Day #353: Daily Bible Reading Plan - December 16th
Scripture Reading: Esther 1 - 5 …
From the moment of his rebellion against God in the halls of heaven, Satan has attempted to stop God's plan to establish His kingdom among the human race. What you see going on around you today, as people oppose the truth of the Gospel that faith in Jesus is the ONLY way to eternal life, and as they demand toleration of ALL religions (except true Christianity), is but Satan's continued attempt to exterminate the kingdom of God before Jesus returns. And the center of Satan's attacks and the focus of his plots continues to be ISRAEL - the Jews in particular - the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
It should not surprise us to witness the rebirth of the nation of Israel following the holocaust of World War II … God predicted through the prophets that He would re-establish Israel as a nation prior to the coming of the King, which we know will be the return of Jesus, who will come to reign over the nations. We live today among a growing tide of opposition to this tiny nation-state which exists on the very land God promised to their forefathers. For those who think that the Church has replaced Israel in God's plans, Paul writes in Romans 11: "As far as the Gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account (at that time the Jews were persecuting Christians); but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), for God's gifts and His call are irrevocable" (Romans 11:28-29).
Meanwhile, God IS working today through the Church, Jews and Gentiles together, who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. This is "the day of salvation" (II Corinthians 6:2), but it is about to draw to a close, and when it does, God will deal once again specifically with Israel and the Jews. Why? For His Name's honor and glory! Israel always existed for God's glory and He has said that they are HIS and that He will show Himself holy among them. That day is rapidly approaching … but first, we need to be reminded that God keeps His promises and that He uses people just like you and me to fulfill His purposes.
One such person was Esther. She was a young Jewish woman who because of her beauty was taken into the palace of the king of Persia. Her uncle, Mordecai, had raised her when her parents died. The queen had angered her husband, the king, so he was looking for a replacement! His servants gathered young women from all over his realm and Esther was one of them. She did not reveal to anyone that she was a Jew, as the Jews were always hated (Satan's work!). Eventually, Esther won the king's favor and became queen of the land. All of that seems well and good, relatively harmless and even rather amazing. But there was much, much more going on behind the scenes.
During this time Mordecai heard some men plotting to kill the king and he relayed the information to Esther. "Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai" (2:22). The two men were subsequently apprehended and put to death ... another seemingly meaningless and unrelated event in the history of the captivity of the Jews in Babylon and then Persia. All around you and me every day there are events that take place and go unnoticed … "chance" happenings, coincidences that later are seen to fit like pieces in an elaborate puzzle designed by God for His glory and for the welfare of those who are His people. There is never a moment when God is not at work!
And because of his hatred of God and of His people, there is never a moment when Satan is not at work to try to destroy God's people and to interrupt God's plan. Just as God uses people to accomplish His purposes, Satan uses people to seek to accomplish his! Satan's instrument in the plot to destroy the Jews in the days of Esther was a man named, Haman. Haman was the chief official in King Xerxes cabinet. "All the royal officials at the king's gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. … BUT, Mordecai would NOT kneel down or pay him honor" (3:2).
As you might expect, it was not long before Mordecai became the thorn in Haman's side. It didn't matter that all the rest of the people knelt and showed him honor; there was one who didn't and Mordecai became the focus of Haman's attention. When he found out that Mordecai was a Jew, Haman decided in his anger that he would get rid of ALL the Jews throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes. Satan's anger and hatred knows no bounds. Haman, as others before him and after him, was a pawn of Satan, a "type" of the Antichrist, who will devise the last and greatest plot to destroy the Jews/Israel from the face of the earth. Even now we hear voices coming out of the Middle East, the United Nations and other places proposing the destruction of Israel. Satan is alive and well and there is no shortage of people willing to be his unwitting servants in his war against God and His people.
Yet here in Esther we see clearly the wisdom and power of God as He works out the smallest details in your life and mine … and in the whole world!! In his anger against Mordecai, Haman now "looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai's people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes" (3:6). So he went to the king and told him that there was a people who were scattered throughout his kingdom who are different than all the other people and who did not obey the king's laws. He then asked the king for permission to kill them all and the king told him to do as he pleased. We have a hard time understanding such thinking and actions … but similar things are going on in certain nations in the Middle East even today! And as I said earlier, the nations of the world are gathering "steam" against Israel once again.
Letters went out to all the provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews - young and old, women and little children - on a single day: the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, and to take all their possessions. The letter was to be read everywhere. … Now Mordecai learned of what was being done and he went into the city where the king was and cried out in despair, as did the Jews throughout the kingdom. Eventually, Esther found out about Mordecai and sent one of the servants to talk with him. Mordecai gave him a copy of the edict of the king and told him to show it to Esther and "urge her to go into the king's presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people" (4:8). GOD was working to protect His people and now it becomes clear, at least to Mordecai, that God had placed Esther in the palace precisely for this reason.
Esther, however, was afraid to go to the king. No one, not even the queen, could approach the king without first being invited. The only exception to death for such a person was if the king extended his golden scepter to them when they came. Esther's words and her hesitancy to act were reported to Mordecai and his answer reveals a knowledge of how God works that you and I need to have today:
"Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?!" (4:12-14).
God HAD done all of this to protect His people from Satan's evil plot. He could have used someone else. He could have chosen a different way to accomplish His purpose. But He had chosen Esther and this was HER moment!! Throughout the last 2500 years of history God has chosen a few such people, but each one has been surrounded by an army of others encouraging, supporting, praying and engaging in the battle for the glory of God! Esther sent out a message to the Jews to fast and pray before she went into the king. She said, "When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish" (4:18). From her point of view the fate of the nation lay on her … but we who serve the Lord know that we are but instruments in His hands. OUR fate, and that of all who believe, rests on God Himself, and He is faithful.
God gave to Esther courage and wisdom and she went to the king and he extended his scepter, receiving her into his presence. He said, "What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom. It will be given to you" (4:3). Rather than simply asking the king to stop this edict, she asked for a banquet to be prepared and for Haman to be invited. She didn't tell the king what she wanted, but told him that she would ask him when they got together with Haman the next day. So Haman received the invitation and was ecstatic! … until he saw Mordecai at the king's gate and Mordecai remained seated as Haman passed. Then his anger burned even more, but thinking he would soon be rid of Mordecai, he went home and prepared for the banquet with the king and the queen.
People who hate the Jews and Israel today, and who stand opposed to the Gospel and hate, or at least don't like Christians, are like Haman. They fail to understand that judgment awaits them. God is the same today as He was then. He does not overlook what lies in the heart of every man, woman and child … sinful rebellion. Only in Jesus, the Messiah, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, is there an escape from God's wrath. The anger and wrath of man can only reach so far and God's protection of His people extends throughout eternity!!! In this instance, He used Esther … today, He is using people like you and me.
Haman prepared for the banquet by building a gallows on which he hoped to hang Mordecai. God would turn the tables, as He will in our day as the nations gather against this same people, the descendants of Esther and Mordecai … the descendants of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We who believe in Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, must understand that WE have been called to place our faith in Jesus Christ by the Spirit of God and that we have been placed in this world "for such a time as this!" Though we have not replaced Israel, we have been grafted into the root (Romans 11:17-26) and included as part of God's people.
What is God calling you and me to do today? We are called to proclaim the name of Jesus in our homes, in the work place, at school, in our communities and wherever we can. Through the modern means of technology there is no excuse for NOT testifying that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord. We have been called as the people of God "for such a time as this." If we do not speak, God will raise up others, but our time is now! "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants of his household to give them food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns" (Matthew 24:45-46). And what better spiritual food is there than the Gospel of Jesus Christ?!
Share the good news of Jesus with those around you and be an instrument in God's hand to save those who believe from Satan's deception and from God's judgment. You are here, "for such a time as this!"
"Heavenly Father, as I see the evil in the world around me, I thank You for the assurance that YOU are still in control and that when it appears that Satan and his pawns are winning, it is a call to me to be engaged in the battle. Fill me with Your Spirit, and help me to put on all the armor You have provided: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the Gospel of peace and the sword of the Spirit, Your powerful Word. Empower me to be Your witness and to live knowing that I am here 'for such a time as this.' In Jesus' name, Amen"