Reading #1 – Acts 22
Reading #2 – Psalms 126
Reading #3 – Songs 6
Reading #4 – Jeremiah 46
Reading #5 – Esther 1
Esther 1 – The King’s Banquets. King Xerxes who reigned over the 127 provinces of Persia had a royal banquet for the nobility. A second banquet was thrown for the populace and everybody was invited. Because of the diverse population, each person was given the choice of how they would celebrate and what libation they would take. After the king was drunk, he thought it a good idea to show off his bride as if she were a trophy. When Queen Vashti refused to show up, the king became angry because he wasn’t used to the word “no”. King Xerxes was presented with a conundrum “how do I handle this Vashti mess”? His royal advisors pointed out that if Vashti is allowed to get away with contempt, the wives of the other nobility would face the same issue. Memucan the legal-beagle advised the king to issue a royal edict barring Vashti from coming before the king and that a search be made one more worthy of the honor. A second letter went out to the kingdom commanding the wives to obey their husbands and that the husbands should be the “master of the home”. When the king barred Vashti from coming before him, that was the easy part however, dealing with the consequences, would prove to be more daunting. We are not told why Vashti refused to come before the king when he called maybe, it was because she was not feeling well, didn’t like being put up on a pedestal, and/or be held up like a war trophy. In any case, Vashti would disappear, or would she stay in the background until another time?
Psalms 126 – Thanksgiving for Return from Captivity. At the end of 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10-11), a contingent was permitted to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the land. To be “permitted” meant that the people were still under the authority of the king of Babylon but, all of that faded into the background. When the people saw their homeland, it was the most beautiful place on earth. Then our mouth was filled with laughter And our tongue with joyful shouting; Then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us; We are glad (2-3)!” The old days are forgotten and the people focused on the Lord and there was joy in the land.
Songs 6 – Mutual Delight in Each Other. What we are seeing in this chapter appears to be love letters between Solomon and his future wife. Solomon had many wives, princesses, and concubines but this woman was special to him. The marriage was to unite Egypt and Israel or, an “alliance”. Solomon’s promise to his wife to be, “no matter how many wives, princesses, and concubines I may have, you will always be the #1 wife” (8). G_d’s promise to you and me, “no matter how many people there are on earth and in the kingdom to come, you will always be on my mind and in my heart” and it is a promise He always keeps.
Jeremiah 46 – The alliance between Egypt and Israel was drawn in the time of Solomon and had remained until Egypt was sacked in 595BC at the battle of Carchemish which was about 9 years before Jerusalem was captured. This word was spoken to the people of Jerusalem as a warning not to rely on Egypt’s help because they will have enough trouble of their own to deal with. You will notice that a message had not gone out to Egypt to warn them, it was allowed to happen. “Line up the buckler (small shield) and [large] shield, And advance for battle! “Harness the horses, And mount, you riders! Take your stand with your helmets! Polish the spears, Put on the coats of mail! “Why have I seen it? They are terrified And have turned back, And their warriors are beaten down (3-5). In war, there are no guarantees of victory or defeat but both can happen.
Acts 22 – Paul’s Defense before the Jews. Paul had been taken prisoner for his safety. Saul was a Pharisee before his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. His credentials were impressive: brought up in Celicia in the city of Tarsus, educated at the feet of Gamaliel, and passionate for honoring the Lord G_d. I persecuted and pursued the followers of this Way to the death, binding them with chains and putting [followers of Jesus] both men and women into prisons, as the high priest and all the Council of the elders (Sanhedrin, Jewish High Court) can testify; because from them I received letters to the brothers, and I was on my way to Damascus to bring those [believers] who were there to Jerusalem in chains to be punished. “But as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a great blaze of light suddenly flashed from heaven and shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me (4-7)?’ Up to this point in his testimony, the people were listening to what Paul said until he said that he was commanded to go to the Gentiles because of the behavior of the Jews (21). This set the stage for a riot in the city because that sinner Paul dared to tell me “I caused the problem” (22). The Roman Centurian was going to whip Paul to appease the people until Paul mentioned the Roman law of whipping a Roman citizen without a trial (25-28).