Month: April 2013

Esther

God did not intend to completely destroy the Jews when He exiled them – He promised the exile would only last seventy years.  However, while they were exiled, Satan attempted to kill all the Jews.  If he was able to accomplish the task, the Messianic line would have been wiped out, and therefore the promises of God to His people.

The man Satan used to attempt a Jewish genocide was Haman, a servant of the king of Persia.  One day he became incensed at a Jew named Mordecai, and his anger at Mordecai extended to all Jews.

All the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman; for so the king had commanded concerning him.  But Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage.  Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why are you transgressing the king’s command?”  Now it was when they had spoken daily to him and he would not listen to them, that they told Haman to see whether Mordecai’s reason would stand; for he had told them that he was a Jew.  When Haman saw that Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage to him, Haman was filled with rage.  But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him who the people of Mordecai were; therefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.  Esther 3: 2 – 6

Haman convinced the king to allow him to annihilate God’s people.

Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people and they do not observe the king’s laws, so it is not in the king’s interest to let them remain.  If it is pleasing to the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who carry on the king’s business, to put into the king’s treasuries.”  Then the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews.  The king said to Haman, “The silver is yours, and the people also, to do with them as you please.”  Esther 3: 8 – 11

But it just so happened that God caused a Jewish woman to rise to the position of queen – Esther.  Esther was able to talk with the king and stop Haman’s plot before it got under way.

Then Esther spoke again to the king, fell at his feet, wept and implored him to avert the evil scheme of Haman the Agagite and his plot which he had devised against the Jews.  The king extended the golden scepter to Esther.  So Esther arose and stood before the king.  Then she said, “If it pleases the king and if I have found favor before him and the matter seems proper to the king and I am pleasing in his sight, let it be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the king’s provinces.  For how can I endure to see the calamity which will befall my people, and how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?”  So King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Behold, I have given the house of Haman to Esther, and him they have hanged on the gallows because he had stretched out his hands against the Jews.  Now you write to the Jews as you see fit, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s signet ring; for a decree which is written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s signet ring may not be revoked.”  Esther 8: 3 – 8

So Esther was able to save her people by appealing to the king – this is the summary of the story.  But there is a story behind the story, when you take a deeper look at Esther.  Consider the following details:

  • She was raised by someone who was not her biological father.
  • She had a lowly upbringing but was raised up to a position of authority and power.
  • She was specifically raised up by God to save His people.
  • She went directly to the sovereign king, and had his edict of wrath repealed.
  • She saved God’s people from an evil one who desired to kill and destroy them.

These details should sound familiar, for if you replace the “she” with “he” and the “her” with “his”, you would have a summary of Jesus Christ.

He was raised by someone who was not his biological father.

When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph…Luke 3: 23

He had a lowly upbringing but was raised up to a position of authority and power.

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.  Luke 1: 31 – 33

He was specifically raised up by God to save His people.

She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.  Matthew 1: 21

He went directly to the sovereign king, and had his edict of wrath repealed.

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.  Romans 5: 9

He saved God’s people from an evil one who desired to kill and destroy them.

All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.  I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  John 10: 8 – 11

How amazing were the things that God enabled Esther to accomplish.  And how amazing it is that those things also partake in the Messianic plot line – the Scarlet Thread – found throughout Scripture!

Nehemiah

The book of Nehemiah, for whatever reason, is often taught in an allegorical manner.  Pastors like to imagine they are a contemporary Nehemiah and the church they are planting or leading is a Jerusalem with walls in need of repair.  Or the average church-goer reads Nehemiah and thinks it is teaching them how to rebuild the walls of their hopes and dreams, which to date have been destroyed by the various circumstances of life.  Consider this quote taken from an American evangelical pastor:

The book of Nehemiah is designed to teach us that only with God’s help can we actually change ourselves and recover from the damage and ruin of the past. In an individual’s life the rebuilding of the walls is a picture of re-establishing the strength of that life.

The question we all must ask is “why did the Holy Spirit inspire the words of Nehemiah thousands of years ago?”  Was it to inspire church planters to plant churches against all odds?  Was it to inspire laity to get off of their duffs and change themselves or the city in which they live?

If one takes the words of Jesus seriously, the words He spoke in the fifth chapter of John’s gospel, where He proclaims Scripture is about Him, then one cannot think Nehemiah was written as an inspirational self-help allegory promoting leadership and life change.  Rather, the events detailed in Nehemiah have a direct relation to the ministry of Jesus.

If God never called the Jews back to Jerusalem, if God never allowed the temple to be rebuilt by Zerubbabel or the city walls to be rebuilt by Nehemiah, then how would Jesus have been able to minister in Jerusalem?  How could He have been crucified outside the gates of a city that was never rebuilt and repopulated?  How could His death have torn the temple curtain in two, if the temple was never rebuilt and refurnished? 

When one considers the Son of God – His sacrificial death and vindicating resurrection – it is far more fun, it is far more beneficial, it is far more edifying, it is far more inspiring, to read Nehemiah and all of the Scriptures with Christ in mind, rather than ourselves.  For without God arranging all of history to enable Christ to come to earth, minister in Judea, die in Jerusalem, and be raised on the third day, we would have no hope as sinners and we would be condemned.

But God provided for us salvation, and it is a salvation that even the book of Nehemiah points towards, if one reads it with a discerning mind.  As we read Scripture, we must increase our thoughts about Christ, and decrease the thoughts about ourselves.

He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice.  So this joy of mine has been made full.  He must increase, but I must decrease.  He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth.  He who comes from heaven is above all.  John 3: 29 – 31

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.  John 5: 39 – 40

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.  1 Corinthians 2: 2

For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.  2 Corinthians 4: 5

Ezra

God fulfilled His word to the Jews, returning them to their homeland seventy years after the exile.

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.’”  Ezra 1: 1 – 2

Upon their return, the Jews began to rebuild Jerusalem, including a new temple; a physical structure not as impressive as the first temple built by Solomon.  The second temple’s construction took twenty years, beginning in approximately 536 B.C.  Playing a primary role in the construction of this temple was Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel.  In fact, the second temple is known as “Zerubbabel’s temple”. 

Now in the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak and the rest of their brothers the priests and the Levites, and all who came from the captivity to Jerusalem, began the work and appointed the Levites from twenty years and older to oversee the work of the house of the LORD.  Ezra 3: 8

Zerubbabel was no random person.  He was of the tribe of Judah, the Messianic tribe.  And he was a son of David, the Messianic line.  And according to Matthew and Luke, he was an ancestor of Christ.

After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel.  Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor.  Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud.  Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob.  Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.  Matthew 1: 12 – 16

When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Hesli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel…Luke 3: 23 – 27

So the Lord used an ancestor of Jesus to build the temple in preparation for His first coming.  The second temple stood for many years, but was replaced by Herod’s temple, the temple that stood in the time of Christ.  This is the temple in which the following occurred:

And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.”  His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume Me.”  The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?”  Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”  But He was speaking of the temple of His body.  So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.  John 2: 15 – 22

In seven years Solomon, an ancestor of Jesus, built the first temple (using many laborers).  In about twenty years Zerubbabel, an ancestor of Jesus, built the second temple.  It took Herod, an unlawful king of the Jews, forty-six years to build the third temple.  It took Jesus of Nazareth three days to raise up the temple of His body; a feat far more impressive, and far more important, than the building of the previous three temples.

Why is it more important and how is it more impressive?  For in the death and resurrection of Jesus is the fulfillment of the temple and the temple sacrifice and the priesthood, for He is the priest and the sacrifice and the temple, all in one.

For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.  For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.  Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.  Hebrews 7: 26 – 8: 2

2 Chronicles

God exiled the Jews to Babylon according to Scripture, although to the unbeliever it would appear to be just one more circumstance of a nation attacking another, a situation that has occurred many times throughout world history.

Therefore He (God) brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or infirm; He gave them all into his hand.  All the articles of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king and of his officers, he brought them all to Babylon.  Then they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem, and burned all its fortified buildings with fire and destroyed all its valuable articles.  Those who had escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and to his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths.  All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete.  2 Chronicles 36: 17 – 21

This exile was neither a random event nor a secular war; it was a spiritual event deriving from the covenant that God made with Israel through Moses.  Hundreds of years before the exile, these words were recorded by Moses and known to the nation of Israel:

But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments, if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, and so break My covenant, I, in turn, will do this to you:…I will lay waste your cities as well and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your soothing aromas.  I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle in it will be appalled over it.  You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste.  Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths.  Leviticus 26: 14 – 16, 31 – 34

So the exile was a covenant curse enacted by God after many, many years of Israel consistently disobeying God’s word and refusing to bow to Him alone.  It was not as if God just chose to do this thing with no warning to the people.  God, after withholding this curse for many years, and after putting up with the people and their sin, finally enacted the covenant curse, and it was just and right for Him to do so.

Now, concerning these things that happened to Israel thousands of years ago, they are a lesson to us.  For the apostle Paul says that what was written in earlier times is for our benefit and instruction.

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  Romans 15: 4

How does the exile of the Jews instruct us, and how might it give us hope?

We learn from the exile that God is a covenant keeper.  He enacts both the blessings and curses of the covenant in accordance with the stipulations of the agreement.  This is both a good and a bad thing.  It is good when you receive the blessing, but bad when you receive the curse.  But whether blessing or curse, we can be confident that God honors His covenants and is not capricious; He does not give a curse when He promises to give a blessing.

You and I, and the whole world, are in a covenant with God.  It behooves us to believe that it is His will to keep His promises.  The covenant God made with us is different from the one He made with Israel.  The terms of this covenant contain one fundamental blessing and one fundamental curse.

The blessing is complete forgiveness of sins to those who believe in Jesus Christ, resulting in eternal life with Him.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  John 3: 16

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8: 1

But what does it say?  “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” – that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.  For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  Romans 10: 8 – 13

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1: 8 – 9

The curse is receiving the just penalty for our sins: eternal damnation, separation from God, everlasting torment.

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  John 3: 18 – 19

Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.  For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.  While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.  1 Thessalonians 5: 1 – 3

See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking.  For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.  Hebrews 12: 25

But by His word the present heavens are earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. 2 Peter 3: 7

Just as the Jews were exiled for disobedience in accordance with the old covenant, people will receive eternal exile in accordance with the new covenant, if they do not believe in Jesus Christ.

But if you believe in Jesus the Messiah, you are saved from God’s wrath and will not be eternally exiled.  You will be a part of God’s family forevermore, dwelling with Him in pure joy and jubilation.  

No matter how awful your sins have been, no matter how unworthy you feel to receive God’s blessing, His promise of salvation is independent of your own work and worthiness.  God has made an oath to save all those who call upon His name and the name of His Son.

This is God’s promise to you and to me and to the whole world.  And He always keeps His word.  The Scripture proves it.