Devotional Thoughts Esther 4:1-17
December 1-7, 2014
Monday, December 1, 2014
“Giving them orders to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews” (Esther 3:13).
Injustice comes in all shapes and sizes. For Esther and Mordecai, the grave injustice that they faced was the edict to annihilate the Jews. We might face bullying at school, racial or sexual slurs at work, religious intolerance among our friends or government inaction to meet the needs of a group of citizens. Injustice and evil are not difficult to spot, however, they are, easy to ignore.
When faced with injustice we have choices. We may at first be paralyzed by fear and believe ourselves to be incapable of action. We can choose to do nothing, though. We can ignore the situation and hope that it will go away, or, we can choose to speak out, stand with those who are the targets of injustice and act to change the situation. Such choices may be difficult and possibly detrimental to us personally. Mordecai acted and challenged Esther to respond no matter what the cost.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” What can you no longer ignore? For what must you speak up and act out?
Almighty God, give us courage to live out our faith and to stand with the victims of injustice and evil. Amen.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
“Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went through the city” (Esther 4:1).
Mordecai puts on a coat of sackcloth, which is an ancient symbol of grief and even despair. Sackcloth can be worn in public and when it is the sackcloth draws attention to the grief or suffering that the person is experiencing. In other words, it lets other people know what is going on.
There were hundreds of thousands of people who lived in the king’s realm. Except for the Jews, only a few of them knew what evil plans Haman had plotted for the Jews. Even fewer of them cared. Mordecai by wearing sackcloth not only sought to communicate the seriousness of the situation to Queen Esther, but also to announce what was happening to the kingdom.
Look around you and see who is wearing sackcloth. You can’t stand by them and fight for justice if you do not know who are the oppressed. Once you identify them, learn about their plight, creatively strive to serve them and to seek justice for them. We cannot expect God’s rich blessings if we keep them to ourselves and ignore the struggle of others.
O God who give sight, open our eyes and help us see the needs of the people around us, and then empower us to use our gifts to meet those needs. Amen.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
“There was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping, and lamenting. (Esther 4:3).
The Jews were in a predicament. They did not know to whom they could turn for help. Only Mordecai knew about Queen Esther. So, the Jews did the only thing they could do, they turned to God. With fasting, weeping and lamenting they called out to God for deliverance.
Action was indeed needed, but human action alone could not overcome the evil that confronted the Jews. God’s intervention—God’s deliverance was vital in order to change the situation in a positive manner.
It tempting to go through life believing that we are capable of doing it by ourselves. Situations will arise, though, that are beyond our ability. Rather than making ourselves all-powerful gods, it is better for Christians to acknowledge our need of both the Christian community and God. Together great things can be accomplished and justice can be established.
Loving God, Forgive us when we wander away from you. May we always keep our eyes on you. Amen.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
“She sent garments to clothe Mordecai so that he might take off his sackcloth” (Esther 4:4).
Blood and gore, horror movies are not my favorite genre of movie. I find that as the music builds and a killing is immanent I turn away from the screen or look at it between my fingers. I don’t want to see the blood. From a quick glance around the theater at such times, I realize that I’m not the only one to act like this.
It is interesting that our first instinct at seeing something that we don’t want to see is to try to cover it up. When the Holy Spirit moves in our lives and convicts us of our sinfulness, we are tempted to turn away from the Spirit, to shield our eyes from the sin and to deny that it exists. We turn our eyes away from the homeless, walk passed the bullying or ignore the cry for help. Esther wanted to cover up Mordecai; to have him take off his sackcloth and wear regular clothes. She didn’t see him as he was or hear what Mordecai had to say.
It takes courage to become aware of things and situations that may shock, offend, frighten or shame us. Awareness, though, is the first step in opening ourselves up to the Holy Spirit so that the Spirit might use us.
Holy Spirit, make us aware of the needs around us. We want to stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution. Amen.
Friday, December 5, 2014
“That he might show it to Esther, explain it to her and charge her to go to the king” (Esther 4:8).
Mordecai sensed that Esther was strategically placed in the palace in order to avert the disaster which would soon befall the Jews. Ether, though, didn’t want to see herself as the solution to the problem. She wanted to find some other way. At first glance, Esther thought that the price was too high—she could die.
Throughout the pages of the Bible, no one who is called for a specific task is comfortable with the call. They reject the call out of hand. The call is too hard. They don’t have the gifts or the talents to accomplish the task to which the Lord is calling them. There has to be better, more qualified people, if only the Lord would spend some time looking.
We use the same arguments today. Whatever God calls us to do appears to be beyond our abilities. It should be beyond our abilities. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t need God to empower us to accomplish the task. From all those people in the Bible who were called by God for a specific task, we can learn one truth. God knows what God is doing.
What is God calling you to do? Don’t argue. Instead, take the first steps of faith into the adventure on which the Holy Spirit is leading you.
O God who calls, here we are, send us! Amen.
Saturday, December 6, 2014
“Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all of the other Jews” (Esther 4:13).
We are intimately connected one to another. The poet John Donne realized this and penned the words, “No man is an island.” Happiness can spread from one person to another, but so can pain and suffering. In our quest for independence, we are tempted to deny this truth and to trick ourselves into believing that what happens to someone else doesn’t have a ripple effect that will eventually touch our lives.
Esther believed that her situation in life, as one of the king’s favorite queens, would protect her from the devastation that was coming. Mordecai reminded her that it would not. No matter where she was and whatever she did she was still a part of the Jewish community.
Rather than deny this truth, let’s celebrate it. We are not islands. We were never meant to be islands. We were created for relationships. Let’s celebrate by building relationships and working for the good of all—especially the least among us.
O Divine Three in One, your unity is the model of relationships and community. As your people, use us to build community and to live in such a way that all might enjoy peace, justice, and prosperity. Amen.
Sunday, December 7, 2014
“I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).
In a brief passage of time, Esther changes for the reader’s eyes. She started off denying the problem. She then didn’t want to get involved and tried to refuse the call. Eventually though, Esther realizes that she is the one whom God is calling to save God’s people. She didn’t know what the outcome would be, but she was willing to pay the price.
There are no guarantees in life except that Jesus established a new relationship between God and us that can never be broken. There is also God’s promise that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Other than these two truths, we don’t know how our lives are going to turn out. The final chapters of our lives have yet to be written.
We step into an unknown future. As the Bill Gather Trio sings, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.” With this in mind, let us be willing to pay the price—whatever that may be—trusting that our days are in God’s hands.
O God of priceless worth, you paid the price for us and opened the door for us to be your children. Move within us that we may be willing to pay the price of being disciples of Jesus Christ. Amen.