12 Days of Christmas, Coming Soon!

Well, it’s almost here.  Christmas is just around the corner and for many of us that sends us into a state of panic.  There have been many years I have ruined Christmas for myself (and sometimes my husband!) by allowing the stress of all the urgent things overcome the beauty of the important things.  I don’t want to do that this year and I expect you don’t want to either.  So, I was thinking that maybe we could study the story together.  You know the story–the one that changed the world.  The story that changed MY world and continues to do so each year.  The greatest story ever told.  The story of Jesus.  Let’s savor that story.  My 12 Days of Christmas Devo starts this Thursday.  Join me and invite a friend!

Update:  This Christmas devotional was originally released four years ago.  I will re-post with occasional updates with the hopes that we once again can make the most of this blessed season.  Merry, merry Christmas to you and yours!

12 Days of Christmas


Thoroughly Equipped: More Than Conquerors

Today’s reading includes Isaiah 1:1-2:22, 2 Corinthians 10:1-18, Psalm 52:1-9, Proverbs 22:26-27.  I am so excited about moving into the book of Isaiah.  It is one of my most favorite of the whole Bible.  There are many prophesies found in the book of Isaiah regarding the coming Messiah, and all of them were fulfilled in Jesus.  But before we dive into the book of the prophet Isaiah, let’s look back at the very first prophesy of the coming Messiah.  Remember, it is found all the way back in the book of Genesis.

 

So the Lord God said to the serpent [Satan, who had tricked Eve], ‘Because you have done this, ‘Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals!  You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.  [Here comes the first prophesy!]  And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he [Eve’s future offspring, Jesus!] will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.’”                                            

                                                                      (Genesis 3: 14; author emphasis added)

You see, Jesus would use His anointed feet to spiritually stomp Satan’s headship, forever giving victory to all who believe!

 

Yesterday we talked about the “little foxes” that Satan sends into our spiritual vineyard to destroy our spiritual fruit.  I didn’t want to leave you hanging with the spiritual truth of the schemes of the devil, without equipping you with the spiritual truth of your authority in Christ over the schemes of the devil.  We are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us.  (Romans 8:37)  And scripture is filled with weapons of warfare at our beck and call.  Consider the following truths as you trust in Christ to stomp the head of the enemy of your soul.

We must know our enemy to defeat our enemy.  What do we learn in scripture about Satan?

  1. Once was an angel of light, but now the prince of darkness.

Therefore, he knows the language and the make-up of the life of a believer.  I know the language of being a teacher, even though I am no longer a classroom teacher.  Satan knows and he will use that knowledge against us.

 

14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”

                                                            2 Corinthians 11:14

 

How you have fallen from heaven,
    morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
    you who once laid low the nations!
13 You said in your heart,
    “I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
    above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
    on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.[b]
14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
    I will make myself like the Most High.”
15 But you are brought down to the realm of the dead,
    to the depths of the pit.

Isaiah 14:12-15

 

  1. He believes in Jesus (and trembles). He may even recognize Jesus more readily than we do.  James 2:19 says,

“You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”

  1. One day Satan WILL BOW to the name of Jesus. In fact, he must bow now, only we don’t usually understand that, and therefore don’t walk in the power we have.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:9-11

  1. He hates the blood of Jesus and the word of our testimony.

11 They triumphed over him
    by the blood of the Lamb
    and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
    as to shrink from death.

Revelation 12:11

  1. We have authority because Jesus lives in us. All authority.

Mark 3:14-16 says,

14 He appointed twelve[a] that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 

  1. He knows scripture and will try to use it against us—only distortedly.

I use to love to watch Little House on the Prairie.  Do you remember that episode where Ma cut her leg and it got infected?  She was all alone, burning up with fever, reading her Bible.  She read the verse “if your right hand offends you cut it off…”  And so, in the episode, she took a sharp knife, determined to cut her leg.  Thankfully, they cut to a commercial instead!  Even as a child I knew that was scripture being distorted.  I wanted to scream at the television, “Don’t do it, Ma!  That’s not what it means!”  Satan will try to distort scripture.  That is why it is important to read the whole Bible, not just a few selected verses.  Satan even tried this trick on Jesus.

Matthew 4: 1-11 says,

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

  1. We have been given tools to combat Satan. And we need to use them.

This may be the most important point.  And with it being the 7th, the number of completion, I will leave you with these final truths.  What are these tools?

  • Repentance
  • Praise
  • Surrender
  • Name of Jesus
  • Pleading the blood of Jesus
  • Word of our testimony
  • Speaking out/praying/ laying claim to God’s Word, the Sword of the Spirit
  • The armor of God
  • Believing in Him, who is He, and what He has done. Believing what He will do.

Blessings to you, my friends!  May we all be the conquerors that God designed us to be.


Thoroughly Equipped: Reading Schedule for September

Well, Friends, we have made it to September!  I hope you are pressing on and still reading your Bible.  Even if you have gotten off track, no worries!  Just pick up where you left off.  There is some good stuff coming!  Let me know what you are learning!

September 1:  Job 40:1-42:17, 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, Psalm 45:1-17, Proverbs 22:14

September 2:  Ecclesiastes 1:1-3:22, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Psalm 46:1-11, Proverbs 22:15

September 3:  Ecclesiastes 4:1-6:12, 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:7, Psalm 47:1-9, Proverbs 22:16

September 4:  Ecclesiastes 7:1-9:18, 2 Corinthians 7:8-16, Psalm 48:1-14, Proverbs 22:17-19

September 5:  Ecclesiastes 10:1-12:14, 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, Psalm 49:1-20, Proverbs 22:20-21

September 6:  Song of Songs 1:1-4:16, 2 Corinthians 8:16-24, Psalm 50:1-23, Proverbs 22:22-23

September 7:  Song of Songs 5:1-8:14, 2 Corinthians 9:1-15, Psalm 51:1-19, Proverbs 22:24-25

September 8:  Isaiah 1:1-2:22, 2 Corinthians 10:1-18, Psalm 52:1-9, Proverbs 22:26-27

September 9:  Isaiah 3:1-5:30, 2 Corinthians 11:1-15, Psalm 53:1-6, Proverbs 22:28-29

September 10: Isaiah 6:1-7:25, 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, Psalm 54:1-7, Proverbs 23:1-3

September 11: Isaiah 8:1-9:21, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Psalm 55:1-23, Proverbs 23:4-5

September 12: Isaiah 10:1-11:16, 2 Corinthians 12:11-21, Psalm 56:1-13, Proverbs 23:6-8

September 13: Isaiah 12:1-14:32, 2 Corinthians 13:1-13, Psalm 57:1-11, Proverbs 23:9-11

September 14: Isaiah 15:1-18:7, Galatians 1:1-24, Psalm 58:1-11, Proverbs 23:12

September 15: Isaiah 19:1-21:17, Galatians 2:1-16, Psalm 59:1-17, Proverbs 23:13-14

September 16: Isaiah 22:1-24:23, Galatians 2:17-3:9, Psalm 60:1-12, Proverbs 23:15-16

September 17: Isaiah 25:1-28:13, Galatians 3:10-22, Psalm 61:1-8, Proverbs 23:17-18

September 18: Isaiah 28:14-30:11, Galatians 3:23-4:31, Psalm 62:1-12, Proverbs 23:19-21

September 19: Isaiah 30:12-33:9, Galatians 5:1-12, Psalm 63:1-11, Proverbs 23:22

September 20: Isaiah 33:10-36:22, Galatians 5:13-26, Psalm 64:1-10, Proverbs 23:23

September 21: Isaiah 37:1-38:22, Galatians 6:1-18, Psalm 65:1-13, Proverbs 23:24

September 22: Isaiah 39:1-41:16, Ephesians 1:1-23, Psalm 66:1-20, Proverbs 23:25-28

September 23: Isaiah 41:17-43:13, Ephesians 2:1-22, Psalm 67:1-7, Proverbs 23:29-35

September 24: Isaiah 43:14-45:10, Ephesians 3:1-21, Psalm 68:1-18, Proverbs 24:1-2

September 25: Isaiah 45:11-48:11, Ephesians 4:1-16, Psalm 68:19-35, Proverbs 24:3-4

September 26: Isaiah 48:12-50:11, Ephesians 4:17-32, Psalm 69:1-18, Proverbs 24:5-6

September 27: Isaiah 51:1-53:12, Ephesians 5:1-33, Psalm 69:19-36, Proverbs 24:7

September 28: Isaiah 54:1-57:14, Ephesians 6:1-24, Psalm 70:1-5, Proverbs 24:8

September 29: Isaiah 57:15-59:21, Philippians 1:1-26, Psalm 71:1-24, Proverbs 24:9-10

September 30: Isaiah 60:1-62:5, Philippians 1:27-2:18, Psalm 72:1-20, Proverbs 24:11-12

 


Thoroughly Equipped: For Such A Time As This

Today’s reading is Job 1:1-3:26, 1 Corinthians 14:1-17, Psalm 37:12-29, Proverbs 21:25-26.

However, my thoughts are still back in the story of Esther.  Let’s savor that story for just a bit longer.  We will continue to walk through the story as if it were a play.

Scene 8:  Revenge is sweet—for a season.

When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was furious.  Having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he began to plan a way to destroy not only Mordecai, but also the entire Jewish race.  He appealed to the pride of King Xerxes, telling them of a group of people in his kingdom who did not follow the customs of the land and who did not follow the king’s laws and that it was not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them.  Haman then suggested that a decree be issued to destroy them all.

The king agreed and plans were made for the total destruction of the Jewish people.  When the Jewish people, including Mordecai, found out about the decree there was weeping and mourning throughout the land.  Esther’s maid came to tell her that Mordecai was in great distress; she was very worried about him.  She had not heard the report yet about the planned destruction of the Jews, and she sent someone to find out what was troubling Mordecai.  He sent back a copy of the edict of destruction urging her to go into the king’s presence and beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.  She sent word back reminding him of the law that stated that if anyone approached the king in the inner court without being summoned they would be put to death.  The only exception was if the king were to extend his golden scepter to them and spare their life.  And, Esther informed Mordecai that the king had not sent for her in a full month.  Mordecai sent her back a very powerful reply, saying:

“Don’t think that just because you are the Queen that you will not face destruction, too.  And if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your family will perish.  And who knows, perhaps you have come to royal position for such a time as this.”                     

                                                                                                                  Esther 4:13b, 14

Scene 9:  For such a time as this!

Well, that did it for Esther.  She realized that this could be the greatest purpose of her life.  She sent back her reply saying for Mordecai to gather all of the Jews in the area and they along with Esther and her maids should fast and pray for three days.  Then, she said, “When this fast is over, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law.  And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).

When the three days were over, Esther put on her royal robes and went to the inner court of the king.  He was pleased to see her and extended the golden scepter to her.  Then he asked, “Queen Esther, what is your request?  Whatever it is, it will be given to you, even up to half the kingdom” (Esther 5:3).  Esther wisely waited for the right time to discuss her people’s plight, and instead invited the king and Haman to a banquet that she had prepared for them.  They immediately went to the banquet where the king again asked Esther concerning her request.  She responded that she requested that he and Haman return tomorrow for another banquet, at which time she would answer his question.

Haman went home that night very puffed up about being invited to the queen’s banquets.  On his way home, he saw Mordecai who neither bowed, nor showed fear in his presence.  This infuriated Haman.  He went home and gathered all of his friends and family, bragging to them about being invited to Queen Esther’s banquets.  But, he confessed that this satisfaction was diminished every time he saw Mordecai.  His wife and friends suggested that he have gallows built, seventy-five feet high, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai hanged on it.  This suggestion delighted Haman and he had the gallows built.

Scene 10:  As good as Ambien.

That night, the king could not sleep so he ordered that the book of the annals be brought in and read to him.  It had been recorded there that Mordecai had exposed the assassination plan of the king, thus saving his life.  The king realized that nothing had ever been done to show his appreciation to Mordecai.  Right at that time, Haman came to the outer court to ask the king to give permission to hang Mordecai.  The king called Haman in, but before he could ask the king asked him what should be done for someone who pleased the king.  Thinking proudly that the king was referring to himself, Haman replied that that man should receive one of the king’s royal robes and royal crests and royal horses and be led throughout the city, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor” (Esther 6:6).  The king then commanded Haman to go at once and do for Mordecai just as he had suggested.  So Haman had to lead Mordecai through the streets, announcing that the king delighted in him.  He was mortified, of course, but soon after had to go to Queen Esther’s banquet.

Scene 11:  Vengeance is mine, says the Lord!

At the banquet, the king once again asked Queen Esther what her request was, and vowed that whatever it was it would be granted, up to half the kingdom.  At that time, Esther revealed her request: that he would grant her life, and also spare the lives of her people.  Not knowing that she was of Jewish descent, the king did not know what she was talking about.  He asked, “Who is he?  Who would dare to do such a thing?” (Esther 7:5).  She replied, “The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman” (Esther 7:6).  The king was enraged, and Haman was terrified.  The king left in a rage to go out into the garden.  Haman stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life.  When the king came back into the room, Haman was falling on the couch where Queen Esther was reclining.  The king screamed, “Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?” (Esther 7:8).  Haman was immediately taken out and hung on the very gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai.

Scene 12:  Lest they forget.

That very day, a new edict was signed by the king and sealed with his ring which overruled the destruction of the Jews.  There was great rejoicing and celebrating, and Mordecai sent word that this festival should be an annual celebration in remembrance of the Jews being spared.  It was called the Festival of Purim, and it is still celebrated to this day.

In the story of Esther, we find the repetitive cycle that exists throughout biblical history and even into our own lives: People are hungry for God; God gives His instructions and warnings; People obey for a season, then forget their allegiance to God;  God gives warnings; People do not heed the warnings; God allows the people to suffer the consequences of their disobedience for a season; The people are humbled and begin to seek the Lord and His ways again, and then God provides a way of escape, a savior.

As always, the Old Testament is a mirror image of the New Testament.  The New Testament always fulfills the Old Testament.  In many ways, Esther was a sacrificial lamb that saved her people from sure destruction.  This was an image of what was to come.  That is why, in our Christian tradition, Jesus is called the Lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice, after which no sacrifice was ever needed to be offered again.

It is interesting that Esther told Mordecai that the law was death for anyone who approached the king in the inner court.  In the history of the Israelite temple, the inner court of the temple was called the Holy of Holies, the place where God, the King of Kings dwelt.  It was so holy that no one could stand in the inner court, lest he die.  It was separated from the rest of the temple by a great curtain, very high and very thick.  Once a year, the high priest went into the inner court to offer a sacrifice for the sins of the people.  A rope was tied about his ankle so that he could be pulled out of the inner court if he died in that holy place.  We are told in Scripture that the day that Jesus died on the cross, this mighty curtain ripped from top to bottom.  It was too high and thick for a man to rip it.  Our Christian tradition maintains that it was ripped by God, symbolizing that we could now come boldly to the throne of grace because of the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf.  The royal scepter of the King is now extended to us.

Today, go boldly to the Throne of Grace.  Go to the King of Kings and place your requests before Him.  Ask Him what He wants you to do and to be “for such a time as this.”

 

This is the day we wrap up our lessons of Esther.  We have seen God take an orphan girl and make her a queen.  We have seen Him call her out of her ordinary status to walk the life of one chosen to risk all for the sake of the Holy One.  There are many things we can learn from the story of Esther.  Today I want to focus on just four things.  I call them The Four P’s.

What we learn from the story of Esther can be summed up in the following way:

Preparation, Perspective, Prayer, Praise

Preparation:  God wants to prepare us for the extraordinary.  We can only receive that preparation by reaching up to Him.  That is why I always emphasize the concept of Reaching Up to God.  You prepare for the extraordinary by letting God be God in your life.  He wants to be your redeemer.  He wants to use even the difficult circumstances in your life to show His mighty power and His glory.   He will also use His Word, godly people, and His Holy Spirit to prepare you for the extraordinary.

Perspective:  We should seek God’s perspective in every situation, knowing that we will never be able to—this side of heaven—see the whole tapestry of our lives.  Esther could not have known all the many ways her story of obedience and purpose would bear fruit even thousands of years later.  To have a godly perspective our eyes must be on Him, not on us.  It is about trusting that He is able to do far more than we could ever hope, or dream, or imagine, even if we don’t see the end of the story.

Prayer:  I don’t exactly know how prayer works, but it does.  Sometimes prayer changes situations, but always prayer changes me.  Prayer is honest communication with God.  Prayer is talking and listening.  Prayer is acknowledging God’s power and acknowledging your weakness.  Esther fasted and prayed for three days (there’s that holy number three again!) before she went before the king.  And she got others to pray with her and for her.  Prayer is crucial in finding and participating in God’s extraordinary plan for your life.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “For you are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Pray that God will show you the good works that He has prepared for you!

Praise:  Lastly, the outcome of the extraordinary purpose and plan for Esther resulted in praise to God alone.  Recently I read a book by Steve Saint where he described being in Israel during the Feast of Purim, which is a celebration of God intervention and salvation through Queen Esther. This celebration still exists today. Through that feast, centuries after the fact, there is still much praise and celebration toward our extraordinary God for the extraordinary work He did in and through Esther, an ordinary girl.  Our ordinary ways, surrendered to His will can produce extraordinary fruit.  God loves to use the ordinary to produce the extraordinary.  Because when extraordinary things happen in and through the ordinary, the glory and honor and praise go to Him alone.  Let God use you.  He will do far more than you could ever hope or dream or imagine.


Thoroughly Equipped: Important Scenes

Today’s reading is Esther 8:1-10:3, 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13, Psalm 37:1-11, Proverbs 21:23-24.

If Esther’s life were a stage play, there would be 12 key scenes that trace the development of her story:  Today, I want to share with you the first 7 scenes and tomorrow we will look at the last five scenes.  My prayer is that as you learn about Esther, you will see valuable life lessons for yourself.

Scene 1:  What a party!

The story of Esther begins in the setting of a great feast.  King Xerxes was having a grand banquet for all of his nobles, officials, military leaders, princes, and other dignitaries from the surrounding provinces.  The banquet was in celebration of his great successes, and it lasted for seven full days.  Wine was flowing freely, and the king had instructed the wine stewards to serve each man whatever he wished.  Queen Vashti, the wife of King Xerxes, was at the same time giving a banquet for the royal women.  On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded that Queen Vashti be brought before him in order to display her beauty to the nobles present, for she was very lovely to look at.

Scene 2:  Who does she think she is?

However, Queen Vashti refused to come.  The king was furious because she had disgraced him in front of the dignitaries.  You see, at that time, a wife was more like a piece of property.  Legally, she had no right to refuse to come.  So the king consulted experts in matters of law and justice and it was decided that Queen Vashti would have to give up her crown and be banished from the King’s presence.  This was announced throughout the land as an example for the other women.

All of this was fine, until later when the king’s anger had cooled and he began to miss his wife.  So, to cheer the king, his attendants suggested a royal beauty pageant.  The king appointed commissioners from all over the province to find the prettiest virgins to bring to the palace for a year of beauty treatments.  At this point, Esther steps into the scene.

 

“Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish,  who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin  king of Judah.  Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.”

(Esther 2:5-7)

Scene 3:  And who are your parents?

When we first meet Esther, we immediately see that she has several strikes against her.  She had a heritage of slavery.  She was a foreigner in the land.  She was an orphan.  But we also see that Esther was a beautiful, young Jewish girl who had been raised by her cousin, Mordecai, after her parents had been killed.  Mordecai had been carried into exile, but eventually worked his way into some sort of official role in the king’s court.  So, Mordecai arranged for the beautiful Esther to be one of the contestants in the royal beauty pageant.  It is unclear whether Esther wanted to do this, but she obediently followed Mordecai’s instructions, including keeping hidden that fact that she was Jewish.

“Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so.  Every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her.  Before a girl’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics.”                                                                       

                                                                                                            Esther 2:10-12

 One thing that I noticed in those verses was that Esther was humble enough to listen to godly, wise counsel.  Mordecai obviously cared for Esther and he cared greatly about completely following God’s way.  I believe that God will send people into our lives to speak godly wisdom and wise counsel, and to encourage us in our journey to God’s extraordinary plan for our lives.  But we must be humble enough to listen.

Once, I had a dream.  I have always dreamed vividly.  My old roommate, Kelli, called it “story time” in the mornings when I would tell her what I dreamed.  I don’t remember all my dreams, but I remember this one.  In my dream, a ferocious lion was chasing me.  I was ahead of him, but I could feel him catching up, and I was getting very tired of running.  Then I ran into a big arena, and when I entered the arena suddenly people started cheering.  I looked up and realized that they were cheering for me!  The more I looked, the more people I recognized—family members, people from my church, friends.  They were all cheering for me.  Shortly after that, I read Hebrews 12:1-3:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Suddenly that verse made sense to me.  God will provide a great cloud of witnesses for each of us, to cheer us on and encourage us during our lives.  1Peter 5:8 says, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”  God will provide this cloud of witnesses to strengthen our faith so that we will not be devoured.  But most of all, He will give us Himself, a very present help in time of need.

Scene 4:  Win him over!

Esther won the favor of the man in charge of the new harem and he immediately provided her with beauty treatments and special food.  He provided her with seven maids and moved them into the best place in the harem.  We don’t really know if each candidate had seven maids, but I think the Scripture tends to suggest that they did not.  Remember that the number seven means completion and perfection.  When God begins to prepare you for His extraordinary plan for your life, He will send you everything you need to complete you and perfect you and make you ready for extraordinary fruitfulness.  But, once again, you must be humble enough to receive all the things He sends your way for preparation.

Scene 5:  Don’t forget your beauty rest! 

Every day Mordecai walked back and forth near the courtyard where Esther was staying in order to find out how she was doing.  For twelve months it was a continual spa experience.  The girls were prescribed beauty treatments: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with perfumes and cosmetics.  After the twelve months, each girl was presented to the king.  The girls were allowed to take anything from the harem with them in order to entice the favor of the king.  When it was Esther’s turn to be presented to the king, she went before him simply adorned, taking nothing with her except what was suggested by the man in charge. She did not try to be something that she was not.  She simply trusted that her ordinary life was in the hands of an extraordinary God.

Scene 6:  Victory!

Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her, including the king.  She basically won the beauty pageant, a royal crown was placed on her head and she became queen in place of Vashti.  The king once again gave a royal banquet to celebrate his new queen!  Queen Esther was now far above Mordecai in social standing and importance, but she continued to show him a father-figure respect.  She did not forget her “ordinary” status.  They kept in close contact through a maid, and Mordecai continued to sit at the king’s gate keeping tabs on his beloved Esther.  One day, while sitting at the gate, Mordecai overheard a plot to assassinate King Xerxes.  He immediately told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai.  And this incident was reported in the book of the annals, or royal history books.

Scene 7:  The sins of the forefathers.

Now go back in time to King Saul’s day.  Remember, the people disobeyed God, and allowed some of the Amalekites to live.  One of the nobles of the royal court of King Xerxes was a man named Haman.

“After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles.  All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor.

“Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, ‘Why do you disobey the king’s command?’  Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew.

“When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged.  Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.”                        

                                                                                                                  Esther 3:1-5

 Scripture says that Haman was on Agagite.  Centuries back, King Agag was the ruler of Amalek.  So Agagite was another way of saying he was an Amalekite.

He was a descendent of the Amalekites that had been allowed to live 500 years before, when King Saul did not completely obey God.  And Haman the Amalekite hated the Israelites just as much as his ancestors had.  Now Haman had continued to rise in power and all the royal officials would bow as he walked by—all except Mordecai, who was determined not to bow to anyone except his God. This allegiance to God set in motion a conflict with great repercussions.  But God ….

Once again, we must remember those two precious words:  But God ….  When all looks hopeless, when we feel helpless, when we can’t see how our story could be redeemed, we must remember our God is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He can create something new and different and beautiful out of the great messes of our life.  Tomorrow we will see how God came through for Esther and His people.  They were set for sure destruction, but God ….