed her kindred or her people, as Mordecai had charged her; for Esther obeyed Mordecai just as when she was brought up by him.

21In those days, while Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Ahasuerus.

This threat of assassination was real. Ahasuerus was eventually murdered by his prime minister, who placed Artaxerxes I on the throne.

22But the matter came to the knowledge of Mordecai, and he told it to Queen Esther, and Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai. 23When the affair was investigated and found to be so, both the men were hanged on the gallows. It was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king.

Proverbs 12:2 (NASB)

A good man will obtain favor from the LORD,
but He will condemn a man who devises evil.

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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:
Teichert.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/80a93-Esther2B2.jpg
crown.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/crown.gif
myrtle flower.   https://nolan8611.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/myrtle.jpg
cosmetics.  http://www.simplydurant.com/2018/07/cutting-cost-of-cosmetics.html
Crompton.   http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart/est%202%20-%2017%20so%20that%20he%20set%20the%20royal%20crown%20upon%20her%20head.jpg
overhearing the plot.   https://brooklynjsu.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/why-did-the-writer-of-esther-mention-the-kings-gate-so-many-times/

2526.) Esther 1

January 7, 2019
"Ahasuerus Sends Vashti Away" lithograph by Marc Chagall, 1960

“Ahasuerus Sends Vashti Away” lithograph by Marc Chagall, 1960

Esther 1   (NRSV)

The book of Esther:  Nothing supernatural occurs, but what ultimately occurs is a miracle!

Daniel Schaeffer, Dancing with a Shadow

King Ahasuerus Deposes Queen Vashti

This happened in the days of Ahasuerus,

King Ahasuerus, also known as . . .

Xerxes the Great, ruled Persia from 486 to 465 B.C.E.  At this time (approximately 483 B.C.),  Ahasuerus was planning what would be a doomed invasion of Greece, which would take place several years later. 

At this same time the city of Athens was in its classical glory and in Greece they were celebrating the 79thOlympic games.

Also at this time Ezra had returned to Jerusalem after it had been conquered by the Babylonians. The temple had been rebuilt some 30 years before, although more simply and without the glory of Solomon’s temple.

In 40 years, under the successor of Ahasuerus (Artaxerxes I), Nehemiah would return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of the previously conquered city.

Although the Greek victory at Salamis brought humiliation to Ahasuerus, it was a significant step for the Greeks toward their own vast empire to come.

the same Ahasuerus who ruled over one hundred twenty-seven provinces from India to Ethiopia.

The vast Medo-Persian Empire incorporated the provinces of Media and Persia, as well as the previous empires of Assyria and Babylonia.

The vast Medo-Persian Empire incorporated the provinces of Media and Persia, as well as the previous empires of Assyria and Babylonia.

2In those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, 3in the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet for all his officials and ministers. The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were present, 4while he displayed the great wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and pomp of his majesty for many days, one hundred eighty days in all.

PARTY!

Given by the king for his nobles, officials, and military leaders — lasting about six months.

5When these days were completed, the king gave for all the people present in the citadel of Susa, both great and small, a banquet lasting for seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. 6There were white cotton curtains and blue hangings tied with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and colored stones. 7Drinks were served in golden goblets, goblets of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. 8Drinking was by flagons, without restraint; for the king had given orders to all the officials of his palace to do as each one desired.

PARTY!

Given by the king for all the people living in Susa — lasting one week.

9Furthermore, Queen Vashti gave a banquet for the women in the palace of King Ahasuerus.

PARTY!

Given by the queen for the women who lived in the palace — lasting seven days, as above.

10On the seventh day, when the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who attended him, 11to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing the royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the officials her beauty; for she was fair to behold. 12But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command conveyed by the eunuchs.

“Undoubtedly, for a woman, pretentiousness and inebriation are not a comforting combination in a man.”
–Charles D. Harvey, Finding Morality in the Diaspora

At this the king was enraged, and his anger burned within him.

13Then the king consulted the sages who knew the laws (for this was the king’s procedure toward all who were versed in law and custom, 14and those next to him were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven officials of Persia and Media, who had access to the king, and sat first in the kingdom):

15“According to the law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti because she has not performed the command of King Ahasuerus conveyed by the eunuchs?”

"And Memucan answered . . ." by James Shaw Crompton (1853-1916)

“And Memucan answered . . .” by James Shaw Crompton (1853-1916)

16Then Memucan said in the presence of the king and the officials, “Not only has Queen Vashti done wrong to the king, but also to all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17For this deed of the queen will be made known to all women, causing them to look with contempt on their husbands, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ 18This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will rebel against the king’s officials, and there will be no end of contempt and wrath!

19If it pleases the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be altered, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. 20So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, vast as it is, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.”

21This advice pleased the king and the officials, and the king did as Memucan proposed;

When King Ahasuerus heeded this advice from Memucan, he showed himself to be unreasonable and wrong. He should have honored the dignity of his Queen. Yet, history’s profile of Ahasuerus shows him to be an unreasonable and foolish man in many cases.  On one occasion, Ahasuerus executed the builders of a bridge because an ocean storm had destroyed it; then he commanded that the water and waves be whipped and chained to punish the sea.

–David Guzik

22he sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, declaring that every man should be master in his own house.

Other thoughts on marriage:

Only two things are necessary to keep one’s wife happy. One is to let her think she is having her own way, the other, to let her have it.
–Lyndon B. Johnson

I first learned the concepts of non-violence in my marriage.
–Mohandas Gandhi

To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, shut up.
–Ogden Nash

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
–Ephesians 5:21  (NIV)

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Music:

One of my favorite musicals is Camelot — too bad King Arthur wasn’t around to give this advice to Ahasuerus!  HERE  is Richard Harris and “How to Handle a Woman.”

_________________________

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:
Chagall.   https://nierendorf.com/deutsch/kataloge/Kabinett_23/Bilder/12.htm
map of Persian Empire.  http://www.wwnorton.com/college/history/ralph/ralimage/map8pers.jpg
Crompton.    http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart/est%201%20-%2016%20the%20queen%20hath%20not%20done%20wrong%20to%20the%20king%20only.jpg
wedding rings.    http://www.reception-wedding.com/wedding%20rings.jpg

2525.) Jude

January 4, 2019

Jude  (ESV)

As we enter the New Year, we are looking at the five books in the Bible that have only one chapter.  

Greeting

1Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,

To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:

2May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

Judgment on False Teachers

Here Jude warns readers to be on guard against all who might pervert the grace of God by teaching dangerous practices and doctrines that put the gospel of Jesus Christ in peril.

3Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Jude wrestling

  • The ancient Greek word translated contend comes from the athletic world — the wrestling mat. It is a strengthened form of the word meaning “to agonize.” Contend speaks of hard and diligent work.
  • The verb translated contend earnestly is in the present infinitive, showing that the Christian struggle is continuous.

–David Guzik

“Fight the good fight of faith, and God will give you spiritual mercies.”

–George Whitefield

We are never to lie down and allow lies to take hold and fester. We are to relentlessly assault error with the truth. That is our battle.

–Brandon N. Davison

4For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jude could not be more clear in his terminology when referring to false teachers. I have underlined the epithets he uses when speaking of false teachers. He bolsters his argument by giving three examples which show the certainty of God’s judgement against those “certain people” — the example of the people of Israel (verse 5), the example of the angels who sinned (verse 6), and the example of Sodom and Gomorrah (verse 7).

5Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

8Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.

The post-modern culture of today dismisses the notion of any absolute authority and encourages individuals to be their own judges of what is right and what is wrong. People can do this by picking and choosing what in the Scripture they will believe and follow. Or they can do this by mixing up teachings from many religions and believing what they think is nice. Or we can do this by proclaiming ourselves to be Christians yet acting no differently from our non-believing neighbors. (Pause for self-examination.) Doesn’t it remind you of the book of Judges:  “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

9But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.

And now three more bad examples:  Cain, Balaam, and Korah. 

Cain offered his sacrifice to the Lord without faith, and was therefore unacceptable to God (Genesis 4, Hebrews 11:4). Then Cain became angry at his brother Abel (who had offered the Lord an acceptable offering) and killed him. Jude says that Cain typifies a way that the “certain men” follow in. It is the way of unbelief and empty religion, which leads to jealousy, persecution of the truly godly, and eventually to murderous anger.

The story of Balaam is found in Numbers 22 to 25 and 31. Balaam, a prophet, disobeyed the Lord’s plain instructions and tried to curse the people of Israel because he would be paid handsomely for doing so. Jude says there are “certain men” leading and teaching the church who are willing to sell out everything for personal financial gain.

Korah resented the authority that God had given to Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and tried to get more power for himself. God destroyed him and his followers, as found in Numbers 16. “Certain men” try to do what they want for themselves rather than following Christ to the work he has called them to do.

11Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. 12These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

2 Corinthians 10:5-6 (NIV)

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

14It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.

A Call to Persevere

17But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22And have mercy on those who doubt; 23save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Doxology

 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

_________________________

Music:

1) Several years ago my late father, then aged 96, visited us, and we talked at some length about his time fighting in New Guinea during World War II. He said something which quite moved me — that it was in battle where he learned what kind of a man he was. But actually, isn’t that true for all of us? It is the hard times which show most truly our inner character.

Jude calls us to be contenders for the faith, willing to fight against our own selfish desires and habits, against the perverse and unkind ways of the world. Jude cheers us on to work at building our faith and prayer life, to love each other with mercy and Christ-likeness. It is not necessarily easy, but it is of eternal value. My prayer for all of us readers of DWELLING in the Word is that we will not grow weary in the battles of our lives, but keep our eyes on Jesus, who has already, and forever, won the victory!

HERE  is a rousing version of “Lead On, O King Eternal”!

2) The benediction in the last lines of Jude is truly beautiful, and has been put to music a number of times. Some choices for you:  HERE  from Maranatha.  HERE  from a Salvation Army men’s quartet.  HERE  for an acapella version. Let this praise and blessing follow you all day!

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English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Contend for the faith.   https://www.thechurchatasheville.com/bible-study/jude-the-urgency-of-believers/
wrestling.   http://media.lehighvalleylive.com/sports_impact/photo/austin-sommer-and-shawn-greevy-a10bbc9fd15d132c.jpg
Post-modernism.   http://farisyakob.typepad.com/blog/images/pomo.jpg
Calvin.   http://images.fanpop.com/images/image_uploads/calvin-angry-calvin–26-hobbes-318681_366_362.jpg
Take captive every thought.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/thoughts1.jpg
keep you from falling.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/27sepp270ms800x500.jpg