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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When Obedience is Disobedience: A Gospel Primer

“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19 ESV)

The difference between demons and the children of God is not in their “beliefs”, but in their “lives”.

God demands PERFECT obedience. So does this mean that we are to always do right and never fail or fall at any point? That sounds quite… UNREALISTIC. No human being can do that, at least not from my own experience. Continue reading When Obedience is Disobedience: A Gospel Primer

When Being Honest and Sincere is a Bad Thing

“What matters is that you are sincere” sounds like good advise, and it is, as we shall see in a moment. But it can also be the worst advise to give anyone. God does, indeed, want us to be sincere about what we do. A common dictionary definition of sincere is “free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings”. It is wrong to be pretentious and deceitful. We must always strive to be genuine, honest, in other words, sincere. Integrity.

Photo credit: genius.com
Photo credit: genius.com

But what if being true to who we are involves doing something that is hurtful and unkind and unloving? What if I genuinely don’t care about the homeless and the sick? Should I be sincere even then? Would it be pretentious to “do” caring things to such people because that is “the right thing to do”? Such questions lead us to something that often goes un-examined when we talk about “being sincere”: It matters what we are being sincere about. In other words, our personal feelings are not the ultimate standard of what is right or wrong. We are not automatically doing right just because we are doing what we feel like doing. There seems to be a standard of right or wrong, outside of our feelings.

Does this, then, mean that our feelings don’t matter? No. It only means that our feelings are Continue reading When Being Honest and Sincere is a Bad Thing

The Powerful Weakness of Stories

Stories are powerful.

storiesUnfortunately, that is not a logical conclusion. That’s just how stories are. Like music, we don’t have to understand the physiology of stories on our brains to declare their power. Stories don’t try to convince you, argue with you, reason with you. Good stories don’t tell you, they simply show you. They invade your reservations, assault your convictions and barge into your conscience like a bandit. Stories are just that, powerful.

The most compelling way to teach something is to tell a story about it. Want to teach about patience? Just tell a story about a patient person. Want to explain love? Illustrate it in story. That’s why the fables we heard as children still linger in our memories.

Bedtime stories were not just entertainment, they were life-lessons.

Yet, this overwhelming power is also what makes stories so dangerous. A false story is powerfully destructive. Stories of proud men winning, and selfish women ruling are powerful tools. You see, since the power of stories is irrational, you cannot argue against a story.

You may present a thousand arguments against miracles, but one story about one miracle topples them all.

Stories are sacred.

The Bible is a story, a book of stories, but it is more than a story. Within the story are timeless teachings and commands and aims and purposes. But the reality of those commands is not found in the stories of the Bible. Abraham is not a consistent picture of faith. David is not a consistent illustration of a man after God’s heart. Neither is Peter an inspiring illustration of what it means to be a true disciple. Continue reading The Powerful Weakness of Stories

You Can Do It… (a big fat lie)

‎”YOU CAN DO IT” is a new age, positive thinking bunch of baloney. The truth is that “you can do it through Christ who gives you strength”. Your strength is really yours by proxy.

Jesus is the difference. An important and necessary difference.

We can do nothing without Him. In fact, we have never done anything without Him:

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.'” [Acts 17:23-28]

What we say reflects what we believe. Someone who focuses on “you can do it” is implying that you have within you the power or ability to accomplish the task. But Jesus tells us;

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING.” [John 15:5].

Being in Christ makes a difference to what someone can and cannot do. VERBALLY acknowledging Christ makes a difference by revealing who is getting the glory for what we can do.

Someone may argue that as long as someone is a Christian/born again/saved/in Christ, he does not need to “say” or mention “through Christ”. Someone may argue that simply saying “you can do it” is the same as saying “you can do it through Christ” because you are assuming the person is in Christ (and Christ is in the person). But James disagrees. Acknowledging God’s will, even in our words, is essential:

“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you OUGHT to say, “IF IT IS THE LORD’S WILL, we will live and do this or that.” [James 4:13-15]

These words are said in a chapter that follows one on the power and importance of the words we say. Words reflect belief. Our words are a product of our beliefs. What we say must reflect where our belief, conviction and confidence lies. Simply saying “You can do it” implies or communicates faith and confidence in the person. But saying “You can do it through Christ” implies and communicates faith and confidence in Jesus Christ.

You are not more than a conqueror. You are more than conquerors THROUGH Him that loved us.

So, I am sorry but I don’t believe in you, I believe in Jesus Christ.

I don’t think you can do it, I think you can do it THROUGH Christ who gives you strength.

The Hero in My Story

The_Horse_and_His_Boy_Cover_by_csgirlWhy do bad things happen to good people? I may attempt to understand Judas, that he was simply human, but can someone please explain to me Joseph? Or Job? Were these two men superhuman?

Of course, in both of their stories, God gives us a glimpse behind the curtains of providence: The devil was trying Job’s faith in God. The brothers were part of God’s intricate plan of redemption.

Yet, while reading these stories, it is easy for us to miss the bigger point. We are tempted to see Joseph as the center of his own story, the hero in his tale. And, to a certain extent, we would be justified in thinking so. Isn’t Joseph the slave boy who worked hard for his master? Isn’t Joseph the young man who fled from sexual temptation? Would it really be so wrong to think of Joseph as the hero in his story?

A similar case may be made for Job.

Our Bibles may not have the word “hero”, but we all know a hero when we see one. Continue reading The Hero in My Story

Stuck With the Gospel

CornellI am not a very good guy. Actually, I can’t even say that I am good at all. No, don’t judge me by what my friends say about me. I live with me, I am in my presence 24-7. I know my heart, and I know the evil that resides there here. It is hard for me to imagine a moment when there wasn’t some evil scheme brewing in my mind or heart. Selfishness, pride, impatience, envy, faithlessness are just a few of the familiar residents in my heart. I can’t think of a time when I was selfless without also recalling how proud I was of my selflessness. I can’t think of a day when I was so patient without acknowledging that there was something to gain from the wait.

OF BAD THINGS AND GOOD PEOPLE

I must be living in another planet, because I seldom experience life the way other people do. At least, not the way they talk about it. And  it’s not just my friends, it’s everyone around me. Continue reading Stuck With the Gospel