Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 2 March 2023:
Note: Check out this video summary on Esther: https://youtu.be/JydNSlufRIs
Esther 1:1 – Now in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces….
God let a weak king rule most of the known world.
Esther 1:10-11 – On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded… the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at.
After seven days of drinking, king Xerxes let alcohol and his ego entice him to treat his wife poorly and in a humiliating way. Some scholars believe the king’s command was actually for the queen to wear only her crown and nothing else.
Esther 1:12 – But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command delivered by the eunuchs. At this the king became enraged, and his anger burned within him.
The king ruled most of the known world but could not maintain peace within his own home. The king and queen were not united. The first place to lead and to love is within the home. The king demonstrated his weakness at this foundational level. How many people want to be leaders of big things but have already demonstrated poor leadership within their own homes?
Esther 1:13 – Then the king said to the wise men who knew the times….
The king could not or would not handle his own family problems and deferred to others.
Esther 1:18 – This very day the noble women of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will say the same to all the king’s officials, and there will be contempt and wrath in plenty.
Discipline is not just for the lawbreaker but for the whole community, incentivizing standards of behavior.
Esther 1:19-22 – …all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.
The king’s plan was to empower the men of the kingdom at the expense of the women. God gives different responsibilities to men and women but demands that everyone be treated fairly and valued equally.
Acts 16:3 – Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
If you want to understand someone and their past, present and future behavior, find out what they really care about most, what truly motivates them. Some have called this the ultimate motivator, the true “center” of a person’s life, or a person’s “core value.” Everyone has one definitive core value though they might not realize it. If you understand someone’s core value, their behavior becomes fairly predictable. If you don’t understand someone’s core value, what really motivates him/her, his/her behavior may seem unpredictable and may be misinterpreted. We often misjudge a person’s actions because we misinterpret the person’s motives, and the Bible says that only God truly knows a person’s heart. (1 Kings 8:39)
Today, we read that Paul circumcised Timothy, which should catch the reader’s attention since in the last chapter, “Paul… had no small dissension and debate with” those who taught salvation required circumcision. (Acts 15:1, 2) The apostles and elders came together with one accord – “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:11) Yet now Paul is circumcising Timothy, but why? To understand this seemingly inconsistent action and the remainder of Paul’s behavior in Acts 16, we must understand Paul’s (and Timothy’s) core value – “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified…. (1 Corinthians 2:2) I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation…. (Romans 15:20) I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” (Romans 1:14, 15) Paul’s sole motivation was to know Christ and to make Him known to as many as possible. He wanted nothing to hinder his ability to spread the Gospel. He desired Timothy to be circumcised, and Timothy (half Jew and half Greek) was willing to be circumcised (quite painful for an adult), so they could preach in the synagogues without distraction.
Paul’s behavior would seem quite strange, perhaps crazy, apart from an understanding of his inspiration and motivation, which rendered his response to every person and situation truly extraordinary. It was Paul’s joy in Christ alone that compelled him to pray and sing hymns to God while in prison. (Acts 16:25) It was Paul’s earnest desire to spread the Gospel to all that caused him to remain in prison rather than escape when he had the miraculous chance. (Acts 16:27-34) And this same conviction to share the Gospel that motivated Paul to demand release only from the civil magistrate so they too would be forced to see for themselves the power of God. Who would do such things? Only the one who has been crucified with Christ and no longer lives to self but rather as in instrument of Christ, empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 2:20) How does your love for Christ compel you and empower you to do what otherwise would be completely unexplainable? Are people amazed by your joy, peace, thanksgiving, contentment, courage, and love from God, which surpasses all understanding? (Philippians 4:7) How has your ‘crazy’ behavior served as a testimony to others?
2 Corinthians 5:13-21 — For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Acts 16:6-7, 9 – And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them…. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
The Spirit’s means of communication is not always described. The Spirit speaks to different people in different ways. Don’t worry about how God is speaking to others. Just listen and pay attention to what God is doing in your life. Be patient. During the exam, the professor is silent. Often God will test you with silence to see if you will keep doing what He has already told you to do through His word. Trust and obey.
Acts 16:10-13 – And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them….
Paul waited for a sure sense of God’s direction and then acted immediately. How many times have we already seen in the Bible the trouble that comes to those who refuse to wait on God? How many times have we also seen the trouble that comes to those who, when given direction from God, hesitate in obedience or partially obey. Remember, partial obedience is disobedience.
Acts 16:14 – The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
God must open a person’s heart for them to receive Jesus. You cannot open a person’s heart; you can only proclaim Christ to all and trust the Holy Spirit to handle the rest.
Acts 16:17 — These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.
Satan can speak the truth for evil purposes. So can people.
Acts 16:25 – About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
Paul and Silas were placed in prison for a reason, and their joy captured the attention of the people God wanted to reach.
“Your joy as a Christian should not depend on your circumstances. Joy comes from God, and therefore it cannot be affected by what is outside of you. Don’t be fooled into letting the actions of others determine your joy. True joy comes from knowing that God Himself lives within you and has fellowship with you, regardless of your environment. Real joy lies in the knowledge that holy God has completely forgiven you of every sin, and even now, He has a home prepared in heaven where you can spend eternity with Him (John 14:3). The circumstances of your life cannot change these truths!
Paul and Silas faced some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable. They were falsely accused, arrested, and imprisoned. They were beaten and shackled in the darkest, coldest section of the prison. But they refused to allow their horrific situation to dampen their joy! They did not blame God for allowing these things to happen to them. Instead, they praised Him for His goodness! In the darkness of the night, they prayed and they sang. God brought a miracle that released them from their chains, but perhaps the greater miracle was that His Holy Spirit could so fill them that even in their painful imprisonment they could overflow with joy!
Do not allow difficult events to cancel the joy of knowing you are a child of God. Choose to allow God’s Spirit to fill you with His unquenchable joy, and your life will be a miracle to those who watch you face the trials that come.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Acts 16:31 — Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.
Yes, it is that simple.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 2 March 2023: Today, consider what your actions reveal about your core value, your center. Pray that God will give you the wholehearted fidelity that would be shockingly evident to all around you through your actions and attitudes, a shining testimony of the glory of God.