Friday, August 18, 2017

August 18: Esther 1 – 3; Psalm 35:17-28; Proverbs 21:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34


            Esther: King Xerxes ruled over 127 provinces from India to Cush. He put on a royal banquet that lasted 180 days. At the end, he gave a 7-day feast for the people of Susa. People could drink all they wanted or refrain. After seven days, the drunk king wanted Queen Vashti to come in and show off her beauty for the guests. She refused. The king asked his advisors what to do and they were concerned that her behavior would cause other women to be insubordinate to their husbands. She was banished and her position was to be given to another. The announcement was sent to all the provinces.
            After a while, the king decided to find a replacement for Vashti. His men rounded up all the beautiful virgins in the provinces and took them to the king’s harem.
            Mordecai was a Benjaminite who had been taken by Nebuchadnezzar. He was raising his young cousin Esther because she was an orphan. She was beautiful and was caught up in the king’s order and taken to the king’s palace in Susa and placed in custody of Hegai. He liked her and provide the best cosmetics and food for her. She kept her race secret and Mordecai kept track of what was happening.
            Each virgin took 12 months to prepare to go to the king. After spending the night with the king, the woman went to the second harem. Ester was taken into the king and she took what Hegai suggested. She pleased the king more than any other and was made queen.
            Mordecai overheard a plot to kill Xerxes. He told Esther and Ester told the king. The plot was stopped and the incident recorded in the chronicles.
            Some time later, the king promoted Haman above all the other officials and ordered people to bow down to him. Mordechai wouldn’t and that made Haman angry. Rather than kill Mordechai, he decided to kill all the Jews. He cast lots and it fell on the month of Adar. He convinced the king that the Jews were dangerous and didn’t keep the king’s laws. He told the king he would pay 10,000 talents of silver to make sure the Jews were wiped out on the 13th of Adar. The king agreed and Haman sent letters to the officials of all the provinces to wipe out Jews on the 13th of Adar and plunder their goods. Haman and Xerxes had a drink together and the city of Susa was in confusion.
            Psalm: David continues in this Psalm crying out for God to vindicate him. He wonders how long God is going to put up with all the crud his enemies are exhibiting toward him. He recounts some more things they have done. He almost gets accusative when he asks God to awaken and rouse himself (Ps 35:23). But then it’s as if he thinks about that and realizes any vindication must be done according to God’s righteousness (Ps 35:24). He praises God in the end but it is for taking care of him.
            Proverbs: Living alone in the desert is easier than living with a woman who always squabbles and fusses. A wise man will accumulate wealth but a fool squanders it.
            1 Corinthians: Paul tells the Corinthians they are way out of line regarding their gatherings. First because they have factions, which they think shows who has God’s approval. Then when they have the Lord’s Supper, they eat too much and don’t leave any for others. Others get drunk. If they are going to do that, do it at home so as not to humiliate those who are poor.
            He explains the Lord’s Supper the way the Lord told him. Jesus broke bread and said it was his body and they should do it in remembrance of him. In the same way, the cup was the new covenant in his blood and when they do it, remember him. This is proclaiming Jesus’ death until he comes.
            When they eat and drink in an unworthy manner they are disrespectful of Jesus’ body and blood. A person should examine himself before eating and drinking. If a person eats and drinks without understanding why Jesus died, he will be judged. That is why some are ill or died. If we judge ourselves, God won’t need to judge us. The Lord’s judgment is discipline so we won’t be condemned along with the world.
            When they gather to eat, they should wait for one another. If they are really hungry, then eat at home so they won’t be judged. Paul will give them directions about the other things they asked when he comes.

What Stood Out

            Esther: “When the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded … the seven eunuchs … to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at” (Est 1:10-11).           
            Psalm: “Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication, for my cause, my God and my Lord” (Ps 35:23)!
            Proverbs: “It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman” (Prov 21:19).
            1 Corinthians: “For there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized” (1 Cor 11:19).


            Esther: The Bible isn’t explicit but from ancient interpretations, it is assumed that this drunken king wanted Vashti to appear naked except for her crown. Her refusal is a tribute to her and a call for decency for all women. It is a denunciation for the lewd behavior of the king and she most likely knew it would cost her position if not her life (Adam Clarke's Commentary, Esther 1:11-12).
            Unfortunately, our western culture is not working to uphold modesty. Men are still trying to use women as sex objects and they can find women who will cooperate. I don’t know about other cultures, but I suspect the same is true because we are all sinners. We are all fallen and don’t treat each other with the respect that Jesus calls us to have for one another. Even among Christians, the problem persists. It shouldn’t be so.
            However, even with this dreadful condition that existed in Persia, God used it and the lustful king’s method of choosing a second queen to put two Jews in a position to save the Messiah’s race from extinction. Our God is sovereign and can even use the most dreadful circumstances for good.
            This brings up Xerxes’ callousness by agreeing to genocide based solely on his top henchman’s advice. He was either incredibly stupid or something worse and I can’t find a good word to describe that. Fortunately, God is sovereign or the ending would be very different.
            Psalm: I try to write something different about each of the Psalms as I read through them for the second time this year. However, in this half of the Psalm 35, David is fixated on the Lord taking care of his enemies. What I said back in February is worth repeating, especially in light of the polarization occurring in our country. It is easy to equate people with different opinions from ours as our enemies.
            We need to be very careful before praying to God like David did. I wouldn’t advise this in any way for anyone. It is very easy to become bitter, especially if God doesn’t answer the prayer in the way we want. It makes presumptions on why God would do something, except for doing it for his righteousness. I think many Christians in our country have this kind of attitude toward those who are hostile toward us for whatever reasons they have, and there are many. What did Jesus prescribe for us to do? He really turned the Old Testament thinking on matters like this upside down. He said, “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt 5:39). All Scripture is for our instruction (Rom 15:4) but the instruction I get from Psalm 35 is to not have this kind of attitude towards my enemies or even Jesus’ enemies.
            Proverbs: What should a person do who finds himself married to a quarrelsome and fretful wife? Proverbs 21:19 says he would be better off living alone in the desert. This is not a solution for a Christian. While it would be easier, this is verse juxtaposes the two not to advise leaving but to show how hard it is to deal with a spouse that is contrary. By the way, this works both ways. It just isn’t for contrary wives but men are usually worse than women. Women just don’t complain as much about their husbands as men do about their wives.
            A solution is found in 2 Timothy 2:24-25, “And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” If one quarrels, the other must not but be patient. If there is an opportunity to point out correction (and that is rare with a quarrelling spouse), then it should be with gentleness. If even one in a marriage is trying to apply the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23) then there is hope for the marriage and peace.
            1 Corinthians: I can’t remember where it was, but I remember someone saying that factions were good for the church and quoted 1 Corinthians 11:19. It was a requirement to have them since the verse says there “must” be factions. He implied it was God’s intention. The KJV Bible translates the word as heresies, not factions and that is exactly what the word means. It is also translated as sects and divisions in modern translations. The “must” in this verse means that when sinful people get together and continue to be sinful, they will have divisions. Looking at the Greek dispels the idea that this is what God intends. Jesus didn’t pray for factions, heresies, or sects. He prayed for unity (John 17:11).
            The Corinthians didn’t have unity because they used their opinions about Christian practice as a way of measuring each other’s spirituality. We do the same thing in most churches. We judge each other by the way we dress, the movies or TV we watch, whether we drink any alcohol or none, the kinds of worship music we like or dislike. The list goes on. When these things become a big enough issue, the church splits and Christ is maligned. If the divisions are even worse, the splinter becomes a sect or a cult and the world is confused. When we have unity, then the world will know God sent Jesus (John 17:21).


            I do not want to be a jerk like Xerxes regarding women or race or in any way justify or show any agreement to those who are. That should show up in the way I treat my family and especially my wife by not being a quarrelsome jerk. It also should show up in not being judgmental or divisive in my church.

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