Threads In God’s Tapestry.

Now when the virgins were gathered together the second time, Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate. Esther had not made known her kindred or her people, as Mordecai had commanded her, for Esther obeyed Mordecai just as when she was brought up by him. In those days, as Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, became angry and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. And this came to the knowledge of Mordecai, and he told it to Queen Esther, and Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai. When the affair was investigated and found to be so, the men were both hanged on the gallows. And it was recorded in the book of the chronicles in the presence of the king. – Esther 2:19-23 ESV

Esther has been crowned the new queen. Her lot in life has changed dramatically. But she has a potentially dangerous secret she is hiding from the king. She is a Hebrew. She is part of the remnant of Jews taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon when defeated Judah and destroyed the city of Jerusalem. When the Persians overthrew the Babylonians, the Jews remained in their captive state, slowly acclimating to the foreign culture around them and being assimilated into the ethnically diverse society of Persia. As they had in Egypt during their captivity there, the Jews continued to marry and have children, and as a result, their numbers increased. But for some undisclosed reason, Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, had counseled her to keep her Hebrew identity hidden from the king. We are not told the motivation behind Mordecai’s advice to his young ward, but he consistently warned her to keep her identity hidden, even after being crowned the new queen. Perhaps Mordecai was well-acquainted with the king’s reputation for fickleness and feared he might reject Esther as unfit for her role as queen. It almost seems that Mordecai had a sort of sixth-sense that led him to believe there was something greater going on here than met the eye. Throughout the story, Mordecai appears to know that this is not a case of good fortune, but the sovereign hand of God.

We are told in verse 19 that there was a second wave of virgins gathered into the king’s palace. The most logical explanation seems to be that the king so enjoyed the original beauty competition that had resulted in the discovery of Esther, that he decided to do it again. Keep in mind that the young women who didn’t win the queen’s crown were still permanent occupants of the king’s harem. And from all we have seen of King Xerxe’s behavior so far, he was used to have the best and the most of everything. So, just because he had a new queen didn’t mean he was going to stop adding more virgins to his collection. But the real reason this verse is included is to let us know that some time has passed. Some commentators believe that as much as five years may have transpired since Esther was crowned queen. We are also told that Mordecai was “sitting at the king’s gate” (Esther 2:19 ESV). This is usually a reference to a position of authority. Since the time that Esther had become queen. Mordecai had evidently received a commission as a government official. He was on the government payroll, perhaps as a representative of the Hebrew population. At this point in the story, the Jews were no longer being treated as slaves, but had become a part of the multi-ethnic makeup of the culture of Susa. There would have been people from all of the various nations that were now under Persian rule, from Ethiopia all the way to Egypt. So Mordecai was most likely a representative of some kind, acting on behalf of the crown.

And it just so happens, that as a part of his official capacity, Mordecai was at the king’s gate, when he overheard a plot to assassinate the king. It seems that Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who had confidential access to the king, had become upset with him and were planning to do him in. But when Mordecai heard their plans, he relayed them to Esther, who then informed the king. This incredible case of good timing will prove to be fortuitous, not just for the king, but for Mordecai and the people of God. Bigthan and Teresh are executed and Mordecai’s role in exposing the plot is recorded in the official historical chronicles of the king. No reward is given. No recognition for a job well done is forthcoming. Mordecai just happened to be in the right place at the right time and heard what was being planned. His relationship with Esther, the queen, afforded him the opportunity to get this news to the king in a timely fashion. And the result was that the king’s life was spared. But all Mordecai got for his troubles was a line in chronicles of the king.

But God is not done. The story is far from over. This seemingly disparate events are all part of an intricate tapestry that God is weaving. Esther has become queen of Persia. Mordecai has become an official in the king’s government. These two obscure, seemingly insignificant individuals are being used by God to prepare for an even greater, untold story. What we are witnessing is the butterfly effect lived out in real life. Esther’s selection to join the king’s harem has had a far greater impact than anyone, herself included, could have ever imagined. We are not told how Mordecai came to his position in the king’s government, but the inference is that his relatively unimportant role was going to have a dramatic influence on future events. It is so easy for us to discount what is happening in our lives and dismiss our importance in the grand scheme of things. As Christians, we can convince ourselves that we are insignificant and lacking in the ability to influence the larger culture around us. And yet, the story of Esther is meant to remind us that no one is insignificant or unimportant when they are being used by God. The disciples of Jesus were all relative nobodies. They were not movers and shakers or members of the religious elite. They were simple, common men who had spent their lives as common laborers and fishermen. And when Jesus chose them, they each had to have wondered, “Why me?” They had no idea just how significant their lives were going to be in the history of the world. And we have no idea how God is going to use us to accomplish His divine will in the world. Esther was just a young, orphaned Jewish girl living in a pagan country with her uncle Mordecai. And Mordecai was just another Jewish man, trying to care for his family and make ends meet in a society that was opposed to his religious beliefs. But God was going to use these two individuals in ways they could have never imagined. The events of their lives were being directed by God Almighty. The thing we must always remember is that the story is not yet done. God is not yet finished. We cannot see the finished tapestry that God is weaving or how the particular colors of our life’s events fit into the overall results. But God knows. And we can trust Him.

 

 

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Just Lucky, I Guess.

Now when the turn came for each young woman to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their beautifying, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women—when the young woman went in to the king in this way, she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace. In the evening she would go in, and in the morning she would return to the second harem in custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines. She would not go in to the king again, unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name.

When the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his own daughter, to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king’s eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her. And when Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign, the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. Then the king gave a great feast for all his officials and servants; it was Esther’s feast. He also granted a remission of taxes to the provinces and gave gifts with royal generosity. – Esther 2:12-18 ESV

A year has passed. During that time, Esther, along with all the other young women who had been gather, has been receiving “beauty treatments.” This regimen of highly regulated dietary and cosmetic treatments was designed to make the young ladies as beautiful as possible. These women were the most beautiful in the land, but they were not yet “good enough” for King Xerxes. So they were being prepared to appear as what they were auditioning to be: The Queen of Persia.

After 12-months of preparation, which more than likely included classes in etiquette and royal protocol, each young lady was given her opportunity to appear before the king. The passage presents this encounter in a rather pedestrian fashion: “In the evening she would go in, and in the morning she would return to the second harem in custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines” (Esther 2:14 ESV). It would be easy to read right through this and not notice that this “audition” lasted from sunset to sunrise. This was far more than a beauty pageant. Each woman was expected to be pleasing to the king, and would be judged by her beauty and, more than likely, for her ability to please the king sexually. Esther and her companions were part of the royal harem, not the serving staff. They were there to please and bring pleasure to the king. It is easy to gloss over this somewhat obvious point when reading the story of Esther. Yet, when the time came for Esther to go before the king, she would have been expected to do far more than look pretty and answer a few questions.

There is a palpable and intended tension in this story. We are introduced to Esther in the opening verses of this chapter. Her Hebrew name is Hadassah. Her pagan or Persian name is Esther. She is an orphaned Hebrew living with her older uncle, who has adopted her as his own. They are part of a community of Jews living in the capital of Susa, who were originally taken captive when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeated Judah. The Babylonians were later defeated by the Persians and the Jews simply found themselves slaves with new taskmasters. Esther’s Hebrew heritage is a vital part of the story. When she was taken into the king’s custody as part of his edict to search for a new queen, her uncle instructed her to hide her true identity. She was to go by her Persian name. She was not to disclose the fact that she was a Jew. And it seems that Mordecai instructed Esther to go along with the flow, to submit herself to the king’s plans. At no point does she appear to have resisted the king’s command or attempt to escape her obvious fate. She knew she was part of the king’s harem. She knew what she was being prepared to do. And her uncle Mordecai knew as well.

In all of this, there appears to be a subtle hint at Mordecai’s belief in the sovereignty of God. He does not know exactly what is going on, but he seems to have a confidence that God is at work in some form or fashion. He believes that there is a reason behind Esther being chosen. Yes, he could have counseled Esther to resist the king’s command and she would have likely been put to death. Instead, he instructed her to submit to the king’s authority. There seems to be a silent submission to the will of God in all of this as well. Perhaps it is just a simple case of Mordecai hoping that Esther never gets chosen, that she somehow fails the test and is allowed to return home. But most likely, Mordecai knew that Esther would remain a permanent part of the king’s harem, whether she became queen or not. She was not returning. Her fate was sealed. And because of the rest of the story, it seems that Mordecai had a sort of sixth sense that there was something divine going on in all of this.

We read, “Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her” (Esther 2:15 ESV). There is a striking similarity between the life of Esther and that of Joseph, when he was sold into slavery in Egypt. Both were Hebrew young people who found themselves living in a pagan land and thrust into unexpected and unwanted circumstances that were out of their control. And yet, both seemed to thrive. We read repeatedly that Joseph found favor with those for whom he worked. And Moses makes it clear that the reason behind Joseph’s favor was God. God was blessing Joseph in all that he did, and that divine favor was felt by Joseph’s superiors. The same thing seems to be happening with Esther. She found favor with “Hegai the king’s eunuch, who had charge of the women” (Esther 2:15 ESV). And then we are told that “when Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign, the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti” (Esther 2:17-18 ESV).

She was chosen queen. The contest was over. The tryouts were called off. Somehow Esther, the young Jewish girl, had caught the eye of the king and found herself wearing the royal crown. It would be so easy to read this part of the story and simply write it off to luck. Or to simply conclude that Esther must have been gorgeous. But there is that subtle thread of God’s sovereignty flowing throughout the story, from beginning to end. This is not a case of fate or kismet. This is the hand of God. And Mordecai seems to be aware that his God is doing something with the life of Esther, to prepare her for a purpose far greater than anything she could have ever imagined. Again, like Joseph, she finds herself in a place where questions outnumber the answers. Her head was swirling. Her mind was having a hard time grasping the significance of what had just happened. She had gone from obscurity to a life of wealth and royalty. She was the queen of Persia. But why? What was the purpose behind her favor with the king? What was it that God was doing? Why had she been chosen over all the other women in the king’s harem? In time, God would answer all those questions and more. He would reveal His will. He would divulge His plan and show her the part she was destined to play.

Carried Away.

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. And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in Susa the citadel, under custody of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women. Let their cosmetics be given them. And let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This pleased the king, and he did so.

Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite, who had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away. He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter. 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. And the young woman pleased him and won his favor. And he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and her portion of food, and with seven chosen young women from the king’s palace, and advanced her and her young women to the best place in the harem. Esther had not made known her people or kindred, for Mordecai had commanded her not to make it known. 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 2:1-11 ESV

The story begins a new chapter. The king has had time for his anger to abate and to think about what he has done. Queen Vashti has been banished from his presence and he is now having second thoughts about his decision. She was obviously beautiful and now that he is sober, he is experiencing regrets about having issued his decree. But no worries, he is surrounded by those who are more than willing to help him get over any remorse he may be feeling. After all, he is the king and he can have whatever he wants. So he is given yet more advice in how to deal with his problems. Yes, Queen Vashti was beautiful, but she was also replaceable. He could have his pick of any woman in the kingdom and no one could refuse him. So he listens to his advisors and issues a command to “gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in Susa the citadel” (Esther 2:3 ESV). He will choose his new queen from among the many viable candidates. Not only that, he will enjoy the company of all the others as they join his royal harem.

These opening lines of chapter two portray the power and the immoral decadence of King Xerxes. Women are nothing more than possessions, intended for his pleasure and examples of his power and wealth. These young women will be forcibly removed from their families and treated like personal slaves of the king. In fact, when the author says the girls were “gathered together” (verses 3 and 8), the Hebrew word he uses is qabats. It literally means, “to grasp with the hand.” They are going to be snatched up and placed at the disposal of the king, to do with them as he sees fit. They will become his personal play things, his sexual slaves.

But there is something else going on in this story. The king’s power is on display, but there is another power at work behind the scenes. Once the decree has been made and the gathering of the virgins begins, we are introduced to two new characters. Esther, a young Jewish girl, is living with her older cousin, Mordecai. We are told that he is a Hebrew, of the tribe of Benjamin “who had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away” (Esther 2:6 ESV). He was an exile, part of the group who had been taken captive when Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed Judah and the city of Jerusalem. The phrase “carried away” is used three times in verse six and it is the Hebrew word, galah and it means “to carry away into exile.” The book of Jeremiah records the details of this event.

This is the number of the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive: in the seventh year, 3,023 Judeans; in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem 832 persons; in the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Judeans 745 persons; all the persons were 4,600. – Jeremiah 52:28-30 ESV

Mordecai is an exile, part of the Hebrew contingent who had been taken captive and forced to live in Babylon, far from their homeland and loved ones. And Mordecai has the added responsibility of caring for his orphaned younger cousin, Esther. We are not told what happened to her parents, but only that they had died. And as a result, she had become Mordecai’s ward. We are also informed that she “had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at” (Esther 2:7 ESV). This particular trait was going to make her a prime candidate for King Xerxes’ kingdom-wide “talent search.” And she would soon find herself “snatched up” and living in exile from her uncle and family, as part of the king’s harem.

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 ESV

There is a sense of helplessness and hopelessness in this passage. Mordecai had been carried away into exile years earlier. Now Esther is being carried away into another form of slavery and exile as part of the king’s harem. There was nothing Mordecai could have done to prevent his capture and exile. And there was nothing Esther could do to stop what seemed to be the inevitable. And yet, there is something going on that is far greater than the personal whims of a pagan king. There is a divine plan being put into place that is perfect in its timing and that supersedes even the will of the king. He only thinks he is in control.

Esther catches the attention of Hegai, who was in charge of the king’s harem. She is given special treatment and advanced to the top of the long list of potential candidates to be the next queen. Is it all the byproduct of good genes? Is this just good fortune or a case of fate? It would be easy to see all of this as simple coincidence, but the author will not allow us to reach that conclusion. As Esther’s fate unfolds, she is under the watchful eye of her uncle. He has instructed her to hide her Hebrew identity. We are not told why he made this decision. But it seems that Mordecai knows there is something greater going on in this story. He appears to have a sense that this is far more than fate or kismet. His God is at work. Mordecai may not know exactly what God is up to, but he seems to know that there is a greater force at work than that of the king.

The Unseen Sovereign.

Then Memucan said in the presence of the king and the officials, “Not only against the king has Queen Vashti done wrong, but also against all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen’s behavior will be made known to all women, causing them to look at their husbands with contempt, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ This very day the noble women of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will say the same to all the king’s officials, and there will be contempt and wrath in plenty. If it please the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be repealed, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus. And let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, for it is vast, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.” This advice pleased the king and the princes, and the king did as Memucan proposed. He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, that every man be master in his own household and speak according to the language of his people. – Esther 1:16-22 ESV

The king is angry. He has just thrown a six-month long celebration for his dignitaries and the citizens of his kingdom. He has pulled out all the stops in an effort to flaunt his vast wealth and power. And it all went south when his own queen refused to respond to his command to put herself on display like a piece of royal property. In his anger, Xerxes summoned his wise men, and in doing so, he turned a family dispute into a national crisis. Queen Vashti’s refusal to obey the king’s command for her to appear in all her royal finery and parade herself in front of his drunken guests was seen as an affront against all men. One of the king’s wise men declared his fear of the shock waves her actions were going to have on the entire kingdom.

Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king but also every noble and citizen throughout your empire. Women everywhere will begin to despise their husbands when they learn that Queen Vashti has refused to appear before the king. Before this day is out, the wives of all the king’s nobles throughout Persia and Media will hear what the queen did and will start treating their husbands the same way. There will be no end to their contempt and anger. – Esther 1:16-18 NLT

At face value, this appears like a bit of over-reaction. But we must keep in mind that the king is asking his counselors for advice, and so they feel they must give it. Did Memucan truly believe that Queen Vashti’s actions were going to have national ramifications? We will never know. But he knew the king was angry and, as we will see, the king seems to have an anger problem. Perhaps Memucan was simply trying to placate the king by providing him with a viable way of dealing with this affront to his sovereignty. It was obvious to all who had just taken part in the king’s non-stop revelry that his power and influence were important to him. He was not a man who was used to being refused. He got his own way on a regular basis. So Memucan came up with a plan that appealed to the king’s pride and gave him a way to reassert his authority in the eyes of the people.

So if it please the king, we suggest that you issue a written decree, a law of the Persians and Medes that cannot be revoked. It should order that Queen Vashti be forever banished from the presence of King Xerxes, and that the king should choose another queen more worthy than she. – Esther 1:19 NLT

What better way to get the king in a good mood than to encourage him to flaunt his power as king by having him issue a royal decree. And this decree was to be “proclaimed throughout all his kingdom.” It would not be enough to simply let Queen Vashti know that she was no longer welcome in the king’s presence and that she was going to be replaced. No, the king needed to send out a royal edict to all 127 provinces, from India to Ethiopia. Yes, this was overkill, but it was intended to be an appeal to the king’s obvious megalomania. Memucan was truly a wise man. He knew exactly what he was doing. He was very familiar with the king and had more than likely seen this episodes of anger before. So he came up with a plan to pacify the king’s anger and feed his overactive ego.

Memucan’s advice pleased the king, so the decree was issued and sent across his vast empire, having been translated into all the languages of the kingdom. Queen Vashti’s fate was sealed. Her snubbing of the king’s command had proven to be costly. We are not told what happens to the queen from this point forward. She disappears from the scene, like an actor who has played her part and exited the stage, never to be seen again. But her absence creates a vacancy, a void that begs to be filled. The king must have a queen.

And this is just another turning point in the story. Queen Vashti’s actions have set the stage for something significant to take place. The king’s edict has left him without a queen. And this was not something a man with an ego like Xerxes could live with for very long. And so a new chain of events was about to take place. God was setting the stage for something significant to happen that no one in the kingdom of Persia could have foreseen or expected. What appears to be nothing more than a series of unfortunate events is actually the hand of God working behind the scenes. There is an unseen Sovereign issuing decrees and orchestrating events and even Memucan and his team of wise men have no idea He is there. All they can see is an earthly king and their influence over him. He is a monarch who is easily upset and just as easily influenced. He is prone to listen to their advice and susceptible to their suggestions. But God is operating on His own. He is truly sovereign, determining the future without the need for human advice or influence. Neither King Xerxes or Memucan have any idea what the outcome of their decisions will be. They think they are in control. They believe they are the arbiters of their fate. But God is at work behind the scenes. His sovereign plan is greater than that of kings and wise men. His will trumps the will of earthly rulers. His decrees are greater than those of despots and dictators. We may not see Him, but God is always at work and always in control.

It Just So Happened…

On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at. 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.

Then the king said to the wise men who knew the times (for this was the king’s procedure toward all who were versed in law and judgment, the men next to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who saw the king’s face, and sat first in the kingdom): “According to the law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti, because she has not performed the command of King Ahasuerus delivered by the eunuchs?” – Esther 1:10-15 ESV

A mere 187 days into his non-stop partying, we are told the not-so-surprising news that the “heart of the king was merry with wine.” By this time, he had to have been virtually toxic from all the alcohol he had consumed over the last six months. As a result, his ability to think clearly was virtually non-existent. He allowed his vanity and pride to get the best of him and, in an attempt to further flaunt his wealth and power, he demanded that his queen in all her royal finery in order to show her off. And rather than make the request personally, he sent his seven eunuchs. This was not to be seen as a request, but a royal dictate, a command from the king himself. He wanted to put her on display so that everyone could get a glimpse of her great beauty.

But the queen was far from flattered when the seven eunuchs showed up in her royal chambers. She knew exactly what the king was up to and why he was demanding her presence. She was to be nothing more than another example of his greatness. She was simply a trophy to be displayed to boost his royal ego and solidify his reputation as the luckiest man in the world. But Queen Vashti flat-out refused the king’s command. She was not going to allow herself to be put on public display and paraded around like a nothing more than one of the king’s possessions.

But Xerxes was not used to being refused. After all, he was the king. He tended to get what he wanted. His word was law. His commands were non-optional. And so, when Vashti refused to show up, he blew up. He lost it. He “became enraged, and his anger burned within him” (Esther 1:12b ESV). But rather than take up this matter with his wife, he called in his wise men. He sought the advice of his counselors. What should have been nothing more than a domestic dispute quickly escalated into a national affair. King Xerxes would have never dreamed his 187-day feast would end this way. Queen Vashti could have never anticipated the reaction her refusal was going to create. This whole thing should have never happened, but it did. Why?

This is another point at which the author is attempting to reveal the hidden hand of God, working behind the scenes in ways that no one could have anticipated or planned. Everything in the story has a purpose and a place. Nothing happens by happenstance or chance. The 180-plus days of feasting, the over-the-top opulence, the vain displays of wealth and power – all of it has a divine influence about it. The foundation is being laid for the rest of the story’s unfolding. A variety of people are going to become actors in God’s sovereign plan. Xerxes, the all-powerful, pride-filled king will be have a major role to play. Queen Vashti, though somewhat a bit player who enjoys little in the way of real stage-time, will prove a key character in the plot. Her refusal to appear before the king sets up all that is to come. Had she simply showed up as commanded, this story wouldn’t be a story at all. Had the king personally requested her presence, this might have all been avoidable. If the king had not sought out legal counsel, this whole affair could have ended much differently. But all that happens in this story happens for a reason. There is a reason behind the madness.

This story almost begs to be read with a sense of incredulity. It is as if we need to add in the phrase, “It just so happened…” before every event.

“It just so happened that the king decided to throw a great feast.”

“It just so happened that the king commanded the queen to appear.”

“It just so happened that the queen was in no mood to be put on display.”

“It just so happened that the king got angry and blew it all out of proportion.”

“It just so happened that the king called in his royal counselors.”

All these seemingly disparate decisions were inseparably linked together, creating an unbroken chain of events that would result in an unforeseen outcome that no one could have ever imagined. God was at work. He was behind the scenes orchestrating events and individuals in such a way that they were oblivious, like passive pawns in a divine game of chess. Each was free to act according to their will, but only according to the greater will of God. What might appear as luck or fate is actually the sovereign hand of God. This will become increasingly clear as the story unfolds. Though the name of God is never mentioned, His presence will be repeatedly sensed. He is invisible, but not absent. He remains unseen, but not uninvolved. The chapter opens up with King Xerxes’ sovereignty on display. He is powerful and influential. His realm extends over 127 provinces on several continents, from India to Ethiopia. And yet God, the one true King, is not even mentioned by name. He chooses to display His power in more subtle, yet significant ways. Throughout the story, He will remain in the background, operating incognito and invisible to the naked eye. But He is there. He is always there.

I look up to the mountains—

does my help come from there?

My help comes from the Lord,

who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;

the one who watches over you will not slumber.

Indeed, he who watches over Israel

never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!

The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.

The sun will not harm you by day,

nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm

and watches over your life.

The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,

both now and forever. – Psalm 124

 

 

Will The Real King Stand Up?

And when these days were completed, the king gave for all the people present in Susa the citadel, both great and small, a feast lasting for seven days in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. There were white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods and marble pillars, and also couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones. Drinks were served in golden vessels, vessels of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. And drinking was according to this edict: “There is no compulsion.” For the king had given orders to all the staff of his palace to do as each man desired. Queen Vashti also gave a feast for the women in the palace that belonged to King Ahasuerus. – Esther 1:5-9 ESV

After a non-stop, no-holds-barred feast that lasted 180 days, King Xerxes was far from finished. He threw another feast lasting seven days for all the people living in Susa, the capital. It was held in the court of the garden outside the king’s palace. By this time, everyone would heard about the king’s 180-day soiree. The rumors about his opulent, invitation-only party would have become legendary. Now he was opening up the gates of the palace to invite anyone and everyone to join in the celebration. And it was another, no-expense-spared spectacle. Rather than showing signs of exhaustion from his 180-day long binge of drinking, eating and over-indulging in all kinds of ways, the king upped his game. The description provided for the decorations alone reveal that this was not a scaled-down, low-budget party for the common people. This was a setting designed to create awe in the eyes of the beholder. It was intended to drop jaws, catch the breath, widen the eyes, and elicit emotional responses of amazement, awe, and even envy.

There were white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods and marble pillars, and also couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones. – Esther 1:6 ESV

Imagine the impact this all had on the common people of Susa. They would have never experienced anything like this before. And as amazing as the surroundings were, they were allowed to drink the king’s finest wine from golden goblets. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And it was all a show. We are not told why the king was celebrating or what prompted him to throw these extravagant and expensive parties. The reason for the parties is not the important point of the story. We are being given a glimpse into the power, pride and wealth of a king who knows no bounds, answers to no one and enjoy unprecedented authority and has access to seemingly limitless resources. He is a man at the top of his game who rules over a nation that is at the top of the food chain. Xerxes is a force to be reckoned with. He is all-powerful. He knows no limits. He has no equal.

We are being set up. The author wants us to read the opening lines of his story and see King Xerxes as the central figure in the narrative. His power and possessions are proof of his importance. He is the king after all. He is in control. But all of that is about to change. A series of events is about to take place. Unbeknownst to the king, things are about to get really interesting. His sovereignty is about to get challenged and in ways he never could have imagined or foreseen. This is a man used to getting his own way. He is addicted to power and control. He has the wealth to do whatever he wants. He has an army that allows him to conquer whoever he wills. And while his power and possessions may amaze and astound his people, there is someone who is not in awe of Xerxes: God Almighty

God was not blown away by King Xerxes’ party. He didn’t look down from heaven with slack-jawed amazement at the wealth of this king or the staggering breadth of his kingdom. Xerxes might sit on a throne in his palace in Susa, but God ruled from His throne in heaven. God didn’t need to throw a party to prove his worth. He didn’t need to put on a show to prove His power. In fact, God will operate behind the scenes throughout this story, without recognition and seemingly invisible to the eye. His name will not be mentioned, but His presence will be felt. He will not appear, but His hand will be seen orchestrating events in such a way that His power will be indisputable.

This is a story about sovereignty – God’s sovereignty versus man’s. It is about providence, “the foreseeing care and guidance of God” (dictionary.com). The author wants us to see God in the everyday affairs of life, even though He is not visible to our eyes. He wants us to realize that God’s seeming lack of presence does not mean He is not there. God does not have to put on a show to prove He is powerful. He doesn’t require a burning bush or a pillar of fire to prove His existence. Just when we think He is no where to be found, He shows up. About the time we conclude God is absent from our midst, we realize He has been there all along. God is always at work. He never sleeps or slumbers. He is never out of control, out of touch or out of reach.

Xerxes was the king. But he was about to find out who was really in control.

Pride, Pomp, Circumstance.

Now in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces, in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa, the citadel, in the third year of his reign he gave a feast for all his officials and servants. The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were before him, while he showed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness for many days, 180 days.– Esther 1:1-4 ESV

The book of Esther opens with a scene from a throne room. The author sets the stage by giving us a glimpse into the world of one of history’s most powerful rulers: King Xerxes, also known as Ahasuerus, the monarch who ruled over the Persian Empire from 486 to 465 B.C.

King Xerxes is powerful. He is wealthy beyond belief. He oversees an empire that stretches from India to Ethiopia. He had inherited this vast domain from his father, Darius, who had conquered much of the known world and established himself as its supreme ruler. His kingdom and wealth were passed down to Ahasuerus, who also inherited the task of maintaining the power his father had worked so hard to establish. There were constant threats from the Greeks and Egyptians. World dominance was not easy. There was always someone ready to expose a weakness or take advantage of a flaw in your defenses. Others dreamed of controlling the world and enjoying the perks that come with power. King Xerxes could not rest on his laurels. He was incredibly wealthy, but he could not afford to let his guard down. There were constant threats to his reign, from without as well as within.

But the king was not above flaunting his power and possessions. After all, what was the good of being king if you weren’t able to flex your muscles or display your wealth for all to see? So the author provides us with an inside-look into the realm of royalty. We are given an all-access pass into the palace that provides us with exclusive, behind-the-scenes views into a world that few ever get to see. It is a world of unbelievable extravagance and seemingly limitless excess. We are told that the king decides to throw a banquet, but not just any banquet. This one will last 180 consecutive days. It is intended to be “a tremendous display of the opulent wealth of his empire and the pomp and splendor of his majesty” (Esther 1:4 NLT). No expense will be spared. The food and wine will flow. The surroundings will be sumptuous. The meals will be decadent and delicious. The guests will be made up of the powerful and influential – the nobles, officials and military leaders from all over his vast domain. Xerxes will impress them with his generosity and amaze them with his seemingly limitless prosperity. He is wealthy beyond belief. He is powerful beyond measure. And they will celebrate alongside him for 180 consecutive days.

Before we get very far into the story of Esther, we find ourselves confronted with a character of epic proportions. He is bigger than life. His wealth is unbelievable. His power is unimaginable. His extravagance is legendary. His ego is enormous. But there is something missing, or better yet, there is someone missing. Just four verses into the narrative and we can’t help but notice that God is nowhere to be found. And amazingly, we will find that His name is never mentioned in the book. He is the God who is not there. Hundreds of miles from the land of Canaan and the city of Jerusalem, a remnant of the people of Israel find themselves in captivity, the unwilling citizens of a foreign power. They are suffering the consequences of their rebellion against God. He had warned them that their disobedience would bring discipline. And eventually, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had conquered the Israelites, destroying their capital city and taking thousands of them captive to Babylon. The Babylonians would eventually be conquered by the Persians and the Israelites would find themselves the slaves of yet another world power. Their taskmasters would change, but not their lot in life. And it would be easy for them to determine that their God had abandoned them, that He had left them for dead and destined them to a life of hopeless servitude and enslavement at the hands of their enemies.

But the book of Esther is all about God. While Xerxes seems to get top billing, he is not the main character. Neither is Esther, the young woman for whom the book in named. The God of Israel is the unseen, unnamed protagonist in the story, operating behind the scenes, orchestrating events and dictating outcomes as only He can. While King Xerxes is busy displaying his power and flaunting his vast wealth, God is busy setting the stage for a divine display of His own power. He doesn’t have to have His name mentioned or His presence felt. Men can assume His absence or try to negate His existence, but God is always there. He may go unrecognized and unseen, but He is never non-existent. We may fail to sense His presence and may even question His existence, but the book of Esther is a reminder that God is an ever-present reality. What appears to be coincidence is, more often than not, the hand of God. What comes across as luck or good fortune is really the providence of God. He is always in control. He is never up in heaven ringing His hands or fretting over the state of affairs back on earth. He is never impressed with the power and pomp of kings and presidents. He is never intimidated by the wealth or military might of nations. The book of Esther is the story of God. It is a timely reminder of the sovereignty and power of God Almighty.

Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings.  He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he is surrounded by light.– Daniel 2:20-22 NLT

 

Grace, Love and Fellowship.

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. – 2 Corinthians 13:11-14 ESV

How do you close out a letter like this one? For 13 chapters, Paul has had to defend his ministry, confront the Corinthians about their lack of giving, encourage their continued spiritual growth, and expose the false apostles who were undermining his authority and impacting his work. Now, as he wraps up his letter, he does so with five simple statements. First, he tells them to rejoice. He doesn’t explain what it is they are to rejoice about, but he most likely is referring to their position in Christ. They are children of God, heirs of His Kingdom, recipients of His grace, and possessors of His Holy Spirit. They have much about which to rejoice. Yet it is so easy to lose sight of all that God has done for us and to allow ourselves to live ungrateful, joyless lives. The life of the believer should be marked by joy and rejoicing. But it is a choice. We must decide to express to God our gratitude for all that He has done for us. And even if we should find this life difficult and full of trials, we can rejoice in the fact that our future is secure and that all God has promised for us is guaranteed. We have an eternity ahead of us, free from sin, pain and sorrow. Even if we must suffer in this life, we face a suffering-free future because of our faith in Christ.

Secondly, Paul tells them to “aim for restoration.” This could actually be translated, “set things right” or “put things in order.” This interpretation seems to be more appropriate, because Paul has been pointing out some issues within the church that were not as they should have been. He was concerned about their lack of giving for the saints in Judea. He was worried about the impact the false apostles had had on their faith. Paul wanted them to get their proverbial act together and pursue spiritual maturity. It is quite easy for believers in Christ to find themselves distracted from their primary God-given directive: spiritual maturity. Yes, we are to witness. We are to share the gospel with those who have not yet heard. But our transformed lives are one of the greatest testimonies to the veracity of the gospel we can give. Disorder and disunity in the church are antithetical to our calling as the children of God. Selfishness and self-centeredness are not to be the characteristics for which we are known. As Paul had written them in his first letter, they had a habit of living as if they were still part of the world.

Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? – 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NLT

Paul wants them to put things in order, to restore things to the way God wanted them to be.

Next, Paul tells them to “comfort one another.” Actually, this might be better translated, “be encouraged” or “be comforted.” This seems to fit in with what Paul said earlier in his letter.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 ESV

Paul wanted them to find encouragement in the content of his letter. He knew that their situation was far from perfect. He realized that their pursuit of spiritual maturity was anything be easy. So he wanted them to be encouraged and comforted. God was not done with them yet. And as they were comforted by God, they would be better able to live in unity and peace with one another. It was a common practice in the early church to greet one another with a kiss. It was a sign of their unity and common bond in Christ. But Paul insists that they must greet one another with a holy kiss. It must be without hypocrisy and not just for show. A holy kiss can only come from holy lips. You can’t tear down a brother in Christ, then greet him with a kiss as if nothing was wrong. James writes, “Sometimes it [the tongue] praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” (James 3:9-10 NLT). Holiness is the key to true unity and peace.

Finally, Paul closes his letter with a salutation that alludes to all three members of the Trinity: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Grace, love and fellowship. These three things are critical to the health and well-being of the church. We exist because of the grace of Christ, His unmerited favor, made possible by His death on the cross. And we are to extend that grace to all those within the body of Christ.

Jesus’ death was the direct result of God’s love for us. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 NLT). God loved us so much, in spite of our sinfulness and rebellion, that He sent His own Son to die on our behalf. And we are to love one another in the same selfless, sacrificial way.

Finally, as believers in Jesus Christ and recipients of the love of God, we have been given the Spirit of God. We are inhabited by the Holy Spirit, who makes our fellowship with one another possible. He has given each of us spiritual gifts designed for the benefit of the rest of the body. He empowers us with a capacity to love like Christ loved. He produces within us fruit that is designed to minister to one another: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT). Our unity is Spirit-empowered, not self-motivated. Our love for one another is made possible by the Spirit of God, not our own self-will.

Grace, love and fellowship – made possible by the Son, the Father and the Holy Spirit. We have all we need for living together as the body of Christ, as sons and daughters of God.

 

 

Do What Is Right.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down. – 2 Corinthians 13:5-10 ESV

At first glance, it may appear that Paul is calling on the Corinthians to examine themselves in order to see if they are truly saved. But in reality, Paul is calling on them to do the right thing, because they are saved. They have Christ within them. Therefore, they have all they need to do what is right – what God would have them do. The real issue here is sanctification, not salvation. Paul wants them to live as who they are – children of God. He wants their behavior to match their confessed belief in Christ. He has no doubts as to whether they have the capacity to do the right thing. It is more a matter of commitment. Are they willing to do what is right? Paul is praying that they will and assures them that he “cannot do anything against the truth, but on for the truth” (2 Corinthians 13:8 ESV). He is unwilling to act in a way that would be contrary or detrimental to the gospel.

It is essential that much of what Paul has been saying throughout this letter has been a defense of his apostleship. There were those who were casting doubt and dispersions on Paul’s qualifications. So when he asks them to examine themselves, he is really challenging them to take a long hard look at their lives in order to see if they themselves are not the very proof they are looking for. In other words, their changed lives were the greatest testimony to Paul’s calling they would ever find. The gospel message Paul had brought to them had been effective, resulting in their conversions and proving his calling as a messenger of Jesus Christ.

But they had struggled in their sanctification. They had hit some tough spots along the way. Since Paul’s initial visit, there had been divisions and disunity erupt in the church. There were some moral indiscretions that had gone unpunished and that remained unconfessed. Paul has already told them that he feared he was going to find them still struggling with the same old problems of “quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder” (2 Corinthians 12:20 NLT). So he lets them know that he was praying for their restoration. Not only that, he was writing in a very blunt, in-your-face style because, when he arrived, he didn’t want to have to spend all his time playing bad cop. His goal was to build them up, not tear them down. He wanted to see them continue to grow in their salvation, increasing in their knowledge of Jesus Christ and developing an ever-deeper dependence upon God that resulted in a desire to do His will – to do the right thing.

In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul reminded them that God’s will for them was their holiness or sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). In his first letter, the apostle Peter told his readers that it was God’s will that they do good (1 Peter 2:15). Doing good (what is right) and holiness go hand in hand. Our sanctification or growth in Christ-likeness should have an outward expression. It should manifest itself in godly living, doing what God would have us do. That is Paul’s prayer for the Corinthians. He wants them to live out their faith by stepping out in obedience to the will of God. We do good, not to win God’s favor, but because we have been the recipients of His favor. We do what is right, not to make God love us, but because He loved us enough to send His Son to die for us. Doing what is right brings God’s blessing. Doing what is wrong brings His discipline. Both are motivated by His love for us. But Paul would prefer that we learn to live obediently, doing what God deems best, even when it makes no sense. Paul would have us enjoy the benefits of a life lived within the will of God, faithfully doing what He deems right and good.

By the Power of God.

Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved. For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them—since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.– 2 Corinthians 12:19-13:4 ESV

Paul is making plans for a third trip to see the Corinthians, and based on all that has transpired since his last visit, he is somewhat apprehensive and anxious. He is concerned that he will find them in a less-than-ideal spiritual state. They had obviously been influenced by those he has labeled the “super-apostles” and their degree of their spiritual maturity is somewhat suspect. In some ways, he is afraid that things were not much different than they had been since he had written his first letter to them.

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? – 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 ESV

Paul’s greatest concern for them was their spiritual growth and maturity. All his time spent defending his apostleship was not to make himself look better in their eyes, but to get them to realize that he was God-ordained for his ministry and well worth listening to. Unlike his adversaries, he had their best interests at heart. The last thing Paul wanted to find when he arrived was his spiritual children still struggling with the same issues they had been before. He expected to see true life change. He desired to see signs of repentance and spiritual reformation. And he hated the thought of having to spend his time among them reprimanding and disciplining all those who remained unrepentant and addicted to their life in the flesh.

While Paul is not anxious or eager to find the Corinthians dealing with their same old problems, he warns them that he is ready to confront their sin in the power of God. if they want proof that he has been sent by God, they are going to get it – in the form of church discipline. But Paul is going to do things in a godly fashion. Any accusations anyone may have against a brother or sister will have to be based on two or three witnesses, just as Jesus had commanded (Matthew 18:15-20). There was going to be a fair and equitable process followed, but in the end, Paul was going to deal with the situation in a powerful way.

Earlier in this letter, Paul had appealed to them based on the gentleness and meekness of Christ.

I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. – 2 Corinthians 10:1-2 ESV

But it appears that Paul wasn’t too confident that they would listen to his pleas. He was going to have to “show boldness.” They were going to have to witness the power of Christ exhibited through the authoritative, disciplinary actions of Paul. He was going to get their attention and prove to them once and for all that he was speaking on behalf of Christ. Paul reminds them that Christ was crucified in weakness. In other words, He was beaten, humiliated, tortured and nailed to a cross – in his human flesh. He slowly bled out. He gradually and painfully asphyxiated as his lungs filled with fluid and he had to push down with his nail-pierced feet in order to take his next breath. This had gone on for hours, until He had finally breathed his last breath and died. But Paul reminds them that Jesus had not stayed dead. He was resurrected by the power of God and “lives by the power of God.” And they were going to experience that same power when Paul came to them. Even in his human weakness, Paul possessed the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead. And he was going to use that power to make sure that the Corinthians remained true to their faith in Christ, so that they might one day experience the resurrection of their bodies and enjoy all the joys of eternal life as promised by Jesus Himself. As Paul told the Romans:

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. – Romans 8:11 NLT

For Paul, the important matter was how you finished the race, not how you started it. Coming to faith in Christ was wonderful, but the Christian life was intended to be a journey with a final destination. The goal was to finish well. And the only way to do it was to rely upon the power of God – for daily strength, but also for discipline. “For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child” (Hebrews 12:6 NLT). “My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12 NLT). The power of God. It guides and directs, empowers and protects, disciplines and corrects. The One who called us is powerful enough to keep us and ensure that what He began, He completes.