The Book of Esther
Rector’s Weekly Letter to the Congregation for Sunday, July 7, 2019
The Book of Esther
The book of Esther is the seventeenth book of the Bible. It has 10 chapters and only 167 verses. The events narrated in the book happened in Persia perhaps between 486 – 465 BC, during the reign of King Ahasuerus who was more commonly known by the Greek form of his name, Xerxes. When the Jews returned to Judah earlier during the reign of King Darius, there were many who remained behind in Persia. They were doing well economically, in Persia and life was good and stable. These Jews likely didn’t want to disrupt their comfortable lives for the uncertainty back in Judah. We can say that these Jews were living in disobedience to God. God had ordered in Jeremiah that the Jews were to return to the land after 70 years as per the Prophet Jeremiah. Esther was from the tribe of Judah from which came the first king of the united kingdom of Israel, King Saul.
The book of Esther can be divided into seven parts:
1. Queen Vashti is deposed and replaced for disobedience to the king (1:1 – 2:18)
2. The plot by Haman to annihilate the Jews (2:19 – 3:15)
3. Mordecai and Esther devise a plan to thwart Haman’s plot (4:1 – 5:14)
4. Mordecai is honored and Haman is hanged (6:1 – 7:10)
5. The Jews are Rescued from Annihilation (8:1 – 9:19)
6. The feast of Purim is instituted by Mordecai (9:20 – 32)
7. The greatness of King Ahasuerus and Mordecai (10:1 – 3)
The book of Esther is replete with incidences of God’s providence. It illustrates that events of life don’t just happen but are orchestrated behind the curtains by the hand of God to bring about the end he desires. Similarly, God takes negative events and situations and flexes his arm to turn them around to further his plans, or to bring about good. God’s ultimate plan for anything will never be eternally thwarted. Neither can it be delayed. It will happen at the time he pre-planned that it would.
The deposing of Queen Vashti in the first part of the book was unfair and highhanded, but God used it to install Esther in the palace as queen. The selection of the young foreigner girl Esther to be the queen of Persia, out of thousands of candidates, was brought about by God providence.
Esther caught people’s eye not on account of her physical beauty, which was stunning, but also because of her humility, easiness to deal with, femininity, that is, womanliness, and easy obedience to those placed above her. She was a joy to be around.
It was by God’s providence that Mordecai was at the right place at the right time to eavesdrop on the guards who were hatching a plot to assassinate the king. He reported the plot which was investigated and found credible. The said guards were summarily executed for their sedition.
It was by God’s providence that Mordecai was not immediately rewarded for his alertness and devotion to the king in reporting seditious elements close to the king. If he had been rewarded earlier, he would have missed out on the kind of reward reported in the book. It was by God’s providence that the king could not sleep on a certain night. It was by God’s providence that the king didn’t ask for anything else to pass time or to listen to but historical records. It was by God’s providence that the scroll picked out randomly to be read to him was the one about Mordecai’s brave act of reporting the guards who had planned to harm the king. It was by God’s providence that Haman paid a visit to the king at the very moment the king was mulling what reward to give Mordecai.
Read the book of Esther with a keen eye to spot God’s providence. Then reflect on your own life, past and present, and identify where God acted and acts providentially for you, then fall down and worship Him with voluntary love and devotion.
WHAT ANGLICANS BELIEVE
The Anglican Catechism (ACNA)
The catechism is a question and answer format of teaching the basic principles of the Christian faith. The catechism is not meant just to be memorized by rote. Rather, it is meant to be discussed, reflected upon, internalized, and allowed to form us. I urge every family to take the time to study the catechism at home, discussing it word for word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence, without passing over any statement that is not understood or is unclear. Parents, please take the lead to teach your children and to anchor them in the Christian faith. Let everyone ask questions and get answers. Please write down any questions that arise in your discussions, questions you cannot answer locally, and pass them to the Rector. May the Holy Spirit guide your learning.
(Continued from last week…)
8. How does God save you?
God saves me by grace, which is his undeserved love given to me in and through Jesus. “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
9. Who is Jesus Christ?
Jesus is my savior, fully divine and fully human. He bore my sins, dying in my place on the cross, then rose from the dead to rule as anointed king over me and all creation. (Colossians 1;15-26)
10. Is there any other way of salvation?
No. The apostle Peter said of Jesus, ‘There is salvation in no one else.” (Acts 4:12) Jesus is the only one who can save me and reconcile me to God. (1 Timothy 2:5)
11. How should you respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ?
I should repent of my sins and put faith in Jesus Christ as my savior and my lord. (Romans 10:9-10; Acts 16:31)
12. What does it mean for you to repent?
To repent means that I have a change of heart, turning from sinfully serving myself to serving God as I follow Jesus Christ. I need God’s help to make this change. (Acts 2:38; 3:19)
13. What does it mean for you to have faith?
To have faith means that I believe the Gospel is true; I acknowledge that Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead to rule over me; I entrust myself to him as my savior; I obey him as my Lord. As the Apostle Paul said, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
14. How may a person repent and place faith in Jesus Christ?
Anyone may repent and place their faith in Christ at any time. One way to do this is by sincerely saying a prayer similar to the Prayer of Repentance and Faith given above. (John 15:6, Acts 16:31-34; Romans 10:9; Hebrews 12:12-13)
15. What should you do once you have returned to God for salvation in repentance and faith?
If I have not already been baptized, following proper instructions, I should be baptized into death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and thus into membership in his Body, the Church. (Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 12:13)
16. What does God grant in saving you?
God grants me reconciliation with him (2Corinthians 5:17-19), forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14), adoption into his family (Galatians 4:4-7), citizenship in his Kingdom (Ephesians 2:19:21, Philippians 3:20), union with him in Christ (Romans 6:3-5), new life in the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-5), and the promise of eternal life. (John 3:16; 1 John 6:12)
17. What does God desire to accomplish in your life in Christ?
God desires to transform me into the image of Jesus Christ my Lord, by the power of his Holy Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
18. How does God transform you?
He will transform me over time through corporate and private worship, prayer, and Bible reading; fellowship with God’s people; pursuit of holiness of life; witness toward those who do not know Christ; and acts of love toward all. The first Christians set this pattern as they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42; Hebrews 10:23-25)
Believing in Christ
Concerning the Creeds
19. What is a creed?
A creed is a statement of faith. The word “creed” comes from the Latin credo, which means “I believe.” (John 20:24-29)
20. What is the purpose of creeds?
The purpose of creeds is to declare and safeguard God’s truth about himself, ourselves, and creation, as God has revealed it in Holy Scripture. (2 Peter 1:19-21; John 20:31)
21. What does belief in the creeds signify?
Belief in the creeds signifies acceptance of God’s revealed truth, and the intention to live by it. (2 Timothy 3:14-15)
22. Which Creeds does the Church acknowledge?
The Church acknowledges the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. (Articles of Religion, 8)
23. Why do you acknowledge these Creeds?
I acknowledge these Creeds with the Church because they are grounded in Holy Scripture and are faithful expressions of its teaching. (1 Corinthians 15:3-11; Philippians 2:6-11)
24. Why should you know these Creeds?
I should know these Creeds because they state the essential beliefs of the Christian faith.