Opening Prayer Thoughts.
Praise God that he has eternally decreed everything that is. Praise God that we do not live in a random world, governed by chance or fate. Ephesians 1:11 and Acts 15:18.
Thank God that he is Sovereign (Absolute Ruler) over all that he has created. That there is nothing beyond his everyday control. Psalm 24:1,2 and Matthew 10:29-31.
Please ask the Holy Spirit's help as you come to his Word.
Please read Esther chapter 9:1-32
Notes prepared by Rev. Johnny McCollum, Milford RPCI.
Esther 9:1-10. The Tables Have Turned.
I'll admit it: this isn't an easy passage to stomach. It seems nasty, vindictive, and bloody. We'll think more about the violence next time, but for now, try not to let it bother you. If you fixate on the bloodshed, you'll miss an absolute gem. Notice the second half of v1: "On the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred." I like the vividness of the NIV's wording here: "the tables were turned". Doesn't that sum up the Book of Esther in a nutshell? The victims became the victors (v1). The hunters became the hunted (v2). The frightened were suddenly feared (v3). For most of the book, the man who controls the levers of power is a spiteful, genocidal madman. By the close of the book, it's the champion of God's people who are pulling the strings. How could this be? We know the answer by now! Not once, not even in the darkest hour, did God cease to be in control. He was never taken by surprise, and his plan was never under threat. His Sovereign will accomplished this radical reversal. Many centuries may have passed, and God is still on the throne. His people still face the catastrophes of furious opposition, malicious propaganda, and terminal weakness. Yet God is still the one who turns tables. One woman who knew this was Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:51-52). What prompted her to say what she did? The coming of the Messiah, of course! She knew Jesus would be the one to reverse the course of human history: he would bring Satan to his knees, and he would restore his people to what they were made to be. Christ's work has been decisive, but he is not finished yet. His enemies have not yet met their ultimate fate; his people have not yet been fully exalted. That will happen though: Christ is coming back and he's going to turn the tables once and for all.
Esther 9:11-19. A Puzzling Question.
Our world is marred by the destructive cycle of sectarian violence. One side attacks, the other strikes back. One killing is met by another; one atrocity breeds many in response. No one wins. If you were to cut these verses out of your Bible and read them in isolation, you might be rather unimpressed. Yes, the Jews had been wronged, but this is revenge on a horrifying scale. It's mindless sectarian violence. Perhaps cutting these verses out isn't such a bad idea. Let's not be so hasty! Perhaps our unease says more about our 21st century squeamishness than it does about the facts on the ground. First of all, we need to remember that these enemies were on the loose and hungry for Jewish blood; killing them was an act of self-defence (v16). Secondly, and more importantly, we need to see these events in their proper perspective. The Ancient Near East was a sordid place: full of barbaric practices, pagan rituals, and idolatrous worship. At the heart of the matter was a stubborn rebellion against the God who created all nations. This may be an unpopular thing to say, but these nations deserved this judgement. At various points in the Old Testament, God called on his people to be the instruments of that judgement (Deuteronomy 7). In today's passage, God once again used the Jews in order to punish the wicked rebellion against himself. Perhaps as you read today's passage, you thought to yourself: "How can God be so severe?" You need to remember that these wicked, rebellious nations were spared for centuries before God executed his judgement. Why did he allow sworn enemies to wreak havoc for so long? Why did he not act sooner? By the same token, why does he allow modern nations to flaunt his laws repeatedly? Why does he allow individuals to spend years in rebellion against him? God graciously gives ample opportunity to repent. His patience is the real marvel here. How can God be so merciful? That's the most puzzling question of all.
Esther 9:20-32. Remembrance Day.
Every year many countries pause to reflect on the horrors of war and the sacrifices of the fallen. In the UK, this annual event is known as Remembrance Day – an apt name for a day that's all about looking back. Given our culture's tendency to fixate on the here and now, this is seen as an increasingly important event. The theory is that those who forget the painful mistakes of the past are more likely to make the same mistakes in the future. Since those mistakes had such horrific consequences, Remembrance Day is a rather gloomy affair. Today's passage deals with a Jewish version of Remembrance Day. It performed much the same function: stopping painful lessons from being forgotten amidst the busyness of modern life. However, that's where the similarities end: The Feast of Purim was an unashamedly celebratory event. Does this passage still matter in the 21st Century? Yes, it does. Believers today may not be called to celebrate Purim, but we're still called to look back and learn the lessons of the past. Just like the Jews of centuries ago, it is good to reflect on God's deliverance. If anything, we should be even more enthusiastic than the Jews in this passage. After all, their rescue was a temporary one; it did not deal with the problems of sin, guilt, and judgement. By contrast, we look back to the final, perfect, once and for all deliverance won by the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us learn from these verses. Would it not be helpful to regularly and deliberately remember your salvation? Is it not good to remember what you were before rescue, remember the doom that awaited you, and remember how Jesus Christ has turned the tables? But more than that, is it not vital that we commit ourselves to the official Remembrance Day celebrations of God's people? These aren't an annual, but a weekly event. God has set aside one day per week to remember our salvation through Jesus Christ. Isn't that something to cherish?
Sing with joy in your heart to God.
Psalm 68B. Link to the words. Link to it being sung.
It is a privilege to lay into our hearts and minds the light and truth of God's Word.
Ephesians 2:4-6 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him”
Truth for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 7 – What are the decrees of God?
Answer – The decrees of God are his eternal plan, according to the purpose of his will, by which, for his own glory, he has foreordained whatever comes to pass; yet in such a manner as to be in no way the author of sin.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you will find proof texts.
Thank God for whatever is on your heart.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley
Minister, Ottawa RPC