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Archive for the ‘Esther’ Category

It’s an age old question, why does God allow bad things to happen? 

What sometimes seems like a gift, can also be a curse. We’re volitional, we have the ability to make choices and those choices always have consequences. Obviously we live in a fallen world – cut off from Eden.  The consequences of Adam and Eve’s choices will be with us until we’re home, with the Father God.  Even when we walk under the covering of Christ, we’ll still have free choice and that means we can choose to walk OUT from under His covering as well.

There have been so many times in my life where I have begged God to keep someone in my life that was not in line with God’s will for me.  Thank God, literally, for certain (in my limited human eyes) unanswered prayers!  What seemed unanswered to me, was God lining my heart with His own.  Beth Moore says:

God not only sees the desires of our hearts but He looks straight to the heart of our desires. He knows when we’re asking – even accidentally – for a false Christ.

I am so grateful for His provision and providence – that He never left me where I was but always meets me where I am and lovingly stretches me to grow in Him. I think back to all of the celebrations I’ve had with Jesus and I ponder something…

Would I be able to celebrate victory if I’d not known the battle?

 If you read Judges 2:20-23 and 3:1-6 (the whole read is good but for my point…) it talks about how God used the nations to test Israel’s loyalty.  Because Israel failed to keep the covenant God made with their forefathers, God would use this time to teach them to become warriors. 
In Esther 4 Haman talks the king into decreeing the TOTAL annihilation of the Jews.  Once a Persian law is sent out, it can NOT be revoked. So when Esther reveals the betrayal of Haman and his evil plans for her people, King Xerxes can not revoke that decree.  In chapter 8 she asks him to but he will not.  He does however, give her free reign to draw up a new decree.  She and Mordecai make a new decree that all Jewish people have the right to defend themselves, to destroy and kill anyone who threatens them, their women or children.  The decree was sent out with HASTE even though there were months before this would take place….why such urgency?

Because they were common people, soft, not warriors!  They needed all of the time they could get to become capable warriors…to prepare for the fight of their lives, literally!

You and I are not unlike this, we’re soft. Not necessarily fighting the fight every day…yet we ARE fighting the fight everyday.  There is such a battle going on for you and I. We can’t, for a moment, stop training.

We can not, for one moment forget as warriors just who we fight with.  We are fighting along side the King of Kings!  His heart walks with ours.  When we fight in a godly way, with the foundation of Christ beneath us, beside us, within us – we can not lose!  Friends, fight for your marriage, fight for your kids, fight for your faith.

Yes, we live in a fallen world, bad things ARE going to happen.  Fight the good fight

It’s not enough to be content in our walks.  Sometimes we need a little godly discontentment…a little disruption in our lives to remind us that we’re in a battle.
We’re supposed to be encouraged by one another’s faith (Romans 1:12).  We are one body belonging to each other (Romans 12:4-5).
In John 20:21 Christ said, “As the Father sent me, I also send you.”
If we are not armed with the Word, we’ll always react out of self preservation. When we’re deep in the Word, the first reaction is to use the sword in battle.

So get out there and be the hands and feet of Christ! Fight like a warrior!

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Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger. Esther 1:12

We know from our study of Xerxes that there was abundant wine being served at his banquet. We’re reminded that this entire banquet was to show his greatness, his wealth and power.  So in his drunken state, he requests that his queen be brought out.  He ordered 7 eunuchs to fetch her. Picture the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen, all dressed in her royal diadem – Vashti was a living trophy of the king’s power and glory.  He wanted to show her off. 

We know that Vashti was hosting a banquet of her own. History tells us that Persian parties commonly included both genders so we can conclude that the segregation was obviously intentional.  Here she was hosting her own regal party when her husband, under the influence of free flowing wine, summons her.  Now we learn that she was not only competent and bold, but she was also strong willed. He didn’t just invite her, he summoned her – commanded her presense…and she refused!

Did you know that Vashti was the grand-daughter of King Nebuchadnezzar?  She, herself, had royal blood flowing through her beautiful veins. Do you think that his drunken summons was a personal affront to her dignity?  Perhaps.  Scripture is not clear on why Vashti refused her husband.  Yet, she must have known what could happen to her. As she stood her ground, she must have weighed the cost carefully.

Imagine his embarrassment and the huge blow to his ego when his queen refused him publically.  He now takes a personal deficiency to a new level, compounding the problem by making it a official matter – as he consults his advisors in what to do.  Isn’t this a perfect reason to remember the importance of the advisors we surround ourselves with?!  A decree is born out of that counsel and Vashti is to be deposed.  The irony of the matter is that the man who cannot rule his own wife is the all powerful ruler who demands that all subjects are to rule their wives. Imagine the power this gave the men of the kingdom in regard to their wives? We know just how powerful a decree like this could be, it makes me shudder to think about it.  Now it is possible that the culture was being threatened by badly behaving wives and the counsellors seized the moment to put their agenda forward!!!   So here Vashti stood up for her right and dignity and in doing so, she stripped all woman of their rights, possibly evoking harshness among the women in her kingdom.

Another irony is that the kings fear of a woman’s disrespect pushes him to use brute force to ensure respect for all men. We all know that nothing causes disrespect like force!

The king’s decree was sent out and could not be revoked.

On a side note – the commentary in my Bible says that Vashti was able to reassert her power and exercise a controlling influence over her son Artaxerxes during his following reign.  He came to the throne at the age of 18; therefore he was born c. 484/483.  This is the approximate time that Vashti was deposed.
She died in 424.

* I just want to make a note here that I am still working on this study – I will be posting soon on Mordecai and Esther so stay tuned – feel free to email me if you want to discuss this more. I LOVE Esther and have spent quite a bit of time researching this book in the Bible!

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Meet King Xerses

Let’s introduce ourselves to King Ahasueras (his Hebrew name).  Remember that Xerxes is the son of Darius the Great.  Darius had tried to conquer Greece.  He set 120, 000 soldiers against the Greeks. Darius was sure he would win this war.  However, Persia was not only beaten by a mere 11, 000 Greek soldiers, but it was badly pummeled!  The 120, 000 Persians were fighting for the king, but the 11, 000 Greeks were fighting for their lives and homes. This made King Darius furious and he immediately began preparing such an army and navy that there would be no chance to lose to the Greeks again!  Before he could relaunch a battle, he died and his son, Xerxes was made King.

The Persian empire in the year of 483 B.C. was a vast and very powerful empire.  This was the third year of Xerxes reign and the 35th year of his life. 

Esther 1:1-5
 1 This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush: 2 At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, 3 and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present. 4 For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. 5 When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king’s palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest, who were in the citadel of Susa.

The King is in the midst of a 6 month feast.  He was obviously a man of great wealth – even in today’s world, for a king to put on a great feast for 6 months would certainly have an awe inspiring affect!  It also suggests he was a smart man, using this feast to prepare for an attack on Greece, and to strategize! Notice v. 3, all who were in attendance.  Among others, military leaders were present. Remember that Greece was the only empire not under the thumb of the King.  He wanted Greece and he needed enormous support to get it!  Xerxes offered copious rewards to anyone who would help him conquer Athens – and it is thought that this feast was his way of showing that he could make good on his promises!

Look now at v. 6-8 
6 The garden had hangings of white and blue linen, fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other costly stones. 7 Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king’s liberality. 8 By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink in his own way, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.

 This is the scene, so rich in color and texture that it is beautiful to even think about!!!!  Now according to the Hebrew midrash, the marble pillars used in v. 6 had been removed from Solomon’s beautiful temple in Jerusalem and carried off by Nebuchadnezzar as part of the spoils almost a century earlier.

King Xerxes was a man that was used greatly by God – but was he a man of great character? Well, as Xerxes prepared his army, it is said that there were around 2 million men for this battle.  Imagine moving 2 million soldiers?  He was building a bridge across the Hellespont (which was almost a mile wide) when a storm came and destroyed his efforts. SO enraged was he, that he ordered the water to be whipped for daring to disobey him!  In another instance, his right hand man, his confidant and military leader had many sons.  He came to Xerxes and requested that one son stay behind, and take care of his wife and home.  Xerxes was so outraged at the request that he had the boy cut in two and ordered his entire army to march between each half of the boys’ broken body!

This was one very powerful, and spoiled man. He was used to getting what he wanted!

Enter Queen Vashti.  Esther 1:10 – 12 He requests his wife to join him, and she refuses. Imagine his embarrassment!!  Who was this woman; to stand against a tyrant, a king?  We’ll meet Vashti next!

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I’m sorry to have postponed my posting about Esther but as I studied, I felt it was important to give a very brief time line so it could help us to understand Esther better. Please note that all dates are B.C.   I wanted to post this before I began on all of the character sketches.

Joseph was sold by his brothers in 1898 BC.  You can find reference to Joseph and his jealous brothers in Genesis 37. Gen. 37:36 Joseph was sold to Potiphar, one of the Pharoah’s officials. Gen. 39:2 says “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered…”  However, Potiphar’s wife tried to lure him into bed with her.  He refused and she became angered and accused him of trying to sleep with her – she lied to her husband and he was enraged.   Joseph was confined to prison. Gen. 39: 20 says that “While Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him”  Gen. 40: starting at v. 7 Joseph interprets the dreams of two of the Pharoah’s officials.  Later Joseph begins to interpret dreams of the Pharoah In Gen. 41: 39 the Pharoah is so pleased with Joseph that he gives him charge over Egypt. If you continue to read through Genesis, you’ll see that Joseph’s brothers had to come to Egypt to buy grain from the brother whom they had sold into slavery.  He is able to provide for his family.

The book of Judges fits in here telling about the judges of Israel.

In Exodus you can read about the death of Joseph and a new king to rule; a Pharoah who did not know Joseph.  Ex. 1:8 explains how the new Pharoah was threatened by the Israelites and oppressed them and worked them hard.  Now Moses was born in captivity in 1526 BC and God protected him from the decree to kill all male babies.  Israel was captive in Egypt Moses was commanded by God to tell the Pharoah to let the Israelites go.  This is the time when the 10 plagues take place; and Israel was released.  At God’s command, Moses met with Him on Mount Sinai.  There God gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20) and many other laws that revealed His holy nature and standards.  (Ex. 19-31).  When Moses was a long time returning from the mountain, the Israelites persuaded Aaron to make a golden calf, which they began to worship as their deliverer from Egypt.  (Ex. 32).  God dealt with this idolatry, and over a period of about two years, guided them in their formation as a nation with a God-given way of worshipping Him and God-given social laws.  According to Num. 13 and 14, at that point, from near the border of the Promised Land, 12 men were sent to explore the land of Canaan.  Ten of the 12 came back with such a frightening report that Israel refused to try to conquer the land.  For a total of 40 years, Israel wandered in the desert, until the entire generation that had rebelled against God’s command and promise had died.  Only Joshua and Caleb, the two explorers who had returned with a faith-based report, survived. 

   The Israelites wandered for 40 years (from 1446 – 1406). You can read about the death of Joseph and the release from Egypt as well as the wonderings at the end of Genesis and into Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. 

If you read 1 Samuel , this is where Hannah cried out to God to open her womb and he did, and gave her Samuel (this is around  1105 BC).  Her promise was that if God would open her womb, she would dedicate the child to God (1 Samuel 1:11).   When Samuel was about 3 or 4, she took him and gave him to Eli the priest – gave him to God.  Samuel lived there with Eli and learned about God.  When Samuel heard the voice of God for the first time, he was believed to be around 12 years old. I find this really interesting because Jesus was 12 years old when he was left behind and found (after 3 days) in the temple, talking to teachers and growing in wisdom. The reason I find this interesting is because of the age of 12.  Having a boy who is just older than 12, it speaks something to me about how at this age (where we are as a family); a boy comes to a place where he must begin to really seek a relationship with Christ.  This is my own personal feeling, not referenced in the Bible.

Israel asks for a king and in 1043 BC, King Saul began to rule.  After that was King David, and then King Solomon.  In 931 there was a division of the kingdom, north being Israel and south being Judah where Jerusalem was located.

Because Israel and Judah continued to prostitute themselves with idolatry, God disciplined them by giving them over to the domination of powerful foreign nations.  In 722 BC, Israel was conquered by Assyria.  In 605 BC, the first of three increasingly disastrous encounters between Judah and Babylon took place, the second happening in 597 BC and the third and most devastating in 586 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city of Jerusalem, including Solomon’s Temple.  In all three encounters, many Jews were deported to Babylon.  In 538, about 70 years after the first deportation to Babylon, King Cyrus permits Jews to return to homelands and Zerubabbel leads the first return. The second group returns in 458 and the last group returns in 432 under Nehemiah.

King Cyrus ruled in 559 – 530.  Cyrus had a daughter named Atossa.  Atossa married Darius the Mede.  Darius the Great was made king in 522 – 486. King Xerxes took over in 486 – 465.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of the journey of the Israelites. It should explain to you what all those Jews were doing over there in the first place!

Now we are ready to dive into Esther!!!  Please join me in a journey of one orphan girl and how God used her to change the course of the world!! In the book of Esther, the name of the Lord is not used once but be assured, His imprint rests in every turn.  I hope this study will make history come alive for you and that by the end, you’ll share my passion for this book and the young woman who began as Hadassah!

~ Thank you to my Beloved Tina and to Marjorie for their help in putting this together! ~

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Wait a minute…

Okay, so true to me – I can’t do anything half way!  I started writing with a sketch of Xerxes but decided to go back to his father, Darius; and then to Darius’ wife’s father, Cyrus…then I got ALL excited and decided I had to dig deeper!!!!  I’m working on a time line of the Israelites so I can try to put things into perspective and give you an idea of the time of the happenings.  SO, I’m not going to post my first part of Esther today…please know I’m working on it.  Stick with me!

Laurel

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Book of Esther

Hi friends.  I wanted to invite you to join me on a journey into history to visit a book in the Bible that has mesmerized me!  It’s a very special book.  Not once is God’s name mentioned…but His Providence is so evident that every time I read it, He gives me a new truth that just knocks my socks off!  It is also a whole book about a woman, named after a woman.  Since the heart of my ministry is for woman, I find that pretty exciting!!!! 

You guessed it, I’m talking about Esther!

I did start posting before, on Esther but I’ve pulled all 5 of those posts to rewrite them, and add some of the amazing truths I’m gaining this time around!!!  

I know my excitement will shine through in all of my posts.  I just hope you’ll get as excited as I am, as you walk along side me in this amazing journey!

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I have mentioned this many times here…it seems to be becoming a bit of a theme in my life. I thought I’d share it, in more depth, with you.   There is something stirring in me as He nudges me on to move from feeling, to truth and revelation – into Him.

Moving from Emotion into Faith, what does this mean?  Well, anyone who knows me knows that I am very tender hearted.  I am very emotional.  I feel things deeply and for the most part, I’m not afraid to show it.  It is easy for me to share my heart and I’m definitely blessed with the gift of prayer and encouragement.  These same feelings and emotions make me a very passionate person.  When I love someone, I love them passionately. When I defend someone, it’s with passion. When I believe in something, a passionate fire burns in my heart and I don’t mind working hard for something I believe in, am loyal to.

However, it can also be a weakness.  All of my young life, my emotions controlled me.  I would feel something deeply and have no idea how to use that or reel it in or when the timing was right to keep it to myself. Proverbs 29:11 A fool vents his feelings, But a wise man holds them back.   When you rely on your emotions and feelings, you can easily be lead astray from the truth…not to mention the fact that it is easy to get hurt feelers and dwell on them when you can’t see past what you feel.

We aren’t to allow our emotions or heart feelings to lead us.  We are to grab onto those emotions (which are God given), bind them with the truth of the Word and move into faith; and then into action for HIM.  All for Him, all the time.  I used to be embarrassed about how emotional I am, I used to try to hide it.  Isaiah 49: 16  God has etched me upon the palms of His hands, He knew me before I was conceived (Acts 17:26) – He made me the way I am.  He wrote upon the tablet of my heart, autographed my heart (2 Corinthians 3:3).  I know that these emotions and passion come from Him. Rather than trying to hide or deny them, I need to embrace them and apply the Word and truth to them so that I can use them to bring glory to God. Isn’t that what He asks of us?

When we look to Phil. 4:8, we are asked to think on the truths. Am I the only one who is tempted to think I can’t possibly do something?  Yet the Word tells us that we can do all things through Him.  When I am afraid that God has forgotten about me, my requests or my future – (Jer. 29:11) He has thoughts of peace and hope for my future.  He has not given us a spirit of fear (1 Timothy 1:7).  Isa. 49: 15 I will not forget you. When I am tempted to think I can not conquer something in my life, or get thru a storm, Romans 8:37  reminds us that we are MORE than conquerors through Him.  Those are the truths.

Jeremiah 33:3 Call to Me, I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.

Move from Emotion into Faith.  This means do not allow your heart to lead you. Do not rely on your feelings to tell you how to handle any given situation.  Move from what you feel, into what is real.  I must warn you, it takes training and time.  As you learn to look past what you are feeling, what your emotions are dictating to you – and you move into where God wants you, you will grow in Him. Stop relying on what you are feeling, and move into what His word is revealing.  From there, you can move from Faith into Action – from believing the Word, to following the Word and into action for Christ.  That is what it means.

Over a year ago, when studying Esther, I asked God to show me how to move from emotion into faith.  Oh dear friends, He heard me!!  He has given me more chances to practice this in the past year, than I had hoped when I asked 😉  However, this past year has also been a year of maturing and growing in Christ.

May you feel the gentle breeze of the spirit over your heart today as He reveals to you how to move from emotion into faith.

Other posts you might be interested in: What so ever things  are true.  Thinking the Truths About Others 

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