Esther

Thoughts About What We’re Reading!

This week, we turn our attention to the book of Esther.

Esther is written in narrative form and it reads like any good story.

Esther is our heroine, Mordecai our hero, and Haman our villain.

The book is interesting in a couple of different ways. God is never mentioned in the book.

The New Testament does not quote from the book of Esther. Copies have not been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

We did not find reference to the Law, sacrificial system or offerings.  Although fasting is mentioned, prayer is not.

Our heroes in the story seem to lack any spiritual awareness – except in their assurance that God will protect his people.

Behind the scenes we see that God is faithful to His people, even when His people are not. We feel His sovereignty as the story develops.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, the book of Esther takes place between chapters 6 and 7 of Ezra.

Although many Israelites had returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon to rebuild the temple and reestablish the sacrificial system, many more Israelites chose to stay wherever they were located.

I suppose they stayed because they had grown comfortable where they were.

Maybe they had built homes, established businesses, or maybe their families had established roots in the community and they just didn’t want to give them up.

Whatever the reason, they chose to stay and, in effect, became a part of the culture in which they were living.

The Gospel Transformation Bible has this to say:

“When everything seems to be under the control of a godless despot; when God’s people, because of their own sin, have lost all memory of him, of their true identity, and of their land; God is nevertheless at work to fulfill his promise of ultimate triumph over his enemies (Gen. 3:15).

The triumph of God’s kingdom is not dependent upon the faithfulness of God’s people. Even when they think that the only way to survive is to blend in or keep quiet, yet God is able and willing to deliver.

He is ruling sovereignly, accomplishing his purposes whether we see him or not.

And that’s good news for all believers who wonder where he is in their suffering. We might not see him. He may be absent from mind, mention, or memory. And it might appear that he’s forgotten us or that our sins have finally turned him away.

But that is not the truth. The truth is that God is defending his people and building his church, and nothing—not even the ‘gates of hell’ (Matt. 16:18) —will prevail against him.”

Esther is one of my favorite stories, maybe because it reminds me that I do not have to have all the answers – it is comforting to know God is ruling sovereignly even when I fail, even in the midst of my suffering – even when I do not see His hand at work.

God’s plans, purposes and promises will not be thwarted!

Until next time… keep reading!

Jim

Sources used: Bible Knowledge Commentary, Gospel Transformation Bible

I Will Be King!

 

Thoughts About What We’re Reading…

 

If you are keeping up with the reading, we have finished 1 & 2 Samuel are moving into 1 Kings.  Where as 1&2 Samuel were dominated by the story of David’s rise and reign as king, 1 Kings begins by telling us that “King David was old and advanced in years.”

So here, our story continues with yet another run at the crown.

David had already put down two rebellions, one by his son Absalom and the other by Sheba the Benjaminite. Here, David’s oldest living son Adonijah makes a run at the crown.

In his own mind Adonijah sees himself as next in line, so he attempts to make himself king.  “I will be king”, he declares in I Kings 1:5.

Israel did have a royal succession policy – it was by divine appointment.  God decides! As far as God is concerned, Solomon, the tenth in line, was God’s chosen King.

Both Absalom and Adonijah exalted themselves.  In essence they did not accept God’s choice, but instead exalted themselves.  They would not even wait for their father to die – in Absalom’s case he even sought the death of his father David.

Adonijah hired his own chariots and fifty men to run in front of him to let people know that someone important was coming.  Yep, he had his own entourage, his own posse!

He must be important – right?  In addition, he gained the support of some of Israel’s most powerful leaders including Joab the former commander of Israels’ army and Abiathar the priest.

Joab had lost favor with David after killing his son Absalom during the rebellion, as well as the other commanders who got in Joab’s way – Abner and Amasa.

Abiathar the priest appears to be making a power grab as well. Did he want to be high priest?

By throwing his parties, aligning himself with people of power and self promotion, Adonijah was strengthening his political position. Some might even think he was deeply religious!

Yet it is clear that Adonijah was doing it all for his own glory.  As we read through Chapters one and two – we see how David, Nathan and David’s Captain of the King’s bodyguard – Benaiah, (Yes the same Benaiah of “In a Pit With a Lion on A Snowy Day” fame – a book by Mark Batterson), put down the rebellion.

Solomon following David’s advice consolidates his power and removes his enemies. I will expand upon this more in my next blog.

When reading through this story, I am reminded of how often we are tempted to exalt ourselves, to put ourselves first.

When we seek to be King or Queen, we put ourselves on the throne.  In essence we have decided to not accept God as our king. When God is no longer the King, he becomes one of our servants.

This can also impact our ministries – we want God to do what we want when we want it.  And why can’t God make every one see that our way is better?

In essence, we are in danger of tearing down the Lord’s work as described Romans 14.

We want to use Him to do our bidding to make our lives better; we want to call all the shots.

We forget we exist for His glory and to make disciples – the bible in a nutshell.

Our lives instead should be lives in submission to Jesus, the true and rightful King for the people of God.

Until next time… keep reading!

Jim

Excerpts for this blog were taken from: The Reformed Expository Commentary Series – 1 Kings by P.G. Ryken

 

Why We Read the Psalms

 

Thoughts About What We’re Reading…

 

The Book of Psalms is not nearly as prized today as it was in the early church and generations ago.

Psalms were sung in the early church as people went about their daily tasks – Psalms were once the church’s Christian ballads.

There was a time when bishops would not ordain a man into the ministry unless he knew the Psalms from end to end, and could repeat each Psalm correctly.

Can you imagine? Today we struggle to memorize Psalm 1 or 23…  Let’s see how does that go – “The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want…”

Of all the books in the Old Testament, the Book of Psalms most vividly represents the faith of individuals in the Lord.

As we read through the Psalms we embrace the inspired responses of human hearts to God’s revelation of Himself in law, history, and prophecy.

Saints of all ages have appropriated this collection of prayers and praises in their public worship and private meditations.

Many psalms address God directly with their poetic expressions of petition and praise. They reveal all the religious feelings of the faithful—fears, doubts, and tragedies, as well as triumphs, joys, and hopes.

The psalmists frequently drew on their experiences for examples of people’s needs and God’s goodness and mercy.

Singing of past deliverances in easily remembered poetry provided support and comfort for believers in their hours of trial, as well as warning them against unbelief and disobedience.

The Psalms, combined with their display of personal religious feelings, make them the most powerful and complete expression of the worship of ancient Israel.

Set in the form of lyric poetry, they became unforgettable. They have often been called the love songs of the people of God.

As we come to the close of the Psalms in our reading in the next couple of weeks, my prayer for you is take the time to dwell in them, embrace them, feed upon them.

We have bunched the Psalms together in this reading plan to support a chronological reading but you are welcome to pick one and memorize it or get into the habit of reading a psalm a day.

I close with following thought – “The book of Psalms has been a royal banquet to me, and in feasting upon its contents I have seemed to eat angels’ food. It is no wonder that the old writers should call it – the school of patience, the soul’s soliloquies, the little Bible, the anatomy of conscience, the rose garden, the pearl island, and the like. It is the paradise of devotion, the Holy Land of poesy, the heart of scripture, the map of experience and the tongue of saints.” – Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Preface to Volume 3.

Until next time… Keep reading!

Jim

Some excerpts in this blog were taken directly from the Bible Knowledge Commentary.

What a Mess!

 

Thoughts About What We’re Reading…

 

2 Samuel 13-18 is a sad tale of a dysfunctional family and the consequences of sin.

In these chapters we learn that seemingly small sins of omission can spawn large sins of commission.

David had a son named Absalom, described in scripture as handsome in every way, with beautiful long hair – foreshadow of things to come.

Absalom also had a beautiful sister named Tamar who was violated by another brother from another mother – Amnon.

Deuteronomy 22 and Leviticus 20 are very clear on the penalty for Amnon’s action, yet David did nothing when he learned what happened – perhaps because Amnon was his first born.

Absalom is angry at the violation of his sister and exacts revenge on Amnon a couple of years later by arranging for his murder.

Absalom’s actions force him into exile with his maternal grandfather for three years.

David is heartbroken and longs for his exiled son, which is evident to all, but no one knows how to achieve Absalom’s return and reconciliation.

Through an elaborate hoax, Joab – David’s commander-in-arms, arranges for the return of Absalom, and David agrees to his return but will not see him personally or let him visit the palace.

After two more years of estrangement from his father, Absalom is desperate for attention and after trying to get Joab’s attention to no avail, he sets fire to Joab’s barley field. This gets Joab’s attention!

Joab intervenes with the king and they are reunited. But as subsequent events demonstrate, David’s long-delayed acceptance of his son came too late.

Absalom was embittered and resolved to do whatever was necessary to make David pay for his obstinacy.

Absalom’s first move to achieve his purposes of revenge was to make himself conveniently available by the city gate to hear the complaints of the citizens.

Over time, Absalom gains the support of the people.

When the time is ripe for revolution, Absalom leads a coup, forcing David to flee the city, leaving behind ten concubines.

David’s forced flight from Jerusalem not only put his own kingship in jeopardy, but it also opened the door to further contention for the throne between the dynasties of Saul and David. Another foreshadow of things to come in the Book of Kings.

Absalom marches into the city and lies with David’s ten concubines on the roof of the palace for all to see – further consequences from David’s sin with Bathsheba, 2 Samuel 12:11.

Absalom seeks to kill David but is finally defeated and killed by Joab after getting his hair – head, stuck in an oak tree. So ends the story of Absalom.

All in all, it’s a messy, costly business—events set in motion by sin always are.

Carelessness in the palace has landed David in the wilderness again!

Saul’s death brought his wilderness years to a close the first time.

This time, it is the death of his own son – Absalom.

Through it all, God preserves David, and restores him to his throne.

We are reminded that sin is never trivial, and grace is never cheap.

But God never leaves or forsakes those who are truly his.

Until next time… keep reading!

Jim

Excerpts for this blog were taken directly from: Gospel Transformation Bible Notes and The Bible Knowledge Commentary.

The Consequences of Sin

 

Thoughts About What We’re Reading…

 

As we turn to 2 Samuel 11-12, we come upon one of the most tragic stories in all of Scripture.

Our story begins in the spring, the rains are over and David decides to resume his military campaigns, launching an invasion of Rabbah, the capital of Ammon.

Although David usually led his army personally, he stays behind in Jerusalem and sends his commander, Joab in his stead.

While walking along the rooftop of the palace, David observes Bathsheba, the wife of his neighbor Uriah, bathing out in the open.

David inquires about the beautiful woman and has her brought to the palace and takes her to his bed, although he knows she is married.

Sure enough, Bathsheba sends David a note with the worst news he could hear – she is with child!

The crisis brought by the pregnancy required some kind of suitable resolution, so David determined to “legitimize” the impending birth by bringing Uriah back from the Ammonite campaign, thus making it possible for him to enjoy the intimacies of marriage.

But the plan does not work. So David resorts to two schemes (2 Samuel 11:8-13) trying to induce Uriah to go home and be with his wife, but the noble Hittite refuses.

Why should he, Uriah argued, be allowed the comforts of home and a conjugal visit while his friends in combat were deprived of them?

Even after David plied him with wine, Uriah’s sense of loyalty to his comrades prevails over his desire for his wife.

In utter frustration, David resorts to a third scheme and writes a memo to Joab, commanding that Uriah, when he returns to the front line, be abandoned to the enemy by an unexpected Israelite withdrawal.

The plan succeeds – Uriah is surrounded and slain. This is the same Uriah listed in 2 Samuel 23:39, among the exploits of David’s warriors – Uriah was one of the Mighty Men.  What a sad end to one of such courage and character.

After a time of mourning, Bathsheba moves into the palace with David, becomes his wife and bears him a son.

The Lord is displeased and set events in motion that will trouble David throughout his life. We will read about these events later in 2 Samuel.

It is only after being called out for his sin by the prophet Nathan, that David repents.

Shortly after the interview with Nathan, the child becomes terminally ill. Despite David’s intense fasting and prayer, the baby dies within a week.

One may wonder, why David was not punished with death as he had so sternly advocated for the guilty man in the parable told by Nathan.

The answer lies in the genuine and remorseful repentance that David expressed, not only in the presence of Nathan, but more fully in Psalm 51, David’s magnificent prayer of repentance.

David’s sin was heinous, but the grace of God was more than sufficient to forgive and restore him.

David and Bathsheba would go on to have another child – Solomon. The name Solomon means “Peace”.

Although David is restored in fellowship with the Lord, the consequence of his sin remained and would continue to work its sorrow in the nation as well as in his life.

This story serves as a reminder to all believers that although we are forgiven of our sin, through the redeeming work of Christ, the consequences of our sin and the choices we make, can last a lifetime.

Until next time… keep reading.

Jim

Excerpts for this blog were taken directly from The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Volume 1.

Exalting His Name

 

Thoughts About What We’re Reading…

As we continue our reading, we come to 2 Samuel Chapter 7.  Here we find David, well settled in Jerusalem and enjoying a period of peace.

As he contemplates his journey to date, his thoughts turn to the idea of building a more permanent structure in which the Lord could reside among His people.

David wants to build a “house”, a temple for the Lord.

It seems like such a good idea that the prophet Nathan readily agrees.

But the Lord, whose thoughts and ways are different and higher than ours, has a very different building plan in mind.

Even though it seemed the right thing to do, David was not to build a house for God.

Why? Because in Deuteronomy 12, God declared that there would come a time when He Himself would choose a spot in the Land of Promise wherein people could seek Him continually. We learn later that David’s son – Solomon, will build the Temple.

Here in 2 Samuel 7, the Lord declares He will build a “house” – a dynasty and kingdom – for David, instead of David building a house for the Lord.

Stunned, David lays aside his own blueprint and simply sits in the presence of the Lord, marveling at the amazing plan the Lord has just unrolled before him.

This serves as a gentle reminder of how easily our imaginations can be captured and our energies exhausted by what we want to build for God, when what He really wants is for us to sit attentively, witnessing what He is building so that we may marvel and give Him thanks!

Like David, we can have visions, ideas, and dreams that are biblical, spiritual, and noble—but that are not right.

And, like Nathan, we can say to others, “That’s a great idea! Go for it!” without seeking the Lord.

How important it is that we be those who say, “Lord, I’ve got lots of ideas, plans, and dreams. I’ve got all kinds of ways to accomplish big things for Your glory—but only if they’re part of Your plan.”

God established His covenant with Israel not only to redeem a people for Himself, but to make a name for Himself so other peoples could turn to Him.

What David wanted most of all was that God’s name would be exalted forever through all He did for David’s house – his dynasty and kingdom.

Seeing the Lord receive His proper glory had long been on David’s heart – as we learned when reading through the latter verses in 1 Samuel 17.

In this amazing promise to David in 2 Samuel 7, the earlier promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3) is gathered up and refocused.

And in a far grander sense all these promises are gathered up and finally fulfilled in Jesus – Son of David, Son of God, the head crushing Seed of the Woman.

Until next time… keep reading!

Jim

Excerpts taken directly from: Gospel Transformation Bible, Bible Knowledge Commentary, HCSB Study Bible, Courson Application OT Commentary