We continue our march through the books of the Bible.
This week: Esther. エステル記
Quick overview of the books and history so far.
Esther is the stuff of Hollywood movies. You couldn’t ask for a better, more compelling story.
The main characters:主要人物
King Xerxes (image), Esther (image), Mordecai (image), Haman (image)
(Image) There is glamour.魅力があり It begins with a Miss Universe competition for Babylonian King Xerxes. Esther, who is a Jew, wins and becomes the new queen.
(Image) There is treachery.背信があり When the evil Haman becomes angry with Mordecai (a Jew), he schemes to wipe out the Jews. He gets King Xerxes to write an edict which cannot be reversed calling for the destruction of all Jews.
(Image) There is a plan.計画があり Mordecai works with Esther to save their people, but it’sprecarious.
(Image) There is opulence.富裕があり Fabulous feasts and parties are held and it’s in these gorgeous settings that the high stakes games are played.
(Image) There is tension.緊迫があり We have Haman’s evil plans up against Esther & Mordecai’s righteous plans. Who will be victorious?
(Image) There is deliverance.救出があります。 A happy ending as Haman’s evil plan is turned against himself and the Jews are secured survival.
This is the story of Esther in a nutshell. Read the whole book for yourself to get the juicy details.
But this is not a Hollywood script. This is history. It really happened.
And this is the Bible. It’s God’s Word to us. So there is more to this than just a juicy story. There are really important and profound things that God has to teach us through this book.
1. The Jews are God’s chosen people. ユダヤ人は神の選ばれた民
Who are the Jews and why are people always trying to wipe them off the face of the earth?
– Pharaoh tried to do it in Moses day first by killing all the boys, then later by chasing them into the sea.
– The Amalekites tried to do it when the Jews entered the promised land
– Now Haman is trying to do it before the Jews are allowed to return to Jerusalem.
The bottom line here is supremely evil: with no Jews, there is no Messiah. With no Messiah, there is no salvation for mankind. “Salvation comes from the Jews”. (John 4:22)
(This threat against the Jews continues today, of course, which we have seen through the Holocaust and with ongoing threats of annihilation from various Middle Eastern countries.)
2. Despite appearances, God is at work. そのような状況にあっても神ははたらいておられる
God is never mentioned in the book of Esther.
God, worship, prayer, sacrifice – none of these are mentioned in the book which makes many people wonder what the book of Esther is doing in the Bible. Yet this lack of a reference to God is actually a device to heighten the fact that even in the darkest, loneliest hours, God is working. Even when God isn’t seen or felt or spoken of – He’s still there, working out His plans, working out the details.
(Not only Esther though, Amazing Grace, U2 songs, refrain from mentioning God but it only serves to increase their exposure.)
3. Answers to Really Big Questions
* Who’s really in control?
* Why does God allow terrible things to happen?
* What would have happened if either Mordecai or Esther had not been obedient?
* What is the relationship between God’s sovereign will and mankind’s free will? How can both exist together? 神の主権意思と人間の自由意志とはどう関係しているのか？
(Did God have a Plan B? If so, why were Mordecai and Esther so important? If not, did Mordecai and Esther have any free will in the matter?)
The book of Job (which is next) answers these questions more profoundly, yet the book of Esther also gives us some clear answers.
When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
God’s plans are not thwarted by our disobedience. Yet at the same time, God has placed us where we are to do His work and to bring His kingdom to the earth. Asking ‘What if I don’t do it?’, could have just as devastating an effect on us as on those we are called to help.
Resisting God will not be detrimental to God but it will always be detrimental to us. Quenching, grieving the Spirit is the same. Don’t do it!
4. God uses the remnant. 神は残された者を用いられる
There’s an ongoing theme throughout the Bible regarding a “remnant”: a small group of survivors who remain and are called upon to build God’s kingdom.
Amongst other times, we see this here at the time of Esther.
It’s amazing what God can do with a few faithful people.
(It’s amazing what God can do with a few small fish and a couple of loaves.)
We may or may not be in a position of power like Esther.
We may or may not be highly educated like Paul.
We may or may not be very ordinary people – fisherman or goat herders or whatever today’s equivalent of that is. It doesn’t matter. Man looks at the outward appearance. God looks at the heart. And whatever we bring to God, He will bless and use.
Today, give yourself to God. Give Him your hurts, your doubts, your questions, your time, your ambitions, your sins, your wealth, your intellect, your body, your voice, your plans.
Offer them to God. Put them on the line, as Esther did. Trust God with them.