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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Esther 7:1-2: How generous!

Thank you Christel for yesterdays thought we are now returning to Esther…

“So the king and Haman went to Queen Esther’s banquet, and as they were drinking wine on the second day, the king again asked, ‘Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.’ NIV

This is now the third time, according to the Biblical record, that the king has said essentially the same thing to Esther (verse 2; see also 5;3 and 6). His words were not to be taken literally, but it was a way of expressing the generosity of his heart towards his bride. He loved her and he was encouraging her to ask big because he was willing to give big.

Now take your Bible in your hand and work through it from beginning to end. What you will find is that God has made many more outrageously extravagant promises to His bride, His church. Here are not just three, but numerous and varied promises. He encourages His people to be bold in asking and repeats over and over His desire to give. What’s more, He offers more! Far more than this rich oriental King. He offers more; He has more. He has infinite resources and He is perfect in generosity. I wonder how often it is the case that we ‘have not’ because we ‘ask not’?

As we consider the promises of God, let’s determine to be like Esther in these verses. If possible, be clear and specific in asking. Don’t be vague. Don’t beat about the bush. Have a definite aim and go for it. I have a feeling that often, even if we get the words wrong, God still gives what He wants to give; He provides what He knows we need most.

‘’Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened’’ (Matthew 7:7,8).

‘’Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition. With thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’’ (Philippians 4:6,7).

Ephesians 6:10-11: The good news about ‘Blue Monday’

Today we are taking a break from the ‘Esther’ series, and I’m sharing a guest post from my daughter Christel Thompson. Thank you Christel for today’s relevant contribution:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6 v 10-11

I think all of us can probably relate to that “Monday morning feeling”, no more especially than in January. In fact, we now even recognise “Blue Monday” here in the UK; the third Monday in January, deemed to be the most depressing day of the year, as we await our next pay cheque post Christmas, review our failing New Years resolutions, and push through the darkness and cold. In fact, I imagine for some, the whole of 2020 felt a little bit like “Blue Monday”. Every day came with more bad news, new challenges to adapt to, and it became increasingly hard to get up in the morning, however light it was outside.

As we move into 2021, we have the good news of the vaccine to work with, but many of the “blues” of 2020 haven’t gone away. There is hope though.

John chapter 1 and verse 5 tells us that, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Adversity doesn’t discriminate. Especially as followers of Christ, Jesus tells us that, “In this world you will have trouble”. But we are not alone. God has given us the best possible toolkit in the world; his full armour, to help us get through.

The reality is that this year will bring more isolation, more deaths, more mental health issues and more unemployment. This is out of our control, but what is in our control is our ability to use the tools God has given us to face these trials. God gives us his word, his Holy Spirit, and 24/7 FaceTime with him. If you think your Christmas was small this year, or that you got no presents, read that last sentence back. Or let me do it for you: God gives us his word, his Holy Spirit, and 24/7 FaceTime with him. For free, might I add. Sounds better than the latest smart phone to me!

So whatever is in store this 2021 (and I really do hope it’s many blessings for you all!) whether it’s dark clouds or even clear blue skies; make sure to put on your FULL armour. Not a bit of prayer and skip the bible reading. The FULL armour. It’s come from God. Who wouldn’t want the full armour of God? God who is in control. And remember that after warning us against troubles, Jesus also said “Take heart, I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33).

Esther 6:12-14: Never a discouraging word

12 Afterwards Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman rushed home, with his head covered in grief, 13 and told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him. His advisors and his wife Zeresh said to him, ‘Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him – you will surely come to ruin!’ 14 While they were still talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared.” NIV

What a contrast is drawn between the quiet equanimity of Mordecai, who just returned to his normal life after being so feted (12a), and Haman, for whom the world had caved in (12b,13). Everything that mattered most to him had slipped through his fingers. There is surely dramatic irony in the last sentence of (14) as Haman is ‘’hurried’’ away to a banquet, but we sense he is being escorted to his doom – especially in the light of verse 13. He is not in control. The brakes have failed and the car is hurtling downhill to the cliff edge. There is nothing he can do.

I was thinking about the idyllic domestic scene painted in the song, ‘home on the range.’ Home is the place ‘where never is heard a discouraging word.’ This was not Haman’s experience!! He didn’t receive a sympathetic, ‘There, there now’ from his wife and advisors. Rather, they articulated a key theological truth about the role of Israel in God’s purposes (13). Throughout their long history, the Jews have repeatedly been abused, opposed and persecuted, but God’s Word to Abraham remains ever true:

‘’I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse…’’ (Genesis 12:3)

Esther 6:6-11: Pride before a fall

 “When Haman entered, the king asked him, ‘What should be done for the man the king delights to honour?’Now Haman thought to himself, ‘Who is there that the king would rather honour than me?’ So he answered the king, ‘For the man the king delights to honour, let them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honour, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honour!”’10 ‘Go at once,’ the king commanded Haman. ‘Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.’11 So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honour!’NIV

‘’God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’’ (James 4:6 – quoting Proverbs 3:34)

This story amply illustrates the Bible principle that pride precedes a fall.

‘Haman hated Mordecai so much that he got up very early to ask for his enemy’s death. And Haman loved Haman so much that he could not imagine the king honouring anyone but himself! The proud man has a mirror in which he sees himself; the humble man has a window through which he sees others (Rom.12:10; Phil.2:3-4). Haman’s pride destroyed him (Prov.16:18; 18:12)…What a humiliating experience! Haman had to dress Mordecai in robes he wanted to wear, put him on the horse he wanted to ride, and then led him-a Jew-through the busiest part of the city!’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’,pp.275,276.

The Bible holds humility before our gaze as a virtue to be cultivated. It is called for in many passages. For example:

‘’Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up’’ (James 4:10). In a similar vein:

‘’Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time’’ (1 Peter 5:6).

In the New Testament, Jesus is portrayed as the great example of humility (Philippians 2:1-11), and we are called to emulate Him. That means it must be possible in the power of the Spirit, even if we find it difficult – and we certainly do!

Marlena Graves’ book, ‘The way up is down’, was in Christianity Today’s list of the top books of 2020. It is a heart-searching book, and is ruthless in extending and applying the Biblical call to humble service. Here is a quote from the first chapter:

‘Hearing the call to renounce our wills in each new circumstance so God’s will can be done in and through every part of us is the call to selflessness. It’s not a one-time deal. It requires daily repentance and conversion to the ways of God. We’ll constantly have to examine ourselves and decide whether we really want to go Jesus’ way and surrender all control of the outcomes to God.’

As Marlena emphasises, the battle for humility is constant, but it’s one worth fighting. Who wants to end up being a Haman?

Someone once pointed out that In God’s orchard, the branches which bear the most fruit hang lowest.

Esther 6:1-11: Perfect timing

“That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes.‘What honour and recognition has Mordecai received for this?’ the king asked.‘Nothing has been done for him,’ his attendants answered.The king said, ‘Who is in the court?’ Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about impaling Mordecai on the pole he had set up for him.His attendants answered, ‘Haman is standing in the court.’‘Bring him in,’ the king ordered.When Haman entered, the king asked him, ‘What should be done for the man the king delights to honour?’Now Haman thought to himself, ‘Who is there that the king would rather honour than me?’ So he answered the king, ‘For the man the king delights to honour, let them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honour, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honour!”’10 ‘Go at once,’ the king commanded Haman. ‘Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.’11 So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honour!’ NIV

There is nothing we enjoy more than seeing the villain get his, or her, comeuppance. The book of Esther is masterful story-telling, and this sixth chapter makes for delicious reading.

Many years ago, Alex Haley’s book, ‘Roots’, created something of a sensation. Eventually it was serialised, and just before it was shown on television, there was a lot of publicity surrounding it. Haley was interviewed and asked about the secret of its success. He replied, ‘I don’t really know, but I do remember something my grandma used to say: ‘’You never know when the Lord’s going to come, but He’s always on time!’’ ‘

Not only does this sixth chapter show that we shouldn’t despise the day of small things; it also illustrates the perfection of God’s timing. The book of Esther is full of what many would call ‘coincidences’, but believers would want to say they are ‘God-incidences.’ There may be days when we cry out, ‘How long O Lord?’ We may be sure that the Lord will always be on time. But His movements will be according to His own timetable and not ours. It may look to us like He is cutting it very fine indeed!

Warren Wiersbe makes the point that ‘providence means ‘to see beforehand’. He writes, ‘If any chapter in the book of Esther reveals the providence of God, it is this one… God is working on your behalf today, so trust Him (Rom.8:28).’ ‘With the Word’, p.275.

PRAYER: I confess to you Lord that I do not always understand your timing, but please help me to trust where I do not see.

Esther 6:1-5: A very small hinge

That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes.‘What honour and recognition has Mordecai received for this?’ the king asked.‘Nothing has been done for him,’ his attendants answered.The king said, ‘Who is in the court?’ Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about impaling Mordecai on the pole he had set up for him.His attendants answered, ‘Haman is standing in the court.’‘Bring him in,’ the king ordered.”NIV

Significant events may turn on small hinges. In this case it was a king’s sleepless night; it was a previous overlooking of Mordecai in the ‘honours list; and it was Haman ‘just happening’ to be in court at the crucial moment.  In the church today, many people are wowed by the big and spectacular. I’m not saying God is not in such. He may well be. But my point is that he is also in the small, the ordinary, the commonplace – so much so that we often fail to see Him there. Especially do we fail to see Him in little situations and (those we deem to be) little people.

We may often over-look the faithful godly. But God sees them. He knows their deeds; and in His own time He will rewards.

‘God’s delays are not necessarily His denials.’

Esther 5: 9-14: The smallest parcel

 “Haman went out that day happy and in high spirits. But when he saw Mordecai at the king’s gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai. 10 Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home.Calling together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, 11 Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honoured him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. 12 ‘And that’s not all,’ Haman added. ‘I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. 13 But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.’14 His wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, ‘Have a pole set up, reaching to a height of fifty cubits, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai impaled on it. Then go with the king to the banquet and enjoy yourself.’ This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the pole set up.” NIV

I believe Billy Graham once said this, ‘The smallest parcel I ever saw was a man wrapped up in himself.’

Today’s passage suggests what a little man Haman was – a little man in a big position – and it does so with a touch of humour and irony. Verse 14 reminds me of the story of Jezebel maliciously obtaining Naboth’s vineyard for her sulking husband. Haman might have to await the allotted time to have all the Jews slaughtered, but he could surely arrange for Mordecai’s demise ahead of schedule? They proposed Mordecai should be hung on extra high gallows to make mean-spirited Haman all the more happy!

We have here a wonderful pre-figuring of the cross. The devil had ‘’gallows built’’ for Jesus, but he ended up being destroyed by the very instrument designed to crucify the Lord:

‘’Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death’’ (Hebrews 2:14,15).

As David cut off Goliath’s head with Goliath’s sword, so Jesus effectively used Satan’s own weapon on him.

PRAYER: Lord, we again marvel at your ways, and we rejoice in your victory.

Esther 5:6-8: Riding for a fall

“6 As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, ‘Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.’Esther replied, ‘My petition and my request is this: If the king regards me with favour and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfil my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question.’”NIV

Even when wicked people seem to prosper, the rug can be pulled from under them at any moment (see Ps.37).

We don’t know why Esther didn’t make her request at the first banquet, but we can see that God must have been guiding her. The story is full of dramatic effect, and the set up for Haman’s fall is even greater. He must have been revelling in being the king’s right hand buddy, and getting to go to all these parties with him (see verse 12). But he was reading things all wrong. His ‘come-uppance’ was awaiting, just around the corner.

‘’Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall’’ (Proverbs 16:18).

‘Poor Haman was basking in false glory, boasting about false wealth, enjoying false happiness, and resting on false confidence. He did not realise that the shadow of death was over him. But is he much different from the proud unbelievers of this day who build their lives on illusions?’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.275.

Esther 5:1-5: The king’s bounty

On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the sceptre.Then the king asked, ‘What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.’‘If it pleases the king,’ replied Esther, ‘let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.’‘Bring Haman at once,’ the king said, ‘so that we may do what Esther asks. So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared.” NIV

For many years, upon re-reading this passage, it has caused me to think about our standing before God in Christ. As we come to Him, dressed in’’royal robes’’ of righteousness which He Himself has provided, He is ‘’pleased’’ with us. He welcomes us into His intimate presence, and we may approach Him. Furthermore, He is so generous in His offers to us. Think about the many, and varied, promises God makes in His Word to those who seek Him in prayer. True, there are also conditions to be fulfilled by us, but our great King of all kings is more than generous – even more so than this pagan king.  Our God is a prayer-answering God, and the very tone and atmosphere of today’s reading is intended to show us that the fasting and prayer were effective. This was a remarkable answer.

‘Thus having had power with God and prevailed, like Jacob, she had power with men too. He that will lose his life for God shall save it, or find it in a better life…

God can turn the hearts of men, of great men, of those that act most arbitrarily, which way he pleases towards us. Esther feared that she should perish, but was promised that she should have what she might ask for, though it were the half of the kingdom. Note, God in his providence often prevents the fears, and outdoes the hopes, of his people, especially when they venture in his cause. Let us from this story infer, as our Saviour does from the parable of the unjust judge, an encouragement to pray always to our God, and not faint, Lu. 18:6-8. Hear what this haughty king says (What is thy petition, and what is thy request? It shall be granted thee), and say shall not God hear and answer the prayers of his own elect, that cry day and night to him? Esther came to a proud imperious man; we come to the God of love and grace. She was not called; we are: the Spirit says, Come, and the bride says, Come. She had a law against her; we have a promise, many a promise, in favour of us: Ask, and it shall be given you. She had no friend to introduce her, or intercede for her, while on the contrary he that was then the king’s favourite was her enemy; but we have an advocate with the Father, in whom he is well pleased. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace.’ Matthew Henry.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord for the many encouragements to our faith in your Word. Please teach us to pray, and forgive our prayer-lessness.

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