Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Return- Part 8

Esther had saved Mordecai's life, but their troubles weren't over! Remember, the law of the Medes and Persians couldn't be changed once it was passed. All the Jews would be attacked by their enemies on a specific day all across the empire.

Esther 8:3-6- And Esther spake yet again before the king, and fell down at his feet, and besought him with tears to put away the mischief of Haman the Agagite, and his device that he had devised against the Jews. Then the king held out the golden sceptre toward Esther. So Esther arose, and stood before the king, And said, If it please the king, and if I have found favour in his sight, and the thing seem right before the king, and I be pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews which are in all the king's provinces: For how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?

Esther begged the king to reverse the law. She cried and pleaded with him to spare her people. The king new that the law couldn't be changed.

Esther 8:7-8- Then the king Ahasuerus said unto Esther the queen and to Mordecai the Jew, Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and him they have hanged upon the gallows, because he laid his hand upon the Jews. Write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you, in the king's name, and seal it with the king's ring: for the writing which is written in the king's name, and sealed with the king's ring, may no man reverse.

The king wanted to help his queen. So he gave her the ring that meant his royal power was behind whatever was written, and told her that she could write a law that couldn't be reversed. Perhaps, she could help her people that way.

She couldn't stop the evil men who would attack her people, but she could give her people a fighting chance.

Esther 8:9-13- Then were the king's scribes called at that time in the third month, that is, the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia, an hundred twenty and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language. And he wrote in the king Ahasuerus' name, and sealed it with the king's ring, and sent letters by posts on horseback, and riders on mules, camels, and young dromedaries: Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey, Upon one day in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus, namely, upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar. The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, and that the Jews should be ready against that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.

The new law that Esther wrote said that on the day when the Jews enemies attacked them, the Jewish people were allowed to fight back. No one would be held guilty of breaking the law if the ones attacking them died- it would now be considered self-defense.

Esther 8:14-17- So the posts that rode upon mules and camels went out, being hastened and pressed on by the king's commandment. And the decree was given at Shushan the palace. And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple: and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour. And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.

The fear and despair that the Jews had felt now turned into joy and rejoicing. In every province that Esther's law was read, there was both gladness by the Jews, and fear from the people who had hated them.

Esther 9:1-2- Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king's commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them, (though it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them;) The Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt: and no man could withstand them; for the fear of them fell upon all people.

So, the day came that Haman had devised to kill his enemies, and the Jews assembled to defend themselves. God helped them to defeat their enemy's advances.

Esther 9:3-5- And all the rulers of the provinces, and the lieutenants, and the deputies, and officers of the king, helped the Jews; because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them. For Mordecai was great in the king's house, and his fame went out throughout all the provinces: for this man Mordecai waxed greater and greater. Thus the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and slaughter, and destruction, and did what they would unto those that hated them.

Not only did the Jews fight against their enemies, but the king's army helped them to fight. Mordecai had become famous throughout all the king's realm. And, the king's army wanted to help the Jews!

Esther 9:6, 10 - And in Shushan the palace the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men. The ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews, slew they; but on the spoil laid they not their hand.

So, they counted the number  of the dead and brought it to the king.

Esther 9:11-12- On that day the number of those that were slain in Shushan the palace was brought before the king. And the king said unto Esther the queen, The Jews have slain and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the palace, and the ten sons of Haman; what have they done in the rest of the king's provinces? now what is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: or what is thy request further? and it shall be done.

The king asked the queen what more she would like done. Maybe she thought about the enemies that would try to hide out and were going to plot a revolution.

Esther 9:13-14- Then said Esther, If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews which are in Shushan to do to morrow also according unto this day's decree, and let Haman's ten sons be hanged upon the gallows. And the king commanded it so to be done: and the decree was given at Shushan; and they hanged Haman's ten sons.

Esther asked that the king would allow the Jews one more day to kill any of the enemies that had escaped. She also asked that the bodies of Haman's sons be hanged on the gallows for all to see the consequences of wicked threats.

Esther 9:15-16, 18-19,- For the Jews that were in Shushan gathered themselves together on the fourteenth day also of the month Adar, and slew three hundred men at Shushan; but on the prey they laid not their hand. But the other Jews that were in the king's provinces gathered themselves together, and stood for their lives, and had rest from their enemies, and slew of their foes seventy and five thousand, but they laid not their hands on the prey, But the Jews that were at Shushan assembled together on the thirteenth day thereof, and on the fourteenth thereof; and on the fifteenth day of the same they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. Therefore the Jews of the villages, that dwelt in the unwalled towns, made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another.

The day after the madness, there was a feast! A day to praise God for his goodness.

Esther 9:20-22, 26a- And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both nigh and far, To stablish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly, As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor. Wherefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur.

So, Mordecai made it a rule that on Adar the 14th, all Jews would remember how Haman cast lots to chose a day to kill all the Jews. The casting of lots was called "Pur", so they named the holiday Purim.

Esther 9:29-30, 32- Then Esther the queen, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew, wrote with all authority, to confirm this second letter of Purim. And he sent the letters unto all the Jews, to the hundred twenty and seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, with words of peace and truth, And the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim; and it was written in the book.

Esther's feast of Purim was written in the chronicles of the Medes and the Persians, and her story was also written down in the chronicles of the Jews. The story of how the Jewish Queen saved her people was kept in the temple and passed down every Adar the 14th during the feast of Purim.

Esther 10:1-3- And the king Ahasuerus laid a tribute upon the land, and upon the isles of the sea. And all the acts of his power and of his might, and the declaration of the greatness of Mordecai, whereunto the king advanced him, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia? For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed.

King Ahasuerus went on with his reign, with Mordecai by his side. Together, they brought peace to the Jews.

The war that the king started with the Greeks would take a bloody turn in the future of the Persian empire. A man named Alexander III of Macedon would begin to conquer all the provinces of the known world.

He would gather together warriors from everywhere that he conquered, and would make them all learn to speak his language- Koine Greek. In every area that Alexander the Great would conquer, this would become the main language for trade and travel.

After Alexander's death, his four generals would take over his territory- like it was prophesied by Daniel.

Daniel 8:8, 21-22-  Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven. And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.

These four generals were not as powerful as Alexander was. They began to war among themselves. For over 300 years war would break out throughout the region formerly known as the Persian empire. In the end, all would be conquered by the Roman empire under the dictator Julius Caesar.

The land would be ruled by the Romans, but they would keep the Greek language, which was now considered the Universal language since almost everyone in the Roman Empire could speak it.

During all these years, the Hebrew people lived in Israel. They were told by the prophet Malachi to remember the law of Moses, and to look for the prophet Elijah to return.

Malachi 4:4-5- Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:

The Jewish people combined their religion with different elements that they had learned while in captivity. Because of this, God fell silent. For around 400 years, the only word from the Lord God Almighty was when the Jews read their copy of the Scriptures that were kept in the temple.

For 400 years the religious leaders taught a lifestyle of strict religious laws and traditions. Not all of these things were pleasing to God! But, God kept silent until the time was right- then He would do something would change the world forever!

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Return- Part 7

Esther was trying to save her people. She knew that there was a day coming when every Jew in the Persian Empire would be killed. She had prepared a great feast for her husband, the king, and had invited her enemy, Haman, also.
While Esther was praying about how to broach the subject with the king, Haman was plotting her uncle Mordecai's death. God turned this wicked deed up on it's head when instead of killing Mordecai, Haman was ordered to publicly honor him!
Haman went home to bemoan his woes to his family and friends, but was soon called back to the palace for his banquet feast with the queen and the king. Little did he know that this event would mean his doom!
Esther 7:1-4- So the king and Haman came to banquet with Esther the queen. And the king said again unto Esther on the second day at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition, queen Esther? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? and it shall be performed, even to the half of the kingdom. Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request: For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king's damage.
Esther finally told the king what she needed to- That someone had plotted to kill her people.
Esther 7:5-6- Then the king Ahasuerus answered and said unto Esther the queen, Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so? And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen.
The king was angry when he heard that someone wanted to kill his beloved queen, and her people. But, he was downright livid when he found out that it was Haman!
Esther 7:7- And the king arising from the banquet of wine in his wrath went into the palace garden: and Haman stood up to make request for his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king.
The king stormed out into the garden probably to think and to calm himself down.
Haman saw that he was in big trouble! He stood up to beg for his life. He came before the queen, and probably declared his cause. Sometime during his pleading he knelt down on the lounge chair that the queen was seated on and was probably as close to her face as possible to make his dire plea.
It was at this time that  the king came back into the room.
Esther 7:8- Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine; and Haman was fallen upon the bed whereon Esther was. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? As the word went out of the king's mouth, they covered Haman's face.
If the king had calmed down outside, he was back to a rage when he saw how close Haman was to his wife! He thought that perhaps Haman was going to try to hurt her right then and there.
As he was yelling about it, his guards came and grabbed Haman, and covered his face. They probably put some sort of bag over his head so that he couldn't see to fight.
Then, one of the guards told the king of Haman's plan to hang Mordecai.
Esther 7:9-10- And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon. So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king's wrath pacified.
Well, that was not what the king needed to hear! He had Haman hanged on the very gallows that he intended to murder Mordecai on.
But, the king wasn't done.
Esther 8:1-2- On that day did the king Ahasuerus give the house of Haman the Jews' enemy unto Esther the queen. And Mordecai came before the king; for Esther had told what he was unto her. And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it unto Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.
When the king heard that Mordecai had raised Esther, he decided that he would put Mordecai in charge. Mordecai took Haman's place as the king's right hand man! And, he also got to decide the fate of Haman's wicked family.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Return- Part 6

The wicked Haman had gotten angry because Mordecai wouldn't bow to him. When he found out that Mordecai was a Jew, he came up with a wicked plot to get the king to decree that ALL Jews should be destroyed.
The king listened to Haman's half-truth story and consented to his plan. Everywhere in the Persian Empire there was a letter written with the king's seal that stated that Jews would be killed on a certain day, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
Mordecai got word to Queen Esther. Together, they were going to take three days and pray for Esther to have wisdom and courage, and for God to give her favor in the sight of the king.
Esther 5:1-2- Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king's house, over against the king's house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house. And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre.
God allowed the king to be glad to see Esther. Instead of her having to be killed for coming before the king without his calling her, he was happy to see her! He extended his scepter which gave her permission to come before him.
But, now came the hard part. How would she tell him that his right hand man was going about trying to destroy her and her people? She needed to be delicate about this.
Esther 5:3- Then said the king unto her, What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom.
Wow! The king had promised to give her anything, even if it meant giving her half of his kingdom. That was a lot of trust to put into someone. This was almost a sign to Esther that God was working in her favor.
Esther 5:4-5- And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him. Then the king said, Cause Haman to make haste, that he may do as Esther hath said. So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared.
Esther wanted to get the king in a good mood before she told him the bad news. But, she also needed Haman there so that he couldn't escape. She invited both the king and Haman to a banquet feast.
Esther 5:6-8- And the king said unto Esther at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? even to the half of the kingdom it shall be performed. Then answered Esther, and said, My petition and my request is; If I have found favour in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition, and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do to morrow as the king hath said.
The king again asked Esther what she wanted. Now, perhaps she got scared. Or maybe, she wanted more time to pray about the matter. All we know is that Esther asked the king and Haman to come back for a second dinner the next night.
Boy, was Haman soaring! He was so happy. Everything seemed to be going his way.
Esther 5:9- Then went Haman forth that day joyful and with a glad heart: but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate, that he stood not up, nor moved for him, he was full of indignation against Mordecai.
But, once Haman saw Mordecai his good mood vanished. He was so angry! He didn't want to wait for this Jew to die.
Esther 5:10-13- Nevertheless Haman refrained himself: and when he came home, he sent and called for his friends, and Zeresh his wife. And Haman told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king. Haman said moreover, Yea, Esther the queen did let no man come in with the king unto the banquet that she had prepared but myself; and to morrow am I invited unto her also with the king. Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.
Haman called his wife and friends and told them all about his day. Then, he told them that all the good things that happened were ruined by one man- Mordecai.
Esther 5:14- Then said Zeresh his wife and all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high, and to morrow speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon: then go thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet. And the thing pleased Haman; and he caused the gallows to be made.
Haman's wife and friends plotted together to get Mordecai hanged. Who knows of what he was going to accuse Mordecai? But, they came up with a plan and set it in motion, building the gallows.
Why, you ask, did Haman hate the Jews so? Well, a long time ago when Saul was king of Israel, God told him to kill all the Amalekites. The Amalekites were wicked people and God had had enough! But, Saul disobeyed.  He didn't kill the king of the Amalekites- Agag. He left other 400 alive also that attacked David's home in the land of the Philistines. And, somewhere, there was a descendant of that wicked king Agag that Saul didn't kill.
Haman probably grew up hearing the story of how his people were almost wiped out by the Jews. I'm certain that Haman's hatred of the Jews was a long-standing, deep-seeded hatred. If only Saul had obeyed God, Haman wouldn't be trying to kill off all the Jews now!
But, God has a way of making even the most hopeless situation come out for the best.
Esther 6:1-3- On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king. And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. And the king said, What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king's servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him.
The same night that Haman was conniving, King Ahasuerus couldn't sleep. He decided he needed a bedtime story. He called for his servant to bring in the book that contained past events. The servant read to him about the time some wicked men were planning his assassination. The king listened as the servant told him about Mordecai getting word to the king. But, when the king asked what reward had been given to the man who foiled the murderous plot, he found out that no reward had been given.
Esther 6:4-5- And the king said, Who is in the court? Now Haman was come into the outward court of the king's house, to speak unto the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him. And the king's servants said unto him, Behold, Haman standeth in the court. And the king said, Let him come in.
Right at that moment, Haman came into the king's court to ask if he could hang the very man that the king had just read saved his life.
Esther 6:6-9- So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself? And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delighteth to honour, Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head: And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king's most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.
When the king asked Haman how to reward a deserving person, Haman automatically thought that the king was talking about him. So, he gave an elaborate suggestion full of pomp and public display.
But, to his horror he was not the man the king intended to reward.
Esther 6:10-11- Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king's gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken. Then took Haman the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and brought him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him, Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour.
I'm sure this was most bitter indeed for Haman to do. Haman had to parade around the capitol city the man he despised!
When it was over, Mordecai went back to sit in the king's gate, but Haman ran to his home to tell his wife and friends the dreadful news of that days occurances.
Esther 6:12-14- And Mordecai came again to the king's gate. But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered. And Haman told Zeresh his wife and all his friends every thing that had befallen him. Then said his wise men and Zeresh his wife unto him, If Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him. And while they were yet talking with him, came the king's chamberlains, and hasted to bring Haman unto the banquet that Esther had prepared.
Haman's wife and friends knew that this was not good! It looked as though something bad was on the horizon for Haman. But, there wasn't any time to ponder these signs, for Haman was called to the Palace for his dinner date with certain doom.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Return- Part 5

Many things have happened since Esther had been crowned queen. Mordecai had foiled a plot to assassinate the king. The king had gone to war with Greece hoping to add to his empire, but he lost! And, now, a new man had been placed in charge at Shushan.
Esther 3:1- After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him.
Haman was given a position of great importance. And, custom was that those in high positions would get special treatment from others.
Esther 3:2-4- And all the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence. Then the king's servants, which were in the king's gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king's commandment? Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai's matters would stand: for he had told them that he was a Jew.
Everyone that sat in the gate bowed whenever Haman came through. Everyone, that is, but Mordecai.
He was still going every day to see if there was news of Queen Esther. He hadn't told anyone of his relationship to the queen, though he did tell people that he was a Jew.
Esther 3:5-6- And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath. And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.
Haman had noticed that Mordecai didn't give him the special treatment that he thought he was entitled to. He was so mad that Mordecai wouldn't show him honor that he wanted to kill him! But, Haman was so wicked that he wanted to kill ALL Jews because of just one Jew's actions.
How terrible! Just imagine for a moment that there was a person who wanted to kill all puppies because once a puppy somewhere bit him! That's not right!
But, that's how Haman was acting. Just because one man didn't bow; Haman wanted to kill all Hebrew people  everywhere!
And the problem with having a wicked person in a position of power is that they can do a lot of damage if there's no one willing to stand up and stop them!
Esther 3:8-9-  And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king's treasuries.
Haman went to the king and told him that there were a group of people that were weird, and they didn't obey the law. He showed the king that it would be beneficial  to wipe these people out and take what they owned as their own.
Perhaps the king was too trusting of Haman. Or maybe Haman's lies were very convincing! We don't know why, but the king consented to Haman''s request.
Esther 3:10-13- And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews' enemy. And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee. Then were the king's scribes called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded unto the king's lieutenants, and to the governors that were over every province, and to the rulers of every people of every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king's ring. And the letters were sent by posts into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.
So, Haman set a date,  and then wrote letters and sent them out to all the kingdom- near and far. The letters said that on a certain day, anyone could kill any Jew and take their things as their own.
How horrible!
Esther 3:14-15- The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, that they should be ready against that day. The posts went out, being hastened by the king's commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed.
People everywhere were getting the news that they, or their children, or their friends would be killed and there was nothing they could do about it! There was more than likely a lot of anger, and tears, and despair all over the Persian Empire!
Esther 4:1-3- When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry; And came even before the king's gate: for none might enter into the king's gate clothed with sackcloth. And in every province, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
When Mordecai heard about it, he put on the itchy, uncomfortable clothes of repentance and mourning that the Jews would wear, and he came to the gate of the palace.
No one in mourning could enter into the castle walls.
Esther 4:4- So Esther's maids and her chamberlains came and told it her. Then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take away his sackcloth from him: but he received it not.
Mordecai loved Esther; Esther loved Mordecai. She didn't like the idea of him in such sadness! She sent clothes for him, but he wouldn't put them on.
Of course, she couldn't go out and see him.
Esther 4:5- Then called Esther for Hatach, one of the king's chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend upon her, and gave him a commandment to Mordecai, to know what it was, and why it was.
Esther hadn't heard the news. She didn't know why Mordecai was so upset, so she sent one of her servants out to get some answers.
How would she respond? What would she do? What could she do?
Esther 4:6-9- So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which was before the king's gate. And Mordecai told him of all that had happened unto him, and of the sum of the money that Haman had promised to pay to the king's treasuries for the Jews, to destroy them. Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to shew it unto Esther, and to declare it unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people. And Hatach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai.
Esther was also distressed now. She hadn't told anyone that she was a Jew. But, how could she hide it and watch her people die?
Esther 4:10-12- Again Esther spake unto Hatach, and gave him commandment unto Mordecai; All the king's servants, and the people of the king's provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days. And they told to Mordecai Esther's words.
Esther had spent over a year getting ready just to meet the king. During that time, she learned all about the laws of the Medes and the Persians. One law, in particular, said that anyone who came before the king without being called by the king would be killed.
Esther didn't know what to do! How could she go before the king when he hadn't called her? How could she help her people if she were killed before she got a chance to talk to the king?
She told her servant to tell Mordecai her fears.
Esther 4:13-14- Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
Mordecai understood Esther's fears. But, he reminded her that God had always delivered His people in the past. He told her that perhaps God had allowed her to become Queen so that she could save her people.
Remember when Mordecai was in the right place at the right time? Now, it was Esther's turn to do the right thing.
Esther 4:15-17- Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.
Esther knew that Mordecai was right. She told him to have all the Jews in the city fast and pray for her to have courage, and for the king to show her favor. She and her maidens would fast and pray also.
After three days, she would go before the king. Would she live? Would the king listen? Could she save her people?

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Return- Part 4

Vashti the queen had been removed from her position. The king was getting ready to go to war with Greece. It may be that the king left for this war shortly after his decree to remove Vashti as queen.
The war did not go well for King Ahasuerus. He took all of his mighties men and his naval fleet to try to conquer the Greece in hopes of expanding his vast empire, but it was a costly defeat.
Ahasuerus returned to his palace of Shushan and realized that he wasn't coming home to his beautiful wife. This must have been very disparaging for him.
Esther 2:1- After these things, when the wrath of king Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her.
The problem with making decrees which cannot be changed is that when you make a rule out of anger, and then you calm down you cannot take it back. The king made a decree that Vashti would no longer be queen, nor would she ever see him again. But, this was made in anger! And, once he calmed down, he realized that he missed his wife.
Esther 2:2-4- Then said the king's servants that ministered unto him, Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king:  And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the house of the women, unto the custody of Hege the king's chamberlain, keeper of the women; and let their things for purification be given them: And let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti. And the thing pleased the king; and he did so.
Because the law of the Medes and Persians couldn't be changed, the king's counsellors decided that it would be best for the king if he sought out another queen. They counseled him to gather up all the unmarried women who lived around Shushan. These women would be put through a Persian ritual of purification, and when it was over, the king would meet them. Whoever pleased the king the best would become the next queen.
It has been some years after the Jews had been allowed to go back to Judea. There were some that took king Cyrus up on his offer. But, there were others who had gotten comfortable in this foreign land, and they had decided to stay.
Of these who stayed was a man named Mordecai and his niece, Hadassah. Hadassah had two names. Her Hebrew name was Hadassah, but her Persian name was Esther. She is known by her Persian name because that's the name that God chose to give to the book of the Bible which has her story in it.
Esther 2:5-7- Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite; Who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away. And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle's daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter.
Our leading lady was adopted. Esther's parent's had died, and so her uncle took her in and raised her. The Bible says that she was very beautiful! And, of course, her beauty would catch the eye of the men gathering up young ladies to meet the king.
Esther 2:8- So it came to pass, when the king's commandment and his decree was heard, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the palace, to the custody of Hegai, that Esther was brought also unto the king's house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women.
Esther was taken to the palace to go through the ritual of purification.
Not only was she beautiful, but she was sweet and kind. And, this wonderful disposition of hers got the attention of the person in charge.
Esther 2:9- And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her things for purification, with such things as belonged to her, and seven maidens, which were meet to be given her, out of the king's house: and he preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the house of the women.
The man in charge gave Esther the things that she needed quickly. He then gave her some maidens to help her through the process, and he put her in the best room!
As Esther was being taken to the palace, her uncle gave her a piece of advice that she took and followed.
Esther 2:10-11- Esther had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not shew it. And Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women's house, to know how Esther did, and what should become of her.
Mordecai loved Esther like she was his own daughter. He went every day to the court of the palace to see how Esther was doing. He was hoping to hear some news of the outcome of the process.
Esther 2:12- Now when every maid's turn was come to go in to king Ahasuerus, after that she had been twelve months, according to the manner of the women, (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, and with other things for the purifying of the women;)
After the women went through this year of purifying, they each took a turn meeting the king. They were allowed to take something with them to try to impress the king with. Each lady would get to chose an item.
Esther 2:13-16- Then thus came every maiden unto the king; whatsoever she desired was given her to go with her out of the house of the women unto the king's house. In the evening she went, and on the morrow she returned into the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king's chamberlain, which kept the concubines: she came in unto the king no more, except the king delighted in her, and that she were called by name. Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her for his daughter, was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king's chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed. And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her. So Esther was taken unto king Ahasuerus into his house royal in the tenth month, which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.
When it was Esther's turn to meet the king, she asked for the king's servant's advice. She knew that this servant would know what the king liked. Because Esther was so sweet and king, she was often given special privileges from those around her. When she asked the servant for his advice, he gladly told her what to take- and she followed his counsel.
Esther 2:17-18- And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti. Then the king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, even Esther's feast; and he made a release to the provinces, and gave gifts, according to the state of the king.
Esther was loved by the king as well. Her beauty, sweetness, and kindness won his heart! He crowned her the next queen of Persia.
Esther 2:19-20- And when the virgins were gathered together the second time, then Mordecai sat in the king's gate. Esther had not yet shewed her kindred nor her people; as Mordecai had charged her: for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him.
Even though Esther was now the queen, she still followed her Uncle Mordecai's advice.
And, Mordecai still came every day to hear news of how his niece was doing.
But, just like most information gathering, you find out more than you ever expected to. You see, the purification process took over a year! And, so, for more than a year Mordecai was in the court listening to the talking of those around him.
Esther 2:21-23- In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king's gate, two of the king's chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those which kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. And the thing was known to Mordecai, who told it unto Esther the queen; and Esther certified the king thereof in Mordecai's name. And when inquisition was made of the matter, it was found out; therefore they were both hanged on a tree: and it was written in the book of the chronicles before the king
Mordecai overheard an assassination plot meant for the king! He was able to get word of the plan to Esther, who told the king. When the royal guards started asking around, they found out that it was true. The wicked men were hanged for treason!
Mordecai had saved the king's life! He was in the right place, at the right time, and he did the right thing. Soon, Esther would have to follow his example.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Return- Part 3

The Jews had many different kings who reigned throughout the land of their captivity. First, the capitol city was in Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar. Then, the capitol city moved to Elam under the Media-Persian reign. The palace of this city was called Shushan. It was founded by Darius the Great and finished by Artaxerxes.
The king's name during the time of the book of Esther was Ahasuerus. He was going to attempt to conquer Greece and add to his vast empire. Before going out to battle, he had a great feast!
Esther 1:1-4- Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:) That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him: When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.
This was like no feast any of us had ever seen! The king, his princes, and his servants feasted for 180 days!
Esther 1:5-8- And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace; Where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble. And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king. And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man's pleasure.
After the 180 days, the king had a feast for everyone in the palace, which lasted for seven days.
The Bible takes great deal to tell us what the palace of Shushan looked like. Do you know why? It was so people would know that the story of Esther was true!
In 1851, a British geologist noticed a mound outside of Persia. He wanted to know why it was there, and he wanted to begin excavation. William Luftus tried very hard to get the rights to dig and find out what was there, but he was unable. The French started digging in 1884, and the digging continued for almost 100 years. Guess what they found?!?!
They found Shushan! They dug up pottery, and statues, and even found plans to what Shushan would look like. They dug around  to find  the floor, and the entrance where the gate would be, and even the where the Queen's place and garden would have been- and it matched what the book of Esther described almost 2,000 years earlier!
The Queen at that time was Vashti. And she, too, was having a feast with her ladies.
Esther 1:9- Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.
Everyone was having a grand old time! Then the king decided to bring his beautiful Queen over to his feast so he could show everyone who beautiful she was!
Esther 1:10-11- On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on.
It seems that the king was very proud to have such a beautiful wife! He wanted everyone to know that when he said she was beautiful, he meant it!
But Vashti didn't want to leave her own party just so people could gawk at her beauty.
Esther 1:12-But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.
Well, that ended the party! Now, the king had to figure out what to do.
Esther 1:13- 19- Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king's manner toward all that knew law and judgment: And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king's face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;) What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the king Ahasuerus by the chamberlains? And Memucan answered before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus. For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported, The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not. Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king's princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath. If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she.
Vashti had to be punished for not obeying the king. The king consulted with his wise men to figure out what they could do. The punishment would be for her to lose her title as queen. Not only that, she would never be allowed to come before the king again.
Remember that the law of the Medes and Persians couldn't be changed once it was signed?
Esther 1:20-22- And when the king's decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small. And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan: For he sent letters into all the king's provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.
So, the king signed the law taking away Vashti's position as queen. She would no longer be his wife. She would no longer have the privileges associated with that title.
How sad! Sometimes we, too, lose privileges when we disobey our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 John 1:8- Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.
If we want to receive a full reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ, we have to learn to obey God's will in our lives.
Vashti lost what she had because she wasn't willing to obey. Hopefully, we can learn not to make her mistake ourselves!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Return- Part 2

Ezra was in Jerusalem working hard to help his people rebuild the temple and learn God's ways. During this time, God had allowed a Jewish man named Nehemiah to become the king of Media Persia's cupbearer.
Nehemiah 1:1-4- The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,
Nehemiah confessed the sins of his people to the Lord, and asked that the Lord would help the people who were in Jerusalem. Little did Nehemiah know that the Lord was working things out so that he himself could help his people.
Nehemiah 2:1-2- And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,
Nehemiah was afraid because you were not suppose to be sad in front of the king. The king saw that he was sad and asked him about it. Nehemiah told the king it was because of the Jews in Jerusalem.
The king had already sent Ezra 13 years earlier. Now, this king wanted to know what Nehemiah would want him to do.
Nehemiah 2:4-5- Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it.
Nehemiah said a quick prayer and then asked that the king would allow him to go visit Jerusalem.
The king allowed him to go, and also sent him with some letters that would allow him to acquire whatever materials he would need while there.
Nehemiah 2:11-13-  So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon. And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.
Nehemiah went out after three days and surveyed the damage to the city walls. He assessed what would be needed to repair them.
Nehemiah 2:17-18- Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.
Nehemiah gathered the rulers together and told them what the king provided. He encouraged them to get to building again. They were very happy and started the renovations once more.
But, again, there were some there who wanted to stop the progress.
Nehemiah 4:1-2- But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?
The Samaritans were no friends of the Jews. They had made alliances with the Arabians and the Ammonites and others who had settled in the land of Judah while they the Jews were in captivity in Babylon. They were trying to make it hard for the Jews to accomplish their task.
Nehemiah 4:7-8- But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.
Nehemiah knew that they were going to have to be wise to finish what they had started. He needed builders and protectors.
Nehemiah 4:13-14, 16-17 -Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah. They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon.
There was also other things going on inside the city that made Nehemiah's job difficult. The people had those who were ruling to make themselves rich, and they were making life hard on the poor in the city. There were also alliances within the city that were working with the Samaritans outside the city.
Nehemiah and the others worked hard, and they finally finished fixing the walls around Jerusalem. Only putting the gate on was left.
Nehemiah 6:1-3- Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;) That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?
The outsiders tried to lure Nehemiah out of the city four times! But, all four times Nehemiah told them he could come out, that he had work to do.
Nehemiah 6:14-15- So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.
Nehemiah spent much of his time in prayer asking the Lord to help them finish what he came to Jerusalem to do. And, God answered his request!
Nehemiah knew that he had to return to Shushan, the palace, so he chose a man to take charge after him.
Nehemiah 7:1-2- Now it came to pass, when the wall was built, and I had set up the doors, and the porters and the singers and the Levites were appointed, That I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many.
Nehemiah was glad to see all that had been accomplished. And so was Ezra!He had become known as the 'Tirshatha'. Ezra had been there a long time waiting to see the completion of Jerusalem!
Nehemiah 8:1-2- And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.
Ezra brought out the law of Moses and read it to the people.
Nehemiah 8:14, 16-17 - And they found written in the law which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month: So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim. And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.
Ezra, Nehemiah, and all that were in Jerusalem kept the Feast of Tabernacles like the law of Moses said that they should. They read from the book of the law every day that they stayed in their booths.
Nehemiah wanted to be remembered by God for doing what was right in His sight. He certainly made some enemies along the way, but God helped him to accomplish what was the will of the Lord God Almighty.
No, this new temple was nothing like the one Solomon built. And, Jerusalem was not as grand as she once was when the kings of Judah sat on the throne. But, God had a plan for this temple and this city.
Haggai 2:1-7- In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying, Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying, Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts: According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.
This temple and this city would have the desire of nations walk in it. Do you know who the desire of nations refers to? The Lord Jesus Christ! Jesus would walk through this city. Jesus would teach in this temple. And, it is outside this city that Jesus would pay the debt for everyone's sin!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Return- Part 1

Cyrus was the king who led the army to take the kingdom of Persia from the Chaldeans who reigned there. Cyrus had appointed Darius to reign over the southern portion of his conquered kingdoms- this included Babylon.
God had said that Cyrus would come and that he would be unstoppable when he did.
Isaiah 45:1-2- Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:
It was in the first year of Cyrus' reign over his conquered kingdoms that he made a proclamation to all the Jews who had been taken out of captivity. Perhaps it was after he read the account of the Lord God Almighty and his protection of Daniel in the lions den.
II Chronicles 36:22-23- Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.
Cyrus proclaimed that any of the captive Jews who wanted to return to his country of Judah, that they had his permission. He wanted the Jews to go back and rebuild the temple to the Lord God Almighty. This was all prophesied by Isaiah back when there were still kings from the line of David sitting on the throne of Jerusalem.
Isa 44:28- That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.
So, many of the Jews gathered their things and their families together and headed back to the land of Judah.
Ezra 1:5-8- Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem. And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered. Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods; Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.
Cyrus got the vessels from the temple that Nebuchadnezzar had taken and sent them back with those who were returning. He was serious about the Jews rebuilding the temple!
Ezra 2:64-  The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore,
There were 42,360 Jews that went back to the land of Judah in the first return trip.
Ezra 3:1-2,6 - And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem. Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God. From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the LORD. But the foundation of the temple of the LORD was not yet laid.
Things were going slowly for the rebuild. It took seven months before they were able to get the altar built. But, they hadn't even gotten started on the temple.
Times were troublesome. The people who were now living in the land didn't want to see these things accomplished and they started to cause trouble for the Jews.
Ezra 4:4-5a- Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia,
When a new king was on the throne, they wrote letters to the kings of Media Persia that followed Cyrus. When the kings read Nebuchadnezzar's account of the Jews rebellion, they worried that another one would soon follow. They ordered the stop of the building of the walls of the city of Jerusalem.
Ezra 4:23-24- Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes' letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power. Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
Builded was halted for about 7 years, until a new king sat on the throne- Darius the Great (a different Darius than the one Daniel knew).
God knew what was going on. He wanted the walls of Jerusalem to be builded again.
Ezra 4:1-3-Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them. At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall?
The men started to build the wall again because the prophets of the Lord said that they should. The governor who was set over the land came to them and asked them why they were building. They told him of the captivity of the Nebuchadnezzar, the prophesy of Isaiah, and the decree of Cyrus.
So, Tatai sent a letter to the king. And the king went and found where Cyrus had decreed that the temple and the city should be rebuilt.
This king sent the reply back that no one should stop the work of the rebuilding. And, if anyone should try he was to be killed and his house should be destroyed!
Ezra 6:14-15- And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.
It took a while before the temple was finished, but they did it!
Ezra 3:10-13- And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.
This new temple was no where near as beautiful as the one Solomon had built so long ago. The old men who had survived Nebuchadnezzar's captivity and remembered the old temple cried at the site of this new temple.
But, the younger men who had never seen the old temple were happy and shouting and singing at the sight of their first temple.
Such a mixture of emotions during this time.
It was after the temple was finished that Ezra came to Jerusalem.
Ezra 7:6, 10- This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him. For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
God named this book of the Bible after Ezra because he had prepared his heart to obey God. He isn't mentioned in the first 6 chapters of the book!
Ezra wanted to make sure that the Jews followed God according to His laws!
Ezra 7:12-13- Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time. I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee.
Again, another decree was made for the Jews who wanted to return to the land of Judah to go. There was another trip of Jews who went, and the king sent gold and silver and supplies with the people to help them with whatever they would need to rebuild the city.
When Ezra arrived in Jerusalem, he was shocked to find the Jews there had mixed themselves with the Gentiles and Samaritans of the area. God didn't want His people intermingling with them and learning their sinful ways- that's the reason they were led captive to Assyria and Babylon!
Ezra started teaching the people the ways of the Lord God Almighty. He was also trying to lead the Jews to rebuild the city wall. For 13 years Ezra worked to keep the people doing right.
Psalm 37:3-5- Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
Ezra was trusting God. He was doing what the Lord wanted and he was committed to doing things God's way. And God was going to make sure that what Ezra desired would come to pass.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Healthy Minute- Tincture for Allergies

I suffer from allergies almost all year round. It wasn't bad when I was in Florida, but the day I moved to Louisiana it got so bad that I was in bed for three days!
I was stuck on Zyrtec and Sudafed daily. I wanted badly to find something natural that would work. 
I tried taking alfalfa pills, but I'd have to take around 15 a day for it to touch my allergies. 
Next, I tried local honey. But, at $20 a quart it's almost as pricey as the pharmaceuticals!
I read about certain herbs that would help with allergies, and here's what I found:
I already took horehound in my natural cough drops. They worked wonders for my sore throat, and helped to clear up congestion. It's great for combating every day allergies and post nasal drip.
Then, I learned that Nettle and Goldenrod can combat histamine and inflammation. (Please note that if you're allergic to any flower in the daisy family, you'll want to avoid using Goldenrod!)
Lastly, I found that Goldenseal works in tangent with Horehound and Goldenrod to remove mucus, plus it's antibacterial and antifungal.
Mixing these together and taking a tincture of it daily helps to control those awful allergies!
Please, be careful when using herbs that you've never taken before. Put a drop of the tincture on your skin and watch for any adverse reactions. Another caution, don't go our and forage for your herbs unless you are trained to do so- some plants can be extremely harmful! It's better to order from a reputable source.

Tincture recipe:
​High-proof alcohol (80-100 proof)- vodka or brandy works well.
dried Goldenrod, Nettle, Horehound, and Goldenseal herbs
A quart sized mason jar with a tight-fitting lid
Small, dark glass bottles for storing the tinctures
A fine strainer
Fine cheesecloth or muslin
A bowl or glass measuring cup with a spout
A small funnel

Start by filling your mason jar about halfway with the herbs; use equal parts of each dried herb. 
Now, fill the jar with your alcohol. You want at least 2 parts alcohol to one part herbs.
Now, set your jar in a cool, dark, dry place. If you have trouble remembering, label the jars with the date and what is in them, or mark the date on your calendar.
During the first week, give the jar a small shake every day to make sure that all of the herbs are getting into the alcohol. Let the jar set in your cool, dark place for 6 weeks.
Strain the herbs out of the alcohol through a fine mesh strainer with a piece or two of muslin or cheesecloth. You want to reserve the liquid without any herbs left in it.
Using the funnel, pour your tincture into your tincture bottles.
Label and store away from direct sunlight.
Take a half a dropperful, 30 to 45 drops, daily.
If store properly, these tinctures can last 7 to 10 years!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Ordering Your Private World book review

Do you have inner peace? Are you driven to accomplish goals or reach your potential to the point that you ignore what it does to you physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Do you like who you've become as a person?
These are all questions that Gordon MacDonald has you spend time contemplating in his book, Ordering Your Private World.
I've never given much thought to the fact that a successful life on the outside can only be maintained by a successful life on the inside. When you loose control of the things that give you focus and inner strength, you will shortly find that the outside life starts to fall apart.
Anyone who is overly stressed out, or feeling that they will never reach their full potential (never be good enough), or just finds themselves wishing they could be someone else should read this book!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Sour Cream Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting recipe

2 cups flour
2 cups almond flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup + 2 TBS softened butter
2 cups sugar
4 whole eggs + 1 egg white
3/4 cup sour cream
1 TBS vanilla
3/4 cup + 6 TBS milk

Preheat oven to 325*.
Mix the dry ingredients (except sugar) together in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl cream together the butter and sugar.
Slowly add the eggs to the butter/ sugar mixture.
Mix in the sour cream and vanilla.
Blend the dry mixture together with the sugar mixture.
Bake about 35 minutes, or until done.

4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
4 TBS butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients together until well blended and smooth.
Spread across the top (and sides) of the cake.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Angels, Giants, And Things Under The Earth book review

The Bible is a fascinating book if you care to study it. It says a lot about things we think of as myths or legends. By studying the things written in the Bible we can understand things that are happening around us.
Joseph Dulmage goes over some of these in his book Angels, Giants, And Things Under The Earth.
I found this to be a fascinating read! By comparing Scripture with Scripture I grew in my understanding of some of the "mysteries" talked about in God's Word. And, it encouraged me to study and learn more about what God had to say on these and other things in the Bible.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

He Giveth More Grace (poem)

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving is only begun.

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure;
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.

-Annie Johnson Flint

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Fig Tree And The Insurrectionist

The fig tree shows up very early in the Bible. It is from the leaves of this tree that Adam and Eve try to make clothing for themselves after the fall. Fig leaves represent self-righteousness in the Bible.
God has to take a lamb and kill it in front of Adam and Eve to create clothing for them to wear. This is the first picture that God shows to mankind that sin can only be covered or forgiven by blood.
When God decides to liken Israel to something tangible, one of the things He uses is the Fig tree.
Hosea 9:10-  I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baalpeor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved.
Why would God use something that pictures self-righteousness to represent Israel? Because they were a self-righteous and stubborn people!
John 9:41- Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
All throughout history God has been making promises to the nation of Israel that a Messiah would come. There were promises made about this Messiah that the Jews took and ran with. They didn't understand that the Messiah was coming for two different reasons at two different times.
Isaiah 49:6- And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
The Jews were looking for a Messiah that would deliver them from their oppressors and that would make them the head of the Gentile nations. We know that by what they asked Jesus while He was on earth.
Acts 1:6- When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
But, Jesus wasn't come to conquer this first time; He was come to be sacrificed like that lamb so long ago in the Garden of Eden. He was to be the perfect Lamb of God which would take away the sin of the world through His blood.
But, that wasn't what the Jews wanted. They didn't seem to even see their sin and so the need for a Savior didn't concern them.
What they saw were the cruelty of the Roman, and before that the Greek, and the Persians, and the Babylonians, and the Chaldeans, and the Assyrians, and the Egyptians. The history of the Jews is filled with cruelty from a foreign dictator reigning over them, and all they cared about was their freedom from domination.
I always wondered how the religious leaders could get the people to shout for Barabbas release, instead of Jesus.
Matthew 27:17- Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?
John 18:40- Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.
Mark 15:7, 11- And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.
Barabbas was a thief and a murderer, but he was also an insurrectionist. Someone who stood  up against and tried to overthrow the Roman government. The exact thing that they were looking for in a Messiah.
This makes me wonder if the religious leaders had accepted Christ as the Messiah through the preaching of the Apostles whether Barabbas would have been the Antichrist.    He certainly would have  fit the  bill!
The people listened to their self righteous religious leaders and crucified the  Lord God Almighty       and then after He had risen they rejected Him again as their Messiah.
Jeremiah 7:28- But thou shalt say unto them, This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the LORD their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth.
Because the Jews rejected Christ it opened the door for Salvation to the Gentile nations. All who would accept Christ and His sacrifice on Calvary can be saved from their sin and will get to spend eternity in Heaven.
Galatians 3:14-  That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
But there is coming a day when the time of the Gentiles will end and God will once again deal with the nation of Israel. And that fig tree will have a chance to accept their Messiah once more.
Luke 13:6-9- He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
God is going to dig about Jerusalem and send a 7 year Tribulation and at the end Israel will know who their Messiah is!
The fig tree will then have their holy Insurrectionist that they were hoping for so long ago!