August 18, 2011

Thursday after the Eighth Sunday after Trinity

Thursday after the Eighth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 12, 129, 1 Sam. 15:1-9, Lk 16:19
Evening - Ps. 132, 134, Esther 2:5-8, 17-23, Acts 27:27

Commentary, Esther 2:5-8, 17-23

Tonight's commentary turns to the second chapter of Esther. As we saw in Nehemiah and Ezra, not all Jews returned to Jerusalem when Cyrus released them in 536. Mordecai and his wife, in the year 519 B.C., still reside in Shushan, and other Jews live throughout the empire. But it was not God's purpose for Jews to live in foreign lands. They were called to live as the people of God, keeping His Covenant and worshiping Him according to His law, in Jerusalem. In Genesis 12:1 we read "Get thee out of thy country... unto a land that I will shew thee." And in Genesis 1:7, "Unto thy seed will I give this land." In Exodus the same promise is reiterated, "I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God... And I will bring you unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage" (Ex. 6:7-8). Jews who did not return to Jerusalem were forsaking their calling and their God. Yet God did not forsake them. The book of Esther recounts His providential care of Jews outside of Judea. Truly He is the Father of all mercies.

In chapter 2, Ahasureus, king of Persia, has banished the queen; essentially divorcing and dethroning her for not appearing at his drunken pagan festival in chapter 1. He willingly accepts the advice to have beautiful virgins from throughout the empire brought to him so he can choose one to become the new queen (1:4) and add the others to his harem (2:14).

It should be no surprise to Mordecai or Esther that the pagan culture they chose over Jerusalem views Esther as another candidate for the king's harem. Their compromise with the world allows the world to think of them as being "of the world," and the world treats them as such. Compromise never works for the Church because the world always demands more, but the world never compromises itself. Its goal is not to live in peace with the Church; it is to eradicate it. So, while the Jews in Jerusalem attempt to separate themselves from the world by sending away pagan women they had married, Esther becomes a concubine to the king of Persia.

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