THE ESTHER WE NEVER KNEW (Bible Study That Transforms)

SHE WAS AFRAID

WHO WOULDN’T BE?

HE WAS A SORDID KING

HE DID AWAY WITH THE LAST WIFE WHO DISOBEYED

(SOME HISTORIANS SAY VASHTI WAS BANISHED, OTHER  SAY SHE WAS BEHEADED)

THE MAN SHE TRUSTED, MORDECAI

TOLD HER TO HIDE HER FAITH

TO GO ALONG WITH EVERYTHING

THE EATING OF UNKOSHER FOODS

THE DENIAL OF HER GOD

THE SEXUAL EXPLOITATION

AND SHE DID

MANY OF US WOULD HAVE TOO.

SHE HAD THE SAME FEARS, THE SAME HEART IDOLS

SHE WAS A WOMAN LIKE US.

BUT THEN, WHEN EVERYTHING CAME CRASHING DOWN

SHE TOOK A TURN

A DRAMATIC LEAP OF FAITH

THE LEAP MANY OF US HAVE TAKEN AT TIMES

AND GOD MET HER.

 

 

This transformation of Esther is the side we usually see, but it is important to see her before the transformation. You will see God as the hero,the One who was with her before she was brave, and after. (This is the beauty of our God.)

Though it is true that it helps to know the meaning of some Hebrew words (such as “pleases” the king and “went into” the king) you can figure out what is going on without knowing Hebrew if you read slowly. Though it is helpful to know some cultural practices (eunuchs taught women in the harem how to please the king sexually), you can figure out what is going on without knowing that if you read slowly. Though it is eye-opening to read historians say perhaps 400 to 1,000 women were involved, by simply noting how many provinces from which young virgins were taken (127) you can figure out it was a lot of women. You simply need to read S L O W L Y and be alert.

I think you will be both fascinated and encouraged by this week’s Bible study. My purpose during these three weeks in Esther is to learn to read the Bible so it transforms your life. To review:

  • Slow down — don’t assume you know it — you may have been taught wrong
  • Stop and contemplate when you are quickened — God is speaking to you
  • The Bible is not about us — but about God — every “hero” is flawed, but God is forever faithful
  • The genre is important — this is history — and with history you don’t necessarily assume that what believers did was right and use it as a model. It is also important to see that it is satirical — the proud are ridiculed and brought down — including Mordecai.

One of my most helpful commentaries on Esther was from Joyce Baldwin. She explains that though the beauty treatments given to all these girls were akin to marriage preparation (such as still happens in Iran and North India), the sad thing is that most of these young girls were preparing for a life of widowhood. It was an abuse of women — and God wept. Why did He let it happen? That is a mystery. But the Hebrew is very clear that He was with Esther during the abuse. Often He does not sweep our pain away, but He is with us, and He is a Master at turning ashes into beauty.

Was Esther wrong? Many of you have chimed in with your thoughts already. I tend to think she was young, submissive, and simply obeying Mordecai. Most of us would have done the same. I tend to hold Mordecai more responsible — and yet I wonder, what I really would do if I were a parent in such a situation? Would I be able to give my daughter up? Refusal surely would have meant her martyrdom. Parents like the Bonhoeffers and the parents of Sophie Scholl (see the movie on Netflix!) are the exception — encouraging their children to take a stand for the voiceless when to do so seems so likely that martyrdom will happen.

One of the truths hidden in this passage is that God was with Esther. This moves me so. You expect God to be with you when you suffer and are completely innocent, but when you have given in to pressure, you might expect Him to withdraw. But He is with her. And He is with you and with me when we fail Him, when we don’t take the highest road. He loved us first, He loved us when we were yet sinners, and He loves us and is with us when we fail.

I believe God was also very sympathetic with the pressure on Esther. We don’t know how old she was, but we know the pressure was enormous.

If you are a victim of sexual abuse, or love someone who has been. The word “favor” is the Hebrew word “hesed” which is God’s unfailing love. I don’t understand why God allows abuse to happen, but I find comfort in knowing that His unfailing love was with Esther. He saw, He wept, and He eventually turned her ashes into beauty.

This week we will read of her capitulation, and next week her leap of faith. In each, you’ll learn more about reading carefully so you see and are transformed. God is hidden in the book of Esther, but His fingerprints are everywhere. See if you can see them.

Sunday/Monday icebreaker

1. What stands out to you from the above and why?

2. When you read the Bible quickly so that you don’t really connect with God — what heart idols do you think are deceiving you?

3. What have you learned about reading the Bible so it transforms you — is it making a difference? Explain.

 

In case you missed it, I want to share something Elizabeth wrote at the end of last week:

When I read the Bible in context, with God, instead of Self, as the center, the reference point–the Bible is…indescribable! I am noticing now that even one verse strikes me as it never has before. There is a richness and depth that draws me in for more. And, not sure if this makes sense out-loud–but there is a RELIEF, a peace that comes from taking myself out of the center. When I stop looking for answers for me–and turn to His Word to know more of Him–there is a satisfying calm that comes over me.

Monday-Wednesday  Bible Study

4. Read Esther 2:1-4

A. How did the “wise men” advise the king?

B. What qualifications were they looking for in the woman who would be the new Queen?

The word “please” has a strong sexual connotation. In Judges 14:3 Samson tells his parents he wants them to get an unbelieving woman for him for his wife for “she pleases me well.”

C. What satire do you see in this passage?

5.  Read Esther 2:5-11

A. When the Jews were taken captive in Babylon, Cyrus released them to go home. Historians believe the godly Jews went home, but others had become quite comfortable in Persia and stayed, becoming very like the Persians. How many generations had Mordecai’s family lived in Persia? (See verse 5)

B. Find evidence in this passage that Mordecai loved Esther.

C. Other details in the book help us know Esther hid her faith for a minimum of seven years — and no one even knew that Mordecai was a Jew in all that time. What fears (and what idols?) might have motivated Mordecai to instruct Esther in this way?

6. Read Esther 2:12-18

A. In this passage there is a phrase that is used four times. It is “to go into.” Find this same phrase in Genesis 16:2; Ruth 4:13, and 1 Samuel 11:4. What does this tell you?

B. According to verse 14, when would she go to the king, when would she return, and where would she go after her night with the king? What would determine her fate, according to this verse? (This verse is loaded — slow down! Find all you can about a woman’s possible fate.)

C. Why do you think Esther capitulated? What might have been her fears (or her idols)?

D. When have you capitulated? Looking back, what were your fears or your idols?

7. It is also absolutely vital to see that God was with Esther — you see it in the word “hesed” which here in Esther is usually translated “favor.”

A. Find it in Esther 2:9; 2:15, and 2:17.

B. What does it mean to you that God was with her? Think of your failings, right now.

8. It is also important to read the Bible according to genre. Esther is a historical book. What you see God’s people doing isn’t necessarily a commendation — it is just a recording of what they did. We cannot endorse polygamy because God’s people practiced it, because God’s didactic teachings clearly opposed polygamy. For example, if you ignore genre, you might come up with the conclusion that what Esther and Mordecai did was right because they were eventually used to rescue God’s people. See if you can refute this from scriptures that are not a recording of history but are didactic (commands from God, teaching Scriptures).

 

9. Here is a controversial question — and believers who love the Lord come down on both sides. How do you think God feels about smuggling Bibles or hiding Jews during the holocaust since it involves lying? Is this in the same category as what Mordecai and Esther did? Why or why not? What is your case scripturally?

Thursday-Friday: Sermon

If you did not listen to last week’s free sermon — please do now. (LINK)

If you did, and want to go on, listen to this sermon. (LINK)

10. Share your notes on the message

Saturday

11. What is your take-a-way and why?

COMMENTS (227) Post a New Comment ↓
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4A. How did the “wise men” advise the king? This king had a temper problem! He gets angry and Vashti is gone! No wonder Esther was afraid to come before him. When his anger cools he misses Vashti. It may be that he had some emotional attachment to her but I suspect it was mostly like missing a lost possession. The wise men advise him to replace her and suggest a plan for that.

B. What qualifications were they looking for in the woman who would be the new Queen? Beauty and the ability to please the king.

C. What satire do you see in this passage? A queen should be a woman of strong character with the wisdom and authority to reign. This king has reduced the requirement to the best geisha. I find that extremely sad and laughable.

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I’ve been thinking a lot on 8 & 9–I can be very “black and white” and am trying to learn to see all sides more before coming to conclusions. There is a lot that disturbs me in this book. I can most easily excuse Esther—she was just so young. She was obeying the only father she ever knew, and she knew him to be a good man. I struggle more with Mordecai—I see his rationalization, but I still believe God will protect those who do what is right. I say that with a copy of the Voice of the Martyrs newsletter on my desk–that’s hard, but I believe their reward is beyond what I can imagine, because God is bigger than my vision. There are many times I can think of in the Bible where laws were not followed–Baby Moses was hidden, Mary and Joseph fleeing Bethlehem at night—I can’t make a nice neat argument. I do not believe God calls us to sin, and He does call us to obey the law unless it contradicts Scripture.
What I DO see in Esther is that God is working out His perfect plan behind the scenes, despite the sins and failures of the people—and THAT brings me great peace. In reading it today I just keep thinking of Job 42:2–”I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.”

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    Those are good thoughts, Elizabeth. Rationalization for sinning when we are in a difficult spot (with lots of pressure to sin) abound. I do it and see it done by other Christians all the time. But that doesn’t make it right. However, even when we do sin, it is so good to know that God is still in control.

    I especially like these thoughts. “I can’t make a nice neat argument. I do not believe God calls us to sin, and He does call us to obey the law unless it contradicts Scripture. What I DO see in Esther is that God is working out His perfect plan behind the scenes, despite the sins and failures of the people—and THAT brings me great peace. In reading it today I just keep thinking of Job 42:2–”I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.”

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      I always appreciate your wisdom Diane, “However, even when we do sin, it is so good to know that God is still in control.” I really needed that reminder today!
      You’ve had a busy summer–are you re-settled? I’ve missed hearing more of your thoughts, always glean so much from you, and your gentle way of delivering truth. Any update on your brother?

        Thanks for missing me and asking about my summer, Elizabeth.

        I am back but not resettled really. I have my son and his family arriving tomorrow to stay for two weeks. This is my son from Nova Scotia with the 3 year old and a one month old. So life will continue to be busy for at least the next two weeks and I don’t know how much I will be able to do the Bible study here.

        Yesterday I had hoped to get a lot done on this study but then the Internet was not working properly. I really miss being able to sit down and think through the questions and listen to the sermons. Today I feel a little like a “chicken with its head cut off” trying to get everything ready for their arrival. Having guests is a great motivator to get things done but it is tiring.

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    Great verse from Job to summarize Esther — and our lives.

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Good discussion above –

We know God does not lead us into sin — He can’t because He is holy.
But He can use sinful beings for His purposes.

My son-in-law David and I disagree on the answer to 9– I respect him so much — I am all for smuggling Bibles and hiding Jews and think Rahab is commended because of the faith it took for her to do it. He feels it is always wrong to lie. Yet he says the Brestins have made him a bit looser… :-) I think that’s good!

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    ok, now I can admit this…I couldn’t answer #9 because I had a flash back to when I was in 8th grade. My older sister was going with Crusades on their first ever trip to Russia, while still closed. They couldn’t say where they were going & couldn’t bring a Bible. So I made her a photo album, and behind ever photo, I hid a Bible verse on an index card–I sure thought I was clever!…but the “black and white” in me…still stirs…

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      Love love love this story, Elizabeth. You were not going to let your sister go in without the Word of God!

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6. Read Esther 2:12-18

A. In this passage there is a phrase that is used four times. It is “to go into.” Find this same phrase in Genesis 16:2; Ruth 4:13, and 1 Samuel 11:4. What does this tell you? – It means to sleep with.

B. According to verse 14, when would she go to the king, when would she return, and where would she go after her night with the king? What would determine her fate, according to this verse? (This verse is loaded — slow down! Find all you can about a woman’s possible fate.) – she would go to the king at night and in the morning return to a different harem and never again see the king unless he called for her by name. This is very sad. The king treats these women like a piece of meat that was too hard to chew. He uses them and then “throws” them away and never thinks of them again for the most part. They are now “marked” among the other women and to other men. The king does not care about any of them he just uses them to satisfy his own desires, never thinking of their reputation among the other people in their provinces. The “discarded” women are branded for life.

C. Why do you think Esther capitulated? What might have been her fears (or her idols)? – I think because Esther did what Hegai knew the king would like and didn’t try to impress him in any way by bringing him more stuff. She was herself instead of trying to flaunt herself. In her mind her purpose was probably different than the other women. Her idols could have been her safety and the safety of her people, fear that God may not protect them.

D. When have you capitulated? Looking back, what were your fears or your idols? – for me I think it was when I gave up trying to make my first husband go to counseling when he really didn’t. I conceded and went thru with the divorce, which now in the long run, was the best thing for me and my kids. My fears and idols were probably scared of making it on my , not finding anyone to love me, failing in front of my kids.

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    You certainly caught the horror of what was going on, Julie. You too have been through so much and it is wonderful to see God’s redemptive hand in your life.

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6. Read Esther 2:12-18
A. The phrase means that the women were to have intercourse with the king.
B. The woman’s fate was decided by whether the king was pleased with her in the morning. In the morning she would go to a second harem, supervised by another eunuch in charge of the concubines. She never went to the king again unless he called for her which he likely never would. She was locked away and forgotten. If she became pregnant I wonder what became of the child. I would not think a harem full of concubines would be a very good place to raise a child. I can see how that child might become her life. She was discarded and forgotten after being so traumatically taken from her life and family. It must have been very bad for these kingdoms to have all of their beautiful young women locked away like this, especially when mortality rates were high in childbirth. What a Selfish Giant! I can’t get over this king. Yet I know that without Jesus I am just as narcissistic and heartless.

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    Hi anne, in response to “A,” I just wondered how you know that is what it means? I don’t get that at all from the verses I read. In fact when I read the 1 samuel scripture I saw nothing that led menin that direction at all. It was about Samuel meeting messengers and everyone crying. The Genesis and Ruth scriptures both talk about women having babies. Not getting the connection……

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      Well, it just dawned on me that maybe I should check other versions? Duh. I was using the NIV. will do so this evening :)

        Laura, I am sorry for not responding. I saw it late and at a time when I could not investigate. Chris thanks for looking into it.

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      I think that was a typo, and the correct verse is in 2 Samuel, check that out Laura.
      I tried to post that yesterday, when my computer wouldn’t work!

        Thx!

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    Your phrase “what a selfish giant” has me remembering one interesting interpretation of Genesis 6:2 which talks about “giants in the land” in some translations — I think it was Adam Clarke who said those were men of power who abused women, taking as many as they wanted…

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      gross… there was lots of disgusting behavior described in the OT. All of the OT certainly points to the Savior — and the need for a Savior.

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9. I do not think it is wrong to smuggle Bibles or help persecuted people to get out of danger. An authority that commands this is in direct conflict with the command of God. I support that with Peter and Paul continuing to preach the gospel when beaten, imprisoned and commanded not to by those in authority over them. I don’t think Esther and Mordecai were right. They had no reason to lie, other than fear. They did not trust God to protect them and that does not please Him. He proved that He was able in spite of the fact that they lied and I think Esther would have become queen even if everyone knew she was Jewish. He was with them even though they did not do everything just right. That is a huge consolation to me. I have a lot of failings and just plain disobedience out of fear yet I find God faithful to me. Do I receive His best for me in the cases of disobedience? I don’t think so but it does not change His hesed for me.

Just a thought. I wonder if Haman would have been able to get the king to sign his edict if it had been known that Esther was Jewish.

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    Good point Anne, if Gods plan all along was for Esther to be in that palace harem at that time and become queen, it may not have mattered that Esther was Jewish for His plan for her life to take hold.

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B. What does it mean to you that God was with her? Think of your failings, right now. – Oh my failings what do I list. I would have to say my biggest failing right now is my attitude. I just can’t tolerate people who think they are better than others in any way when they are no better than me. They may be smarter than me but that does not give them the right to be rude. For Esther to know that God was with her is evident in many ways. Out of  all the young ladies and I’m sure there were plenty, God lifted her out of the crowd for the king to notice her. He protected her from harm and death. She found Gods favor from everyone who came to know her. To know God is with us at all times even if we failed in some way or the other is very comforting to me. It reminds me of the Footprints saying where one there is only one set of footprints God is carrying me. I think this is what he was doing with Esther, He was carrying her in is arms.

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8. It is also important to read the Bible according to genre. Esther is a historical book. What you see God’s people doing isn’t necessarily a commendation — it is just a recording of what they did. We cannot endorse polygamy because God’s people practiced it, because God’s didactic teachings clearly opposed polygamy. For example, if you ignore genre, you might come up with the conclusion that what Esther and Mordecai did was right because they were eventually used to rescue God’s people. See if you can refute this from scriptures that are not a recording of history but are didactic (commands from God, teaching Scriptures). –
I’m not sure if this is what you mean but it says “Lord, deliver me from lying lips and a deceitful tongue.” (Psalm 120:2 HCSB); And also The Lord hates six things in fact, seven are detestable to Him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19 HCSB) and than there is Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue, only a moment. Lying lips are detestable to the Lord, but faithful people are His delight. (Proverbs 12:19, 22 HCSB)

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    That’s good Julie.

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9. Here is a controversial question — and believers who love the Lord come down on both sides. How do you think God feels about smuggling Bibles or hiding Jews during the holocaust since it involves lying? Is this in the same category as what Mordecai and Esther did? Why or why not? What is your case scripturally? – I think in circumstances like this that it’s ok. Jesus was a Jew and protecting people from being killed because of who they are I don’t think is a bad thing. I don’t think I could just stand a side and watch them be slaughtered. And for smuggling bibles into third world countries, Jesus told us  ”Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. (Mark 16:15 HCSB)? There are some people who would not believe without seeing the Bible so you would need to smuggle them in so The Word Of God can be heard in all nations. I think this scripture fits for hiding the Jews “Do not trust deceitful words, chanting: This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.  Instead, if you really change your ways and your actions, if you act justly toward one another,  if you no longer oppress the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow and no longer shed innocent blood in this place or follow other gods, bringing harm on yourselves,  I will allow you to live in this place, the land I gave to your ancestors long ago and forever.” (Jeremiah 7:4-7 HCSB)

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Router is back up again. Great study!
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
Love this line: “You will see God as the hero,the One who was with her before she was brave, and after. (This is the beauty of our God.) And this is our beauty!!!

2. When you read the Bible quickly so that you don’t really connect with God — what heart idols do you think are deceiving you?
Comfort is one because I am needing to get on with other things in my day so I am hurrying. I see legalism here also – I think I must do it because it is the right thing to do rather than doing it to be with Him.

3. What have you learned about reading the Bible so it transforms you — is it making a difference? Explain.
I find it helpful to slow down and concentrate. Worship music helps to quiet my soul before I have my quiet time. Also desire to hear from Him and commune with Him.

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    This is such a good post, Kim — and this so true:

    I see legalism here also – I think I must do it because it is the right thing to do rather than doing it to be with Him.

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4. Read Esther 2:1-4

A. How did the “wise men” advise the king? Get rid of a woman who the king would miss. Without wisdom from God they are doomed to stupidity.

B. What qualifications were they looking for in the woman who would be the new Queen? Beauty, youth and virginity.

The word “please” has a strong sexual connotation. In Judges 14:3 Samson tells his parents he wants them to get an unbelieving woman for him for his wife for “she pleases me well.”

C. What satire do you see in this passage? The wise men were not too wise. They were looking for things in a wife that pass away. Like the old goat deserved a woman with qualities which he had none of.

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7. It is also absolutely vital to see that God was with Esther — you see it in the word “hesed” which here in Esther is usually translated “favor.”

A. Find it in Esther 2:9; 2:15, and 2:17.

Esther 2:9 God gave her favor with Hegai. 2:15 She won the favor of everyone who saw her. 2:17 She won the King’s favor.

B. What does it mean to you that God was with her? Think of your failings, right now.

That He has her covered and under His wings. That He is faithful and that He is the cover-er of the orphan. I also think of how God provided Mordecai for her when her parents died-a covering for her with a man who greatly loved her and cared for her. Then she gets swept up into this horrific, evil, permanently life changing event of the taking of virgins to live a life of a sex slave-yet God was with her and gave her favor among the people there. Even though God knew that she would fail in the future-she was His, and oh to be His! :)

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8. It is also important to read the Bible according to genre. Esther is a historical book. What you see God’s people doing isn’t necessarily a commendation — it is just a recording of what they did. We cannot endorse polygamy because God’s people practiced it, because God’s didactic teachings clearly opposed polygamy. For example, if you ignore genre, you might come up with the conclusion that what Esther and Mordecai did was right because they were eventually used to rescue God’s people. See if you can refute this from scriptures that are not a recording of history but are didactic (commands from God, teaching Scriptures).

I think Julie’s verses were applicable to this question in regard to lying. Leviticus 19:11 You shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.

I think the undercurrent of their lying was that they were scared and rightly so! I would have been..so their idols were operating and here is what God says about that: Exodus 20:3 You shall have no other gods before Me.
Also, instead of capitulating God wants us to trust Him: Isaiah 26:3 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in thee.” Psalm 118:8 “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.”

9. Here is a controversial question — and believers who love the Lord come down on both sides. How do you think God feels about smuggling Bibles or hiding Jews during the holocaust since it involves lying? Is this in the same category as what Mordecai and Esther did? Why or why not? What is your case scripturally?

Yes, Mordecai was protecting Esther because she was one of the oppressed-yet at the same time I am not totally sure that was his motivation.

I evolved on this issue. I used to think it isn’t right to lie under any circumstance and that we need to trust God-yet when posed with this question in regard to hiding Jews-I couldn’t help but say it was right. Sure it isn’t right to go against the laws and to lie, but now I believe strongly that when the laws go against God’s desires-his Word then it is right to disobey them and to lie to save an oppressed person’s life.

For example, I think it is right to go undercover-to lie in order to get in and physically rescue sex slaves-this could be the same in lying to hide Jews. The scripture to back this is that God hates Oppression and desires for us to correct oppression and seek justice as this is His heart: “I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.”-Psalm 140:12, Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”-ESV

Also the midwives in Egypt lied to Pharoahs servants to protect the Hebrew babies from being killed-this was right. Rahab the Harlot lied to protect the spies. (I don’t want to write a book, but there are examples of those who lied in scripture for righteous reasons-out of a concern for the cause of God.)

I apologize if this is scattered-but I have run out of time this morning! :)

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    Such good arguments!

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    Rebecca,
    I agree with you. The midwives who protected the Hebrew babies – God was kind to them and gave them children of their own. They feared God more than they feared Pharaoah; they could have been put to death for their actions.

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      Good stuff, Susan. “They feared God more than they feared Pharaoh.” I think that is the main point of whether or not to lie in order to save others. We often lie because of fear, whether it is because we want others approval, or we lack courage. If we really are more afraid of God than we are of others and we know lying is wrong, then we will not lie unless we are convinced in our heart that God wants us to lie in order to advance a larger cause (i.e. smuggling Bibles, rescuing sex slaves, children in danger from others). This is a difficult issue but the key is fearing God more than others no matter how powerful those others seem.

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    Totally agree Rebecca–my husband and I discussed this a while last night and he said –there is a Greater Law for us to obey. And he’s big on smuggling Bibles…I hate deceit, but I think God knows our heart and in each of these instances the desire is not to promote man but to honor God.

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      Elizabeth, oh yes- our heart desires. :-)

      Not to rabbit trail, but I was thinking about what Susan said about how the midwives lied because they feared God more than the Pharoah and that they could have been killed-and God blessed them.

      I was thinking how God gave Esther favor even though perhaps Mordecai and her lying wasn’t done with a God centered motive-perhaps more of the fear of man motive-yet what is wrong with lying to save your daughter from being taken into a sex slave situation? God was so heart broken over what the King was doing to these women. I guess it boils down to motives-yet God is sovereign even in situations where the motives for lying to spare someone’s life could stem from idolatry.

      I am not sure Mordecai’s motives were God centered, yet I see God’s compassionate heart for Mordecai and these women. I see His sovereignty and his rescue of Esther despite the lying. Doesn’t mean not trusting God and lying was right, but I see such mercy and Grace here.

        LIKE: “I am not sure Mordecai’s motives were God centered, yet I see God’s compassionate heart for Mordecai and these women. I see His sovereignty and his rescue of Esther despite the lying. Doesn’t mean not trusting God and lying was right, but I see such mercy and Grace here.”

        I wonder how the book of Esther would read if God were explicitly mentioned??: e.g., “Mordecai prayed for wisdom, and God…” or “Mordecai relied on his own understanding, and… But God…”

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I am just checking in to let you know things have calmed down considerably where Brian is concerned, I thank you for praying. My prayer for him is that he would be transformed by the renewing of his mind, and that he begin to grasp a vision of his identity in Christ.

The tension messed with Bill and me too, we had some communication issues that were distressing surrounding this situation, things are better, but it feels like we have been made aware of something we need to work on.

My computer completely froze up yesterday. I couldn’t return emails for work or post anything here, or anything. Bill had purchased a new computer for me weeks ago, but I have been reluctant to learn something new (it is an Apple).

Well that was the shove I needed, I am on it now!

I worked until 11:30 last night, Bill brought my old computer to me at work and I left it there, so I am still like a fish out of water, all my documents, all my old email history for work and my personal email are not accessible. I feel a bit strange realizing how much I depend on having all of that available to me.

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    So thankful you have some peace about Brian, Chris. Praying for all the upheaval it brought with you & Bill too–and for your computer woes–I know how frustrating that can be, a curve-ball you really didn’t need ;)

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    Thanks for update, Chris. Will keep praying!

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    Thanks for the update…so glad things are better.

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4. Read Esther 2:1-4

A. How did the “wise men” advise the king?

King Xerxes “later” got over his fit of anger and remembered Vashti; what she had done and what he had done to her. It seems he is regretting his acting so rashly. However, his attendants have a solution to this – a search for beautiful young virgins in every province of the king’s realm – and to bring these girls into the harem. Then, whichever one most pleases the king, she will become the new queen.

B. What qualifications were they looking for in the woman who would be the new Queen?

Young, beautiful, a virgin. They will be given “beauty treatments” – some translations (KJV and Amplified) refer to this as giving them “their things for purification”. I looked up “purification” in the concordance and the Hebrew word refers to soap for bathing, scrubbing, perfume for the body.
Obviously they were preparing their bodies for their night with the king. The girl who “pleases the king” will be chosen as queen.

C. What satire do you see in this passage?

Back in chapter 1:10-12, when the whole Vashti incident happened, it says that Xerxes was “in high spirits with wine” – a nice way to say he was drunk? Now this passage starts off with saying “Later when the anger of King Xerxes had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what he had decreed about her” – is this satire here – I think maybe he was “hung-over” and as the haze faded, he was remembering the whole embarassing incident. I would think he would’ve been embarassed that he actually sent out proclamations stating that every man be ruler over his own household. But now he doesn’t know what to do. Since he made a royal decree that Vashti be banished, he can’t undo it.
Then he turns again to these advisors for help.

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5. Read Esther 2:5-11

A. When the Jews were taken captive in Babylon, Cyrus released them to go home. Historians believe the godly Jews went home, but others had become quite comfortable in Persia and stayed, becoming very like the Persians. How many generations had Mordecai’s family lived in Persia? (see verse 5)

I counted four generations: Kish – Shimei – Jair – Mordecai.

B. Find evidence in this passage that Mordecai loved Esther.

Esther (Hadassah) was Mordecai’s cousin, and when her parents died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter and raised her. He saved her from a dire existence as an orphan.

C. Other details in the book help us know Esther hid her faith for a minimum of seven years – and no one even knew that Mordecai was a Jew in all that time. What fears (and what idols?) might have motivated Mordecai to instruct Esther in this way?

I did some reading on the internet about this. It is suggested that Mordecai is a descendant of King Saul, because the book of Esther states that Mordecai was of the tribe of Benjamin and a descendant of Kish, the father of King Saul. Mordecai has Hadassah (a Jewish name) take the name of Esther, which in Persian, means “star” and “hidden”.
Also, getting a little bit ahead, Haman is descended from King Agag, the Amalekite king.
When King Saul attacked the Amalekites, he was told by God to destroy all of them but he spared King Agag. This is perhaps why when Haman finds out that Mordecai is a Jew, he is not satisfied with wanting to kill only Mordecai, but wants all the Jews killed.

So perhaps it is because of this history that Mordecai has been a non-practicing Jew, and instructs Esther to do the same to hide their heritage. Also, I wonder if Mordecai had become prosperous in any way and that he feared losing his reputation, his business, his acceptance among his neighbors? The operating idols could be approval, security, power/control.

One Jewish commentator’s view is that Mordecai instructed Esther to hide her Jewish heritage because of her link to the line of Saul – that if Xerxes had known this he would surely have chosen her as queen, and that Mordecai was hoping that she would not be chosen. (It is noted that when Esther does reveal her royal heritage, Xerxes shows her more respect). This commentator also states that perhaps Mordecai was hoping that, because Xerxes had more than one wife, at some point in the future, Esther would be permitted to subtly leave the palace and return to him if her royal heritage remained a secret.

I find this background fascinating as the showdown between Haman and Mordecai/Esther and Haman and the Jews seems to link back to the “loose ends” that King Saul left behind when he disobeyed God concerning the Amalekites.

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5.C. Going back to this question, I see Mordecai in verse 11 pacing back and forth every day near the courtyard of the harem, wanting to know how Esther was and what was happening to her. He loved her like his own daughter, and perhaps she brought security and comfort to him, love and companionship. Perhaps he thought she would help care for him in his old age? He didn’t want her to be taken away from him by the king. Perhaps that is why he forbid Esther to reveal her “nationality and family background” – the background being the linkage to the royal line of Saul, which surely Xerxes would have been thrilled about.

6. Read Esther 2:12-18

A. In this passage there is a phrase that is used four times. It is “to go into.” Find this same phrase in Genesis 16:2; Ruth 4:13, and 1 Samuel 11:4. What does this tell you? Sarah having Abraham go into Hagar, Ruth went into Boaz and conceived, 2 samuel is about David and Bathsheba…Good to see this in slowing down and knowing the HEbrew words to really get the true meaning…So important

B. According to verse 14, when would she go to the king, when would she return, and where would she go after her night with the king? What would determine her fate, according to this verse? (This verse is loaded — slow down! Find all you can about a woman’s possible fate.)Go in the evening, return in the morning, The second harem…Her future was determined by the king delighting in her and calling her by name.

C. Why do you think Esther capitulated? What might have been her fears (or her idols)? Esther I suppose was scared. It was what everyone else in captivity was doing and I suppose she probably felt she had no choice. If she stood up death would be the end probably. However, I wonder if that would have been better than being at the hands of sinful men…

D. When have you capitulated? Looking back, what were your fears or your idols? I was in a situation kinda like this as far as feeling scared if I did not follow through I would be detested. Yet instead I fell to the pressure and did not say no. After that event I hated the person and what happened. I could have said no but felt overpowered and did not. It was probably fear. I was young, wanted to be favored, in a bad situation where no one could come in and save me from it. I wanted to be liked and compromised what I said I would not.

Yet there are so many examples of capitulating that i hate to count! I am so thankful for His mercy and grace and forgiveness.

Just a thought, wonder what happened to those who never had to go into the king, after he chose Esther did he let the other girls left go? Surely she was not last to go in? Or did he continue to add to his harem? Seems the mood of the king was good after Esther was chosen so I hope he let them go.

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    Wow good thought on what happened to the rest of the girls after Esther.

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      Good question on what happened to ther other girls –
      What do you glean from Esther 2:14?

7. It is also absolutely vital to see that God was with Esther — you see it in the word “hesed” which here in Esther is usually translated “favor.”

A. Find it in Esther 2:9; 2:15, and 2:17. This is great to see and know He was there with her.

B. What does it mean to you that God was with her? Think of your failings, right now. It means alot, I know He was with me too yet it is hard to understand why He does not jump in and intervene in things like this. Where it would have been easier for me to say no and stand up than Esther. Trafficking, etc it is so hard to see it happen and God not stop it. But to know He is with you is so important. He has a bigger plan.

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Dawn M.S., if you get this could you please email me at: rebecca@deebrestin.com. Thanks so much!! :-)

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5. Read Esther 2:5-11 A. When the Jews were taken captive in Babylon, Cyrus released them to go home. Historians believe the godly Jews went home, but others had become quite comfortable in Persia and stayed, becoming very like the Persians. How many generations had Mordecai’s family lived in Persia? (See verse 5) 3

B. Find evidence in this passage that Mordecai loved Esther. He paced the grounds to find out if she was okay.

C. Other details in the book help us know Esther hid her faith for a minimum of seven years — and no one even knew that Mordecai was a Jew in all that time. What fears (and what idols?) might have motivated Mordecai to instruct Esther in this way? He had already lost her parents and probably felt the burden to keep her safe. Maybe control issues.

6. Read Esther 2:12-18

A. In this passage there is a phrase that is used four times. It is “to go into.” Find this same phrase in Genesis 16:2; Ruth 4:13, and 1 Samuel 11:4. What does this tell you? It means to have sexual relations.

B. According to verse 14, when would she go to the king, when would she return, and where would she go after her night with the king? What would determine her fate, according to this verse? (This verse is loaded — slow down! Find all you can about a woman’s possible fate.) In the morning she returned to the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who kept the concubines. She would not go in to the king again unless the king delighted in her and called for her by name. This is a very sick society.

C. Why do you think Esther capitulated? What might have been her fears (or her idols)? I would guess she did these things out of fear for her life, obedience to Mordecai and really no other alternative but death. So much depends on what we don’t know. She could have an idol operating of affirmation. It is possible she knew she was beautiful and liked feeling powerful.

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I’ve been thinking about the right/wrong of lying to hide Jews/smuggle Bibles etc. all week. My response is something that I’ve always resisted saying (and still don’t believe 99.999% of the time!): “What is right for one person may not be right for another!” (Ugh!)

I remember a long time ago (youth/young adulthood)reading about Bible smuggling and wondering how I would/could smuggle Bibles and not lie. I didn’t think that smuggling Bibles might be wrong (although I know it involves breaking laws…speaking of breaking laws, people don’t seem to get all bent out of shape about speeding).

I just assumed that if I were to smuggle Bibles, I would do it without lying or accept the consequences of lying. I have read about Bible smugglers who had the same concern, and God worked in the situation so that they were not asked, vehicles weren’t examined, and they didn’t have to lie. I don’t remember hearing stories of Bible smugglers who explicitly lied, although maybe that part wasn’t written in books!

Frequently, we assume that we would have to lie (or do whatever “wrong” behavior) because we can’t see another way. But that doesn’t mean that God can’t open another avenue so that we don’t have to violate His commands. I used to read missionary biographies for entertainment; if I remember right, God’s hand was evident in many situations when people sought Him and trusted Him. Many missionaries asked God to open doors, and He did — but the reports were of people trusting Him, not taking things into their own hands.

So, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking “no, it’s not right to lie” (at least explicitly; haven’t thought about the implicit lies of sneakiness yet); however, just as in other situations, God is in control; He redeems and works despite our sins and mistakes. I suppose we could argue that it was “right” for the King and his advisers to get drunk and do a bunch of the bad stuff because that led to Esther becoming queen and saving her people. I’m not quite ready to make wrong “right” under certain conditions, especially not when people haven’t even asked God to intervene; I’ve heard too many things justified as “right” just so that people don’t get “caught.” i.e., I can’t see a way out of a situation other than lying so lying becomes right.

Last night I was wondering about alternatives to Bible smuggling and lying about it. This seems far-fetched today, but in some eras, people have communicated a whole lot of the Bible by memorizing it and then writing it when they didn’t have access to the written Word.

I may be as naive in this as I am in other areas, but I would have a hard time saying that it would be okay for me to intentionally lie so that I could protect myself to do God’s work. In the situation, I might lie, but I don’t think I could plan ahead to do it. Plus, I’ve known others that couldn’t — and God made the situation so that they didn’t have to. They didn’t “have to” lie because God blinded the eyes of the people they would have lied to. At the moment, I believe that Bible smuggling is fine (but now I just might question that, too), but lying about it usually is wrong. God would have to make it pretty clear if He was leading me to lie.

Regarding my answer that some action might be right for some people and wrong for others: I’ve seen the stress associated with lying, sneakiness, etc that is required for some jobs. It’s possible for people to get so caught up in roles they have to assume for work (e.g., going undercover and sometimes even acting) that their whole lives become a lie. If someone is totally dependent on God and His leading, I could “buy” that God might lead him/her to lie; but it seems just as likely that God would “create a way of escape.” God must give special grace and protection to people he calls into some positions.

Now I think I’m starting to analyze from a research/statistical perspective (scary), but it just dawned on me that God’s blessings after a lie may not be a confirmation that the lie was okay. Instead, it could be confirmation of God’s grace. Who knows what great things God would do if we trusted Him fully? I don’t know; I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that lying is ok, even though I’d do it because I’m often CHICKEN rather than trusting Him. Do I only obey His commands when it’s obvious I’ll be “safe?” Or do I trust Him that in Him I am safe, despite the earthly consequences?

Too long… I’m torn.

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    I enjoyed reading your thoughts Renee, especially about God provisions for the missionaries.

    This question
    “Who knows what great things God would do if we trusted Him fully? ”

    Reminded me of this quote;

    “The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him. I will try my utmost to be that man. -D.L. Moody”

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      Love your thoughts, Renee, and your D.L. Moody quote, Chris.

      “Who knows what great things God would do if we trusted Him fully?” Amen. Who knows what great things God could do THROUGH US if we trusted Him fully?

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    Wow very good, and thought provoking for me.

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    You are certainly thinking.

    I find peace in knowing He looks on the heart. He knew the midwives motive, Rahab’s motives — the fact that it says He was pleased with them tells me He saw their heart motive was good — they actually had to choose a lesser evil.

    Those are my thoughts, dear thoughtful Renee.

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      Thanks, Dee. That helps me think more clearly. Only have sporadic web access on cell now…

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Oh my, I answered #5 before, but didn’t read the first part carefully (so much for S L O W L Y): “When the Jews were taken captive in Babylon, Cyrus released them to go home. Historians believe the godly Jews went home, but others had become quite comfortable in Persia and stayed, becoming very like the Persians.”

I focused on counting the generations, but missed the point (and this was even when I commented on Esther already living there)!!! Mordecai and Esther were living the consequences of earlier generations not seeking God. There is a strong possibility that they (as individuals) wouldn’t have been in this mess in the first place if their great grandparents had been more concerned about seeking God than enjoying Persian comforts.

Wow! This has huge implications for our behavior today and how that will impact future generations. But I’m still pondering what those implications are.

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B. According to verse 14, when would she go to the king, when would she return, and where would she go after her night with the king? What would determine her fate, according to this verse? (This verse is loaded — slow down! Find all you can about a woman’s possible fate.)

She would go in the evening, return in the morning, and then go to Shassahgaz for “cleansing.” or so it seems.

Her fate was determined if she pleased the king. She could then see him again. He would have to call her by name.

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    Good careful reading.

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A. When the Jews were taken captive in Babylon, Cyrus released them to go home. Historians believe the godly Jews went home, but others had become quite comfortable in Persia and stayed, becoming very like the Persians. How many generations had Mordecai’s family lived in Persia? (See verse 5)

B. Find evidence in this passage that Mordecai loved Esther.
He took her as his own daughter & walked daily by the court to see how she was fairing

C. Other details in the book help us know Esther hid her faith for a minimum of seven years — and no one even knew that Mordecai was a Jew in all that time. What fears (and what idols?) might have motivated Mordecai to instruct Esther in this way?
Perhaps power? Mordecai may have feared that having his ethnicity revealed would lead to a loss of status? I wonder too if having Esther in the palace might have fed a power idol, he was now the King’s brother-in-law.

6. Read Esther 2:12-18

A. In this passage there is a phrase that is used four times. It is “to go into.” Find this same phrase in Genesis 16:2; Ruth 4:13, and 1 Samuel 11:4. What does this tell you?
It is hard to put delicately but the going “into” was literal & not figurative!

Dee was 1 Samuel 11:4 a typo? I think you meant 2 Samuel 11:4?

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10. Share your notes on the message.

These are very brief notes on my highlights from Keller’s sermon “The Silent Sovereignty of God”. As I continue to pray for some that have obviously sold themselves to the world’s system, these words give me hope, indeed assurance that God is still at work, even at work through my prayers.

Don’t judge by appearances. God is at work in ordinary ways. We think he is not there but he is. God silence is not absence.

Are we guilty? Selling our souls for one night with the king? Esther got off to a horrible start. By the end she is a braveheart – God grows her and turns her into something great. No matter how many mistakes you have made, you can’t write yourself off.

Message of the Bible is God persistently and continuously gives his grace to people who don’t ask for it, don’t deserve it and don’t fully appreciate it after they get it.

Three things you need to be free from the world’s concubinage:
1. A real definition of beauty
Not self-obsessed; Jesus was beautiful beyond bearing, he had the infinite glory yet he gave it all up for us. On the cross he became cosmically unsightly.
Real beauty is self-sacrifice.
2. A new experience of my beauty to Him
How dare Jesus Christ use such an intimate metaphor? His heart bursts at the sight of us. To the degree that you know that is true of you, in his eyes, will you be free from the world telling you what you have got to have.
3. Suffering purifies you –
“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie … the flame shall not hurt thee, I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine”

Once you are assured of God’s love, really assured of it, when you go through troubles and suffering, it purifies you. It gets rid of the pride, foolishness, the fear. Suffering is God’s beauty treatment. You become a diamond.

Esther’s banquet is nothing compared to the wedding feast of the Lamb, which will be the climax of history. We will be so beautiful because of what he has done for us. If you know that you can live lives of greatness now.

Hi girls, just letting you know I am around, reading your responses, but not really able to respond. Having a bit of a rough week, and today my 3 year seems to have a tummy virus.

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    Praying your little guy gets better soon.

      Thank you. He’s still sick today, looking pretty sad. :(

        praying too Krista, glad you could let us know to pray

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This 2nd Keller message is AWESOME! I am in the middle but I just have to say it is like being hungry and only then discovering what food is.

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    Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll try to get to it asap.

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    That’s a great endorsement, Anne!

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C. Why do you think Esther capitulated? What might have been her fears (or her idols)?

I think her fear was death. She could also have been afraid of what Mordecai would think; after all the years of his taking care of her she should do what he says. She might have not wanted to disappoint him. Maybe she wanted the attention also.

D. When have you capitulated? Looking back, what were your fears or your idols?

Well, these have been many times during my life I have done things I really shouldn’t have done for different reasons. A very sad one when I was 18. It happened because I was a coward. I was too afraid to make the right choice. I worried about what others would think. It was all about me :(

I have also done things to fit in with others. Again, how would it look to others?

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B. What does it mean to you that God was with her? Think of your failings, right now.

God was watching and making sure everything came out the way it should. I sure hope I have the support of the Lord in my life! I won’t be able to solve problems if i don’t. Ther are several situations in my life that seem hopeless right now. I need to keep my sites on God. In these situations He is all I have.

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    Laura, you have been so faithful to turn to Him with these things that seem hopeless. He delights in you. I see Him strengthening you through all these trials, refining your beauty

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I thought I would mention that I have been reading a book called “Sarah – Women of Genesis.” I found it as a give away at my school library believe it or not! It has been a very good read and shown a perspective of how the women related to each other. It is written by Orson Scott Card and is part of a series.

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I was only able to take notes until about half way through for I became overwhelmed, and very tired, but this morning I determined to meditate in my quiet time. My understanding of the concept is so partial but He led me by the hand. I thought I would have trouble focusing but I did not because I was so overwhelmed with His glory. I started with the attribute of supremacy in Nehemiah and Job and ended up in Psalm 139 for He led me there.

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    I’m looking forward to it Anne–sounds so good

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9. Here is a controversial question — and believers who love the Lord come down on both sides. How do you think God feels about smuggling Bibles or hiding Jews during the holocaust since it involves lying? Is this in the same category as what Mordecai and Esther did? Why or why not? What is your case scripturally?

Well, God wouldn’t want us to break the law; to sin. It makes him sad. He does want us to spread His word though. Lying by smuggling Bibles is breaking the law. Lying is a sin. So, we need to face the music if we want to spread the word of God. It means we may have to put ourselves in danger if we try to deliver Bibles without hiding them. It is a risk. However I don’t think we should hide or lie.

In the case of the Jews, it is more difficult because we are talking about human life. However, if God prevails, and we have faith that He will, then just like how he saved the Israelites over and over again, He would save us as well. He would put the right circumstances in place for good to come of awful situations. It is difficult. Xerxes denied vashti, he got drunk, etc. These are, as Keller says, ordinary things where God is still in control.

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I’m here…reading your comments…but kinda falling behind as it’s been a very busy week and even busier week-end. Love and prayers going out to you all tho!

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    Joyce, is your daughter visiting now? Can’t remember when you said she is coming.

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I just finished with the sermon again. I am going to order the series on cd because I need to be able to move back and forth through it more easily. At the risk of being melodramatic I must say that my heart is beginning to burn with this. Dee, I hope we can go slow. BSF begins on the 10th and I would not even go except that I must be there for a friend who goes.

Something that really stands out to me is how emotion ties into formative reading and Jonathan Edward’s experience. Emotion has gotten such a bad reputation in conservative Christianity. I would not be surprised if that dryness does not push people away from the church. I wonder if that may be what is so refreshing about Blue Like Jazz.

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    GOOD OBSERVATIONS, ANNE. YES, I THINK PEOPLE ARE LONGING FOR INTIMACY — HOW CAN YOU HAVE THAT WITHOUT EMOTION?

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11. What is your take-a-way and why?

I found the discussion very interesting about whether or not it was OK to lie under certain circumstances (i.e. smuggling Bibles). I find it helpful to think about how we would react if forced to make a tough decision. Often I think we just don’t trust God enough to blind the eyes of the evil doers but also “We ought to obey God rather than man” so, if the world outlaws something that God wants us to do, then we ought to do illegal things that God calls us to do.

When I was in university, a group of us decided to put a float in the July 1st (Canada Day) Parade. Some wanted to pass out Christian pamphlets even though city hall had outlawed it, but some of us felt we should not. I argued that we shouldn’t but now I am not sure I would feel the same way.

Ultimately God is always in control and we are fallible. I can see both sides of the issue. It’s a tough choice to make.

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    INTERESTING THAT THE CITY HALL OUTLAWED IT –

    SEEMS WE ARE LOSING OUR FREEDOMS HERE IN THE STATES — DO YOU FEEL THAT WAY IN CANADA?

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      Yes, it does seem that we are losing some of our freedoms, especially in the area about freedom to speak out when we disagree with things like not allowing homosexuals to teach in our Christian universities, and disagreeing with abortion. We are publicly ridiculed for such “intolerant” views.

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