Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
A Psalm of David
“There is none like unto You among the gods, O Lord, neither are their works like unto Yours. All nations whom You have made shall come and fall down before You, O Lord; and they shall glorify Your name. For You are great and work wonders! You alone are God. Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may walk and live in Your truth; direct my heart to reverently honor Your name…Great is Your mercy and loving-kindness toward me; and You have delivered me from the depths of affliction.”
“Lord, You seized me and I could not resist You.
I ran for a long time but You followed me.
I took by-paths, but You knew them.
You overtook me,
Here I am, Lord, out of breath, no
light left in me, and I’ve said
‘yes’ almost willingly.
When I stood there trembling like one
defeated before their captor,
Your look of love fell on me…
Marked by the fire of Your love,
I can no longer forget You.
Now I know that You are there,
close to me, and I work in peace
beneath Your loving gaze…
I lift my eyes to You and I meet Yours.
And we understand one another.
All is light, all is peace.”
“Here is my heart, O God, here it is with all its secrets; look into my thoughts, O my hope, and take away all my wrong feelings; let my eyes ever be on You and release my feet from the snare.”
Augustine of Hippo
Today’s Study Text:
A Psalm of David
“Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.”
“I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God.”
The Message Bible
“Nurturing The Embers of Hope”
“Bellows That Fan the Fire of Hope” Part 1
“Those that rejoice in hope are likely to be patient in tribulation. It is a believing prospect of the joy set before us that bears up the spirit under all outward pressure.”
What is there in my life right now that I feel has dwindled down to just a few slow burning embers and I need God’s bellows of hope to fan the “embers” into a roaring fire for Him?
In a personal way, what does the word “hope” mean in my own life?
“To lose hope has the same effect on our heart as it would be to stop breathing.”
“Hope, like a gleaming taper’s light,
Adorns and cheers our way;
And still, as darker grows the night,
Emits a brighter ray.”
Years ago, when I had the opportunity to spend every school vacation at my grandparents ranch, I was able to learn about all kinds of activities that “city” kids like myself were not acquainted with. During the winter, it was the large fireplace in the center of my grandparents ranch house that provided warmth throughout the entire home. My dad was always the person called upon to build the fire when we arrived. He would get small pieces of wood, kindling as we called it, and place these dry sticks under a huge log that was at the core of the fire. Then he would crunch up old pages of newspaper that lit quickly and soon there would be a roaring fire. However, as occasionally happened, if there had been a recent storm and the wood wasn’t dry enough and wasn’t flammable, my dad would pick up the bellows hung on the hearth and repeatedly blow air on the embers in the fireplace.
In case you aren’t acquainted with what bellows are and what they do, here’s a good description: “Bellows are a device for producing a strong current of air, as for sounding in a pipe organ or increasing the draft to a fire. A bellows is composed of a flexible, valved air chamber that is contracted or expanded by pumping to force the air through a nozzle.”
It constantly amazed me to watch my dad push those bellows and see how the embers could be fanned into flames that eventually produced a huge blaze.
Now you may be wondering what “bellows” have to do with the book of Esther in the Bible. Well, I can assure you, a lot more than we might imagine. For as I’ve read and studied nearly everything I could find which has been written about this book in the Old Testament, I’ve asked God repeatedly to help me understand what His purpose was in sharing this story with His children throughout time down to this very day in the 21st century. Day after day as I read, I found my attempts to come to the heart – the core message in Esther, to nearly be what I thought was a futile task. But then as I was about to throw my hands up in the air, I came upon a sentence penned by Pastor H. James Hopkins, in his insightful comments on the story of Esther. He noted in his summary of Esther’s life that she was a “young woman valued more for her beauty than her brains, a young woman willing to risk her own safety and security for the well-being of her people…She has only a few words at her disposal, words that must be very well chosen. She speaks. History is changed.” and then Pastor Hopkins, especially writing to other pastors who would potentially be using his thoughts in a sermon, states, “Esther gives the preacher an opportunity to nurture the embers of hope.”
I want to thank Pastor Hopkins for just the right words this writer, Dorothy, was hunting for because after reading the thoughts of so many, I knew that somewhere in the title for our new series on the book of Esther that the word “hope” had to appear.
However, I also recognized that there was a specific reason God sent us back to the book of Daniel where the furnace in Babylon held three Hebrew boys who were confronted with the fires of affliction and also to watch as the prophet Daniel was hurled into a den of lions. As I studied the book of Esther, it didn’t take long to identify the fact that the cold hand of death came knocking time and again. And further just because we are God’s children, doesn’t mean we will escape the most crafty and mean behavior which humans can dish out. The three Hebrews knew this to be true and so did Daniel. And now we will find that all the participants in the book of Esther were confronted by death as well.
My question, as I uncovered the fact that the book of Esther at first glance shares a truly ominous tale, was to inquire as to the way an individual keeps moving forward amid cries of doom and gloom. My answer was the same as Pastor Hopkins. We must “nurture the embers of hope.” No matter the trials we face…no matter how small the embers become…you and I need to be the bellows in this world, “nurturing the embers of hope.” Despite the fiery furnace…in spite of the pit of lions…even if there is a death decree, our calling is to foster a spirit of hope and to provide nourishment as we cultivate a harvest of hope.
In an especially thoughtful essay, Francis de Sales writes: “Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life in fear; rather look to them with full hope that, as they arise, God, whose you are, will deliver you out of them. He is your keeper. He has kept you hitherto. Do you but hold fast to His dear hand, and He will lead you safely through all things; and, when you cannot stand, He will bear you in his arms. Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. Our Father will either shield you from suffering, or He will give you strength to bear it.”
So I say, “Welcome to the book of Esther!” This is where we recognize God’s hand at work even if we can’t see anything that He is doing. But be assured, He will always be present, on time, and ready to help at the call of His children.
As the poet Elizabeth Cheney so hopefully penned:
“Said the Robin to the Sparrow:
‘I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.’
Said the Sparrow to the Robin:
‘Friend, I think that is must be
That they have no heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me.”
This is the God of the book of Esther. Our God of eternal hope.
“Hope sees a crown in reserve, mansions in readiness, and Jesus Himself preparing a place for us, and by the rapturous sight (hope) sustains the soul under the sorrows of the hour.”
“I shall wear laughter on my lips
Though in my heart is pain –
God’s sun is always brightest after rain.
I shall go singing down my little way
Though in my breast the dull ache grows –
The song birds come again after the snows.
I shall walk eager still for what Life holds
Although it seems the hard road will not end –
One never knows the beauty round the bend!”
Anna Blake Mezquida
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15: 13
“Hope to the end.”
1 Peter 1:13
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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