Reading #1 – Acts 25
Reading #2 – Psalms 129
Reading #3 – Proverbs 1
Reading #4 – Jeremiah 49
Reading #5 – Esther 4
Esther 4 – Esther Learns of Haman’s Plot. After hearing about the plot to kill the Jews, Mordecai wept bitterly and loudly (1). In the Hebrew culture, the wearing of sackcloth and ashes was a sign of “mourning”. The Citadel of Susa, just like Babylon, was a “multi-cultured” community so the people were allowed to fast or mourn according to their culture. The one caveat to the ruling was that in the King’s Gate, you were dressed accordingly. Mordecai obeyed this rule and it opened the door to overturn Haman’s edict (Ecclesiastes 8:2-5). When Esther heard about what Mordecai was doing, she sent clothes to him which he refused. Then Esther sent Hathach the eunuch to find out what was wrong with her uncle (5). Mordecai laid it on the line about Haman’s plot, the amount of money he pledged, and a copy of the edict to prove his claim. Lastly, Mordecai told Esther that she must go to the king and plead his favor (7-8). Going to the king uninvited would mean certain death even if it was his Queen. A period of 30 days of fasting and prayer was put in place. Remember, Esther’s lineage was not told to the King so if it were found out, she too would be put to death (13). For if you remain silent at this time, liberation and rescue will arise for the Jews from another place, and you and your father’s house will perish [since you did not help when you had the chance]. And who knows whether you have attained royalty for such a time as this [and for this very purpose] (14)?”
Psalms 129 – Prayer for the Overthrow of Zion’s Enemies. In the history of the Jews, there have been many attempts to eradicate the Jewish population. Each time a ruler attempted to decimate the population, something or someone always stood in the way to derail the plan. The writer, most likely David, considers what all has happened and How G_d always came through by His servants. The LORD is righteous; He has cut in two the [thick] cords of the wicked [which enslaved the people of Israel] (4). Esther foiled Haman, Moses foiled Pharaoh, and Samson foiled the Philistines. May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward [in defeat] (5). When we pray this prayer, we are asking G_d to “please send me” or, “Please use me” (Isaiah 6:8). When we act on our calling and G_d’s commands, the enemy will run when the last of their power is defeated, their resources are drained, and they become weak (Isaiah 14:9-10).
Proverbs 1 – The Usefulness of Proverbs. Solomon wrote much of the book of Proverbs. While his words spoke in contrast to his actions, the words were still true and life-giving to the reader. The person who accepts these words and lives by them will have a life free from dread, fear of being found out (4). Conversely, the person who ignores the words or scoffs at them will have a life filled with dread and when sin finds its way into their hearts, they will know the meaning of fear (4). The wise will hear and increase their learning, and the person of understanding will acquire wise counsel and the skill [to steer his course wisely and lead others to the truth], to understand a proverb and a figure [of speech] or an enigma with its interpretation, and the words of the wise and their riddles [that require reflection] (5-6). When we use riddles to convey our thoughts, the reader has the onus to seek the meaning and how the riddle applied to him or her.
Jeremiah 49 – The Prophecies to Ammon, Edom, Damascus, and Elam. Ammon was Lot’s son through an incestuous union with his 2nd daughter. Edom was Esau’s family and Jacob’s older brother. Damascus, the major city in Syria. In the time of Ahab, the king of Israel, Israel, and Syria were locked in battle. Eventually, Israel won the battle decisively and the kings of Aram including Ben Hadad hid in the caves and so they came up with a ruse, just like the Edomites, by appealing to Israel’s mercy (1 Kings 20:31-33). These nations, which should not have been a problem at this point, would be decimated by Nebuchadnezzar. The nations had their gods and the people thought “I have served this idol for __ years, paid my oblations, and honored it so it should help me” but they found out these idols were useless. “Arise [Nebuchadnezzar], go up against a nation which is at ease, Which lives securely,” says the LORD, “A nation which has neither gates nor bars; They dwell apart and alone. “Their camels will become plunder, And their herds of cattle a spoil; And I will scatter to all the [four] winds those who cut the corners of their hair [as evidence of their idolatry], And I will bring their disaster from every side,” says the LORD (31-22). When all that we possess is destroyed, it is not the end of life as we know it, It is the point at which G_d does His best work (39).
Acts 25 – Paul before Festus Governor of Caesarea. Festus replaced Felix. Festus gathered all of the accusers so that he could hear their words and then called Paul to explain himself. The plaintiff’s case was built on the precipice that Paul violated Jewish law which was not a criminal act in the eyes of Rome. So, Paul could be returned to Jerusalem to be tried in the Sanhedrin which would be a kangaroo court and Paul would be killed (9). Paul wanted to be tried in Nero’s court because Paul was a Roman citizen. The problem Festus had, just Felix, was that he nothing definitive to write to Caesar. Therefore, if I am guilty and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not try to escape death; but if there is nothing to the accusations which these men are bringing against me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar (Emperor Nero) (11).” Appealing to Caesar was not done without carefully considering the implications. Caesar Nero had not problems putting his opposition to death for small violations. When King Agrippa and his sister arrived to congratulate Festus, Festus sought the king’s wisdom to find out what to do with the Paul mess. Paul’s desire to appeal to Caesar put Festus in a bind. But I have nothing specific about him to write to my lord. So I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa so that after the investigation has taken place, I will have something to put in writing. For it seems absurd and unreasonable to me to send a prisoner [to Rome] without indicating the charges against him (26-27).”