Esther: Seeing God in the Little Things

The purpose of the book of Esther is to show that God can accomplish his purposes just as easily through ‘coincidences’ as he can through grand miracles of deliverance. The book of Esther does not indicate an author. The work is set in the Persian Empire. The author seeks to defend the historical accuracy of the work, but the historical reliability is often debated. The literary styles of the book of Esther do not define the genre of the book. Therefore, it is considered to be in a class by itself.

esther 1Two major literary themes in the book are reversal and irony. A reversal occurs when the current state of affairs is turned around or when the plot develops in a way that is opposite or contrary to what one would expect. For example, Mordecai is elevated in society, and instead of being destroyed, the Jews are victorious over their enemies. The second literary device, irony, demonstrates that there is always more going on than meets the eye and more possibilities available than any single person understands or is aware of. One of the most obvious examples of irony occurs when the King asks Haman how he would honor someone, assuming it is he who will be honored, when in turn it is Mordecai. In addition, Haman is hanged on the gallows that he built for Mordecai.

Esther finds herself significant behind the scenes. Interestingly enough, the book does not mention Yahweh, but instead serves to show the Lord’s work behind the scenes. During the period of the book of Esther, the Hebrews were working to rebuild their homeland. There is a plot brought about by Haman to get Xerxes to allow enemies to destroy the Israelites on a given day. Esther approaches the king and in chapter 4 verse 4 said, “for if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther’s faithfulness and fidelity is honored.

estherTraditionally, the Jewish people read the book of Esther annually at the celebration of the Feast of Purim. This festival recognizes the fact that the Jews were delivered from their enemies. God’s deliverance came by ‘chance’. The message of the book of Esther, and the celebration of Purim resounds: God’s methods may vary, but his purposes do not. Lastly, much like Abraham, the Jews in Persia were a revelatory people. God’s revelation came through the people. The Lord was faithful to provide a righteous remnant in order to fulfill his promises and preserve his people.

A modern reader of Esther should note that the Lord works in mysterious ways. The youth minister at Elizabeth Baptist Church constantly reminds the youth to “see God in the little things”. Most of the time he is referring to ‘coincidences’ that happen on mission trips, or small blessings that come to those who have been faithful to God. Christians are quick to look to God for the miraculous, when oftentimes; the miraculous comes in an unexpected, simple form. Esther’s faithfulness to Yahweh is rewarded, and the Jewish people are able to overcome their foes. Likewise, the Lord works in the lives of His people to help them overcome their foes and receive the blessings of Jesus Christ.

Advertisements

Nehemiah: Theological High Points

nehemiah 2Nehemiah is well known for the administrative skill he demonstrated in organizing the restoration community to repair and rebuild a large section of the wall of Jerusalem destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.. The book of Nehemiah presents a theological interpretation of the history of Israel. When the Hebrew people returned from the Babylonian exile, they were determined to lead a life that honored the one true God.

When the Israelites returned to their homeland, their enemies saw their occupation of the land as a threat. Nehemiah’s initiative to repair the walls of Jerusalem was undertaken against considerable resistance offered by a coalition of local alien enemies. The major theological highpoint of Nehemiah is the focus on the rebuilding of the wall surrounding Jerusalem. The way in which Nehemiah facilitates this construction is an example of how one should execute spiritual leadership and oversight.

verseThe first seven chapters focus on the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Chapters 8-13 focus on rebuilding of the spiritual life of Israel, which only escalates as threats from the enemy increase. Instead of simply leaving his workers defenseless, Nehemiah recognizes that the solution to foreign threats is to equip his workers with swords too. Ultimately, Nehemiah is able to inspire the people to complete the walls.

2verseAnother key theological highpoint is the reading of the Torah and the bringing of the people together. Nehemiah 8:8 says “Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.” The Levites would read from the Torah and explain the meaning to the people, thus paving the way for modern exegesis. The priests were charged with giving the fullest sense possible of the Word of God to the people.

Ultimately, Yahweh proves himself once again as a covenant keeper. Yahweh’s willingness to return to those who returned to Him assured the postexilic community of His desire to bless and restore the covenant people. Yahweh responded to the prayers of His people and maintained a faithful remnant in order to fulfill His promises.

A modern reader of Nehemiah should focus on the leadership and executive oversight exhibited by Nehemiah. Nehemiah is the example of what a Godly leader should be. He actively cared for his people and their situation, defining the reality of that dire situation. He reminded them that their city lay in ruin, and reminded them of the truth that they are called to rebuild the walls of the city. Nehemiah understood that prayer is essential to know God’s will. He was able to build a team of people who were dedicated to fulfilling God’s call. Though they were ridiculed and mocked, Nehemiah did not let the people lose hope. These examples from the book of Nehemiah should serve to encourage and instruct modern leaders as to how to appropriately work for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.