Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
A Psalm of David
“Listen to my words, O Lord, give heed to my sighing and groaning. Hear the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to You do I pray. In the morning, You hear my voice, O Lord, in the morning I prepare a prayer for You and watch and wait for You to speak to my heart…For You, Lord, will bless the uncompromisingly righteous; as with a shield You will surround her with goodwill, pleasure and favor.”
“What’s this morn’s bring eye to me,
If I see not Thine and Thee,
Fairer Jesus; in whose face
All my Heaven’s is spread! – Alas,
Still I grovel in dead night,
Whilst I want Thy living light;
Dreaming with wide open eyes
Fond fantastic vanities.
Shine, my only Day Star, shine:
So mine eyes shall wake by Thine;
So the dreams I grope in now
To clear visions all shall grow;
So my day shall measured be
By Thy Grace’s clarity;
So shall I discern the path
Thy sweet law prescribed hath;
For Thy ways cannot be shown
By any light but by Thine own.”
Lord, In The Morning
“Lord, in the morning Thou shall hear
My voice ascending high;
To Thee will I address my prayer,
To Thee lift up mine eye.
O may Thy Spirit guide my feet
In ways of righteousness;
Make every path of duty straight
And plain before my face.
(Those) that love and fear Thy name
Shall see their hopes fulfilled;
The mighty God will compass them
With favor as a shield.”
(The above hymn, “Lord, In The Morning,” was chosen by my ”daddy-boy,” as I called my father, for us to sing as a family, every morning at the breakfast table before my sister and I left for school. How appropriate are the words to our current study on the book of Esther. “The mighty God will compass His faithful children with favor as a shield.”)
Today’s Study Text:
“Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty (127) provinces;) that in those days, when the King Ahasuerus sat on the throne of the kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, in the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and the princes of the provinces, being before him; when he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore day (180 days).”
“Nurturing The Embers of Hope”
“When Power is Perverted” Part 4
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
How would I define the word power?
In what ways have I witnessed the “corrupting influence of unbridled power?
“What makes the temptation of power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it’s that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life.”
Henri J. M. Nouwen
“The power of God’s reign is not exhibitionistic. It is self-effacing, self-concealing. That power, like the leaves buried inside the mass of dough, is a fermentative power in the depth of humanity, in the womb of God’s creation. It is the power of compassion. It is the power of the cross.”
It doesn’t take long for us to recognize the fact that there is more to the book of Esther than just a brief story about a little orphan girl who became a queen. This is why we should heed the words of Samuel Wells and Ben Quash who in their thought-provoking book, Christian Ethics, offer three recommendations which assist us in gleaning the maximum potential from the passages of Scripture we study: They remind us to: “Look behind the Text”; “Look within the Text”; and finally, to “Look beyond the Text.”
This advice proves to be sound as we tackle the book of Esther. Tilling the soil for a plentiful harvest which benefits our spiritual growth.
One of my helpful tools as I studied the book of Esther was the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. The commentator on the book of Esther was Dr. Samuel Wells and his insightful thoughts only served to motivate me to look longer and more deeply into a story I had mistakenly thought I knew rather well.
Right off the bat, in Esther 1: 1-4, today’s study text, we are able to pull the curtain of history back, only to find the revelation that the power exhibited on earth, at the time of the events described in Esther, shows us that just as King Nebuchadnezzar thought his rulership of Babylon put him on top of the power structure evident in his world, King Ahasuerus had the grand notion filling his mind that all the power in the world now belonged to him and Medo-Persia, the country he ruled. In a certain sense, by all outward appearances, King Ahasuerus was truly the top dog. As Samuel Wells put it: “Ahasuerus was God. That is how the book of Esther begins…the book begins with the one who is in charge of all the events and circumstances and arrangements and threats that affect the Jews. He holds the whole world in his hands. All 127 provinces, to be precise. There may be life beyond the lands that Ahasuerus rules over, but it hardly matters. Ahasuerus rules the whole of the world as far as the Jews are concerned. All the world that counts.” This is why I entitled today’s devotional “When Power Is Perverted.”
Evidently, King Ahasuerus never gave a second thought to the fact that a prophet of the God of the Israelites had given another king a view into the future when the Babylonian monarch, King Nebuchadnezzar, was shown the future. In the words of Daniel: “Thou, O king, sawest and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of breast. His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay” (Daniel 2: 31-33, K.J.V.). Sandwiched between Babylon and Greece, King Ahasuerus gave little to no time reflecting on the fact that while he thought he had all the power in the world, that a God on high was in control of even the king’s world. Every breath the king took was a gift of the Almighty.
The rulership of God Almighty was something that King David wrote about when he stated emphatically: “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103: 19, Amplified Bible). It doesn’t matter what claims men and women on this earth make, God still rules over all.
King Nebuchadnezzar could shout out from his palace, “This is the great Babylon I have built. I did it all by myself.” But he found out rather quickly that the power he thought he had could be taken away in one short moment.
So often, even in our own lives, it is easy to take the glory that belongs to God and heap it upon ourselves – “Isn’t this the great (company) I have built.” More often than I like to admit, I’ve allowed myself to bask in the applause of the world when something went spectacularly well in my life. In a letter to her husband John Adams, the admired first lady, Abigail Adams, penned in 1775 that as she reflected on the events during that critical time in history, “I am more and more convinced that man (or woman) is a dangerous creature, and that power, whether vested in many or a few, is ever grasping, and, like the grave, cries ‘Give, give.’”
Her words took my thoughts to the New Testament where we are told that Christ was led into the wilderness where he confronted the devil. “The devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto Him, ‘All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me’” (Matthew 4: 8, 9, K.J.V.).
How often in your life and mine are we offered “these things” that tickle our fancy and bring a twinkle to our eyes, simply because we forget the words of Jesus, “What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?” (Matthew 16: 26, The Message Bible).
If we return to the words at the beginning of today’s devotional which instructed us to, “look behind the text; look within the text and finally to look beyond the text.” While the words found in Esther 1: 1-4 seem to be filled with simple statements about the realm ruled by King Ahasuerus, by reflecting on what had happened to world rulers before King Ahasuerus and by looking at the situation faced by God’s children in exile, we are drawn to put our binoculars on as we view the future for what we will see is that human power, even when we have convinced ourselves that we have a handle on everything in our world, is simply a mirage that promises false hope. Today, may our prayer be that of Diego Frisch:
“God, Your Son Jesus Christ has taught us
That Power belongs to You.
You have shared Your power with us,
Yet, we confess,
We have not accepted the power You have given us.
We have allowed others to use power
To dominate people and nations,
And accumulating wealth.
Today You offer us Your Power,
So that we can help change the world,
Announce Your kingdom,
And acknowledge You,
The source of all power,
‘For Thine is the kingdom,
and the power,
and the glory,
forever and ever.’”
All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name
“All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all!
Oh, that with yonder sacred throng
We at His feet may fall,
Join in the everlasting song,
And crown Him Lord of all!”
“Your heart can depend totally upon the Lord, for His strength never weakens, His might never dimminishes, and His power never fades.”
“I looked upon You in the sanctuary to Your power and Your glory. Because Your loving–kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. So I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My whole being shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.”
Psalm of David
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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