Chuck sent an email out to parents this week saying that for a book that never mentions the name of the Lord, Esther seems packed with examples of Him moving behind the scenes. There are so many “coincidences” or things that just “happened” throughout the book that it seems it can’t be by accident. I counted at least 21 times that incidents just “happened” and that event caused something important to come to pass. That’s an awful lot of “just because.”
God speaks to us primarily through His Bible. His life-giving words are found throughout the pages and are able to guide, correct, challenge, and restore. He also speaks to us through other believers. And He even speaks to us through circumstances. We call that seeing God’s hand at work. My prayer this week as you prepare for Sunday is for you to realize that the silent “coincidences” that pop up throughout your day and week display without a doubt that God is alive and at work!
For a book that never mentions the name of the Lord, Esther seems packed with examples of Him moving behind the scenes. Sure, a critic could say that it is all coincidence or chance but is that really the way YOU want to see it? God has been working in front, back and between everything that involves HIS people.
What are the chances Vashi would ignore the king's request?
What are the chances Esther would take her place as queen?
What is the chance Mordecai would over hear a plot to assassinate the king?
What is the chance that on the very eve before Esther risks her life for her people the the king would be reminded of Mordecai's help?
There are more 'coincidences' in this story. Can you add to the list?????
Enjoy reading this wonderful story with your family!
God made a promise to Jeremiah at the beginning of the Israelite’s exile which told them that He would bring them back to their home after 70 years. Lo and Behold, a new pagan king named Cyrus makes a decree allowing the Israelites to return home. They were initially excited about rebuilding God's temple, His place of presence here on earth. After they began, enemies around them started to pester and knock them off track from what God had called them to do.
The Israelites finally gave in and said, “Enough is enough.” They weren’t really getting far on the Temple and it seemed futile to continue. So for ten years they tried to build their own houses and plant crops and prosper, but God did not honor them, so they never thrived. When the prophet Haggai was sent to them, He told them that they had to put God first and build His house and only then they would be blessed by God. When they heard these words of encouragement, they lost the fear of their enemies and worries. God said “I am with you” and they believed it.
Sometimes we forget two things: what our main priorities are and that God is with us. Last week, I tried to show visually what it looks like when we make decisions without thinking about our priorities as compared to making decisions after keeping our priorities first and foremost. There is a big difference. And the Israelites had forgotten God as their main priority and started to focus on their immediate feelings, needs and wants. But also through their actions, they forgot that God was with them. The bullying and pestering had frustrated them so much that they stopped. And for 10 years, they didn’t prosper. It wasn’t until they returned to God once again and heard His word that they realized that He was indeed with them. That gave them the confidence to finish the Temple no matter what.
It’s awfully hard to keep our priorities straight, isn’t it. But it’s even more hard to live like God is with us. You know, back in the Bible people were told by God that He was with them, and they did mighty things. Joshua fought and destroyed Jericho. Moses made the Red Sea stand on end. Worried Gideon embraced God’s word and defeated a giant army. When God tells us, “I will be with you” you know what we do? We say, “Meh…” It’s great and all to have God with us, but if God is the same today as He was in the past, why aren’t we doing such great things for God? It’s really because we live like He isn’t with us at all. God wants to use us to change the world in mighty ways for Him, just like He did with the heroes in the Bible. So when challenges come, you can say with boldness, “I am a child of God and because of Him I am already victorious over sin and the devil!” He is with you, you’d better believe it!
(Be encouraged by John 16:33, 1 Corinthians 10:13, Hebrews 13:5-6, and 1 John 4:4)
God can do what seems impossible and He can use non-believers to do it!
That is a clear message in this week's lesson. King Cyrus of Persia is not a follower of Israel's Lord God. Yet God causes him to author a proclamation throughout his kingdom that the Jewish people be allowed to return to Jerusalem AND rebuild their temple with financial aid from the throne and his people. WOW!
The people returned and they began the work that needed to be done. Soon there was opposition from those already living in the area. They were concerned about the trouble a temple and thriving people could cause them. They started harassing the builders who soon became discouraged and decided to work on the building of their own homes instead of God's home.
Isn't that just like us? we get all pumped up and started doing something for God; but then we lose interest and start focusing on all the things we need to do for ourselves.
God sends Haggai and Zechariah to successfully encourage the people to start building. We have God's word and the people He sends to us to help us get going again. Are you reading? Are you listening?
You simply MUST read this chapter to find out how God turns the tables on those trying to stop the rebuilding project.
You and I make hundreds of decisions throughout the day. Many of them are easy and we just base the answer on how we feel in the moment. But what if we to decide on something that makes us feel uncomfortable or that we feel goes against our beliefs? That’s a tough one. I know that in our culture, there are many times people think something is ok because you will get away with it or maybe because in the end, it will be alright.
In this week’s chapter, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were chosen as elite refugees who were going to be trained to serve their new king. They probably were young, maybe even just teens. You would think that the easy and smart thing for a teen in a new country and a new environment is to just blend in and not make waves. Nope, not these guys.
Probably at the first meal, Daniel tells the head guy in charge of them that he and his friends won’t eat the king’s food given to them. That alone could warrant getting kicked out of this elite program, or worse, death. But Daniel and his friends refuse because they do not want to disobey God. They are willing to face death or whatever consequence may come in order to follow God. And they were only teens!
This was not the first major decision that they would face in captivity. No, they would each be tested again and they would have to choose between life and death. And they did marvelously, never compromising or bowing or even hesitating in their commitment to God. These young man had their priorities straight. They knew that they must put God first and they actively did it.
Sometimes we get muddled up in our priorities, not realizing what is important. C.S. Lewis says “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.” This week, my prayer is that we will understand more clearly what our priorities should be and how we can put them first.
Peer Pressure. Those are 2 words that I'll bet put fear in your hearts. Will your children be swayed by their friends to live a life different from what you'd have for them? You have spent years teaching them right from wrong, teaching them to love, obey, and serve God. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they remained steadfast and strong regardless of the pressure of their friends?
You'll see that loud and clear in our chapter from The Story this week. Daniel and his 3 buddies are taken from their home in Judah to a country called Babylon. Will they become like these people who worship all sorts of idols and have ideals that are foreign to God's people? No Way! They hold their allegiance to God to a degree that amazes me.
They don't want to eat the king's food. I imagine they are worried where it comes from...idol sacrifices? They look better after a week of veggies and water than the others who are eating from the king's table.
Bow down to a 90 foot golden statute of the king or be thrown into the furnace? The three of them decide to worship their unseen Lord God whom they know can save them from the fire...if He wants. Soon they are seen walking in the fiery furnace with a fourth figure the king thinks is God's angel sent to protect them.
Pray to the Lord God when it has been outlawed for 30 days? If caught the penalty is being torn up by lions. But Daniel doesn't even hide when he prays to God. He is in his window where he can be seen easily.
These 4 men, probably teenagers when exiled, never bow to peer pressure but remain strong in their allegiance to the Lord God. What a witness! Wouldn't you like that for your children? I certainly hope I can be strong enough to stand for God if put into a situation I know will cause me great harm if I do. How about you? Do you cave to peer pressure when you aren't at church? Do you become more like others so you don't stand out? if you do, STOP! Be an example for your kids. Show them how nothing is more important than a relationship with God.
I truly hope you are spending time with your children during the week, reading and talking about the subject of our chapter. Talk about how God keeps His promises.
Have a blessed week!
We take turns writing when God gives us an idea. The author will be noted.