We transition from the Greek language to the Hebrew language as we move from the New Testament to the Old Testament. The first five books of the Bible are called the Torah which means literally the law. But before you establish the law you need to know how things came about, how what we have now has come to be. Genesis 1 gives us an opportunity to set the stage, to understand why God does what he does and how much he loves us. That is the beginning of God’s Word for us, it simply is that he loves us so much that all that we see is a result of that relationship.
Many hours have been lost by people on both sides arguing over creation or evolution and all the permutations in between. Let me say from the beginning that I do believe that God created the heaven’s and the earth. I believe that is the point of the whole story. Christian evolutionists also believe that God created, but the details are different than what is expressed in the Scriptural account. I’ll never forget a confirmation paper that I received probably 20 years ago where the topic of this youth’s paper was why you can’t be an evolutionist and a Christian. I completely disagree.
While I am a creationist I also recognize that the Bible is not a science textbook and that the primary point of these creation stories is that God created, period. That is all that really matters as far as the truth of Scripture, we need to agree that God created. But how God created is not a point which separates those who are saved and those that are not. We need to be sure we keep that clear. While I take an approach to Scripture which tends to be more literal (for example I believe that there was a real Adam and Eve, I’m okay with that), in no way does a literal vs. metaphorical approach define a salvation vs. damned approach. As we look at some of the most important biblical stories in Genesis I am going to take a more literal approach, it is more interesting for me that way and I actually believe it. But no one reading this should ever think for a moment that either you take it all literally or you are an unbeliever. There simply are no grounds for this false dichotomy.
So, creation, pretty powerful reading isn’t it? God creates from the void, from the nothing. Here is my favorite depiction of the creation below.
Sorry for the unwanted advertisement for Alamy, but it was the best image that I could find which included not just the creation of Adam, but the other days of creation as well. One highlight which must be mentioned is how God creates. God speaks and creation happens. It is through the Word of God that things happen. Just like the Gospel of John mentions. Feel free to read John 1 again to see the role that the Word plays in creation. That Word which became flesh which we cannot forget this day after Christmas.
The next chapter we will look at creation again and the relationship that we have with God and each other as well as another potential creation story from a culture and religion that is not ours. Tune in tomorrow!
And so it comes to a close, a nearly 90 day challenge. Our next challenge will be a 50 day challenge which will begin on December 26 and it will cover the book of Genesis. But let’s close this one out strong with Esther chapter 10. There isn’t much in this chapter, just 3 verses in all. I was struck by the parallel between Joseph and Mordecai. Mordecai took the initiative to save his people through the work of the current reigning power. Joseph did the same. Joseph was in a position where he was able to save his family because of his position which was the second in command to the king. Mordecai was also the second in command to the king. Look back over the life of Joseph, if you want, and it will also serve as a tease for our next challenge: Genesis 37-50.
When all is said and done we see that the people of God are saved and God did indeed raise up a person to do just that. Isn’t that what God has continued to do over history? Isn’t that what God has done in our own individual lives? God loves and God saves and God redeems, and God never tires of us. God is faithful. I hope you enjoyed this challenge, and I pray that you will continue to read Scripture and see it as a light unto your feet.
In this verse we find the establishment of the feast of Purim. But we also find some other details that are quite shocking and of which I had forgotten. Did you get the account of the destruction of the enemies of the Jews? It was quite terrifying and terrible. It is not a Scripture that we should take and use as one where we justify doing terrible things to our enemies. I like Jesus’ take on what we should do with our enemies. Jesus says in Matthew 5:43-48 that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. He must have left out the part that says: strike down all your enemies with the sword and slaughter them. Yeah, I like Jesus’ approach much better.
There is a lot in this Scripture, but there is one thing which I want to be sure that you are able to identify. Notice how far the edict to reverse the original edict went out. From India all the way to Ethiopia. Look at a map and you will see how expansive this territory is. The fact that I want you to focus on is how widespread the people of Israel were at that time. Even to this day there will be synagogues in Ethiopia and in India which could have been around in that day as well. The history of the Jewish people is incredibly rich and it is vital to recognize that God’s people have been around a long, long time.
So the storyline pretty much finds its end in this chapter. Mordecai is given everything that at one time belonged to Haman from his property to his robes to the king’s ring. The decree allowed the Jews to defend themselves. What an incredible decree. If it had not been passed then they would have been forced to submit to whatever atrocities their neighbors wanted to commit against them. It makes me think of the Rohingya in our modern day reality which are a stateless people who are persecuted wherever they find themselves.
And the story comes to a rousing climax. Hard to imagine any more suspense. I also am having a hard time imagining Haman’s thoughts as he entered that banquet hall. Needless to say it was not Haman’s day. He thought the king was going to honor him, but he ends up having to escort his sworn enemy around the kingdom as a favorite of the king. At least he had a banquet to go to which the queen was holding just for him and the king. As things are progressing he is thrown off guard when Esther begins to tell a story in vs.5 which sounds vaguely familiar, but from the opposite side. King, there is someone who is looking to destroy me and all of my family. The King, as you would expect, reacts very defensively and can’t imagine who would, especially since Esther could arguably be considered his favorite. Especially since they have spent the last two days partying with Esther. Look at vs.2 if you don’t believe it. Also, find below a video which gives you some insight and history into the festival of Purim which marks this historic triumph of Esther and Mordecai over Haman.
The bravery of Esther comes out as she points out Haman and calls him out. Haman is wise, he notices that the King is taking Esther’s side so instead of trying to convince the king, he stays and tries to convince Esther, by jumping on her couch! Not the wisest move because when the king comes back in things don’t look so good. It seems like Haman is trying to have his way with the queen. Well, that was the last straw and Haman is hanged and they live happily ever after. Wait, there are a few more chapters left. Things continue to get interesting.
Did you get what just happened? Haman walked into the presence of the King with great plans to hang Mordecai. The king asks him a question which pertains to honoring someone who is favored by the king and Haman assumes that the King is talking about himself, Haman. So he comes up with this elaborate plan that he hopes the king will follow through and that he is the one who will be getting all of that honor. Once he is done telling the king the plan on how to honor the person who is special to the king, it turns out that it is Modecai whom the kind wants to honor.
It is quite amazing how this entire story is intertwined with itself. The beginning which depicted a Modecai saving the King’s life is now repaid in such a way that will save the entire race of Mordecai, but the king doesn’t know that yet. I love the support that Haman gets from his wife and friends. It does remind me so much of Job who as he is suffering his wife and friends tell him to “curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) The Old Testament is full of not very supportive spouses with Delilah who cuts off the hair of Samson. We find Abraham who tells people that Sara is his sister so that he could save his life. Pretty twisted.
But here we find how God is able to arrange the salvation of the Jews from the hands of the evil Haman. This is able to happen through his servants Modecai and Esther, but I believe I am getting ahead of myself. For such a time as this…
The plot thickens but we don’t know how it is going to end yet in this chapter. But it does seem like one layer upon another is added. I spoke with someone from church who after the first chapter of Esther had a hard time filling in the blank in the booklet: Who is God to me? This is the only book in the Bible where the name of God actually is not mentioned. So that is understandable.
So, I just took a break because the neighborhood kids came to church and I just spent some time talking to them about their future etc. I never mentioned the name of God and they never mentioned it to me. But one day, maybe 10 years from now, if one of them is facing a rough time, or wants to get married, or wants to bring his family to church maybe, just maybe he will say: I remember that church, First Presbyterian, they were nice to me. They let me come in and have a snack when it was 36 degrees outside. Maybe I’ll go there.
When that happens, then God will be revealed to them in a powerful and compelling way. Esther doesn’t have to mention God, but you know what drove Esther and Mordecai. This book of the Bible may not contain ways in which to bring people to a saving knowledge of Christ, but it does remind us that God is in charge of this and every situation. May God bless us as we look to reach out to those around us with His love, even if we don’t use His name.
One of the most powerful verses in all of Scripture is found in this chapter. Unceasingly I use vs.14 as a standard for my life. Who knows, maybe for such a time as this you were placed where you are today? I believe that with my whole heart and soul simply because I have seen it played out in my life. I absolutely believe that God has placed us where we are in our lives for a specific purpose and a specific reason. I know that God placed me in Italy, in Florida, in Russia, in Strasburg for a specific purpose. It wasn’t always clear to me when I was living in those places, but looking back I can say with certainty: it is for this reason that God placed me there at that time and at that place.
This is a confidence and an assurance that we need to have. There can be no doubt in our lives that God has placed us where we are and involved us in certain activities and moments in our lives for specific purposes. When we speak about Esther, she has an opportunity to save the existence of an entire race. But it was not easy. I am not saying that God has called you to a specific task and a specific time and a specific place and it is going to be easy. No, it absolutely will not be easy. But it will be God’s will. It reminds me of this scene in Narnia:
God has called us to a specific time and a specific place, but that does not mean that it will be risk free. Esther shows that she is willing to take the risk, but demands that the Israelites pray with and for her.