Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“The steps of a good man (or woman) are directed and established by the Lord when He delights in their way and He busies Himself with their every step. Even though (they) fall, (they) shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord grasps (their) hand in support and upholds (them).”
“Not so in haste, my heart!
Have faith in God and wait;
Although He linger long
He never comes too late.
Until He cometh, rest,
Nor grudge the hours that roll,
The feet that wait for God
Are soonest at the goal!
Are soonest at the goal
That is not gained by speed.
Then hold thee still, my heart,
For I shall wait His lead.”
“Let the great Master’s steps be thine!”
Today’s Study Text:
“Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her for his daughter, was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king’s chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed. And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all them that looked upon her. So Esther was taken unto King Ahasuerus into his house royal in the tenth month, which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.”
Esther 2: 15-17
“Nurturing The Embers of Hope”
“What Everybody Saw” Part 14
“Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile; kindness in your warm greeting.”
How would I describe the way I look at others?
Would I define myself as a kind-hearted individual?
“Kindness is loving people more than they deserve.”
“Kind words are the music of the world. They have a power which seems to be beyond natural causes, as though they were some angel’s son which had lost its way and come to earth.”
Frederick William Faber
We meet Esther in the second chapter of a book that contains her name. This young girl was the cousin of Mordecai and became his adopted daughter after the death of both her father and mother. Taken to the palace, as she was because of her overwhelming beauty, along with a host of other young maidens, Esther received what we might refer to as the treatment of a queen in waiting…“six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odors, and with other things for purifying” (Esther 2: 12, K.J.V.).
I appreciate the way author Margaret Hess described the process followed in Persia to please a demanding king who wanted to have the bragging rights that his queen was absolutely the most beautiful woman in the world:
“Twelve months in quarantine were required before a maiden could approach the pampered king – perhaps to make sure she carried no disease, suffered no irregularities. Twelve months to train her in the use of costly perfumes and creams. Voluptuousness turned into an art and a toil. No inward preparation whatever is suggested and no education or training for high office…Imagine yourself turned loose in a modern department store with an unlimited charge account. What would you select to make yourself attractive for some special occasion?”
Just put yourself in the place of King Ahasuerus who was bombarded with one young maiden after another. As some historians tell us, there could have been as many as 400 “beauties” parading before the king. One is forced to question how the king could even keep the women straight. Who had on what dress? Who wore a specific perfume? Talk about sensory overload! As Margaret Hess points out, “In this beauty contest a girl didn’t go her own way if she lost out to someone else. Instead she moved into the house of the concubines, those who had spent at least one night with the king. Of those, few ever visited him again, and then only if called by name. The rest lived out their days locked up in the women’s quarters.”
What a terrible existence to contemplate. And for twelve months, Esther had to look forward to a day when the king might say to her, “You aren’t the one for me!” Then off to the concubine’s house she would go.
However, in Esther 2: 15, we find these critical words: And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her.”
This is a vital passage of Scripture for us to understand. The Hebrew text illuminates the meaning of two particular words:
1.) Favour: Meaning precious kindness. All who looked upon Esther desired to heap and pour kindness upon her.
2. Sight: Meaning those who looked upon the content of Esther’s countenance. Such as the “eye of the fountain.” It was as if when you looked upon this beautiful maiden, her face revealed the inner warmth of her soul and like a fountain flowing forth, a fairness bubbled from the inside to the outside.
In a French Proverb, this luminous beauty is called a “silent eloquence.” Emerson called it “God’s handwriting.” And this revealing beauty, the Bible tells us was witnessed by all those who came into the presence of Esther.
Many years ago when I was attending Arizona State University, a group of the young people, who like myself were attempting to take an entire year of Organic Chemistry in summer school, were sitting in the hallway waiting for the class before ours to let out. As we chatted, a young man my age bumped my arm and said, “I don’t want to embarrass you but I’ve noticed you never swear. And I just wanted to let you know how refreshing it is to meet a girl who doesn’t have a filthy mouth.” Those were his words not mine. I have to tell you I was really surprised. Indeed I was raised in a home where speaking and acting politely was a requirement. In our house, even the words “shut up” were considered rude and disrespectful. I can remember my mom saying, “I don’t care if every other person at school talks a different way. We don’t use coarse language in our home or family.”
After studying about the aura surrounding Esther and comparing it to the disrespectful name calling that goes on in society today, believe me Garden friends when I say, we desperately need the radiance and kind compassion of Esther’s today – those divinely filled women (and men, too!) who, when they pass down a hallway or walk in an aisle, radiate such a beautiful countenance…such a handsome smile, that everyone whose sight falls upon them is drawn to look upward toward heaven to our Father’s throne where the illumination of kindness radiates into all His children here on earth.
Several years ago, in my continuous cycle of daily reading, I came upon an essay penned by author and essayist, Robert Fulghum. It’s entitled “Mother Teresa” and was from his book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I am especially moved by Fulghum’s essay because Mother Teresa has always been a heroine of mine. Here are some of his thought-provoking words which I hope will touch your heart as they did mine. Especially since we are encouraged to illuminate our dark world with a kindness that flows from the inside out onto our dry parched planet.
“There was a person who profoundly disturbed my peace of mind for a long time. She didn’t know me, but she went around minding my business. We had very little in common. She was an old woman, an Albanian, who grew up in Yugoslavia…she and her followers drove me crazy. They seemed so pious and self-righteous. I got upset every time I heard her name or read her words or saw her face. I didn’t even want to talk about her. Who did she think she was, anyhow?
However, in the studio where I used to work, there was a sink. Above the sink was a mirror. I stopped at this place several times each day to tidy up and look at myself in the mirror. Alongside the mirror was a photograph of the troublesome old woman. Each time I looked in the mirror at myself, I also looked at her face. In it I have seen more than I can tell; and from what I saw, I understood more than I can say. I could not get her out of my mind or life.
That photograph was taken in Oslo, Norway, on the tenth of December, in 1980. This is what happened there: The small, stooped woman in a faded blue and white sari and worn sandals received an award. From the hand of a king. An award funded from the will of the inventor of dynamite. In a great glittering hall of velvet and gold and crystal. Surrounded by the noble and famous in formal black-tie and elegant gowns. The rich, the powerful, the brilliant, the talented of the world in attendance. And there – at the center of it all – this little old lady in sari and sandals. Mother Teresa, of India. Servant of the poor and sick and dying. To her, the Nobel Peace Prize.
She was given the longest standing ovation in the history of the prize.
No president or king or general or scientist or pope or merchant or cartel or oil company or ayatollah holds the key to as much power as she had. None is as rich. For hers was the invincible weapon against the evils of this earth: the caring heart! And hers were the everlasting riches of this life: the wealth of the compassionate spirit.
I would not do what she did or the way she did it. But her presence on the stage of the world dares me to explain just what I will do, then, and how, and when.
Several years after she won the Nobel Prize, when I was attending a grand conference of quantum physicists and religious mystics at the Oberoi Towers Hotel in Bombay, I saw her in person. Standing by the door at the rear of the hall, I sensed a presence beside me. And there she was. Alone. This tiny woman had come to speak to the conference as its guest.
She strode to the rostrum and changed the agenda of the conference from intellectual inquiry to moral activism. She said, in a firm voice to the awed assembly: “We can do no great things; only small things with great love.”
The contradictions of her life and faith were nothing compared to my own. And while I wrestle with frustration about the impotence of the individual, she went right on affecting the world. While I wish for more power and resources, she used her power and resources to do what she could do at the moment. Gandhi would have approved. He had some strange ways and habits of his own. But he did what he did.
Mother Teresa disturbed me and inspired me. And still does.
If ever there is truly peace on earth, goodwill to men, it will be because of women like Mother Teresa.”
And it will be because of bold men like Mordecai. And maidens like Esther whose outside beauty is a reflection of the kindness and compassion embedded inside their hearts.
Our question today is this: What was it that everyone who saw Esther came to know? And how about in your life and mine today as well?
“Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Lord, grant me I pray courage when the best things fail me,
calm and poise when storms assail me,
common sense when things perplex me,
a sense of humor when they vex me,
hope when disappointments damp me,
wide visions when life cramps me,
kindness when folk need it badly,
readiness to help them gladly,
and when effort seems in vain
wisdom to begin again.”
“Spirit of God,
Grace of God,
Heat of God,
Compassion of God,
Hand of God,
Passion of God,
Mind of God,
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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