The Banquet and The Gallows

Esther 5:1-14

Three days ahead, and it was time for Esther to approach the king. So, she put on her royal garments and went to the inner courts. When the king saw her afar, he favoured her and held out his golden sceptre. So Esther was able to go to the king without being put to death. Beyond this, the king even asked her what she wanted, and promised to give even up to half of his kingdom – what a favour! Esther however told him, she would love to have him and Haman at a banquet she would be preparing for them.

So, the king sent for Haman, and they both went in the evening for a wine banquet with Esther. The king then probed further for what Esther wanted, but she delayed and requested that the king and Haman return the next day for another banquet, and then she would make her request! The king obliged her this request.

Is it not surprising how God‘s favour works. We should remember that before now, Esther had not seen the king for up to thirty days, but she now had appointments with him for three times within the spate of two days. Prayer goes and works where wits would dare not!

Haman then left the palace feeling glad at being specially invited by the queen to banquet with the king, but when he saw Mordecai at the gates, his countenance dropped because the “stubborn Jew” would still not bow to him or show any sense of fear, despite pending death threats to his whole people. So when Haman got home, he called his family and friends, and boasted about his achievements and status, his invitation to dine with the king and queen alone, but also his frustration at Mordecai’s stubbornness. So the advised him to build gallows and request from the king that Mordecai be hung there on, then he could proceed to his banquet later on in the evening happily. This pleased him, and the stage was set for the next day!

Everything is happening so fast, you wonder where it would all lead to! Come along!

Some verses to remember

2-3:  And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre. Then said the king unto her, What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom.

14:  Then said Zeresh his wife and all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high, and to morrow speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon: then go thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet. And the thing pleased Haman; and he caused the gallows to be made.

 

For Such A Time As This

Esther 4:1-17

Desperate times call for desperate measures! Mordecai was so upset with the command to destroy the Jews he went about in the city with sackcloth and ashes on his head, crying out with bitter cry. In every province, there was also great mourning among all the Jews when they received the news of their imminent destruction, many laid in sackcloth, weeping, wailing and fasting.

Esther eventually got wind of his uncle’s plight in the city, and she was very distressed. So she sent a messenger to him to find out what was wrong. Mordecai told the servant to tell Esther about Haman’s plot to destroy the Jews, he then asked that Esther go before the king to plead on behalf of her people.

Now, it was a custom that no man dare approached the king without being called, such would be put to death except the king holds out his golden sceptre to allow the person to live. Esther herself had not seen the king for up to thirty days. It was a very risky business, a matter of life and death. Mordecai however told Esther that if she refuses to help the Jews, help would still come from another place, but Esther and her father’s house would be destroyed. He then made the important note that, “who knows whether it was for such a time as this that Esther had come to the kingdom”!

Where ever we found ourselves, God has a purpose and an intention for us to fulfill beyond the perks of the position. God is a God of his people, always seeking to help and save his people, always seeking to find the lost, help the helpless, rescue the hopeless, and he wants to do it through us. We need to discover why we are where we are.

When Esther received Mordecai’s message, she made up her mind that she would risk her life and see the king, even if it meant her death. She requested that Mordecai gathered the people to fast on her behalf, as she and her servants would all also do for three days and night. This was massive, and could not be approached without adequate spiritual preparations. So Mordecai did as he was told by Esther, gathering the Jews to fast.

What happens next? We will soon discover as we come along.

Some verses to remember

14: For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

16: Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.

 

Enemy of The Jews

Esther 3:1-15

Today, we saw an extension of hatred from one man’s refusal to bow to the whole of his people. Haman, the Agagite, had just been promoted by king Ahasuerus above all the princes, and as commanded by the king, all the king’s servants within the court were to bow and pay homage to him.

We however have every reason to believe that this conflicted with Mordecai‘s belief system as a Jew, he refused to bow and pay homage to Haman. He eventually had to reveal the fact that he was a Jew, and when the allegations were to be made against him and his people, it was about the fact that they had a different law that conflicted with those of the king. Haman was enraged at Mordecai’s refusal to bow and pay homage, so he began to plot his revenge, the utter destruction of Mordecai and his people- the Jews!

So, Haman approached the king, and gained royal authority to carry on with the plot to destroy the Jews. Letters were written, sealed with the king’s signet ring and sent throughout the province, to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, and to plunder their possessions.

What a massive leap, from hatred for one man, to hatred to his whole people, and a plot to destroy the all. Where would all these lead. We wait and see!

 

“The Beauty Paegent”!

Esther 2:1-23

Today, the search began for a replacement for Vashti. After she had been punished for her disobedience, the king’s wrath subsided, and his servants advised that he should look for beautiful virgins all around the kingdom, bring them to the Shushan (the capital), give them beauty treatments, and then whichever of them pleases the king most, should replace Vashti.

So, there was this Jew, Mordecai by name, who had been carried away from Jerusalem with other captives by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. Mordecai brought up Hadassah i.e. Esther , his uncle’s daughter, as both of her parents were dead. Esther was described as lovely and beautiful! So she was also taken with others to the king’s palace. Esther was very pleasing and obtained favour in the sight of Hegai, the custodian of the young women. He ensured that Esther had the best place in the house of the women, enough beauty preparations beyond her allowance, and seven choice maidservants.

Finally, the time came for the women to appear before the king, after twelve months of beauty preparations. – I have not heard of a longer make up session! The young woman would go in the evening and return in the morning to the second house for women, where concubines are kept. Such would never see the king again unless the king delighted in her and call for her by name. Such was the margin between success and failure in this beauty contest, it was all fame or shame!

The turn came for Esther to go, and she followed Hegai’s advise to details. Esther was favored in the sight of all who saw her, and the king was also pleased with her- he loved her more than all the other women, and set the royal crown upon her head to make her queen in place of Vashti. We can conclude that the king called Esther by name.

God has also called us by name. It is a honour  a privilege to be called by name by the king. Jesus knows your name and mine, he has called us to himself, we are seated with him in the heavenly places, and he has placed on us a crown of righteousness bought with his blood.

In the concluding part of the chapter, Mordecai uncovered a plot to murder the king, and Esther informed the king. It was proven to be true and the act was recorded in the book of the chronicles.

Where do we go next in the study? Do follow along.

Some verses to remember

13-14 Then thus came every maiden unto the king; whatsoever she desired was given her to go with her out of the house of the women unto the king’s house. In the evening she went, and on the morrow she returned into the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s chamberlain, which kept the concubines: she came in unto the king no more, except the king delighted in her, and that she were called by name.

17  And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.

 

 

 

 

Esther Begins – Vashti Deposed

Esther 1:1-22

Today, we move on to the last book to be considered under the bible history books – the book of Esther. The first chapter sets the background for what’s to come, how Esther became the queen, and how her story became a reference one in the history of God‘s people. Do come along!

In the third year of King Ahasuerus‘ reign ( he was  ruler over one hundred and twenty seven provinces), he decided to make a feast for all his officials and servants, the of Persia and Media. The feast had a strong element of showing off. Ahasuerus showed off the riches of his glorious kingdom and splendor of his excellent majesty for many days, culminating in a seven day feast.

On the seventh day however, the showoff went “not as planned”. After Ahasuerus’ heart was merry with wine, he ordered his eunuchs to go fetch Vashti, the queen, to come and display her royal beauty and majesty – even the bible attested that she was beautiful to behold. Queen Vashti however refused to obey the king’s command, inciting the king’s fury.

Ahasuerus then consulted with his wise men on what was to be done to Vashti for her disobedience. Memucan told the king that Vashti’s action would result in wives everywhere despising their husbands, breeding contempt and wrath. To avoid this he advised the king to make a royal decree to be announced all through the province, that Vashti was to come no more before the king, and her position given to another more worthy. This when spread through all the empire, would cause all wives to honour their husbands, both great and small. The advise was pleasing to the king and implemented.

The king’s request to Vashti was awkward at the best, but we also asked the question of whether she could have responded in a more honourable way. There was however no question about the veracity and decisiveness of the action taken against Vashti to serve as a lesson for all. No matter the causes of all the actions and reactions, these set the background for the appointment of another queen, and the introduction of Esther to the royal stage.

Some verses to remember

19: Let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she.

Righting the Wrongs

Nehemiah 13:1-31

As we conclude the book of Nehemiah, today we read of efforts made to ensure that things were done aright.

Starting with the commandment seen in the book of Moses that the Ammonites and Moabites should not come into the congregation of God forever because of how they treated Israel while on their journey from Egypt, the people obeyed by separating themselves from all the mixed multitude.

Next was Nehemiah having to deal with Eliashib‘s actions. Eliashib was priest having oversight of the chamber of the house of God, but when Nehemiah was away on assignment, Eliashib prepared the chamber for Tobiah-one of Israel’s foremost enemies- to stay. This action grieved Nehemiah, and when he returned he threw out all of Tobiah’s belongings, and commanded the chambers to be cleansed.

Next agenda was to ensure on Nehemiah’s list was to ensure that the Levites portions were given them, as hitherto they have fled to the field. Nehemiah contended with the rulers to ensure that the people brought the tithes of their corn, new wine and oil into the treasuries.

Also, when Nehemiah saw that in Judah, some were treading wine presses and trading on the Sabbath, he contended with the nobles, reminding them that Israel’s previous transgressions brought about their exile. He then gave instructions to his servants to shut the gate just before Sabbath and stand to ensure no burden was brought through the gate on the Sabbath.

Finally, Nehemiah corrected those found to be marrying strangers. The children of these people could not even speak the Jewish language. Nehemiah cursed some of them, smote some of them, and made them swear that they would not give their sons or daughters in marriage to the strangers that caused even Solomon the great king to sin. He chased away the son of Joiada the priest, who doubled as son in law to Sanballat the Horonite.

So much passion, so much zeal, this parallels Jesus whipping the merchants in the temple. There indeed is what is called holy anger, which when expressed by hearts passionate for God aggressively seeks to right that which is in the wrong. If you are such passionate, then you could say with Nehemiah in conclusion that , ” remember me, O my God, for good”.

Some verses to remember

3: Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.

9: Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought I again the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering and the frankincense.

22: And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy.

30: Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business.

Priests and Levites.

 

Nehemiah 12:1-47

We continued to read of those who went up to Jerusalem today as mention was made of the Priests and Levites. The responsibilities of this group was also mentioned as Israel continued to rebuild and reestablish their life of worship in Jerusalem.

Later on, we read of the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem,  the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres. When the priests and Levites had purified themselves ceremonially, they purified the people, the gates and the wall of Jerusalem.

As we draw near to the end of the book of Nehemiah, we could see that much has indeed been done by way of restoration. The wall rebuilt, worship restored, dwellers settled in Jerusalem and other cities, all because a man with a passion and heart for God and his land took action.

What would you do for God? What would be said of you?

Some verses to remember

43: Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.

45: And both the singers and the porters kept the ward of their God, and the ward of the purification, according to the commandment of Davidand of Solomon his son.

 

Dwellers in Jerusalem

 

Nehemiah 11:1-36

Today, we read of those who dwelt in Jerusalem after the rebuilding had been done.

First and foremost, the rulers of the people, and then the rest of the people cast lots, to bring one of every ten people to dwell in Jerusalem, and the other nine dwelt in other cities. So, the people blessed all the men that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.

The remainder of the chapter gave a list of those who decided to dwell in Jerusalem. Do not worry, I won’t be listing all the names here, but for those who want all the details, check the eleventh chapter.

Israel‘s rebuilding plan had a lot of parts to it, but finally their holy city could be dwelt in, as we gradually draw towards the end of the book of Nehemiah.

 

Sworn to Obedience

Nehemiah 10:1-39

Today’s reading gave a profile of all the people that gathered at the Watergate to make a commitment to obey God’s laws as given by Moses.

These people were sworn by oath and curses to ensure they obey God. They promised not to intermingle with the foreigners in marriage, to watch to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy by not trading, and also to forgive debts in the seventh year. Other commitments included given a third of their money yearly for the service of the house of God, bringing their first-fruits to God’s house, and the firstborn of their sons and flocks. Indeed, the people committed to never forsake the house of God.

Israel’s attitude to God today begets the question, “How committed are I to the things of God?” Are we willing to be bound in oath and curses to obey him, to give our lives and our substance in honour and worship of him. God deserves the very best from us, afterall  he made us and owns us and all we have.

Worship him with your life and all!

 

 

 

A Nation Repents

Nehemiah 9:1-38

Today, the people of Israel gathered together with fasting, separating themselves from all strangers. The gathering was to confess their sins and those  of their fathers in a show of genuine national repentance.

The day started with the reading of the book of the law of the Lord, and the other parts of the day the spent confessing their sins and worshiping God. With the Levitical leaders going through Israel‘s history to show how God had dealt with the fathers – starting from Abraham, to the miracles God did in Egypt, and in the desert with the giving of the law.

They also recounted how the fathers were unfaithful, making for themselves gods, causing great provocation. Despite these, God had been merciful to them, feeding them, and leading them, and preserving them in the wilderness. God also gave them lands to possess, giving them strong cities, but after eating to their fill, they became disobedient to God, and he delivered them into the hands of their enemies. However, when they cried out to Him, he sent them saviors to deliver them from their enemies.

Israel’s cycle of disobedience and deliverance from trouble went on and on until their exile to Babylon. Now that they had returned, they sought God’s face for mercy. They confessed their sins and those of their fathers, and they made a covenant to obey God’s laws.

Just like the Israelites, we all have a journey with God. Most times it is not a smooth run. Do we always come back to God in repentance and a willingness to obey him from our hearts. Make a commitment to God today, He is willing to help you to obey him.