Tag Archive: bible


This is what Thanksgiving is all about……. being thankful…. for one man’s actions…..

 

 

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This interesting prayer was given in Kansas, USA, at the opening session of their Senate. It seems prayer still upsets some people.  When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:

“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says: “Woe to those who call evil good”, but that is exactly what we have done. *

We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. *

We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it Pluralism. *

We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism. *

We have endorsed perversion and called it alternative lifestyle. *

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. *

We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. *

We have killed our unborn and called it choice. *

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. *

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. *

We have abused power and called it politics. *

We have embezzled public funds and called it essential expenses. *

We have institutionalized bribery and called it sweets of office. *

We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition. *

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. *

We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh GOD, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Amen!”

The response was immediate. A number of legislators walked out during the prayer in protest. In 6 short weeks, Central Christian Church, where Rev. Wright is pastor, logged more than 5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls responding negatively. The church is now receiving international requests for copies of this prayer from India, Africa and Korea. With the LORD’S help, may this prayer sweep over our nation and WHOLEHEARTEDLY become our desire so that we again can be called “ONE NATION UNDER GOD.”

Think about this: If you forward this prayer to everyone on your list, in less than 30 days it would be heard by the world.

Do you have the boldness to pass it on?

May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob once again bless our Nation and it’s people.

 

The phrase “reprobate mind” is found in Romans 1:28 in reference to those whom God has rejected as godless and wicked. They “suppress the truth by their wickedness,” and it is upon these people that the wrath of God rests (Romans 1:18). The Greek word translated “reprobate” in the New Testament is adokimos, which means literally “unapproved, that is, rejected; by implication, worthless (literally or morally).”

Paul describes two men named Jannes and Jambres as those who “resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith” (2 Timothy 3:8). Here the reprobation is regarding the resistance to the truth because of corrupt minds. In Titus, Paul also refers to those whose works are reprobate: “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16). Therefore, the reprobate mind is one that is corrupt and worthless.

As we can see in the verses above, people who are classified as having a reprobate mind have some knowledge of God and perhaps know of His commandments. However, they live impure lives and have very little desire to please God. Those who have reprobate minds live corrupt and selfish lives. Sin is justified and acceptable to them. The reprobates are those whom God has rejected and has left to their own devices.

Can a Christian have a reprobate mind? Someone who has sincerely accepted Jesus Christ by faith will not have this mindset because the old person with a reprobate mind has been recreated into a new creation: “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christians are basically “new” people. We live differently and speak differently. Our world is centered on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and how we can serve Him. Also, if we are truly in the faith, we will have the Holy Spirit to help us live a God-honoring life (John 14:26). Those with reprobate minds do not have the Spirit and live only for themselves.

To define what is beautiful is difficult because beauty is, as the old saying goes, in the eyes of the beholder. What is beautiful to us may be ugly to another. To regard something as beautiful, it must meet our own definition and concept of beauty. The fact that beauty is an individual concept is understood clearly by all. However, many don’t realize that God’s concept of beauty also is His own. No one defines for God His concept of beauty. If a person is beautiful to God, he fits God’s concept of beauty.

For example, God never uses one’s outward physical appearance to determine beauty. When the prophet Samuel examined Jesse’s sons in search of the next king of Israel, he was impressed with Eliab’s appearance. God told Samuel: “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Nothing in a person’s outward appearance impresses God. God looks upon the inner beauty, the beauty of one’s heart.

God never uses the origin or culture of a person as the criterion of beauty. People of one culture seldom see beauty in people of a different culture. Only a divine revelation could convince Peter to enter a Gentile’s house and preach the gospel to him (Acts 10). It took an angel to get Peter the Jew and Cornelius the Gentile together. Only a divine sign convinced the Jewish witnesses that Gentiles unquestionably had the right to be God’s children. When Peter said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism (Acts 10:34), he was saying, “At last, I understand.” Peter realized that God is unconcerned about a person’s origin or culture. God gladly accepts those who revere and obey Him. His concept of beauty is different because He ignores cultural preferences and prejudices.

While our opinions are strongly influenced by one’s address, occupation, and social role, God never determines beauty by social rank or life circumstances. When we speak of the so-called “beautiful people,” rarely do we mean those who are struggling to survive, who make their living by menial jobs, or who come from “backward” areas. In contrast, God never notices those things when He considers beauty in people. Paul wrote, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

What is beautiful in God’s eyes? Recognizing the qualities God has cherished in the lives of other people is one way to determine His concept of beauty. Noah’s implicit trust in God led him to construct a gigantic boat miles from water. Abraham trusted God’s promise so implicitly that he would have sacrificed his son of promise without hesitation. Moses yielded total control of his life to God and became the man of meekness. David gave his whole being to doing the will of God. No consequence or shameful treatment could keep Daniel from reverencing his God. Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy were ruled by God in every consideration and decision. They were totally focused upon Jesus’ will as they shared the gospel with all. In all these qualities God saw great beauty.

While all these people were beautiful to God, virtually nothing is known about their physical appearance. It was not their physique or stateliness but their faith and service that made them beautiful. The same was true of God’s beautiful women: Rahab, Hannah, Ruth, Deborah, and Mary of Bethany. Those noted for physical beauty were often great spiritual disappointments. Rebekah was “very beautiful” (Genesis 26:7), but she was also a deceiver and manipulator. Saul was a man of physical beauty, but his disobedience against God hurt the nation of Israel.

Peter directed Christian women to focus on the inner, spiritual qualities in order to be truly beautiful: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful” (1 Peter 3:3-5). Peter is not prohibiting nice clothes or nice hairstyles; he is simply saying that a gentle and quiet spirit is even more beautiful in God’s eyes.

The qualities God wants in His people further reveal His concept of beauty. The beatitudes reveal some of God’s standards of beauty. An awareness of one’s spiritual poverty, sorrow for wickedness, hunger and thirst for righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, and being a peacemaker are all qualities of beauty. The epistles also stress attributes valued by God: keeping a living faith while enduring physical hardships, controlling the tongue, enduring personal harm to protect the church’s influence, making sacrifices for the good of others, and living by Christian convictions in the face of ridicule. All these are beautiful to God.

However, just as a beautiful appearance can become ugly through neglect, a beautiful life of righteousness can become ugly through neglect. Spiritual beauty must never be taken for granted or be neglected. We must remember that just as it is possible to be one of society’s most impressive people and be ugly in the eyes of God, it is also possible to be an unknown in society and to be radiantly beautiful in His eyes.

Solid decision-making begins by discerning the will of God. God delights in revealing His will to those who are eager to follow His precepts (Psalm 33:18; Psalm 35:27; Psalm 147:11). Our attitude towards decision-making should be that of Jesus Himself who affirmed, “Not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42; Matthew 6:10).

God reveals His will to us primarily in two ways. First, through His Spirit: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13; see also 1 John 2:20, 27). And, second, God reveals His will through His Word: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105; see also Psalm 19:7-9; 2 Peter 1:19).

The process of decision-making includes making a judgment about an attitude or action. Decisions are an act of the will, and they are always influenced by the mind, the emotions, or both. The decisions we make actually reflect the desires of our heart (Psalm 119:30). Therefore, a key question before making a decision is “do I choose to please myself, or do I choose to please the Lord?” Joshua set the standard: “If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15; cf. Romans 12:2).

God sees the whole picture—the past, present, and future of our lives. He teaches and counsels us as He reveals Himself to us through His Word and Spirit. God has made this promise to us: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8; cf. Psalm 25:12). There will be times when God’s will may seem undesirable or unpleasant, when our heart follows our own desires instead of trusting God. But we will eventually learn that God’s will is always for our benefit (Psalm 119:67; Hebrews 12:10-11).

Again, the chief key to solid decision-making is knowing God’s will and not following the desires of our own hearts: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12; cf. Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 21:2). As we put our trust in God, rather than ourselves, we soon discover what decisions are pleasing to Him.

First, God blesses those decisions that He initiates and that line up with His Word: “I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness” (Proverbs 4:11; see also Psalm 119:33). Second, God blesses decisions that accomplish His purpose and depend on His strength: “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13; see also Philippians 4:13).

Additionally, God blesses those decisions that result in His glory: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). He blesses decisions that reflect His character, that promote justice, kindness and humility: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8; see also 1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Timothy 4:12). And He blesses those decisions that come from faith: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

We must not forget God’s promise to give His children wisdom when they ask: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:17). And when we pray for wisdom, we must trust God to answer our prayer: “When he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord (James 1:6-7). Patience is important, too, as we wait for God’s timing: “After waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised” (Hebrews 6:15).

Decision-making is more difficult when it involves a painful choice. Sometimes, the right course of action will also hurt us in some way. This is where we need grace the most. Are we really willing to suffer for the glory of Christ? “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2).

Making a decision today? Look to God’s Word for direction. Take comfort in the peace which only He can provide (Philippians 4:7). Ask for wisdom, trust His promises, and He will guide your path: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6; see also Isaiah 58:11; John 8:12).

Vashti in the Bible was the wife of King Xerxes (or Ahasuerus in many translations). King Xerxes and Queen Vashti of Persia figure in the story of Esther, a beautiful Jewish girl living in Ahasuerus’ kingdom, and her cousin, Mordecai, who had raised her after the death of her parents. Both Esther and Mordecai were descendants of Jews who had been exiled to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar along with the defeated King Jehoiachin of Judah. The Bible’s story of Queen Vashti is set in about 480 BC.

In Esther 1 a great feast is being held for the men of Susa, the citadel from which Xerxes reigned over a large region of the ancient world from India to Ethiopia to Asia Minor. The feast lasted for 180 days, during which time Vashti hosted a banquet of her own for the women. On the seventh day of the feast, a drunken King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to put on her royal crown and come stand before the people, so that everyone could see her beauty (Esther 1:10–11). Queen Vashti, for reasons of her own, refused to come, and King Xerxes was angry (verse 12)—his own wife was defying him in front of all the men of Susa. The royal wise men advised the king that Vashti’s humiliating behavior could not go unpunished because, if the king let the incident slide, all the women in the kingdom would have contempt for their husbands, thinking, “If Queen Vashti can get away with disrespecting her husband, so can I” (verses 16–18).

King Xerxes responded to the situation by sending out a royal edict saying that a) Queen Vashti was never going to be allowed to come before him again, and b) the king would give her crown to another women worthier than she (Esther 1:19–21). So Queen Vashti was banished, and a search began for a new queen to replace her. Many beautiful virgins were chosen from the kingdom and among them Esther, the Jewish girl. In God’s providence, Esther was eventually made queen in Vashti’s place. She was the right person in the right place at the right time, for it was through Esther’s exalted position in the palace that God later preserved His people from annihilation.

According to the Aggadah (or Haggadah), a book of Jewish tradition and folklore, Vashti was the daughter of the Babylonian king Belshazzar. The night that Belshazzar was killed (Daniel 5), Vashti was captured by the conquering Persians and given to Xerxes as a wife. According to various legends, Vashti’s refusal to appear before the king was due to modesty (she was told to appear nude), fear for her husband’s life (she figured she would be mobbed by the drunken crowd and the king would be killed), loathing for her husband (whom she considered to have non-royal blood), or the fact that she herself had leprosy. Another tradition says that Vashti was not simply banished from the king’s presence but was executed. It’s important to note that none of these details are in the biblical account, and there is no way to confirm their veracity.

The book of Esther is the only book in the Bible that does not mention God at all. But He is there nonetheless, evident in His divine providence. Every aspect of the story of Esther, from Queen Vashti’s disobedience to Haman’s wicked motives to Esther’s beauty to Mordecai’s wisdom, work together to save the Jewish people. The hand of God is evident throughout the book, which teaches a powerful lesson: even the actions of the wicked are governed by God in a master plan to do good for His chosen people and for all who trust in Him (see Romans 8:28).

 

Who was Belshazzar?

Belshazzar was the last king of ancient Babylon and is mentioned in Daniel 5. Belshazzar reigned for a short time during the life of Daniel the prophet. His name, meaning “Bel protect the king,” is a prayer to a Babylonian god; as his story shows, Bel was powerless to save this evil ruler.

Belshazzar ruled Babylon, a powerful nation with a long history and a long line of powerful kings. One of those kings was Nebuchadnezzar, who had conquered Judah, bringing the temple treasures to Babylon along with Daniel and many other captives. Belshazzar was Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson through his daughter Nitocris. Belshazzar calls Nebuchadnezzar his “father” in Daniel 5:13, but this is a generic use of the word father, meaning “ancestor.”

During his life, King Nebuchadnezzar had encountered the God of Israel’s power and was humbled by Him (Daniel 4:34–37), but twenty years after Nebuchadnezzar’s death, his grandson Belshazzar “praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone” (Daniel 5:4). One fateful night in 539 BC, as the Medes and the Persians lay siege to the city of Babylon, King Belshazzar held a feast with his household and a thousand of his noblemen. The king demanded all the gold and silver cups and vessels plundered from the Jewish temple be brought to the royal banquet hall. They filled the vessels with wine and drank from them, praising their false gods (Daniel 5:1–4). The use of the articles from the Jewish temple was a blasphemous attempt for Belshazzar to relive the glory days of his kingdom, to recall the time when Babylon was conquering other nations instead of being threatened with annihilation from the Persians outside their walls.

As the drunken king reveled, God sent him a sign: a human hand appeared, floating near the lampstand and writing four words in the plaster of the wall: “MENE MENE TEKEL PARSIN.” Then, the hand disappeared (Daniel 5:5, 25). The king paled and was extremely frightened; he called his wise men and astrologers and enchanters to tell him what the writing meant, promising that “whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom” (verse 7). But none of the wise men of Babylon could interpret the words.

Hearing a commotion in the banquet hall, the queen (possibly Nitocris or even Nebuchadnezzar’s widow) came to investigate. She remembered Daniel as one whose wisdom Nebuchadnezzar had trusted, and she told Belshazzar to summon the Jewish prophet (Daniel 5:10–12). Daniel was brought before the king, but he refused the gifts Belshazzar offered him—the kingdom was not his to give, as it turned out (verse 17). Daniel rebuked Belshazzar’s pride: although the king knew the story of how God humbled his grandfather, he did not humble himself. Instead, he dishonored God by drinking from the sacred items of the temple (verses 22–23). Then, Daniel interpreted the words on the wall. Mene means “God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end.” Tekel means “you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting.” Parsin means “your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (Daniel 5:24–28). Daniel never revealed what language those words belong to.

That night, the Persians invaded. Cyrus the Great, king of Medo-Persia, broke through the supposedly impenetrable wall of Babylon by cleverly diverting the river flowing into the city so that his soldiers could enter through the river duct. Historical records show that this invasion was made possible because the entire city was involved in a great feast—the feast of Belshazzar mentioned in Daniel 5. “That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom” (Daniel 5:29–30). The demise of King Belshazzar illustrates the truth of Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Hadassah is the Jewish name of Queen Esther, and she is mentioned by this name in Esther 2:7, “Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.”

Hadassah is a feminine form of the Hebrew word hadas, meaning “myrtle,” a common perennial shrub with evergreen leaves and white, star-shaped flowers. The flowers of the myrtle are used for perfume, and the berries for allspice. Myrtle is referenced symbolically in the Bible as a sign of peace and God’s blessing in passages such as Zechariah 1:11, in which the angel of the Lord stands among the myrtle trees and says, “We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace.”

Esther’s early name of “Hadassah” was perhaps symbolic as well, not only because of her beauty but because her destiny was to procure peace and blessing for God’s people in Persia. The Jews in Esther’s time were under threat of genocide by Haman, a close confidant of King Ahasuerus (Xerxes). Hadassah entered Ahasuerus’s palace as a prospective concubine, but God had greater plans for the young Jewish woman.

King Ahasuerus was known for his drinking, lavish banquets, harsh temper, and sexual appetite. In 483 BC, after a 180-day display of his riches, splendor, and pomp, he held a massive banquet. In drunken merriment, Ahasuerus requested that his wife, Queen Vashti, appear before the king “in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at” (Esther 1:11). When Vashti refused, she was banished from the kingdom.

Ahasuerus appointed officers in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to his harem (Esther 2:3–4). Hadassah, that is, Esther, was taken into custody by the eunuch in charge of the women, yet her cousin Mordecai kept close watch on her (Esther 2:11). After ten months, Esther was brought before the king, and he loved her more than anyone else. Hadassah won the king’s favor and took Vashti’s place as queen (Esther 2:17).

Though Hadassah’s initial circumstances appeared to serve the evil purposes of a lustful king, God used her situation, position, and character to protect the people of Israel. Esther, in meekness and humility, trusted in God’s sovereignty with her every action, confident that His will would be done concerning her people—no matter what the consequences to herself. With no concern for her personal safety, Esther acted as an intercessor with the king on behalf of her people, the Israelites (Esther 4:16), ultimately exposing Haman’s evil plot and saving the Jews from destruction.

Who was Xerxes in the Bible?The name Xerxes does not appear in the Hebrew text of Scripture. However, it does appear throughout the book of Esther in the NIV and NASB. In the Hebrew text, the king’s name is Ahasuerus (preserved in the KJV and ESV). Nothing is known of a king named Ahasuerus from secular sources, and the names of all the Persian kings from this time period are known. Most commentators equate Esther’s king with Xerxes I (485–465 BC), son of Darius I, the fourth emperor of the Achaemenid Empire—thus the translation in some modern versions. (There is some evidence to show that the Hebrew name Ahasuerus can be easily derived from the Persian name.) The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses the name Artaxerxes, which further complicates the issue, for there were two Persian rulers by that name: Artaxerxes I (465–424 BC) and Artaxerxes II (404–359 BC).

The details on the life of Xerxes found in the book of Esther are not corroborated by any secular sources. While there are many detractors who simply view Esther as fiction, for those who accept the historicity of the book of Esther, Xerxes I is the most likely candidate to fill the role of Ahasuerus. What we know of the character of Xerxes I fits with what we see in the book of Esther. Xerxes had a summer palace in Susa. He was known for his drinking, lavish banquets, harsh temper, and sexual appetite. Esther mentions a foiled plot against his life, and we know from secular history that, later, in 465, Xerxes was assassinated by the head of his bodyguard.

The most likely scenario is that the episode of Xerxes’ life involving Esther took place after Xerxes’ disastrous invasion of Greece in 480 BC. Xerxes’ forces paid a heavy toll at the pass of Thermopylae at the hands of the fabled 300 Spartans and were defeated at Salamis. Returning home, Xerxes turned to domestic affairs.

King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) plays a prominent role in the book of Esther. In chapter 1 he gives a great banquet for his nobles and, after several days of eating and drinking, orders that the queen Vashti appear at the banquet so the men there might see her great beauty. Vashti refuses to attend, so the king deposes her.

In Esther 2 Xerxes begins to regret his decision to oust the queen, and he decides to find a new queen. The queen of Persia was not simply the wife of the king. The queenship was an honorary/political position. The king was a polygamist with many wives and concubines in his harem, but the queen was a special wife occupying a favored position. A call is sent out throughout the kingdom for all beautiful virgins to be gathered into the harem so that the king could choose a new queen from among them. As a member of the harem, a woman would technically be the property of the king—either a wife or a concubine. Each of the women would spend a night with the king. After their night together, each woman would be moved to the “other side” of the harem and would never see the king again, unless he called for her. When he found the “right one,” Xerxes would name her queen, although she would not be his exclusive wife or sexual partner. A woman whom Xerxes never called again would live her life in the harem as a pampered prisoner with no possibility for a real marriage or family of her own.

A Jewess named Esther, who was raised by her cousin Mordecai, was one of the women rounded up for Xerxes. She was eventually named queen, but she kept her nationality a secret. Mordecai is anxious for Esther and loiters day after day near the harem quarters to monitor how she is doing. In so doing, he overhears a plot to kill the king. He reports it to Esther, who reports it to the king, and the plot is foiled.

In Esther 3 one of Xerxes’ chief advisors, Haman, is angered the Mordecai will not bow down to him, so he hatches a plot to kill not only Mordecai but all of the Jews. Haman convinces King Xerxes to authorize the extermination; however, it appears that the king does not know the identity of the people that Haman plans to wipe out—only that they are enemies of the state. He trusts Haman to handle the details. In chapter 4 Mordecai informs Esther of the danger the Jews are in and convinces her to intercede with the king. The problem Esther faces is that Xerxes has not called for her for some time and, if she approaches him without being summoned, she risks death. At this point, neither the king nor Haman knows Esther’s nationality or her relationship to Mordecai. Mordecai encourages Esther to take the risk, saying that perhaps she has been made queen “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

In Esther 5 the queen approaches Xerxes, and he extends his scepter to her, signifying that he welcomes her into his presence. Instead of explaining her predicament, however, Esther invites the king and Haman to a private banquet. At the banquet Esther again puts off addressing the issue; instead, she asks the king and Haman to come to another banquet the next day, which they agree to do. Haman is so overjoyed and emboldened by the special attention he’s receiving from the queen that he decides to have Mordecai hanged in advance of the general slaughter of the Jews.

In Esther 6 the king cannot sleep, so he has the royal annals read to him. When the account of the foiled plot against his life is recounted, Xerxes asks if Mordecai has ever been honored for saving him. When he finds that Mordecai has never been rewarded, Xerxes decides to remedy the oversight. At that moment, Haman enters, and the king asks him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” (Esther 6:5). Haman thinks the king is referring to him, so he proposes a lavish public display: “For the man whom the king delights to honor, let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set. And let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.’” The king thinks it is a splendid idea to be carried out immediately and tells Haman, “Hurry; take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned” (verses 7–9). So, in what some would call a strange “twist of fate,” Haman has to publicly honor Mordecai. After his humiliation, Haman hurriedly prepares for the banquet with Esther and the king, as Haman’s family laments that certainly fate is against him now.

In Esther 7, at the second banquet, Xerxes asks Esther, “What is your wish, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled” (Esther 7:2). Esther begs for the life of herself and her people. The king is enraged and asks who would dare plot such a thing. Esther answers, “A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!” (verse 6). The king rushes from the room in a rage, and Haman throws himself upon the couch where Esther is reclining to plead for his life. At that moment, the king returns and misinterprets Haman’s actions: “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?” (verse 8). Haman is whisked away and hanged on the very gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.

In Esther 8 the house of Haman is given to Esther, and his position in the court is given to Mordecai. Even though Haman is out of the way, the plot to kill all the Jews is still afoot. It appears that the king’s edict called for citizens of Persia to kill Jews on a certain day and confiscate their property. The edict, which could not be rescinded, is modified to allow the Jews to defend themselves, and in chapter 9 they are able to withstand the attack, and many of their enemies are killed.

God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, but He is conspicuous by His absence. In Esther we do not see any miracles or divine intervention. However, we do see an abundance of providence, which is God’s control and provision through “natural” means. It is clear that the writer of the book intends us to see God’s unseen hand behind every detail and ironic twist of “fate.” Although Xerxes is the king, he is not ultimately in charge. The king of Persia is little more than a bit player in God’s all-encompassing drama. The story of Xerxes is an excellent example of Proverbs 21:1: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”