I have often found it hard to let go of my past actions. Yes, I have repented of bad deeds, and turned to a new course, but have I really relinquished the deed and handed it over to God? This is a perplexing question, as God is faithful in His forgiveness. So, why do I regularly find myself asking God to forgive a shortcoming or misdeed that I have already asked forgiveness for? If, as we are taught: God “forgives and then no longer hold us to account,” (Yes, theologically “forgive and forget” would be problematic for an omniscient God), then surely He must ask “Why are you asking again?” Do any of you do the same? Ask and ask again, when we should already trust in the forgiveness. Are we really relinquishing the act, or are we for some reason holding on to it? Are we beating ourselves with it? Or is it guilt that is out of control? Maybe a little doubt as to God’s faithfulness? Let’s trust Him and let go.
There is a misconception that if one is in a relationship with God that their lives will be all rainbows, butterflies, and banquets. We only need to read the accounts of the righteous man Job, the trials of the patriarch Joseph, or about the suffering servant which is our Lord to know that this is not the case. While I am not going to spend time here exploring Irenaeus’ arguments as to why suffering and hardship might befall us, it is still relevant that God (as the Lynn Anderson song puts it): “never promised you a rose garden.”
You see God gave us a garden once, and made the rules of tenancy really simple: “Don’t eat from that one tree.” What did we (as humanity) do? We ate from it of course. Since then we have paid the natural and logical consequences of disobedience.
“But that is so unfair,” people protest. Fairness is in reality about justice. Justice says that we should be treated according to a consistent standard of rules or law. We did the crime, now we are paying the fine. Yes, there are others that seem to be even less worthy than ourselves (a human perspective – as all have sinned) that seem to prosper. Just chalk that one up to the “unfairness” of the world we have created from our original disobedience.
The Psalmist was under no delusion of “the Gospel of Prosperity.” Serving God does not give us a promise of those aforementioned butterflies and banquets. It does however give us a promise of God’s care, concern, and provision of our needs.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
The Lord is my shepherd, I will have what I need (not what I greed). He may not give me an earthly mansion, but He will give me safe places to reside, and refresh me when I am feeling the burdens of the world. Even in those dark lonely places – He is with me. And my enemies and tormenters will know He is with me because those needs are being met. He loves me, no matter if it is in the belly of Jonah’s fish, or in Joseph’s prison cell. But best of all – there awaits a place me which humbles any garden (rose or otherwise), for it is in the dwelling place of the Lord and it is forever.
Many people have looked down on the book of Esther, or even questioned its place in the canon of scripture. This rests on the fact that God is not directly named or even referenced in the text. But many rabbis over time have come to the book’s defence saying that “the fingerprints of God” are all over it.
Today’s piece will not be an exhaustive study of the book, but will focus on one of those finger prints.
In Chapter we find that Esther’s kinsman, Mordecai, has discovered the minister Haman’s plan to have the Jews killed. He covers himself in sackcloth and ashes, and fasts and mourns the arrival of the edict’s enforcement. Esther, who has recently been elevated to the status of a Persian queen hears of Mordecai’s actions and sends to enquire about what it all means.
Her servant is told of the edict, and of a request from Mordecai for her to use her status to plead for mercy for the Jews of the land. In response Esther notes (verse 11) “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death . . . .”
Mordecai replies in verse 13, “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
The abbreviate the rest of the narrative, Esther after fasting and prayer takes the risk, and approaches the king. She is spared and indeed uses her influence, and some clever manoeuvring to achieve deliverance of the Jews, and to bring about the downfall of Haman.
You might have noticed that I have highlighted the “such a time as this” passage. It is an interesting parallel to a passage in the New Testament. The Jewish people are condemned to perish. There is little, if any hope for their rescue by any ordinary means. Yet, Mordecai calls into question the nature of Esther’s elevation. Is it a coincidence that Queen Vashti falls from Xerxe’s favour, and that Esther is selected to succeed her, just as this crisis arises for God’s people? Is not God’s fingerprint there?
The wording is also important: “such a time as this.” May I suggest that Esther is a type or parallel to the Messiah. All humanity was facing condemnation because of sin. We are condemned to perish. There is little, if any hope of rescue by any ordinary means. “But, when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4: 4-5).” We “in the fullness of time” (Such a time as this) were sent a deliverer, Jesus.
Esther’s deliverance of her people was a foreshadowing of humanities deliverance by Jesus. The book that bears her name is an important testimony of how God works. Sending salvation at an appointed time. Let’s not question this book, but marvel at God’s fingerprints instead.