:) Finally had some time! Next week should be fun... we're heading into some messianic prophecies... :)

Happy studying!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Esther Chapter 3

Esther 2:21-3:15


- One day, Mordecai's at the palace working. He's doing whatever he's supposed to do and in the process, he hears these two eunuchs, who happen to be guards on the king's private chambers, planning an assassination of King Xerxes. They were angry with him for some reason, and so they were going to kill him.

- They had the access, the opportunity... what could be better?

- Except that Mordecai overheard and told Esther about the plot. In turn, Esther told the king about the plot and gave Mordecai all the credit for saving the king.

- When the king investigated the story, it was found to be true. The two eunuchs were impaled on a sharpened pole.

- The whole story was recorded in “The Book of the History of King Xerxes' Reign.”

- How faithful are you in your job? Do you go above and beyond the call of duty? Or do you do the bare minimum?

- Mordecai didn't have to tell Esther anything. He could have just let it play out. “It's none of my business.” or “There's people to take care of that.” or “Somebody else can deal with it... I'm too busy.”

- Whether for love of Esther, or just because Mordecai was the kind of man who took his life and the lives of those around him very seriously.

- How often do we pass the buck and let somebody else handle whatever comes up? Or just don't worry about it if it doesn't effect us directly?

- The parable of the talents in the Matthew 25:14-30, gives us a picture of stewardship. When the master gives us something to do, He doesn't want us to just let our gifts and talents sit there. If He places us in a position, it's for a reason. We are there for a purpose. Christ doesn't want us to go through life only doing the minimum.

- If you think of your everyday life as your witness, or as your job directly from God... then it's harder to say, well it'll be ok if I only do part of this...

- God didn't send His Son into the world to be a light to... some people. Or part of the people. We are to be His imitators... so our life isn't lived in front of... some people... it's lived in front of ALL people.

- When we go to work to do our jobs... we need to be a light. If someone can look at your work ethic and go... “well... if that's what a Christian is, they're all lazy...” or even to look at you... and NOT know you're a Christian... and just assume you're just like them... that's not a good thing. If people are surprised when you say “yeah, I go to church,” then you need to check yourself...

- Mordecai was faithful. He didn't have to be... but he was. And even though Xerxes just kind of took it all for granted and didn't really do anything right then as a way of thanking Mordecai, if we're doing right things just because they're right... and not because we are seeking accolades... it won't matter if we get thanked or not.

- Romans 12:1-21
- Proverbs 13:4
- Ecclesiastes 5:10-20
- Acts 20:18-35
- I Corinthians 15:54-58
- Galatians 6:1-10
- II Peter 1:3-11


- Now we have this guy named Haman entering the scene. Xerxes has promoted him to be over all the other nobles. He is now the most powerful official in the entire Persian empire. I don't know what Haman did to gain the king's favor... but whatever it was, must have been pretty good.

- So all the king's officials were supposed to bow down to Haman when he walked by, but Mordecai refused to bow down or show him respect.

- Now whether Mordecai wouldn't bow down because he felt like it was a worshiping action, or because he knew what kind of man Haman was and couldn't tolerate the thought of showing him any kind of respect... I don't know... but the palace officials noticed...

- They asked Mordecai “Why are you disobeying the king's command?” I mean this wasn't just ignoring Haman... this was something the king had put into action... and Mordecai was in essence disobeying a direct order from the king.

- So the palace officials go tattle on Mordecai to Haman. “Hey! There's this guy who refuses to bow down to you! What are you gonna do about it?” Now my NLT translates to say that “they spoke to Haman about this to see if he would tolerate Mordecai's conduct, SINCE MORDECAI HAD TOLD THEM HE WAS A JEW.” Apparently... somebody knew that Haman had an issue with the Jews. (Which we'll get to in a minute.)

- When Haman heard about this, he was filled with rage. Not just kind of mad. Not just ticked... he was filled with rage. Boiling over with anger.

- He learned that Mordecai was a Jew and it suddenly wasn't enough to just take care of Mordecai... He wanted to kill ALL Jews. Throughout the ENTIRE empire. Forget just one town, or one city, or one man... He wanted to obliterate them all.

- Have you ever had somebody get mad at you for seemingly no reason? Or take a little petty thing and turn it into a massive “I'm not speaking to you until you apologize” thing?

- I was talking to a friend of mine the other night and she has this co-worker who is driving her nuts. For seemingly no reason whatsoever, this woman hates my friend. And she is making life miserable at work... My friend said, if she were to go file a complaint or talk to the supervisor, it would seem like she herself was being incredibly petty. Most of the things this woman does is just make biting comments, or change things around the office that my friend has taken the time to organize or set up, or just tells her that she's better than her all the time... Just an overall hateful attitude.

- My friend can't think of anything that she's done to make this woman hate her so much... and yet it's there...

- Now, how should my friend respond? Should she lash back? Should she drag this woman to the supervisor and demand her job? It may sound a little corny... but “what would Jesus do?” Did Christ lash out at those who came against Him? Did He strike them? Did He bring down judgment upon them and their families?

- No. Christ, even in His darkest moment, showed love and compassion. When Judas came to lead the guards to Jesus... don't you think He felt something then? If one of my friends had come to me that night to kiss me on the cheek, give a sign of affection... just so he could get some money for turning me over to be killed... I don't think I could have kept from hitting him or something.

- Jesus however, looked Judas in the face and said “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.” Wow. “My friend”. How could you look Judas in the face and call him “friend”. And yet that's exactly what He did...

- I know the work place can be a hard place sometimes. I've had a horrible couple of weeks lately... but you know... sometimes God puts us in positions exactly so that we can prove something to those around us. Somewhere, somebody needs to see Christ in us...

- They might get offended... Haman got offended. So much so that he was ready to kill the entire Jewish population... But would it have been better for Mordecai to bow down to Haman and give in to something that he felt wasn't right? What about somebody who had been watching Mordecai, admiring the way he carried himself or his life in general... what would they have seen if Mordecai had bowed down?

- Matthew 5:21-26
- Philippians 2:12-18
- II Peter 3:13-22
- Hebrews 13:1-18


- In the month of April during the 12th year of Xerxes reign, lots were cast in Haman's presence to determine the best day and month to take action. The day selected was March 7. Almost a year later. (These lots were called purim... which is important later.)

- So Haman has thought this through and he's come up with a plan... “There's a certain race of people scattered through all the provinces of your empire who keep themselves separate from everyone else. Their laws are different from those of any other people, and they refuse to obey the laws of the king. So it is not in the king's interest to let them live.”

- Wow... what a way to turn that one around... Mordecai refused to bow to Haman... so therefore, no Jew in any province obeys laws... hmmm...

- You know, I can't help but think of other times in history that the Jews were persecuted... I mean WWII stands out among the rest... The Crusades are another... A constant barrage of “this group of people are heathens or dangerous and therefore, kill them all...” And somehow... they have still survived... still continue to thrive... hmmm God much?

- Anyway, Haman basically pays the king off... “If it please the king, issue a decree that they be destroyed, and I will give 10,000 large sacks of silver to the government administrators to be deposited in the royal treasury.”

- So first, Haman makes sure that he makes this people sound detrimental to the king and his kingdom... “they don't follow your rules... they have their own... they're going to riot and turn against you...” Then he goes... “so... if you'll give the order to kill them all off... I'll put a ton of silver in the king's treasury... just as a nice thank you for removing this cancer...”

- Well how hard of a decision was that? Get rid of a really big problem and get paid in the process... it's a win win!

- The king sealed his decision by taking off his signet ring and giving it to Haman, “the enemy of the Jews.” Then Xerxes told Haman, “The money and the people are both yours to do with as you see fit.”

- footnote- “Officials in the ancient world used signet rings as personal signatures. The ring's surface had a raised imprint made of metal, wood, or bone' Xerxes' was probably made of silver or gold. Each individual had his own imprint. Letters were sealed by pressing the ring into soft wax, and official documents were certified by using the royal signet. By giving Haman his signet ring, Xerxes gave him his personal signature and with it the authority to do whatever he wished. Little did the king realize that his own ring would sign the death warrant for his queen, Esther.”


- Now why did Haman hate the Jews so much? It says that Haman was the son of Hammedatha the Agagite. Ok... so what does that have to do with anything? Well, if you go back to I Samuel 15, there is a story about a king Agag. Saul was supposed to go in and kill all the Amalekites. Samuel had a word from God and told Saul to “go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.”

- Not even the animals were supposed to be left alive...

- But when Saul went in... he spared king Agag and kept the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, fat calves, and lambs... they only destroyed what was worthless or of poor quality... and left the rest alone...

- When Samuel came to tell Saul he had sinned and disobeyed God... Saul lied. “I have carried out the Lord's command!”

- This is when God rejected Saul as king...

- Samuel took King Agag and executed him. He sawed him into pieces at Gilgal.

- So this king is Haman's ancestor. You think there wasn't some anger and resentment there? He's probably heard stories from the time he was a child about the horrible Jews who killed great granddad or whatever he was... Notice also... that Mordecai was a descendant of Saul's father Kish. That's a little too much of a coincidence...

- Had Saul been obedient in all his actions... the story of Esther may have never been written. There would have been no Haman hating the Jews... There may have arisen another... but Haman at least wouldn't have been in the picture.

- When we are disobedient, we not only harm ourselves, but others as well. Saul endangered the lives of every Jew alive almost 500 years after his act of disobedience.

- This also works in another way. If we look at out lives and only get rid of part of our sin... or we only get rid of most of it... it will come back to destroy us later. Oh it might seem harmless... Not enough to do any damage right? Until it rears its head up and starts to fight harder than ever before.

- God doesn't want partial followers. He wants sold out believers who are committed fully to Him.

- I Samuel 7:3-4
- Matthew 19:16-30; 22:37-39; 10:37-42; 16:24-28
- John 12:23-28
- Luke 9:57-62


- On April 17th, not too long after the lot was cast (Haman worked the king pretty quick there...) the king's secretaries were summoned and the decree was written exactly as Haman had dictated. It was sent out to all of the king's highest officers, the governors of the respective provinces, and the nobles of each province in their own scripts and languages.

- And the decree of course had the king's name and signet on it... This wasn't something that could be mistaken or assumed false...

- “All Jews—young and old, including women and children—must be killed, slaughtered, and annihilated on a single day.” (Which is what Saul was supposed to do to the Amalekites... hmmm...)

- Can you imagine the panic this ensued? Not only for the Jewish population, but also for those who were of other races within the kingdom? If Xerxes could on a whim decide to kill off one race... why not another as well?

- The property of the Jews would be given to those who killed them... well that's incentive to kill them all off... People are gonna be lining up outside of the Jewish homes the day before so they can get their stuff...

- “A copy of the decree was to be issued as law in every province and proclaimed to all peoples, so that they would be ready to do their duty on the appointed day.” That sounds so cold... So for a year... the Jewish people are waiting to die. The decree has been issued... all that's left is to sit and wait on somebody to break down the door on the day of.

- I wonder how many Jews contemplated suicide. Or planned to burn everything they owned so there would be no reason to kill them... hoping that no one would kill them just to kill them...

- The king and Haman sat down to a celebratory drink... “aren't we so smart and great?” But the city of Susa fell into total confusion.

- It doesn't say that the Jews only were confused and running around like crazy... it says the CITY...

- Satan is king of confusion. If he can confuse you, he can make you doubt. If he can make you doubt, then he can make you weak. If he can make you weak... he can destroy you.

- James 1:2-18
- Hebrews 2:14-18
- Psalm 23
- Matthew 10:26-31


- If we use the picture of Haman as Satan for a minute... we get a very clear picture of the way Satan works in our lives...

- Satan comes against us sometimes in very round about ways... so it doesn't look like it's an attack from him... but rather from someone else.

- So Satan comes to your boss. He starts telling him that you're not doing your job. Or you're working hard so you can bump the boss out of his position.

- So for seemingly no reason, the boss starts giving you a hard time. Starts making you work really weird hours, or starts giving you jobs that are below your job description... but expecting you to do it.

- Then other people pick up on this... well there must be some reason that the boss is making life difficult for you... must be something wrong with you... so they start picking too. Which makes the boss happy with them so he promotes them into positions that they probably don't really deserve just to see if he can make you mad... or make sure that there's somebody else sitting on you.

- All Satan has to do... is start an initial thought... then he can sit back and watch everything play out in a most chaotic fashion... All he has to do is let human nature take over. He doesn't have a hard job...

- In our lives, Satan can use just about anybody to start making life hard... just like my friend and her co-worker above... but you know... we can get so distracted in fighting for sanity, that we forget that “we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.- Ephesians 6:12

- If we remember that we are not fighting against people, but rather against the unseen... granted... our battles will still be there... they're not going away any time soon... and it's hard to think “This person is not really mad at me... even though they're screaming in my face, or even though they've hit me... this is just Satan trying to get at me...” Most of the time, when somebody gets in my face... it's hard not to fight back... It's hard not to just smack them...

- But they're not who we're fighting... our true battle is a spiritual one. It is a battle with many difficulties and seemingly many sabotages.

- We have to remember who we are in Christ and that He is ultimately in charge of us.

- Remember the story of Elisha in II Kings 6:8-23? There was this king who was attacking Israel... but every time he and his officers would sit down and make a plan, Elisha the prophet would warn the king of Israel. So the king of Aram was getting pretty angry... he thought one of his officers was leaking information... but when they told him it was Elisha... he sent a great army to surround the city where Elisha was.

- When Elisha got up the next morning, he looked out and there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere! His servant was incredibly scared.

- And Elisha says “Don't be afraid! For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Okay... there's an entire army outside the city... how in the world do we have more than they?

- And Elisha prayed that God would open the servant's eyes... and He did... and when the young man looked up again, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.

- God struck the army blind. Elisha went out and led the army to Samaria... where God opened their eyes again... so they could see that they were right in the middle of the main Israelite city... with the king and all his soldiers... oops...

- But the point is... even though we may not be able to SEE it all the time. God's army is right there ready to fight beside us in this battle. We just have to make sure that we're battle ready ourselves... Because God is always stronger than the enemy.

- Ephesians 3:10-11
- II Corinthians 4:14-18
- Colossians 1:15-20

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Esther Chapter 2

Esther 2:5-2:20


- Living in the city of Susa is a Jewish man by the name of Mordecai. Mordecai's family was exiled with King Jehoiachin.

- If you read the book of Daniel, there's a king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar in his 8th year as king, came against Jerusalem in a siege. Jehoiachin had been king for a grand total of 3 months. But he, just as his father before him, did evil in the sight of God. So God forcefully removed him from his position... quickly...

- King Jehoiachin, his mother, advisers, commanders, and officials, surrendered to Babylon.

- Nebuchadnezzar took 10,000 people back to Babylon.

- Only the poorest of the poor were left in the land...

- So Mordecai's family was either a family of nobility, warriors, or very good craftsmen. Given that it lists Mordecai as being from the lineage of Saul, I would guess some kind of soldier or noble.

- footnote- “The Babylonian policy for taking captives was different from that of the Assyrians who moved most of the people out and resettled the land with foreigners. The Babylonians took only the strong and skilled, leaving the poor and weak to rule the land, thus elevating them to positions of authority and winning their loyalty. The leaders were taken to Babylonian cities, where they were permitted to live together, find jobs, and become an important part of the society. This policy kept the Jews united and faithful to God throughout the captivity and made it possible for their return in the days of Zerubbabel and Ezra as recorded in the book of Ezra.”

- Now what does Babylon have to do with Persia? Well Persia conquered Babylon. And Susa, used to be part of Babylon... So now we are in Persia with the carry over captives from the time of Babylon.

- II Kings 24:8-17


- Mordecai has a beautiful young cousin named Hadassah, who was also called Esther. I thought maybe Esther was a retranslation or something, so I was reading through some of the commentaries... Hadassah meant “myrtle”. Which in context meant something that was good or denoted a good person. Esther was very Persian and meant “star”. However, this one had a neat side note... it said that Esther could have been derived from a word that means “to be hidden”. Which I think is neat since she had to hide her identity. Nor is it clear when she got the name... Whether it was Mordecai's name for her, or Xerxes, later.

- Esther's parents had died and Mordecai had adopted her into his family and raised her as his own daughter.

- With the servants out looking for the most beautiful girls in the land... Esther was brought to the palace with all the other girls and taken to the harem under the charge of Hegai.

- Now, if you remember, Hegai was the eunuch in charge of the King's harem.

- footnote- “Some advisers and government officials were castrated in order to prevent them from having children and then rebelling and trying to establish a dynasty of their own. A castrated official was called a eunuch.”

- Esther found favor with Hegai. He saw something in her worth keeping around. My NLT version says that he was “impressed” with her.

- He ordered a special menu for her meals, provided her with beauty treatments, assigned her 7 maids specially chosen from the king's palace, and moved she and her maids into the best place in the harem.

- Favoritism much? Lol geesh!

- Hegai was in charge of all these women... which means Xerxes probably trusted him... a lot... So here's this man, who apparently REALLY likes Esther... you think he may have brought her name up or mentioned something about her to the king? I figure the king was kinda curious as to how things were going with the process and search... And I think that the king would have probably taken it into serious consideration if this man he trusts to watch all his wives were to say “hey, this one's really awesome.”

- When God places us where He wants us, He doesn't just drop us in and leave us hanging. He paves the way. He allows us to have favor in the eyes of those above us.

- You know, I don't know how many times I've heard my mom praying that her kids would find favor in the eyes of our bosses or professors and so on.

- Sometimes, life just gets hard. Sometimes, there's persecution galore... but when God needs to pave the way, He REALLY paves the way.

- I would not have put it past Hegai to be pushing for his favorite...

- Proverbs 3:1-10; 11:14
- Ecclesiastes 17-18
- I Corinthians 1:18-29


- Esther told no one of her nationality or family. Mordecai had told her not to... and she continued to follow this father figure's direction.

- This may seem a little odd.... why would she keep something like that a secret?

- Being that Persia as an empire sort of collected nationalities and held it as a good thing to be inter-mingled (mainly so the people felt united as Persia... so they were less likely to revolt against the nation...) I don't know that it would have created problems. However, Mordecai felt a need to direct her to be silent on that point... so she was.

- Part of me wants to question how right this was. She wasn't lying... but it still feels deceptive.

- One of my footnotes related it to us not being loud and obnoxious about our faith, but rather waiting on the right time to be forth coming... when “we have won the right to be heard.”

- While that aspect is very true especially when dealing with relationships with people who are unbelievers, or who are unreceptive to religion in general or Christianity specifically, I still have to ask why Esther was told to be silent.

- There have been a lot of times in history that Jews or Christians have had to hide their identities in order to survive persecution.

- Historically, sometimes it seems like the Jews just get picked on by all the big kids all the time. So maybe it was just Mordecai being a little paranoid. Or maybe there was still some persecution and he had reason to fear for Esther. Or maybe Mordecai knew that Jews would be looked down upon a little more than the other races and so Esther wouldn't even have a chance to become queen... Or maybe it was just a God thing... knowing that were her identity known, she wouldn't be able to have the same effect later, as she would otherwise.

- Whatever the reason, Esther was dutiful and followed orders as she was expected to do as a daughter and as a woman.

- Ephesians 6:1-9
- Colossians 3:18-25


- Mordecai kept watch over Esther. He walked near the courtyard of the harem every day so he could find out how she was doing and what was happening to her.

- Even if Mordecai couldn't talk to Esther, he at least was able to keep tabs on her. We have people in our lives who do that for us as well. Our church, our family, our neighbors... Sometimes it's a watch for our safety, sometimes for our health... sometimes it's for our witness.

- What is the world's perception of you? Do they see what is happening to you and see God in the mix? Do they see you respond to hard situations in a Godly manner? Do they see you even in your unguarded moments be real and true?


- Now once these girls had been taken into the harem, they were considered to be the wives or concubines of the king. There was no marriage ceremony... they were just his.

- The girls would have one night with the king... In preparation for that night, they were each given a year of beauty treatments. Six months of oil of myrrh, and six months of special perfumes and ointments.

- When it was time for her to go to the king, she had her choice of jewelry and clothing from the harem.

- Then she would be taken to the king's bed for one night. The next morning, she would be taken to the second harem. This second harem was under the care of a eunuch names Shaashgaz. He was in charge of the king's concubines.

- And this is the part that just blows my mind... She would never go to the king again unless he called for her specifically by name. If they were not remembered... then that was the only night that they would ever see the king.

- Isn't that HORRIBLE!

- Can you imagine getting married and only seeing your husband/wife ONCE?

- Thinking about this life... they had to have been fairly bored with life in general... All day, what do you do? Well... you sit and eat and talk and laugh... with the same people about the same mundane things... You have servants to work for you... you're just supposed to sit and look pretty... I mean good grief! There's only so much you could talk about day in and day out...

- Which in my mind brings up the question of faithfulness...

- If the king never called for you... never asked to see you... your life would pretty much be meaningless... no hope of children, nothing to change the color of the days...

- How many times did these women try to leave with another man? I mean granted, they were pretty well guarded... but still... I wonder how many of them tried to get free. Or were found to be pregnant without having been with the king.

- I mean other than the threat of death... what was there holding them back from trying to find a more... fulfilling life?

- Do you ever feel like that with your relationship with God?

- Have you ever gotten so caught up in life that you started to become apathetic in your faith? Or gotten so overwhelmed that you lost sight of the big picture? Or felt like God just wasn't giving you everything you thought you needed or wanted?

- Today in church we were talking about the “gods” that we have in our lives... like... money, relationships, sex/lust, power, etc. The kinds of things that we put before God. The things that we get caught up with and spend more time on seeking after and searching for than God.

- But isn't it awesome that God's not a distant king? He's a right here king. Yeah He has a lot of us kids. Yeah He has a lot of us to pay attention to... but He never forgets any of us. He's right there beside us working in our lives.

- Does God sometimes feel distant? Yeah... I think we all get in those places every now and again that just feels like God is SO far away... or that feel like God's just not providing everything we need/want.

- But you know... God never leaves us, never forsakes us... is always RIGHT THERE beside us... and He gives us EXACTLY what we need... it's maybe not what we expected... but God knows better than we what we need... and sometimes what we THINK we need... isn't truly what we need...

- Matthew 6:24
- Philippians 3:18-19
- Exodus 20:3
- Hebrews 13:4-6
- Psalm 18; 89
- Luke 16:10-12


- When it was Esther's turn to go in to the king, she took only what Hegai suggested. Again... this guy probably knows what the king likes and wants... so he's probably going to know what to suggest for his favorite...

- Esther was admired by all. She looked beautiful.

- She was taken to Xerxes in the early winter of his seventh year of reign. The king loved Esther more than any of the other women. He was so delighted with her, that he placed the crown on her head and declared her queen in Vashti's place.

- In Esther's honor, Xerxes gave a great banquet for all his nobles and officials and declared it a holiday for the provinces and gave gifts to everyone very generously...

- In other words, Xerxes was pretty happy with his find... lol

- But Esther still kept her identity a secret. Even after Mordecai became a palace official and all the other girls had been moved to the second harem... she still kept her family background a secret... still maintaining her silence by the direction of Mordecai.

- Psalm 25