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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What Good Is a Woman? Lesson 8

Read Esther Chapter 8.

In vs.1, Esther acquires the house of Haman. Compare this to Jesus' acquisition of a "house" in Matthew 12:24 and 29.

Compare the elevation of Mordecai in vss.1 and 2 to the events in Ephesians 2:4-7.

Esther's intercession continues in vss.5-8. Why are the Jews still in danger after the death of Haman?
Vss. 9-14 show the issuance of another irrevocable edict. See Psalm 85:10, and consider how seemingly contradictory standards can be upheld at the same time. See Matthew 5:17,18 and Romans 3:21-26.

Compare the new edict with the promise in Malachi 4:3.

Are the people of God still threatened even though redeemed by Christ? See 1 Peter 5:8.

How does the church "trample the wicked" today? See Matthew 16:18 and 2 Corinthians 10:4-6.

Mordecai appears in "royal apparel" in vs. 15. How is this different from the procession in Chapter 6? Consider how the people react and how long the effect lasts. Compare to Revelation 21:2. Matthew Henry calls the new Jerusalem "the church of God in its new and perfect state."

Note the Jews' reactions in vss.16 and 17. Compare to Isaiah 61:1-3 and Luke 4:16-21.

"Fear of the Jews" causes many to become Jews. Is this at all similar to the way people become part of the church today? See Deuteronomy 33:29, Matthew 5:14-16, Acts 5:12-16 and 9:31.
     In The New Geneva Study Bible, Chapter 8 bears the subtitle "Esther Saves the Jews." Yes, indeed, and she continues with more actions that resemble those of Christ. To begin with, Ahasuerus "gave Queen Esther the house of Haman." Jesus said in Matthew 12:29, "Or how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house." Jesus conquered a realm that Satan thought he owned and turned it over to His church. ("On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" Matthew 16:18.) Victorious Esther "appointed Mordecai over the house of Haman."
       Through the action of another, Mordecai escapes a death sentence and gains a position of authority. His elevation is like that of the church as described in Ephesians 2:4-7. We were "dead in trespasses," but God "made us alive together with Christ." (Remember how Esther identified herself with her people.) Now we are seated with Christ at God's right hand. The church has unique authority in the world, and Mordecai has the king's signet ring.
            Haman is dead, but Esther's intercession must continue. The people are still in danger because the original edict against them still stands. As the king reminds Esther, "whatever is written in the king's name and sealed with the king's signet ring no one can revoke" (8:8). The only solution is a new edict, equally irrevocable, that will nullify the first. It is striking that this edict, like the first, is sent out "to every people in their own language, and to the Jews in their own script and language" (8:9). The Revelation tells us that God has redeemed His people "out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (5:9), and the "everlasting gospel" is preached "to every nation, tribe, tongue and people" (14:6).
       The two edicts echo the promise of Psalm 85:10. "Mercy and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed." The New Geneva Study Bible explains, "This verse has long been interpreted to refer to the reconciliation that Jesus Christ effected between God's justice, that cannot tolerate sin, and His mercy, that does not rejoice in the death of the wicked. Justice and mercy came together in the cross of Christ." Perfect, unchanging and apparently contradictory principles are satisfied in the work of Christ. Esther guarantees escape for her people under the same authority that condemned them. In Matthew 5:17,18, Jesus tells His hearers that the law still stands. In Romans 3:21-26, Paul explains that "all have sinned," but God passes over sins because of Christ. He is both "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
       Salvation in Christ is more than rescue. It is triumph, as promised in Malachi 4:3. "For you shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this." The victory is sure, but the battle is not over. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Satan's head has been crushed, but he's still thrashing about, trying to take down as many human beings as he can. Haman is dead, but his evil intent still has life. Only now, the Jews have permission to fight back.
         Death itself cannot conquer the church (Matthew 16:18). Of course, we fight in a different way from the Jews in Persia. "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds" (1 Corinthians 10:4). We "trample the wicked" with prayer and the truth of God's Word. We do this as royalty. Not only has God redeemed His people from the whole world, He has "made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:10).
       Now that the Jews have hope, Mordecai appears in public "in royal apparel of blue and white, with a great crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple" (8:15). This procession is different from the one in Chapter 6. The first was derivative, accidental and ironic. When it was over, Mordecai returned to his humble position at the king's gate. No reaction from the people is recorded. Now Mordecai seems to be honored as royalty. He has a crown, and this time the people rejoice. He is one of them, and his position has changed permanently. Adorned and elevated like the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2), described by Matthew Henry as "the church of God in its new and perfect state," he rules along with Ahasuerus and Esther.
       Now the Jews have "light and gladness, joy and honor... a feast and a holiday" (8:16, 17). Their reactions resonate with the celebration that greets the proclamation of the "acceptable year of the LORD" in Isaiah 61:1-3. Jesus reads this passage in Luke 4:16-21 to demonstrate that He is the One Who brings the deliverance from slavery, ashes and mourning. In Esther's success, the Jews in Persia have certainly had a foretaste of that ultimate deliverance.
      Then, remarkably, "fear of the Jews" causes many of their neighbors to become Jews. I think there is little of this dynamic in effect today, but perhaps it ought to be more evident. As Moses said of Israel, "Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD... Your enemies shall submit to you, and you shall tread down their high places" (Deuteronomy 33:29). A divinely saved people is the light of the world, as in Matthew 5:14-16. Jesus tells his church to "let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." At least in the early church, God's power was so obvious that "believers were increasingly added to the Lord," as in Acts 5:12-16 and 9:31. God's work in the church has had the same effect on observers as Esther's work for her people in Persia.

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