Alistair Begg – Esther (1) God is providentially at work in the ordinary things – October 2, 4, 2013

Alistair Begg:

We read this book (Esther), and we’re forced to consider the possibility that nothing happens, except by God, and according to God’s will. Allow that to settle in your mind, as you consider the things of this morning, the newspaper, and the internet. Nothing happens except through Him, and by His will… Think about it in relationship to your personal life. Think about it in relationship to sadnesses and disappointments. To joys and to encouragements.

So… you come to certain places in the book, where you would expect God’s name to be present, you would expect God’s name to be represented, but, He’s not there. The reason He’s not there is that by that narrative style. that genre, that the author in this particular book is teaching us lessons about the way which God is at work when His name is not forefront, and when He is apparently unseen. Because the dramas of other parts of the Old Testament, vis a vis, the crossing of the Red Sea, and all of these other things are dramatic. And yet, for most of us, we haven’t had a crossing of the Red Sea. And most of us have not seen a burning bush. Most of us are just going to class. Most of us are just phoning home. Most of us are just sending emails. Most of us are just trying to stay alive.

Photo credit http://en.wikipedia.org-Rembrandt-Ahasuerus, Haman and Esther

Esther 4:4

When Esther’s young women and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed. She sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this was and why it was. Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate, and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him,and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people. And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, 11 “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”

12 And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. 13 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” 15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law,and if I perish, I perish.” 17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

If there’s only one phrase in the Book of Esther that people know, it is that final sentence in verse 14 – who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? And that phrase has been in mind for friday, in particular, with homecoming and people celebrating here (Westmont College). If anyone were to walk in, off the street, they would regard it as incredibly strange to think that a group such as this, on the very forefront of things in America today, with largely all of your lives before you, would take any time at all, to pay any attention at all to events that had taken place  in Persia, 5 centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ. And if we were to suggest to such individuals that these events, that took place in Persia all this time ago, and the lessons in them actually help us to love life in 21st century America.

Underlying that conviction would be what Paul says, when he writes to the church at Rome, and makes reference to Old Testament events, and he refers to them as follows. He says, „Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance, and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope”. It is through the Scriptures that we discover endurance and encouragement. And that is why we look as we do, even today, at this. King Xerxes is not a nice person. If you want to do your research, read Herodotus, or read Josephus and you will discover just how bad a character he was. The book begins with him, having a feast, enjoying his friends, and when they had been drinking together for a while, he decides that it would be a nice thing for him to bring in his wife Vashti, in order that he might parade her before his friends. He was obviously proud of his wife, the way she looked, and so on. So, he doesn’t say, „Why don’t you come in and join us, so we can have a conversation?” He essentially says, „Why don’t you come in, so that all my friends can check you out?”

So she, as any sensible wife would, said, „Not on your life”. I am not coming at all. And, as a result of deciding not to show up when she’s asked, she gets completely banished. She’s out, she’s off her throne, and she’s gone. In a fit he banishes Vashti forever.  And then, he suddenly realizes, „That wasn’t a smart thing to do”. And so, he looks to some of his friends and they say, „You just need to get another one? And, why don’t we get together and have a beauty pageant, and you can just pick the cream of the crop. That’s essentially what they do. They have a Miss Persia contest. And this girl, Esther, who is actually Jewish, but, she doesn’t tell anybody about it, she comes out tops. She is welcomed, not only into the palace, but, into the bed of the king. She has a cousin, Mordecai, who is Jewish, and older than her. She was an orphan and Mordecai adopts her, to look after her, and he had been the one who had positioned her, in order that she might present herself for this pageant. And she eventually finds herself on the inside track.

The King, meanwhile, appoints another character who is a bad act, called Haman, and Haman becomes the prime minister.He likes to walk around making sure everybody is paying attention to him, giving him the due that he deserves, or thinks he does. That’s enough for me to get your started…

What you will discover, when you read Esther is that God does not show up. At least, not ostensibly. His name is never mentioned in the entire book. The entire narrative is filled with what we might refer to as God shaped holes. So that you come to certain places in the book, where you would expect God’s name to be present, you would expect God’s name to be represented, but, He’s not there. The reason He’s not there is that by that narrative style. that genre, that the author in this particular book is teaching us lessons about the way which God is at work when His name is not forefront, and when He is apparently unseen. Because the dramas of other parts of the Old Testament, vis a vis, the crossing of the Red Sea, and all of these other things are dramatic. And yet, for most of us, we haven’t had a crossing of the Red Sea. And most of us have not seen a burning bush. Most of us are just going to class. Most of us are just phoning home. Most of us are just sending emails. Most of us are just trying to stay alive.

And in that hum drum activity of our lives, in those God shaped vacuums, if you like, we are forced to do what the Book of Esther asks us to do. And that is, to consider what’s going on in what’s going on. So when you read it, you ask: What’s going on? We read this book, and we’re forced to consider the possibility that nothing happens, except by God, and according to God’s will. Allow that to settle in your mind, as you consider the things of this morning, the newspaper, and the internet. Nothing happens except through Him, and by His will. Think about it in relationship to your personal life. Think about it in relationship to sadnesses and disappointments. To joys and to encouragements.  And, say to your self: Now, how does that fit in a contemporary perspective, in our society today?

Let me suggest to you, that when you read contemporary philosophy, contemporary observations, you realize that this kind of core conviction is challenged, not only in the things that are written, but in a way that life is lived. (16:00 there are 13 min remaining)

VIDEO by WestmontTV

God is providentially at work in the ordinary things

Part 2

Albert Mohler on Larry King: Should Christians Stop Trying to Convert Jews?

I came across this video that, although it is 12 years old, it has just recently been uploaded (November 2011). It is heartening to watch Albert Mohler debate and note has he not lost any of his fire and evangelistic zeal in all those years.

Interesting to note (at about the 8th minute) that the biggest objection coming from Rabbi Hier happens to be on the matter of hell, or as he calls it that eternal „barbecue” and wants to dismiss Mohler’s „Christian” religion because it believes that Jews will go to that eternal „barbecue” just because they don’t believe in Christianity’s Christ. And surprisingly Larry King comes to the aid of Mohler’s response when rabbi Boteach says some of the most ludicrous things I have heard in attacking Christians desire to evangelize the Jews. He calls Christian evangelism spiritual apartheid.

Rabbi Hier’s objection is that it’s okay to proselytize, but he thinks Jews for Jesus are deceptive because they wear the prayer shawls and „pretend” they are Jewish when they proselytize. Throughout, his argument tends to  suggest that somehow Christian Jews are to deny their Jewish heritage because it is deceiving to other Jews to still pretend to be Jewish in order to proselytize and gain innocent trust.

Aired January 12, 2000 – 9:00 p.m. ET on CNN. Al Mohler with David Brickner (Jews for Jesus), Rabbi Marvin Hier (Simon Wiesenthal Center)  and Rabbi Schmuley Boteach (Oxford L’chaim Scoiety)

You can read the CNN manuscript here.

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