How God Rescued His People – The Story Begins
The Book of Esther is one which needs to be read with chapters 9 and 10 in mind.
The events recorded in this Book explain the reason for the Feast of Purim -Chapter 9 – which tends to occur in and around March each year and at which the Book is read as a whole.
Purim celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from destruction during the reign of the Persian king Xerxes 1 (486 – 465 BC). In Esther he is called Ahasuerus.
The events take place in Shushan (Susa) the Persian capital in the period of Israel’s captivity after the Persians had defeated the Babylonians in 539 BC. In time, it precedes the bulk of the events recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah.
God is not directly mentioned in Esther. However the whole story is witness to the sovereign and merciful working of God in the events it records.
It is important to remember that Esther is a story told for a purpose. Each chapter adds to the overall account. As a consequence it is important to read it as a whole and to know where it is going. For example, chapter 1 is not primarily there to teach that “every man should be the ruler in own home and should say whatever he pleases”, but to begin to set the scene for the entrance of Mordecai and Esther who will be God’s agents in delivering his people.
At least two thoughts are worth pondering prayerfully.
The first is that God works out his purposes in the very ordinary events of life and uses people ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to accomplish his ends. He can use a Pharaoh or a Cyrus, a Rahab or a Ruth or a Haman and a Mordecai.
The other, is to note an important comparison. Here in Esther, God’s people are delivered from the hands of their persecutors. In Revelation 13: 9-10 believers are called to exercise “endurance and faith” in the face of suffering and death. In chapter 2:10 and 11 they are called to be “faithful unto death”.
Whatever option God pursues when his people are threatened lies with him and in his sovereign purposes. Our calling is to be faithful to him whatever happens, knowing that his people are, in all circumstances, sealed and safe in his keeping forever – Revelation 7.
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Warnings for Us
To read this passage without reference to its context is to miss something of the point Paul is seeking to make. The comments over the last couple of days have alerted us to what Paul is doing as he writes here. However, to remind us of the context and to make the passage meaningful I have taken the liberty of reproducing a section from Fee and Stuart (“How to Read the Bible Book by Book”) on 1 Corinthians 8:1 – 11:1 because it reminds us of the context and explains it better and more succinctly than I can.
“The problem: Since idols have no reality because there is only one God (8:4), some have argued against Paul that they should have the right to continue attending temple feasts (8:10), where all family celebrations were held; related is the matter of Jewish scruples about buying food once offered to an idol (10:23-11:1). They have apparently called into question Paul’s right to forbid temple attendance – denying his apostleship on the basis of his not accepting their patronage (9:1-18) and his being wishy-washy about marketplace food (eating it in gentile homes, but remaining kosher in Jewish homes, 9:19-23).”
“Paul’s response: Note that Paul does not begin with a prohibition (that will come later: 10:14-22), but with their acting on the basis of knowledge (spiritual elitism) rather than love (8:1-6). For most former idolaters the “god” had subjective reality, and being encouraged to return to the temples would destroy then ((8:7-13).
Paul then (9:1-18) defends his apostolic right to their support, even though he has given that right up, and maintains that his actions regarding marketplace food are strictly in the interests of evangelism (9:19-23) After urging the need for self-discipline, with himself as a positive example (9:24-27), he warns them on the basis of Israel’s negative examples (10:1-13).”
So, this where our passage is placed and what Paul is seeking to do as he writes it.
But what do we do with it for ourselves and our church?
In the first place, it is an example of a thoughtful application of Old Testament Scripture to a present concern. It is an example of how knowing Scripture can enable guidance to be gained for present situations. Indeed verse 11 points us decisively to thoughtful and prayerful consideration of Scripture both Old and New.
Then, we should ask ourselves if there are circumstances about which we may need to be careful lest we compromise ourselves and our witness and harm the conscience of others.Self-discipline or self-control is a virtue to be developed (2 Peter 1:6)
Finally we should prayerfully and thoughtfully take note of the warnings of verses 6 and 12, and the encouragement of verse 13.