Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“As soon as they started shouting and praising, God set ambushes against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir as they were attacking Judah, and they all ended up dead.”
II Chronicles 20: 22
The Message Bible
“Don’t let the song go out of your life
Though it chance sometimes to flow
In a minor strain, it will blend again
With the major tone you know.
What though shadows rise to obscure lifes skies,
And hide for a time the sun,
The sooner they’ll lift and reveal the rift,
If you let the melody run.
Don’t let the song go out of your life;
Though the voice may have lost its trill,
Though the tremulous note may die in your throat,
Let it sing in your spirit still.
Don’t let the song go out of your life;
Let it ring in the soul while here;
And when you go hence, ‘twill follow you thence,
And live on in another sphere.”
“Oh, that we could reason less about our troubles, and sing and praise more! There are thousands of things that we wear as shackles which we might use as instruments with music in them, if we only knew how…Oh, that we might sing morning and evening, and let song touch song all the way through.”
Today’s Study Text:
“Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, ‘Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king: and let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the house of the women, unto the custody of Hege the king’s chamberlain, keeper of the women; and let their things for purification be given them. And let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti. And the thing please the king; and he did so.”
Esther 2: 2-4
“Nurturing The Embers of Hope”
“A Beauty Pageant: Medo-Persia Style” Part 11
“We sell ourselves short if we think that the joy of the Lord can be captured in a cosmetically whitened smile.”
What comes to my mind when someone says the word “beautiful”?
How does it make me feel to be judged only by my outward appearance?
“Be honest about it. Would you take all these pains about your looks if every body was blind?”
“Good in the heart works it way up into the face and prints its own beauty there.”
King Ahasuerus was in a funk. Life had dealt him several tough hands. Maybe some would say he got what he deserved.
In a fit of rage, infuriated by Queen Vashti’s refusal to come show herself before a crowded garden feast of drunken men, the king impulsively banished his queen. If this was not enough to challenge his fragile manhood, history records that the king decided to go on a rampage against the country of Greece.
Pastor Chuck Swindoll in his biography on Esther, shares the fact that between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 in the book of Esther, four years transpired. In his captivating style of prose, Pastor Swindoll lets us in on what had taken place during this span of time:
“I wondered what happened during those four years. You’re wondering, too, right? Let’s look at a little history. Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes) reigned from 485 to 465 B.C. So the events of Chapter 1 must have happened in 483, because that was the third year of his reign. And the events of Chapter 2 must have occurred in 479, which was seven years into his reign. History books tell us that during that time, this particular king made an ambitious but disastrous attempt to conquer Greece. So ‘after these things’ (the words that begin Chapter 2) means that these events took place after he had led an expedition against Greece and returned home to Susa in defeat.”
We can easily surmise there was not a big celebration as the vanquished king came home defeated, only to realize that his actions against Vashti meant there were no loving and sympathetic arms to hold him close. It was at this point the king had to face the fact that he had a good thing with Vashti and life may well have been much better if he hadn’t been so quick to toss her out.
Sensing the king’s despondent mood, his servants swung into action with an idea that they thought might not only appeal to the king’s ego, but at the same time, offer him the warm companionship be longed for.
With the lonely king’s permission, a plan went into affect to search “all the provinces,” as the Bible tells us, in order to “gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace.” And after a year of primping and polishing, the “maiden that pleaseth the king” would win the competition and be the new queen, replacing Vashti.
Just so I’d be clear as to what took place during this beauty pageant, the Hebrew word for “gather” means to “collect, to grasp, to take.” And as we learned yesterday, a “fair” woman, as Vashti was described, happens to be the very same Hebrew word that is used to describe the type of woman that was to be searched for during the “Medo-Persian” pageant.
Finally, I wanted to find out what the Hebrew word for “maiden” was all about. Frankly, I was rather surprised. The word used in this verse, Esther 2: 4, for maiden is “naärah” which is feminine for a girl from infancy to adolescence. A young damsel or young woman. Specifically, the word “damsel” in the Old Testament is used to describe Ruth who gleaned in the field of Boaz and in the New Testament, “damsel” refers to Jairus’ daughter who Jesus brought back to life. And then in the book of Acts, when the Apostle Peter was removed from prison by an angel and he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John, we are told that “a damsel came to hearken (answered the door), named Rhoda” (Acts 12: 13).
I take time to uncover the fact that Esther was probably no more than 15 or 17 years old when she was taken into the custody of “Hege the king’s chamberlain, keeper of the women” (Esther 2: 3, K.J.V.). This knowledge is critical for us because this teenager, “adolescent,” faced so many challenges in her young life which I’ve never fully appreciated, especially when we consider her youthfulness.
And I want to add, as I’ve heard Esther’s story narrated in the past, I somehow came to the errant conclusion that her cousin, Mordecai entered her in this pageant, which I have to point out is completely false. Esther, like many other fair young virgins was “taken” and placed within the palace alls in the special location for women.
As we continue to find out more details about Esther, we read in Esther 2: 11 that her cousin Mordecai “walked every day before the court of the women’s house, to know how Esther did, and what should become of her” (Esther 2: 11, K.J.V.). This doesn’t sound to me like the action of a relative who desired to see his cousin locked away in the palace. Indeed, it reflects the concern of a loved one who was deeply worried about the fate of the young girl Mordecai had adopted and who he felt a responsibility to keep safe.
Thus, our story begins with the orphaned Esther, in the care of her cousin Mordecai being taken to the palace of the king because she was “fair” to look upon.
When looking at the way God intervened in behalf of Esther – I am reminded of the way God’s promises stand down through time in your life and mine. As the prophet Jeremiah reminds us: “Then came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah, saying, ‘Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?’” (Jeremiah 32: 26,27, K.J.V.).
How happy I am that in the life of Mordecai, Esther, and all the Jewish families in Medo-Persia, nothing was too hard for God to accomplish on their behalf.
“It is not the want of sight that prevents me from seeing my possibilities; it is something between me and the sun; it is the shadow of myself. If I could only get rid of self-contemplation, there would be revealed within me latent heaps of gold.
Remove my shadow, O my God! Release the imprisoned land that lies within my heart! Give me the power to see what is actually before me! How many things I see for the first time when obstruction is withdrawn!...Hope lets me see what I never saw before…My Father, in my seasons of despair lift all my shadows.”
Leaves For Quiet Hours
(Penned by George Matheson who lost his vision in his early twenties.)
“O God help me to believe the truth about myself – no matter how beautiful it is.”
I seek a deeper awareness of beauty,
not just the attractions laid down
by my own preferences
but the true beauty of all things,
especially those I have dismissed
as unpleasant, threatening or ugly.
For when I leave myself behind
to appreciate the true beauty of the other,
I am drawn to love the other
and with love comes compassion,
the gift of seeing backwards
from the other’s point of view.
From that position, I may discover
the true beauty of myself.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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