Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.”
“God only knows the love of God:
Oh, that it now were shed abroad
In this poor stony heart;
For love I sigh, for love I pine;
This only portion, Lord, be mine,
Be mine this better part.”
“He does not love us because we art so lovely, but because He always loves what He pities.”
Today’s Study Text:
“There was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes. So Esther’s maids and her chamberlains came and told it her. Then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take away his sackcloth from him; but he received it not.”
Esther 4:3, 4
“Nurturing The Embers of Hope”
“Want To Go Shopping?” Part 24
“For every one that definitely turns (their) back on Christ, there are hundreds who drift from Him. Life’s ocean is full of currents, any one of which will sweep us past the harbor-mouth even when we seem nearest to it; and carry us far out to sea.”
F. B. Meyer
The Way Into Holiness
If I was a Jew living in the foreign nation of Medo-Persia do I believe that in all actions in my life I would have still been faithful in my service of God Almighty?
“Would that we had the faith to look upon every trying circumstance, from every fretting worry, from every annoyance and temptation, into the face of our Guide, and say, ‘It is the right way, Thou great Shepherd of the sheep, lead Thou me on!”
F. B. Meyer
The Shepherd Psalm
“What if God was only faithful when He felt like it, only dependable part of the time, only loving on special occasions? Thank goodness, He is always faithful to His own nature. The world desperately needs to see that same kind of faithfulness in our lives.”
Lloyd John Ogilvie
Mourning in the streets. Weeping in the houses. Wailing in the darkness of the night. Crying out in the day to a God who appeared to be absent to the needs of His children.
One has to wonder what the Jewish people scattered throughout Medo-Persia did when they worshipped their God – living as they did in Medo-Persia. The Bible makes no reference to any house of worship or place of prayer in this foreign country. Indeed, they may have “called” themselves Jews but I just wonder if the word “Jew” referred mostly to their nationality and not their connection to the to the worship of the Almighty God of heaven and earth.
I am certain there were faithful Jewish worshippers who in their homes remembered the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. However, with their capital city of Jerusalem miles away and still not totally rebuilt, it appeared that the glory days of Solomon’s temple was only a faint remembrance to the youngest among the Jewish people living in Medo-Persia. It may have seemed to the Jews in Medo-Persia that it would be a good idea to “plant” themselves in a country they now referred to as “home.”
But with the decree of King Ahasuerus having reached the farthest corners of Medo-Persia, the Jews had to face the fact that their options were few. Either they had to uproot themselves from all they had grown to love or they had to travel through the desert to a place they couldn’t even imagine would provide them with food or work. Otherwise, they would face certain death at the hands of the king’s murderous army under the control of the tyrant Haman.
And so, for those who did remember the God of Israel, like Mordecai, the garb of sackcloth and the ashes of misery were symbols of great sorrow and despair and this sign of mournfulness became the daily apparel of Jews across Medo-Persia.
In the Old Testament, as a symbol of mourning and repentance, individuals would take a course material, often made of black goat’s hair or even camel hair. Make no mistake about it, this was not a comfortable outfit as the scratchy hair rubbed against tender human flesh. Add to this picture, the ashes which were scattered over the suppliants head, signifying misery, shame and repentance and one gets a picture of an individual who is debasing themselves. As Margaret Hess describes the picture Scripture paints of Mordecai, we find that this follower of Jehovah might have been expressing strong feelings of reaching out to God. The Bible doesn’t say. It only describes his outward actions…after parading his grief in the city, Mordecai went to the city square in front of the king’s gate. Wealth and power couldn’t shut out sorrow, even from a palace. But it could shut out displays of sorrow. Mordecai couldn’t enter even the courtyard in sackcloth.”
And so, upon hearing of the extreme condition her adopted father was in, Queen Esther who was living in the queen’s palace obviously found herself in a place where she was unaware of the dire situation the Jews found themselves in.
To most women, Esther’s next action doesn’t seem that unusual for we are told in Esther 4: 4, “the queen…sent raiment to clothe Mordecai.” I don’t know too many women who when finding themselves needing a pick-me-up haven’t called a friend and said, “How would you like to go shopping?” I’ll never forget the first summer my sister and I spent in Phoenix, Arizona as young girls. Moving with our parents from the mild summer climate of Southern California to the 120° heat in Phoenix was, to say the least, a shock to your system and other than submerging your body in water, the other activity we found to help us get through the oppressive heat was to drive across town to the newly constructed Metro Mall, one of the first enclosed malls in Arizona which was air-conditioned. Going shopping for us meant relief from the unbearable heat.
Thinking that a new outfit would help to cheer up her closest relative only serves to prove how out of touch Esther was, five years into her reign as queen. Little did she know that all she held close in her heart was to be turned upside down as the poison of evil, poured throughout the kingdom of Medo-Persia, was about to be poured upon her secret life as well.
While Esther’s gift of proper clothing may have been sent to help cheer up Mordecai, Esther also knew the laws of the land. She fully understood that if Mordecai was not dressed properly, he would be forbidden to enter into her palace and so with her gift of the proper attire, Esther was trying to do everything within her power to connect with her closest loved one in order to uncover the problem that had brought him so low that sackcloth and ashes along with weeping and wailing had become the outward sign of his inward sorrow.
As I studied about the wearing of sackcloth in times of national grief and repentance, I found that repeatedly these outward signs reference the inward sign of repentance. As one notation pointed out, “such a symbol made one’s change of heart visible and demonstrated the sincerity of one’s grief and repentance. It was not the act of putting on sackcloth and ashes itself that moved God to intervene, but the humility that such an action demonstrated.” God’s forgiveness in response to genuine repentance is celebrated by the word’s of David in Psalm 30: 11, “You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness. To the end that my tongue and my heart and everything glorious within me may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.”
With a death warrant hanging over their heads, God’s scattered children in the country of Medo-Persia recognized that it wasn’t a new outfit of clothes they needed, it was a new heart, a purifying of their lives and a cleansing of their ways as so many had failed to remember the God of their fathers.
As we look upon the world we live in today, as Olive Wyon notes, “The first thing for which we have to pray is an insight into our condition.” We don’t need bigger churches or larger worship groups, what we need as Lewis Wallace so perfectly articulates is “a change of nature befitting heaven.” It’s not an outward show but an inward change of heart.
“How long will You be absent? For ever? Oh, Lord! have You forgotten to be gracious, and have You shut up Your loving kindness in displeasure? Will You be no more entreated? Is Your mercy clean gone for ever, and Your promise come utterly to an end for ever? Why do You wait for so long? Shall I despair of Your mercy? Oh, God! Far be that from me; for You know better than I what is good for me. Therefore do with me in all things what You will.”
Lady Jane Grey
Based on Psalm 89:46
“My God, I can do no more!
Be for me the one who can!”
“O Lord, everything fills me with fear and apprehension. Even the smallest commitment has become a huge ordeal in my eyes. I cannot see any hope or purpose in my life. Teach me to go on praying, though my faith seems lost and there is no apparent response. Give me the strength to face one day at a time, and to know that, somehow, You will carry me through. Do not let me become so obsessed with myself that I fail to respond to the needs of others. As I echo the words of Jesus, ‘Let this cup pass from me,’ let me, like Him, accept Your will, and give me a little of His courage.”
Mary Rose deLisle
“Despair can open the heart to taste hope in God.”
Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III
The Cry of the Soul
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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