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Nov 28: Est 3-4 | Amos 8 | Phm 1

Reading 1 - Est 4:12-14

"When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: 'Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?' " (Est 4:12-14).

Although there is still no mention of God (in fact, there is none anywhere in the Book), Mordecai clearly implies his deep belief in the providence of God, to protect and ultimately save His people Israel. This verse is the primary reason for seeing the doctrine of providence as crucial to an understanding of the Book of Esther.


Like Ruth the Book of Esther is an illustration. It records a slice of life out of the Exile period that illustrates a great revelation. While the Book of Ruth illustrates God's redemption, that of Esther illustrates God's providence.


Providence means foresight. Our word comes from Latin and means to see the affairs of life before they happen. The acquired meaning of providence, what it has come to mean through usage, is activity resulting from foresight. We can see at once that people can never exercise providence as God can. We have very limited powers of foresight. We do not know what a day will bring forth. God, on the other hand, foresees all things and can act because of that foreknowledge.


The doctrine of providence is that God both possesses and exercises absolute power over all the works of His hands. The Book of Esther illustrates God's providence. The writer did not speak of God directly, but God's acting as a result of His foresight is obvious in what he wrote. Even though God hid Himself in the Book as a whole, he was at work in the life of Esther.


Esther reveals three things about divine providence.


First, it reveals the method of providence.


It shows that even though people do not acknowledge God's presence He is always at work. His control becomes especially clear at the end of the book (Est 10:3). Events had turned around completely from the way they were at the beginning of the book. Instead of being in peril, the Jews were now at peace. God not only rules over the major issues in life, but He also uses the trivialities of life to accomplish His purposes. Some of these trivialities were:


  • the king's decision to summon Vashti after he got drunk,

  • Vashti's refusal,

  • Haman's hatred for Mordecai,

  • the king's insomnia, and

  • the passage his servant read to him.

God's providence is all-inclusive. That is part of its method. No person or detail of life escapes God's control: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28). "All things" includes all individuals and all events -- whether pleasant or unpleasant.


Second, Esther reveals the principles of providence.


God proceeds on the basis of perfect knowledge: intimate, accurate, absolute knowledge (Psa 11:4).


Another principle of His providence is His undeviating righteousness. God's providence works in harmony with man's freedom. It never coerces people. The king made his own decisions; God did not compel him to act as he did. Haman plotted his own intrigues, made his own arrangements, built his own gallows. The same was true of Mordecai and Esther. Yet the sphere in which they made their decisions was God's sovereignty (Acts 17:28: "In Him we live and move..."). Haman built his gallows for Mordecai, but God hanged Haman on it!


A third principle of God's providence is that of absolute power. God is great enough to give people genuine freedom and yet cause things to turn out the way He wants them to. God causes human freedom to contribute to His divine purpose.


Third, Esther reveals the results of providence.


On the human level there are two results:


  • Those who recognize divine providence receive great confidence and courage.

  • However, those who do not recognize it receive panic and punishment.

We can see these results most clearly in the characters of (1) Esther and Mordecai, and (2) Haman.


On the divine level the result of providence is that God progresses toward His ultimate goal: he is, of course, Yahweh -- The One who "will be", the One who is constantly "becoming"! Throughout all of Scripture we see this identical mighty movement toward the absolute fulfillment of His purpose.


The message of this book is that God exists, and God acts through history to accomplish His purposes regardless of whether humans acknowledge Him or not.


There are many arguments for the existence of God: the argument from providence is one of these. The fact that human events are harmonizing with God's ultimate purposes as He has revealed these in Scripture testifies to God's existence. When people forget God, He still molds history and governs life in harmony with His purposes. We cannot escape God's hand; we only change our destiny. We become His friends or His foes by our attitude toward Him (Dan 5:22,23).


How do we apply the message of this book? By taking God into account. Trust Him and cooperate with Him, or you will suffer destruction. God's providence may seem very impersonal and austere. However, William Cowper has reminded us that, "Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face." Rom 8:28 is perhaps the most concise word on the providence of God that the Scriptures contain. God will complete His plans. We determine our own destiny as we cooperate with His will or oppose it.


Our choice affects our destiny, but it does not frustrate His plan. Consequently it is very important that we know God's plans and make them known to others. He has revealed His plans in His promises in Scripture. Therefore we should pay very careful attention to the promises of God. The covenants of promise are His comprehensive formal undertakings. Even though many people in the world today ignore God, His plans will become reality eventually. This fact should make us confident and optimistic in the present.


Reading 2 - Amos 8:11-13

" 'The days are coming,' declares the Sovereign LORD, 'when I will send a famine through the land -- not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it. In that day the lovely young women and strong young men will faint because of thirst' " (Amo 8:11-13).

The Israelites had rejected the Lord's words to them (Amo 2:11,12; 7:10-13), so He would not send them to them any longer (cp 1Sa 3:1; 28:6). This is a fearful prospect. If we do not listen to the Word of God, we may not be able to hear the Word of God (cp Luke 17:22; John 7:34). This does not mean that God would remove all copies of His Word from them but that when they sought a word of help, advice, or comfort from Him they would not get it.


"Most people have seen the horrible pictures of people who are starving to death. The bloated bellies and the pitiful faces are too much to bear. Yet, there is another famine that is equally tragic and much more widespread, and that is the famine for the word of God.


"The tragedy of this famine is that, unlike a natural famine which is often unavoidable because of climatic events such as drought or flooding, the famine for the word of God is completely manmade. If we use the analogy of the parable of the sower with the seed being the word of God, there are some places that are not being sown because of lack of preaching. How tragic that some will die never having heard the good news. On the other hand, some receive the seed in abundance, but like the lazy fool of Proverbs, he 'buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.' [Pro 26:15] What an incredible picture is brought to the mind: a person starving to death but too lazy of pick up the food that is right there in front of him. How many people do you know that profess to be Christians yet would have great difficulty telling you where in the Bible the book of Hebrews is? Could they even tell you if it was in the Old Testament or the New Testament? Could they even tell you if there was such a book in the Bible? Yet, there are few households in first world countries that don't have a Bible somewhere in them" (Kyle Tucker).


Reading 3 - Phm 1:4

"I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers" (Phm 1:4).

"In this frank allusion to the subject matter of his private petitions, we have insight into another feature, which deserves our notice and imitation. Paul was not above thanking God for a worthy fellow-labourer, and letting him know it. In our dry, democratic days, this fruit of the Spirit is nearly as extinct as the tree of life. A universal self-esteem kills generous gratitude in the birth, and fears to lose its own exaltation by even implied appreciation of another's worth. This is an obstinate shrub of the desert, which must be cut down to make way for the lovely flowers of Eden, which delight the eye and regale the senses with their fragrance. But when will the cutting-down be? Well, in some cases it will take place now, under the exhortation to 'mortify' and 'crucify' all the characteristics of the old man of the flesh. It is better to apply the knife ourselves. 'If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged' " (Robert Roberts).

 

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