ESTHER 9:1 – 10:3 and ROMANS 1:1–32
The date of the 13th day of the 12th month is again mentioned. It is important to think of the significance of what had just transpired. The time was appointed for the annihilation of the Jews as constructed by Haman. The Jews were about to be destroyed but in a last second turnaround the exact opposite happened. This is why Mordecai was insistent upon Esther in her need to act and to go before the king. She indeed did come to the kingdom for such a time as this (Est 4:14). This is also why the word had to speedily get out to all of the provinces so as to stop the planned execution.
In addition, it was the Jews who would now have the supremacy over their tormentors. This is what the Feast of Purim commemorates. The reversal of fortunes is immediate. The events that led up to this event are anything but immediate. The process and preparation in the lives of both Mordecai and Esther must be noted. It is a process that many Christians choose to neglect or dismiss. We all like the pleasant southern winds of blessing flowing in and through our lives (SOS 4:16). We all would rather have the 6 month of pleasant odours like Esther experienced; those times when things are going well (Est 2:12).
What about those adversarial north winds that bring the storms and shakings into our lives (SOS 4:16)? What about the 6 months of purifying that involves myrrh and bitter related moments that deal with our inward nature (Est 2:12)? Esther and Mordecai had the balance of both extremes worked out in their lives. This is what enabled them to be used by God to such a high degree. The events surrounding the cause of the Jewish people were transformed in a day but the people who were used by God to help bring it about went through a long preparatory process. It is a process that the Lord is seeking to instil in his saints of our day. Are we open to it? Do we allow God to work in such a way in our lives?
Mordecai is now a man of great influence. Greater still, is the anointing of the Fear of the Lord that is now upon his life. The Fear of the Lord was also upon the Jews throughout the provinces as well (vs 3-5). This should bring great encouragement to us as believers as we see how Christianity is maligned today. The spirit of antichrist is increasingly gaining ground in its attempt to undermine and destroy Christianity. It cannot be much different from what was seen in this time period in Esther. What transpired then can happen again today. The key is to understand the process and preparation that was instilled in Esther and Mordecai. There is a beautiful verse that comes to mind as I write this:
Isa 66:8 Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.
There is a palpable travailing and longing for the manifestation of the sons and daughters of God. The blessings of this great book must again be realized. The parallels between this account and our day cannot be easily dismissed. Oh, may the Fear of the Lord come forth afresh upon our lives and upon our nation(s).
The ten sons of Haman were executed as well as 500 prominent leaders from the palace at Shusahn. The Bible notes they did not confiscate their spoils (vs 10). This was for the purpose of not being seen as greedy or covetous. They were entitled to the spoil as part of the king’s edict (Est 8:11).
This gesture probably helped in being further ingratiated to the king seeing that they ended up in the king’s estate. The Jews moved against their enemies in a purely defensive posture not for promotion or any self-gain. This is contrary to the motives that were seen in Haman in his relationship with the king. The king again asked Esther what her petition to him would be. This is after the Jews have already slayed 500 men at Shushan. She appealed that the 10 sons of Haman be hung on the same gallows that Haman constructed for the destruction of the Jews. This would send a strong signal throughout the 127 provinces as to how the king viewed the matter of the Jews.
There was also a declaration presented whereby the 14th and 15th day be a time of great celebration and Rest. The force of this declaration would carry on for the generations to come. It is also good to note that in all the places where the Jews would gather there would be no touching of the spoil of the people who were destroyed. Once again it was permissible but the message was being sent that the motive of the Jews was not a self-serving one. The king recognized this and this allowed him to dispose abundant favour upon Mordecai, Esther and the Jews. This chapter helps to draw attention to the blessings of the Fear of the Lord. In the matter of one day the tide totally turned. If God could do it through vessels like Mordecai and Esther he can do it through such people today. The Book of Esther must be seen as one of the latter day blueprints as to how and what God will do. It is a most needed manual in knowing the manner of people we are called to be and what is required to get there.
This very short chapter is a summation of what has already been covered. King Ahasuerus is portrayed in a very positive light throughout this book. We see similar account concerning him in his dealings with Ezra and Nehemiah. (Many commentators feel that it is the same king) Let’s revisit a known verse to further develop this thought:
Pro 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
I think King Ahasuerus is a good example of the above verse. Let’s imagine a scenario where you did not have an Esther or Mordecai. If Haman would persuade the king to enact a law to destroy the Jews the law would have been enforced. The king did make such a law prior to Esther’s intervention. What if Vashti still reigned as Queen? There would have been no Esther who had the ability to move the heart of the king. The point being is that Ahasuerus could have had a rule of great violence and iniquity. It took people of great stature, integrity and character to have an impact upon him. These people (Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and Mordecai) helped him to be a king who ruled in godliness. This is the kind of impact that can and should be made upon rulers, presidents and prime ministers in our day. True, not everyone would respond like Ahasuerus did but there are people out there who would be similarly moved.
We as leaders in the church have a responsibility. There is a cost, a process and a preparation that brings such voices to the forefront. It is more than just demanding and asserting our Christianized rights; it must be earned by coming under God’s true burden for a people and nation. Ahasuerus responded to men and women who were burdened for a cause well beyond themselves; he felt and sensed it and made allowance for it to be accommodated. This is the kind of favor that God desires to bestow upon his church today. The voices of a church or people who carry the burden of the Lord can be heard by God’s appointed leaders. It is imperative that we seek God’s way in going forward to help ensure that our motive is solely based on what is upon His heart. If we are true to this we will see the hand and favour of God at work. The Book of Esther is a blueprint; a mini Bible that helps to point the way.
2Ch 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
It will be difficult to summarise the chapters from this great Book in the traditional one page format. There is so much depth and insights that can be drawn from these 16 chapters. I would like to introduce the Book of Romans by presenting it in a way that may help to give better understanding. I have been writing on a subject entitled “The Two Streams”. There is a portion of this Book which I have called the Roman by-pass. I give a brief explanation of this below:
The Book of Romans Highway
Let’s introduce our study by presenting the Book of Romans in a way you probably have not seen it before. If I were given only one Book in the Bible that could be taught from it would be Romans. This masterpiece contains all of the essential Christian ingredients in its 16 chapters. Paul’s method of approaching this letter is absolute genius. Actually, it would be better to state that it was anointed by the Holy Spirit both in its approach and application. Let’s think of the 16 chapters of Romans as being likened to a highway. Further, let’s look at Paul as the conductor and tour guide on a bus that is traveling along this highway. The journey begins at Chapter 1 where all of the travellers are on an equal footing. By the time the journey ends (Chapter 16) things are much different. Specifically we see different groups of people. What happened on this highway that resulted in a separation of people? The answers are clearly threaded through the roads and junctions of the Roman Highway.
The first segment of our journey takes place between Romans chapters 1 through 3. Paul, as our conductor and tour guide brings the travellers through a dark and sobering experience. He does not waste time in alerting the passengers as to how we are all sinners and that there is no hope in of ourselves. Isn’t that a wonderful way to begin a journey? By the end of chapter 3 all are condemned; suffering under the immeasurable weight of sin. The next two chapters (4-5) signal a whole new picture. Suddenly, there is hope and the weight of sin is removed as we see ourselves justified by faith. Everyone recognizes their need for a saviour after the first section of the trip. A clear contrast is presented between the first and second Adam. How glorious it is to know that one has been justified by His faith. Like Father Abraham all that needs to be done is to acknowledge our need for a Saviour (The purpose of Romans 1-3) and receive Him by faith. The just shall live by faith.
The next section of the Romans Highway (Romans 6-8) is unique in that a divide or an alternative path can be seen. We will call this alternative path “The Romans By-Pass” Upon further contemplation it becomes evident that a vast majority of the travellers are opting for this passage. The by-pass only lasts for these three chapters before reconnecting with the main highway from Chapter 9 onwards. Interestingly, the two groups can be seen travelling together but there is a marked difference between them. In short, there is a difference between those who stayed the course on the main highway as opposed to those who opted for the by-pass. Please do not see this allegory as a silly exercise in trying to make theological points. Spiritually this divide is real and this illustration in Romans helps to give an even greater thrust to our theme of The Two Streams. I contend that Christians make decisions at the foot of Romans 6 which either takes them through the narrow road of chapters 6-8 or allows them to take a by-pass and circumvent the challenging issues that these three chapters contain.
Mat 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Mat 7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
So what is it about Romans 6-8 that helps to better define the Two Streams? What relevance and message does it present to us today? This article is only an overview of where we will be heading however the following themes will be picked up as seen from these significant chapters.
1) The Cross
5) Free Will and Choice
We will be revisiting the above 5 points in more detail when we get to Romans 6-8. Let’s now begin our journey through the Book of Romans. Paul counts it a privilege to be called a servant of the Lord. He also makes clear that he is called to be an apostle, it’s not a position that he assumes to himself. He also states in his opening remarks that he is separated unto the gospel. He establishes some of his core beliefs concerning the Lord in verses 2-6. The call that he has received is a call that is available to all. This was a posture that Paul constantly worked from. He now addresses all that are in Rome from verse 6 onwards. It is a familiar greeting that he gives to virtually all of the churches he writes to. “Grace and Peace” be unto you. We will revisit this truth in many of the letters to come but let’s not quickly pass by them. What is Paul actually saying in his address? The first portion can be read accordingly: May the grace and enabling power of God be with you; this means that God is not limited in any area of their need. Secondly, the peace of God, the same peace that passes all understanding; let it be your portion in any situation that you find yourself in. Paul could say this because he lived it. He embodied his greeting and desired that his audience would reap the same benefits. In verses 8-16 he speaks of his love and burden for them.
Paul wrote this epistle in approximately 60 AD, probably from Corinth. The church had been in existence for some time as he desired to visit them these many years (Rom 15:23). Paul spoke of the fruit he experienced among the Gentiles from other places such as the Greeks and Barbarians (vs 13-14). In like manner he was desirous to preach the gospel in Rome. (We know from the Book of Acts that he did eventually make it to Rome Acts 28:16). Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel and he desired to be able to be with them and minister unto them. The balance of chapter 1 now takes some deep theological twists and turns. We will see extremes which will help shape the balance of the Book. The first statement is a stand-alone verse from the balance of chapter 1.
Rom 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
There are two forms of righteousness that are seen throughout scripture. There is the imputed righteousness and then the imparted righteousness of God. I will give a brief definition here seeing that these two categories of righteousness will be clearly defined in subsequent chapters.
- Imputed Righteousness-This is the righteousness of God that is given at the time of salvation. As a sinner who comes to Christ, we are acknowledging our sin and unworthiness. As we accept Jesus into our lives by Faith, His righteousness is “imputed” or accounted to us. In the eyes of God we are deemed righteous, because of the righteousness of Christ and not our own. God is seeing us through the covering of His Son’s garments of righteousness.
- Imparted Righteousness-This is a “worked out” righteousness whereby the righteousness of Christ is developed and worked within the fabric of a believer. This is the righteousness referred to in verse 17. It is worked out as we grow from “faith to faith”. It requires a dying to self and a willingness to “put on” the attributes of Christ. The result is that the righteousness of Christ has been worked into the life of a believer. When God looks upon such a person He sees a person who is indeed righteous. It comes by way of a progressive walk with the Lord. Here are two other verses that helps to put this truth into greater light.
1Jn 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
Rev 19:8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
There is a choosing required in growing from faith to faith into true righteousness. The true righteousness is alluded to in the above verse (Rev 19:6) when speaking of the bride of Christ. What happens when a person chooses NOT to grow in these areas? What is the danger of a Christian who is content to live life on his or her terms? It is to this type of person that Paul will now address the balance of Romans 1.
We have already noted the significance of verse 17 in how the righteousness of God is revealed in the life of a believer. The following verse is the first of many strong warnings to come as to what happens when these things are not heeded:
Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
This is the product of a person (believer) who begins to change, alter or redefine the Word of God to their advantage. It is not blatant in its origin but subtle and often hard to detect at the initial stage. This warning is sent out to those who are or have been believers. We need to be careful in how we represent the Word of God. We must never deviate from the Word of God or step outside its boundaries. The Holy Spirit is very gracious in helping us to understand and instruct from the Word of God. He can keep us in check and help to warn if we begin crossing over lines.
What is required is a pure and willing heart; a teachable spirit that submits oneself to His guidance. Here is the downward progression that can take place when a Christian serves God on one’s own terms. It begins with an indifferent and unthankful heart (vs 21). If we continue in Unthankfulness it will eventually harden the heart making us incapable of receiving the planted seed of God’s Word. This will also affect our thought life which eventually will lead to idolatry (vs 23). When you read verses 21-23 you see a picture of what happened to the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai. They complained and were not thankful. It was a matter of time before they demanded of Aaron to make a god, a golden calf that could go before them (Exo 32). This undealt with idolatry will result in God giving a people up to the depraving desires of the heart. Many people will be convinced that God is approving due to prophets speaking to and confirming those things (Eze 14:3, 7, 9, Eze 20:25). Make no mistake; the worse place to be is having God answering a person according to the uncircumcised area of one’s heart. Such a person is convinced that God has spoken; He may have but it is for the purpose of separation. It is one of the ways that the goats will be separated from the sheep in the last days.
The downward plunge continues as we see a people who now turn the truth of God into a lie (vs 25). Is this not taking place today? Just look at who is being celebrated and elevated today. The turning of the Truth of God into a lie oftentimes is subtle at the onset. It becomes increasingly blatant as time goes forward. Just look at what is being allowed and taught as the Truth in many churches today. The ever changing cultural values seem to be able to change the Truth of God’s Word. This is what it means when the Truth of God’s Word is held in unrighteousness (vs 18). This then leads to the sin of Sodom (vs 26-27). God was very clear when He defined the role of men and women at the beginning. Why then has man found God’s ways to not be acceptable? He has allowed Satan to redefine God’s order of right and wrong. When you begin to alter God’s Word and Law it puts into motion rebellion and chaos. It reaches its depraved climax through the sin of homosexuality. This is often the reason why you find this sin at its zenith when tracing the fall of former major empires. God created man for fellowship; its highest expression is the love relationship between Christ as the bridegroom and the church as its bride. The bride is one who has allowed the righteousness of God to be realized in her life (Rom 1:17, Rev 19:8). The greatest affront to God would have to be the perversion of His gift of marriage in the form of same sex relationships. God’s wrath waxes hot on this defilement which is only made worse by how it is celebrated. If this is true then we be better be prepared for what is coming. It is appalling today to see the acquiescing of churches and church leaders on this perversion. What is the primary problem; why is the church failing in its responsibility to be a voice and standard? There is a key seen in verse 28:
Rom 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
In other words, God was not convenient. It comes down to who is king in our life; is it God or is it self? We may say that it is God but through the process of choices that are made at critical junctures we soon come to a conclusion. If God is convenient, loved and sought after we demonstrate the evidence by reason of a tender and compliant heart. We grow in His knowledge and ways (2 Pet 1:5). If on the other hand we find God to be inconvenient it is because we are still on the throne. When God continues to probe and gain entrance to our heart we can compensate by the shaping and redefining of God’s Truth through His Word. This becomes evident when you contrast a people who are all out for God as opposed to those who serve God on their terms. This contrast was seen between Cain and Abel and we also saw it between Korah, Dathan and Abihu with Moses. This will be the manner in how God will separate the wheat from the tares. This helps us in our understanding of no middle ground in the last days (Rev 3:16, Rev 22:11). This also helps us to understand the ramifications of the message that Hosea shared to his generation:
Hos 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
Once again can we see the importance of the priestly role and ministry and the consequences of forgetting the laws of God? These things do not just happen. God gives us the opportunity whereby we can become the righteousness of Christ as we grow from faith to faith (vs 17) or choose to take steps down a dangerous path that can lead to degradation (vs 18). It starts with unthankfulness and goes from there. Our level of thankfulness is a good measuring rod for us in seeing which side of the fence we are positioned on. We close this portion with one final warning and insight. Those who engage in doing such things know better. Worse, the Bible says they take pleasure in those who do these acts. The very first chapter of Romans is very much written for warning and admonishment. It helps to establish a good foundation as we now look to take this journey forward.