Esther 1-4

Esther 1-4

We read the story of Esther in the book that bears her name. Esther 1 gives us the story of a grand banquet that the king of Persia held. In the midst of the celebration, the king decided to call forth his beautiful queen, Vashti, to come and dance before his friends at the feast. When Vashti refused, King Ahasuerus banished her from the court.

In chapter 2, we learn that after Vashti was sent away, the king embarked on a search for a new queen. After searching high and low in his realm, the king’s advisors found a Jewess named Hadassah, who was being raised under the name Esther by her cousin Mordecai. After many months of preparation, Esther won the king’s favor and became queen.

Esther 3 describes the plot of Haman, one of the king’s important advisors, to annihilate the Jews in Persia because of Mordecai’s refusal to bow to Haman. Truly, this was a key turning point in the history of redemption. If Haman had succeeded, the Jews would have been wiped out, and there would be no Messiah and no salvation for the world.

Great mourning broke out among the Jews, culminating in Mordecai’s plea for Esther to intervene in her people’s behalf. Fearing for her own life, Esther initially refused (4:1–11). But Mordecai warned her that if she did not involve herself, the Jews would be rescued by the hand of another. However, Esther herself would not escape death if she thought she could preserve her life by doing nothing (vv. 12–14). Upon hearing that, Esther vowed to go before the king upon threat of death (vv. 15–17).

Her courage is even more remarkable when we consider that the name of God is not mentioned in the book of Esther. This is the author’s way of depicting the hidden hand of providence, the Lord’s working in ways that are not immediately discernible to us. Esther trusted this providence even when she had no idea how things would turn out for her.

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2 Samuel 22-24

2 Samuel 22-24…The ways of God

Have you ever puzzled over statements in the Bible that seem to contradict each other? For example, 1 Chronicles 21:1 states that the one who “moved David to number Israel” was Satan, but 2 Samuel 24:1 says it was the Lord. How do we explain this? We know that God never tempts anyone to sin (James 1:13).

The answer lies in the way the Old Testament writers expressed the ways of God. They sometimes ascribed to God what He merely allowed, knowing that He permits us to make wrong choices and then uses the tragic results to accomplish His good purposes.

In 2 Samuel 24:1, we read that God “moved David” to take a census of Israel. This is clearly a case when God allowed Satan to influence David, for it was an attempt to assess Israel’s military strength. This reflected the same sin of pride and self-reliance that was prevalent in the nation. As a result, God judged the people and their king.

So what was the good purpose God accomplished by allowing Satan to influence David? Although many Israelites died, the nation itself was spared and purified. The Lord punished the guilty but also showed His mercy.

God’s ways may be beyond our understanding, but we can always trust Him to do what is right. He uses trials, and intentionally tests us to turn us toward Him. This testing of our faith matures us spiritually, and Christians who see trials as punishment from God have a very small view of Him.