Letters to Leaders – 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus Invitation

Series: Letters to Leaders (1, 2 Tim. & Titus) 5 weeks

 Description: As Christians all of us are called to be leaders in some area of our life. The weight of leading others and reflecting Christ is placed on the shoulders of every Christian who is also empowered by the Holy Spirit to bring about change.

In our five week series, “Letters to Leaders” we will explore leadership principles from 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus.

 Dates           Titles Scriptures                                   Events     

Aug. 7           Leaders Live the Faith (1 Tim. 1)            Communion
Aug. 14         Leaders Lead by Example (1 Tim. 3 )      Back to School Events

Aug. 21         Leaders Serve (1 Tim 4-5)

Aug. 28         Leaders are Prepared (2 Tim 3)
Sep. 4           Leaders Teach (Titus)                            Labor Day Weekend

I hope you can join us!

Darrell

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Ezra – Reclaim – Intro. & Invitation

Series: Reclaim (Ezra) 4 weeks

Description: Our four week series Reclaim addresses what God did for the Jewish people throughout the events recorded in the book of Ezra. Through failure, forgetting what is important, and sin, we too may become exiles attempting to return to God. However, just as in the book of Ezra God reclaimed his people according to his promises, he also reclaims and redeems our lives for his purpose in this world.

Dates           Titles            Scriptures

July 10          Reclaim the Promise (Ezra 1)
July 17          Reclaim the Purpose (Ezra 3)

July 24          Reclaim the Presence (Ezra 5-6)

July 31          Reclaim the Truth (Ezra 7)

Ezra Introduction

Name the truly great men and women of your lifetime. Celebrities, including politicians, war heroes, sports figures, and maybe your parents and special friends come to mind. You remember them because of certain acts or character qualities. Now, name some biblical heroes—figures etched in your mind through countless sermons and church school lessons. This list undoubtedly includes many who served God faithfully and courageously. Does your list include Ezra? Far from being well known, this unheralded man of God deserves to be mentioned in any discussion of greatness.

Ezra was a priest, a scribe, and a great leader. His name means “help,” and his whole life was dedicated to serving God and God’s people. Tradition says that Ezra wrote most of 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Psalm 119 and that he led the council of 120 men who compiled the Old Testament canon. The narrative of the book of Ezra is centered on God and his promise that the Jews would return to their land, as prophesied by Jeremiah . This message formed the core of Ezra’s life. The last half of the book gives a very personal glimpse of Ezra. His knowledge of Scripture and his God-given wisdom were so obvious to the king that he appointed Ezra to lead the second emigration to Jerusalem, to teach the people God’s Word, and to administer national life (7:14-26).

Ezra not only knew God’s Word, he believed and obeyed it. Upon learning of the Israelites’ sins of intermarriage and idolatry, Ezra fell in humility before God and prayed for the nation (9:1-15). Their disobedience touched him deeply (10:1). His response helped lead the people back to God.

Second Chronicles ends with Cyrus, king of Persia, asking for volunteers to return to Jerusalem to build a house for God. Ezra continues this account (1:1-3 is almost identical to 2 Chronicles 36:22, 23) as two caravans of God’s people were returning to Jerusalem. Zerubbabel, the leader of the first trip, was joined by 42,360 pilgrims who journeyed homeward (chapter 2). After arriving, they began to build the altar and the Temple foundations (chapter 3). But opposition arose from the local inhabitants, and a campaign of accusations and rumors temporarily halted the project (chapter 4). During this time, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the people (chapter 5). Finally, Darius decreed that the work should proceed unhindered (chapter 6).

After a 58-year gap, Ezra led a group of Jews from Persia. Armed with decrees and authority from Artaxerxes I, Ezra’s task was to administer the affairs of the land (chapters 7-8). Upon arriving, he learned of intermarriage between God’s people and their pagan neighbors. He wept and prayed for the nation (chapter 9). Ezra’s example of humble confession led to national revival (chapter 10). Ezra, a man of God and a true hero, was a model for Israel, and he is a fitting model for us.

Read Ezra, the book, and remember Ezra, the man—a humble, obedient helper. Commit yourself to serving God as he did, with your whole life.

Vital Statistics

Purpose: To show God’s faithfulness and the way he kept his promise to restore his people to their land

Author: Not stated, but probably Ezra

Original Audience: The exiles who returned from captivity

Date Written: Around 450 B.C., recording events from about 538-450 B.C. (omitting 516-458 B.C.); possibly begun earlier in Babylon and finished in Jerusalem

Ezra follows 2 Chronicles as a history of the Jewish people, recording their return to the land after the Captivity.

Key People: Cyrus, Zerubbabel, Haggai, Zechariah, Darius I, Artaxerxes I, Ezra

Key Places: Babylon, Jerusalem

Special Features: Ezra and Nehemiah were one book in the Hebrew Bible, and, with Esther, they comprise the post-captivity historical books. The post-captivity prophetic books are Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Haggai and Zechariah should be studied with Ezra because they prophesied during the period of the reconstruction.

The Blueprint

  1. THE RETURN LED BY ZERUBBABEL (1:1-6:22)
    1. The first group of exiles returns to the land
    2. The people rebuild the Temple

Finally given the chance to return to their homeland, the people started to rebuild the Temple, only to be stopped by opposition from their enemies. God’s work in the world is not without opposition. We must not get discouraged and quit, as the returning people did at first, but continue on boldly in the face of difficulties, as they did later with encouragement from the prophets.

  1. THE RETURN LED BY EZRA (7:1-10:44)
    1. The second group of exiles returns to the land
    2. Ezra opposes intermarriage

Ezra returned to Jerusalem almost 80 years after Zerubbabel, only to discover that the people had married pagan or foreign spouses. This polluted the religious purity of the people and endangered the future of the nation. Believers today must be careful not to threaten their walk with God by taking on the practices of unbelievers.

Megathemes
Theme Explanation Importance
The Jews Return By returning to the land of Israel from Babylon, the Jews showed their faith in God’s promise to restore them as a people. They returned not only to their homeland but also to the place where their forefathers had promised to follow God. God shows his mercy to every generation. He compassionately restores his people. No matter how difficult our present “captivity,” we are never far from his love and mercy. He restores us when we return to him.
Rededication In 536 B.C., Zerubbabel led the people in rebuilding the altar and laying the Temple foundation. They reinstated daily sacrifices and annual festivals, and rededicated themselves to a new spiritual worship of God. In rededicating the altar, the people were recommitting themselves to God and his service. To grow spiritually, our commitment must be reviewed and renewed often. As we rededicate ourselves to God, our lives become altars to him.
Opposition Opposition came soon after the altar was built and the Temple foundation laid. Enemies of the Jews used deceit to hinder the building for over six years. Finally, there was a decree to stop the building altogether. This opposition severely tested their wavering faith. There will always be adversaries who oppose God’s work. The life of faith is never easy. But God can overrule all opposition to his service. When we face opposition, we must not falter or withdraw, but keep active and patient.
God’s Word When the people returned to the land, they were also returning to the influence of God’s Word. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah helped encourage them, while Ezra’s preaching of Scripture built them up. God’s Word gave them what they needed to do God’s work. We also need the encouragement and direction of God’s Word. We must make it the basis for our faith and actions to finish God’s work and fulfill our obligations. We must never waver in our commitment to hear and obey his Word.
Faith and Action The urging of Israel’s leaders motivated the people to complete the Temple. Over the years they had intermarried with idol worshipers and adopted their pagan practices. Their faith, tested and revived, also led them to remove these sins from their lives. Faith led them to complete the Temple and to remove sin from their society. As we trust God with our hearts and minds, we must also act by completing our daily responsibilities. It is not enough to say we believe; we must make the changes God requires.

 

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Source: Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 719-720.

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God’s Completed Work – Esther 9-10

God finishes what He starts. God finished creation. God finished the work to secure salvation on the cross. God will finish all of His work in order to fulfill prophecy of end times. At the end of the book of Esther we find God’s finishing another chapter in the lives of His people. His work continues to be completed in the life of every believer.

Seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive.” That was God’s counsel to the Jews through the Prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 29:7, nkjv); and for the most part, they obeyed it. It wasn’t the people of God  who had declared war on the their enemies, but the enemies of God’s people who had declared war on them.

“D Day” arrived for the Jews, the day appointed by Haman’s decree for the slaughter of God’s chosen people in the empire. But Mordecai’s decree had changed that “D” from “destruction” to “deliverance.” The Jews had permission to resist their enemies and had been given nine months to prepare for the encounter. The people in the empire who hated the Jews were hoping for victory, but “the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them” (Est. 9:1, niv).

1. Defend the People of God  (Est. 9:1-16)

The Jewish men were organized and armed, ready to meet any enemy who would attack them and their families and try to take their possessions. But the Lord had given them a greater weapon than their swords, because “the fear of the Jews fell upon them” (8:17, kjv; 9:2). This was a fear that God had sent into the hearts of the Gentiles to keep them from fighting His people.

One of the problems with our world today is that “there is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:18, kjv). Like Pharaoh, people are saying, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice?” (Ex. 5:2, kjv) But have they seen anything in the people of God that would make them want to fear the Lord? Is there such devotion to God among God’s people that an outsider attending one of our meetings would fall down on his face, worship God, and “report that God is truly among you“? (1 Cor. 14:25, nkjv)

The fear of God protects those who fear God and believe His promises. Because the Jews believed Mordecai’s decree, they had new courage and were not afraid of the enemy; and their courage put fear into the hearts of the enemy. (See Phil. 1:28.) Before King Jehoshaphat went out to battle, God’s message to him was: “Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chron. 20:20). That is still wise counsel.

But there was another aspect to this fear that helped give the Jews their victory, and that was the people’s fear of Mordecai (Est. 9:3). The princes, deputies, governors, and officers of the king throughout the empire were in such awe of Mordecai that they even helped the Jews defend themselves against the Persians. God had given Mordecai his high position and his great reputation, and Mordecai used his authority to do the will of God.

The Persians who attacked the Jews were actually cooperating with Haman, an Amalekite; and this made them the enemies of God (Est. 9:5). In slaying those who attacked them, the Jews were only doing to the enemy what King Saul had refused to do (1 Sam. 15).

In Esther 9:5-15, we’re given the report from Shushan; and, in verses 16-17, additional news is given about what happened in the other parts of the empire. During two days of conflict, the Jews killed 800 of their enemies in Susa alone (vv. 6, 15). It’s remarkable that so many Persians would have dared to attack the Jews right in the king’s own city where both Esther and Mordecai lived. Perhaps these people had been loyal to Haman and dependant on his bounty. Now they were angry because their hero had fallen and his wealth was gone.

Since the Jews were not the aggressors, it means that the ten sons of Haman had taken up arms and attacked the Jews; and all ten of them were slain. The bodies of the ten sons were hanged on Hainan’s gallows as a warning to the enemy. (In the text of the Hebrew Scriptures, the ten names are arranged on the page to look like a gallows. On the Feast of Purim, the synagogue reader reads these ten names all in one breath because the sons of Haman all died together.) The sight of ten corpses on Hainan’s gallows would certainly deter the Persians from attacking the Jews and would result in the saving of lives.

Some commentators have seen Esther’s request in verses 12-13 as evidence of a vindictive spirit on her part, but this was not the case. Haman’s strongest support was in the capital city where people had bowed down to him and benefited from his favors. Since it would be easy for them to get together and plan their strategy, Esther wanted to be sure that none of them would survive to cause further trouble. Perhaps she had received private intelligence that Haman’s supporters had planned to attack again the next day, prompting her to ask Ahasuerus for permission to extend the Jews’ right to defend themselves.

The Jews in the other parts of the empire killed 75,000 in one day, which shows how many people hated the Jews and wanted to destroy them. It averages out to about 600 per province. Since the Jews were greatly outnumbered in the empire, their victory was certainly a tribute to their faith and courage.

Three times in the record it’s stated that the Jews didn’t take any of the spoil (vv. 10, 15-16). It was in taking spoil from the enemy that King Saul lost his kingdom (1 Sam. 15:12-23), and the Jews didn’t repeat his mistake. They were not out after wealth. They wanted only to protect themselves and vindicate their right to live safely in the empire. And remember, the Jews killed only those who first attacked them; the Jews were not the aggressors.

2. Celebrate the Salvation of God  (Est. 9:17-32)

It’s sad when a nation (or a church) forgets its heroes and the providential events that have kept it alive. How easy it is for a new generation to come along and take for granted the blessings that previous generations struggled and sacrificed to attain! The Jews didn’t make that mistake but established the Feast of Purim to remind their children year after year that God had saved Israel from destruction.

While Purim is not a Christian festival, Christians certainly ought to rejoice with their Jewish friends because every spiritual blessing we have has come through the Jews. The Jews gave to the world the knowledge of the true and living God, the Scriptures, and the Savior. The first Christians were Jewish believers, and so were the first missionaries. Jesus was a Jew who died on Passover, a Jewish feast day, and rose again from the dead on another Jewish holy day, the Feast of Firstfruits. The Holy Spirit came from heaven upon a group of Jewish believers on a Jewish holiday, Pentecost. “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). If there had been no Jews, there would be no church.

There’s nothing wrong with meaningful tradition. The church is always one generation short of extinction; and if we don’t pass on to our children and grandchildren what God has done for us and our fathers, the church will die of apathy and ignorance. “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Ps. 34:11, niv). It’s when tradition gradually becomes traditionalism that we get into trouble. Theologian Jaroslav Pelikan said, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

The Jews in the provinces finished their fighting on the thirteenth day of Adar (March) and spent the next day celebrating. But since the Jews in Shushan were still defending themselves on the fourteenth day, they didn’t get to celebrate until the fifteenth. In the beginning, the Jews were united in their victory but divided in their celebration. It all depended on whether you lived in the city or the country. Mordecai, however, later issued a letter that instructed all the Jews to celebrate on both the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month (Est. 9:20-22).

The name “Purim” is the plural of the Babylonian word pur which means “lot.” It originates from Hainan’s casting of lots to determine the day when the Jews would be destroyed (Est. 9:24; 3:7). Even though there was no divine sanction given to this new feast, the Jews determined that it would be celebrated from generation to generation (9:26-28). Note the emphasis on teaching the children the meaning of Purim so that the message of the feast would not be lost in future generations.

There is a godly patriotism that goes beyond mere nationalism and civic pride and gives glory to God for what He has done. To see the hand of God in history and praise God for His goodness and mercy, and to ask God to forgive us for our sins, is perhaps the best way for the Christian patriot to celebrate a national holiday. But dedication must follow celebration. The American political leader Adlai Stevenson said, “Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”

Not only did Mordecai the prime minister send a letter of instruction to the Jews in the empire, but Esther the queen also joined Mordecai in sending a second letter (vv. 29-32). Perhaps some of the Jews in the provinces didn’t want to change from their original day of celebration (v. 19), and it was necessary for both the queen and prime minister to issue this second letter to keep peace in the nation. Too often God’s people defeat the enemy and then celebrate the victory by fighting among themselves!

This second letter is described as “words of peace and truth” (v. 30), which suggests that there was a division among the Jewish people that needed to be healed. Not only did Esther and Mordecai send letters, but they also had the matter written into the book (diary?) that Mordecai used as his personal record (vv. 20, 32). It’s possible that this book became a part of the official records of the empire.

The story of the victory of the Jews over their enemies was celebrated in an annual feast, recorded in two official letters, written in a journal, and ultimately included in the Old Testament Scriptures! What a rebuke to our modern “throw-away society” that has forgotten history and, like the Athenians of old, spends its time “in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21, kjv). Philosopher George Santayana was right when he said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.”

3. Continue the Work of God  (Est. 10:1-3)

This brief chapter tells us that Mordecai, unlike his predecessor Haman, used his office to serve the king and help the Jews. Sometimes when people are elevated to high office, they forget their roots and ignore the needs of the common people. Mordecai wasn’t that kind of man. Even though his political deeds are recorded in the official annals of the empire, what he did for his people has been recorded by the Lord and will be rewarded.

Why did the author mention the new tax program of King Ahasuerus? What does this have to do with Mordecai and the Jews? Some Bible students think that it was Mordecai who engineered this new system of tribute as a substitute for war and plunder as a source of kingdom wealth. Now that there was peace in the kingdom, the Jews were free to work, earn money, and prosper; and the prosperity of the Jews increased the prosperity of the empire in general. Mordecai reminded the king that the throne deserved a share in that prosperity. After all, it was the king who had chosen Esther, a Jewess, and promoted Mordecai, a Jew; and all three of them had worked together to save the Jews from destruction. Didn’t the people of the empire, Jews and Gentiles alike, have an obligation to their monarch?

But the important message in this chapter is that God continued to use Mordecai to help the Jewish people. The Jews were aliens in a foreign land and subject to all kinds of harassment and abuse. Mordecai saw to it that they were treated with fairness. The last words of the book are variously translated. The Authorized Version says “and speaking peace to all his seed,” suggesting that he encouraged the Jews and kept them at peace with one another. The niv reads “and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.” This implies that there were still forces at work in the empire opposing and threatening the Jews, but Mordecai represented them at court and protected them. “He did his best for his people, and was a friend at court for all of them” (TLB).

The exciting drama of Esther is over, but the blessings go right on. God preserved the Jewish nation so that we today can have a Bible and a Savior.  In the book of Esther, we clearly see God at work in the lives of individuals and in the affairs of a nation. Even when it looks as if the world is in the hands of evil people, God is still in control, protecting those who are his. Although we may not understand everything happening around us, we must trust in God’s protection and retain our integrity by doing what we know is right. Esther, who risked her life by appearing before the king, became a heroine. Mordecai, who was effectively condemned to death, rose to become the second highest ranking official in the nation. No matter how hopeless our condition, or how much we would like to give up, we need not despair. God is in control of our world.

www.Upwards.Church

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Sources: Life Application Study Bible , (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Chapter 10”.
The Bible Exposition Commentary – History, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2003), WORD
search CROSS e-book, 746-751.
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Victory for God’s People – Esther 8

Long after wicked people are gone, the consequences of their evil words and deeds live on. Even today, innocent people are suffering because of guilty people who lie in their graves.

Unless something intervened, within nine months the Persians would attack the Jews and wipe them off the face of the earth. There were about 15 million Jews among the estimated 100 million people in the empire. Therefore, the odds were definitely against God’s people. Of course, God’s people have always been a minority; and “one with God is a majority.” The Lord had brought Esther and Mordecai to the kingdom “for such a time as this,” and they were prepared to act.

  1. Mordecai’s Promotion (Est 8:1-2, 15)

According to the ancient historians, whenever a traitor was executed, the throne appropriated his property. Had Ahasuerus confiscated Hainan’s property for himself, he would have acquired a great deal of wealth; but he chose to give Haman’s estate to Esther. More than an act of generosity, this gift was probably the king’s way of atoning for his foolish decisions that had brought so much pain to Esther and her people. It’s possible that Esther later shared some of this great wealth with the Jews so they could prepare themselves for the coming crisis.

Ahasuerus knew that both Esther and Mordecai were Jews, but now he was to learn that they were also cousins. Ahasuerus and Mordecai were relatives by marriage! When Haman was deposed, the king took back his royal ring (3:10), the insignia of the authority of the throne (8:8, 10; 3:12), and he gave the ring to Mordecai, making him prime minister. With a Jewish queen and a Jewish prime minister in the palace, the Jews in the empire were in a better political position than ever before.

Esther gave the management of Haman’s vast estate into the hands of Mordecai, who had first opposed Haman and refused to bow down. Were it not for Mordecai’s courage and encouragement of Esther, Haman would still be in control. “Wait on the Lord, and keep His way, and He shall exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you shall see it. I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a native green tree. Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more” (Ps. 37:34-36, nkjv).

The king made sure that Mordecai had a uniform worthy of his office, and it’s described in Esther 8:15. No longer did Mordecai wear old, borrowed robes (6:7-11) but new robes prepared especially for him. The official royal colors were blue and white (see 1:6). The golden “crown” was probably a large turban which, along with the robe of white and purple, identified Mordecai as an important man of great authority.

Everything that Haman had acquired from the king by his scheming, Mordecai received as gifts, because Mordecai was a deserving man. At the beginning of this story, Esther and Mordecai were hardly exemplary in the way they practiced their religious faith; but now we get the impression that things have changed. Both of them have affirmed their Jewish nationality and both were the means of calling all the Jews in the empire to prayer and fasting. In one sense, they spearheaded a Jewish “revival” and made being Jewish a more honorable thing in the empire.

God doesn’t always give this kind of a “happy ending” to everybody’s story. Today, not all faithful Christians are promoted and given special honors. Some of them get fired because of their stand for Christ! God hasn’t promised that we’ll be promoted and made rich, but He has assured us that He’s in control of all circumstances and that He will write the last chapter of the story. If God doesn’t promote us here on earth, He certainly will when we get to glory.

  1. Esther’s Plea (Est. 8:3-6)

Wealth, prestige, and personal security could never satisfy Esther so long as her people were still in danger. To her, the most important thing in life was not her comfort but their deliverance; and she couldn’t rest until the matter was settled. How unlike some believers today who ignore the needs of a lost world while they search for new ways to spend money and have fun! They think that attending church and bringing their offerings fulfills their Christian responsibilities and gives them the freedom to do whatever they please with the rest of their time and money. We need more people like Esther whose burden for condemned people was greater than any other thing in her life.

Years ago, in a Youth for Christ late-night prayer meeting, I heard attorney Jacob Stam pray, “Lord, the only thing most of us know about sacrifice is how to spell the word.” I never forgot that statement, and I confess that it sometimes still haunts me. I recall another YFC staff meeting at which the late Bill Carle sang “So Send I You,” and the Spirit of God brought all of us to our knees in prayer with a new dedication to help reach the world for Christ.

Esther couldn’t do everything, but she could do something; and what she could do, she did. She approached the throne of the king and asked him to reverse the edict that Haman had devised. It was her interceding at the throne that saved the people of Israel from slaughter. She was asking nothing for herself, except that the king save her people and deliver her from the heavy burden on her heart.

Esther’s example encourages us to come to God’s throne and intercede on behalf of others, especially the nations of the world where lost souls need to be delivered from death. One concerned person devoted to prayer can make a great difference in this world, for prayer is the key that releases the power of God. “Yet you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2, nkjv).

  1. Xerxes’ Proclamation (Est. 8:7-17)

The problem Esther and Mordecai faced was that the king, simply by executive fiat, couldn’t cancel the first edict since the laws of the Medes and Persians were unalterable. In modern democratic nations, legislatures can reverse decisions and revoke laws, and the supreme court of the land can even declare laws unconstitutional; but not so in the ancient despotic Persian Empire. The voice of the king was the law of the land, and the king could do no wrong.

The king couldn’t legally revoke his edict, but he could issue a new decree that would favor the Jews. The new decree would let everybody in the empire know that the king wanted his people to have a different attitude toward the Jews and look favorably upon them. The citizens didn’t have to hire a lawyer to explain the new edict to them. You can be sure they got the message: Don’t attack the Jews on March 7.

Since Mordecai was now prime minister, it was his job to draft the new decree. What he did was give the Jews permission to defend themselves against anybody who tried to kill them and take their property. There were many people in the empire like Hainan, who hated the Jews, wanted to destroy them, and get their hands on their wealth. The new decree allowed the Jews to assemble and defend themselves, but they were not allowed to be the aggressors.

If you read 3:11-13, you will see the similarity of the wording of the two decrees. Mordecai used the “official language” of the government, because legal statements must be expressed in legal language. This language may seem strange to outsiders, but without it we would have confusion and misinterpretation. You can’t write the law the way you write a poem or a recipe.

According to 8:9, the new edict was written on the twenty-third day of the third month, which on our calendar would be June 25, 474 B.C. (Remember, the Jewish calendar begins with the month of April.) The first decree was issued on April 17 (3:12). Thus, about seventy days had passed since Haman had declared war on the Jews. “D Day” for the Jews was March 7 (3:13). Therefore, the people had about eight months to get ready.

We must pause and consider whether it was really ethical for Mordecai to give the Jews the authority to kill and loot. People who deny the divine inspiration of the Bible like to point to the various “massacres” in Scripture as evidence that the God of the Bible is “a bully.” Imagine worshiping a god that commanded the slaughter of whole populations!

First, let’s consider the edict that Ahasuerus issued, for that’s where all the trouble started. If it was wicked for Mordecai to tell the Jews to defend themselves, then it was even more wicked for Haman and Ahasuerus to tell the Persians to attack the Jews in the first place! Self-defense isn’t a crime, but genocide definitely is. Do these critics approve of the king’s edict? I certainly hope not! Well, if they don’t approve of the king’s decree, which permitted murder, then how can they disapprove of Mordecai’s decree, which allowed the Jews the right to defend themselves? Better that Haman’s decree had never been issued; but since it was published, better that Mordecai disarmed it by issuing his decree.

Mordecai’s decree was in complete harmony with God’s covenant with Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you” (Gen. 12:3, nkjv). Isaac also would have agreed with Mordecai; for when Isaac blessed Jacob, he said, “Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you” (27:29, nkjv). In addition, God promised Moses, “I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries” (Ex. 23:22, nkjv). And don’t forget that quotation from Dr. J. Vernon McGee: “The Jew has attended the funeral of every one of the nations that tried to exterminate him.”

It’s one thing to write a liberating new edict and quite another thing to get the message out to the people. Mordecai put the secretaries to work translating and copying the decree, and then he sent the couriers to carry the good news to the people in the various provinces of the empire. The couriers “hastened” because they were “pressed on by the king’s commandment” (Est. 8:14, kjv). The niv translates it “spurred on by the king’s command.”

Ever since the fall of Adam, “the law of sin and of death” has been in force in this world (Rom. 8:2; 5:12-21); and God will not rescind that law. The wages of sin is still death (Rom. 6:23). Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God put another law into effect, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2). God obeyed the law of sin and death when He gave His Son, Jesus, to bear our sins and die on the cross. But then God raised Him from the dead and put a new decree into effect that makes it possible for sinners to be saved. Now He wants us to put that good news into every tongue and take that good news to every nation.

This chapter begins with Queen Esther in tears (Est. 8:3), but it ends with the Jews rejoicing and feasting (vv. 15-17). Happiness of one kind or another is mentioned in this paragraph at least seven times. (This is the eighth feast mentioned in the Book of Esther.) The Jews had been mourning and fasting, but now they were ecstatic with joy.

The thing that made the difference was not the writing of the decree or even its distribution in the various provinces. The thing that made the difference was the fact that the Jews believed the decree. It was their faith in Mordecai’s word that changed their lives. They had hope, joy, and peace because they had faith in what the prime minister said. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13, nkjv).

The statement that “many of the people of the land became Jews” (Est. 8:17, kjv) is variously interpreted. The obvious meaning is that many Gentiles in the empire forsook their pagan religions and became Jewish proselytes. But since the Jews were far from Jerusalem and the ministry of the priests, these “converts” couldn’t be initiated fully into the Jewish faith. They became what were known later as “Godfearers” or “worshipers of God” (Acts 10:2; 16:14; 18:7).

I think the phrase means that many of the Gentiles in the empire sided with the Jews and acted as though they were Jews. They weren’t ashamed to be identified with the Jews even though the Jews had enemies.

After President Reagan was shot, when he was being prepared for surgery, he jokingly said to the medical team, “I hope all of you are Republicans.” One of the doctors replied, “Mr. President, today all of us are Republicans.” That was the attitude of many of the people in the Persian Empire when Mordecai’s edict was published: “Today, all of us are Jews.”

The Book of Esther opens with the Jews keeping a very low profile, so much so that Esther and Mordecai wouldn’t even confess their nationality. But now the Jews are proud of their race and so happy with what God had done that they were attracting others to their faith! Even the pagan Gentiles could see that God was caring for His people in a remarkable way.

Evangelist Billy Sunday said, “If you have no joy in your religion, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere.” If Christian believers today manifested more of the joy of the Lord, perhaps those outside the faith would be attracted to the church and be willing to consider the message of the Gospel. It’s worth trying.

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Source: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – History, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 741-746.
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