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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Israel's Report Card (Esther)

Esther's story reminds the children of Israel of another day in their history when God raised up a man to deliver his people, so the anonymous writer of Psalm 105:16-21 gives a quick history lesson and covers that event.

Joseph attended God's School of Leadership Training from age seventeen until age thirty. God's educational program lasted thirteen years and consisted of three courses resulting in three grades. "The word of the Lord tested him" (NKJV). The word of the Lord also tested Israel again and again as He made promises throughout their history to bless their obedience. How did Israel do in comparison to Joseph? (See January 31 posting)

The first course: The Passage of Time. God spoke to him in a dream when he was just seventeen years old and then confirmed it with a second dream. Thirteen years pass as he waits. And waits. And waits some more. He trusts in the LORD the entire time. This first course was to teach this future leader how to wait upon God. Throughout Israel's history they go through long periods of waiting on God to fulfill His promises. They constantly refuse to trust in His goodness and faithfulness and rebel by worshipping idols. Waiting teaches God's people that faith pleases God (Isaiah 64:4 and Hebrews 11:6). How did Israel do throughout their history? F

The second course: The Pain of Suffering. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and sold, first to a band of traders, and then again, to a wealthy Egyptian. Falsely accused of sexual harassment by his master's wife he is thrown into prison. While there, he is forgotten by a seemingly ungrateful fellow who is restored to his former position in Pharoah's household while Joseph remains in prison for two more years. Time flies when you are having fun, but it drags on and on during days of suffering. Israel suffers at the hands of other nations raised up by God to get their attention. Rather than turn to the LORD they harden their hearts and make alliances with nations around them. Suffering teaches God's people that it is always too early to give up and trust in our own devices (Hebrews 10:36). How'd Israel do throughout their history? F

The third course: The Path of Forgiveness. Think of all the people Joseph had to forgive: his brothers (for rejecting and betraying him), his master (for not believing him), his master's wife (for falsely accusing him), and Pharaoh's cupbearer (for forgetting him). The nations with whom Israel made alliances constantly betrayed their trust. Betrayal teaches Israel that only God is faithful to keep His promises (2 Timothy 2:13). How'd Israel do? F

The Word of God tests you too! Are you waiting on the Lord or fretting and scheming? Are you rejoicing in your suffering or complaining bitterly? Are you holding a grudge against someone or loving them graciously and freely? Your becoming a leader depends on how you answer these questions. What's on your report card?

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Esther 9:18-10:3
  • What does the celebration of Purim remind the people of year after year?
  • What role does Mordecai eventually serve in King Xerxes' kingdom?
  • What does Esther's story teach us about God? power-hungry men? those who fear God while living in exile? the role of women in God's story?
Ezra 4:6-23
  • How do the letter writers describe Jerusalem?
  • How does the king respond?
  • What happens to the repair work?
Psalm 105
  • What do they remember about God that gives the people hope in the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation?
  • What had God done for their ancestors in the early days?
  • Who had God raised up in the past to protect and provide for His people?
  • What had God done for them when the Egyptians took advantage of them?
  • What would reviewing what God had done for them in the past do for them in the present?
  • What does this tell you about remembering the past?
Turning truth into prayer
Do you doubt or question God's character during difficult days? Ask the Lord to help youbecome intentional in remembering all that He has done for you and for His people in the past. The God of Jacob is also the God of Joseph, Moses, Esther and Mordecai. Thank Him that He only does wondrous things and trust Him to do wondrous things even in the midst of your difficulty.