“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14
Kidsview will be studying the story of a young queen named Esther, a Jew chosen by King Xerxes to be his queen after a lengthy beauty contest, who was faced with a difficult decision. If she appeared before the king without an invitation, she could die. But her uncle, Mordecai, persuaded her to risk her life in order that she might talk to the king about a conspiracy by one of his royal officials to kill all of the Jews. After three days of fasting (which we can infer praying as well) by the Jews, the young and beautiful queen appeared before the King who listened to his queen and dealt with the evil official and saved the Jews.
For our contemplation today…
Nowhere in the book of Esther is God mentioned. Not by His name, title or being. But… He’s in the story. His hand of Providence was at work to place a beautiful, young (likely a teenager) Jewish girl into royal position in order that she would persuade the king to save the Jewish people from being slaughtered by Haman. Have you considered how God is working in your life in unseen ways?
Esther showed bravery and loyalty by risking her life to save the Jews. This young heroine challenges us to recognize that God has located us in places or opportunities, but we have to choose to accept our mission. How can you do God’s work in the circumstances you find yourself in? What can you do within your “circle” in life? Are you willing to take a risk and do or say something that needs to be said or done?
Father, help me to have the courage of Esther to do your work in the circumstances I find myself today. If you have placed me where I am in order to do something specific, please put that on my heart today. I want to say or do what it is you have planned in advance for me to do. May I be faithful to you today. Amen.
“Stingy Prophet, Good God”
“And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:11)
What comes to your mind when you think about the story of Jonah? Perhaps the lasting imagery is one of a fantastic fish with a big appetite. Maybe you think of a stingy prophet who is not terribly enthusiastic about offering repentance for fear that the people of Nineveh might actually repent and be restored to God! The abrupt end of the story also leaves us leaning in and looking for closure. Whatever lasting impression comes to mind, I’d like to chime in with my own. Our God is a sovereign God who is good to the core.
Either attribute without the other would leave us wanting. If the Lord were sovereign without goodness, we would be fearful of His will for us. If He were good, but not sovereign, He would be reduced to wishful thinking that is impotent. There is one key word that is repeated four times in this account that helps us to see His sovereignty. The Hebrew word is “manah” and it is translated to mean “appointed” or “provided” in various translations. It is found in Jonah 1:17 and 4:6,7, and 8. These passages help us to see that the Lord “appointed” a fish, a plant, a worm, and a wind to draw Jonah and the people of Nineveh back to God for their good. The Lord is sovereign over all creation and this account demonstrates this powerfully. While the final verse seems to conclude the story rather abruptly, it does leave us with enough insight to peek into the heart of God. While His sovereignty is well demonstrated throughout this narrative, His goodness is most pronounced in the final verse when His concern is directed to the 120,000 people of Nineveh … and even the cattle!
It seems that Jonah was “angry enough to die” over the loss of a plant, yet he did not share the same heart for God’s people. The story’s bizarre ending forces me to draw my own conclusions about what Jonah values, what God values, and ultimately what I value. Does my heart reflect that of a stingy prophet or a good God?
“On Sleepless Nights”
“On my bed I remember You; I think of You through the watches of the night” (Psalm 63:6).
I used to sleep like Rip Van Winkle. I would lay my head down on the pillow and not wake up until morning. I’ve always been an early riser, but I never anticipated that due to my sleeplessness that 3:30 in the morning would become an unwelcomed guest in my life. I still fall asleep quickly, but I seldom stay asleep these days. Maybe you understand, maybe you don’t. Regardless, David the Psalmist seems intentional about awakening in the night. Maybe he had a lot on his mind. Maybe the night sounds awoke him. Who knows? What is most fascinating is his intentional remembering or meditating on God. He talks to himself about God. Now that’s a beautiful thought.
The Hebrew word for remember (meditate) is “hawgah.” It describes a kind of spiritual muttering or murmuring. In ancient times it was used of a dove’s cooing, a lion’s purring, or a mourner’s crying. “Hawgah” is a quiet practice. It is a spiritual exercise marked with gentleness and reflection. It seems to especially fit the night time when for whatever reason a person can’t sleep or chooses not to sleep. It is an invitation to think about the day, to recall God’s presence, and how His grace has been at work.
Now and then on sleepless nights I have decided to practice Psalm 63:6. I have gotten out of bed (it is not required), found my favorite chair, lit a small candle, and simply remembered Him. Something comes over me or maybe I would better describe it as “I am aware of God’s presence.” My night watch becomes a soothing and grace-filled time of attention to God. Sometimes I have even fallen back asleep.
“Father, I long to know You in the watches of the night. Teach me, In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
Scripture – “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed into the crowd shouting: Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God…” Acts 14:14-15
Devotion - Yesterday’s sermon revealed an ancient form of showing displeasure that basically resulted in torn clothes. I don’t recommend this in our world. I don’t think your friends and family would understand and soon you’d be wearing a jacket with sleeves tied in the back that you couldn’t rip. We do, however, have one instance of clothes-tearing in the first century church and maybe we can learn something from it.
In Acts 14, Barnabas and Paul are on their first missionary journey in the town of Lystra where they healed a crippled man. This miraculous display was quite public and caused quite the stir. Soon, a priest from a nearby temple to Zeus came out bringing sacrifices. They actually thought that Paul and Barnabas were gods who had visited them! So, when these missionaries realized what was going on, they tore their clothes because the people were completely missing the point! They were only speaking for God – they were not gods themselves!
Here are two easy Monday morning lessons:
1. God sometimes works miraculously in our lives when we are sharing His good news with those who are lost. Today, as you follow Jesus, look for His powerful healing presence in the lives of those around you. You may just see the lame walk – both physically and spiritually.
2. God is God and you are not. Sometimes we get caught up doing God’s will and serving Him and witnessing great things in His name so much so that we think that somehow we are doing great things! No matter what God does through you today, remember it is His power so he gets the glory!
Prayer - “Father, thank you for the miracles you have done in my life, beginning with saving me from my sin through Jesus. Thank you for allowing me to share my faith with others and seeing lives really changed for eternity. And now, let me say it, so that you know I know. You alone are God and only you are worthy of praise. So I praise you today! Amen.”
“We do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. . . The God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us. But if he does not, we want you to know that we will not serve other gods or worship them.” Daniel 3:17-18
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego find themselves in a difficult circumstance with a very clear choice. The king of Babylonia (Nebuchadnezzar) has issued a decree . . . bow down and worship an idol made out of gold or be killed. The three followers of the one true God make a decision to stay faithful in their worship to God and not bow down to a manmade idol.
When the three men were executed by being thrown into a fiery furnace they were kept from being burned. In fact a fourth man who looked like a “son of gods” stood with them to protect them in the blazing furnace.
One way or another the three men believed they would be delivered that day for their faith in God. They were willing to die for their faith. This time God delivered them.
Unlike the culture that Daniel lived in, we are not threatened with our lives if we worship other gods in the U.S. Worshiping people and stuff other than our Lord is subtle. We place materialistic items like houses, cars, TV, clothing, sporting events, careers, and even kid’s activities ahead of our relationship with Jesus Christ. We take money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like to get things we don’t need so that we can be happy or to help us be more impressive than those around us.
The three men made a pretty simple choice. Regardless of the consequences they were going to worship the Lord. May this true story inspire you today as you make choices (little or big) in displaying your allegiance to the Lord.
Prayer: Help me Lord to put you first in every decision regardless of the earthly consequences. I believe your presence will be with me. Help me to stay faithful to you today. Amen.
“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.” Proverbs 18:8
Sometimes gossip gets a “pass” by us Christians. In our minds, it’s not like adultery, stealing, lying, or other more infamous vices. We also gossip under the guise of sharing prayer requests, chalking it up to concern for those involved… however, rarely getting around to praying about it.
Gossip is a recurring focus throughout the book of Proverbs, because wise people disengage from gossip and slanderous conversations. Those who participate in these conversations are all lumped into the guilty category, both speaker and listener. I love this quote by the famous preacher, Charles Sturgeon:
“Remember that, as the receiver is as bad as the thief, so the hearer of scandal is a sharer in the guilt of it. If there were no listening ears there would be no talebearing tongues.”
As you pray for the tact and courage to dismiss yourself from gossip-laden conversations, consider one more verse from Proverbs 26:20: “Without wood a fire dies down; without gossip a quarrel dies down.”
Father, you command us to honor each other with our speech. Convict me when I mindlessly wander into gossip, or take in the “choice morsels” of others. Give me courage to become known for not being interested in hearing gossip, and build the trust of others in me by helping me to never gossip about others.
“After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well.” 2 Corinthians 12:14b-15
In 2 Corinthians 12:11-15 the Apostle Paul makes three intentions known to the Corinthian church. First, he’s intent on visiting with the Corinthian church for a third time. Second, he’s intent on not being a burden to them while staying there. He refuses to accept their financial support. This is consistent with his previous visits, but by no means a universal principle. (Paul defends the apostles’ right to receive compensation in 1 Corinthians 9:3-14.) Finally, Paul’s intent is on spending everything he has and even expending himself to grow the Corinthians in their walk with Christ.
The Greek word used for spend in verse 15 is dapanaō which literally means to incur an expense. Used in a negative light it means to waste, squander, or consume something. Paul is literally saying he’ll gladly spend everything he has and let his resources be “squandered” or “consumed” by the world’s standards, if it will produce spiritual fruit among the Corinthians. Not only will he spend his resources, but also his very life. Paul says he will expend himself. The Greek word translated expend is ekdapanaō which means to use up, exhaust yourself, or spend yourself completely on something. In essence, Paul is all in. He will exhaust his personal resources and personal time and energy to pour into the Corinthians.
Can the same be said about us as we encounter hurting people every day? Are we willing to gladly spend our resources and expend our lives in hopes that some will know Jesus? What material resources has God blessed you with that you could gladly spend to further His kingdom? What personal resources (talents, time, passions) has God equipped you with to gladly spend on his kingdom?
Prayer: Father, help me to deepen my passion for Jesus and his Kingdom and help me today to see new ways that I can spend everything and expend myself for His kingdom.