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Monday, December 18, 2017

We have a problem.

This entire series, we’ve been walking through the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  We’ve looked at the Israelites returning from captivity to rebuild the Temple of the LORD and the city walls of Jerusalem.  I said that we had reached the end of the Old Testament chronologically and that was true.  What I didn’t say was that we had skipped a book.  That is the book we will cover this week to finish out our time in the Old Testament.  It is the book of Esther.

These events happened in the days of King Xerxes, who reigned over 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia. At that time Xerxes ruled his empire from his royal throne at the fortress of Susa. In the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. He invited all the military officers of Persia and Media as well as the princes and nobles of the provinces. The celebration lasted 180 days--a tremendous display of the opulent wealth of his empire and the pomp and splendor of his majesty. (Esther 1:1-4 NLT)

The book of Esther shows up after Ezra and Nehemiah in our Bibles, but it actually occurred before those books chronologically.  King Xerxes reigned in the Babylonian empire during the time that the Israelites were in captivity, but they were not allowed to return to rebuild the Temple or the walls yet.  Things were bad for the Jews.

On the seventh day of the feast, when King Xerxes was in high spirits because of the wine, he told the seven eunuchs who attended him...to bring Queen Vashti to him with the royal crown on her head. He wanted the nobles and all the other men to gaze on her beauty, for she was a very beautiful woman. But when they conveyed the king's order to Queen Vashti, she refused to come. This made the king furious, and he burned with anger. (Esther 1:10-12 NLT)

Xerxes wasn’t doing so well either.  He looked at his wife through a drunken stupor and only saw an object of lust.  He tried to get all the other men to see her that way, and his wife refused to show up.  So, he got angry and declared that she would never be allowed in his presence again.  He just banned himself from his own wife.  Things were bad for Xerxes.

The king and his nobles thought this made good sense, so he followed Memucan's counsel. He sent letters to all parts of the empire, to each province in its own script and language, proclaiming that every man should be the ruler of his own home... (Esther 1:21-22 NLT)

Out of anger, he also sent a proclamation throughout the whole land stating that women needed to be subject to their own husbands.  Whatever the man says, goes.  Throughout the land, things were not going well for women, either.  It reminds me of another time when people were being cursed for their actions.

Remember Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?  They had God, each other, and a whole garden to enjoy.  They only thing they were warned against was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  When they eat from that, they will surely die.  They ate that fruit.  The serpent was forced to slither around on its belly.  The man would now need to work by the sweat of his brow.  The woman was punished also.

Then He said to the woman, "I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you." (Genesis 3:16 NLT)

When we come to God, the Bible, and Church, we often show up because we have a problem.  The problem gets us down.  We struggle with facing the problem.  We don’t know what to do about the problem?  We’re hoping that God is bigger than, the Bible will have the solution to, and the Church will help us through the problem.

How about you?  Do you have a problem?  Is that why you are turning to God?