Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 4 March 2023:
Esther 3:2 — But Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage.
Mordecai wasn’t looking for trouble but refused to compromise his fidelity to God, even if it put him at odds with powerful officials. God orchestrated circumstances that placed Mordecai at a decision point of faith.
Esther 3:5 — Haman was filled with fury.
Haman hated the Jews, not because they believed in God but because they refused to treat him the way he wanted to be treated.
Esther 3:6 – “But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.”
Mordecai’s refusal to compromise threated the comfort and security of all of God’s people, much as did Moses’ fidelity to God. Are you willing to be faithful to Jesus even when other Christians don’t like it, even if it might cause trouble for people you care about?
Esther 3:8 — There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them.
God’s people obeyed the laws of the land unless they conflicted with the laws of God. Mordecai and the other Jews refused to treat people as idols and were hated because of it, though they all, like Mordecai, proved faithful in other regards. Obeying God rather than government would threaten their lives. Christians are called to be the conscience of society. Christians are most faithful and loving when they stand up against sin which draws people further away from God and His blessings.
Esther 3:10 – So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews.
The king was poorly advised and influenced by people with selfish motives who only desired personal gain, despite their claims of concern for the welfare of the kingdom. Today too, politics is driven by special interest groups who seek personal benefit at the expense of others outside of their group. Also, leaders today make decisions in the name of the collective good (according to popular opinion), often in ways that promote injustice.
Psalm 25:2 – O my God, in you I trust.
Really? Obey Him then. Proclaim Him! Surrender all the Him!
Psalm 25:3 – Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame.
Waiting is one of the hardest things to do. God’s promises are not on our timeline. Are you willing to wait and continue to obey day-by-day without apparent results? Consider the Bible stories you have already read about those who waited and were blessed and those who couldn’t wait anymore and were cursed.
Psalm 25:9 – He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
Humility is the prerequisite as discussed previously.
Psalm 25:15 – My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
Focus is everything. With focus comes power. A 50-watt lightbulb can barely light up a room, but 50-watt lasers are used to cut through bone in medical surgery. The difference is focus. To live a powerful, purposeful life, focus all of your energy on Jesus.
Psalm 25:27 – Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
We count on God’s goodness, not ours.
Psalm 25:21 – “I wait for you.”
Psalm 25 begins and ends with a fundamental virtue of Christian faith: the ability and willingness to wait upon the Lord, which is not the product of sheer willpower but rather a fruit of the Spirit – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) Waiting upon the Lord is at the heart of faith; it is trust in God based upon our belief in His trustworthiness, regardless of apparent circumstances. But you can’t trust someone you don’t know. The key to growing in genuine faith, hope and love which trusts and waits, which is joyfully patient and perseverant, is to grow in intimacy with the Lord, knowing Him more each day – knowing is growing. Jesus’ greatest prayer for us before the Cross was that we would experience the eternal life that comes from intimacy with Him – “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) This was the prayer of David in today’s Psalms – “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him.” (Psalm 25:14)
Intimacy with God – “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Intimacy with God is a virtuous cycle. You must have faith to draw near to God, but the more you draw near to God, the more faith you will have, and your blessings will be multiplied, not just added. “In Your presence is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11) “These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (John 15:11) As the former Adrian Rogers once said, “God does not have favorites, but He does have intimates.” So, how do we draw near to God so that we will trust to wait on the Lord?
Confidence in Grace. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) Draw near to God, confident in the grace and access you have received freely through Christ. You have received grace, so claim grace, have faith in grace, and confidently obey God in the grace you have received and through the power of the Holy Spirit which you have also received in salvation. “…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14) “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)
Clean hands. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8) Drawing near to God requires cleansing and purification. As a Christian, the Bible says, “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11) Now walk with clean hands and a pure heart, with pure actions resulting from a pure heart. Remember what we read last week in Psalm 24 – “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. (Psalm 24:3-6) John says, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:3, 4) Waiting on the Lord is not idleness, it is obedience. Jesus said, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21) “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
Bathing in God’s Word. Prepare for intimacy with God by being freshly cleansed by the word of God. “How can a young man [or woman] keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” (Psalm 119:9) Most people bathe their bodies daily so they will be presentable to the public, but they don’t wash themselves in the word daily to be presentable to the Lord. Begin your daily walk with Jesus with prayerful Bible study. Then, walk the word with the Lord. Bible study is insufficient without Bible life application – doing the word. Bible study gives you knowledge; Bible application gives you understanding. Bible study gives you knowledge about God; walking in the word (the Bible) and with the Word (Jesus; see John 1) gives you knowledge of God (intimacy). “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)
Confident Confession. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7-9) Confident in the grace of God, maintain a humbly repentant spirit as you strive imperfectly to walk in the light (which is always done in fellowship with other believers). “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
Trusting through Trials. “…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death….” (Philippians 3:10) Take up your cross and confidently follow Jesus through the trials of life, boldly and joyfully proclaiming Jesus through inevitable persecution and through the harsh realities of a sinful world. Intimacy with the Lord results in a joyful, confident trust and hope that has no bounds. Job said, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” (Job 13:15) This confidence is grounded on the faith that Christ is the resurrection and that Christ has overcome death – “Do not fear what you are about to suffer…. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10) It is intimacy and trust in God that will give you the readiness to step into your personal ‘Red Sea,’ the rushing waters of your ‘Jordon River,’ your ‘fiery furnace,’ and your ‘lion’s den,’ that you will inevitably face, knowing confidently that God is with you through it all, working all these things for good and in accordance with His purpose of conforming you to the image of His Son, Jesus. When people go through trials together, it draws them closer. Likewise, when we patiently endure trials and persecution with Christ and in His Name, we experience a special intimacy with Him – “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13) “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13)
Are you willing to obey God’s command, “Be still, and know that I am God”? (Psalm 46:10)
Proverbs 4:1 — Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction….
Proverbs, chapters 1-4 implore the reader to “listen to, hear, receive, accept, store up, and obey” God’s word.
Proverbs 4:4 — Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.
God wants you to have the fullness of life, which comes from a heart that earnestly desires to love, trust, and obey Him.
It is amazing how the modern church has perverted this simple truth in order to accommodate sin, all in the name of “grace.”
Proverbs 4:7 — The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.
To be wise, you must make getting wisdom your goal. Wisdom is often defined as “knowledge rightly applied.” You won’t be wise by being merely a hearer of God’s word; you must be a hearer and a doer.
Proverbs 4:13 – Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.
Daily Bible study and practice is an essential discipline of the disciple. Keeping God’s word first and foremost in your heart takes great effort. You must guard against things that would tempt you to let it slip out of your thinking and away from your top priority.
Proverbs 4:14, 15 – Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.
We must intentionally avoid the path of evil on which the majority are walking. Narrow is the path of life which few take.
Proverbs 4:18, 19 – But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.
Your dawn gets brighter and brighter the closer you get to Jesus as you walk in the word, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Proverbs 4:23-27 – Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.
Above all else, you must guard your heart by walking the word and avoiding evil. In perfect love, we would be compelled by love to obey all of God’s commands, and it would not be difficult for us – “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3; see also 2 Corinthians 5:14) However, we aren’t yet perfected in love, rather we are being sanctified in love, growing over time as we continue our endeavor to walk in God’s word as disciples of Jesus. As toddlers, we stumble and fall quite a bit, but in adulthood we can run and leap, still with much room for increased agility; and without continuous practice, we can ‘get out of shape’ and lose our abilities.
In our process of sanctification, the Bible commands us to do things we often really don’t want to do – the commands are burdensome. However, if we are willing to obey, the burden eventually becomes light and eventually no burden at all, rather a joy, the natural fruit of our character. It starts with duty (a willingness to do what we must) and is transformed into love (a passion to surrender self to God and to others). But we must remain vigilant in love, careful not to grow complacent and let our love diminish – “I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:3-5) We must be careful to guard our love, our hearts, and Proverbs gives some practical steps: “Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.”
There are things we must do, and there are things we must ponder. Consider what Paul said, “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. (2 Corinthians 5:14-16) Paul guarded his heart by pondering the love and grace he had received through Jesus. The greater we appreciate the love of Christ, the more we are compelled to love, no longer viewing others as we once did. If God’s commands are still burdensome, it is a proximity problem – you need to get closer to Jesus — “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 4 March 2023: Pray for the strength to be still and to wait on the Lord, not in idleness but in loving obedience.