Wednesday, March 07, 2007


My own personal challenge is to start reading the Bible by the individual book. I invited anyone who cared to join me to do the same. In an effort to avoid repeating myself, I'll skip the suggestions and tell you what things I gleaned from reading Esther this time around. (You can click the link.)

In conjunction with reading Esther, I also read Chuck Swindoll's biography on Esther, which is part of his Great Lives Series. If you've never read any of his books from this particular series, I would highly recommend them. Any of them. Swindoll takes a very practical and encouraging approach to the Bible. I think you would find much of what he says in this series very applicable to life. I know I do.

I chose to read Esther this month as part of a woman's Bible study through my church. A small group of us committed to a seven week study of the book. Throughout the month we have read several portions of the book (if not the book in its entirety!) several times. There are some stories that you can only read a few times before they get old. I love the fact that the Bible never gets old. You can THINK you know a story and reread it to find out that you really don't. You can study and learn and there's still more to explore. The Word of God is living and active and relevant today!

During this particular exploration of the Book of Esther I learned more about the Feast of Purim. The Jews recognize it, in part, to celebrate another year of life. We started the study by learning a bit about the Jewish feast/celebration and it struck me how seldom I celebrate life. Other than a passing mentioning of a birthday, we tend to ignore the fact that each birthday is an anniversary of one of the greatest blessings God has given us -- life! And life in Him. What's more worthy of celebration? I fully intend to make Much Ado About family birthdays from here on out!

To tell the truth, in my reading, I decided that Esther and I couldn't be more different in personality and therefore I wasn't really keen on her character. She doesn't breathe a word when she's taken in the palace to be, all that could be imagined at the time, a concubine (barring ultimate favor with the king). She doesn't say anything when a second round of virgins are gathered up for the king's pleasure (2:19). She doesn't say anything to the king about not having been called in for thirty days (4:11). Frankly, I'd have a LOT to say on the topic if I were her. In talking through this with the women in the study, I realized its not so much that she was a wilting violet who hadn't the character to speak up - it was that she was disciplined. She was obedient to the instructions she had received going into the palace: not to tell anyone she was a Jew. Essentially: Don't make waves. Instead she gained the favor of everyone around her. This obedience put her in good standing when she needed to be on solid ground with the king. As Swindoll says in his biography, in today's day and age secret keeping is a lost art. Everyone wants to have the inside scoop and are into information leaks as opposed to safekeeping. Esther would have made a good double agent. I, on the other hand, would absolutely not. For the most part, my life is an open book and I like it that way. I don't have to sit around and remember who I said what to (which I find convenient). But then again, neither did Esther. She just didn't say anything at all.

Lastly, the thing that really struck me about the Book of Esther is that God does not operate according to what we think should happen and when we think it should happen. The Jews were given a timeline for their ultimate annihilation within the Persian kingdom. But they didn't panic. (Yes, they mourned.) They fasted and they prayed. Mordecai knew very well that God could and would bring deliverance -- although he wasn't totally sure how God was going to bring it about. How often do I panic because something isn't going my way in the time frame I expected it? A lot, these days, let me assure you. But God isn't panicked. He knows exactly what He's doing. He isn't looking at the calendar or a clock and wringing His hands. Everything has an appointed time and His timing is perfect. Our family has a lot on its plate right now and we're feeling very up against the wall, time-wise. But God has it all in control and He will fulfill His plan, His way. And it will be good. Esther reminded me of this.

Swindoll wraps it up by saying,

As we learned in our study of Esther's story, His hand moves invisibly yet with invincibility, bringing His sovereign plan to completion. It includes haunting delays that seem unfair, human decisions that lack compassion, harmful deeds that bring others anguish, and hurtful disappointments that make us question God's goodness. Nevertheless, He pursues with persistence and He refuses to be distracted. In the end, I repeat, God wins. (p. 198)

And I will leave it at that!


Queen of Carrots said...

Some friends and we threw a Purim party this year, which was way fun. DOB was Haman, naturally. D1 was Vashti, but seemed to forget there was a play going on, and the Esther (who was three) was so terrified of Haman that she could hardly be persuaded to go back on stage, even though her parents were the other characters and she'd been wanting to do it all week. I played Mordecai and now D1 has been going around saying, "Papa was the bad man. Mama wouldn't bow down."

Carrie said...

That is hilarious! =D HA!

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