Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Cast your burden on the Lord releasing the weight of it and He will sustain you; He will never allow the consistently righteous to be moved or to slip and fall.”
“To Thee I bring my care,
The care I cannot flee;
Thou will not only share,
But bear it all for me,
O loving Saviour, now to Thee
I bring the load that wearies me.”
Frances R. Havergal
“’Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain thee’ – burden and all. ‘Thee’ is the greatest burden that thou hast! All other burdens are but slight, but this is a crushing burden. But when we come to the Lord with our burden, He just lifts up His child, burden and all, and bears him or her all the way home.”
Charles A. Fox
Today’s Study Text:
“When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry. And came even before the king’s gate; for none might enter into the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth. And in every province, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.”
“Nurturing The Embers of Hope”
“Weeping and Wailing” Part 23
“From moment to moment one can bear much.”
Teresa of Avila
How would I have reacted had I received the “post” that said I would be murdered because I was a Jew?
Have there been times in my life when I felt that the appropriate clothing which expressed my heartache was sackcloth and ashes?
“The Christian is not there always to ‘jolly people along,’ but rather to weep sometimes, be silent sometimes, and rejoice sometimes.”
“In the days of His flesh, Jesus, offered up definite, special petitions for that which He not only wanted but needed and supplications with strong crying and tears to Him who was always able to save Him from death, and He (Jesus) was heard because of His reverence toward God (His Father).”
“May the God of mercy, who is well acquainted with grief, bless us with gentle comfort and healing for our sorrows.”
Marchiene Vroon Rienstra
It was a time of great weeping and bitter wailing throughout the land of Medo-Persia.
However, in order to put into context the eruption of such sorrow, it would do us well to reread the last verse of Esther 3: 15 which states: “And the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Shushan was perplexed at the strange and alarming decree.”
Please try and imagine if you can, that when you got home from work today, there was a letter in your mailbox which informed you that in eleven months you would be killed and all your worldly goods would be confiscated by the government? This is actually what transpired when the king’s “post” arrived all over Medo-Persia. The only good thing, if you can call it that, was the fact the Jews had a warning when this catastrophic event was to take place. And Haman, awash with the joy of his success at maneuvering King Ahasuerus into his power box, poured the king a cocktail and the partners in crime drank to the coming demise of a troublesome group of unnamed people who Haman had convinced the king were rebels and traitors that wanted to overthrow the rule of law in Medo-Persia.
But here’s what Ahasuerus overlooked, these “unnamed individuals” were some of the most important artisans and workers which held together the fabric of Medo-Persian society. Ahasuerus was so ignorant about the way things worked in his government that it meant nothing to him to get rid of the people Haman called “evil-doers.” As Margaret Hess in her book on Esther clearly points out, “Haman, cold and calculating, sought to manipulate and distract the king…while the death sentence for the Jews threw the whole city into a turmoil. Who, they might have wondered, would be annihilated next?”
We need to remember that the underlying reason used by Haman to convince the king that “certain people” needed to be obliterated from the country of Medo-Persia was in Haman’s words because: “certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws; therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they be destroyed” (Esther 3: 8, K.J.V.). This was what I call a law and order issue with Haman. As he told the king, these people don’t follow your laws or the laws of the country so we have to eliminate them.
Author Samuel Wells in his terrific commentary on the book of Esther, as part of the Brazos Theological Commentary of the Bible, offers several important insights which are “consistent themes throughout the narrative” in the book of Esther.
First, he observes that “meals are the defining moment when status is affirmed and displayed, relationships are codified, and the Persian court takes stock of who and what it is. The king and Haman sat down to drink. Haman has everything he wants: the signet ring, the decree, and the jovial company of the king. Haman has become the lawmaker and the person who pleases the king. It is his finest hour. The celebration echoes the meal enjoyed by Joseph’s brothers (Genesis 37: 25) after they had thrown him into the pit – an event that later, like the decree against the Jews, includes the exchange of money (Genesis 37: 28). In both cases the destiny of Israel is in the hands of callous men who have their price.”
But we find, as we continue our study regarding the consistent themes which run through the lives of the Jewish people, while many of their companions had chosen to return to Jerusalem to help rebuild the Jewish capital as allowed by Cyrus the Persian, those Jews who stayed behind actually felt they belonged within the Persian Empire. “There is a legitimate and happy home for them there. The city of Susa was thrown into confusion because catastrophe for the Jews apparently meant disaster for Susa. It also meant their king was not just a fool but a criminally negligent fool and that, if he could be manipulated to this end, there really was no limit to the (evil) that could emerge from his court.”
It is with this background, that Esther 4 begins by sharing the reality of what actually happened in the cities and streets of Persia when the posts were read, not only by the Jews but also by all the Medo-Persians as well.
Rather than keeping his feelings bottled up inside himself, the Bible tells us that none other than the man, Mordecai, who sat at the king’s gate, was the first Jewish individual who “rent his clothes and put on sackcloth with ashes and went into the midst of the city and cried with a loud and bitter cry” (Esther 4: 1). Less we mistake this as some soft, quiet, muffled sound – make no mistake, for his wailing was loud and greatly bitter according to the Hebrew translation. What’s even more interesting is that in Esther 4: 2, we are told that Mordecai, who Haman had told King Ahasuerus was “among certain people” and didn’t obey the laws of the Medo-Persians, “stood before the king’s gate” but he didn’t go inside for “no one might enter the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth.” Doesn’t sound to me like someone who disobeyed the laws of Medo-Persia!
This point can be easy for us to skip over but too often it is individuals who are the accusers of others who in fact are “projecting” their own evil actions on the innocent. And this was the case of the evil Haman as will be made completely obvious in the coming days. Futhermore, the weeping throughout the land of Medo-Persia only became louder as the “posts” arrived in all the provinces and Esther 4: 3 tells us, “there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing, and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.”
I’ve tried to put myself in the place of the Jews who had chosen to stay behind in Medo-Persia. I’ve even wondered if some of the Jewish families blamed themselves thinking that God had left them on their own to suffer the fate of their own choice to stay in a foreign country rather than to go back to their homeland to rebuild the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. But praise His name, as the story in the book of Esther continues, we find that our heavenly Father doesn’t just leave us all alone when we fall into the hands of the Haman’s in this world. Thankfully, our heavenly Father isn’t vindictive like earthly humans are. He is not like Haman!
When we bow before our Father, calling on His mercy to surround us, He is not only able, but ready, to hear our prayers and respond with great love to our needs.
If ever you have felt you were in a position of great pain and sorrow in your life, I encourage you to read aloud the words found in Hebrews 5: 7, which began our “Inspiration” but now end the section from The Message Bible what tremendous words of encouragement to you and me today. A reminder that Jesus prayed with great mourning to a Father who loved His son – His Only Begotten Son – and who promises to respond to our tears and cries for help as well:
“While He lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the “One” who could save Him from death. Though He was God’s Son, He learned trusting – obedience by what He suffered, just as we do.”
Hebrews 5:7, 8
The Message Bible
“A teardrop on earth summons the King of heaven.”
Charles R. Swindoll
A Prayer of Trust
“Look at me and my tear stained face O Lord! Hear my weeping and embrace me, O Healer of my threadbare hope. My immense cares are breaking my Spirit. I can’t look at my life with any perspective but despair. I’m crippled by the fear that paralyzes my daily journey. The nights seem endless. The days prolonged. Will You weep with me? Will Your voice wail at the travail that fills my life? Enlighten my path where it is dark with the ashes of desperation. And above all, may Your merciful kindness bring Your clear vision to this wayfarer – no matter where Your path for me leads.”
“The Lord has anointed me to preach good news:
To bestow a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
Isaiah 61:1, 3
“The Spirit of the Master, is on me…He sent me to preach “Good News” to the poor, heal the heartbroken…God sent me to announce the year of His grace – a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies – and to comfort all who mourn, to care for the needs of all who mourn, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes, messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit. Rename them: ‘Oaks of Righteousness’ planted by God to display His Glory.”
Isaiah 61:1, 2,3
The Message Bible
Beauty For Ashes
“You said you would give me
beauty for ashes,
the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise for
a spirit of heaviness.
I have known all these…
Will I be clothed in righteousness?
Will the garment of my being, be
covered in praise –
praise of who I am in You?
Shaking free the guilt of
And my spirit of heaviness,
clothed in depression…will be
turned into something positive?
I am trusting You
to bring something
good out of this.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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