finding truth matters

The Book of Esther is controversial Biblical book. Why is it in the Bible? There is not even a direct mention of “God” in it. This has led some to question whether it even belongs in the Bible. But what these critics have missed is one of the most profound messages from God in all of Scripture.

While the book of Esther is obviously about Esther, it is also rich in Biblical allegory about God and His relationship with His people. But what is not immediately obvious is that this book is very prophetic. It describes how God was to end His Old Covenant and establish a new one. All the while, the characters in this pivotal story unwittingly reveal some amazing truths about God, family, and the relationship between religion and politics.

 

VASHTI WAS LIKE ISRAEL

Queen Vashti

But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command delivered by the eunuchs. At this the king became enraged, and his anger burned within him.
Esther 1:12

The Book of Esther, like the Song of Solomon, deals with a national picture that is often overlooked by commentators. The characters in the story of Esther’s rise to glory played allegorical roles which paralleled Israel’s relationship with the LORD, and God’s plan to have a New Covenant people.

Like any good story, the author introduces us to the main characters. We are firstly introduced to King Ahasuerus, who is a type of God. We are then introduced to the recalcitrant Queen Vashti who is a type of Old Covenant Israel. Like Israel, she is enjoying the privileges and benefits of King, but is not prepared to obey the King. This was Israel’s condition. This was why they were in exile in Persia. Some commentators justify Vashti’s disobedience by claiming that she rightly refused to come to the King because he was trying to humiliate her (by demanding that she appear naked). But there is nothing in the text that justifies this presumption. The text simply presents Vashti as disobedient. The reader of the book of Esther should pause and ponder whether they too are guilty of Vashti’s sin. Are we too enjoying the benefits of God’s favour without enjoying God Himself? Are we prepared to obey God when He summons us?

¶ “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
Matthew 23:37

Like Israel, Vashti was banished for her disobedience.

 

HADASSAH, A TYPE OF THE CHURCH

King Ahasuerus

¶ After these things, when the anger of King Ahasuerus had abated, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her. Then the king’s young men who attended him said, “Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king.
Esther 2:1

The King had banished and divorced Vashti. God had also divorced and banished Israel.

She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore.
Jeremiah 3:8 (See also Isaiah 50:1)

Like King Ahasuerus and his outrage over Vashti, God’s decision to banish Israel came only after His patience had been tried because of their repeated disobedience.

My God will reject them
because they have not listened to him;
they shall be wanderers among the nations.
Hosea 9:17

King Ahasuerus ordered that new bride be sought out. After God had divorced Israel, He declared that He would also have a new bride. In the pathetic story of Hosea, God uses this willing servant to live out His own tragic relationship breakdown with unfaithful Israel and declares that He would put them away and that the day was coming when He would take a people who were currently not His people and He would make them His people (Hosea 1:10). Then the Lord declares-

And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.
Hosea 2:19-20

Hadassah, Esther, was chosen to be among the finalists in contention to become the wife of King Ahasuerus. She had been orphaned early, but was raised as his own daughter by her much older cousin, Mordecai. Although he was probably childless, he has gone down in history as one of the greatest “fathers” the world has ever seen. He raised Esther to be a beautiful, pure, godly, submissive, devout, young lady. Many parents today would like to know how he did it! Mordecai is type of a pastor who, like any good pastor, has given up his life for his “children”. There was someone in the New Testament who was also childless, but also a great father-

For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
First Corinthians 4:15

But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.
Philippians 2:22

Mordecai and EstherThere is an old German saying that says Es ist einfacher, einem Vater als zu stehen, einer zu sein (It is easier to become a father than it is to be one). There are many men who have fathered a child but are not fathering that child. Mordecai was a father to Esther. Notice what he had achieved by the time Esther was a young woman. He had built a good communicating relationship with her. This communication may have left Esther with a sense of being very special to God and having a unique destiny because later we read of Mordecai sending a message to her that seems to her remind of this.

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Esther 4:14

When Esther was selected for the King’s Harem, we learn something insightful about Mordecai’s fathering. Firstly, he counseled Esther. Fathers counsel their children.

Esther had not made known her people or kindred, for Mordecai had commanded her not to make it known.
Esther 2:10

Secondly, he visited Esther continually. Fathers take initiative and get into their children’s world (do you know the names of your child’s school teachers?). Thirdly, during these visits, Mordecai sought to learn about Esther’s progress. Fathers studytheir children.

And every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her.
Esther 2:11

Esther is a type of the Church, the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). Like King Ahasuerus who had put away his first wife, God had put away His wife (Israel), and like Ahasuerus, declared His intention to have another wife. God’s new bride would not be the earthly Jerusalem but one whose names were registered in a different Jerusalem-

But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.
Galatians 4:26

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,
Hebrews 12:22

The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.
Revelation 3:12

 

HEGAI, A TYPE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

So when the king’s order and his edict were proclaimed, and when many young women were gathered in Susa the citadel in custody of Hegai, Esther also was taken into the king’s palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women.
Esther 2:8

Esther being beautifiedBut perhaps the thing that Mordecai did that all fathers, wanting the will of God for their children, have to do is: he trusted the King’s assistant to beautify his daughter. Although already beautiful, Esther was beautified by the King’s agent, Hegai. God’s agent in the beautification of His people is the Holy Spirit. Hegai applied perfumes and cosmetics to Esther for a period of about a year. Esther could have objected to this seemingly unnecessary process. In a similar way, many “good” people fail to see why they need saving. But the Christian must submit to the Holy Spirit’s process of beautifying. He has a goal of making us resemble the most Beautiful One.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…
Romans 8:29

The New Covenant believer must walk “in the Spirit” (Romans 8:9). As he does, he will hear the Holy Spirit prompting him to obedience. He will sense the Holy Spirit correcting and convicting him. He will encounter the Holy Spirit bringing abrasive people into his life to smooth out his roughness. And most potently, he will recognise the Holy Spirit placing him into a community of fellow believers who will offend him and therefore provide opportunities for him to learn to forgive and forebear and thus become more like Christ (the next time you feel like leaving your church, you may well be running out on a vital work of the Holy Spirit in your life).

 

HAMAN, A TYPE OF SATAN

The Amalekites seemed to be genetically opposed to God’s people. Joshua led Israel in their first battle which was against a surprise attack from the Amalekites (Exodus 17). After this, God declared that justice must be done regarding the Amalekites. But despite ensuing battles by judges and kings, including Saul and David, the Amalekites were not removed. Although, when the time was right to do it, the Prophet Samuel had King Saul go into battle against them with the simple instruction: destroy them all – even their cattle (1Sam. 15:2-3). And Saul nearly did. It appears that when he spared King Agag of the Amalekites, that he had also spared some of Agag’s family who appeared to have escaped. Then we are introduced to Haman-

¶ After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, and advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him.
Esther 3:1

Esther's feastIt seems that Haman, who is a type of Satan, was a descendent of King Agag of the Amalekites. Like Satan, this Haman despised God’s people. He orchestrated a plot to wipe them out. Satan is also trying to wipe God’s people out today. But as the story of Esther arises, Haman meets is demise. Firstly, he is humiliated when he was made to march Mordecai through the streets of Susa. Similarly, Satan was humiliated when Christ triumphed over him on the Cross.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
Colossians 2:13-14

The final destruction of the Amalekites happened not at the hand of a great warrior-king, but at the orchestration of a young Jewish lady: Esther. This victory is still celebrated today by Jews (the “Festival of Purim”). But this strategically important victory would not have been possible if it had not been for the masterful fathering of Mordecai. At the moment when Queen Esther needed the courage to act, she needed metaphysical strength. It was this time that this First Lady knew who she could trust and call upon. She asked Mordecai to pray for her. Today, Christian leaders need to build bridges of trust with political leaders and governing rulers. When they need courage to do the right thing at the right time, I hope they know who to call. How many of us actually pray for our political leaders? How many of our Christian leaders have taken the time to prepare “for such a time as this”? All too often the only time politicians hear from Christian leaders is when they want to protest against something! God knows we need people in power like Esther- who have been groomed by wise and loving pastor-fathers. But God only knows how much these political leaders need people like Mordecai to pray for and counsel them when they need courage the most.

 

MORDECAI, A MODEL MAN

It may not have been convenient for Mordecai to become a father to Esther. Real men rise up to their responsibilities when there is a need for commitment. He may not have had the means to support an extra mouth in his home, but he would have taken measures to ensure that he could. Real men are responsible men. Rather than run away when they are put under pressure, they step up! Rather than seeing his role as a Dad as an inconvenience, he seems to have regarded it as a priority. Dads need to regard their fathering as being of world-importance! Mordecai’s efforts in raising his daughter changed the world! But his fathering role didn’t end when she married. But it did change.

Mordecai changed from being someone who could command his daughter to one who counseled his daughter after she was married. But we see something quite rare in Mordecai that many of us would love to see in more fathers: he cared for his community not just his family. Mordecai was passionately concerned about the plight of his people. He took a keen interest in politics. But not the kind of petty party politics we see today, his political interest was in the genuine welfare of his people.

¶ When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry. He went up to the entrance of the king’s gate, for no one was allowed to enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth.
Esther 4:1-2

The result was the urged the Queen to take political action on behalf of their people. She in turn requested prayer. What a wonderful thing it would be to have a church genuinely concerned about the people of its community, and prayerful for its political leaders as well! All too often when a pastor speaks of issues beyond his own church he is shouted down for trying to mix religion and politics – and often this is loudest from within his own church! But God is concerned with more people than we realise. And so should we be! At a time when other voices are silent on behalf of the community’s welfare, the church should not be. Mordecai the pastor became courageous and prophetic when the occasion called for it-

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Esther 4:13-14

I think more dads should be like Mordecai. I think that churches can be like Mordecai. I know that as a pastor, and father of 4 children, I certainly want to.

Dr. Andrew Corbett

September 10th 2009, writing from Scamander, Australia.

This article may be copied and distributed if due credit is given to the author, the article is not altered, and the website- “http : // www . findingtruthmatters . org” – is hyperlinked or referenced.

Leadership Lessons From Shackleton

Sometimes when the going gets tough, you just have to keep going. In fact, success in life – no matter how you define it – can only be achieved with endurance. Surely one of the greatest examples of endurance (if not the greatest) is the story of Ernest Shackleton and his expedition to the Antarctic on the ship: The Endurance. While we ordinary mortals may never have a death defying adventure like Shackleton and his 28 men, we are already in the midst of our own great adventure called life!

Some people want to live their lives by seeking their maximum comfort and avoiding all risks. But this is not the Believer’s lot. We are called to follow Christ- who even though He is entirely consistent in character, is somewhat unpredictable in his plans for His followers. The New Testament calls this “walking by faith” (2Corinthians 5:7). This is why for the Believer, Life is the Greatest Adventure.

When was the last time you did something for Christ that required “great faith” (Matthew 15:28)?

How Pagan Is Christianity? A response to Barna and Viola

It’s rare that a Publisher commences book with a disclaimer by virtually saying we are publishing this even though we don’t agree with it. This type of disclaimer is especially rare for a publisher such as Tyndale. After reading this book I understood why Tyndale were so apprehensive in publishing it. While this was puzzling, what I found most puzzling was that George Barna put his name to it! One can only wonder at the damage this book has done to his reputation.
A “Pagan” is someone who is either ignorant or has wilfully rejected the truth and as a result is an idolater (worships idols). This is the word that the authors have chosen to use to describe modern Christianity. It is, as they admit, an outrageous claim.

Religion and Politics Don’t Mix

This is an introduction to the theology that leads to political engagement by Christians. It explores the notion of the separation of Church and State, how this has been misapplied and re-thought of by significant Christian leaders in the 18th, 20th, and 21st centuries. I conclude with a personal experience of what I consider positive political engagement looks like. 

They say art is the thermometer of culture. In this sense, politics might be seen as the barometer of culture. And we might add that Christians should be the thermostat of culture (not the thermometer of culture). By this we mean that art in its various forms – literature, music, visual art, movies, poetry, photography, and fashion, reflect what culture finds acceptable, disturbing, desirable, praiseworthy, and even beautiful. And politics is the popular affirmation (the essence of democracy) of a set of legislative policy agendas that give direction to a culture.

The Leadership Key of King David

Success often results from being able to get along with others. Real leadership success can only be achieved by working with others. And this type of spiritual leadership is prescribed in the Bible as “partnering” with others. This is why we regard Partnering as the ‘art of leadership’.

We work together as partners who belong to God. You are God’s field, God’s building—not ours.
First Corinthians 3:9

Churches need leaders. Jesus called His original disciples to “shepherd” (not “sheep-herd”) His sheep. In John 10 Christ labors this point that his servants will lead His people as ‘shepherds’. This is not the type of leadership that domineers and exploits for personal gain. This is called despotic leadership. Rather, the type of leadership that Jesus calls for is ‘God-Partnering’ leadership: the kind of leadership heart that God has toward His people. This is why First Corinthians 3:9 says that church leaders work together with God (“labourers together with God” KJV). As leaders with God we are to treat people as if they were God’s (“God’s field/building”). If you are called to lead people within a church, whether as a senior pastor or someone helping their pastor to lead, it is important to realise that we lead with God as well as for God, and that it is His Church.

What Do Christians Really Believe? (You might be surprised!)

What is the popular perception of what Christians believe? If we are to believe what the popular media reports, Christians are known far better for what they are against than what they actually believe. Therefore, it’s not surprising that most people think that Christians are essentially homophobic, misogynists, who seek to control people through the medieval superstitious beliefs. This new uninformed perception of Christianity is perpetuated by politicians who, while claiming to be Christians, actually espouse views and values antithetical to Christianity. This was seen dramatically in both the US Presidential elections of 2008/12 and the Australian Federal election of 2013. In both campaigns major candidates claimed to be adherents of Christianity yet they ridiculed the Bible and asserted that it endorsed their particular views on issues such as marriage and sexuality, and what constituted ‘Christian’ social justice. Most recently in Australia, the Opposition Leader, Mr Bill Shorten, speaking at the Australian Christian Lobby National Conference, claimed to be a Christian yet asserted positions foreign to classic Christianity. So just what do Christians really believe?

Examining The Prosperity Gospel

“Give to my ministry” announced the Televangelist, “and Lord will cancel all your debts!” These and other claims by ‘Prosperity Preachers’ are also suspiciously linked to the size of the “seed” someone “sows” into their ministry. In more recent times this prosperity teaching has even been linked to the collapse in the sub-prime mortgage market and the eventual global economic melt-down! But if the Prosperity Gospel was only about money, we could perhaps tolerate it. But it encompasses much, much more dangerous dogma than that!

In a recent Time Magazine Online article, it questions the influence of Word of Faith preaching on the Sub-Prime Mortgage collapse. Before this article appeared though, many pastors, Bible teachers, and theologians were screaming from the roof-tops about some of the dangers of the “Prosperity Gospel”. But such roof-top screaming fades into a whimper compared to the massive media resources available to the super-preachers of the Prosperity Gospel. This “Gospel” not only baptises materialism and avarice but it denies some of the most essential Christian doctrines and replaces them with what can only be described as cultic teaching and practice. The Prosperity Gospel is also known as “Word of Faith” theology, or the “Health, Wealth, Happiness Gospel”. Its most public proponents are all televangelists who appeal to their audiences for donations- with promises of God’s miraculous financial blessing according to the amount donated. All of these preachers have testimonials from people who have given to their ministry and allegedly miraculously prospered as a result. There are some televangelists who are probably charlatans because they have discovered that Christians are gullible cash-cows. But many of these Prosperity Preachers are sincere, genuine, and nice people- its just that their theology is fatally flawed with dangerous errors!

Mordecai, The Model Dad

The Book of Esther is controversial Biblical book. Why is it in the Bible? There is not even a direct mention of “God” in it. This has led some to question whether it even belongs in the Bible. But what these critics have missed is one of the most profound messages from God in all of Scripture.

While the book of Esther is obviously about Esther, it is also rich in Biblical allegory about God and His relationship with His people. But what is not immediately obvious is that this book is very prophetic. It describes how God was to end His Old Covenant and establish a new one. All the while, the characters in this pivotal story unwittingly reveal some amazing truths about God, family, and the relationship between religion and politics.

True For You But Not True For Me

Have you even heard someone say, “That may be true for you but it’s not true for me!” It’s the kind of sentiment which might be appropriately limited to our experiences and our emotional responses to them, but it can not be true about those issues which effect us all, known as universals. These include what we consider to be morally right or wrong, whether a fact is true or false,  or whether we should regard something as either good or bad. For example, one of the universal laws that is not subject to personal opinion is gravity. Someone may disagree with it, but their disagreement doesn’t change its reality.

The kind of judgment needed to distinguish right from wrong, true from false, or good from bad, must allow for those things which are universal and thus common to all. This kind of truth, what Francis Schaeffer called ‘true truth’ is also not subject to context, circumstances, popularity, or fashion (Beckworth & Koukl 1998, 20). Neither is it restricted to a time or place. Thus, what can be known as true has generally been acknowledged as such down through the ages by various peoples located in different parts of the world. Philosophers refer to this kind of truth as objective truth.

Moral Naturalism

The Global Environmental Movement has undoubtedly done some great good. Visit cities such as Los Angeles, New Delhi, Shanghai, and you’ll soon realise that water and air pollution is a very serious matter. Anyone who has seen the devastation of massive unregenerated deforestation will readily acknowledge that managing trees in the ground is more critical than many must have realised. Yet, undergirding the Environmental Movement, and its ensuing social policies, is that: natural is best. Many people justly concerned about our ecology have started to notice a large wooden horse on wheels has been pushed into the town square by Environmentalists. And just like the fabled Trojan Horse, this neo-Trojan horse has smuggled something more powerful than an army into our culture: If It’s Natural – It’s Morally Right.

Introducing Jeremiah The Prophet

Jeremiah is the second of the ‘major’ Prophets after Isaiah. Like Isaiah, he prophesied events which were fulfilled within his lifetime and beyond. Most significantly, Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied about the coming Messiah and the new covenant this Messiah would usher in. From the opening three verses, which may have been written by Jeremiah, or may have been the result of Ezra’s later editing. These verses help us to date when Jeremiah began his prophetic ministry. His ministry would have begun when he was aged between 15 to 20. He would have begun around the time of the discovery of the Law during the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign which was around 629BC. This helps us to reckon his birth year as sometime around 649BC or so. We know that the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem as Jeremiah had prophesied they would, in 586 BC. This means that Jeremiah ministered around 45 to 50 years. He is particular significant for several reasons…

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