Monday, December 22, 2014

"God turns the tables on evil … "

Day #360:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - December 23rd

Scripture Reading:  Esther 6 - 10 …

Evil will not win!  I know it looks like evil is winning sometimes, and I know it feels like evil is winning sometimes, but in the end GOD wins!!  In the end, those who know Jesus Christ have victory over evil in every way imaginable … and then beyond our imagination.  The true story of Esther is a reminder that God is powerful and wise enough to stop evil in its tracks.  We need to know this truth and remember this truth during those times when God DOESN'T stop evil in its tracks, because it's then that we need to live by faith, knowing that God is still at work and if He allows evil to run its course at times, there is a reason that will in some way serve to glorify God and to advance His kingdom.  Faith to believe God and to trust God in spite of what we see, think and feel is what faith is all about.

Esther gives us a picture of God working behind the scenes without ever once mentioning God.  We know that Esther had become queen in Persia by God's design and when the king's right-hand-man, Haman, plotted to kill Mordecai, Esther's uncle, because he would not bow down to him, and devised a plan to destroy all the Jews throughout the empire, Mordecai had convinced Esther that God had placed her in this position "for such a time as this" (4:14).  So Esther had risked her life to go to the king to make a request and the first part of her request was to have a banquet with just the King and Haman.  The king granted her request and the preparations were being made for the next day.

Chapter 6 describes the events leading up to the banquet, beginning with a seemingly insignificant point:  "That night the king could not sleep …" (6:1).  God was about to show Haman, and through this story generations to follow, that He is able to turn the tables on evil in a moment.  We who know Esther's God, the only true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, should never be discouraged or overwhelmed because nothing is impossible with God!!  Because the king could not sleep, he ordered some of the chronicles of his reign to be brought to him and he began to read through some of the events of his reign thus far.  As he read he found the record of Mordecai warning the king of a plot on his life.  He had, quite literally, saved the king's life.  So the king asked what had been done for Mordecai and when he was told, "Nothing,"  he called for Haman.

This account would be humorous except for what hung in the balance … the lives of the Jews throughout the empire!!  The king asked Haman, "What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?" (6:6).  Of course, Haman thought the king was talking about him, so he designed this lavish display … the king's robe, the king's horse, a crown, being led through town in honor by one of the king's princes.  He made the reward spectacular and memorable.  Then the king said, "Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king's gate" (6:10).  Picture it:  Mordecai, who had refused to bow before Haman … Mordecai, whom Haman hated so much that he had devised this plan to exterminate ALL the Jews because of his hatred for Mordecai … this Mordecai was now being led through the city by HAMAN, with the robe of the king, the horse of the king and a crown making him the man the king honored.

Haman was so ashamed and so distraught that when the whole spectacle was over he rushed home and covered his head in grief.  His advisers and his wife warned him that Mordecai was going to be his downfall, and at that moment there was a knock on the door as the king's servants came to escort Haman to the banquet with the king and Queen Esther.  Haman was having a bad day and it was about to get worse.  The king asked Esther what her request was and she said simply:  "Grant me my life - this is my petition.  And spare my people - this is my request.  For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation" (7:3-4).  The king was obviously disturbed and asked who had done this, so Esther turned toward Haman and said, "The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman!" (7:6).

Because of his anger and hatred for Mordecai, Haman had built a high gallows that many could see upon which to hang Mordecai.  When this was told to the king, he said, "Hang HIM on it!" (7:9).  And so it was done.  That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman and Esther made Mordecai the overseer of all that had belonged to Haman.  God had turned the tables on the evil that Haman had attempted to do to Mordecai, and now He would also turn the tables on those who were enemies of the Jews throughout the entire empire.  The king gave Mordecai the authority to issue a decree that on the very day when Haman had ordered the Jews to be annihilated, on that day, the Jews were free to avenge themselves against their enemies.

"On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them" (9:1).  The decree was extended to two days and the enemies of the Jews were killed and the Jews experienced a time of peace and joy that had not been theirs since they had been exiled to Babylon.  In memory of the days, the feast of Purim was established, a feast that would be celebrated every year in memory of the events recorded in Esther and God's salvation of His people through Mordecai and the queen.  Pictured in all this is the battle between the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God that continues to this day.

Satan wanted to rid the earth of these people because he knew God's promise that the Savior would come from Judah, the One who would crush his head, destroying his power and his kingdom forever.  Satan knows who Jesus is and why He came.  Satan knows that Jesus will return to establish His kingdom in Jerusalem and so his plots continue against the Jewish people and the nation of Israel and Jerusalem.  During World War II it certainly appeared that evil was winning as six million Jews were killed.  Yet, out of that God brought the establishment of the nation of Israel, one of the last pieces of the puzzle leading to Christ's return in victory.

There is more to come.  Even now the enemies of Israel attempt to exterminate the Jews, and we know who is behind it.  We are told in Revelation that Satan will use the Antichrist to gather the nations against Israel.  Even now in the United Nations such a move is underway.  It is now a political and diplomatic "attack," but it will become more than that in future days.  But as God was in control of the events surrounding Esther and Mordecai and Haman and the Jews, so God is in control over all the events going on in the world today.  God says through the prophet Zechariah, "I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it …" (Zechariah 14:2).  God uses even the evil of Satan himself to accomplish His purposes as He turns the tables and brings victory out of apparent defeat.

Zechariah continues, "Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations" (Zechariah 14:3).  Revelation 19:11-21 describes the result of the battle and the beginning of Jesus' reign over the nations from Jerusalem, the very city and the very people that Satan has been trying to destroy for centuries.  God will turn the tables and Satan and evil will be destroyed forever!!  All this is more than Bible stories, this is truth that you and I need as we live in this world where evil continues to fight against God and His people.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesians 6: "Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:10-12).

Satan is, as some would say, "Alive and well," BUT, we who are born again and empowered by the Spirit of God stand against him by faith.  Peter writes, "Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you KNOW that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings (in other words, "you are not alone!") … AND the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will HIMSELF restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To HIM be the power for ever and ever. Amen!" (I Peter 5:8-11).

Where is your strength today?  Where do you go when you get discouraged, when it looks and feels like evil is winning?  Have you put on the armor of God, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the gospel of peace and the helmet of salvation?  Have you taken up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God and have you prepared for battle by spending time in prayer, seeking the Lord and resting in His promises through Jesus Christ?   Apathy and unbelief do not win over evil!  Faith in Jesus Christ accomplishes more through the power of God that any army could ever do.

With Paul we declare, "And we KNOW that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. … If God is for us, who can be against us?!" (Romans 8:28,31).  May you live with faith in Christ, confident that God is able to turn the tables on evil, and if, at the moment, He chooses not to do so, there is a good reason.  He will give you strength to endure and to persevere, and in the end, VICTORY IN JESUS will be yours!!

"Heavenly Father, to You I come for wisdom and for strength, confessing that when the attacks of Satan come against me and evil appears to have the upper hand, I need You to strengthen me that I may stand by faith.  By Your power at work within me, I trust in You, my God, my King, my Savior, my Redeemer and I commit myself to taking up the sword of the Spirit to defeat my enemies and to experience victory each day as I live with You and for You.  Use me, Father, to encourage others as we engage in the battles of this life, knowing that the kingdom and the power and the glory are YOURS!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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