Esther 3-4

What a cliff hanger! The Bible is filled with so many different styles of writing, Esther reads like an historical fiction love story. I love it! The Bible is so interesting and different; I could read it forever.

As Beth mentioned yesterday, God is not particularly mentioned in this book. Although today, the foreshadow of Jesus jumped off the page to me. Someone putting their life on the line to save a whole race of people? Seeing the bigger picture, valuing other’s life over their own? Esther makes a huge gospel-sized move here. And she makes it pretty quickly. I think the reason this story gets a fist pump from female readers is because the favored beauty queen is rarely the brave hero of the story. And really, God is the hero here. But it’s empowering to read that Esther’s life had purpose. Especially reading in the chapter before that her purpose was to smell good and wait around for an undetermined amount of time for the king to recall that he enjoyed sleeping with her.

She takes a stand. She doesn’t slink back into the comforts of her palace, but she makes a huge move, steps out into faith and risks her life. I love the pep talk she gets: “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”

Is God tugging on you to take action on something? A hard conversation with a friend? A bold life change? Instead of coming up with a a list of excuses about why you’re probably not suppose to follow through on whatever it is, ask yourself “does God have me in this exact position for this exact reason?”

Take time today to have a conversation with God about what he might be asking you to do. He loves using the underdog. The unexpected hero. No one is disqualified from being part of His story. 

 

-Carly

 

 

Esther 1-2

See the Bible Project overview here.

The detailed imagery of the book draws you in: “There were white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods and marble pillars, and also couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones.” (1:6) We are suddenly invited into the Persian Empire, full of banquets, wealth, year-long make-overs and beauty pageants.

It’s true God isn’t mentioned in this story, but He is everywhere. One of my favorite movements of God is how He gives people favor. We pray for that all the time, in YWAM, that someone will receive favor from consulates able to approve or deny travel visas. There are many strategic moments when we need favor to be where we need to be. Esther didn’t know why she received this favor, but she got it from all the right people.

We have more stories of God’s people moving into positions of favor in the Persian empire, like Daniel and Nehemiah. God moved King Cyrus to favorabley send the Jewish exiles back. Some of Israel’s finest moments interacting with foreign powers is their varied relationships with the Persian Empire. God has a thing for Persians. The Magi, for example, were Persian. He gives favor to His people and it blesses the nation they are engaged in. Blessed to be a blessing. It’s always been “the plan”.

Even in these first chapters Esther’s rise to power benefits the king before it ever benefits her. Mordecai foils an assassination plot.

Look for the places you’ve received favor. What doors have been opened to you that were not “givens”. Maybe you don’t know all the whys for receiving it and being where you are, but keep an eye out for ways you can bless others because you are there.

God is everywhere and we don’t always recognize Him. Look for God in your day and thank Him for the favor, positions and relationships He’s given.

-Bethany

Nehemiah 11-13

Let’s finish out this book, shall we?

Nehemiah’s severe response to the people’s sin in chapter 13 is notable. The people had promised not to allow their children to marry pagans, but while Nehemiah was gone, that promise to God was broken. God loves all people, but he knows how quickly we will separate ourselves from him if we commit to loving someone who doesn’t love him.

I like Nehemiah’s example here. He brings up Solomon, one of the greatest kings Israel ever saw and the wisest man to ever live. Because of the influence non-believers had on him, Israel fell. Nehemiah brings up such a tangible example to them because I think he knows what they’re thinking: it won’t happen to me. We all think that! That’s one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves. We think we our exempt from temptation and sin, or that the consequences will not impact us the way it’s impacted other people.

You are not above God’s law. Either was David, Solomon, or any of the other great, godly men who were clobbered by sin and suffered the consequences. We have the extreme privilege of having access to the Bible in it’s completion, which means we get to learn from other people’s mistakes. 

When you read the Bible, do you think that won’t happen to me? Or do you think I will not let this happen to me?

Let’s give thanks to the Holy Spirit who helps guide us each day and commit to reading the Bible with humble, submissive hearts willing to learn and obey.

Tomorrow, we start the book of Esther!

 

-Carly

Nehemiah 9-10

I love it when we arrive at a speech about God’s faithfulness in spite of us. His perfect record of righteousness is the solid rock we can stand on in all circumstances. What are some of the things He is directly/indirectly called in chapter 9?

  • Glorious 
  • Exalted
  • The Only God
  • Creator
  • Giver of life 
  • Chooser of Abraham
  • Fulfiller of promises
  • Righteous 
  • Compassionate 
  • Powerful
  • Leader
  • Communicator
  • Giver of just and true laws
  • Giver of rest/sabbath 
  • Provider of food/water/clothes 
  • Wondrous 
  • Forgiving
  • Gracious
  • Slow to anger
  • Abounding in loving kindness
  • Never forsaking
  • Guide
  • Instructor
  • Subduer of nations
  • Giver of land/fruitfulness/fertility 
  • Good
  • Deliverer
  • Rescuer
  • Admonisher
  • Patient
  • Mighty 
  • Great
  • Awesome 
  • Keeper of the covenant 
  • Just 
  • Faithful 

He is all of these things and He does not change. He has not changed. All while we change constantly. I have to be so very proactive about not being ruled by my ludicrous emotions and I still lose those battles constantly. He is the anchor of my soul and I NEED HIM DESPERATELY. 

I am eternally grateful to know and remember my life, righteousnes, joy, hope and peace depend on Him and not on me keeping myself in line. 

Oh LORD, I love you. Thank you for remaining faithful, good and just, providing even as I complain and fret. Thank you for staying true to your promises and sending Christ, the descendant of David, to be our King and Priest, leading and sanctifying. 

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

-Bethany 

Nehemiah 7-8

Chapter 8 is such a holy picture of what it should look like to engage in God’s word. Here are a few things I was reminded of as I read it: 

-The reading of God’s word deserves respect. I’ve visited a few churches lately that request you to stand when they read from the Bible. It might feel formal or religious, but it’s a good way to posture yourself and remember you’re reading divine words. What a precious gift we have in front of us! Let’s remember that. 

-The Bible was interpreted as it was read to the people. For the past five years, I’ve started reading a bible with a lengthy commentary on it. I use to be oppposed to them and wanted to give myself space to sort out Scripture for myself, but I’m so thankful for what it adds to my knowledge. Especially books or topics I’m not very familiar with. 

-Keep a humble heart of where you stand. The people wept and mourned as they listened to the words of the Law, realizing how far they were from what God was requiring. 

-Stay joyful! Don’t let shame overtake you when you read God’s word. Instead, celebrate what a loving God we have and all the ways he’s taken care of his people. And in our case, celebrate that we get to receive the gospel and extend it to others. 

“And Nehemiah continued, ‘Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!’ ” 8:10

Nehemiah 5-6

I think I’ve mentioned this before, and those of you who also grew up in the church may relate. I’ve had to refrain myself from treating people mentioned in the Bible as story book characters. Flannel graphs have a way of making someone seem like a Aesop fable. “Slow and steady wins the race”, don’t “cry wolf “, etc. Nehemiah and company are real historical figures. I think I said this when we were reading about David: Just because he’s a “man after God’s own heart” doesn’t mean he always does the right thing and is a reliable moral compass. If you’re looking for a moral compass, read Deuteronomy. That’s how Nehemiah knows the Israelites aren’t supposed to be collecting interest from each other. Much like David, Nehemiah has some great qualities and work ethics which foreshadow Christ, but he’s also flawed.

Luckily, today’s readings are mostly great examples of leadership. He doesn’t heavily tax the people so he can live large. He puts his own hands to the work, even though other nobles wouldn’t. He reminds me of the Apostle Paul being a tent maker, even though he had the right to be paid for his ministry. This is a lovely, Christlike, self sacrificing model, but not the requirements of the Law.

This reminds me of some great leaders I’ve seen throughout my life in ministry. Jeff Nelson is a YWAMer with an insane work ethic. The man is a machine and also full of grace and generosity. He and his wife rent a room to me when I live in Salem. I’ve worked with Jeff in the US, but also in Brazil, Argentina and Costa Rica. He is a man of consistent integrity, which I can attest to because I also live at his house. He is a also real person, not an Aesop fable character. His wife Sue also gives sacrifically of her time and resources. I am very blessed to have them in my life and I’m also incredibly blessed to say they are just one example among many godly leaders in my life.

Let’s thank God for these examples today. Share a story of someone who comes to mind when you think of a leader like Nehemiah.

-Bethany

Nehemiah 3-4

Almost everyone I’ve spoken to today mentioned that they were tired, rundown or overwhelmed. Myself included! It was even something I came across in today’s chapters.

“Then the people of Judah began to complain, ‘the workers are getting tired and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.” 4:10

Nehemiah brings his people’s focus back to God’s purpose. He reminds them that God will fight for them as they feel people closing in on them.

What is overwhelming you right now? Look past the logistics and remember God’s purpose for it all. Offer up your worries and anxieties to him, and ask him to make it clear what your part is. And as Bethany mentioned yesterday, good work involves other people! Ask for help. Invite others into it. Delegate, when you can. But above all else, find rest and peace in the only One who can provide it. Even when there’s not sleep, or answers, or solutions, there’s always rest available in Him.

 

-Carly