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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

January 2021

Esther 8:9-14: The King’s Couriers

“9 At once the royal secretaries were summoned – on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan. They wrote out all Mordecai’s orders to the Jews, and to the satraps, governors and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. These orders were written in the script of each province and the language of each people and also to the Jews in their own script and language. 10 Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king’s signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king.11 The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies. 12 The day appointed for the Jews to do this in all the provinces of King Xerxes was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar. 13 A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.14 The couriers, riding the royal horses, went out, spurred on by the king’s command, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa.”NIV

‘Esther had exposed the enemy and saved her own life, but what about her people? The king himself could not revoke his edict, but he could issue another edict. He gave the Jews the right to arm and protect themselves and gave them nine months to get ready. The people of the land got the message: the king did not want the Jews to be harmed.

Can you see an illustration here of how God solved the sinners plight? You were under condemnation because of the law of sin and death (Rom.3:23;6:23). God did not revoke that law – He obeyed it! He sent His Son to die for our sins and to bring in ‘’the law of the Spirit of life’’ (Rom.8:2). Any sinner who believes the message and trusts the Saviour will receive everlasting life (John 3:15-16).

But that is not the end. We are the King’s couriers, sent into the world by His authority to share the good news that condemned sinners need not die! Just as those couriers ‘’hastened and pressed on by the king’s command’’ (v.14), so we must get the gospel to the ends of the earth as quickly as possible…’ Warren W. Wiersbe, ‘With the Word’, pp.277/278.

I would add that we need to get the message to people in terms they understand (see v.9). So the work of Bible translation is crucial. But in addition, wherever we live and work and socialise, there is a work of Biblical ‘translation’ to be done. The ever-present challenge for Christians is to learn to speak the language of the people we are trying to reach. Even if we share a common language (such as English), there is still a work of translation to be done. We have to ‘scratch where they itch’. Or, as Michael Green put it, we need to learn to row the gospel boat around the island of a person’s life, and discover where is the best place to ‘put in’.

‘’The couriers, riding the royal horses, raced out, spurred on by the king’s command.’’ (V.14).

PRAYER: Lord, help us to be quick and eager to obey you in carrying your message.

Esther 8:7,8: Things can change.

“7 King Xerxes replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, ‘Because Haman attacked the Jews, I have given his estate to Esther, and they have impaled him on the pole he set up. Now write another decree in the king’s name on behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring – for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.’ NIV

‘King Xerxes gave Haman’s property to Esther and Haman’s position to Mordecai; Mordecai became, in effect, the ‘’prime minister’’ of the Persian Empire. And Xerxes also gave Mordecai the signet ring that he had taken back from Haman; with the ring, Mordecai would now have authority to issue decrees in the king’s name (Esther 3:10-12)…But there remained one problem: Haman’s decree concerning the destruction of the Jews was still in effect. So Esther again begged the king to have that decree overruled.

Xerxes pointed out that no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring (could) be revoked (verse 8). The solution, then, was to write another decree which countered the first one. Mordecai was assigned the task of wording the new decree.’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’,p.776.

What a reversal of fortunes for Mordecai, Esther and the Jews! Things can change. Take heart. When things look desperate, be sure they can change. While we have God we have hope.

Verse 8 makes me think of the Bible. Here we have a more sure and certain word than that of any earthly, powerful potentate. It is an unfailing word from an omnipotent King. Day by day, as we read it, we see clearly that things can change; people can change; circumstances can change. But it also shows that even if/when they do not, all is still well because the ‘’only wise’’ God is in control.

Be sure that, although they may be permitted their brief hour on the stage, the bullies of history will not have the final word.

Thought: ‘Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.’ Corrie Ten Boom.

Esther 8:3-6: Intercession and the intolerable

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

I wonder, are many of us sleep-walking?

Here is just one statement from ‘the Spectator’s’ news update for Monday 27th January 2021:

‘More children have been admitted to hospital for mental health reasons than for medical reasons during the pandemic, according to the President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.’

This is just one sad facet among many of the crisis we are facing. Ought we not to give ourselves a good talking to, shake off lethargy, and get into the place of prayer where we can make a difference?

The intolerable should drive us to intercession:

How intolerable do things have to become before so many in the church stop ‘talking a good game’ when it comes to prayer, and actually get on to the field of play?

‘The church that is not praying is playing.’

There were certain things Esther could not ‘’bear’’ (6), and they drove her to use her position to intercede. She came before the one who had the authority to change things. She did so with intensity. I’m sure you noticed.

The intolerable fuels intensity in intercession:

Esther was desperate. She ‘’pleaded’’; she ‘’begged’’ (3). She fell at the king’s feet and wept. She humbled herself before him. Listen to her words. She recognised it was important to sincerely say, ‘Your will be done’. But she was nevertheless clear and fervent in her asking. Things had to change. (See James 5:16b).

The intolerable leads to intense intercession which in turn changes history:

A book title comes to mind: ‘Shaping history through prayer and fasting.’ I also think of Walter Wink’s famous phrase: ‘History belongs to the intercessors.’

PRAYER: Lord, pour upon your church the spirit of prayer.

Esther 8:1-2: Where is your treasure?

“That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came into the presence of the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her. The king took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed him over Haman’s estate.” NIV 

I believe Corrie Ten Boom said something like this: ‘We need to hold lightly to everything we have because it hurts if God has to prize our fingers away.’

Haman would have turned in his grave if he’d known what had happened to his ‘’estate’’ – to the things he valued. Talk about adding insult to injury. To think that it would go to two of the people he hated and wanted to destroy.

Two ladies were talking about a rich man who had recently died. One asked, ‘How much did he leave?’ ‘Everything’, the other replied.

There is no truer fact than this: you can’t take it with you. That said, you can send it on ahead of you. Jesus talked about laying up treasure in heaven. If we steward our resources wisely, seeking to use them under God’s direction, there is a sense in which we can send them before us, even though we can’t take them with us.

Emulating John Wesley, let’s seek to do all the good we can to all the people we can in every way we can for as long as we can – using the things God has entrusted to us.

PRAYER: Lord, I thank you that I am richly blessed. I do not deserve all of this goodness you have bestowed upon me. Teach me to be generous, to share, and to use everything you have entrusted to me in ways which please and glorify you.

Esther 7:1-2: Another thought about prayer

“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

Before we move on into Esther 8, I want to share with you another comment on prayer – this time from F.B.Meyer in his ‘Great verses through the Bible’, p.175.

“In these words of the king we are reminded that God is willing to do beyond what we ask or think. Not to the half of his kingdom, but to the whole extent of it, has God pledged Himself, ‘’according to the power that worketh in us.’’ But our prayer must be in the name, or nature, of Christ; that is, the nature of Christ must pray in us, and God must recognise Himself come back through the circle of our intercession to Himself. The Spirit must make intercession in us, according to the will of God. When the unselfish, lovely, and holy nature of Jesus pleads in us by the Holy Ghost, there is nothing that God will not do for us, even to the whole of his kingdom.

‘’If ye abide in Me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’’

‘’Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name He will give it to you’’ ‘

In Richard Foster’s excellent book on prayer, he begins his chapter on petitionary prayer with this quote from C.H.Spurgeon: ‘Whether we like it or not, asking is the rule of the Kingdom.’ He makes the point that some people seem to regard contemplation as the highest form of prayer, but in truth the Bible is filled with petitionary prayers. The prayer Jesus gave His disciples to pray (the one we call ‘the Lord’s prayer) is predominantly petition.

We have the opportunity, the privilege, and the responsibility to ask.

Esther 7:8b-10: Downfall

“8 Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banqueting hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining. The king exclaimed, ‘Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?’ As soon as the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, ‘A pole reaching to a height of fifty cubits stands by Haman’s house. He had it set up for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.’The king said, ‘Impale him on it!’ 10 So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided.” NIV

Let all who desire to be important and famous and powerful in this world take note. Things can change in a moment. It can all be over so quickly. That position you wanted, and thought would bring you happiness, proved as transient as a bubble in a bath tub. Haman was now yesterday’s man – not because he was dismissed, but because he was dead. He’d been a prominent guest at the party, but for him the party was over.

We’ve already seen that there is a foreshadowing of the cross in Haman being destroyed by his own instrument of destruction. He had the gallows built for Mordecai, but they were to be the death of him. ‘’The righteous is delivered from trouble, and it comes to the wicked instead’’ (Proverbs 11:8)

Note the last verse: ‘’So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided’’

There is a truth about the cross in the Bible, but it is deeply unpopular today. It is that Christ died as a ‘propitiation’. In other words, He took the wrath of God against sin upon Himself. Although many don’t like this idea, it is a precious thought to believers that in Jesus they are freed from the wrath and judgment of God.

PRAYER: Thank God for Jesus

Esther 7:3-8: What a farce!

“3 Then Queen Esther answered, ‘If I have found favour with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life – this is my petition. And spare my people – this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.’King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, ‘Who is he? Where is he – the man who has dared to do such a thing?’Esther said, ‘An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!’Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen. The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realising that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life.Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banqueting hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining.The king exclaimed, ‘Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?’As soon as the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.” NIV

This is surely one of the great lines in the book:

’The adversary and enemy! this vile Haman’’ (6).

Throughout the chapter the pantomime continues, and even descends into farce (8). You want to laugh, but if it is funny it is tragically so.

The sad truth is we reap what we sow.

‘’He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment. He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made. The trouble he causes recoils on himself: his violence comes down on his own head’’ (Psalm 7:14-16).

Haman is an embodiment of this principle.

‘Those that are most haughty and insolent when in power and prosperity, commonly, like Haman, are the most abject and poor-spirited when brought down. The day is coming when those that hate and persecute God’s chosen ones, would gladly be beholden to them. The king returns yet more angry against Haman. Those about him were ready to put his wrath into execution. How little can proud men be sure of the interest they think they have! The enemies of God’s church have often been thus taken in their own craftiness. The Lord is known by such judgments…Let the workers of iniquity tremble, turn to the Lord, and seek pardon through the blood of Jesus.’ Matthew Henry.

By the way, at this moment Xerxes must have realised that Esther was a Jew, and there is no record to indicate that he was perturbed by the news!

PRAYER: Lord, may we realise that our actions have consequences.

Esther 7:1-6: A further word about prayer

“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.’Then Queen Esther answered, ‘If I have found favour with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life – this is my petition. And spare my people – this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.[a]King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, ‘Who is he? Where is he – the man who has dared to do such a thing?’Esther said, ‘An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!’Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen.” NIV

Today, to reinforce the lesson about prayer, I want to add a further comment from the pen of Matthew Henry: ‘If the love of life causes earnest pleadings with those that can only kill the body, how fervent should our prayers be to Him, who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell! How should we pray for the salvation of our relatives, friends, and all around us! When we petition great men, we must be cautious not to give them offence; even just complaints must often be kept back. But when we approach the King of kings with reverence, we cannot ask or expect too much. Though nothing but wrath be our due, God is able and willing to do exceeding abundantly, even beyond all we can ask or think.’

I recently heard Andy Stanley say, on a different subject, that knowing is not the same as doing. You can know/believe certain things are true without it changing your life.

So…let us pray…

PRAYER: Lord, may I not rest content to merely think about prayer, or read about prayer, or listen to sermons about prayer. Help me to pray.

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).

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