ESTHER 1:1-3:15 | 1 CORINTHIANS 11:17-34 | PSALM 35:17-28 | PROVERBS 21:19-20
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Having completed the book of Nehemiah, we now enter the new book of Esther that contains the fascinating story of the young woman by that name. There is the initial account of how Xerxes, the Persian king of the day and ruler of the known world at the time, deposes his wife Vashti for her refusal to obey the king’s orders in parading herself to the entire court during one of the king’s revelries.
One can’t help but feel for Vashti; for which self-possessed woman in her right mind would have also not offered similar protest? And yet, no amount of sympathy for Vashti may change the course of events in that we learn of the king’s wrath at Vashti’s disobedience, and Vashti’s removal as queen.
This results in a search for a new queen, and as luck would have it—or as God had willed it—Esther, the poor orphan Jewish girl is chosen as the new queen. Unbeknownst to the king, Esther’s Jewish roots and connections to her poor beggar cousin Mordecai, who sits at the palace gates, results in a conspiracy against the king’s life to be thwarted. The king is pleased, but then, it seems like he is as quickly pleased even as he is easily angered.
Next in this story is the appearance of Haman, an official in the king’s court, who hatches a plan to get rid of all the Jews in the kingdom. This, because Mordecai, the old Jew, refuses to bow down to him as he passes through the palace gates. What turns out as a minor annoyance to Haman soon possesses him to petition the king to take royal action against the entire Jewish people throughout the provinces of Persia.
You will recall that the Jewish people now lived in Persia thanks to Nebuchadnezzar, the ruthless king of Babylon who brought the Jews back as prisoners of war, but decades later, when he was deposed by the kings of Persia, the Jews remained in exile.
Despite the kindness that the Persian kings had shown the Jewish people over the years—either for altruistic or political reasons—the fact of the moment was that the entire Jewish community was now threatened by death and destruction thanks to Haman and his high egotistic principles.
After obtaining the king’s approval to take action against the Jews as he saw fit, Haman goes to the palace to have a celebratory drink with the king.
This is what the text tells us: 13 Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. 14 A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for that day.15 The couriers went out, spurred on by the king’s command, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.
Turning now to our reading in I Corinthians, we find Paul giving advice to the reader on the matter of the Lord’s Supper. This was a relatively new custom that was observed among the believers in the church, and yet, the reports that Paul must have received about how it was being observed were evidently not too good. Therefore, Paul takes it upon himself to offer instruction on the proper manner in which this symbolic act ought to be practiced.
He says, 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
We turn now to our reading in the psalms, and find that David, king of Israel, also knew what it felt like to be shunned and scorned. In his despair and grief, he calls out to God for help, and we see in his cries the natural human tendency to point out the specific ways in which we have been injured, and in how we seek for divine intervention in specific ways. David says,
26 May all who gloat over my distress
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who exalt themselves over me
be clothed with shame and disgrace.
27 May those who delight in my vindication
shout for joy and gladness;
may they always say, “The LORD be exalted,
who delights in the well-being of his servant.”
In the end, David does get the basics right when he says this:
28 My tongue will proclaim your righteousness,
your praises all day long.
Finally, one verse from the book of Proverbs in which Solomon, wise king of Israel, exhorts prudence in matters of conserving our resources:
20 The wise store up choice food and olive oil,
but fools gulp theirs down.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.