Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflections on Job 10

 Job 10 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. I am sick of life! And from my deep despair, I complain to you, my God.
  2. Don't just condemn me! Point out my sin.
  3. Why do you take such delight in destroying those you created and in smiling on sinners?
  4. Do you look at things the way we humans do?
  5. Is your life as short as ours?
  6. Is that why you are so quick to find fault with me?
  7. You know I am innocent, but who can defend me against you?
  8. Will you now destroy someone you created?
  9. Remember that you molded me like a piece of clay. So don't turn me back into dust once again.
  10. As cheese is made from milk, you created my body from a tiny drop.
  11. Then you tied my bones together with muscles and covered them with flesh and skin.
  12. You, the source of my life, showered me with kindness and watched over me.
  13. You have not explained all of your mysteries,
  14. but you catch and punish me each time I sin.
  15. Guilty or innocent, I am condemned and ashamed because of my troubles.
  16. No matter how hard I try, you keep hunting me down like a powerful lion.
  17. You never stop accusing me; you become furious and attack over and over again.
  18. Why did you let me be born? I would rather have died before birth
  19. and been carried to the grave without ever breathing.
  20. I have only a few days left. Why don't you leave me alone? Let me find some relief,
  21. before I travel to the land
  22. of darkness and despair, the place of no return.

Job was becoming bolder in his complaint against God, maybe moving into the anger stage of his grief. He decided to confront God and demand that He declare Job's guilt and why He was doing this to Job. Even though God knew he was not a wicked person, He was acting capriciously as would a human. If indeed Job felt this way and was not just slinging accusations out of anger, then he must have been taking his life in his own hands and striking out at God expecting God to respond by taking his life.

As Job continued in his challenge to God, he reminded God that as his maker He had a responsibility to the one He made. Responsibility to preserve rather than to destroy the life He had made: "Please remember that You formed me like clay. Will You now return me to dust?" (10:9) Then he turned to accusing God of having a hidden plan in which He stalked him like a lion watching his every move ready to pounce on him when he messed up. And what could Job do about it? Even though he was righteous he was powerless against God.

Then Job returned to his death theme. He opened his challenge against God by saying he was disgusted with his life and then launched his accusations as if he had a death wish. Now he repeated what he had voiced earlier,"Why did You bring me out of the womb? I should have died and never been seen." (10:18) But he had been born and was now suffering immensely. So just let him die. But before he died he had a wish: "Stop it! Leave me alone, so that I can smile a little before I go to a land of darkness and gloom, never to return." (10:20-21)

Job still had not cursed God and turned away from him. He recognized God as God, and though he felt that God was being unfair with him, he was in God's hands for Him to do with as He saw fit.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reflections on Job 9

 Job 09 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Job said:
  2. What you say is true. No human is innocent in the sight of God.
  3. Not once in a thousand times could we win our case if we took him to court.
  4. God is wise and powerful-- who could possibly oppose him and win?
  5. When God becomes angry, he can move mountains before they even know it.
  6. God can shake the earth loose from its foundations
  7. or command the sun and stars to hold back their light.
  8. God alone stretched out the sky, stepped on the sea,
  9. and set the stars in place-- the Big Dipper and Orion, the Pleiades and the stars in the southern sky.
  10. Of all the miracles God works, we cannot understand a one.
  11. God walks right past me, without making a sound.
  12. And if he grabs something, who can stop him or raise a question?
  13. When God showed his anger, the servants of the sea monster fell at his feet.
  14. How, then, could I possibly argue my case with God?
  15. Even though I am innocent, I can only beg for mercy.
  16. And if God came into court when I called him, he would not hear my case.
  17. He would strike me with a storm and increase my injuries for no reason at all.
  18. Before I could get my breath, my miseries would multiply.
  19. God is much stronger than I am, and who would call me into court to give me justice?
  20. Even if I were innocent, God would prove me wrong.
  21. I am not guilty, but I no longer care what happens to me.
  22. What difference does it make? God destroys the innocent along with the guilty.
  23. When a good person dies a sudden death, God sits back and laughs.
  24. And who else but God blindfolds the judges, then lets the wicked take over the earth?
  25. My life is speeding by, without a hope of happiness.
  26. Each day passes swifter than a sailing ship or an eagle swooping down.
  27. Sometimes I try to be cheerful and to stop complaining,
  28. but my sufferings frighten me, because I know that God still considers me guilty.
  29. So what's the use of trying to prove my innocence?
  30. Even if I washed myself with the strongest soap,
  31. God would throw me into a pit of stinking slime, leaving me disgusting to my clothes.
  32. God isn't a mere human like me. I can't put him on trial.
  33. Who could possibly judge between the two of us?
  34. Can someone snatch away the stick God carries to frighten me?
  35. Then I could speak up without fear of him, but for now, I cannot speak.

Though Job agreed in his reply to Bildad that the wicked perish, he maintained his own innocence. But what good was his innocence when there was no way for him to defend himself against God? God is wise and all-powerful. "Who has opposed Him and come out unharmed?" (9:4)

Though Job had no doubts about God's existence or His might, he was not convinced, at least after his losses, of God's justice. God, he said, "destroys both the blameless and the wicked." (9:22) He went so far as to say that God "mocks the despair of the innocent," and hands the earth over to the wicked. Did he really believe this, or was it his grief speaking? He had felt before his losses that God accepted his sin offerings. But following his losses God didn't seem too just.

Job felt mistreated by God and saw no reason to keep quiet about it. If he were to forget his complaint and put on a smile as if everything between him and God were okay, he would still live in fear of what God would do to him next. What was the use in pretending he had no complaint against God as if God might treat him better, God would find him guilty. Even if he were to clean himself up on the outside to depict his inward purity, God would still, "dip me in a pit of mud." (9:31)

Job needed someone who could mediate between himself and God, but he had no one. He was on is own. We have Jesus to mediate for us, but he did not. His plight seemed hopeless.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Reflections on Job 8

 Job 08 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Bildad from Shuah said:
  2. How long will you talk and keep saying nothing?
  3. Does God All-Powerful stand in the way of justice?
  4. He made your children pay for their sins.
  5. So why don't you turn to him
  6. and start living right? Then he will decide to rescue and restore you to your place of honor.
  7. Your future will be brighter by far than your past.
  8. Our ancestors were wise, so learn from them.
  9. Our own time has been short, like a fading shadow, and we know very little.
  10. But they will instruct you with great understanding.
  11. Papyrus reeds grow healthy only in a swamp,
  12. and if the water dries up, they die sooner than grass.
  13. Such is the hopeless future of all who turn from God
  14. and trust in something as frail as a spider's web--
  15. they take hold and fall because it's so flimsy.
  16. Sinful people are like plants with spreading roots and plenty of sun and water.
  17. They wrap their roots tightly around rocks.
  18. But once they are pulled up, they have no more place;
  19. their life slips away, and other plants grow there.
  20. We know God doesn't reject an innocent person or help a sinner.
  21. And so, he will make you happy and give you something to smile about.
  22. But your evil enemies will be put to shame and disappear forever.

Job's second friend, Bildad, now enters the discussion. Bildad held the same viewpoint as Eliphaz but was harsher in his assertions. He was characteristic of one who is insecure in his faith, needing a system that is black and white with no gray areas in which lie questions for which answers are not forthcoming. For him it is simple: there is only one reason for suffering and it is sin on the part of the sufferer. To have someone challenge his black and white system angers him for it represents a threat to his system and thus to his faith. But his faith is built more on his system than on God. Thus he is unable to leave the unanswered questions to God's sovereignty. He must have an answer or his system crumbles along with his faith.

So, by the time Job finished his speech in chapters 6 and 7, Bildad was indignant. How dare Job, who was obviously a sinner, speak out against God's justice! Therefore, Bildad opened his speech by characterizing Job's words as a "blast of wind." They had force but lacked substance. Bildad then seems to say, "Let's not mince words," as he goes on to say (in affect), "Your children got what they deserved. They sinned and God 'gave them over to their rebellion.'" (8:4)

At least Bildad offered hope to Job saying that things could still be turned around. God, in His mercy, would restore what Job had lost if he would "earnestly seek God and ask the Almighty for mercy." (8:5) To lend authority to his words, Bildad referenced the previous generation. If Job were to ask them, they would supposedly verify what Bildad was saying. However, Bildad did not point to any specific source or words of wisdom. It was merely a suggestion that his advise was based in well-established wisdom.

Next, Bildad drew upon nature to illustrate his cause-and-effect thinking. As papyrus dies without water, so sin leads to suffering. Job's source of confidence in thinking there is another cause for his suffering was like trying to lean upon a spider's web for stability. It does not hold up. And then he brought his point home, "God does not reject a person of integrity, and He will not support evildoers." In other words, "You, Job, are not a person of integrity but rather an evildoer." God is not unjust so Job's suffering had to be his own fault.

It is true. God is not unjust. But it is misguided to cling to assumed explanations simply because we otherwise don't understand what is happening. It is okay to lean on God's sovereignty and trust that He is just and His reasons are good even though we don't understand. We don't have to have an explanation. We merely need to trust God. It is as we persevere through the times of testing in which we have no answers that we eventually come to understand God's reasons for our circumstances. We are not helped by the manufactured explanations, for they will eventually fall apart, tearing down rather than building up our faith.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Reflections on Job 7

 Job 07 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Why is life so hard? Why do we suffer?
  2. We are slaves in search of shade; we are laborers longing for our wages.
  3. God has made my days drag on and my nights miserable.
  4. I pray for night to end, but it stretches out while I toss and turn.
  5. My parched skin is covered with worms, dirt, and sores,
  6. and my days are running out quicker than the thread of a fast-moving needle.
  7. I beg you, God, don't forget! My life is just a breath, and trouble lies ahead.
  8. I will vanish from sight, and no one, including you, will ever see me again.
  9. I will disappear in the grave or vanish from sight like a passing cloud.
  10. Never will I return home; soon I will be forgotten.
  11. And so, I cry out to you in agony and distress.
  12. Am I the sea or a sea monster? Is that why you imprison me?
  13. I go to bed, hoping for rest,
  14. but you torture me with terrible dreams.
  15. I'd rather choke to death than live in this body.
  16. Leave me alone and let me die; my life has no meaning.
  17. What makes you so concerned about us humans?
  18. Why do you test us from sunrise to sunset?
  19. Won't you look away just long enough for me to swallow?
  20. Why do you watch us so closely? What's it to you, if I sin? Why am I your target and such a heavy burden?
  21. Why do you refuse to forgive? Soon you won't find me, because I'll be dead.

Job now turned his comments to God. His life was rapidly coming to an end, so it seemed, with no hope in sight, so he was going to complain to God without restraint. His life was miserable. He felt like a slave who longs for the day to end so he can rest, but in Job's case there was no rest at night. He tossed and turned until dawn without sleep to give him escape from his misery. His skin formed scabs and oozed while maggots ate the dead flesh.

Job's life would soon be over. He would go to the grave never to return and any memory of him would soon fade away. He saw no reason to keep struggling with life and wanted to just give up and be finished with it. He wished God would just leave him alone. Why, anyway, did God think so highly of man that He paid so much attention to him, watching him every moment of the day and putting him to the test? Why didn't God look away from him long enough to allow him to swallow without being scrutinized?

He now asked God what he had asked of his friends, "If I have sinned, what have I done?" Rather than continue his suffering, why didn't God show him his sin and pardon him before he died? Soon he would be gone with no opportunity left for forgiveness.

Though Job was ready to give up and have his life end, he did not curse God. He had no doubt his suffering came from God, and though he complained that God was bringing this suffering on him, he did not question God's sovereignty in doing with him as He wished. Job just wanted it to be over.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Reflections on Job 6

 Job 06 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Job said:
  2. It's impossible to weigh my misery and grief!
  3. They outweigh the sand along the beach, and that's why I have spoken without thinking first.
  4. The fearsome arrows of God All-Powerful have filled my soul with their poison.
  5. Do oxen and wild donkeys cry out in distress unless they are hungry?
  6. What is food without salt? What is more tasteless than the white of an egg?
  7. That's how my food tastes, and my appetite is gone.
  8. How I wish that God would answer my prayer
  9. and do away with me.
  10. Then I would be comforted, knowing that in all of my pain I have never disobeyed God.
  11. Why should I patiently hope when my strength is gone?
  12. I am not strong as stone or bronze,
  13. and I have finally reached the end of my rope.
  14. My friends, I am desperate, and you should help me, even if I no longer respect God All-Powerful.
  15. But you are treacherous
  16. as streams that swell with melting snow,
  17. then suddenly disappear in the summer heat.
  18. I am like a caravan, lost in the desert while searching for water.
  19. Caravans from Tema and Sheba
  20. thought they would find water. But they were disappointed,
  21. just as I am with you. Only one look at my suffering, and you run away scared.
  22. Have I ever asked any of you to give me a gift
  23. or to purchase my freedom from brutal enemies?
  24. What have I done wrong? Show me, and I will keep quiet.
  25. The truth is always painful, but your arguments prove nothing.
  26. Here I am desperate, and you consider my words as worthless as wind.
  27. Why, you would sell an orphan or your own neighbor!
  28. Look me straight in the eye; I won't lie to you.
  29. Stop accusing me falsely; my reputation is at stake.
  30. I know right from wrong, and I am not telling lies.

Job now responded to his friend Eliphaz who accused him of sin as the reason for his suffering. Eliphaz did not point to any specific sin for which Job was guilty for he didn't know of any. But to him, the presence of Job's suffering was the evidence of sin.

Job began his response by crediting his rash words to the weight of his devastation. Suffering and rash words were linked just as bland food is linked to distaste for the food. Job did not ask to be restored to health and wealth but simply for God to cut him lose from life and let him die. He could die comforted in the knowledge that he had not "denied the words of the Holy One." (6:10) In his condition he had no strength to help himself so he felt all hope for success had been banished from him.

Job claimed innocence from wrong doing, but not so with his friends. A man should be able to expect loyalty from his friends even if he were to abandon God, but this was not the case with these friends by his side. They were as treacherous as a wadi whose supply of water vanishes when needed the most. Seeing Job in his condition, they were afraid, but of what? Had he asked anything of them?

Of what was Job guilty? Eliphaz had accused him of sin which he thought to be the cause of Job's suffering. But what was the sin? Job challenged him to point out the sin. He would remain silent while Eliphaz did so. Though it would be painful to hear, he would listen. But since Eliphaz had not shown his sin, his rebuke was meaningless. He treated Job's words as "mere wind," blowing past him without meaning.

Though Job denied any wrongdoing, Eliphaz ignored it. So he challenged Eliphaz to look him in the face and reconsider if he wasn't telling the truth. After all, his righteousness was the issue here. If he was guilty of sin, he was also lying. But if he wasn't lying, neither was he guilty of sin.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Reflections on Job 5

 Job 05(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Job, call out for help and see if an angel comes!
  2. Envy and jealousy will kill a stupid fool.
  3. I have seen fools take root. But God sends a curse, suddenly uprooting them
  4. and leaving their children helpless in court.
  5. Then hungry and greedy people gobble down their crops and grab up their wealth.
  6. Our suffering isn't caused by the failure of crops;
  7. it's all part of life, like sparks shooting skyward.
  8. Job, if I were you, I would ask God for help.
  9. His miracles are marvelous, more than we can count.
  10. God sends showers on earth and waters the fields.
  11. He protects the sorrowful and lifts up those who have been disgraced.
  12. God swiftly traps the wicked
  13. in their own evil schemes, and their wisdom fails.
  14. Darkness is their only companion, hiding their path at noon.
  15. God rescues the needy from the words of the wicked and the fist of the mighty.
  16. The poor are filled with hope, and injustice is silenced.
  17. Consider yourself fortunate if God All-Powerful chooses to correct you.
  18. He may cause injury and pain, but he will bandage and heal your cuts and bruises.
  19. God will protect you from harm, no matter how often trouble may strike.
  20. In times of war and famine, God will keep you safe.
  21. You will be sheltered, without fear of hurtful words or any other weapon.
  22. You will laugh at the threat of destruction and famine. And you won't be afraid of wild animals--
  23. they will no longer be fierce, and your rocky fields will become friendly.
  24. Your home will be secure, and your sheep will be safe.
  25. You will have more descendants than there are blades of grass on the face of the earth.
  26. You will live a long life, and your body will be strong until the day you die.
  27. Our experience has proven these things to be true, so listen and learn.

Eliphaz continued his first speech and Job must be commended for his extreme patience in not interrupting him to defend himself against such pompous assumptions. Eliphaz elevated his assumptions to claims of fact which he claimed to have learned through experience. As he continued in his speech he suggested that a fool was taking root in Job but the fool was Eliphaz himself for presuming so much without inquiring in more depth into Job's situation or seeking counsel from God. He reversed the wise counsel found in James 1:19, "everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak." Instead, Eliphaz was quick to speak and slow to listen.

Having suggested Job was a fool in the making, Eliphaz went on to say that "trouble does not sprout from the ground." (5:6) In other words, Job had brought on his own trouble because of sin. There was, in Eliphaz's mind a direct cause and effect relationship between sin and trouble. As in, "where there is smoke there is also fire", so "where there is trouble there is also sin." Such was Eliphaz's reasoning. Jesus dispelled this thinking in Luke 13 when some people reported something bad that had happened. Of those to whom the bad happened, He said to those who reported it, "do you think they were more sinful than all the people who live in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well!" (Luke 13:4-5) Whether good or bad happens, we all alike are sinners. The idea that those for whom good is happening are without sin and those experiencing trouble are suffering for their sin is simplistic thinking and incorrect theology. But for those who need an explanation for things, it offers a neat and logical explanation for complex circumstances. Had God Himself told Eliphaz that Job's suffering were a result of a bargain He made with Satan and not a result of Job's sin, Eliphaz would probably still not have accepted it. It was too far outside his reasoned explanation for things.

The only recourse for Job, said Eliphaz, was to "appeal to God" and present his case to Him. (5:8) Here Eliphaz's counsel is sound. It is never inappropriate to go to God with our trouble for He does set, "the lowly on high, and mourners are lifted to safety." (5:11) It is true also that those who accept God's correction are made happy as God puts them back on the right path, as Eliphaz told Job. The only problem is that he misapplied this truth with Job in his assumption that Job had sinned and was being disciplined by God.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Reflections on Job 4

 Job 04 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Eliphaz from Teman said:
  2. Please be patient and listen to what I have to say.
  3. Remember how your words
  4. have guided and encouraged many in need.
  5. But now you feel discouraged when struck by trouble.
  6. You respect God and live right, so don't lose hope!
  7. No truly innocent person has ever died young.
  8. In my experience, only those who plant seeds of evil harvest trouble,
  9. and then they are swept away by the angry breath of God.
  10. They may roar and growl like powerful lions. But when God breaks their teeth,
  11. they starve, and their children are scattered.
  12. A secret was told to me in a faint whisper--
  13. I was overcome by sleep, but disturbed by dreams;
  14. I trembled with fear,
  15. and my hair stood on end, as a wind blew past my face.
  16. It stopped and stood still. Then a form appeared-- a shapeless form. And from the silence, I heard a voice say,
  17. "No humans are innocent in the eyes of God their Creator.
  18. He finds fault with his servants and even with his angels.
  19. Humans are formed from clay and are fragile as moths, so what chance do you have?
  20. Born after daybreak, you die before nightfall and disappear forever.
  21. Your tent pegs are pulled up, and you leave this life, having gained no wisdom."

Not only had Job lost everything - possessions and family and health, now he must listen to his friends berate him. In effect, he had also lost his friends. He had no one to offer comfort and consolation. He was entirely alone except for God, and he no doubt felt distanced from Him as well, for though he did not curse God he was convinced his suffering came from God and he did not know why.

As we begin to see in this first round of speeches from Job's friends, they held to the theology that suffering is always a result of one's sin. An erroneous theology held by many and which is shown to be erroneous in Job's experience. Eliphaz was the first friend to speak following Job's rant about not being born and was probably shocked by what Job had said. He wasted no time striking out at Job saying in effect, "you who have helped and encouraged others in their suffering cannot help yourself now that this has happened to you." Yes, Job had encouraged others who were suffering, now why was Eliphaz not encouraging Job? Instead he criticized him for not being able to comfort himself. What a friend!

Having made this jab at Job, Eliphaz drew back to take a full swing at him, beginning to lay out his case that suffering is the result of one's sin. He approached it with the question, "who has perished when he was innocent?" A question he assumed could only be answered in the negative. Then he drew upon the supposed authority of his experience. But experience is only as good as our understanding of it. Unless we seek to understand God's perspective on our experiences what we learn from them can be false. Eliphaz's experience told him that, "those who plow injustice and those who sow trouble reap the same." And this, he was saying, was Job's problem. He had plowed injustice and was now reaping the same. But the only evidence of Job's injustice was his suffering which Eliphaz wrongly assumed could only be a result of sin. What a low blow to be so unjustly accused by your friend!

Eliphaz first drew upon the authority of his experience, now he would draw upon a supposed higher authority by suggesting he had received a vision. From where this vision came is elusive. It was a word whispered in his ear in secret at night, "when deep sleep descends on men." In this vision a figure stood before him that he could not recognize and spoke to him in a quiet voice saying: "Can a person be more righteous than God, or a man more pure than his Maker?" (4:17) He seems to be saying that Job, who was not more righteous than God, had no right to be speaking to God as he had. If a man suffers it is his own fault and he should not be blaming God. If Job persisted in these actions he would "die without wisdom." No doubt Job would get the wisdom he needed, though, if he would just listen to Eliphaz.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Reflections on Job 3

 Job 03(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Finally, Job cursed the day of his birth
  2. by saying to God:
  3. Blot out the day of my birth and the night when my parents created a son.
  4. Forget about that day, cover it with darkness,
  5. and send thick, gloomy shadows to fill it with dread.
  6. Erase that night from the calendar and conceal it with darkness.
  7. Don't let children be created or joyful shouts be heard ever again in that night.
  8. Let those with magic powers place a curse on that day.
  9. Darken its morning stars and remove all hope of light,
  10. because it let me be born into a world of trouble.
  11. Why didn't I die at birth?
  12. Why was I accepted and allowed to nurse at my mother's breast?
  13. Now I would be at peace in the silent world below
  14. with kings and their advisors whose palaces lie in ruins,
  15. and with rulers once rich with silver and gold.
  16. I wish I had been born dead and then buried, never to see the light of day.
  17. In the world of the dead, the wicked and the weary rest without a worry.
  18. Everyone is there--
  19. where captives and slaves are free at last.
  20. Why does God let me live when life is miserable and so bitter?
  21. I keep longing for death more than I would seek a valuable treasure.
  22. Nothing could make me happier than to be in the grave.
  23. Why do I go on living when God has me surrounded, and I can't see the road?
  24. Moaning and groaning are my food and drink,
  25. and my worst fears have all come true.
  26. I have no peace or rest-- only troubles and worries.

Chapter 3 is a rant by Job, disparaging the day he was born. Initially he questioned why the light of day had even shown on the particular day he was born. In effect, he was calling for a reversal of creation. In the beginning there was only darkness until God spoke light into existence and the darkness was dispelled, separating light from darkness. The light was called 'day' and the dark, 'night.' Job wanted the day he was born to be reclaimed by the darkness as if it had never existed, and therefore never appeared in the calendar.

Job expressed a similar sentiment in a couple of additional ways. In the first he wished "no joyful shout" had been heard on the night of his birth expressing joy over the birth of a son as if it had never happened.  Then he called for a curse by those who give a curse on certain days, casting a spell on it so daylight would never shine on it. Obviously, the day of Job's birth had happened and there he was in great suffering and agony. So he shifted his complaint. He had been born - it was a reality. But why hadn't he been stillborn, or why had there been breasts to nurse him, allowing him to survive infancy? But this, too, was a futile rant for he still sat by the ash heap in agony.

Next, he let his mind wander to the benefits of death. In death, he said, there is peace and sleep. In death he could join the company of the great people who have lived in a fate that comes to all. In death, rather than suffering the shame of poverty and the rejection of society due to his disease, he would share in the same existence as nobility. But then he digressed to again decry his birth asking, "why was I not hidden like a miscarried child?" And then he returned to the benefits of death where the wicked make no trouble, the weary find rest, and there is no oppression.

In Job's last round of ranting in this chapter he questioned why one whose existence is bitter and who wishes for death if refused the joy they could find in death? "Why," he asked, "is life given to a man whose path is hidden, whom God has hedged in?" (3:23) Satan had told God that He had Job hedged in, protecting him from harm. Here Job considered himself to be hedged in by God, but sees it as a restriction from enjoying life because of his suffering.

Job stated in verse 25 that "the thing I feared has overtaken me, and what I dreaded has happened to me." Though we cannot be certain of Job's meaning here, a couple of leading options would be:
  • In his prosperity he had a concern that adversity might overtake him and he would no longer enjoy the comforts he once had.
  • Or, he might have been saying that once adversity struck the first time he feared it would lead to further adversity, which had occurred to the point of losing his health besides losing all he had.
This is one of the downsides of prosperity. There is no guarantee it will last and continually offer security. But then, security looks different to the one who trusts in what he has than it does to the one whose trust is in God. Security based on sufficiency of possessions is based on never having to do without. But, of course, this is a false sense of security since there is no guarantee against loss of possessions, and possessions will not protect one from loss of health or of life. The one who trusts in prosperity is truly insecure and vulnerable. He has good reason to be afraid.

On the other hand, the one whose trust is in God has a very different perspective on security. While such a one looks to God to provide what is needed and to keep them from loss of health and life, their security is in God keeping them, period, and not in what He can keep them from. For He does not promise to keep us from the losses of this life. For the one whose trust is in God, He alone is sufficient. For if He allows the ultimate loss to come, the loss of life, He has for them an eternal life that is far richer than anything this life offers. The one whose trust is in the provisions of this life has no other life to anticipate beyone this life. Death, for them, is more suffering.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Reflections on Job 2

 Job 02 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. When the angels gathered around the LORD again, Satan was there with them,
  2. and the LORD asked, "Satan, where have you been?" Satan replied, "I have been going all over the earth."
  3. Then the LORD asked, "What do you think of my servant Job? No one on earth is like him--he is a truly good person, who respects me and refuses to do evil. And he hasn't changed, even though you persuaded me to destroy him for no reason."
  4. Satan answered, "There's no pain like your own. People will do anything to stay alive.
  5. Try striking Job's own body with pain, and he will curse you to your face."
  6. "All right!" the LORD replied. "Make Job suffer as much as you want, but just don't kill him."
  7. Satan left and caused painful sores to break out all over Job's body--from head to toe.
  8. Then Job sat on the ash-heap to show his sorrow. And while he was scraping his sores with a broken piece of pottery,
  9. his wife asked, "Why do you still trust God? Why don't you curse him and die?"
  10. Job replied, "Don't talk like a fool! If we accept blessings from God, we must accept trouble as well." In all that happened, Job never once said anything against God.
  11. Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuah, and Zophar from Naamah were three of Job's friends, and they heard about his troubles. So they agreed to visit Job and comfort him.
  12. When they came near enough to see Job, they could hardly recognize him. And in their great sorrow, they tore their clothes, then sprinkled dust on their heads and cried bitterly.
  13. For seven days and nights, they sat silently on the ground beside him, because they realized what terrible pain he was in.

In short order, Job lost everything while his integrity remained intact. He did not curse God with his losses as Satan predicted. He merely said, "The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Praise the name of the LORD." (1:21) Now, in chapter 2, Satan again approached God and God again brought up to him Job's integrity saying of Job, "He still retains his integrity, even though you incited Me against him, to destroy him without just cause." (2:3) Job's integrity was greater than Satan anticipated. He is not an infallible being as crafty as he may be.

Satan was not ready to give up, though. "A man will give up everything he owns in exchange for his life. But stretch out Your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse You to Your face." (2:4-5) God knew Job and was confident that he would remain faithful, so He said to Satan, "Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life." (2:6)

Again, Satan wasted no time striking Job. This time he "infected Job with incurable boils from the sole of his foot to the top of his head." (2:7) The next scene had Job sitting among the ashes, scraping himself with broken pottery, in tremendous suffering. Job's wife now appears in the narrative and said to him, "Do you still retain your integrity? Curse God and die!" (2:9) Much can be read into her statement and much has been said about it, but whatever her intent, Job found no comfort in her words. In fact, he thought she spoke "as a foolish woman." (2:10) He then spoke with considerable wisdom, "Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?" (2:10) Good question.

Job's statement, however, poses not only a good question but presents another perspective on God, saying that not only does good come from God but adversity as well. When we consider the meeting between God and Satan we have to agree with this. While God was not the one who struck Job with boils, Satan could not have done it without God's permission. So indirectly, Job's adversity did come from God. Job had enjoyed considerable good from God so he apparently was prepared to accept the adversity he was experiencing with grace. Still, throughout all this, "Job did not sin," (2:10)

In this second test of Job's integrity, Satan again accused him of insincere worship of God. And his accusation implied that all mankind was as Job. In exchange for one's life, Satan charged, a person will give up everything they own. This was not true of Job, as the book bears out, nor was it true of many others in Scripture who came before Job. Satan knew this but did as he does, making false charges to accomplish his purposes. If he will do this with God, who he certainly realized knew otherwise, he will have no qualms in doing it with mere humans.

Nevertheless, though Job and others proved themselves to be above Satan's accusations, many succumb to his false accusations. But it is primarily because they do not know God well and thereby do not understand Satan as they should. If we have a personal relationship with God and not just a nodding acquaintance, we have a greater awareness of what is really happening in adverse circumstances. Otherwise we simply look for someone to blame and God happens to be handy when there seems to be no one else to blame.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Reflections on Job 1

 Job 01 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Many years ago, a man named Job lived in the land of Uz. He was a truly good person, who respected God and refused to do evil.
  2. Job had seven sons and three daughters.
  3. He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred pair of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and a large number of servants. He was the richest person in the East.
  4. Job's sons took turns having feasts in their homes, and they always invited their three sisters to join in the eating and drinking.
  5. After each feast, Job would send for his children and perform a ceremony, as a way of asking God to forgive them of any wrongs they may have done. He would get up early the next morning and offer a sacrifice for each of them, just in case they had sinned or silently cursed God.
  6. One day, when the angels had gathered around the LORD, and Satan was there with them,
  7. the LORD asked, "Satan, where have you been?" Satan replied, "I have been going all over the earth."
  8. Then the LORD asked, "What do you think of my servant Job? No one on earth is like him--he is a truly good person, who respects me and refuses to do evil."
  9. "Why shouldn't he respect you?" Satan remarked.
  10. "You are like a wall protecting not only him, but his entire family and all his property. You make him successful in whatever he does, and his flocks and herds are everywhere.
  11. Try taking away everything he owns, and he will curse you to your face."
  12. The LORD replied, "All right, Satan, do what you want with anything that belongs to him, but don't harm Job." Then Satan left.
  13. Job's sons and daughters were having a feast in the home of his oldest son,
  14. when someone rushed up to Job and said, "While your servants were plowing with your oxen, and your donkeys were nearby eating grass,
  15. a gang of Sabeans attacked and stole the oxen and donkeys! Your other servants were killed, and I was the only one who escaped to tell you."
  16. That servant was still speaking, when a second one came running up and saying, "God sent down a fire that killed your sheep and your servants. I am the only one who escaped to tell you."
  17. Before that servant finished speaking, a third one raced up and said, "Three gangs of Chaldeans attacked and stole your camels! All of your other servants were killed, and I am the only one who escaped to tell you."
  18. That servant was still speaking, when a fourth one dashed up and said, "Your children were having a feast and drinking wine at the home of your oldest son,
  19. when suddenly a windstorm from the desert blew the house down, crushing all of your children. I am the only one who escaped to tell you."
  20. When Job heard this, he tore his clothes and shaved his head because of his great sorrow. He knelt on the ground, then worshiped God
  21. and said: "We bring nothing at birth; we take nothing with us at death. The LORD alone gives and takes. Praise the name of the LORD!"
  22. In spite of everything, Job did not sin or accuse God of doing wrong.

The book of Job speaks to our understanding of the spiritual realm in a way we find nowhere else in Scripture. In this first chapter we see Satan living up to his name which means "accuser." He accused Job of trading worship of God for profit and implied that God bribed Job to worship Him. Satan said to God, "Haven't You placed a hedge around him . . . stretch out Your hand and strike everything he owns, and he will surely curse You to Your face." (1:10, 11) At that God gave Satan power over everything Job owned, but He withheld the power to harm Job physically.

So we learn that the only thing God hasn't given Satan is his attitude. Even his power to do harm comes from God, though his desire to do so is not from God. We also see that Satan's arguments against what is good are based on suggestion of truth, not truth itself. For instance, regarding Job, Satan suggested that no one would worship God unless God blessed them (bribed them) with wealth and if the wealth is removed people will curse God. Reality, however, tends to be the opposite. Typically the greater wealth one has the further from God they become thinking they don't need God. And, typically, when a person loses everything is when they seriously consider their need for God. Obviously these do not hold true in every situation but are only generally true making Satan's accusation generally false.

We also learn in this first chapter that God places a hedge of protection around His people to keep Satan from working his evil on them. In the case of Job, God removed that hedge for the purpose of testing and only with certain limits. Generally the hedge is there and while Satan may metaphorically stand outside the hedge and taunt us, he cannot touch us unless we respond to his taunts and temptations and step outside the hedge. Not all calamities and losses are direct assualts by Satan. Many are the result of our own or other's bad choices, but indirectly Satan is usually behind these bad choices through his tempting and taunting. Regardless of the source, though, all difficulties serve as a testing for the believer, and while the outcome might be bad, this need not be the case as James points out in the first chapter of his letter to the Jews in dispersion. He says, "knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:3-4)

Once Satan received God's permission to strike at Job he wasted no time making his attack. In quick succession Job lost everything, his livestock, his servants, and his children. All these losses were reported to him by messenger after messenger without time to comprehend one loss before another was reported to him. In round one between Satan and God over Job's soul, Satan suffered a quick defeat. After Satan threw most of his arsenal at Job, Job responded by saying, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will leave this life. The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Praise the name of the LORD. " (1:21) We are told in verse 22 that in all this, Job did not sin.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Reflections on Esther 10

 Esther 10(Contemporary English Version)
  1. King Xerxes made everyone in his kingdom pay taxes, even those in lands across the sea.
  2. All the great and famous things that King Xerxes did are written in the record books of the kings of Media and Persia. These records also tell about the honors that the king gave to Mordecai.
  3. Next to the king himself, Mordecai was the highest official in the kingdom. He was a popular leader of the Jews, because he helped them in many ways and would even speak to the king for them.

Verse 1 of this final chapter gives a hint of the extensive reach of King Ahasuerus' rule and serves as a backdrop for extolling Mordecai's status in verses 2 and 3. As second in command in the kingdom, Mordecai's power would have grown along with the king's, and Mordecai used it to benefit his people. Obviously, he would have been popular with his own people as mentioned in the last verse, but we get the impression he was looked on with favor by the king and possibly by the population at large.

Though it is pointed out by virtually every Bible commentator that the book of Esther does not mention God, I am struck in the reading of every chapter of God's hand intervening in the events it records. And through His intervention not only were the Jewish people everywhere kept from extinction, but they were aided in their return from Babylon to their homeland after 70 years of exile to fulfill God's word.

The events of Esther took place during the time of Ezra who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. It is likely that it was through Mordecai's influence that King Artaxerxes, King Ahasuerus' son, looked with favor on Nehemiah when the Lord directed him to return to rebuild the walls and city of Jerusalem. Not only did King Artaxerxes allow Nehemiah to return with a large contingent of Jews, he provided armed security along with materials for his task of rebuilding.

This is how God works on behalf of His people. He not only gives directions, He provides the means. Then our part is to trust and to act upon His directions.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Reflections on Esther 9

 Esther 09 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The first law that the king had made was to be followed on the thirteenth day of Adar, the twelfth month. This was the very day that the enemies of the Jews had hoped to do away with them. But the Jews turned things around,
  2. and in the cities of every province they came together to attack their enemies. Everyone was afraid of the Jews, and no one could do anything to oppose them.
  3. The leaders of the provinces, the rulers, the governors, and the court officials were afraid of Mordecai and took sides with the Jews.
  4. Everyone in the provinces knew that the king had promoted him and had given him a lot of power.
  5. The Jews took their swords and did away with their enemies, without showing any mercy.
  6. They killed five hundred people in Susa, but they did not take anything that belonged to the ones they killed. Haman had been one of the worst enemies of the Jews, and ten of his sons were among those who were killed. Their names were Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai, and Vaizatha.
  7. (SEE 9:6)
  8. (SEE 9:6)
  9. (SEE 9:6)
  10. (SEE 9:6)
  11. Later that day, someone told the king how many people had been killed in Susa.
  12. Then he told Esther, "Five hundred people, including Haman's ten sons, have been killed in Susa alone. If that many were killed here, what must have happened in the provinces? Is there anything else you want done? Just tell me, and it will be done."
  13. Esther answered, "Your Majesty, please let the Jews in Susa fight to defend themselves tomorrow, just as they did today. And order the bodies of Haman's ten sons to be hanged in public."
  14. King Xerxes did what Esther had requested, and the bodies of Haman's sons were hung in Susa.
  15. Then on the fourteenth day of Adar the Jews of the city got together and killed three hundred more people. But they still did not take anything that belonged to their enemies.
  16. On the thirteenth day of Adar, the Jews in the provinces had come together to defend themselves. They killed seventy-five thousand of their enemies, but the Jews did not take anything that belonged to the ones they killed. Then on the fourteenth day of the month the Jews celebrated with a feast.
  17. (SEE 9:16)
  18. On the fifteenth day of the month the Jews in Susa held a holiday and celebrated, after killing their enemies on the thirteenth and the fourteenth.
  19. This is why the Jews in the villages now celebrate on the fourteenth day of the month. It is a joyful holiday that they celebrate by feasting and sending gifts of food to each other.
  20. Mordecai wrote down everything that had happened. Then he sent letters to the Jews everywhere in the provinces
  21. and told them: Each year you must celebrate on both the fourteenth and the fifteenth of Adar,
  22. the days when we Jews defeated our enemies. Remember this month as a time when our sorrow was turned to joy, and celebration took the place of crying. Celebrate by having parties and by giving to the poor and by sharing gifts of food with each other.
  23. They followed Mordecai's instructions and set aside these two days every year as a time of celebration.
  24. Haman was the son of Hammedatha and a descendant of Agag. He hated the Jews so much that he planned to destroy them, but he wanted to find out the best time to do it. So he cast lots.
  25. Esther went to King Xerxes and asked him to save her people. Then the king gave written orders for Haman and his sons to be punished in the same terrible way that Haman had in mind for the Jews. So they were hanged.
  26. Mordecai's letter had said that the Jews must celebrate for two days because of what had happened to them. This time of celebration is called Purim, which is the Hebrew word for the lots that were cast.
  27. Now every year the Jews set aside these two days for having parties and celebrating, just as they were told to do.
  28. From now on, all Jewish families must remember to celebrate Purim on these two days each year.
  29. Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, wanted to give full authority to Mordecai's letter about the Festival of Purim, and with his help she wrote a letter about the feast.
  30. Copies of this letter were sent to Jews in the one hundred twenty-seven provinces of King Xerxes. In the letter they said: We pray that all of you will live in peace and safety.
  31. You and your descendants must always remember to celebrate Purim at the time and in the way that we have said. You must also follow the instructions that we have given you about mourning and going without eating.
  32. These laws about Purim are written by the authority of Queen Esther.

The amount of power and freedom the Persian king gave Mordecai seems amazing. He had such power that the governors throughout the provinces feared him. Because of it, they aided the Jews on this day given to them to defend themselves against their enemies. This was not the first time, however, that a pagan king gave extensive power to the exiled or enslaved Jews under their jurisdiction. Joseph's power in Egypt would be the first example. Though the Jews were not enslaved by Egypt at the time, Joseph was a foreigner in Egypt. Daniel would be another example under Babylonian rule when the Jews were exiled in Babylon. His rule extended into the Persian takeover of Babylon and may have provided a precedent for Mordecai's ascension to power. Each example came about through God's intervention to bring help to His people.

On the day that Haman's decree would have brought annihilation to the Jews, under Mordecai's decree it brought destruction to the Jew's enemies. But just for one day. On that day the Jews were allowed to congregate which they were normally restricted from doing to keep them from being capable of doing what they did on that day. In Susa on that day they killed 500 men including Haman's 10 sons. It is not clear whether the Jews attacked only those who first attacked them or if they went looking for those who had previously been hostile to them. We are simply told that they, "attack those who intended to harm them." (9:2) No one was able to withstand them and it struck fear on every other nationality living in the provinces of Persia.

The events of that day must have raised questions as to whether the Jews were taking over power of Persia. It would seem that even the king might have had some concern about this, for when the number of people killed in Susa was reported to him he asked Esther what had been done in the rest of the provinces. But still, he told Esther, "Whatever you ask will be given to you." (9:12) Esther did make an additional request, asking that the law allowing the Jews to defend themselves be extended one more day in Susa, and that Haman's sons be hanged for public display. God must have placed a great amount of trust in the king's heart for Esther and Mordecai and for the Jewish people.  To further encourage that trust, it is repeatedly reported in these verses that the Jews "did not seize any plunder." (9:15) They made it clear that they did not intend to profit from any of this.

Meanwhile, outside of Susa, throughout the rest of the provinces, the Jews killed 75,000 people on the one day provided by the law. No extra day was given in those areas. Then the Jews celebrated their good fortune, those in Susa on the 15th day of Adar and those outside Susa on the 14th day. Mordecai made a decree that they were to celebrate this event every year on both the 14th and 15th days of Adar.

Then what happened? It would seem that things returned to normal except that the Jews now had a better status than before. Esther also sent out a letter confirming Mordecai's letter telling them to celebrate these days they now called Purim after Haman's use of the Pur (lots) to determine when to kill the Jews. However, Esther's letter also encouraged the Jews to live in peace and to be faithful.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Reflections on Esther 8

 Esther 08(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Before the end of the day, King Xerxes gave Esther everything that had belonged to Haman, the enemy of the Jews. Esther told the king that Mordecai was her cousin. So the king made Mordecai one of his highest officials
  2. and gave him the royal ring that Haman had worn. Then Esther put Mordecai in charge of Haman's property.
  3. Once again Esther went to speak to the king. This time she fell down at his feet, crying and begging, "Please stop Haman's evil plan to have the Jews killed!"
  4. King Xerxes held out the golden scepter to Esther,
  5. and she got up and said, "Your Majesty, I know that you will do the right thing and that you really love me. Please stop what Haman has planned. He has already sent letters demanding that the Jews in all your provinces be killed,
  6. and I can't bear to see my people and my own relatives destroyed."
  7. King Xerxes then said to Esther and Mordecai, "I have already ordered Haman to be hanged and his house given to Esther, because of his evil plans to kill the Jews.
  8. I now give you permission to make a law that will save the lives of your people. You may use my ring to seal the law, so that it can never be changed."
  9. On the twenty-third day of Sivan, the third month, the king's secretaries wrote the law. They obeyed Mordecai and wrote to the Jews, the rulers, the governors, and the officials of all one hundred twenty-seven provinces from India to Ethiopia. The letters were written in every language used in the kingdom, including the Jewish language.
  10. They were written in the name of King Xerxes and sealed with his ring. Then they were taken by messengers who rode the king's finest and fastest horses.
  11. In these letters the king said: On the thirteenth day of Adar, the twelfth month, the Jews in every city and province will be allowed to get together and defend themselves. They may destroy any army that attacks them, and they may kill all of their enemies, including women and children. They may also take everything that belongs to their enemies. A copy of this law is to be posted in every province and read by everyone.
  12. (SEE 8:11)
  13. (SEE 8:11)
  14. Then the king ordered his messengers to take their fastest horses and deliver the law as quickly as possible to every province. When Mordecai left, he was wearing clothes fit for a king. He wore blue and white robes, a large gold crown, and a cape made of fine linen and purple cloth. After the law was announced in Susa, everyone shouted and cheered,
  15. (SEE 8:14)
  16. and the Jews were no longer afraid. In fact, they were very happy and felt that they had won a victory.
  17. In every province and city where the law was sent, the Jews had parties and celebrated. Many of the people in the provinces accepted the Jewish religion, because they were now afraid of the Jews.

Chapter 8 provides a good example of how God uses bad situations for good. Not only was this calamity for the Jews solved, the solution made their plight better than it had been before. What looked bad was actually God's means of improving the situation for the exiled Jews. Truly God does cause "all things (to) work together for the good," as Paul stated in Romans 8:28. But we cannot stop there in quoting his words as is often the case. We must add the caveat that all things work together for the good "of those who love God."

Immediately following the execution of Haman, the king awarded Haman's estate to Esther who appointed Haman to be in charge of the estate. She also brought Mordecai before the king, revealing her relationship to him, and the king appointed him to the position Haman had held. By simply refusing to acknowledge Haman's position Mordecai had proved to be Haman's undoing and now held his position.

This day of Haman's execution and appointment of his estate to Esther and of power to Mordecai was a great day for celebration, but Esther's job in saving the Jews was not yet finished. Haman's edict to annihilate them was still in effect. Esther approached the king again to beg him to revoke the edict but it was irrevocable. However, the king had given Esther the power to counteract it and authorized her to use it in writing another edict that would make the first one powerless to accomplish its purpose.

Esther turned this task over to Mordecai who dictated the terms of the edict to the royal scribes who wrote it in all the languages of the provinces and it was delivered by couriers to the officials of every province. The edict gave the Jews the "right to assemble and defend themselves, to destroy, kill, and annihilate every ethnic and provincial army hostile to them, including women and children, and to take their possessions as spoils of war." (8:11)

Once the decree had been published, Mordecai was dressed in royal attire and honored by the people of Susa for what he had done to save the Jews. The jubilation went throughout the land & many non-Jews professed Judiasm because of fear.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Reflections on Esther 7

 Esther 07 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The king and Haman were dining with Esther
  2. and drinking wine during the second dinner, when the king again said, "Esther, what can I do for you? Just ask, and I will give you as much as half of my kingdom!"
  3. Esther answered, "Your Majesty, if you really care for me and are willing to help, you can save me and my people. That's what I really want,
  4. because a reward has been promised to anyone who kills my people. Your Majesty, if we were merely going to be sold as slaves, I would not have bothered you."
  5. "Who would dare to do such a thing?" the king asked.
  6. Esther replied, "That evil Haman is the one out to get us!" Haman was terrified, as he looked at the king and the queen.
  7. The king was so angry that he got up, left his wine, and went out into the palace garden. Haman realized that the king had already decided what to do with him, and he stayed and begged Esther to save his life.
  8. Just as the king came back into the room, Haman got down on his knees beside Esther, who was lying on the couch. The king shouted, "Now you're even trying to rape my queen here in my own palace!" As soon as the king said this, his servants covered Haman's head.
  9. Then Harbona, one of the king's personal servants, said, "Your Majesty, Haman built a tower seventy-five feet high beside his house, so he could hang Mordecai on it. And Mordecai is the very one who spoke up and saved your life." "Hang Haman from his own tower!" the king commanded.
  10. Right away, Haman was hanged on the tower he had built to hang Mordecai, and the king calmed down.

Only God could have orchestrated events as they occurred and turned tables on Haman as was done. At Esther's second banquet for the king and Haman she finally told the king her request of him. It was for him to spare her life and that of her people. The king was incensed that someone would do such a thing say, "Who is this, and where is the one who would devise such a scheme?" (7:5) Esther replied that, "The adversary and enemy is this evil Haman." (7:6) We can see now the wisdom of having Haman present when she told the king her request to save her people. Haman, "stood terrified before the king and queen," we are told. (7:6) The king only had to look at Haman to know he was guilty.

Angered at this, the king left the room. We are not told of his reason for leaving, but might it have been to ponder his own role in the plot to kill Esther's people? If so, it may have angered him even more at being used by Haman to carry out his plot. The king returned to the banquet room to find Haman, "falling on the couch where Esther was reclining." Though Haman was begging for his life, the king thought he was trying to sexually assault the queen and was further enraged.

As already mentioned, only God could have orchestrated events in turning the tables on Haman as they did. But there was one more piece to be added to God's plot against Haman before his judgment was complete. One of the royal eunuchs pointed out to the king that Haman had built a 75 feet tall gallows on which to hang Mordecai, reminding the king that Mordecai was the one who saved his life from an assassination plot. Now the last piece of Haman's judgment was in place. The king gave the order to hang Haman on his own gallows and it was immediately done. In one day Haman went from second in command in Persia to being executed, all a result of his own pride.

Haman had reaped what he had sown, but more importantly God's plan to save His people was coming into place.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Reflections on Esther 6

 Esther 06 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. That night the king could not sleep, and he had a servant read him the records of what had happened since he had been king.
  2. When the servant read how Mordecai had kept Bigthana and Teresh from killing the king,
  3. the king asked, "What has been done to reward Mordecai for this?" "Nothing, Your Majesty!" the king's servants replied.
  4. About this time, Haman came in to ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on the tower he had built. The king saw him and asked, "Who is that man waiting in front of the throne room?"
  5. The king's servants answered, "Your Majesty, it is Haman." "Have him come in," the king commanded.
  6. When Haman entered the room, the king asked him, "What should I do for a man I want to honor?" Haman was sure that he was the one the king wanted to honor.
  7. So he replied, "Your Majesty, if you wish to honor a man,
  8. have someone bring him one of your own robes and one of your own horses with a fancy headdress.
  9. Have one of your highest officials place your robe on this man and lead him through the streets on your horse, while someone shouts, 'This is how the king honors a man!' "
  10. The king replied, "Hurry and do just what you have said! Don't forget a thing. Get the robe and the horse for Mordecai the Jew, who is on duty at the palace gate!"
  11. Haman got the king's robe and put it on Mordecai. He led him through the city on the horse and shouted as he went, "This is how the king honors a man!"
  12. Afterwards, Mordecai returned to his duties at the palace gate, and Haman hurried home, hiding his face in shame.
  13. Haman told his wife and friends what had happened. Then his wife and his advisors said, "If Mordecai is a Jew, this is just the beginning of your troubles! You will end up a ruined man."
  14. They were still talking, when the king's servants came and quickly took Haman to the dinner that Esther had prepared.

God is an amazing author of events and of history! What a great reminder the book of Esther is for us that we are each far from being in control of our own destinies. We can only choose to either align ourselves with God's plans or not, but it is God who is in control.

In this story of Esther we see a negative correlation taking place in God's plan. As He works to raise up those He will use to carry out His plan He is also working to bring down those who work to thwart his plan. Therefore, as God raised up Mordecai and Esther to be His instruments for saving the Jewish people from annihilation, He was using Haman's plan to destroy them to bring destruction on himself instead. It is so amazing, too, to see how God works through what seems to be the most insignificant events as can be observed in the account of chapter 6.

To this point in the story of Esther we have seen how God put in place events that brought Esther to the throne and allowed Mordecai to save the king's life. All of this before Haman had even plotted to kill the Jews and the need existed to save them. We have also seen to this point Esther, through Mordecai's prompting, begin to act on a plan to plead with the king for the life of her people and we have seen Haman develop a plan to hang Mordecai. As these two opposing plans are acted out we see the negative correlation take place. Part of it takes place in this chapter and more comes later.

Following Esther's first banquet for Haman and the king in her plan to plead for her people, the king had a sleepless night. To pass the sleepless hours he had an attendant bring the book recording court events and read from it. Obviously, it was no accident that the king could not sleep on this particular night, nor was it an accident that the attendant read to him events that occurred 12 years earlier when Mordecai reported the assassination plot and saved the king's life. Neither was it mere curiosity that moved the king to inquire as to whether Mordecai had been honored for his actions. The irony that takes place from this point in the story becomes almost comical, for providence brought Haman to the king's courtyard to ask the king to hang Mordecai just when the king was searching for a way to honor Mordecai, and it was Haman the king asked, "What should be done for the man the king wants to honor?" (6:6) Making it even more comical, the egotistical Haman assumed it was he whom the king wanted to honor and suggested the way in which he would want to be honored.

It was at this point the negative correlation takes place. Having suggested what should be done for the one the king wanted to honor, Haman was then appointed to carry out the plan. The lowly Mordecai was lifted up as the mighty Haman was brought down. Following the parade through the city when the one who would not honor Haman was honored at the hand of Haman, Haman went home in shame and dejection. When he shared what had happened with his wife and friends they could see the handwriting on the wall. They said to him, "If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is Jewish, you won't overcome him, because your downfall is certain." (6:13) This statement raises several questions. Did Haman's wife and friends realize that God's hand was upon the Jews and did Haman not know it? Did Haman not know Mordecai was a Jew? Did Haman realize both God's hand on the Jews and that Mordecai was a Jew but his pride led him to believe he was above all this?

Haman's wife and friends proved to be prophetic. Haman's downfall, by this time, was certain.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Reflections on Esther 5

 Esther 05(Contemporary English Version)
  1. 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.
  2. 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,
  3. the king said, "Esther, what brings you here? Just ask, and I will give you as much as half of my kingdom."
  4. Esther answered, "Your Majesty, please come with Haman to a dinner I will prepare for you later today."
  5. 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,
  6. and while they were drinking wine, the king asked her, "What can I do for you? Just ask, and I will give you as much as half of my kingdom."
  7. Esther replied, "Your Majesty, if you really care for me and are willing to do what I want, please come again tomorrow with Haman to the dinner I will prepare for you. At that time I will answer Your Majesty's question."
  8. (SEE 5:7)
  9. Haman was feeling great as he left. But when he saw Mordecai at the palace gate, he noticed that Mordecai did not stand up or show him any respect. This made Haman really angry,
  10. but he did not say a thing. When Haman got home, he called together his friends and his wife Zeresh
  11. and started bragging about his great wealth and all his sons. He told them the many ways that the king had honored him and how all the other officials and leaders had to respect him.
  12. Haman added, "That's not all! Besides the king himself, I'm the only person Queen Esther invited for dinner. She has also invited the king and me to dinner tomorrow.
  13. But none of this makes me happy, as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the palace gate."
  14. Haman's wife and friends said to him, "Have a tower built about seventy-five feet high, and tomorrow morning ask the king to hang Mordecai there. Then later, you can have dinner with the king and enjoy yourself." This seemed like a good idea to Haman, and he had the tower built.

Upon completion of her three day fast, Esther made no delay in approaching the king and facing her fate. She dressed in her royal attire and went to the inner courtyard where the king was seated on his throne. When he saw Esther standing there he immediately extended his scepter to her and invited her to approach him. He realized that only an urgent request would bring her to see him and asked her what it was she wanted. Whatever it was he would grant it. She simply invited him and Haman to a banquet that very day. It is somewhat ironic that while she was fasting Esther was planning a banquet.

The king wasted no time in sending for Haman to grant the queen's request. At the banquet the king again inquired concerning Esther's request and again she delayed her answer, inviting the king and Haman to a second banquet at which she would make known her request. Whatever her reason for this delay it served to heighten the suspense and to disarm Haman making him feel important at being the only guest attending the queen's banquet with the king.

Haman left the banquet in high spirits which were quickly deflated when he passed Mordecai and again encountered his disrespect by not rising before him. Haman went on home and gathered his friends along with his wife to brag about his good fortunes. He had been promoted in rank, had many sons, and was wealthy. To add to this he had just that day been the only one invited by the queen to join the king at her banquet. Not only that, he was invited again for another banquet the next day. And yet, none of this was satisfying to him as long as Mordecai the Jew failed to honor him.

There is a myth that abounds to which we are drawn, and to which many succumb, that if we accumulate enough wealth and power we will rise above the distractions that keep us from being happy and enjoying life. Haman is a prime example. He had it all and yet the lowly Jew, Mordecai, could take away his joy with a simple act of disrespect. Why was the mighty Haman so distracted by lowly Mordecai? It makes no sense, and yet this is the nature of the false sense of self-worth Haman or anyone else attains through wealth and status alone.

The myth that seduced him into thinking his happiness was bound up in wealth and status further deluded him into thinking that just this one thing stood between him and his complete happiness. So when his wife suggested that his problem could be solved by hanging Mordecai on a high gallows, Haman was pleased and promptly had the gallows built.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Reflections on Esther 4

 Esther 04(Contemporary English Version)
  1. When Mordecai heard about the letter, he tore his clothes in sorrow and put on sackcloth. Then he covered his head with ashes and went through the city, crying and weeping.
  2. But he could go only as far as the palace gate, because no one wearing sackcloth was allowed inside the palace.
  3. In every province where the king's orders were read, the Jews cried and mourned, and they went without eating. Many of them even put on sackcloth and sat in ashes.
  4. When Esther's servant girls and her other servants told her what Mordecai was doing, she became very upset and sent Mordecai some clothes to wear in place of the sackcloth. But he refused to take them.
  5. Esther had a servant named Hathach, who had been given to her by the king. So she called him in and said, "Find out what's wrong with Mordecai and why he's acting this way."
  6. Hathach went to Mordecai in the city square in front of the palace gate,
  7. and Mordecai told him everything that had happened. He also told him how much money Haman had promised to add to the king's treasury, if all the Jews were killed.
  8. Mordecai gave Hathach a copy of the orders for the murder of the Jews and told him that these had been read in Susa. He said, "Show this to Esther and explain what it means. Ask her to go to the king and beg him to have pity on her people, the Jews!"
  9. Hathach went back to Esther and told her what Mordecai had said.
  10. She answered, "Tell Mordecai
  11. there is a law about going in to see the king, and all his officials and his people know about this law. Anyone who goes in to see the king without being invited by him will be put to death. The only way that anyone can be saved is for the king to hold out the gold scepter to that person. And it's been thirty days since he has asked for me."
  12. When Mordecai was told what Esther had said,
  13. he sent back this reply, "Don't think that you will escape being killed with the rest of the Jews, just because you live in the king's palace.
  14. If you don't speak up now, we will somehow get help, but you and your family will be killed. It could be that you were made queen for a time like this!"
  15. Esther sent a message to Mordecai, saying,
  16. "Bring together all the Jews in Susa and tell them to go without eating for my sake! Don't eat or drink for three days and nights. My servant girls and I will do the same. Then I will go in to see the king, even if it means I must die."
  17. Mordecai did everything Esther told him to do.

God's purpose in orchestrating Esther's placement as Persian queen now comes to light. Though God is not mentioned anywhere in the book of Esther, we have no doubt that God was behind the events that placed a crown on her head. Though it was Mordecai's refusal to bow to Haman that prompted the edict to kill the Jews, who knows but what it would have happened anyway in another way. The hatred that would move a man to annihilate a people could be triggered in more than one way. As Mordecai told Esther when urging her to approach the king to plead with him for her people, "If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place." (4:14) In the same way, perhaps, it may have been true that if Mordecai's actions hadn't prompted Haman to kill the Jews it would have come from another place, for Satan was no doubt behind his actions and would have brought it to pass in another way.

News of the king's edict to kill the Jews led to mourning in sackcloth and ashes by Mordecai and all the Jews. Esther was not aware of it until her servants reported it to her. We wonder why they reported it to her unless they knew somehow that she was a Jew. She had told no one. She sent clothes to Mordecai so he could take off the sackcloth but he refused, so she then sent her eunuch to inquire of Mordecai as to what he was doing and why. Mordecai explained the situation for her and sent a copy of the decree. Did he also explain how his actions inadvertently led to this calamity? Mordecai also instructed Esther to go to the king and plead for his favor on behalf of her people.

Esther sent word back to Mordecai that she couldn't just go in to see the king without being invited. To do so would incur a death penalty unless the king lifted his scepter to spare her. However, she wasn't confident the king would do this for her because she hadn't been summoned to appear before him in the past 30 days and she feared she was out of his favor. Mordecai's instructions for her to see the king presented a double jeopardy for Esther. Not only did approaching the king without an invitation pose a threat to her life, in light of the decree to kill the Jews, identifying herself as a Jew had the same effect. In what ways do we attempt to avoid a threat or an uncomfortable situation only to find that we have not avoided the situation at all or have placed ourselves in the path of an equally threatening or uncomfortable situation? As with Esther, it is usually best to face the situation head on and trust God with the outcome.

In the end, Esther concluded that there was a greater purpose to her going to the king on behalf of her people than trying to save her own life and probably failing in it. She sent word to Mordecai that she would go to the king to plead for her people, but she wanted him to do something too. He was to "Go and assemble all the Jews who can be found in Susa and fast for me." (4:16) They were to fast for three days and nights and she and her female servants would do the same. With this, the situation was in the Lord's hands.

What is it that your fear and lack of trust keeps you from doing? And, what are the blessings and God's wonderful works you have missed as a result? We reason that it is not so much a lack of faith in God that keeps us from doing this thing we fear, it is just doubt that He will act on our behalf in this particular situation. So your problem is not that you lack the faith that God can bring you safely through the thing you fear, it is that you don't trust that He will. Is this not the useless faith James speaks of in James 2:17-20? Faith that does not lead to action is useless, he says. It is merely a mental exercise. It is impotent.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Reflections on Esther 3

 Esther 03(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Later, King Xerxes promoted Haman the son of Hammedatha to the highest position in his kingdom. Haman was a descendant of Agag,
  2. and the king had given orders for his officials at the royal gate to honor Haman by kneeling down to him. All of them obeyed except Mordecai.
  3. When the other officials asked Mordecai why he disobeyed the king's command,
  4. he said, "Because I am a Jew." They spoke to him for several days about kneeling down, but he still refused to obey. Finally, they reported this to Haman, to find out if he would let Mordecai get away with it.
  5. Haman was furious to learn that Mordecai refused to kneel down and honor him.
  6. 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.
  7. It was now the twelfth year of the rule of King Xerxes. During Nisan, the first month of the year, Haman said, "Find out the best time for me to do this." The time chosen was Adar, the twelfth month.
  8. Then Haman went to the king and said: Your Majesty, there are some people who live all over your kingdom and won't have a thing to do with anyone else. They have customs that are different from everyone else's, and they refuse to obey your laws. We would be better off to get rid of them!
  9. Why not give orders for all of them to be killed? I can promise that you will get tons of silver for your treasury.
  10. The king handed his official ring to Haman, who hated the Jews, and the king told him,
  11. "Do what you want with those people! You can keep their money."
  12. On the thirteenth day of Nisan, Haman called in the king's secretaries and ordered them to write letters in every language used in the kingdom. The letters were written in the name of the king and sealed by using the king's own ring. At once they were sent to the king's highest officials, the governors of each province, and the leaders of the different nations in the kingdom of Xerxes.
  13. The letters were taken by messengers to every part of the kingdom, and this is what was said in the letters: On the thirteenth day of Adar, the twelfth month, all Jewish men, women, and children are to be killed. And their property is to be taken.
  14. King Xerxes gave orders for these letters to be posted where they could be seen by everyone all over the kingdom. The king's command was obeyed, and one of the letters was read aloud to the people in the walled city of Susa. Then the king and Haman sat down to drink together, but no one in the city could figure out what was going on.
  15. (SEE 3:14)

Five years passed since Esther was made queen and Mordecai saved the king's life by reporting an assassination plot. Chapter 3 brings us to the central point in this story of Esther and when we see what is at stake and the forces at work we are prompted to wonder if these events are as much a battle between God and Satan as between the Jews and their enemies.

The occasion of this chapter is the promotion of one of King Ahasuerus' officials, Haman, to a position second in command to himself. King Ahasuerus, in this promotion of Haman, set in motion events for which God, in His providence, had brought Esther to the throne as queen. Reflection on these events causes one to recognize that when we are submitting to God's direction in our lives we should never presume the events of our lives to be without purpose no matter how routine and unmeaningful they may appear to be. Certainly Esther must have wondered for what purpose she had so amazingly been made queen. Then five years went by in which seemingly nothing was happening and she must have doubted that there was any special purpose at all. That her ascension to queen was merely coincidence. This reflection on God's providential hand in making Esther queen is but one side of the story.

The other side of the story comes to light with the promotion of Haman the Agagite. This identification of Haman as an Agagite is thought by many to indicate that he was a descendant of Amalekite kings. If this is accurate, the book of Esther can be seen as another battle in the perpetual war God proclaimed against the Amalekites in Exodus 17:16, "my hand is lifted up toward the LORD's throne. The LORD will be at war with Amalek from generation to generation." On a larger scale, the account of Esther can be seen as a battle between God and Satan. As God was guiding the placement of Esther as queen, Satan was guiding the king in his promotion of Haman.

With Haman's promotion to second in command in Persia, eveyone was instructed to bow down to him, a command which Mordecai refused to obey based on his Jewish ethnicity and that he bowed to only one - the Lord. Mordecai's failure to bow was eventually brought to Haman's attention and he was enraged. If these were mere circumstantial events Haman would have simply dealt with Mordecai and his disobedience to the law. But driven by forces beyond himself, Haman elevated this to a much larger scale, making it a vendetta against the whole Jewish race. He took his case to the king, telling him, "There is one ethnic group, scattered throughout the peoples in every province of your kingdom, yet living in isolation. Their laws are different from everyone else's, so that they defy the king's laws. It is not in the king's best interest to tolerate them." (3:8) He didn't even mention Mordecai. If the Jews throughout every province of Persia were to be killed, this would include Palestine, the home of the Jews. This proposal of Haman's would have meant total annihilation of the Jewish people.

So Haman, no doubt driven by Satan, proposed to deal with Mordecai's failure to bow to him by annihilating the Jews. If anything so preposterous makes sense, one should be fearful of Satan's influence over them. Before Haman took his proposal to the king, he cast lots ("Pur was cast") to determine when his plan to kill the Jews should be carried out. Again, we see God's hand at work as the lots fell on a date a year in the future allowing time for Haman's plot to be thwarted. King Solomon, in his writing of the book of Proverbs stated that, "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD." (Proverbs 16:33)

There is no indication in this account that King Ahasuerus questioned Haman's motives or the wisdom of taking this action. He simply gave Haman his signet ring to authorize implementation of his plan and told him, "The money and people are given to you to do with as you see fit." (3:11) And so the edict was translated into the language of each ethnic group in the various provinces and sent by courier to the officials of every province. Then, as an indication of the king's disinterest in the whole affair and his obliviousness to what he was doing, verse 15 says, "The king and Haman sat down to drink, while the city of Susa was in confusion."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Reflections on Esther 2

 Esther 02(Contemporary English Version)
  1. After a while, King Xerxes got over being angry. But he kept thinking about what Vashti had done and the law that he had written because of her.
  2. Then the king's personal servants said: Your Majesty, a search must be made to find you some beautiful young women.
  3. You can select officers in every province to bring them to the place where you keep your wives in the capital city of Susa. Put your servant Hegai in charge of them since that is his job. He can see to it that they are given the proper beauty treatments.
  4. Then let the young woman who pleases you most take Vashti's place as queen. King Xerxes liked these suggestions, and he followed them.
  5. At this time a Jew named Mordecai was living in Susa. His father was Jair, and his grandfather Shimei was the son of Kish from the tribe of Benjamin.
  6. Kish was one of the people that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem, when he took King Jeconiah of Judah to Babylonia.
  7. Mordecai had a very beautiful cousin named Esther, whose Hebrew name was Hadassah. He had raised her as his own daughter, after her father and mother died.
  8. When the king ordered the search for beautiful women, many were taken to the king's palace in Susa, and Esther was one of them. Hegai was put in charge of all the women,
  9. and from the first day, Esther was his favorite. He began her beauty treatments at once. He also gave her plenty of food and seven special maids from the king's palace, and they had the best rooms.
  10. Mordecai had warned Esther not to tell anyone that she was a Jew, and she obeyed him.
  11. He was anxious to see how Esther was getting along and to learn what had happened to her. So each day he would walk back and forth in front of the court where the women lived.
  12. The young women were given beauty treatments for one whole year. The first six months their skin was rubbed with olive oil and myrrh, and the last six months it was treated with perfumes and cosmetics. Then each of them spent the night alone with King Xerxes.
  13. When a young woman went to the king, she could wear whatever clothes or jewelry she chose from the women's living quarters.
  14. In the evening she would go to the king, and the following morning she would go to the place where his wives stayed after being with him. There a man named Shaashgaz was in charge of the king's wives. Only the ones the king wanted and asked for by name could go back to the king.
  15. Xerxes had been king for seven years when Esther's turn came to go to him during Tebeth, the tenth month of the year. Everyone liked Esther. The king's personal servant Hegai was in charge of the women, and Esther trusted Hegai and asked him what she ought to take with her.
  16. (SEE 2:15)
  17. Xerxes liked Esther more than he did any of the other young women. None of them pleased him as much as she did, and right away he fell in love with her and crowned her queen in place of Vashti.
  18. In honor of Esther he gave a big dinner for his leaders and officials. Then he declared a holiday everywhere in his kingdom and gave expensive gifts.
  19. When the young women were brought together again, Esther's cousin Mordecai had become a palace official.
  20. He had told Esther never to tell anyone that she was a Jew, and she obeyed him, just as she had always done.
  21. Bigthana and Teresh were the two men who guarded King Xerxes' rooms, but they got angry with the king and decided to kill him.
  22. Mordecai found out about their plans and asked Queen Esther to tell the king what he had found out.
  23. King Xerxes learned that Mordecai's report was true, and he had the two men hanged. Then the king had all of this written down in his record book as he watched.

As interesting a story as the book of Esther makes, it is more than a story. It is an account of God's providential care for His people. Though His people had rejected Him for other gods and He had disciplined them by sending them into exile, God still cared for them and protected them against annihilation. This is what the story of Esther is about and we see in every event God's hand at work.

After King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) had a chance to reflect on deposing his queen, Vashti, he may have regretted his action to depose her. His attendants, however, quickly proposed that a search be made for a new queen from among the beautiful virgins of the kingdom. This pleased the king and he approved the plan. It is at this point that a Jewish exile by the name of Mordecai is introduced to the story. He had been captured when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had taken Judah captive and was now living in Susa, the Persian capitol and may have been an official at the palace gate. He had a cousin by he name of Esther whom he had adopted when, as a child, her parents died. She was now a very beautiful young woman and become one of the women taken to the palace to be groomed as a queen candidate.

Esther pleased Hegai who was in charge of the king's harem and he accelerated her grooming and assigned seven female servants to her care. This grooming process took a year before the women in this special harem would have their turn with the king. When their turn came, they would go to the king in the evening and return to the harem in the morning. Unless the king invited them back they would likely never see him again though they would remain in the harem. Esther's beauty no doubt was both inward as well as outward, for she found favor with everyone whom she met.

When Esther's turn finally came to go to the king she could take with her anything she chose to make herself pleasing to the king. Esther took only what was recommended to her by Hegai, the one in charge of the harem. When she went to the king the search for a queen was over for he "loved Esther more than all the other women." (2:17) He placed the crown on her head and made her queen, then held a banquet in her honor to announce his decision. Through all of this, Esther never revealed her ethnicity.

A short account at the end of chapter 2 further reveals God's hand in these events to give Esther and Mordecai favor with the king. As Mordecai sat at the King's Gate he had opportunity one day to learn of a plot by two of the king's guards to assassinate the king. Mordecai reported this to Esther who told the king. There was an investigation and this report of the planned assassination verified and the two guards were executed.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Reflections on Esther 1

 Esther 01 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. King Xerxes of Persia lived in his capital city of Susa and ruled one hundred twenty-seven provinces from India to Ethiopia.
  2. (SEE 1:1)
  3. During the third year of his rule, Xerxes gave a big dinner for all his officials and officers. The governors and leaders of the provinces were also invited, and even the commanders of the Persian and Median armies came.
  4. For one hundred eighty days he showed off his wealth and spent a lot of money to impress his guests with the greatness of his kingdom.
  5. King Xerxes soon gave another dinner and invited everyone in the city of Susa, no matter who they were. The eating and drinking lasted seven days in the beautiful palace gardens.
  6. The area was decorated with blue and white cotton curtains tied back with purple linen cords that ran through silver rings fastened to marble columns. Couches of gold and silver rested on pavement that had all kinds of designs made from costly bright-colored stones and marble and mother-of-pearl.
  7. The guests drank from gold cups, and each cup had a different design. The king was generous
  8. and said to them, "Drink all you want!" Then he told his servants, "Keep their cups full."
  9. While the men were enjoying themselves, Queen Vashti gave the women a big dinner inside the royal palace.
  10. By the seventh day, 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,
  11. 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.
  12. The king's servants told Queen Vashti what he had said, but she refused to go to him, and this made him terribly angry.
  13. The king called in the seven highest officials of Persia and Media. They were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan. 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.
  14. (SEE 1:13)
  15. The king said to them, "Queen Vashti refused to come to me when I sent my servants for her. What does the law say I should do about that?"
  16. Then Memucan told the king and the officials: Your Majesty, Queen Vashti has not only embarrassed you, but she has insulted your officials and everyone else in all the provinces.
  17. The women in the kingdom will hear about this, and they will refuse to respect their husbands. They will say, "If Queen Vashti doesn't obey her husband, why should we?"
  18. 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.
  19. Your Majesty, if you agree, you should write for the Medes and Persians a law that can never be changed. This law would keep Queen Vashti from ever seeing you again. Then you could let someone who respects you be queen in her place.
  20. When the women in your great kingdom hear about this new law, they will respect their husbands, no matter if they are rich or poor.
  21. King Xerxes and his officials liked what Memucan had said,
  22. and he sent letters to all of his provinces. Each letter was written in the language of the province to which it was sent, and it said that husbands should have complete control over their wives and children.

This first chapter of Esther sets the stage for crucial events that took place during Israel's exile in which Esther played a key role. The events of chapter 1 that led to the placement of Esther as queen of Persia were no accident but were God's preparation for saving Israel from annihilation. Before Israel was even in danger, God had a plan to deliver her from the danger that was coming.

God's plan began with a royal banquet at which the wine flowed freely and the king became rather inebriated. It may have been due to his inebriation that he decided to show off the beauty of his queen. After all, part of the motivation behind the banquet was to display the wealth and power of the king and his beautiful queen was further display of his holdings. No indication is given in the account as to why the queen refused the king's request for her to come to him at the men's banquet hall. Although there is no suggestion that the king planned anything indecent for her, some suggest that he was asking her to appear unveiled which to do so publicly would have been degrading for her. This, of course, is only conjecture.

The queen's refusal of the king's command left the king with a dilemma. He could not ignore her refusal. He was trapped by his status. The king was free to do as he pleased except to break the law. And if he were wise, he also did not want to set a bad precedent. Verse 13 explains that, "The king consulted the wise men who understood the times, for it was his normal procedure to confer with experts in law and justice." Setting a bad precedent seems to have been their primary concern. They reasoned that when it became public knowledge that the queen refused the king's order, all the women of the kingdom would "despise their husbands." (1:17) Evidently they assumed the queen held sway over whether or not women of the kingdom respected their husbands.

It was concluded that a non-revokable edict should be decreed declaring that, "Vashti is not to enter King Ahasuerus' presence, and her royal position is to be given to another woman who is more worthy than she." (1:19) This decree was to be sent throughout the kingdom along with a letter stating that "every man should be master of his own house." (1:22)

The stage was then set for Esther to arrive on the scene, for the king would be looking for a new queen.