Sunday, August 20, 2017

August 20: Esther 8 – 10; Psalm 37:1-11; Proverbs 21:23-24; 1 Corinthians 12:27 – 13



Overview

            Esther: King Xerxes gave Haman’s house to Esther and she revealed to the king Mordecai’s relationship to her. The king gave Mordecai his signet ring. She asked the king to revoke Haman’s orders. He told her that they could write what they wanted in the king’s name but once written and sealed with his ring, it could not be revoked.
            They wrote another decree that on the day people could kill Jews, the Jews in every province could defend themselves and wipe out anyone who wanted them killed. Mordecai sent it to all 127 provinces. Mordecai was presented to the people in royal robes and a crown. The people of Susa rejoiced and everywhere the edict was sent. The Jews had a feast and people called themselves Jews because fear of the Jews came upon them.
            On the 13th of Adar, Jews defeated those who hated them. All the government officials in the provinces helped the Jews because they feared Mordecai as his fame spread. 500 men along with Haman’s ten sons were killed in Susa. Ester asked for one more day of vengeance and 300 more were killed in Susa the second day. The Jews did not take any plunder. Elsewhere, 75,000 were killed. Afterwards, Jews celebrated and gave gifts.
            Mordecai then commanded Jews to celebrate the 14th of Adar in the country and the 14th and 15th of Adar in cities to commemorate the events. Esther confirmed it by putting it in writing.
            King Xerxes taxed the land. He advanced Mordecai to high honor. He was second in rank to the king. Mordecai was great among Jews because he looked after their welfare.
            Psalm: David tells us that we don’t need to fret about evil people or get upset when we see them doing wrong. Their end will come soon enough. While they are doing evil, we must delight in the Lord and commit our ways to him. He will take care of us and our righteousness will be as bright as the noonday sun. So, we are not to get angry or envy them, they will be no more but the righteous will inherit the land.
            Proverbs: If you watch what you say, you can keep out of a lot of trouble. A person who is conceited, self-important, and acts on his pride is a scoffer.
            1 Corinthians: We are all individual members of Christ’s body and in the church God has appointed positions and related gifts. They are, “Apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues” (1 Cor 12:28). None of these positions and gifts are held by every single person in the church. Desire the higher gifts. But there is a better way.
            Tongues are noise without love. Prophecy and faith are no good without love. Generosity without love gains nothing. Paul explains all the attributes of love and love will never end though the other gifts will. We only know a little now but when we are perfected we’ll be completed and know fully when we see God face to face just as God knows us now. Faith, hope, and love will continue but love is the best.

What Stood Out

            Esther: “And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them” (Est 8:17).                                                   
            Psalm: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps 37:4).
            Proverbs: “‘Scoffer’ is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride” (Prov 21:24).
            1 Corinthians: “But when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away” (1 Cor 13:10).

Insight

            Esther: When the government officials in all the provinces found out that there was a new person second in command to the king and that he was a Jew, they all decided to support the local Jews. Many of the people throughout the empire started calling themselves Jews. They did this for fear to the Jews. It doesn’t say that they actually converted to Judaism or that they even believed in God. Then again, the book of Esther doesn’t even mention God.
            It reminds me of an elder in a church I attended who explained his heritage. His Jewish parents escaped Nazi Germany and immigrated to Canada. When they arrived, they changed their names and joined a Christian church. They vowed they would never again be persecuted for being Jews. They had no commitment to Christ, they did this out of fear. However, their son grew up in church and became a real Christian.
            Fear of man is never a good reason to convert to Christ because there is no heart change. I wouldn’t be surprised that as soon as the battles were over in the Persian and Median empire, those who called themselves Jews continued to live the same lives they had before. That is what happens to many people who claim to have accepted Christ under stressful situations. These are foxhole conversions. When they get home or out of trouble, they go right back to their previous lifestyle and yet believe they are saved. They don’t have true repentance about their sins and their relationship with God has not really changed. Some do change but it is only when they learn what being a Christian really entails. Like my elder friend, it can lead to a person being saved for eternity and not just for this life.
            Psalm: What are the desires of your heart? Stop and think about that for a while. Stop! Don’t read anymore because you are skimming over that question. When you have answered the question, read on.
            David says that when we delight in the Lord, he will give us the desires of our hearts (Ps 37:4). If you answered that the desire of your heart was to delight in the Lord, then there is no question that God will give you that desire. If you answered that the desire of your heart was some physical object or experience, then you better stop and ask how that desire relates to delighting in the Lord. If you think God is a gift giving genie and that’s why you delight in the Lord, then you’ve got it backwards.
            Read on and David tells what delighting in the Lord is all about. We first have to commit our ways to the Lord (Ps 37:5). If there is no commitment then there will be no delight in him. All you are looking for is someone to protect you and keep you safe just like the people who called themselves Jews to be safe. Commitment means trusting in Jesus with all you heart, soul, and mind. That’s when he will act.
            Then look at what you will get in Psalm 37:6. You will get righteousness and justice. Now if you answered in the first place that the desire of your heart was for righteousness and justice, it is most likely that you are already delighting yourself in the Lord. Do you desire to be part of the new heaven and earth, the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13)?
            Proverbs: Why would a person who is arrogant, haughty, and acts out his pride be called a scoffer? It is usually because he thinks he know sit all. He has an answer or everything. Since he believes he is always right, he goes ahead and does whatever he thinks is best. With that kind of attitude, accountability to God is the last thing he wants to admit. The result is scoffing or mocking the Bible and all godly things because he already knows what is right in his own eyes but that ends in death (Prov 14:12).
            1 Corinthians: Some people are over enamored with different gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Corinthians were one of those churches. They apparently pushed tongues as the best gift and even that all Christians should speak in tongues. Paul clear says that isn’t so. The big reason is that placing such an emphasis on tongues or any other gift makes it all about the recipient of the gift and ignores the one who gives the gift. God gives by the Holy Spirit and he does as he wants to meet the needs of the church. Sure, you can desire a gift but why settle for the minor ones? Paul will address that more in the next chapter but he first has to make sure that the proper attitude about gifts is established.
            That attitude must be one of love. Until we reach heaven and are perfect, all these gifts are necessary for the church, but they must be used in love. Otherwise people start acting in the opposite manner that Paul outlined. When one gift is promoted above another patience and kindness fly out the window. Envy of the other person’s gift or position ensues. One becomes arrogant and another rude. Each wants his own way and want his gift the way he wants it, just like McDonalds. Love will put up with all of this and more but sometimes love has to point out just how childish some of this bickering over gifts can become. That’s why Paul sandwiched the “love chapter” in between two chapters on gifts. That is why we need to apply it to our lives as well.

Application

             I want my delight to be in the Lord. I want to put him first and practice the love toward others that Paul described. I’m a long way from both but thankfully, I can work on it.

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