Monday, April 3, 2017

A Study of the Book of Esther: Week Two, Day One

Week Two- Just a Few More as the Drama Peaks!

Bible Verse: If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this? -Esther 4:14

Day One: Esther

     This morning I did something that I do quite often. I made pancakes for my kids. But these didn't turn out quite right. They were flat and lifeless, greasy blobs. They just weren't good. You could still tell they were supposed to be pancakes. They looked like them. They just weren't right. It wasn't until I realized that I left out an important ingredient- and then added it- that they became what they were always meant to be. It's amazing the difference one tiny ingredient can make isn't it?
     And that brings us to Esther. On the surface, she doesn't seem like any big or powerful ingredient to our story. She's an orphaned, Jewish girl living in the Persian Empire (thanks to an old king taking her people into captivity). She lives with her cousin, Mordecai, who adopted her. She is in the middle of a very secular world living a very religious life.
     Read Esther 2:5-20. How is Esther described (2:7)?

What are the two names associated with Esther (2:7)?

Reflection: Why do you suppose she has two (very different) names?

     Two names for one girl. This is a culture thing. Hadassah is Esther's given, Jewish name while Esther is her Persian name that she uses in the Persian Empire. Hadassah means "fragrance" and comes from the word for "myrtle" which is a shrub. It has star-shaped flowers and is said to indicate peace and thanksgiving (Swindoll, 36). The name Esther actually means "star" (remember those star-shaped flowers from her namesake plant) which is also fitting considering she is the star of this particular story.

Though I know we started to cover this at the end of last week, for review's sake, what happened because of the king's decree (2:8)?

How many young girls were taken (2:8)?

Under whose care were they placed (2:8)?

Reflection: What must Esther have been like for Hegai to be impressed with her so quickly (2:9)?

     Although Esther too was in the midst of a huge interruption to her life, she must have handled it with patience, kindness, and grace. Hegai saw hundreds of women every day. For him to be impressed says something about her. In fact, in Charles Swindoll's book A Woman of Strength and Dignity: Esther, Swindoll writes of verse 9 that "the literal translation of the original language says, 'She lifted up grace before his face.'" He goes on to say that though Esther couldn't say no to going to the harem, "Esther modeled grace before the face of the king's influential servant, Hegai."

Why didn't Esther tell anyone about her nationality (2:10)?

What did Mordecai do each day (2:11)?

How long was Esther under treatment in the harem (2:12)?

     Though it would've been easy to fall into the trap of growing too confident in herself, Esther doesn't do that here. She continues to listen to her cousin, Mordecai, because she loves and respects him. She is showing her commitment to him by faithfully keeping that secret just as he is maintaining his commitment to her by visiting the courtyard regularly throughout her year in the harem. I can't imagine what that must have been like for her! Here she is thrust into a life she never asked for and she is maintaining her grace and her faith through it all.

What happened when it was time to go to the king's palace for Esther (2:13-14)?

What does Esther choose to do when it's her turn (2:15)?

     I love these verses. Esther does what so many of us really wish we had the nerve to do! She lays aside herself, puts down all of her selfishness and all the "I deserve this" that she likely carried deep inside and chooses instead to be humble and willing to follow the advice of someone who clearly knew more than she did about the king. She didn't pretend to know better. She didn't act like she had it all together or worse, throw a fit about how unfair all of this was. She did her best and took advice like a pro. And it obviously paid off!

When was Esther taken to see the king (2:16)?

How did he feel about her (2:17)?

What happened to Mordecai after that (2:19)?

What did Esther continue to do (2:20)?

Reflection: Reading these verses about Esther, are there any other personality traits that stand out about her?

     We could talk about the traits Esther possessed for hours, but I want to only focus on the three we've uncovered here. She was full of grace, faithful to the end, and humble even in the toughest situations. We've only just met her and already it feels obvious to me why God would use her in this situation. He could count on her to stick to him even when it was hard. She'd demonstrated that over and over again in her life.
     We all have things about us that God put inside of us because He knew He could use it. But sometimes we don't see it that way. I, for one, have a habit of sharing the truth as I see it when I see it. And if I don't say it out loud? Don't worry. My face will say it for me! I've always seen this as a terrible and unfortunate personality trait but maybe it's not. Maybe if I developed it better and allowed God to shape it in me, I'd actually see that this trait is a positive one.

Personal Reflection: What positive personality traits do you possess and how could you develop them even further to serve God better?

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