Where is God in Esther?

The book of Esther is famous for being the only book of the Bible that does not mention God. Where is God in Esther? Is He just working “behind the scenes”, inferred and “providential”, rather than explicit? And is the God of Esther the God of the gospel that we believe in as Christians?

book-of-esther

I was reading the story again today, and I saw Queen Esther approaching the throne of King Ahasuerus without being summoned. The law of the land was clear about such an action: “…if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law — to be put to death…” (Esther 4:11).

This called to mind Exodus 33:20 where God tells Moses: “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

In fact, under the Old Testament law, only the selected High Priest could step into the inner court (the holy of holies) in the tabernacle (and later, temple). He would have a rope tied to his ankle because in the event that he had overlooked a cleansing ritual and stepped in while unclean, he would drop dead and had to be dragged out.

But then Jesus comes into the world, and He is our clean and perfect High Priest. He has never sinned and does not therefore need cleansing. He does not run the risk of dying when he steps into the inner court and looks at God’s face. He himself in John 1:8 says: “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”

Only Jesus can see God and live.

So what does this have to do with Esther and her God? The law of the land at the time had a caveat: “…if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law — to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live.” (Esther 4:11)

In other words, when you stepped into the king’s presence, the only reason you would continue breathing is if the king chose to be merciful to you. Otherwise, the only guarantee you had is that you were walking to your death. The throne of king Ahasuerus was a throne of wrath and death for those who approached it uninvited. So was the inner court of the God of the Jews.

Then in steps Jesus, one who has never sinned. This means that Jesus as our High Priest could walk into God’s presence with full confidence that He will live to talk about it! But it gets better! God says that if we believe in Jesus, and look to Him as our High priest, we move into Him and He moves into us. He lives and reigns in us and through us!

This means that we can boldly approach the throne of God because we have confidence that when God looks at us He sees His son. Instead of extending a condemning finger, He extends the golden scepter of grace. He lets us live.

But it gets even better! In the story of Esther, only those who entered the king’s court without being summoned deserved to die. But now, through Christ, God is actually summoning us! telling us to come! We know we can approach Him with confidence of life. And even when we doubt whether we have been called, we know we can still approach Him with confidence that Christ has paid the price of death for us.

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

(Hebrews 4:15-16)

For the fame of His name,

Cornell

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Why I Didn’t Sing in Church Last Sunday

When I walked into the church on Sunday, I immediately knew it will be a long morning. I had arrived on time, and that was the problem. You see, I just didn’t feel like singing today. In fact, I haven’t felt like singing for a while now. These days I am actually happy when I get to church late, just when the “Praise and Worship” session is ending and the preacher is about to go up.

Sometimes I sub-consciously deliberately go in late for this reason. I like to think of myself as a sermon guy. Perhaps that’s why I prefer pod-casts to pulpits.

It’s not like I haven’t asked myself what the problem is. At first I told myself I am a bad singer and I wouldn’t want the person standing next to me to hear me, but that was a lie. It’s true that I am a bad singer, but I don’t think my neighbor would hear, let alone care. The music is loud enough at my church.

So I tried to rationalize that it’s the standing up for one hour that I can’t stand. Can’t we just sit there and watch the “Worship Team” do their thing? They have been practicing all week, why should I spoil their perfect harmonies? But I knew that this was just another excuse.

I know the real reason, but it is embarrassing. More embarrassing than fearing my neighbor and being too lazy to stand up. The real reason is, I just don’t feel like singing sometimes. I don’t want to. Yes, I may know the words to the song, but I really don’t feel them. I know the words are true. I know that God is great, awesome, that God is marvelous, that He is glorious… but I just don’t feel like saying it over and over. Because it feels so fake, so forced, like being forced to eat your vegetables… or laugh at a bad joke out of courtesy.

Most of the time, I only do it because it is part of the program. If it were up to me, at such times, I would skip the singing.

And I have skipped it when it were up to me. In Bible studies that I lead, I cross my fingers that no one will suggest a song before we begin. It’s a similar feeling with the prayer. I like to keep it short. Let’s just get to the Word. It is the preaching that I love. I can listen to the sermon for hours, and even preach one for longer.

I can’t help but wonder, am I the only one who feels this way sometimes? I know there are many amongst you who feel the exact opposite. You love the singing, but the sermon puts you to sleep. You can jump for hours, but you can’t sit for even 20 minutes. It is a strange thing, this difference. I wonder if it says something about the state of my spirituality… and yours.

By the way, have you read any book by J.R.R. Tolkien? He is an amazing writer! I love the way he weaves a beautiful fabric with his words. The way the words of his stories just freely roll down the tongue when read out loud. Bilbo Baggins, even the names of his characters are lyrical.It is like he wrote for both the eyes and the ears. Tolkien is a wonderfully gifted writer, I could sing his praises and praise his works all day long and then some. Every time I read his work I am inspired to tell the world about him, and write similar stories of my own. I can’t help but wonder if this is the wonder that escapes me when I face the thought of singing about my God.

For the fame of His name,

Cornell

God and Science: Friends or Foes?

Pick up your Bible and trace the historical story-line of the Israelites, from Abraham down to the New Testament Jesus and His followers. If you read the story like any other story, you will notice a significant trend. Take Moses and the burning bush, for example. Apparently, this event was unusual to Moses. It was not natural. Bushes just don’t spontaneously ignite; and when they burn, they get consumed; they just don’t burn on and on and on.

science godOr take the case of the Israelites at the shores of the Red Sea. Moses, at the command of God, raises his staff and voila! The body of water divides into two great walls with a dry path between them. Waters don’t just part with nothing but air to hold them in place. That was not natural.

These events and many others, as described in the Old Testament, were considered strange, miraculous and “unscientific” by those who witnessed them. They were considered unnatural, even supernatural, if you’d like to call them that.

What these events, and the reactions evoked, tell us is that there was a norm the people were used to, what they could see with their eyes and perceive with their senses. These Old Testament “primitives” knew a miracle when they saw one. Why? Because their senses and minds were scientific. They could discern a specific pattern or law in nature, and they knew when this law was defied.

These people were not blindly superstitious as they have often been presented. Continue reading God and Science: Friends or Foes?

Blog Break (14 Jun 13)

Hi friends. It’s been a long while since I last blogged. Busy days. However, that shouldn’t stop me from sharing some of the interesting reads I’ve come across in my time away. Here are a few:

  1. IS GOD ALSO IN HELL? “We have a God who is referred to as everywhere present (omnipresent) yet who maintains a place called hell, described as a place where people are removed from His presence.” Is this a contradiction? Read on and be enlightened…
  2. READING PROFITABLY. Joe Thorn shares some excellent advice on reading well: “I often tell people at our church that when you read Christian books be sure to read critically–though not negatively. Every book should be evaluated by the word of God, and it is good to ask ourselves, how is this author right, and how is he/she wrong?”
  3. DATING TO DISPLAY JESUS. “Dating is dead. So says the media. Girls, stop expecting guys to make any formal attempt at winning your affections. Don’t sit around waiting for a boy to make you a priority, communicate his intentions, or even call you on the phone. Exclusivity and intentionality are ancient rituals, things of the past, and misplaced hopes. I beg to differ,” Marshall Segal.
  4. HOW TO DISCOURAGE ARTISTS IN THE CHURCH. “Here are some more ways to discourage artists in the church:
    • Not setting reasonable boundaries.
    • Not allowing artists to experience creative freedom.
    • Asking the input of artists and deciding not to use it without an explanation.”

    Read on for more…

  5. 33 REASONS TO ABSTAIN FROM PORN. Jason George shares 33 reasons why he abstains from porn and encourages us to do the same, “Type your reasons/motives up on your computer. Then print them out, and put a copy in your planner or Bible (some place you’re going to see them everyday). If you want to, record yourself reading through them—and keep that recording on your iPod like I do—and then listen to it daily. It really does help.”

I think these 5 are enough to keep you well fed throughout the weekend. Enjoy and have a blessed Friday.

Cornell

In The Grip of Grace

grace-header

It was a Sunday morning, we were running late for church and she just appeared out of nowhere. My friend Paul, who was behind the wheel, saw her too late. She was already in the middle of the road. We had just completed overtaking a lorry, the car was now doing 100 KPH and she was about 100 meters in front of us. We had to think fast. Well, at least Paul had to. He figured that since it was a dual carriage highway and the woman was already halfway across, he would switch lanes and move to the lane that she had just finished crossing. It was a reasonable, split-second, decision.

Unfortunately, the middle aged woman didn’t see it the same way. As the car switched lanes, there was a point when it looked like we were headed straight for her. She panicked and did the unimaginable. Instead of continuing in her initial direction, she suddenly stopped and started running back. She was now on the same lane we were on. The gap between the woman and the car was closing, less than 50 meters now. I held my breath and prepared for the worst.

The next thing I remember (albeit vaguely) is the car skidding on the wet tarmac and seeing a small tree heading straight for us. The tree hit the car, or rather, the car hit the tree. But we had been moving too fast, and the tree gave way and broke under the force of 1 tonne of metal moving at about 90 KPH now. The next thing I remember was seeing the world literally turning upside down as the car went over the dropping edge of the road and rolled into the brushes below. In the blink of an eye, I was upside down in my seat, held in place by the safety belt.

in the grip of grace

“Thank you Lord”, I exhaled.

I looked over at Paul and asked him if he was fine. He confirmed that he was. When we managed to extract ourselves from the wreckage, we were relieved to find that there was not a single scratch on any of us. In fact, what I found even more amazing was the fact that there was not even a single speck of dirt on our clothes. We were perfectly fine.

Later on, while rummaging through the wreckage and debris in order to find anything worth salvaging, I found this book by Max Lucado lying on the roof (from the inside of the overturned car). Even though the book was all muddied up, the title was loud and clear to all:

IN THE GRIP OF GRACE

grip of grace

I never made it to church that Sunday, but I had just witnessed a sermon that I would never forget.

PS: No, we didn’t hit the woman. The car missed her by a hair’s breadth. Praise God!

How God Redeems Culture

God was sitting in heaven one day when a scientist said to Him,  “God, we don’t need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing – in other words, we can now do what you did in the beginning.”

“Oh, is that so? Explain…” replies God.  “Well,” says the scientist, “we can take dirt and form it into the likeness of you and breathe life into it, thus creating man.”

“Well, that’s very interesting… show Me.”

So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mold the soil into the shape of a man.  “No, no, no…” interrupts God, “Get your own dirt.”

This popular joke communicates volumes about how God deals with His own creation. It was only the other day that I found this classic joke to be illustrative of a fundamental truth about how God redeems culture. Abraham Kuyper once remarked, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, “Mine!” With this thought in mind, I decided to trace out some examples in the Bible where we see God taking a cultural practice and “redeems” it to serve His own purpose and to glorify Himself. In my study, I have come to the realization that the whole universe is one great metaphor. It is like a divine analogy of God’s glory; a transcendent illustration of God’s great design.

Even so, the problem with analogies, pictures and illustrations is that they are not the real thing. The best they can do is point to reality. But they are not the reality themselves. For instance, when I say, “My God is a mighty fortress”, I am using the fortress as a metaphor. God is like a mighty fortress. However, a fortress is not God, neither is a fortress like God. One is the metaphor of the other, never vice versa. God is the ultimate reality. It is important to maintain this distinction in our efforts to engage and redeem the culture around us. The following are a few examples of how God appears to have done it, as gleaned from the Bible: Continue reading How God Redeems Culture

Blog Break (01 Apr 13)

Hi friends. I hope you had a blessed Easter. If you don’t know what’s so good about Easter Friday, check this out. And if you’re not so sure how the resurrection fits into your own salvation, this might help. Meanwhile, kick-start your week and month with these heart-searching reads:

  1. In WHAT SHAMES US, Tim Challies reflects on out uncanny obsession with killing sin without being equally bothered to put on holiness. “Here is something interesting I’ve noticed: While it is common for someone to ask how to put off a particular sin, it is rare for someone to ask for guidance in putting on a particular godly trait.”
  2. A WRITER’S CONFESSION. This writer’s confession is mine, and that of many other writers who idolize their craft; “One of the reasons I took a break from blogging for a while is because I was too consumed by checking statistics, subscriptions and comments. It started to become too much about me.”
  3. THE SENTENCE AGAINST GOD. “Can God judge us? How can He know about suffering?” snapped one woman, ripping a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. “We endured terror… beatings… torture… death!”
  4. YOUNG LADIES’ REQUEST. This is beautiful, from Njeri’s heart: “HE prepared you all this time for me to be with, yes you are the one that makes my Heart beat a thousand and One, You are my chosen one my number two, Cause we should have the same number one.”
  5. Finally, DO NOT DISBELIEVE – BUT BELIEVE. Jon Bloom reminds us that “doubting” Thomas’ experience is our experience, and we too can believe in the resurrection of Jesus because Thomas did. Jesus can rescue us from our skepticism: “The resurrection is a fantastic claim. Jesus’ own disciples didn’t believe it at first. And Thomas struggled more than anyone with his skeptic side. And in his experience1 in particular there is hope for all of us stumbling doubters. Jesus knows how and when to reach us.”

There you go. That ought to keep your mind and heart pruned for a few days. Oh, yes, I almost forgot that today is “April Fool’s Day” In spite of what you may believe about this day, David Mathis reminds us (in Pity the Fool) that every day is Fool’s day for you if Jesus is not your wisdom. So beware.