wondering look September 15 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Ezra 4:6; Esther 1-4

What’s God Doing?

A good, faithful employee gets fired, a person becomes disabled so that he/she can no longer work, a house burns down, or a good person dies young. There are times when life doesn’t make sense. Christians look to God and ask, “What are you doing?” Sometimes, we never find out the answer. We will have to ask God one day when we meet Him. At other times, the answer comes later. We must be patient and trust His sovereign care and protection. This is what the theme of Esther is about: God’s sovereign care and protection of His people.

At the time of Esther, the Persian King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) is ruler of the entire known world, from India to Egypt. Most of the Jews are either exiled in Babylon or scattered in various places throughout the Persian Empire; however, 49,000 are back in their homeland of Judah and their capital city Jerusalem. Solomon’s temple has been rebuilt, but as yet Jerusalem is an unwalled city protected only by God. Of the Jews who have not returned, some dwell in the citadel (fortress) of Susa, in Babylon. This is where Mordecai and Esther live.

At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present. For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king's palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest, who were in the citadel of Susa. (Esther 1:2-5, NIV)

At the end of the week, King Xerxes, in his drunken state, wants to show off the beauty of his wife, Queen Vashti. She refuses, however, to be put on display before the drunken court. This is quite embarrassing, so the king consults with his most trusted advisors. They suggest that he remove Queen Vashti as an example to all women not to rebel against their husbands. He removes her, but when he sobers up, he realizes he has no queen. He is then counseled to hold a beauty contest. Whichever maiden pleases the king can be the next queen. King Xerxes authorizes it, and through a process of providential events, Esther is chosen.

Mordecai is Esther’s cousin, and he looks after her welfare. She is like a daughter to him because he raised her after her parents died. Mordecai’s great-grandfather, Kish, was one of the original exiles from Jerusalem in the days of Jehoiachin, king of Judah (597 B.C., Esther 2:6-7). Mordecai and Esther were apparently born in Babylon because he was given a Babylonian name taken from the god, Marduk, and she was given a Persian name, meaning “star” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, p.703). He counsels Esther not to reveal her Jewish nationality because that might work to her disadvantage as queen.

Perhaps, because he thought he could be useful serving in the empire’s judicial system, Mordecai did not return to the land of Israel (he served in the gate, which is similar to the city square; a place where business is transacted, Esther 2:5, 21-22) . Even if he was disobedient, he is in other ways very devout. Against the pressure of being a servant of the king, he refuses to bow to anyone except the LORD God of Israel. When Haman, the king’s chief nobleman, is promoted and honored above all others, Mordecai refuses to pay him homage. This enrages Haman! He determines, not only to have Mordecai killed, but also to have all the Jews killed. He explains to the king that the Jews are a menace to his kingdom, so the king signs Haman’s order to have them eliminated. This is genocide.

When the order is read in all the provinces, there is great confusion and grief. What are they to do? What is God doing? In Mordecai's grief, he puts on sackcloth and throws ashes on himself (more…).

When Esther finds out about Mordecai, she is very disturbed and sends him clothing, but he refuses to wear them. She then sends a messenger to find out what is wrong. Mordecai sends a copy of the edict to her and tells her the consequences of it. He asks her to make a special appeal to the king.

Esther does not know what to do. She sends a message to Mordecai that she has not seen the king for a month, and to see him without being invited could mean death.

Mordecai responds,

“Do not imagine that you in the king's palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”

Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:13-16, NIV).

Lessons to Live By

  • Are you in trouble? Do you wonder what God is doing? Seek Him. Pray to Him. If you are in much distress and are earnest for God to give you an answer, you may want to humble yourself and fast (if you are healthy enough to do so). Use the skipped meal to read the Bible and pray for an answer. While you are praying and fasting, think about the ways God has been working in your life, even if it seems strange. Has God already provided the answer? Is the answer for such a time as this? Do you just need to take a step of faith? After you seek God, you may wish to seek godly counsel and then do as He leads.
  • Perhaps the Lord wants to use you to fulfill His will.
  • Are you a true believer in Christ for your salvation? If not, you do not need to perish in your sins. God offers complete forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...)

Focus Verse

Psalm 73:28 “But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds,” (NIV)

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A Look Ahead: What will happen to Esther? Will the Jews perish? Find out in our Next Lesson, From Distress to Delight. God can work in our lives in similar ways. Join us!

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