Priorities – Esther 5

Today Esther takes great courage and puts her plan (4.16) into action. If you’ve not read Esther 5 you can do so here.

Going in to see the King unannounced took great courage, give the law of the land (4.11) and the King’s previous dealings with his wives (1.12). Providentially, Esther is received with favour (v.2), and rather than get straight to business, Esther builds trust and relationship with the King (vv.4-8).

This might be difficult to understand to those with a Western, black-and-white, truth and error worldview; Esther needs something, the King can grant it, so let’s ask him for it. However, given the culture in which these events took place, relationship is more important than truth, shame and honour trump right and wrong, and going from 0-100 when making requests and petitions is not the done-thing.

Esther gets her priorities right, but we see that Haman has his all wrong. Having been invited to a private party with the King and Queen, he still find himself filled with wrath on seeing Mordecai. He is irrational, selfish, prideful, and boastful, and cares more about what others think of him than what is actually going on in his life. He is so consumed by all of this that he agrees to have Mordecai put to death in the most horrendous way, despite the fact that the annihilation of his people is already coming (3.15). Haman arranges for Mordecai to be impaled on a giant stake,

“A pointed stake is set upright in the ground, and the culprit is taken, placed on the sharp point, and then pulled down by his legs till the stake that went in at the fundament passes up through the body and comes out through the neck. A most dreadful species of punishment, in which revenge and cruelty may glut the utmost of their malice. The culprit lives a considerable time in excruciating agonies.” 

So irrational, so consumed, so bothered about what others think of him and how he is treated, he is pleased by this idea and has the gallows made.


This same irrational hatred and self-centredness led people to kill another innocent man.

Another innocent man was hung on a large, wooden torture device.

Another innocent man was killed to satisfy the self-important, self-centred, self-centric priorities of people.


 

The same irrational, violent hatred that made Haman want to see Mordecai hang to his death is the same irrational, violent hatred that made man want to hang Jesus on a cross.

Where we have wrong priorities, wrong choices and wrong actions are sure to be close behind. Esther focused on others, on relationships, on honouring people. Haman focused on himself. For the modern day believer, we could do a lot worse than model the priorities of Esther in our approach to Jesus; courage to approach, a focus on relationship, and seeking to honour.

2 Timothy 3.2-5 – The Human Condition

Straight after the sad but true news that people are difficult, Paul goes on to detail the human condition.

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

The list is so long that breaking it down characteristic by characteristic would simply take too long. The easiest and simplest thing to say is that all of these things centre on self. “I” and “Me” become the most important words and ideas in life, and conduct and character are totally detached from anything other than how you feel about yourself.

People will be lovers of self is a fitting way to start this section, loving yourself unconditionally at the expense of anything and anyone else leads to everything else we read in this list, and Paul’s advice to Timothy (and in principle to us) is to avoid such people.  

This is, if we are honest, the condition that comes with our human nature. Left to our own devices and choices, we know that we will become the type of person detailed here. If we don’t think we will, we are more swollen with conceit than we even realise. 

What is the remedy to this? What do we do with this sad but true state of affairs?

We turn to the Word of God. As a good friend wrote in his book titled ‘Contented‘,

After all these years of reading the Bible, I am amazed at its ability to continually reveal who I am while at the same time transforming me into a more holy person. The more submissive I am to the Word of God, the more I understand His perfect will for my life.

Jeff Gipe

Today then, be an unconditional lover of the Word before yourself, put His will above your own, put others before yourself, and let us see ourselves for what we are – sinners in need of the life-changing, life-transforming, life-saving, life-giving grace of God. 

Jude 1.10-13 – But These People…

So far in Jude we have been encouraged to contend for the faith, we have seen the importance of how we relate to Jesus, and we have been given the example of the Archangel Michael as one who fought for what he deemed important and wholly within the will of God. Today, things take a turn for the serious. 

10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

So, Michael would not even speak ill of the devil in his own power (v.9), yet these people blaspheme all that they do not understand…Those who do not understand find it easy to speak poorly about something. We find that it is easy to trash something with our speech when we are ignorant of it, don’t we. 

Jude goes on to say that these people (v.4, 7, 8) are in for a shock, woe to them! They have walked in the way of Cain (Genesis 4), abandoned themselves to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 22-25). Simply, these people are jealous, angry, selfish, prideful, arrogant, greedy, self-centred, self-promoting, and did not respect the structures and leaders put in place by God (Numbers 16.3).

Jude then goes on to say that, simply, these people are pointless, useless, and not using what God has given them for His purposes (vv.12-13).

For us, herein lies the point; we are to use what God has given us within the guidelines He has given us, for His glory, for His purposes, and for His people. 

These people lived for themselves and thought they knew best. The ultimate destination of these people is the gloom of utter darkness…forever

Living for self will always end up this way. Being the ultimate authority in our own lives will always end up this way. We can never work our way to God by rejecting what He provided and going it alone. We must rest in the finished work of Jesus to get us there, we must live for God and not self, we must not be like these people, but be more like Jesus; for His glory, for His purposes, and for His people.


Point to ponder – In what area of my life today do I need to stop being these people?


Prayer – Father, we know that this task to live for you and not for ourselves is not something we can simply choose to do and accomplish alone. We know that we need to live this life by faith in Jesus, we know that we need to live this life in the power of your Holy Spirit, so today we pray for faith and filling; faith in Jesus and filling with the Spirit, to empower us to live the life you desire of us. Amen. 

What are we building?

In 1 Corinthians 3 we read a passage that is so often misunderstood, lets read it and see what comes to mind;

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.

14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Many people look at vv.10-11 and think, aha, this is me and my life…we are so apt to put ourselves at the centre of everything, aren’t we?! They think this about me building my life, me growing and bettering myself.

Paul is actually writing about the church, the fellowshipping, gathering, assembling body of believers there in Corinth. 

V.11 tells us very clearly that no foundation other than Jesus can or should be laid for the church. To flip that around, if Jesus is not the foundation of the church, then really the place is not a church. We ought to be doing our best to build on this foundation and add to the body with gold, silver, and precious stones, not wood, hay, or straw. Simply, we ought to be contributing to the body for the glory of God and for the building up of others, with work we are proud of, done as if for Jesus Himself. 

It’s not our job, however, to make the church grow. We don’t need to enter into complex multiplication programs and try this and maybe that, we simply need to be a body willing to serve, aiming for excellence in all we do, everything done in love for our Lord and Saviour and for each other (with a generous helping of grace thrown in, too!). Back in vv.6-7 Paul clearly states that God gives the growth. Some plant, some water, but God gives the growth. 

So this passage is not about building your own life, it’s about building the church of Jesus Christ. That is something we are all called to be involved in; Jesus builds the church, we make disciples. We make disciples, and Jesus builds the church.

What an amazing opportunity we have to partner with God in this task. We are God’s fellow workers, we, the church, are God’s field, we the church are God’s building. What a pleasure and privilege it is to help build this.

Pray on this today – how can I add to the church?