Today’s Text of Encouragement:
“Who is among you who reverently fears the Lord; who obeys the voice of His Servant, yet who walks in darkness and deep trouble and has no shining splendor in his heart? Let him rely on, trust in, and be confident in the name of the Lord, and let him lean upon and be supported by his God.”
“Christ leads me through no darker rooms
Than He went through before;
He (she) that unto God’s kingdom comes,
Must enter by this door.
Come, Lord, when grace has made me meet
Thy blessed face to see;
Or if Thy work on earth be sweet,
What will Thy glory be!
Then shall I end my sad complaints,
And weary, sinful days;
And join with the triumphant saints,
To sing Jehovah’s praise.
My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim;
But ‘tis enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with Him.”
“I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light.”
Mary Gardiner Brainard
Today’s Study Text:
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death and broke apart the bonds that held them. Oh, that (we) would praise the Lord for His goodness and loving-kindness and His wonderful works to the children of men!
“Nurturing The Embers of Hope”
“Where Is God?” Part 2
“Live in faith and hope; though it be in darkness, for in this darkness God protects the soul. Cast your care upon God, for you are His and He will not forget you.”
John of the Cross
Do I feel that I’m stuck in a place of darkness at this time in my life?
Have I ever thought that because things around me were so dark that God might have forgotten me?
“We must welcome the night. It’s the only time that the stars shine.”
“Darkness is my point of view…light is God’s point of view.”
If there is one point that commentators on the book of Esther agree upon, it is the fact that the specific name, God, is not mentioned in this story. This has led some to even pose the question as to the relevance of this particular book in the Old Testament.
However, ten years ago when we began our journey together through the Bible, I laid out two specific questions that would be asked. First, “Why is this book in the Bible?” Second, “What does this book say that is relevant to those of us who live in the 21st century?”
In his second letter to his son in Christ, the Apostle Paul reminded Timothy “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” And this is where we often stop. But Paul had just a little more to say about all scripture in the very last verse of II Timothy, Chapter 3. He noted that all scripture is also given so that the men and women empowered by God “may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (II Timothy 3: 16, 17, K.J.V.).
Just so I had a complete picture of what Paul was saying to Timothy, I took out my Greek dictionary and here’s what I found. The word “All” means “every word, the whole entire Bible.” And I want to add, this includes a book called Esther where God is not mentioned by name. But I’d like to continue by sharing more from the Apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy. When Paul said that “all scripture was given by inspiration,” the word “inspiration” means “divinely breathed.” I love the thought that God breathed the words of scripture into those individuals that under His inspired power wrote down what He divinely gave them. Furthermore, Paul made it clear that every word was profitable or advantageous and helpful for teaching and for the conviction of sin and the correction God’s law of love provides to His children through training and nurturing. What is the end result when we study God’s Word? We become “righteous” or as the Greek tells us we develop a “holy character” that is perfectly completed and fully equipped.
Whether God’s name appears in the ten chapters of Esther isn’t the point. We know that even when God isn’t apparent to our finite vision in a story in the Bible, He is still there working. Maybe behind the events or in the shadows of history. But make no mistake, He’s in Esther. The more I study the book the more I see Him because the darkness of the time in history doesn’t obliterate the works of our Father.
So I ask you: “What was God saying through the writer of Esther? And what is in the book that is pertinent to our lives today?
I found my answer by looking at the word “darkness.” First, the time in history when the events in the book of Esther transpired are critical for us to understand. In her book Esther: Courage in Crisis, author Margaret Hess provides a very concise history lesson to her readers. Just a quick note. In 536 B.C., King Cyrus who we are told in the book of Isaiah was chosen by God, “He is My Shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure, even saying to Jerusalem, ‘Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid’” (Isaiah 44: 28, K.J.V.), gave a decree that the Jews held in captivity in Persia, Babylon and Assyria, could return to Jerusalem. As Margaret Hess tells us:
“Some of the (Jews) did go back under Zerubbabel. Another group would yet return under Ezra. But other Jews found conditions comfortable in Persia, Babylonia and Assyria. “They became successful in business, in government, and in crafts. They liked the land of their adoption – for many it was the land of their birth…The pioneer life of rebuilding Jerusalem didn’t appeal to them…The book of Esther shows God caring for His people outside the land, as He has throughout history, whether faithful to Him or not.”
What’s critical for us to remember is that Mordecai, Esther’s cousin and foster-parent was one of the Jews who chose to stay in a land where the God of heaven and earth was not worshipped. When it came to reverence for the God of Israel, simply stated, there wasn’t any reverence showed in Persia. As we will find out in the coming days, King Ahasuerus was a godless despot whose duel focus was on ruling the world and feasting with his friends.
It is at this point in time when one might say, “No wonder there’s no mention of God in the book of Esther.” “No wonder you don’t see God at work.” In this foreign land – thoughts of God would have been out of the norm. And this, spiritual darkness would have been the norm.
Why Mordecai chose to stay in a godless country when he could have returned to his homeland we will never know. What we will find out is that just because our surroundings may be dark, doesn’t mean we have to take on the darkness in our own lives. Daniel and his three Hebrew friends didn’t leave their trust in God at the border of Babylon. No! They entered Babylon’s most lofty places in government with God in their hearts. They never let evil overcome good and for you and me today, this is something we should never forget. These early witnesses for God served as beams of light in a very dark world. They didn’t use as an excuse the fact that everyone around them lived lives that were focused on pleasing themselves. While it appeared to be a dark world in the book of Esther, God was not limited by the darkness. Not at all!
One of my favorite passages in Scripture is Exodus 14: 21, “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night and made the sea dry land; and the waters were divided” (Exodus 14: 21, Amplified Bible). Now I am not fond of wind. Living as we have at the foot of what is called the Mogollon Rim, our home is subject to some fierce winds. Once a concrete birdbath on our porch was blown across the patio and chipped to pieces by wind gusts over 40 mph during a thunderstorm. At the same time our neighbors iron patio table which took 6 men to lift, was blown across their patio, just missing their plate glass window which if struck would have been shattered.
The reason I comment on the wind is that I can just hear myself gripping at a “fierce wind” that blew all night long out in the desert. Imagine the dust that was kicked up by such a gale. And on top of the wind, it was dark. No street lights in the desert and with that forceful wind, it most likely would have been hard to keep a candle flame burning. As I’ve read Exodus 14: 21 repeatedly in my life, the words have encouraged me to wait expectantly in the darkness of the night for the morning light. Don’t ever think that because you can’t see what God is doing that He isn’t at work. His vision is 20/20 in the dark. I appreciate the comments made by Charles Henry Parkhurst regarding the Exodus miracle:
“The real work of God for the children of Israel was not when they awakened and found that they could get over the Red Sea; but it was ‘all that night.’
There may be a great working in your life when it all seems dark and you cannot see or trace, but yet God is working. Just as truly did He work ‘all that night.’ as all the next day. The next day simply manifested what God had done during the night…Do not forget that it was ‘all that night.’ God works all the night, until the light comes. You may not see it, but all that “night” in your life, as you believe God, He works.”
Charles Henry Parkhurst
Oh, we may not see the name of God written on the pages of the book of Esther but He is there – make no mistake about it. And in your time of darkness, He is there too. Just to encourage you, last week, as I was reviewing the financial needs of the Garden, knowing that the summer months are some of the tightest for our finances, I laid before God our needs. Furthermore, I promised Him I would not get in a panic for I knew He saw the situation. That was last Monday. On Tuesday, the very next day, Garden friends sent a gift for the exact amount I had prayed for. Our Garden needs were not outside God’s vision and yours aren’t either be they financial, spiritual, emotional or physical. God will work all night until the early morning sun reveals the miracle He has performed on your behalf and mine.
All That Night
“’All that night’ the Lord was working,
Working in the tempest blast,
Working with the swelling current,
Flooding, flowing, free and fast.
“’All that night’ God’s children waited –
Hearts, perhaps in agony –
With the enemy behind them,
And, in front, the cruel sea.
“’All that night’ seemed blacker darkness
Than they ever saw before,
Though the light of God’s own presence
Near them was, and sheltered o’er.
“’All that night’ that weary vigil
Passed; the day at last did break,
And they saw that God was working
‘All that night’ a path to make.
“’All that night,’ O child of sorrow,
Canst thou not thy heartbreak stay
Know thy God in darkest midnight
Works, as well as in the day.”
“Lord, I have been so defeated by circumstances. I have felt like an animal, trapped in a corner with nowhere to flee. Where are You in all this, Lord? The night is dark. I cannot feel Your presence.
Help me to know that the darkness is really ‘Shade of Your hand, out-stretched caressingly’; that the ‘hemming in’ is Your doing. Perhaps there was no other way You could get my full attention, no other way I would allow You to demonstrate what You can do in my life.
I see now that the emptier my cup is, the more space there is to receive Your love and supply. Lord, I hand You this situation…asking You to fill it from Your bountiful reservoirs in Your own time and Your own way.
How I thank You, Father in heaven, that Your riches are available to me, not on the basis of my deserving, but of Jesus and His worthiness. Therefore, in the strength of His name, I pray.”
“As our tropical sun gives forth its light, so let the rays from Your face enter every nook of my being and drive away all darkness within.”
Prayer from Philippines
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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