August 18, 2011

Friday after the Eighth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 139, 1 Sam 15:10-23, Lk. 17:1-10
Evening - Ps. 136, 146, Esther 3:1-12, Acts 28:1-15

Commentary
Esther 3:1-12

As we enter the third chapter of the book of Esther we find her in a new role as queen to Ahasuerus (2:17). She is well favoured, partly because she saved the king's life by warning him of a plot against him (2:21-23). Things look good for her. Maybe this compromise of faith will work out. Not so, for Haman is rising to power. He will attempt to destroy the Jews, and Esther will be forced to make a choice for or against God. Haman was a very proud man who liked the way everyone bowed to him and gave him reverence; everyone except Mordecai (3:2).

Why did Mordecai not bow to Haman? Because he was a Jew (3:4). Perhaps Mordecai knew that it was because he did not live in Jerusalem that Esther was now married to a Gentile idolater instead of living as a believing Jew. Perhaps he was under a growing understanding that he was a transgressor of the law of God, and had put his own comforts and desires above God all of his life. Perhaps he was beginning to realise that to bow to Haman was to recognise him and his culture and religion, and to give them more honour than he has given God. Perhaps he was beginning to think he had compromised the Faith long enough, and was trying to finally take a stand. We cannot be sure what he was thinking, but we do know that it had something to do with the Jewish faith.

How much can a person compromise? Once one begins to compromise, where does one stop? If one doctrine of Scripture can be compromised, why can't they all? If one doctrine can be given up, why should anyone bother with the others? Does not one compromise actually forfeit the entire faith? The world understands this. The world knows that getting ministers to deny the deity of Christ, or the resurrection of Christ, or any of the doctrines of the Christian faith, leads people to deny the entire Christian religion. They may still attend church, and have nice choirs and pretty buildings, but they have no power in their faith. They have only a moral or philosophical system. They claim Divine sanction for their system, but why should anyone believe in it if the book from which they derive it is wrong about the very important issues of the being and nature and work of Christ?

1 Kings 18 records the famous spiritual battle between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Actually the clash was between the God of Israel and the idol Baal. Many Israelites, including the king and queen, Ahab and Jezebel, openly worshiped Baal. In verse 21 Elijah asks, "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him." This is the very issue Mordecai faces in the book of Esther. He has been halting between two opinions all his life. He is unwilling to go to Jerusalem and live as a Jew, but he is also unwilling to give himself completely to the pagan culture of Persia. His compromise is not working. In fact, it is not working for any Jews in Persia. They are all targeted in the accusation of Haman (3:6-12). They face an ominous choice they never expected to face; fully join the culture, or die.

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.