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Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Book of Esther -- Part 2


Vashti – The Rebellious Bride

          Vashti was the wife of Ahasuerus, the king of Persia. The king of Persia was a strong, powerful king with great authority. He was also a great warrior. At this time, kings had many wives and concubines, but his queen was special and occupied a favored position, just as the Bride of Christ has a favored position in Christ.

Vashti was a Gentile and had only one name, but Esther had two (a Jewish and Gentile name). Vashti means “beautiful woman.” Vashti was outwardly beautiful and desirable to men, but rebellious on the inside. Vashti is a picture of the rebellious bride. She was not a believer in the True God of Israel. She refused to come before the king when he called for her. Perhaps her exalted position went to her head. Vashti’s rejection of the king will lead to her rejection by the king.

Vashti obviously had some self-respect and wisdom that kept her from displaying herself before the drunken men. Unfortunately, her disobedience to the king whether justified or not will have a cost. She will be removed as queen and another will take her place. Vashti represents Israel who refused to come to King Jesus when He called. Jesus walked the land of Israel and its holy city Jerusalem while on earth. A remnant of Jews believed in Jesus and followed Him. Jesus did great things through this faithful remnant. God loves Israel and sent His only begotten Son to save and redeem her and His people. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because He knew their rejection of Him would cause the city and its people to fall. Jesus’ heart was broken because He loves them.

Esther – The New Bride of the King

Esther was beautiful outside and inside. She was a woman of beauty, courage, and strength. She had a heart for the true God and His people. She also had a heart for the gentile king of Persia and his people. Esther is a prophetic picture of God’s plan to redeem a Bride for King Jesus.

Esther because of her faith in the True God of Israel became strong, courageous, and committed to God’s people. She is a picture of the Bride of Christ who will be made up of both Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus. Christ’s Bride will be the favored of the Lord. God did not abandon Israel in Persia nor will He abandon Israel now. God did not replace Israel with the Body of Christ; He included Israel in His salvation through His precious Son Jesus who came through a Jewish woman. Jesus did what the Jews or the Bride of Christ could not do – obey God perfectly and completely. We are all, both Jews and Gentiles, sinners in need of a Savior and God’s grace. In other words, we are equally guilty and equally loved by God. Without the Jews, there would be no written Word of God or Savior. God’s plan was in place before the creation of the world. It was God’s love for the Israelites in spite of their disobedience that brought us the precious Word of God and Savior so we all can come to know the True God and His ways. The Jews were faithful in preserving and writing the Word of God down so we all can know the True God, as well as the ways of the devil. God’s greatest honor to the Jewish people was having His Son come through them to save the world from spiritual, eternal death.

Esther developed her inner strength through her faith in God and the wisdom regarding God from her cousin Mordecai who raised her in the Jewish faith, as well as the counsel of Hegai, king Ahasuerus’ servant who helped to prepare Esther to meet her king. Esther had a godly and teachable spirit. She gave willing obedience to those in authority over her. She was also cautious. She sought the counsel of those she trusted. She willingly obeyed God and her Jewish cousin Mordecai who had taught and trained her. She also submitted to the wisdom and knowledge of Hegai, the overseer of the female harem, who would prepare her to meet her king.

God will elevate Esther to queen because of her godly qualities. Esther is committed to her king, to his people (gentiles) and to her people (Jews). The story of Esther illustrates the power of a woman who has surrendered her life to God and humanity.

The Banquet of the King

Banquets mark the beginning and the end of the story of Esther. Banquets are also the beginning and end of Jesus’ story. He began at the earthly wedding at Cana in the Gospel of John and will end with the spiritual wedding supper of the Lamb in Revelation. The banquets in the Book of Esther were used to reveal plans and plots. Jesus’ feasts will also reveal plans and plots. At the last supper, Jesus revealed that one of His chosen twelve would betray Him. He also revealed that the bread represented His body given for them, and the wine was His blood poured out for them. The greatest feast given us by the Godhead is the Word of God. As we feast on the Word of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will reveal truth and the ways of the Godhead so we will walk in the newness and fullness of life in Christ. The Word also reveals the ways, plots, and plans of Satan – the enemy of the Godhead and those who believe in Him. It is a double-edged sword.

King Ahasuerus gave an earthly banquet for all of his noble men and their attendants as well as his army officers. This banquet took place in the third year of his reign at the palace in Susa. This banquet went on for six months. The king displayed the “riches “of his royal glory and the splendor of his great majesty for many days, 180 days.” Esther 1:4 The number 6 is the number of flesh --humans without God. Ahasuerus’ pride was his motivation. Ahasuerus was a man without the True God. During this celebration for the nobles and officers close to the king, there was much drinking, lavish food, and concubines. They could eat and drink all they desired. The king wanted his nobles to see the vastness and riches of his glory and honor and share this knowledge with others. Pride was his motivation.

King Jesus gives us a never-ending banquet of His Word and His new wine. We can eat of His Word and drink of the new wine of His blood and life as much as we want. The choice is ours just as the choice was those invited to king Ahasuerus’ banquet. Jesus’ motivation is love.

When the six months were complete, king Ahasuerus gave another banquet. This 7-day banquet was for all from the least to the greatest in the citadel of Susa. A citadel is a fortified area where people would go for shelter during and after a battle. The area around the palace of Ahasuerus would be walled thus fortifying it.

·         The first banquet for 6 months was held inside the palace only for King Ahasuerus’ noble men (leaders).

·         The second banquet of the king was outside in the court of the garden of the palace. At this banquet all were invited “from the greatest to the least.” Esther 1:5 Jesus calls everyone from the greatest to the least. He is not a respecter of persons. All are welcome to come to Him and eat of His Word and drink of His Holy Spirit.

·         Queen Vashti also had a banquet for the women at the same time as the men’s banquet was taking place. Queen Vashti’s banquet was inside the palace but not in the presence of the king. The men were with the king often, but the women could only come into the king’s presence when called. Jesus changed this. All, male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free can come into the presence of King Jesus. We are all called!

 Ahasuerus was full of pride like most humans, but King Jesus has no pride. He is selfless. King Jesus wants all to see the glory of His Majesty, Might and Authority as well as His Royal Love that far exceeds our earthly love. When Jesus walked the earth, He gave revelation knowledge to both males and females, Jews, and Gentiles. Those who follow Jesus can feast on the banquet of His Anointed Word at any time and can come boldly to His throne of grace. (see Ephesians 4:16) Jesus wants us to see His majesty, power, and glory so we will have faith in Him, not in our worldly riches. We are not to serve our flesh and its ways, but Jesus and His ways to the glory of His Name.

            King Ahasuerus’ wine flowed freely without restriction. His subjects could drink as much as they desired. This earthly, fermented wine made the king’s subjects drunk. Jesus, however, transformed water into new wine at the wedding at Cana. New wine has not yet fermented. It takes a few weeks for the fermentation. Wine in the New Testament represents the pure blood of Jesus that was poured out for all. It also represents true (unfermented) or false (fermented) teaching of the Word of God. Jesus said that those who are spiritually hungry and thirsty can drink as much of His Truth and Spirit they want. Jesus also said in Luke 5:37 that “no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out and the skins will be ruined.” Jesus’ new wine must be put into new wineskins (new creations). Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit and Word of truth is making us into His image and likeness as new creations if we are willing and obedient. Instead of earthly wine, Jesus tells us to be drunk in the Holy Spirit – the river of spiritual life.

King Ahasuerus Wants to Show off the Beauty of His Queen - Vashti

King Ahasuerus’ final display of his opulence is to display his beautiful bride in all of her beauty and glory. On the 7th day when the heart of the king was merry with wine,” (the final day of the feast) the king sent 7 eunuchs (servants) to bring Queen Vashti to him with her royal crown to display her beauty to all. A eunuch is a male who was castrated for practical reasons because he served the king’s harem of women. Some eunuchs were elevated to a higher position like bodyguard, confidential advisor, minister or general which is the case in this instance.

Ahasuerus has already displayed his vast kingdom, power, and riches. King Ahasuerus will now show his crowning glory – His queen.  Again, pride is his motivation. Vashti would wear the crown that sets her apart from all of the other women in the kingdom. The king was under the influence of the wine so no doubt he would display Vashti’s beauty lustfully before all of these drunken men.

Vashti means “beautiful woman.” She is a type and shadow of Israel whom God called His wife. Israel disobeyed God and became an unfaithful wife. Time and time again, God saved Israel, but because of their continual unfaithfulness to Him, God issued a certificate of divorce to Israel and Judah when they were divided. (see Jeremiah 3:8) God can only have one wife, or He would be an adulterer. So, to bring Israel back into His fold, God sent His Son Jesus who is called Faithful and True to take a Bride made up of both Jews and Gentiles who love and serve Him. Israel means one who strives with God or prince with God. God wants those who love and serve His King Jesus to strive with Him in establishing His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven through both believing Jews and Gentiles – Christ’s body of believers.

God has not deserted Israel. His love is everlasting. God opened the door of everlasting life to both Israel and the Gentiles through His Son Jesus. In the Older Testament, Israel showed that they could not live up to God’s high and holy standards nor can those in the Body of Christ. God who is all-knowing and knows the beginning from the end was well aware that this would happen. He sent His pure, perfect Son to earth to save both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus will have only one Bride. Some Israelites and Gentiles will accept King Jesus as their Lord and Savior and all Israel (those who strive with God in Christ) will be saved. The prophet Isaiah said that “Israel shall be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation; you shall not be ashamed or disgraced forever and ever. 45:17 Only Jesus can give everlasting salvation. God wanted Israel, His wife, to represent His crowning glory. As king Ahasuerus desired his queen, God desired Israel. God wanted Israel to radiate His righteousness, love, and righteous justice to others, but their sinful flesh caused them to fail. As king Ahasuerus’ expectation was obedience to his words, God and Jesus’ expectation is obedience to His Word. God sent Jesus with a message to not only Israel but to all nations, tribes, and tongues.

Vashti rebelled and refused to come before the king. The king wanted to display Vashti and her beauty before drunken, lustful men. In other words, he was using her disrespectfully, shamefully and for unjust and dishonorable reasons. Refusing to come before the king when called meant removal from the king’s presence and palace. Vashti was called by the king and did not come, as Israel was called to come to King Jesus and the majority did not come. God is still calling Jew and Gentile to come to His Son for salvation and eternal life. God’s love for humanity has no end.

It is important for women to know that God would never ask you to submit to a husband’s evil desires that are contrary to God’s Word.  Paul says in Colossians 3:18, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Ephesians 5, 22-26 also says that wives are to submit to their husbands, but it also says that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved His church. No woman would have a problem submitting to Christlike love!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Book of Esther Part 1

         In order to fully understand the messages of the Book of Esther, one must look below the surface and discover the hidden manna within.  All of God’s scriptures point forward, not backward. Esther is about real people and real events but hidden within its pages is the story of King Jesus and His Bride and the battle between good and evil.

In the story of Esther, God will save His people who have been taken captive in Babylon from extinction through two Jews – Esther and Mordecai (male and female). Babylon means place of confusion. God is the God of order, not confusion and chaos. These are the devil’s ways. Throughout scripture, Satan wants to destroy Jesus’ bloodline. God must preserve Israel so the Savior of the world can come through them. God is faithful to His people in spite of their disobedience. In the midst of Israel’s captivity, God will raise up leaders like Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Mordecai who walk with God in obedience to His Word to restore and rebuild His holy temple and city. He will do the same with the Bride of Christ.  His people must leave the worldly and the devil’s ways that Babylon represents and return to God’s ways and truth and start rebuilding and restoring.

Comparison of Ruth and Esther – Type and Shadow of the Bride of Christ

Concealed in the story of Ruth and Esther is a prophetic picture of the Bride of Christ. Throughout the Older Testament scriptures God wove a picture of King Jesus and His Bride. God used the godly women in scripture to paint a picture of the Bride of Christ. He used the godly men in scripture to paint a picture of Christ. He uses the “natural” to paint a picture of the “supernatural.” (see 1 Corinthians 15:46)

Ruth was a gentile who married her Jewish kinsman-redeemer from the tribe of Judah--Boaz. The story of Ruth takes place in the harvest field. Ruth the gentile will marry her Jewish kinsman-redeemer and redeem the land in God's Promised Land belonging to her Jewish mother-in-law’s husband. Ruth and Boaz reveal Jesus as the Redeemer of both the Jews and the Gentiles as His Bride. Boaz is a type and shadow of Jesus our Kinsman-Redeemer. Jesus, who came through the tribe of Judah in fulfillment of scripture, will redeem and harvest souls – both Jew and Gentile -- through His Body and will wed us as His Bride for all eternity. He will use His Bride made up of both Jews and Gentiles to open the eyes of others to their spiritual kinsman-redeemer – Jesus. At God’s appointed time, Jesus will gather the harvest of souls from the earth to Himself. (see Revelation 14:15)

Esther was a virgin Jewish woman from the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin means “son of the right hand.” Jesus is the Son of the right hand because He sits at the right hand of the Father. Esther was an orphan. Her father died when her mother was pregnant with her, and her mother died while birthing her. Her cousin Mordecai raised Esther and taught her about Israel’s God. Basically, Esther had everything in her life taken from her – her parents, her land, her freedom—but God had not left her. He will save His people through her.

Esther had two names – one a Gentile name and the other a Jewish name. Esther was her Persian name. It means “star” – light-bearer. Esther would be a light-bearer to the Gentile king of Persia and his people, but she would also save her people – the Jews. This is a picture of the spiritual work of Jesus’ Bride made up of Jews and Gentiles. Hadassah is Esther’s Jewish name. It means “myrtle” symbolizing righteousness, peace, rest, a sweet aroma, and God’s blessings. In Zechariah 1: 8-11, Jesus is walking among the myrtle trees. He is the One through whom all blessings come. He is our righteousness, rest, and peace and will transform us into a sweet aroma to God as Esther went through a cleansing process in order to be a sweet fragrance to the King.

 The story of Ruth took place in the harvest field of her kinsman-redeemer, but the story of Esther takes place in the palace and the throne. Ruth, who was a Gentile who married her Jewish kinsman-redeemer Boaz, represents the mostly Gentile Bride of Christ who are wedded to Jesus and  will gather a harvest of souls to King Jesus. 

Esther represents the Bride of Christ reigning with Him as the King of all kings who sits on the throne of God in the heavens. Esther will become the Queen of the King. In the story of both Ruth and Esther, God is bringing the Jew and the Gentile together as one through His Son Jesus Christ.

In both Ruth and Esther God is not mentioned nor are any Jewish religious practices. God’s people had moved far away from God, but God has not moved away from them. He will save the Jews from extinction through two Jews -- Esther and Mordecai. The spiritual enemy of God – Satan – will continually work through the enemies of God’s people to abort God’s will.

God’s Voice is Silent in the Book of Esther

God in His love for mankind whom the Godhead originally created in their own image and likeness had the Word of God written through mankind by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to show the difference between the earthly and the spiritual --  those who turn to God and His ways to do His will even though imperfect and those who follow their own fleshly ways and do the work of Satan. These two – the flesh and Spirit of God -- war against each other throughout scripture. Romans 8:3-5: For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but whose who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. When we walk in the ways of our sinful flesh, we are walking in the sinful ways of the devil. When we walk and live according to the Spirit of God, we are doing the things of God. The Bride of Christ will allow God’s cleansing and preparation by the power of the Holy Spirit and Word, so she is presented without spot or blemish to her King.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Comparison of Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus the Great

        God used two pagan kings in the Older Testament to accomplish something with His people -- Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus the Great. Both were conquering kings. One brought bondage, the other blessing. So, when you make a choice for a leader be sure that your choice is one who will bring blessing not destruction.

Nebuchadnezzar -- Daniel 3

God used the pride, arrogance and evil in Nebuchadnezzar’s heart to destroy Jerusalem and bring God’s people into captivity and Divine judgment. God’s people were unfaithful to God and turned from Him and His ways. God does not delight in judgment; He delights in blessing His faithful people but He cannot let evil go unchecked or it will destroy everything.

There is a noticeable difference between Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar. At the time of Nebuchadnezzar, the kings of Judah “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” God said that He would take the Israelites out of His land if they defiled the land as the nations before them did.  God keeps His Word. In His judgment, God will use Nebuchadnezzar to put His people in bondage. God had been long-suffering with His people until He saw that it was not going to change unless He did something drastic to get the attention of His people to bring them back to Him.

God, who is sovereign and knows the hearts and minds of all, will use pagans to accomplish His will regarding His people either for judgment or for restoration, redemption, and rebuilding. In the case of these two kings, God used Nebuchadnezzar to send His judgment and bondage to His people because of their sin and disobedience to Him. Out of the 20 kings of Judah since Solomon, only 8 of them were godly and gave spiritual leadership to God’s people. In 2 Kings, the bible says of the evil kings who ruled over His people that they “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” The result was God’s Divine judgment. Unfortunately, the people of God would suffer the consequences of these evil kings. They will be in captivity in Babylon for 70 years. But God also said through the prophet Jeremiah that at His appointed time, God would restore His people back to His Land.

God chose the Israelites to be a “light” to the world. Instead of being God’s light, they had fallen into the darkness of unfaithfulness and sin against God. God must bring them back to Him and His Light and Truth so they will fulfill their calling.

God is all-knowing and controls everything including the powers of darkness. God knew the hearts of both Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus. He also knew who was guiding them! He knew Nebuchadnezzar was cruel enough to carry out His judgment. God does not delight in judgment but sometimes it is the only method that will bring His people back to Him. He will go to any extent to restore them back to Him and His love, grace, and truth. Often, we see God’s judgment as a negative thing, but God in His love for humanity does it to bring us back to Him and His Truth so we can be blessed once again and fulfill our God-given destiny. If leaving us to our own devices and the consequences thereof will bring us back to God, that is good.

God is love and truth, so He abhors evil and lies – even evil in the hearts of His people. Why? Because He knows that there is nothing good in evil and He wants the best for us. There is only one way to receive His best. It is through Him and His ways – the Truth. You cannot get sugar out of vinegar! You cannot get good out of evil and lies. God is a God of Truth and He blesses those who walk in truth.

Nebuchadnezzar was full of pride and cruelty. He was so proud that he made an image of himself in gold and demanded that people worship it. People who are full of pride and cruel want people to bow down (submit) to them and be loyal to them. If a person will not submit and be loyal, they will punish them in some cruel way. This is what Nebuchadnezzar did. When the Jewish servants in the palace, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image of himself, Nebuchadnezzar threw them into the fiery furnace! This is the way of evil leaders. Nebuchadnezzar was full of evil and pride and demanding loyalty and subservience.  But God, saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Only the ties that bound these faithful followers of God were burnt so they were set free. These ties were made with the garments of these three faithful servants of God. The message in the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is that God will burn the sins of our fleshly garment out of those who love and follow Him so we can walk in the freedom of a Godly life instituted by God and not be thrown into the fiery furnace set aside for the devil and his followers.

 Jews were in captivity in Babylon for 70 years. They suffered greatly until God’s anointed one, Cyrus the Great, conquered the Babylonian Empire.  

Cyrus the Great

After years of suffering, captivity and judgment, God “stirred up the spirit of Cyrus” to set His people free who wanted to return to Him, and His land of promise. Ezra will build the temple with the faithful remnant whom Ezra brought back to the Word of God – Truth – and God’s ways. If God’s temple is not built upon His Word, it will not stand.

Why did God use Cyrus, a Gentile conquering king of Persia? God knew his heart. The prophet Isaiah prophesied 200 years before that He would “anoint Cyrus and take him by the right hand…” Isaiah 45:1 The right hand is the place of strength, power and might. Jesus sits at the right hand of the Lord! God’s anointing on Cyrus would:

to subdue nations before him and loose the loins of kings. Cyrus acknowledged that it was the true God who gave him all of the kingdoms.

·         subdue nations before him and to loose the loins of kings; (break their strength)

·         open doors before him so that gates will not be shut;  (open doors not bondage)

·         I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; (prepare the way)

·         I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars. (break the power of evil)

·         I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places (He will give the devil’s possessions to His people and even more)

·         so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name (God wants Cyrus to know Him. These things will show Cyrus that God is the True God of Israel who calls Cyrus by name and chose him even though a gentile to set His people free from bondage)

·         For the sake of Jacob My servant and Israel My chosen one, I have called you by your name (not just for Cyrus to know God but so God’s people would know that God was doing this and return to Him)

·         I have given you a title of honor though you have not known Me. (God put Cyrus in his position even though Cyrus did not yet know the Lord) But God knew him! God knew that Cyrus would do what God wanted him to do--set his people free from bondage and return them to God and His ways.

God would use Cyrus to be the savior of His people who would set those who were willing free from bondage, restore them to God and His Land and provide the materials needed to rebuild God’s temple and Holy City. Because our all-knowing God knew Cyrus’ heart, He knew that Cyrus would do His bidding. It could be that Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were in the Babylonian palace at the time of Nebuchadnezzar and now with Cyrus told Cyrus about Israel’s God and His Word and Cyrus listened. Daniel was still serving in the palace during the first year of Cyrus’ rule. Josephus wrote that Cyrus was shown the prophecies written about him. It was probably Daniel who did this.

Further evidence that Cyrus came to know God is he acknowledged that it was God who gave him all the kingdoms (see Ezra 1:2) and “charged him to build Him a house in Jerusalem.” 2 Chronicles 36:23

            Not only did Cyrus set God’s people free to return to God’s Land and build the temple, Cyrus returned “the articles of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem and put in the temple of his gods.” Ezra 1:7 In other words, king Cyrus restored what the enemy had stolen from God’s people. The holy vessels of God’s temple were restored. Cyrus went one step further. He decreed that the Israelites be given generous gifts from the treasury of the king. “They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia.” Ezra 3:7 In other words, they were given more than they could have hoped for or asked as Jesus gives us more than we could ever hope for or ask when we love and obey Him!

            Our all-knowing God is not fooled! People are! God does not bless sin and prideful leaders or the country they are leading. All one has to do is study the various evil leaders and kings in the Bible, and compare them to the blessings of God in those who truly loved and obeyed God and His Word. Israel had many leaders over the centuries. When they were evil, Israel was not blessed. When they were led by God and walked in His truth and the fruit of His Spirit, that country was blessed. Jesus will also restore all that the enemy steals from us when we return to God and His ways.

  I will close in saying, I pray that you will be careful in your choice of a leader to lead this country. I pray that God will bless America once again and return us to the way of blessing and peace – the ways of Jesus – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things as these there is no law.” Galatians 5:2