Tuesday, 30 September 2014


The king accepts Esther's invitation and commands Haman to go with him.
Haman must have been so pleased: singled out for attention by the king and queen, as was his due. 
"So the king and Haman joined Esther at the dinner she had arranged. As they were drinking the wine, the king said, “Now, what is it you want? Half of my kingdom isn’t too much to ask! Just ask.”

Esther answered, “Here’s what I want. If the king favors me and is pleased to do what I desire and ask, let the king and Haman come again tomorrow to the dinner... Then I’ll give a straight answer to the king’s question.” "
The king has realised that Esther has something important to ask and is still feeling beneficent towards her. Again, he offers her virtually anything she wants.
Yet she doesn't ask. Does her courage fail her, particularly in front of Haman? Or is she deliberately building up the tension, to make the king even more curious and to show him just how important this question is to her?
Surely the matter is urgent. If she succeeds, messengers must go to all parts of the empire to rescind the order to massacre the Jews. If she delays, it could be too late. Still, the delay of one day - particularly in times when the pace of life was laboriously slow - was less important than complete success.
Proverbs 25:11 reminds that "The right word at the right time is like precious gold  set in silver."
Good words are exquisitely beautiful, full of God's grace and love. Not a gift I naturally have - I am more prone to blurt out the wrong thing. Good words benefit not only the hearer, but they add to inner beauty.
Esther builds up the tension. And Haman, in his vanity, only feels pride. Often, I am more like Haman than Esther, but, with God's grace, I do not have to stay that way...
"But in every part of me I discover something fighting against my mind, and it makes me a prisoner of sin that controls everything I do. What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue me from this body that is doomed to die? 25 Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me.

So with my mind I serve the Law of God, although my selfish desires make me serve the law of sin.
" Romans 7:23 - 25

Esther 5:6 - 8

Monday, 29 September 2014


So, Esther has feared for life by approaching the king uninvited, but, instead of punishment, she is welcomed warmly and generously. He even offers her half his kingdom!

I expected her to launch straight in with her message. After all, the situation is desperate and MUST be favourably resolved for Esther and her people.

She didn't. The days of prayer and fasting have made her wise.

"Esther answered, “Your Majesty, please come with Haman to a dinner I will prepare for you later today.”
The king said to his servants, “Hurry and get Haman, so we can accept Esther’s invitation.”
The king and Haman went to Esther’s dinner,"   
Esther 5:4 - 5

Would I have had this wisdom and courage? Patience is hardly one of my virtues, but loyalty is: I can imagine having deep antipathy towards Haman, would-be murderer of my family. How could Esther invite HIM as well as the king?

This was so wise. Esther trusted God to give her the right words to say to the king. She knew that Haman needed to be present to hear the king's answer, so that he could not, later, deny all knowledge nor pretend that he had misunderstood any relaying of the message.

I pray that I would have the wisdom to approach problems patiently, carefully and with great wisdom. Only possible by waiting on God first in prayer.

Psalm 20:4 says: "May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed."

I pray that, first, HE gives me the desires of my heart. May it be HIS will in me. As it was for Esther.

Lessons from Esther; Esther 5

Whitney, at Love God Greatly, has this take on Esther:

"How can we confidently enter the hard places God has called us to, and become women that God can use? Together, let’s learn from Esther Chapter 5:
1. A woman God can use in the hard places is willing to take that brave first step…
It’s one thing to say you’ll do hard things, but it’s quite another to take that first step and stand in the “inner court,” risking it all. As we begin Chapter 5, we see Esther entering in to approach the king. A woman God can use does more than just talk. After proper preparation, she turns ideas into action, she follows through with her commitments, and she doesn’t let fear stand in the way of taking that first brave step, because she knows that the battle is the Lord’s (Prov 21:31).
2. A woman God can use in the hard places knows when to speak and when to remain silent…
The Bible is packed full of verses that talk about the tongue and its power. It has the potential to be used for good, but there is also great danger in speaking many words (Prov. 10:19). I find it beautiful, refreshing and convicting that as Esther enters the inner court of the king’s palace in Chapter 5, she wins the favor of the king without even speaking a word. A woman God can use knows when to speak and when to remain silent, because she knows it is God alone who has the power to move in the hearts of kings (Prov. 21:1).
3. A woman that God can use in the hard places earns respect instead of demanding it…
In Chapter 5, we see a stark contrast between the way Esther appears before the king and the manner in which Haman handles Mordecai’s irreverence to him. Esther is humble, deliberate and wise in her approach, and Haman responds with pride, wrath and vengeance. A woman that God can use earns respect instead of demanding it, because she finds her identity and worth in Christ instead of from the things of this world (Col. 3:3).
4. A woman that God can use in the hard places knows that God’s purpose for her life isn’t just about her…
The favor that is on Esther’s life to this point is really extraordinary. This girl has gone from orphan to Queen, and in Chapter 5, Xerxes is willing to offer her “even to the half” of his kingdom. But Esther doesn’t settle for comfort, and she’s not easily swayed by fame and riches. Esther remembers the task to which she has been called, and she remembers the lives that are at stake. A woman that God can use knows that God’s purpose for her life isn’t just about her, because she remembers a world in need of a Savior (1 Cor. 15:57).

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Facing fear

Three days later, Esther goes to the king. Three days of prayer and fasting. Three days, in which Esther has faced the possibility that these might be her last three days left to live.

We think of those other three days, after Jesus had died and seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth, when the disciples' world had ended. Three days of grief.

Esther, too. In those three days, she faces death. Perhaps not for the first time: she endured the death of her former life when she was taken from Mordecai's family, the death of her innocence and purity; the death of her hopes for her future. Perhaps, even then, fearing she might lose her life if she did not please the king. Perhaps she had lived under threats for a long time. Esther was no stranger to fear.

Or, perhaps, her days of prayer and fasting had led her to a renewed faith, a greater sense of God's protection and an inner certainty that what she was doing would end well. Psalm 34:7 says that "God’s angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray."

Whichever it was, Esther had faced and overcome her fears and was now taking action to save her family.

"Three days later, Esther dressed in her royal robes and went to the inner court of the palace in front of the throne. The king was sitting there, facing the open doorway. He was happy to see Esther, and he held out the gold scepter to her.

When Esther came up and touched the tip of the scepter, the king said, “Esther, what brings you here? Just ask, and I will give you as much as half of my kingdom.”"

Whitney, at Love God Greatly, says: "But Esther saved the doubt and the drama, and instead responded with:“Then I will go.”

From preparation to service. From out from under the covers and into the hard places.

I want to crawl out from under the covers, don’t you? I don’t want to look back on my life and realize that in all of my hiding and avoiding and wishing hard things away, that I missed out on key opportunities to be used by God. At some point we actually have to get up, show up, and with much wisdom and trust in the One who holds the world in His hands, engage in the hard places He has called us to."

Death, for Esther, does not happen. The king was, after all, pleased to see her. Extravagantly so. (I guess he must have been drunk again. However did he manage to rule such a great empire?)

Esther's mission is destined for success. Even the combined wealth of all the Jews must be far less than the value of half of the Persian empire.

Too good to be true: of course. It was an empty promise. Still, this is a good sign - for the moment. What happens next, though, is not what we expect.

To be continued...

Thursday, 25 September 2014


Esther knows she can no longer sit on the fence, but must act. The law says that ANYONE who goes into the king's presence without being summoned must be killed, unless the king then gives permission by stretching out his sceptre towards them. Perhaps that could happen; but she doesn't know. She has decided to go to the king in an attempt to save her people's life and realises that, whatever happens, she is likely to die.

So, wisely, she decides to pray first, and asks Mordecai to pray with her in support. 
"Esther sent back her answer to Mordecai: “Go and get all the Jews living in Susa together. Fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, either day or night. I and my maids will fast with you. If you will do this, I’ll go to the king, even though it’s forbidden. If I die, I die.
Mordecai left and carried out Esther’s instructions."

C S Lewis puts it like this: "I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me."

And fasting? Fasting really, really concentrates my mind on prayer...

Psalm 32:6 - 8 encourages me: we can come to God in trouble because, despite what we are like, he loves and forgives us.
"Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.

You are my hiding-place; you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

Esther 4:15 - 17

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

At this time...THIS time.

Was Esther going to do what Mordecai asked her, and go to see the king even though she wasn't allowed to? He didn't wait to find out: "When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: ‘Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?’"  Esther 4:12 - 14

Esther now has a decision to make: does she believe Mordecai, or does she think that she, as queen, will be protected? Will she risk the king's displeasure and thus her royal position? Or is she, too, now facing death? No doubt there would have been many at court who were jealous of her and would have insisted that the king's orders be followed.

Or perhaps she recognised the truth of Mordecai's words: that everything that had happened to her so far (taken from her family to the harem and then being actually chosen as queen) was to put her in the perfect position to plead for the lives of her family and her fellows.

"And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this."  Famous words. But God puts us all into our circumstances for good reasons. What can I do today to take a stand for justice, peace and love? Who am I placed to talk to, to demonstrate God's love to?

Quite often - especially at the moment, as we face retirement and changes in our lives - I find myself absorbed in plans for a future which may never happen. Which probably won't happen the way I expect it to, anyway. So planning and looking ahead is all well and good, but not at the expense of the present. Here is a challenge, to look at MY present circumstances with fresh eyes and take courage to speak out, to act.

"If not me - who? If not now - when?"

Tuesday, 23 September 2014


Up until the plot to kill the king, Esther's relationship with Mordecai was a secret. No longer. She has now sent Hathach to find out why Mordecai is behaving as if some terrible tragedy has happened, and the detail of the account is compelling:

"Esther called for Hathach, one of the royal eunuchs whom the king had assigned to wait on her, and told him to go to Mordecai and get the full story of what was happening. So Hathach went to Mordecai in the town square in front of the King’s Gate. Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him. He also told him the exact amount of money that Haman had promised to deposit in the royal bank to finance the massacre of the Jews. Mordecai also gave him a copy of the bulletin that had been posted in Susa ordering the massacre so he could show it to Esther when he reported back with instructions to go to the king and intercede and plead with him for her people.

Hathach came back and told Esther everything Mordecai had said. Esther talked it over with Hathach and then sent him back to Mordecai with this message: “Everyone who works for the king here, and even the people out in the provinces, knows that there is a single fate for every man or woman who approaches the king without being invited: death. The one exception is if the king extends his gold scepter; then he or she may live. And it’s been thirty days now since I’ve been invited to come to the king.”

Proverbs 20:28 says "Love and faithfulness keep a king safe; through love his throne is made secure." which the CEV translates as "Rulers are protected by their mercy and loyalty, but they must be merciful for their kingdoms to last."  Xerxes did not have love and mercy to keep him safe so, to ensure his own safety, he  had surrounded himself with such an amount of physical and legal barriers that not even his own wives could see him unannounced.

It sounded like such a simple request: just ask Esther to go and tell the king what is going to happen.

Yet it was so much more. Moredecai was well aware that the order to massacre the Jews had come, albeit through the hand of Haman, directly from the king: signed and sealed.  He must have thought so highly of Esther that he believed that she could get the king to change his mind. Was Mordecai unaware of palace protocol? Or was he so desperate that he wanted Esther to do everything in her power - and beyond it - to help save their people?

Am I so desperate to love and serve God that I will do everything in my power to save His people?

Esther 4:8 - 11

Monday, 22 September 2014

Comfort and encouragement

Interesting. Esther's first response to her uncle's distress is, perhaps, to try to pretend that there is nothing the matter. Why? Because she sends him fresh clothes to replace his mourning garb. It is a poor response: it negates his feelings, tells him he is doing the wrong thing and that he should 'get a grip' and return to normality.

But of course he can't, He, his family and his entire people face annihilation. Refusing to bow to Haman had revealed his ethnicity: now, it was confirmed. All of Susa would have seen his actions and wondered, and I imagine the rumours must have reached Esther's ears. Nevertheless, she sent a trusted servant to find out the full story.

But perhaps her wish was primarily to restore his dignity and get him in a place where he would be presentable enough to return to work and, even, to meet with her. Perhaps her connection with him was already known. Perhaps her maids had told her about Mlordecai, knowing the relationship; or, perhaps, it was all just part of the palace gossip.

What she heard could not have been comforting - the rumours could not have sounded worse than the actuality.

Yet Esther had, in a sense, already lost her life. She had been taken from her family and it was only by the grace of God that she was where she was. (Who knows, with such a king, what could have happened otherwise?) She had been brought up a Jew in a family which was so well assimilated into the culture that their identity had been kept secret, so how well did she know the mighty Jehovah who had saved his people from slavery in Egypt? Did she recognise what he had done for her?

Paul knew. He could shout out, in his letter to the Corinthians: "All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us." The God who "who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."

So Esther tried to comfort Mordecai in his mourning, sending him clothes, then sending someone to find out what the matter was.

We all need comfort and encouragement: Maddie MacMath reminds me: "when we are living under the weight of insecurity ourselves, we become incapable of thinking about others. We are concerned about self: how we feel and how we can improve our self-confidence. No one wants to feel like they aren’t enough or they are a failure, so we naturally focus on digging ourselves out when we fall into that hole of lies. But the catch is that we all have insecurities because we all have weaknesses. We focus on improving our weaknesses (through Christ, of course), which is a good thing. It’s the process of sanctification. But there’s a danger. We run the risk of missing out how the Holy Spirit is moving in someone else’s life, and getting the humbling privilege of encouraging them in that. And they miss out on the blessing and community that encouragement brings. I’m reminded of what Paul says about our weaknesses. . .it’s all too familiar:
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
 2 Corinthians 12:9
My insecurities, my weaknesses – I have to remind myself that those are the places Christ is made strong. Those are the areas where I can’t rely on myself. They are places where I am reminded that when you squeeze me in my flesh, nothing good or righteous or holy comes out. I am 100% dependent on Christ and His Spirit in me. So, the places that spur on my personal sanctification should also be promoting my encouragement of others. Because Scripture tells me that my weaknesses are never meant to point back to me; they are meant to point back to the God who has victory over all of them. The holy, holy, holy King who pours out such GRACE upon us. Insecurity can kill encouragement. Because insecurity keeps us focused on us. But it shouldn’t be that way. Yes, we are weak in our flesh – but that only means that Christ that much stronger! So maybe we should step outside of ourselves and recognize what He’s doing in the people around us. Because everyone, even the most confident and seemingly secure people need to hear Truth. Write a letter. Send a text. Meet someone for coffee. Pick up the phone. It doesn’t matter how the encouragement comes. What matters is that it does, and that’s it’s rooted in Christ. Not encouraging others because you are too focused on fixing your own insecurities (or because you are “too busy”) doesn’t build up the Body of Christ. Encouraging superficial things or offering fake compliments doesn’t build up the Body of Christ. Jesus-lovers should be the most encouraging people around because we’ve been saved and encouraged in the most undeserving way. Even if encouraging others is a weakness of yours – whether in the family or outside of it – it’s not a fatal flaw; it’s just another place where Christ can show Himself stronger and more merciful than you could ever imagine."

Encouragement. Esther was trying to do that, but what she really needed to do - couldn't do, because of who and where she was - was to come and sit with Mordecai in his distress.

Uncomfortable. Comforting others, really really comforting others in God's spirit, might, perhaps be uncomfortable. Esther discovered that...

Esther 4:4-7

Sunday, 21 September 2014


"My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise."
Psalm 51:17

Or, as it says in the Message so meaningfully: "Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you.  I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

So: "When Mordecai learned what had been done, he ripped his clothes to shreds and put on sackcloth and ashes. Then he went out in the streets of the city crying out in loud and bitter cries. He came only as far as the King’s Gate, for no one dressed in sackcloth was allowed to enter the King’s Gate. As the king’s order was posted in every province, there was loud lament among the Jews—fasting, weeping, wailing. And most of them stretched out on sackcloth and ashes." (Esther 4:1 - 3)

Devastated in the face of impending death. Perhaps it might be easier to face one's own inevitable death: but the thought of the terror and barbaric cruelty inflicted on those we love strikes us down.

We become broken.

And none of us want to feel like that: it's unpleasant, to say the least. Overwhelmed, destroyed, traumatized. We become reduced to chaos, disorder, completely helpless.

Yet it is when we have no strength left, that we cannot take any pride in the least of our abilities, that God is able to take and use us. He desires the sacrifice of ourselves, the complete emptying of our spirits because he knows that then HIS spirit is able to fill us, overwhelm us, empower us in ways that would not be possible if we had some of our own strength left.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Hate and anger

"Bulletins were sent out by couriers to all the king’s provinces with orders to massacre, kill, and eliminate all the Jews—youngsters and old men, women and babies—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month Adar, and to plunder their goods. Copies of the bulletin were to be posted in each province, publicly available to all peoples, to get them ready for that day."

Unbelievable. Wholesale slaughter. Yet we have seen it in modern times in Rwanda, and countless times inbetween. Driven by hate and anger. Prejudice and jealousy. Grudges and resentment.

And Jesus said; "You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.

 “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
" (Matthew 5:21 - 24)

Sobering stuff. The disciples took it very seriously, as we must:

" Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble....Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him....Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen." 1 John 2:9 - 10, 3:15, 4:20

Paul adds: "At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone." (Titus 3:3)

This is a continuing challenge: not to harbour envy, anger, resentment...but to bring every ugly thought to Jesus, admitting my sinfulness and utter dependency on him.."...we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."  (2 Corinthians 10:5

And we know the end of the story, but just think of the fear and the terror the Jews must have experienced. The sense of betrayal in a country they had learned to call home....

Esther 3:13 - 14

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


"The king’s secretaries were brought in on the thirteenth day of the first month. The orders were written out word for word as Haman had addressed them to the king’s satraps, the governors of every province, and the officials of every people. They were written in the script of each province and the language of each people in the name of King Xerxes and sealed with the royal signet ring."

The detail. Haman lost no time in implementing his plan. It must have been just a few days later that he gave the order, ensuring that it was written out exactly in every language in the empire, so that there could be no possibility of any Jews managing to survive.

I am almost in awe. Such a clever manager. Imagine the news travelling by courier: by camel or donkey caravan, on foot, carried rolled up in cloth or in leather bags. The messenger meeting the dignitaries of a city, the leaders of a town, the head men of the village, announcing it in the market place to a gathered together population. Were people shocked? Did they know for sure who the Jews were? Mordecai and his family had blended in so well that he could keep his identity a secret; were there many like him? Or, had the Jews kept faithfully to their heritage and customs, living quiet, God-fearing lives? Either way, they would have prospered: Jeremiah's prophecy many years earlier had told them to "... settle there (Babylonia) and build houses. Plant gardens and eat what you grow in them. Get married and have children, then help your sons find wives and help your daughters find husbands, so they can have children as well. I want your numbers to grow, not to get smaller.
Pray for peace in Babylonia and work hard to make it prosperous. The more successful that nation is, the better off you will be.
" (Jeremiah 29:4 - 7, CEV)

And so "Bulletins were sent out by couriers to all the king’s provinces with orders to massacre, kill, and eliminate all the Jews—youngsters and old men, women and babies—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month Adar, and to plunder their goods. Copies of the bulletin were to be posted in each province, publicly available to all peoples, to get them ready for that day." (The Message)

How long did it take for the news to travel? Did rumours reach remote parts of the empire before the official communication? How long did the people live in fear, knowing that, by the end of the year, they would all have been killed?

The Jews had obeyed God's command to settle in the country. They had prospered and lived in peace in the midst of a violent kingdom. They had done what God said, but now? Did they trust in God's good plans for them or did they give in to fear?

Do I?

Esther 3:12 - 13

Evil plans

The Bible is very specific about the exact time Haman chose to speak to the king and get permission. Ironically, this was the month of the Passover, when the Jews celebrated their release from slavery in Egypt. Now, this month would be when their annihilation was decided.

To make sure he got what he wanted, he chose his words carefully, using language so inflammatory as to ensure that the king would agree with him:
'Haman then spoke with King Xerxes: “There is an odd set of people scattered through the provinces of your kingdom who don’t fit in. Their customs and ways are different from those of everybody else. Worse, they disregard the king’s laws. They’re an affront; the king shouldn’t put up with them. If it please the king, let orders be given that they be destroyed. I’ll pay for it myself. I’ll deposit 375 tons of silver in the royal bank to finance the operation.” '

So of course the king said yes! We have had no indication so far that Xerxes was anything but selfish and capricious: now we add greed to his list of unpleasant characteristics. He accepted Haman's payment, but magnanimously gave Haman the confiscated wealth of all the about-to-be-murdered Jews. (He must have been incredibly rich to forego so much wealth as would have belonged to an entire people.) And so he gave the royal seal of approval, literally: his signet ring.

How foolish of the king to put so much trust in a man of violence.

Oh, how Psalm 52:2 speaks truth about Haman: "You plan brutal crimes, and your lying words cut like a sharp razor."

Things are looking bad for the Jews... I try to imagine how I would feel in the same situation, knowing that a licence to kill was being printed and it was only a matter of time when I would be attacked and brutally murdered.

As is happening even now to Christians in Iraq.

Imagine the fear, the terror, the feeling of helplessness and powerlessness.

Esther 3:7 - 11

Monday, 15 September 2014


"Haman was furious to learn that Mordecai refused to kneel down and honour him. And when he found out that Mordecai was a Jew, he knew that killing only Mordecai was not enough. Every Jew in the whole kingdom had to be killed."

Pride. Hurt feelings. Anger.

I can be like Haman. I have felt angry,  as he was - not furious, perhaps, but still angry enough for feelings to cloud my judgement, spoil my joy and affect my relationships.

Rejection does this. I'm working on it, focusing on God's love for me, dealing with the deep feelings that modern day slights, petty offences or downright rudeness and rejection awake in me.

But I have been like Haman. I have let hurt pride poison relationships with other people who are connected to the perpetrator. I have let hurt pride cause me to react with inappropriate anger. I have let hurt pride cause me to dwell on the sin and ugliness in those who have offended me instead of covering them with the oil of forgiveness.

I know the truth of "Too much pride will destroy you." (Proverbs 16:18, CEV)

Scary. But I am NOT like Haman. I have confessed my sin to Jesus. I have opened myself up to the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart. And I am learning to nestle close to the Father heart of God, to know that, whatever happens, I am loved.
(Esther 3:5 - 6)

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Truth - at last

Interesting. A detailed background sketch of the man who will emerge as villain in the piece. Haman proves to be not only wicked in his own right, but is a descendant of Agag, king of the Amalekites, who were a cruel enemy of the Israelites. God told Saul to destroy the Amalekites completely but Saul spared their king, Agag. The prophet Samuel himself then  killed Agag, but his descendants lived on, with intent on complete annihilation of God's people.

We don't know all this yet, though. We know only that Haman has risen to the position of chief favourite who can do no wrong, and so: "All the king’s servants at the King’s Gate used to honour him by bowing down and kneeling before Haman—that’s what the king had commanded."
Egoistic, power hungry...
Except Mordecai. Mordecai wouldn’t do it, wouldn’t bow down and kneel. The king’s servants at the King’s Gate asked Mordecai about it: “Why do you cross the king’s command?” Day after day they spoke to him about this but he wouldn’t listen, so they went to Haman to see whether something shouldn’t be done about it. Mordecai had told them that he was a Jew.  (The Message Esther 3:1- 4)

Mordecai has, at last, revealed his true identity. Because this is the crunch: Psalm 95:6 tells us, as do many many other verses: "So come, let us worship: bow before him, on your knees before God, who made us!"

Not before anyone else. Before God. It is God only who we should worship and adore: not men, however powerful, or clever, or gifted or talented...GOD.

This morning, this day, let me worship God alone. Putting him before everything else and especially before my standing with others...

Love God Greatly, the study I am doing this with, reminds me:

"1. It is never to late to take a stand.

Even though Mordecai didn’t stand up from the beginning, he decides to take a stand now. And we can do the same. We can choose this day to say, “No more” to the things that we have been letting slide that we know we should really take a stand for. Is it a TV show that we really know isn’t benefitting us? A gossip conversation that we have been a part of that we know we need to stop? Even if we have failed to take a stand in the past, it isn’t too late to say today is the day!

2. We can choose to bow to the Lord our God.

Psalm 95:6 invites us to worship and bow down before the Lord our God our Maker. Take a moment to read this verse and let it sink in. What have you been bowing to other than the Lord? Idols have a way of creeping in without us even realizing it! Take a moment to think about what has become an idol in your life, and confess. Then choose to bow to the Lord!"

My prayer: God, keep reminding me of who You are: awesome, majestic, the only one worthy of worship, adoration and praise.

Friday, 12 September 2014

God's plans

The plot thickens...first Esther is chosen to join the king's harem, now Mordecai has a job at the palace. How did he manage that? He has already shown himself to be astute; now, perhaps, he worked his way into the palace in order to be nearer Esther.

The Living Bible says: "Even after all the young women had been transferred to the second harem and Mordecai had become a palace official, Esther continued to keep her family background and nationality a secret. She was still following Mordecai’s directions, just as she did when she lived in his home."

A known relative of an important person would have expected to be given a favourable position at the palace, but Mordecai's position was relatively lowly, as his duties were at the gate to the palace or the entrance to the women's harem. Here, he could keep in closer contact with Esther; and here, he discovered a plot by disgruntled servants to kill the king.

Esther was the king's wife, his possession...but it was not marriage as we know it. Xerxes had already demonstrated a lack of mutual respect and trust in his marriage to Vashti, and Esther follows this tradition, keeping her family background secret and following Mordecai's instructions. Yet, when the plot against the king's life was discovered by Mordecai, he told Esther and then SHE told the king. Did the king then ask her how she knew, and, perhaps, as she admitted that Mordecai had told her, what the relationship was? Did the secret come out?  Or was Mordecai still just a lowly servant? He certainly doesn't seem to have received any reward for his service.

Here, again, we see how God uses this unpropitious circumstances to work things together for good: the plot is discovered, the perpetrators disposed of and Mordecai's service in this respect is recorded in the official record books. (Esther 2:19 - 23)

Proverbs 19:20 reminds: "Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life." Accepting advice means admitting that we need it; we need help; we have to humble ourselves.

Not always easy...

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Waiting and preparation

As Esther joins the harem, she gets special beauty treatments in preparation for meeting the king. It seems to take five years before she actually gets to meet the king (beauty treatments took a year, but then the girls were taken in turn to the king), but then he falls in love with her straightaway and makes her his queen. There are great celebrations: a special dinner, a national holiday, and Esther joins the wives.

It was all worth waiting for.

Esther has made friends, especially the king's personal servant Hegai who had advised Esther and told her what to take with her when she went to the king. (I can't begin to imagine all the sexual tricks and contrivances Esther had probably become acquainted with during her time of preparation. I'm not going there.)

She is queen, with a hugely prominent position within the country.

And what, in this situation, did Esther see as 'good'? Would she have preferred to stay with Mordecai, living simply and humbly away from palace intrigue? Or in the security of the harem, rather than becoming queen...did the shadow of Vashti and her downfall loom over her? Or was she simply delighted to have become Xerxes' wife?....

Who would have thought that an orphaned foreigner could attain such heights?

Esther 2:12 - 18

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Becoming a woman of influence: godly character.

Esther is chosen to join the group of potential new queens and immediately becomes the chief eunuch's favourite. So she was given special food, cosmetics, and seven maids from the king's palace to look after.

But she didn't tell anyone she was a Jew. This was deliberate: Mordecai had told her to keep it a secret. Perhaps, had it been known, she would not have been favoured; might, indeed, even have been discriminated against.

Hmmm. How often have I 'not told' anyone I am a Christian? Not deliberately lied, but not nailed my colours to the mast because, if I am honest, there has been lingering fear of prejudice. Literally, others pre-judging me on what they think they know about me. Fear of 'put downs' or derogatory remarks; fear being excluded from 'the group'.

Yet, by keeping quiet, Esther grew 'in favour', building relationships with important people and, as we shall see, eventually becoming queen and obtaining a position of influence.

Fair enough. Psalm 112:1 says: "Shout praises to the Lord! The Lord blesses everyone who worships him and gladly obeys his teachings." 

Esther was indeed blessed: she became a favourite. She might have kept quiet, but she must have secretly worshipped him in her heart and obeyed his teaching. St Francis said: "Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words."

Esther is a great example of obedience as she listened to and followed Mordecai's advice and as she lived a good gentle, life. For it could not have been just her external beauty which attracted others, but her loving, kind character as well.

Great example.

Esther 2:8 - 11

Monday, 8 September 2014

Who we are informs what we do

Suddenly, into the life of the king comes a Jew, Mordecai, who was a great-grandson of one of the captives taken from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar many years earlier. We are immediately told that Mordecai had taken responsibility for his beautiful cousin, Esther (Hadassah), after both her parents had died.

This shows true love and compassion: reaching out and caring for the abandoned in society is what God wants us to do, not just 'talking the talk'.  Mordecai sounds like a good guy.
(James 1:27)

Yet when I read the commentary: oh, I don't know. It sounds as if Mordecai was a Jew who could have returned to Jerusalem after the exile, but chose not to; perhaps he was an official at the king's palace, wielding some sort of power and prestige; perhaps he was worldly and ambitious, rather than religiously devoted to God.

I also wonder if he was OBLIGATED to take in his orphaned cousin, according to custom.

Yet even if he WAS all these things, his actions and a sequence of events eventually led to saving the lives of the entire Jewish community in Persia at the time.

God works all things together for good...

Esther 2:5 - 7

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Things turn out for the best - even for those who don't deserve it.

Now, after a hasty decision, we see Xerxes (Ahaseurus) regretting his action. His anger had taken a while to simmer down and he realised, because of the law he had been advised to make, that he could not take Vashti back. Did he love her? Was she a good queen? Did Xerxes rely on her, and miss her? She became queen again later, when her son succeeded Xerxes on his death; perhaps she was powerful and accomplished in her own right. Certainly it seems as if the advisers grasped the opportunity to get rid of her, so maybe she wielded power.

Whatever she was like, now he had no queen at all.

So his advisers suggested he choose another. Only the best, of course, so grab all the beautiful young girls to be found and then choose his favourite.
'This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it.'
You bet he did. Thinking, no doubt, that a young girl was much more likely to be acquiescent and do whatever he said - especially after the example that had been made of Vashti.

Ephesians 5: 15 says: So be careful how you live. Don't live like fools, but like those who are wise.

Good advice. Be careful. Think first.

As for Xerxes and his court: this is beginning to look like a soap opera...   Esther 2:1 - 4

Thursday, 4 September 2014

The consequence of not submitting...

Esther 1:19 - 22: so, the consequence for Vashti's refusal to go to her husband was banishment. Why not death? How severe was the regime at the time?

The devotional today says: "When Queen Vashti did not come into the presence of the king when he asked, she was showing disrespect to her husband. Whether or not he should have asked her is not the point, the point is she made him look like a fool. We can do the same things to our husbands when we do not respect them. Respecting your husband is to humbly submit to him. Now I realize that this is not a very popular idea in our society, but popular or not, we are called to follow God’s word."

Ephesians 5:33 says: "So each husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself, and each wife should respect her husband."

Humbly submit. Well, yes. Difficult, sometimes. But I guess the best attitude to have is that of Jesus as the Message says in Philippians 2:  If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014


After Queen Vashti refused to go the king, he couldn't make a decision himself without asking his advisors what to do. (He sent seven men - seven eunuchs, in fact - to fetch her; now he asks seven advisors. Seven is always a significant number in the Bible.)

"These men were very wise and understood all the laws and customs of the country, and the king always asked them what they thought about such matters." Esther 1:14

The advisors told him that the queen had not only insulted the king, showing disrespect, but that she had set a bad example for all wives throughout the kingdom.

"Before this day is over, the wives of the officials of Persia and Media will find out what Queen Vashti has done, and they will refuse to obey their husbands. They won't respect their husbands, and their husbands will be angry with them." Esther 1:18

True, really. We all look up to leaders, expecting them to model the behaviour we aspire to: just think of our celebrity culture of pop stars, actors, sports stars and young royals. Wasn't this wise advice? Doesn't it show them thinking of the consequences of Vashti's actions, disregarding the customs of the country?

Proverbs 14:8 says: "Wise people have enough sense to find their way, but stupid fools get lost."

Who was wise, here? Vashti was certainly told to 'get lost'! And the advisers were wise in their own way in their own times...but God has a better way: "We must look to God’s Word for true wisdom and discernment. We see in the New Testament that yes, wives are to respect their husbands but let’s not forget that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church.These men should have known better than to write such a law…forcing someone to obey you and show you respect never produces a healthy, loving relationship." 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Losing your temper...

Today, I read of how King Xerxes lost his temper: "King Xerxes was feeling happy because of so much wine. And he asked his seven personal servants, Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carkas, to bring Queen Vashti to him. The king wanted her to wear her crown and let his people and his officials see how beautiful she was. The king’s servants told Queen Vashti what he had said, but she refused to go to him, and this made him terribly angry."  Esther 1: 10 - 12

The chapter also tells of how Queen Vashti herself had held a banquet for the women.

When her husband sent for her, she refused to go to him. I wonder why.

In those days, she would have been his possession, to show off. After all, he sent for her for quite a good reason.

Was she so secure in her position that she was confident enough to stand against him? Brave - or foolish?
Was she drunk as well, leading her to make an unwise decision?
Was she an immature young girl, who became over-confident of her looks?
Was she sneakily advised or encouraged by envious, ambitious women to do what she did?

This chapter shows the king becoming angry:  Proverbs 12:16 says "Losing your temper is foolish; ignoring an insult is smart."

True. Doubly, quadruply...ply true for a leader, who, to be effective, needs to remain calm and in control of his/her emotions. A lesson. I seldom get angry now, having felt indignant more often when I was younger, and I manage to 'control' it, mostly. (Simmering, festering, resentment masquerade as control, but that is another story.)

But what I also learn from this little story is to be careful how I react to others: particularly to perceived injustice. I wonder, if Vashti realised what the consequences would be, if she would still have done the same? Do I think carefully enough about my  actions?

Monday, 1 September 2014

Showing off and its antithesis

Today's verses (Esther 1:5 - 8 and Matthew 4:8 - 9) show Ahaseurus showing off his enormous wealth - curtains of the most expensive material available; couches of 'gold and silver', presumably covered or inlaid, rather than solid; a mosaic floor of marble, mother of pearl and precious stones.

It is almost too much to imagine: I can  hardly believe it would be possible today. How could a wealthy man ensure that his craftsmen would not be stealing the precious metals and gems they were working with, for a start? Even a tiny amount 'acquired' by a poorer man would be life-changing.

This whole scene smacks of arrogance and exploitation. Even if we did not know that much of the Ancient World was built on the labour of slaves, we can guess so: for one man to own so much is wholly disproportionate in any society.

Then there is the temptation of Jesus, as Satan offers him the world and all its riches: he would have become the wealthiest and most powerful man ever to live.

And Jesus rejects the offer: he is already the heir of the Great Creator, who owns all the wealth in the world. There is something far better waiting for Jesus, and he refutes the Devil.

How topsy turvy: the 'better' is an agonising criminal's death so that we might become heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ... the words in Romans 8:17 which finish with "if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."

Untold wealth...and suffering...


Today is the first day of a Love God Greatly (formerly Good Morning Girls) Bible study on Esther.

I didn't know this when I opened an email entitled 'Where is Your Treasure?' from Wisdom For Wives. Odd, especially when I don't read the blog very much.

The writer is talking about money:

"I have heard more than one pastor say that you can tell a person’s priorities by looking at his or her checkbook. This seems to be supported by Scripture.

~~But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21-22, NASB)~~

Maybe that’s why it can be so difficult to discuss finances with our spouses. Maybe these conversations reveal the true conditions of our hearts, and who wants to talk about the true condition of our hearts?? It’s quite possible that when there are unresolved heart issues, money arguments aren’t really about money. One spouse wants to discuss a budget, the other one fears being controlled. Four little words like, “We’re short this month,” can really mean:
You don’t make enough.
You spend too much.
You shouldn’t have taken (or quit) that job.
It’s because you wanted to buy this house that we can’t afford.

Even if the speaker is not (knowingly) holding a secret grudge, the hearer could be filtering the words through insecurities about his/her earning potential, or lingering regret or shame over a financial mistake for which the family is still paying. Rather than churn up all these issues, it is easier (in the short-term) to avoid talking about money, or to just ignore it altogether.

Money or wealth says so much about us, whether we lack money or have more than enough for our needs. This opens up so many thoughts about our 'treasure'. Oh, way beyond money. 'Treasure' is self-esteem, pride, perfectionism, striving to show the world how rich/good/competent/beautiful/clever we are...money can, we think, show others all of these things.

For Ahaseurus, king of Persia in Esther's time, his treasure was his wealth. Yesterday, in church, we were reminded of the danger of pride in possessions when we looked at Hezekiah, king of Judah, who was also proud of his wealth, and so, in 2 Chronicles Chapter 32, we are told how God 'left him'. 

But we 'leave God' so easily when we become absorbed by any treasure which is not God. When we put possessions or position or power or personal gain in the centre of our hearts, in God's place, we leave Him out of our lives. 

And so Matthew 6:19 - 21 reminds us: "Don't store up treasures on earth! Moths and rust can destroy them, and thieves can break in and steal them. Instead, store up your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and thieves cannot break in and steal them. Your heart will always be where your treasure is."

For both Ahaseurus and Hezekiah, wealth made a statement about who they were. Let us remember who WE are: children of God and co-heirs with Christ.

And if we are co-heirs, then we have all the wealth in the world. Now, there's a thought.

Dealing with difficult relationships: finding forgiveness

Grappling with understanding the title (above) and the labels (below), I found some useful resources:
Dealing with a surprise attack when someone says or does something unexpectedly hurtful or nasty. And the topic of forgiveness comes at me everywhere I turn: Faith Barista, a sermon in church on anger and forgiveness...the book 31 Days to Lovely by Sarah Hawkes Valente, which is proving INVALUABLE.

Of course, dealing with these things involves humbling myself: wow, how I DON'T like to do that. BUT:
For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory. Psalm 149:4  And I have found great encouragement in Psalm 139:23 - 24 which says "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see f there  be ANY WICKED WAY IN ME, and LEAD ME IN THE WAY EVERLASTING.

The way everlasting. The way with God. No other way will bring me the peace and contentment I long for. Sarah Markley says:

"we fail and we fall. We shouldn’t do so on purpose to exhaust His grace, but we all make bad choices and decisions once in awhile. When we do, can we see the beauty in the dust? Can we look for that? Or do we hate our mistakes so much that the beauty that He is longing to show us in the ashes is lost?
He is longing to show us the beauty.
It’s so easy to loathe ourselves. We pile hatred onto our fragile souls. We fail and make mistakes and we hate what we’ve done. Even failures can open doors but sometimes we are too blind to notice.
...What is He longing to show us? That even in our sins, even in our mistakes and misjudgments, He is still there. He is always there. And He is close and good and He hasn’t changed. He is brushing His fingers in the dirty ashes, trying to show us the beauty there.
So, as I struggle with unforgiveness, God is helping me everywhere I look. I have just been sent a free book to review, part of the Everyday Matters Bible Study series on developing spiritual disciplines. The title of the book I have been 'randomly' (God-chosen) sent? Forgiveness.  !!
And Peter Jobes, of Sixty Stadia, has just written a remarkable post. (I love his blog anyway, but the fact that he is a good friend of my gorgeous daughter-in-law Adele is a wonderful bonus.)  Peter says

"It’s quite simple, really, you feel wronged by a situation, circumstance or person and you decide that the answer lies in you putting it right....
....there are a thousand little ways this thinking can creep into our lives if we don’t guard against it. It’s a desire to get up and fight for what we perceive are our interests, even though we know we have a God who promises to do so. It’s a pride problem.
We serve a God who goes ahead of us, rustling through the tree tops to fight on our behalf before we even reach the field of battle (2 Chronicles 20:1-26). We serve a God who pledges His faithfulness to us and seals that promise in His own blood. We serve the Shepherd of Psalm 23 who prepares us a table in the very presence of our enemies. A God who thinned the ranks of Gideon’s army (Judges 7) so that the victory would be demonstrably miraculous. And yet we find ourselves thinking we can win under our own steam?
The truth is that there are many times when faced with a circumstance that the answer isn’t found in our desire to fight it but in our ability to take rest in Him. Where we stop and hand off to Him, His strength is perfected in our weakness.
When the Children of Israel reached the Red Sea they faced what seemed to be an insurmountable problem. God had led them, literally, between the devil and the deep blue sea. The Egyptian army closed in on them and with nowhere to go they started to doubt their deliverance; once again they entered confusion as their enemies seemed to prosper and Moses stood up and gave some wisdom.
The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.  Exodus 14:14 (NKJV)
Or, as other translations put it, we need only to be still, to be silent. When we seek our own path, to our own idea of justice, it’s not about God any more but about our being seen to triumph. Like Caesar returning to Rome, we want a parade of victory but part of being a follower of Christ is that the parade of victory is His.
It can be difficult in life at times, when you want to resolve problems in human fashion and yet know God’s will is for you to hold your peace. It’s so easy to either ignore it and make a mess, or instead revel in the feeling of being a victim, yet we must do neither. We must find a place of peace, and let God set our world to rights.
My prayer is that I will grow more and more into a person whose default behaviour isn’t to strap on the boxing gloves and go twelve rounds with a problem, making more mess, but to hand it over to the one who has already promised to deal with it.
It’s not about being passive, it’s not about being cowed and broken. It’s about having the courage to stand and pray and believe in God’s definition of setting things right above our own.
Finally, a little Bible study guide arrived in the post. I signed up for a copy of 'Everyday Matters Bible Studies for women' which cover a full range of spiritual practices.  There were twenty-four possible topics ranging from Bible Study and Meditation to Worship...I got...yes...wait for it... FORGIVENESS!
#lookingforwardto #gettingstarted #onthatonetoo
And for inspiration: The Forgiveness Project.
And finally: "...while some friendships won’t last forever, never lose hope that God can heal all wounds. Never lose hope that rich friendships can still be found."