Monday, March 31, 2008

For such a time as this

First, an item of business: I think I may have unintentionally misrepresented my son's cleaning skills yesterday. Cleaned, he did, just not very well. While his initiative is certainly admirable, his performance, well, it leaves something to be desired. Actually, my husband refused to even give him the $2 until he improves a bit on the service rendered.

So, be impressed that he actually thought of cleaning on his own (believe me, I'm more than impressed, I'm shocked) but do not think my bathrooms are now something to be envied. Quite the contrary, I assure you.

Now, on to the main idea for the day. Tonight we effectively wrap up our study of Ruth and Esther. Next week is officially the last night of this particular unit but we will be enjoying our customary end-of-session celebration at the local Chinese restaurant. It's a long standing community Bible study tradition!

The lives of Ruth and Esther have provided an interesting and intriguing study as we have discussed over and over the sovereignty of our God. These two women and the events that comprise their stories in the Word of God remind us that God does indeed work all things together for good and for His glory.

The book of Esther is unique among Scripture as God's name is never expressly mentioned. Nor, by the way, is there any reference to any specific religious activity. True, Esther asks her people to fast, and one might assume she implicitly intends prayer to accompany the fast, but the Bible doesn't say so.

We've engaged in some rich discussion over the past several weeks as we wrestled with the question of why Esther and Mordecai appear to be so secular in their lifestyles. Sure, we want to think they were devout, God fearing Jews eager to do whatever necessary to act as agents of God's deliverance. Certainly there are novels and movies and even a couple of commentaries I read that perpetuate this very idea of Esther's and Mordecai's unwavering devotion to their God, their stellar character, and pure motives.

Yet if we separate ourselves from our assumptions and our tendency to romanticize their story, looking instead at what the Bible expressly tells us, we just don't see it. Certainly they may have been extremely devout, but the writer of the book of Esther doesn't tell us so. In fact, we do know that they chose to remain in Persia as exiles instead of returning to the homeland like Ezra and Nehemiah. Not to mention the fact that Esther is able to effectively conceal all vestiges of her Jewishness for five years or more as Queen, certainly requiring her to live in violation of God's laws.

All that to say, the characteristics that make the book of Esther so unique--the absence of God's name and direct activity as well as Esther's seeming lack of faithful obedience to the ways of her God--offer great encouragement to me as I too live as an exile in a pagan land.

Because I see in Esther's story the faithfulness of my God to work all things together for good and His glory, even with an invisible hand, I can trust Him when I cannot see Him. There are many times I've wondered where He was, could He see, did He know, would He act. Even when He seems far off and invisible, I can trust Him. He is working it out in ways I cannot see...yet!

I have also learned through the study of Esther that God will be faithful to deliver His people despite their disobedience and rebellion. Esther and Mordecai, choosing to remain among the pagan people, apparently fully assimilated to the culture that surrounded them, effectively blending in, seem incongruous choices to bring about the salvation of the Jews. As Matthew Henry states in his commentary: "These, one would think, should have been excluded the special protection of Providence, as unworthy…but our God deals not with us according to our folly and weakness…"

Our God deals not with us according to our folly and weakness! He does not treat us as our sins deserve! What good news! What grace! His choice of Esther reflects His choice of me: the outcast, the unworthy, the flawed, the sinful. Just as He saved His people from death and destruction in Esther's story, so He has saved me, and, also like Esther and her people, not because of anything I have done but because He is faithful and gracious, abounding in love and full of mercy.

I am an exile in a pagan land. As I long for Home, my true Home, I pray for the kind of bold, zealous faith that no matter what my Lord will ask of me--for such a time as this--I will say like Esther, "If I perish, I perish"--only let me bring glory to my all glorious God!

8 comments:

  1. What an encouraging post. I had never really thought about Esther in quite that way.

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  2. Awesome -- thanks for sharing a little of what you've learned through your study. This post has definitely whet my appetite for those books.

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  3. Great perspective. I've always loved both of these books, but had not realized Esther had chosen to remain as exiles. Thanks for sharing this.

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  4. Love it. Some things about the Esther story I hadn't thought on before!

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  5. Lisa, thanks for stopping by. Yes, I do have quite a theologian on my hands with my little Timothy! He is something else!

    I spent too much time posting today that I don't have time to read much, but I will be back to read this post...I got a glimpse of it and would love to finish it...just running out of time!

    Thanks again, Angela

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  6. This sounds like a really interesting study. I'll admit I have never really studied the book of Ruth before. I know the story, but now I'm even more interested. Thanks for this!

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  7. I'm really encouraged by your insights! I suppose I've always been one of those ones to romanticize Esther's role and personality without ever giving much thought to Scripture's exposition of her life. And Mordachi... well, he's just an all-around great and holy guy... at least according to Veggie Tales =). How awesome to think that we serve a God who chooses to use us even when we're not always serving and obeying Him the way that we should!

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  8. This study sounds so cool!

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