Valentine’s Day 2012
From My Devotion: Esther & 1 Corinthians 13
Today is Valentine’s Day, and I honestly can’t think of a better passage to study in my devotions. I didn’t pick it - it was the daily reading for my 1-year plan. God is good. So is his Word.
I haven’t written a lot about Esther, but today I was struck by the unfamiliar parts of this true story. There are complexities in this narrative that a Veggie Tale can’t quite capture. This is not a nice story. It is really a tale rooted in dominance and sexual exploitation. It is also a story of Redemption as our Relentless God pursues and protects His people with an unfailing love.
Esther begins with King Xerxes growing dissatisfied with his current wife. He is embarrassed with the lack of honor he was shown, and based on the advice of his friends, he casts the old wife away. Then the search begins. The king, exerting full political power, goes in search of the sexiest virgins in the nation. (I can’t believe how casually I’ve heard this story in the past!) After these women are found, they are taken from their families, made to undergo “beauty treatments,” and thrust before the king. He gets to sample each girl to see whom he likes best. By the way, this is not a Bachelor-style date. There were to helicopter rides, rose petal hot tubs, or picnics. There was an eager king, a scared young girl, and sex. After the girl gives up her virginity, she is placed in the “second harem,” and is never likely to be heard from again. These women were no longer desirable as wives for other men. The king had laid claim to them, but they had to rights in return. [This is not God’s plan for men and women.] Not such a nice story, but sometimes the Bible gets REAL.
Esther is a young orphan woman being raised at the mercy of her uncle Mordecai. With no true paternal figure in her life and as a Jew living in captivity in a foreign land, Esther’s prospects were very grim. It’s amazing that God raised her up for, “Such a Time as This.” In short, Esther pleases the king, and she is made queen.
It is amazing that God in his unfailing love brought redemption into this seedy tale. In the subtext, a ride was rising against the Jews. An evil man named Haman had been slighted by Mordecai. He was blinded by his own political aspirations, and he convinced the king to issue an edict condemning all the Jews to death. (this is not a Veggie Tales story - more like HBO) This story is a careful reminder that Slighted Pride is a Deadly Force.
When I read this story, I really begin to feel bad for the Jews. I start to feel like they are the innocents in this story and that they are being picked on. HOWEVER…God never intended the Jews to be in this situation. He had provided a wonderful land, a peaceful kingdom, amazing resources, and strong defenses to protect His people. The Israelites purchased slavery for themselves with their unwavering idolatry. The Jews didn’t just ask for God’s punishment - they demanded it. That is why young Esther was placed in such a terrible situation. But God…in His Unfailing Love, saved the day. Any lover who has been cheated on has the right to anger - the right to cut ties - the right to turn away. But God didn’t. God doesn’t. In His unfailing love, He sets things right again and again. What an awesome God we serve.
LOVE ABOVE ALL
1 Corinthians 13 - the LOVE passage
This passage has less to do with wedding ceremonies and more to do with the body of Christ. In context, Paul is discussing Spiritual Gifts. We should desire the gifts that are most helpful to the body. However, none of them matter if we do not have love.
I’m preaching on this subject tonight at 7to9. I’ll post a recap later.