Thursday, March 2, 2017

Queen Esther: A Destiny Fulfilled. Day 13, The Jews Allowed To Defend Themselves

Queen Esther:
A Destiny Fulfilled
Day 13
The Jews Allowed To Defend Themselves

Haman, the enemy of the Jews, is dead. But the edict he managed to get the king to grant still stands, because no law of Persia can be revoked. Today the king comes up with a solution to the problem.

"That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came into the presence of the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her. The king took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed him over Haman's estate." (Esther 8:1-2) All that Haman schemed and plotted to gain in this life now belongs to Esther and her uncle Mordecai. The signet ring with which Haman so proudly signed the execution warrant against the Jews is now on Mordecai's hand. 

"Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping. She begged him to put an end to the evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews. Then the king extended the gold scepter to Esther and she arose and stood before him." (Esther 8:3-4) At one time Esther was unwilling to become involved in this tragedy, fearing for her own life if she entered the king's presence without being called for. But now she fears nothing except the extermination of her people. She fully identifies with them and their plight. She's no longer the young immature woman who luxuriated in the frivolous life in the harem with the costly jewels, the designer clothing, the makeup, the perfumes, the rich food and fine wine, and the educational and travel opportunities that the wives of the king enjoyed. As she weeps unashamedly before the king, Esther is completely sold out to God and to His calling on her life. Nothing else matters but this one thing.

"'If it pleases the king,' she said, 'and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king's provinces. For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?'" (Esther 8:5-6) Esther probably knows that no Persian law can be repealed, but still she asks Xerxes to sign a new bill into law that overrules the edict against the Jews. 

Xerxes cannot nullify the edict but he can endow the Jews with the power to defend themselves against attack. This is what he sets about doing now. Mordecai, a man who once saved him from assassination, can be trusted with the task of writing up a new edict on behalf of the Jews. "King Xerxes replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, 'Because Haman attacked the Jews, I have given his estate to Esther, and they have impaled him on the pole he set up. Now write another decree in the king's name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king's signet ring---for no document written in the king's name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.'" (Esther 8:7-8)

"At once the royal secretaries were summoned---on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan. They wrote out all Mordecai's orders to the Jews, and to the satraps, governors and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. These orders were written in the script of each province and the language of each people and also to the Jews in their own script and language. Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king's signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king." (Esther 8:9-10) The Jews now have from the twenty-third day of the third month til the thirteenth day of the twelfth month to prepare their defense against the coming attack.

"The king's edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies. The day appointed for the Jews to do this in all the provinces of King Xerxes was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar. 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 that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies. The couriers, riding the royal horses, went out, spurred on by the king's command, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa." (Esther 8:11-14) The Jews are no longer sitting ducks, waiting to be slaughtered. They may now consider any attack upon them as an act of war. We can't help wondering why they didn't flee the Persian Empire when the first edict was announced, but it's likely they were no longer free to go after that law was passed. So many Jews remained in the territories that to take their leave of Persia would have constituted a very visible mass exodus. It's not as if there were only a handful of Jews left who could slip stealthily across the border during the dark of night. These were whole communities, containing people of all ages, some of whom were too elderly or ill to make a journey. And it was about 900 miles back to Jerusalem traveling by foot along the Euphrates.

Mordecai has been the recipient of a reversal of fortunes. Just the night before, the wicked Haman set up a pole upon which he hoped to impale Mordecai, and now Haman is impaled on the pole and Mordecai has become the king's top official in Haman's place. "When Mordecai left the king's presence, he was wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen. And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration." (Esther 8:15) The general populace of the capitol city had been stunned and distressed at the thought of their Jewish neighbors being executed. As the news of this new law reaches them, all the citizens of Susa rejoice with the Jews. 

"For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them." (Esther 8:16-17) The 127 provinces under Xerxes contains adherents to several pagan religions, but now many of these people convert to Judaism. Seeing the way God acts on behalf of His people puts the reverent fear of God into them. There's something real about the God of Israel, something they've never experienced in their own religions. This is a God who involves Himself in the problems of mankind. This is a God who cares, a God who loves, a God who is faithful. Even knowing there is a law which will allow soldiers to attack the Jews in the twelfth month, these converts do not fear joining themselves with these persecuted people. These converts have the same attitude that Moses had, choosing "to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin". (Hebrews 11:25)

God is on the side of His people and, in joining themselves with the Jews, the converts are joining the winning side. They are standing shoulder to shoulder with their fellow man against the enemy. They are willing to take up arms and fight for their friends and neighbors. Even if it should mean their death at the hands of Persian soldiers, they intend support those who are now their brothers and sisters in the faith. Though they lived centuries before Christ, these new believers have the same power of the Spirit that the Apostle Paul had when he said, "I want to know Christ---yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:10-11) Now that they know the living God, these new believers have something worth fighting for. If they survive, they will live in newness of life and in fellowship with the Lord, If they perish, they will go to be with the Lord. They consider themselves winners either way. 

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