delighted woman September 16 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Esther 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

From Distress to Delight

In yesterday's Bible study the question was asked, “What’s God Doing?” Sometimes God doesn’t make sense. We experience serious threats or calamity and wonder, what is going on? How can we turn what is distressful into something delightful? The truth is that in most cases we can’t but God can.

The theme of Esther is God’s sovereign care and protection of his people. The Jews in Babylon and elsewhere were in trouble. Haman, the chief nobleman under King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) of Persia, had influenced the king to write an order for the Jews in every province to be exterminated, because Haman told the king they were a menace to his kingdom. What were the Jews to do? Unbeknown to anyone in the kingdom except Mordecai, Esther’s older cousin, God had sovereignly placed Esther in a position of influence; she was queen. Now God would use her “for such a time as this,” (Esther 4:14, NIV). Here is a lesson we might learn from this true story: just because we do not see any deliverance does not mean that God is not at work. While we are waiting for God to work, we should seek him. This means that we should read our Bibles for direction and encouragement, pray, fast if we are in distress, seek godly counsel, and act in faith by following his leading.

Esther decided to put her fate in God's hands. At her own peril she decided to follow Mordecai’s advice – she must approach the king and ask him to overrule the verdict. But how? To approach the king without being invited into his presence could mean her death, and it had been a month since he last called for her. Before doing so, she, her cousin Mordecai, and the rest of the Jewish people fasted for three days. Then she put her royal robes on and approached the king. When King Ahasuerus saw her, God touched his spirit so that she found favor in his eyes. Exercising extreme grace, he held out a golden scepter for her to touch and told Queen Esther to ask for whatever she wanted.

Esther was wise and astute; she knew the king loved banquets so she invited her husband and Haman to a special banquet. The king knew she wanted something more, but she kept him in suspense. His mysterious wife intrigued him. After the banquet King Xerxes was in a very generous mood and asked her again what she wanted, assuring her that he would meet her request. Again, however, she was mysterious and invited the king and Haman to another banquet. The king and Haman felt much honored. The king was willing to grant Esther’s request, whatever that might be.

Haman was also in high spirits until he happened to see Mordecai, who still paid him no homage. Haman had already determined the destruction of the Jews, but this man galled him. His friends counseled him to build a gallows and hang him. Having determined to do so, he was satisfied and went to seek the permission of the king. Would disaster come upon Esther and Mordecai anyway? No, God was at work behind the scenes.

That same night King Xerxes could not sleep, so he gave an order to bring the book of records, the chronicles, and they were read before him. In it he heard that Mordecai had reported the assassination plot of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs who were doorkeepers. However, Mordecai had never been rewarded for his loyalty. That very night Haman came to the king’s court on another matter - to seek permission to hang Mordecai. Hearing Haman was in the court, the king asked his nobleman what should be done to reward the one whom the king wished to honor. Thinking that person was himself, Haman answered,

“For the man the king delights to honor, have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king's most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!’”

“Go at once,” the king commanded Haman. “Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king's gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.” (Esther 6:7b-10, NIV)

Mordecai was honored, but Haman felt totally humiliated and defeated. It was apparent that fate or the Jewish god was against him.

The next day Haman and the king appeared at the second banquet Esther had prepared for them. After eating, the king again asked Esther what she wanted-anything up to half of his kingdom, he said. Esther finally revealed what was on her heart; she and her people were to be destroyed and the vile Haman was responsible. The king was enraged and left the room. Haman, seeing that his fate was determined, knelt before Esther, who was reclining on a couch, and pled with her for his life. When the king came back, he misunderstood what he saw and thought Haman was trying to assault his wife, the queen. He ordered that Haman be hanged on the gallows that he had built for Mordecai.

But what of the order that had been given to have the Jews exterminated? The laws of the Medes and Persians could not be changed. Because of this, King Xerxes had his newly decorated chief nobleman, Mordecai, write another edict so that on the day appointed for genocide of the Jews they could defend themselves against their enemies. Such great fear was caused by this new edict that many non-Jews became Jews. When the appointed day of destruction came, there was a great victory for the Jews, and so much so that the new edict was extended for one day. Through God’s working, he enabled the Jews to get revenge upon their enemies. He turned the situation from distress to delight. Though considered one of their minor feasts, today, Jews still celebrate this victory, called The Feast of Purim.

Lessons to live by:

  • Do you want your distress to turn to delight in your life? Do not fret. Seek the LORD for salvation (more...). Make the LORD your refuge in times of trouble.
  • God sometimes frustrates the plans of the wicked and turns the tables upon them when they seek to injure his people.
  • Perhaps God has you in a place of leadership “for such a time as this” - to help or to deliver others from destruction.
  • “Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” (Psalm 100:3 NIV)

Today’s Bible memory verse: “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart,” (Psalm 37:4, NIV).

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