January 24, 2018

Esther – Chapter 9:4-5

Esther 9:4-5

For Mordecai was great in the king’s palace, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces; for this man Mordecai became increasingly prominent. Thus the Jews defeated all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, with slaughter and destruction, and did what they pleased with those who hated them.

Life can feel like a battle sometimes.  Well, honestly, life CAN be a battle most of the time. Some days the battles waged are more intense than others, but, they are battles none-the-less. Some days the battle is to get the kids up and out the door on time; some days the battle is the foreclosure notice in the mail.  Sometimes the battle is in the workplace, or in the doctor’s office. Life can be a battle. The story of Esther is a battle in itself—from start to finish.

The days when the battle is intense, it can feel like we don’t have anything to protect us.  We know Christ is there, and we know He is in our corner…but what do we have to defend us is tangible and that we can reach for when temptation, doubt, fear, anger, are staring us in the face and taunting us.

One of the most assuring feelings is knowing that we do have something to reach for…that we have a weapon at our disposal stronger than any battle we may face.  We have Christ and His written Word.

1 John 4:4

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because

He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

 The sword.

“Thus the Jews defeated all their enemies with the stroke of the sword…” (Esther 9:5)

What is this sword?  No, we’re not expected to carry around a huge piece of metal on our waist, but we are expected to carry around a different sword in our heart, the Sword of the Spirit—the Bible—our instruction book.  This is our defense and our protection.

 Ephesians 6:14-17

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

This is a wonderful gift, a wonderful tool, and a wonderful source of protection.  Like Darlene encourages us to do, we should look at the many ways in which the Word of God can protect us.  It protects us not only from the outside world but from ourselves.  For example, when I’m tempted to complain, I know where to go (Philippians 2:14), when I’m tempted to worry, I know where to go (Matthew 6:25-27), and there are so many more verses I know I can go to when I need a sword.  But it takes effort on my part.   It takes study. and it takes me immersing myself in the Scripture so it is on my heart and mind when I need it.

The last question Darlene asks of us is to look inside and examine our study habits: do we read the Bible often?  Do we study it as we’re called to do?  This is not a condemning question but an opportunity for growth.  I know that this is an area than I need to work on, (and am so thankful for how technology can help with this goal).  When you get a chance, think about how you can grow in this area, how you can strengthen the Word inside of you.

*****

Let’s Pray:

Lord, we breathe a sigh of relief when we can reach inside and pull from Your Word, when You bring a Scripture to mind that will help us in the situation we’re in.  Lord, time isn’t something that we have a lot of, but please touch our hearts and remind us how important it is to strengthen our Sword.  And thank You for giving us this tool, for giving us the Sword.  In Jesus’ name we pray.

Amen.

Esther – Chapter 8:3-6

Esther 8:3-6

Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping.  She begged him to put an end to the evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews. Then the king extended the gold scepter to Esther and she arose and stood before him. “If it pleases the king,” she said, “and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king’s provinces. For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?

You’re saved; you’re sanctified, and you’re filled with the Holy Ghost. Your friends and family are sitting next to you in church. You’re redeemed and you’re free. Everything seems to be going well for you and yours, and your circle is doing just fine. This may be your story, it may not.  It may look somewhat like your situation, and it may not. Christians in general seem to be more concerned with the going ons of their inner circle; we seem to be more concerned with those closest to us and with their salvation.  This isn’t a bad thing; of course we want to see the ones we love spend eternity with us in heaven, but…

What about the other guys? What about those people? Where does our responsibility lie when it comes to others outside of our group?

Below are some scriptures that refer to praying for others:

 Job 42:10 

If you do a search on BibleGateway.com, you will find several scriptures.  From the amount of scriptures that are available, it looks like this is a subject close to God’s heart. We have a responsibility to God and to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Even after receiving the outcome she was seeking for herself and her cousin, Esther knew her work wasn’t done.  She knew she still had a responsibility to her people to petition on their behalf. What a great example of how to live!

How can Esther’s example impact your life?

How can we model ourselves after her?

 _____

This section reminds me of the song by Casting Crowns, Jesus Friend of Sinners.

 

____________

 

Let’s Pray:

Dear Lord

Please open our eyes to see people and situations in need of prayer. Your command to pray without ceasing applies to not only our lives and the lives of those we love, but also to the lives of those we don’t know; to the lives of those we see in the street, those we pass in the workplace. Place on our hearts the desire You placed on the heart of Esther, the desire to see the salvation of our fellow person.

In Jesus’ Name We Pray.

Amen

 

Esther – Chapter 7:3-4

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Esther 7:3-4

Then Queen Esther answered and said, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. For we have been sold, my people and I, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. Had we been sold as male and female slaves, I would have held my tongue, although the enemy could never compensate for the king’s loss.”

Redemption. What is redemption? Well, technically, the following is the definition of the word:

 re·demp·tion

1. an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed.

2. deliverance; rescue.

3. Theologydeliverance from sin; salvation.

4. atonement for guilt.

5. repurchase, as of something sold.

What does redemption mean to you? To me, it means being saved or being rescued from something.  We all have times in our lives when we need to be redeemed. Some days I feel like I need to be constantly redeemed, constantly saved—sometimes from big things and sometimes from small things, sometimes from things that are my own doing and sometimes from things out of my control.  Thankfully, not often do we find ourselves in Esther’s shoes, with our lives needing saving from the hand of a tyrant or the lives of our people on the line.

Imagine our lives being sold into the hands of someone who hated us simply for existing.  This man planned to kill us for the price of gold and riches, for power and for bragging rights. Imagine us having to play Esther’s role, having to plead for our safety, having to share a secret that could harm us or help us; imagine how vulnerable she felt at that moment.

Imagine how vulnerable we feel when we have to ask for redemption for whatever reason, when we have to open our heart and mind to Christ when we need saving, when we need redemption. Remember in these times what that vulnerability brings, what this admittance of weakness brings. Remember how close we feel to God, how He wraps His loving arms around us. Remember the price He paid for us.

Yes it was Haman who purchased Esther and her people, but we have to remember who purchased us.  Who paid the ultimate price for our lives?  No matter what or who aims to destroy us, the price that Christ paid can never be matched. The redemption that He offers us can never be replaced or taken away.

 *****

Let’s Pray:

Our Lord and Redeemer,  thank You for the price that You paid for us.  Thank You for the redemption offered and available to us.  Whether it was our doing, or the doing of another, You paid the price with Your life.  Your love reaches further than our pain could ever reach.  Your ultimate price could never be matched by the price paid by the Haman’s in our lives.  In Jesus’ Name we pray.

Amen

Esther – Chapter 6:4-9

Esther 6:4-9

So the king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace to suggest that the king hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him. The king’s servants said to him, “Haman is there, standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him come in.” So Haman came in, and the king asked him, “What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?” Now Haman thought in his heart, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?” And Haman answered the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, let a royal robe be brought which the king has worn, and a horse on which the king has ridden, which has a royal crest placed on its head. Then let this robe and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that he may array the man whom the king delights to honor. Then parade him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!’”

Oh, pride…that little five letter word that I have truly grown to dislike.  A word that has proven to hurt so many lives, ruined so many relationships, guided so many down paths harder than they should have been. Pride doesn’t discriminate; it touches the work place, the home, the church, it wraps itself around our hearts and makes life a difficult place.

Googling verses on pride, I found many more than the word count of this blog will allow.

  • I will break down your stubborn pride.  Leviticus 26:19
  • He grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God.    2 Chronicles 26:16
  • In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.  Psalm 10:4
  • When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.  Proverbs 11:2
  • Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. Proverbs 13:10
  • Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.  Proverbs 16:18
  • A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.  Proverbs 29:23
  • But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory.  Daniel 5:20
  • Your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God.  Deuteronomy 8:14
  • Though the LORD is on high, He looks upon the lowly, but the proud He knows from afar.  Psalm 138:6
  • The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. Proverbs 16:5
  • Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.  Proverbs 16:19
  • Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.  Proverbs 18:12
  • Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  1 Corinthians 13:4

I would be lying if I tried to say that I haven’t had an issue with pride.  I like being able to do everything myself and I don’t like asking for help and I don’t like admitting that I am wrong.  I had the thought that doing these things made me weak.  They made me less of a woman, less of a wife, less of a mom.  I should be able to handle it all.  I have the skills, the know-how and the desire.  This is pride in a different sense than what Haman showed; but it is pride none-the-less.

Wk6_Ellison_Esther

When these thoughts of pride and inadequacy creep in I remind myself that I have not been doing this without God and that I cannot continue to do this without God.  We are not created to do things alone, to walk our paths alone, we can only do it with God on our side. This is where Haman fell short; he thought that he alone reached the position he was in, he thought that no other man could be held in such high regard as him. His pride was his downfall.  I don’t want to see this in my life and I don’t want to see it in yours.

It’s wrong to be proud of our accomplishments. I don’t think it’s wrong to think that we did a good job at something.  But we need to remember to give honor where honor is due.

_____

Let’s Pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, You bless us daily. You give us skills and talents that allow us to accomplish tasks, to succeed in this life. Lord, please forgive us for the times where we allow pride to take over, for the times when we fail to thank You.  Give us a gentle reminder when our pride starts to get too big, when we look to ourselves, and forget to look towards You.

In Jesus’ name we pray.

Amen.

Esther – Chapter 5:3-5

 

Esther 5:3-5

And the king said to her, “What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom!”

So Esther answered, “If it pleases the king, let the king and Haman come today to the banquet that I have prepared for him.”

Then the king said, “Bring Haman quickly, that he may do as Esther has said.” So the king and Haman went to the banquet that Esther had prepared.

“We must keep our focus in check.”  I think this of my favorite line from today’s reading.  It is so true, but can be so hard at times.  I can imagine myself in Esther’s shoes, or rather sandals. Sitting on a choice, “Do I seek change for myself? Or do I seek change for my people?”  It would be easy to desire and pray for help for herself in this situation…for some sort of relief from the pressure that weighed on her shoulders. But instead she pushed forward with what God was directing her to do, and put the needs of her people above her own.

Like Darlene beautifully pointed out, this situation mirrors how we should approach our prayer life.  Our pastor told us this little saying yesterday, “Need versus Greed.”

 James 4:3

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

This made me think.  It’s not as if I’m asking God to help me find 1 million dollars lying on the street, but I may be asking God for a promotion at work.  Why?  To further His Kingdom or to further my own?  I may be asking God for strength to get through the day, and to accomplish all the tasks I have to do.  But why?  So I can look good in front of others or so I can do what He has called me to do that day.

I don’t think we intentionally say greedy prayers, but I do think that we should pay attention to our motives.  About a year or so ago, this topic was brought up in church—the topic of what motivates our prayers.  I continue to pray for my family’s well-being, for financial guidance when money gets tight, for restoration of relationships when they get rough.   I don’t think James 4:3 is addressing this.  But I did add a piece to my prayers, a piece that I try to pray throughout the day.  I ask that God would open my eyes to areas during my day where I could do His work.  I prayed that my family would show others His love, that we would see opportunities in which we could grow His kingdom.

I am a naturally greedy person; I think most people are.  Not in a hording/not sharing kind of way.  But in how it applies to our prayers.  I want to automatically pray for myself—for a good day for me, for peace for me, for wisdom for me.  The question that Darlene asks at the end of this section is not a condemning question.  I see it as a growth question; an opportunity to grow for the better, an opportunity to be more intentional in our words that we lift up to our Father.

*****

Let’s Pray:

Wk5_Ellison_Esther

Esther – Chapter 4:4-7

Wk4_Esther_Ellison

Esther 4:4-7

So Esther’s maids and eunuchs came and told her, and the queen was deeply distressed. Then she sent garments to clothe Mordecai and take his sackcloth away from him, but he would not accept them. Then Esther called Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs whom he had appointed to attend her, and she gave him a command concerning Mordecai, to learn what and why this was. So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the city square that was in front of the king’s gate. And Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries to destroy the Jews.

Sometimes there is a pull on our heart or, as my pastor says, an “unrest in our spirit.”  I believe that Esther experienced this.  She was told something disturbing and she was “deeply distressed.” Has this ever happened to you?  We find out a piece of information…see or hear something…and then we know something isn’t right.  We may or may not know exactly what is going on, or what all of the details are, but we know that something is wrong.  I think this is what Esther experienced this day.  She didn’t know why Mordecai was acting the way he was acting but she knew that it was serious and wanted to know more.

So what does she do about this unrest?  She asks.  She seeks clarification.  She sends a message to him asking what the situation is.  How does this apply to you and me?  Mordecai symbolizes the Holy Spirit and, like Esther asked questions of Mordecai, we can ask a question of the Holy Spirit.  We need not send someone to ask for us—we can go directly to our Helper ourselves.

 John 14:16

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—

 Sometimes we don’t have to ask; sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks directly to us. “The Holy Spirit is that voice inside of us that convicts us of sin, while encouraging us to do better.”

Last week my pastor said something that stuck with me, he said that “the same Holy Spirit that was in the Bible is in us.”  The same Holy Spirit at work in the heart of Esther is the same Holy Spirit at work in our hearts.  The same Holy Spirit that began to pull on the heart of Esther that day isthe same Holy Spirit who pulls on our hearts to make a change in our lives.

This week I am determined to pray on the question that Darlene asks, “Is there anything in your life that you’ve recently been convicted of or encouraged to improve upon?” Like Esther I want to seek out what change needs to be made; I want to see how I need to improve the situation I’m in.  Like Esther I am going to ask of my Helper what those changes need to be. I’m going to ask what needs to be done.

_______

Let’s Pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the Helper that You have sent to us.  Thank You for the pull on our spirit when things need to change.  So often we feel that something is wrong, or that something can be better.  Lord, give us the courage to seek the answers from the Holy Spirit, to seek the change that needs to be made.  In Jesus’ name we pray.

Amen.

Esther – Chapter 3:6-7

Anger_Wk 3_Ellison

But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him of the people of Mordecai. Instead, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus—the people of Mordecai.  In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur (that is, the lot), before Haman to determine the day and the month, until it fell on the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.

Esther 3:6-7

I can imagine the scene, Haman and his men, sitting around with their planners open rolling dice to determine when they would carry out their plan to kill the Jews, lives on the line, their fate being sealed by such a simple method, such carelessness. Hamen wasn’t pleased with simply plotting against Mordecai, “but he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone”

 dis·dain

1. to look upon or treat with contempt; despise; scorn.

2.to think unworthy of notice, response, etc.; consider beneath oneself: todisdain replying to an insult.

3.feeling of contempt for anything regarded as unworthy; haughty contempt; scorn

 Mordecai alone wasn’t worth his trouble, he was below Haman. “Instead, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus”. All of them. That was quite a lot of people. There is a sentence in my study bible that caught my attention;  “a roll of the dice had no power to determine the destiny of God’s people”.

I can imagine the hatred that Haman had for the Jewish people, hatred so strong that he was compelled to try and kill the entire population, a people that had done nothing to him. A seed of hate was planted and that seed grew, it grew until he decided to act, I’m not sure if you have ever acted on a seed like this, but I have and I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t end well.

 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,

And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

Proverbs 16:32

When I think of biblical times I think of a time where people had to defend themselves, men were expected to be physically strong whether they were tasked with farming or tasked with defending a city on battle. Women were expected to display a strength that allowed them to raise children, tend to her husband and run a home. Strength was a needed staple in life.

 Imagine now reading this verse, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty”. Slow to anger? But they cut me off. But they disrespected me. But they hurt me. “And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” But their words deserve a response. But I need to defend myself against their actions. But I need to prove that they can’t walk all over me. But. But. But.

But, we need to see where God sees true strength; it is not in the exertion of our power, the release of our anger. He is telling us that there is true strength in our self-control; there is true strength in patience and compassion, and grace.

Haman’s anger drove him to desire to kill; he allowed the anger, whatever the cause, to rule him. I’m not at all implying that we are going to copy his actions but, has your anger toward a person or a situation influenced what you said or did? We’re not rolling a set of dice to determine the outcome of a population group, but has it caused us to act carelessly? To hurt the heart or mind of another because we were acting on feelings.

Esther 6 and 7 are great examples of what not to do, what we shouldn’t allow to happen. This is an extreme example, but hatred and anger are extreme emotions.

 

Let’s Pray:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Anger and hatred are emotions to readily accepted in our world today. Lord give us the desire to not conform to this norm and to break the cycle of anger in our lives. Please replace these negative emotions with love and grace, with self-control and compassion. Soften our heart to those who may anger us, those who offend us, whether the offence is small or large. Let us be an example. Lord.

We each have a “Haman” in our lives, but we know that You are in control.  A roll of the dice does not determine our future, nor does it determine the future of those around us…You do. Thank You Lord for being the example of self-control.  Thank You for being the model of how we should live and love.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

 

Esther – Chapter 2:7-11

HolySpirit_Ellison_Wk2

Esther 2:7-11

And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter. So it came to pass, when the king’s commandment and his decree was heard, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the palace, to the custody of Hegai, that Esther was brought also unto the king’s house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women. And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her things for purification, with such things as belonged to her, and seven maidens, which were meet to be given her, out of the king’s house: and he preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the house of the women. Esther had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not shew it. And Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women’s house, to know how Esther did, and what should become of her.

One of the characteristics about the story of Esther that will always stand out to me, and that makes this one of my favorite stories, is the amount of detail used to relay the message.  I love reading the words and seeing the story play out in my mind.  Here is this young girl who was orphaned at a young age, adopted by a family member, taken from her home to possibly become the wife of the king, and through all of this she was strong, faithful, and obedient.  I love reading and learning about the favor that was shown to her, and about how the hand of God was on her life.

Darlene talks about Esther being helped along the way, being taken care of.  Mordecai, Hegai,  and the seven maids that were given to assist her, were all placed in her life to help her along her journey.  She was never alone.  God was always there helping her—always sending someone into her life to offer her assistance.

That’s what the Holy Spirit does in our life; He is in place to remind us that we are never alone. He is our Comforter and He is our Guide.  I’m sure we can all say that we’ve felt like Esther at some time in our lives.  We have been faced with tasks and responsibilities that take us out of our element, out of our comfort zone; we may have felt alone, we may have not known what to do, what step to take next.  We could only operate on our faith.

But like Esther, we were given people to help us along the way.  People were strategically placed in our path to offer us aid.  Our Comforter and Guide is always there, reminding us that we are never alone. 

John 14:26 

But the Comforter which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name,  
he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance  
whatsoever I have said unto you.

John 16:13

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself;  but whatsoever he shall hear,  that shall he speak:  and he will shew you things to come.

Let’s Pray:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You, Lord, for Your love.  Thank You for the guidance and comfort that is shown to us each day.  We go through our days facing various tasks and it is so easy to forget to realize that You are always there.  You send people to help us along the way.  Lord, I pray that we exhibit the strength, obedience, and faith that Esther had.  I pray that we recognize those who You place in our path to assist us, and that we fully embrace Your hand on our life.  Open our eyes and our hearts, Father, so that we can accomplish what You ask of us.  In Jesus’ name I pray.

Amen.

 


 

“Esther” Chapter 1:10-15

Week 1_dailysubmission_Caddell

“But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come” (Esther 1:12, NIV).  Here we see the pivotal action that paved the way for Esther to come onto the scene in the next chapter.  Disobedience or a refusal to submit.

I’ll have to admit…for a long time I’ve sided with Queen Vashti!  What was so wrong??  I wouldn’t want to be the only woman in a room full of men that have been drinking for seven days (really, seven days??), would you?  According to some Jewish historians, Vashti was to appear wearing only her crown.  To me, her refusal seemed appropriate, if not a way to protect herself.  I would bet that for any number of women that have read this story, each one would have thought of a reason that the Queen’s actions were justified.  However, Darlene makes a great point, and this is the kicker: “…the scripture doesn’t give us any valid reason she didn’t.  So making excuses for her would be speculation at best” (page 13).  So there it is.  If the Bible wanted the Queen’s actions to be justified, then a valid reason would have been given for her refusal, but we don’t have one.  The simple truth is: Vashti was given a command which she refused.  We see later in the chapter that she is punished – stripped of her role and privileges.

This made me wonder.  How often does God give us a command that we don’t want to obey?  Just like reading about Queen Vashti, we want to justify her disobedience and ours through the filter of our own wishes.  God commands us to submit – to our husbands, to the will of Jesus – and we give reasons (excuses, really) of why we shouldn’t.  I know many of us have difficult husbands! Some of us have husbands that are abusive, indifferent, not in line with the will of God.  Many of us see God as a difficult taskmaster, a commander, one who is angry with us.  It’s hard to willingly allow ourselves to submit to the will of someone who may not have our best interests at heart, isn’t it?  On the other hand, some of us are simply not interested in being submissive!  It feels “archaic,” as if we are supposed to be weak doormats to be walked on, when we are strong, liberated, independent women – right?  I’m my husband’s partner, not his slave.   All justifiable feelings, ladies, but let’s look at the Scripture again.

“But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come.”  The King commanded.  She refused.  We really do treat God the same way.  He gives us commandments.  Some we obey…some we flat out refuse.  Can we be honest with ourselves?   If we don’t want to do what God commands, then we don’t do it.  I’m not trying to be harsh, it’s just the truth!   If we want to improve, if we want to become less so that God can become more within us, then we have to start thinking about submission from God’s perspective, and not from the world’s perspective.  Here’s more truth for you – GOD LOVES YOU!!!  All day, every day.  He wants what is best for you. He wants you to have a beautiful, joyful, powerful, abundant life. When you can really wrap your head around the fact that God loves you, then it makes it much easier to submit to His commands – because they are not burdensome (I John 5:3); they are in your best interest!

Consider the ultimate example of submission, Jesus.  He obeyed, even to the point of death (Philippians 2:8)! Would you consider Him a doormat?  Weak?  A slave?  I would think not. Was His life free from conflict?  No.  Did he have to do things He would have preferred not to do?  Yes.  Jesus lived His life as an example for ALL of us – so that we can pattern our lives after His. Submitting our lives to the will of God does not make us weak, mindless puppets – it’s an act of courage and strength!  In fact, when we submit to God, our submission brings us rewards – here and in heaven!  In James 4:6 and 7; James writes: “‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God.”  (He also says in verse 7 to resist the devil and he will flee from you, further proof that in submission to God you have the power and authority of God residing in you – I’d say that’s a reward, wouldn’t you?)  A heart obedient to the will of God is beautiful!

Let’s vow today to live lives of daily submission.  In areas where it seems difficult (if not impossible!), let’s ask God for strength, courage, and a willingness to do as He asks. Let’s not sit in the seat of the skeptic.  Let’s not view submission like the world does.  Vashti’s disobedience knocked her out of a place of privilege – let’s not follow her example!  We’ll see in the days and weeks to follow how submission to the King brought honor and reward to Esther and how submission to our King (God) will bring honor and reward to us!  Let’s try it today – when the King summons us, let’s throw on our crown and run to His presence – “Here I am!”

May God reward you for your obedience today!

Let’s Pray:

Holy God, thank You for Your abundant love and provision for us.  Thank You for wanting to have a relationship with us, and that You give us direction out of a desire for our well-being.   Holy Spirit, help us to live our lives in submission.  Help us where we are reluctant to obey.  Help us to love, respect, and follow our husbands – and You even more so.

Lord, open our hearts and our minds to a deeper understanding of You.  Help us to receive the teachings and blessings that You want to bountifully bestow upon us.  Guard our minds, protect our families, heal what is broken, and lift us up when we fall.  I thank You, Lord, for every woman taking part in our study – may she feel Your arms wrapped firmly around her today.

Fill us with Your Spirit, Lord; help us to be salt and light.  In the blessed name of Your Son Jesus.

Amen.

“Esther” Chapter 1:1-9

Great Things_Ellison_Ch1

 

Esther 1:1-9

Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:)

 That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace,

In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him:

When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.

And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace;

Where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble.

And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king.

And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man’s pleasure

Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.

The story of Esther is one of the shorter books in the Bible, but it is also one of the most beautiful. This book  has always touched my heart because of the details…the historical imagery that the words are able to paint in my mind.  In these first few verses we meet two people. Queen Vashti, (although briefly) and King Ahasuerus the ruler of Susa.  Now this gentleman knows how to throw a party. Not just a party but an after party also, both which lasted 187 days. The king was a powerful man who ruled over many people and places. There were a lot of people to impress at this party and he did what he needed to do to make that impression.

Look at these details:

white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble.

And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance.”

Can you imagine the sight of these gardens? Can you picture how beautiful they must have been? And it didn’t stop with the king and his people; it says that the Queen was feasting as well!  I can only imagine what that feast looked like; I would like to think equally as beautiful.

God always has a message to His story, often times more than one.   Darlene touched on a point that I had never thought of before.  How the story of the feast was a foreshadow to the feast with The King. Looking past the drunkenness and desire to impress others, we can have a peace that our King is going to care for us.

Revelation 19:7-10

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.

And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

I often like to look for the flaws in those who God has chosen to do His work. I need to be reminded that sometimes it takes a drunken king; sometimes it takes the niece of a lower palace employee to start something as beautiful as the story we are going to be reading over the next several weeks.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We need to remember this about King Ahasuerus, and remember this about ourselves. Everyone can do great things for the kingdom of God.

Every story, every lesson, and every message has a beginning.  The story of Esther begins here, with a feast.

*****

Let’s Pray:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for using stories like this to teach us.  Thank You for reminding us that every story has a beginning and that it doesn’t take perfect people to help create those stories. Thank You for creating lessons within Your lessons. Lord, through this study, please open our hearts and minds; there is so much to learn from these women and from Your Word.  In Jesus’ Name.

Amen