Friday, June 20, 2014

The Way Out of Suffering

The Jews are in captivity in Persia. Life isn't all together horrible for them though. In what is likely the reign of the prior king, Daniel has ascribed to great power and station.

So the situation is not so bleak for the Jews... Yet. You see, the King Ahasuerus of Persia has recently promoted a man named Haman. Ahasuerus has even gone so far as to delegate his legislative powers to Haman.

This would be all well and good if Haman didn't have a grudge against the Jews, and decided to use his power to decree that all the Jews should be destroyed on the 13th day of the 12th month, that is the month Adar (February/March).

Of course, we all know this story. The Lord had provided for a Jew by the name of Esther to be Ahasuerus' queen. After a convincing speech by Mordecai, Esther agrees to risk her life for an opportunity to save the Jews. In her resolve, she states In Esther 4:16, 
"Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish."

 Esther is given favour of the king, and is granted her request to save the Jews (yes, I know this version is much abridged; if you want the whole story, read the book of Esther!). Thus, Esther's cousin Mordecai is given permission to write up a decree.

But all is not as cheery at this point as it may seem. You see, Haman's decree was written with the king's name and sealed with the king's name. As such, it has all of the authority of the king. But Esther 8:8 tells us that no man (not even the king) can reverse that which has been decreed by the king's authority.
"Write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you, in the king's name, and seal it with the king's ring: for the writing which is written in the king's name, and sealed with the king's ring, may no man reverse."

Thus, as Mordecai writes with the king's power, he is not able to entirely reverse the work of Haman. All people of Persia will still have consent to hunt down and destroy as many Jews as they possibly can upon the thirteenth day of the month Adar. All Mordecai can do is give the Jews a legal right to self-defense.

It would seem that this is a small thing. Why didn't the Lord just allow for the situation to be resolved without any fighting necessary?

This would seem to be our first response in a crisis such as this. Indeed in my life, there has been a situation that I greatly wanted the Lord to resolve immediately. I wasn't happy with the opportunity He has provided for me to work through the issue over a period of time.

The Lord promises to strengthen our efforts, but he does sometimes actually require our efforts. We need to find contentment with the route that He has provided to get us out of our own crises. Through this book, the Lord was able to reprove me in this manner, and cause me to find some contentment.

Of course, the Jews in this story found contentment so much quicker. When the decree was sent out to all the land, they responded immediately with rejoicing for their opportunity to save their lives, the opportunity to get themselves out of their tribulation. Esther 8:17 explains,
"And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them."

 Ultimately, the Lord did strengthen their efforts and get them out of the pickle that Haman had put them in. In Esther 9:2, we learn that "No man could withstand them."

There of course will be times when the Lord will get you out of a struggle without any effort from yourself (Haman's attempt to hang Mordecai in Esther 5-6 is an excellent example; here Mordecai likely did not even know his life was ever in danger), but that is not always the route He chooses to use. We must learn to be content with His own path for us, and know that no matter how difficult it may seem, we will find more difficulty without His guidance and protective hand.

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