Reflections from 26th June
Wednesday 8 July 2020 – Esther 6
62 - Earning Rewards
Read Esther 6:1-3. “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” (Henry IV Part 2) It is important for the king’s reputation that he is seen to be just and to reward special services. Xerxes is concerned to put right the omission in Mordecai’s case. How do you think Mordecai felt about the failure to receive recognition for saving the life of the king? Have you ever done something that you believed was really good, but it went unnoticed? How did you feel?
Should Christians expect good service to be rewarded? Don’t we serve God and other people simply out of gratitude for what Jesus has done for us? Jesus spoke of God rewarding people for what they do. See, for example Mark 9:41 – rewards for kindness to fellow believers; Matthew 6: 1-4 – rewards for generosity to those in need; Ephesians 6:7-8 – rewards for doing your work wholeheartedly; Luke 6:35 – rewards for being generous to our enemies.
Are you alert to recognise the kindness of others to you? Do you reward them with appreciation for what they have done for you? Do you take trouble, as Xerxes did, to find out what they would really enjoy as a reward?
Read Esther 6:4-10. Haman has come very early to the palace to make sure he is first in the queue to see the king. His happiness depends on seeing Mordecai executed. So when the king seeks someone to advise him on a suitable reward for Mordecai, Haman is the only person available. Haman would have been delighted to be summoned into the king’s presence immediately, and naturally assumes he must be the one whom “the king delights to honour”.
His choice of reward is strange. Public fame and recognition seem more important to him than anything else. Wearing the king’s garments would convey a sign of unique favour; riding his horse suggests he is almost on a par with the king. Both would mean Haman was partaking in the king’s power and honour.
Read Esther 6:11-14. Xerxes, living in isolation, probably knows nothing of the enmity between Haman and Mordecai, though it must have been obvious to ordinary people passing the palace gates. Haman’s shame when he has to walk through the streets proclaiming Mordecai’s honour must have been obvious to everyone. Haman is utterly humiliated and makes no secret of it as he goes home mourning publicly. He receives no encouragement at home – the Jews had a reputation: if their God championed their cause then no-one had a chance against them.
Our God regards his people as his treasured possession Malachi 3:17. He loves us and cares for us. He is so generous to us. How aware are you of his kindnesses to you? Do you give him appreciation and thanks? A.W.Tozer suggests using a whole day “in the practice of being thankful” to God. “Write one by one the things for which we are grateful to God and to our fellow men. And a constant return to this thought during the day, as our minds get free, will serve to fix the habit in our hearts.”
Prayer: Dear Lord thank you for all the blessings you pour on me each day. Help me to keep my eyes on you and to recognise your kindness. Teach me an attitude of thankfulness. Amen.
Monday 6th July 2020 (61)
How are You Feeling?
This is a commonly asked question today, and it’s not just about our physical health! How are we coping with things emotionally and spiritually? The Book of Psalms deals with the whole range of human emotions. While we may feel that it would be wrong as Christians to give voice to reactions like fear or anger, disappointment or frustration, the Psalms encourage us to be candid with God and talk about life as it really is for us.
The Psalms were written by Kings and Priests, Prophets and Poets and they wrote honestly about their feelings. This book of Songs has been canonised in Scripture and made up the hymnbook from which Jesus and His contemporaries sang their worship. So it is acceptable to be frank with God. Here are some pointers. Maybe there are one or two you would like to explore in a bit more depth.
1. Desperate for God’s intervention – see Psalm 13 “How long O LORD? Will you forget me for ever? - - How long must I wrestle with my thoughts - ?” But read on and see the solutions in verses 5 and 6.
2. Angry with God – feeling aggrieved that He does not act – see Psalm 44 “Awake, O LORD! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! - Why do you hide your face and forget our misery - ?” Can you find any hope in this Psalm?
3. Looking for hope during the pandemic – Psalm 91 “Surely He will save you - - from the deadly pestilence - You will not fear the terror of night -“ Be encouraged by the hope in v4.
4. Life is unfair – bad people have an easy life – Psalm 73 “I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles - their bodies are healthy and strong - always carefree, they increase in wealth.” Asaph the Psalmist is very upset by the unfairness of it all! Where is he when he gets a true perspective v17? He then knows where his real security lies - vv23-26.
5. Feeling fragile and vulnerable – Psalm 103 “- the LORD has compassion – for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.” Look at the six verbs in vv3-5 and be encouraged as you count the blessings that God brings to our lives.
6. Feeling weak and weary – you’re worn out! – Psalm 6 “Be merciful to me O LORD for I am faint; O LORD heal me for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. - - I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping - “. Poor David is in a bad place! But before the end of the Psalm he knows that his cry has been heard – v9. How does that alter his outlook?
A Prayer: Loving Father, thank you that you want me to be open and honest with you about my feelings; and thank you for your compassion which meets my deepest needs. Amen.
Friday 3rd July 2020
What about Angels?
Angels are mentioned about 180 times in the New Testament, and about 300 times in the Bible as a whole, but they are not a common topic of Christian teaching or conversation. However, according to a Bible Society poll, 1 in 10 people say that they have experienced the presence of an angel, while a Mori poll records that 46% of British adults believe in guardian angels. 21% of people who never attend a religious service also said that they believe in angels. What do you believe? What does the Bible say?
Their Appearance It is not possible to give one description! In Hebrews 1:14 they are described as “ministering spirits”; in Colossians 1:16 they are “powers”; in Matthew 28:3 the angel is “dazzling, like lightning – with clothes as white as snow”; while in many cases the angel comes like an ordinary human being Hebrews 13:2.
Their Numbers You get some idea of their number when you read Revelation 5:11.
Their Tasks (a) Worship – David exhorts the angels to this task In Psalm 103:20. They are in “joyful assembly” in the Presence of God Hebrews 12:22 and Revelation 7:11. We notice that they also rejoice over a repenting sinner Luke 15:10.
(b) Service – In the Old Testament angels helped Hagar (Genesis 16:7); Abraham (Genesis 22:11); Moses (Exodus 3:2); Gideon (Judges 6:11); Elijah (2Kings 1:15); and Daniel (Daniel 6:22). You can read their stories to find out how they were helped. That list is far from complete: can you think of others?
In the New Testament, an angel strengthened Jesus in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43); gave directions to Philip (Acts 8:26); rescued Peter from prison (Acts 12:6-11); and encouraged Paul in a stormy sea (Acts 27:22-25).
(c) Judgement – at times God uses angels to bring judgement and justice. See what happened when David became conceited and disobeyed God 1Chronicles 21:15-27. What was the fate of the arrogant Herod Agrippa1? Acts 12:21-23. And Jesus explained that angels are involved in separating the wicked from the righteous at the end of time Matthew 13:49.
What about our understanding today? Of course we must be cautious remembering that Satan “masquerades as an angel of light” (2Corinthians 11:14), and that the New Age movement and cults like the Mormons follow false “angelic” teaching. However, we can be sure that God’s Messengers are supporting us. “The angel of the LORD encamps round those who fear Him”( Psalm 34:7) and “are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14). Have you been cared for by a stranger in a situation which could have been dangerous? Have you had unexplained meetings which have left you encouraged and joyful? God’s Messengers are always at work!
A Prayer: Loving Father please help me to reflect on the ways in which you have cared for me all through my life. Thank you for your Messengers, who have protected me, strengthened me and encouraged me. Amen.
59 -Wednesday 1 July2020 – Esther 5
It’s all about Haman today. As you read about him notice how different his reactions are from Esther’s. Think about what the reasons for this difference might be. Are there lessons for us in this?
Read Esther 5:9-14. Haman is on top of the world. But Mordecai is back in his usual seat, his fasting and mourning ended. His studied indifference infuriates Haman. Haman is incredibly wealthy and successful; he has received the highest honours from the King - why is he so sensitive to criticism from someone? And why is the honour shown him by the Queen so important to him? In his distress he rushes back to his wife and friends so he can recite his achievements to them and receive their endorsement of his own opinion of himself. Do you know anyone like this? What is the answer to this fragile self confidence? Read Jeremiah 17:7-8 and Isaiah 32:17 for some ideas.
What was it that restored Haman’s happiness? (vv14-15)
What is your happiness based on? When you look back on achievements that are important to you, what brought you greatest satisfaction? Was it beating someone else in a contest? Was it recognition from other people? Was it the feeling that you had done your best? Was it the satisfaction of a reward for hard work? Was it the joy of knowing that you were serving God?
“Pride goes before a fall” is a Biblical quote.(Proverbs 16:8) Haman’s pride in his own achievements repels us. Is it wrong to be proud of what we have done? What is the difference between pride and arrogance? Does the attitude of the heart have something to do with it? (See the readings in Daniel below.) How can we prevent our hearts being hardened? (Galatians 5:22-23.)
In the Bible pride is referred to in two main contexts:
“Pride and arrogance” For example read Proverbs 8:13 and Isaiah 2:11. The arrogant are those who glory in their own ability while rejecting God’s part in their achievements.
“Pride and joy”. For example read Isaiah 60:15. Pride and joy come from recognising what has been achieved through God’s help.
It was pride and arrogance that were the undoing of King Nebuchadnezzar: Daniel 5:20,21. He was stripped of his glory until he turned to God in praise and humility. Read Daniel 4:34-37 to see how his attitude changed.
Proverbs 11:2 “When pride comes then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
Luke 18:14 “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, but the humble will be exalted”
How can a Christian who has had success continue to be humble?
See 1 Peter 5:5-6; Philippians 2:3; Colossians 3:12-14.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you that all that I am and have achieved comes from you. You are my creator and the source of my strength and my inspiration. I pray that I may live in the confidence that comes from knowing I am loved and saved by you. Teach me humility so that I will have wisdom and grace in my dealings with other people. Amen.
Monday 29th June 2020
People forget God! In spite of the repeated injunction from Moses, “Do not forget the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:11), (along with warnings of what would happen if they did forget Him) history reports that again and again God’s people failed to remember Him.
1Samuel 12:9: “They forgot the LORD”; Isaiah 17:10: “You have forgotten God your Saviour, you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress”; Nehemiah 9:17: “They failed to remember your wonderful deeds”; Psalm 106:7: “They did not remember your many kindnesses”. How sad that God has to say through his prophet, “My people have forgotten me, days without number” Jeremiah 2:32. Are there days when you forget your Lord?
God’s people are reminded of His Presence with them and His blessings for them by:-
1. Memorials: Piles of stones or pillars were set up to be a reminder of God’s Presence or intervention at particular places – e.g. Bethel (“House of God”) by Abraham Genesis 12:8 and by Jacob Genesis 28:18-22. Joshua 4:1-9 records how a memorial was set up when God enabled the Israelites to cross the River Jordan and enter the Promised Land.
Is there any special place which you associate with God’s Presence or blessing?
2. Feasts: These joyful annual festivals were to remind the people of God’s salvation and provision. In the days of the Temple, people were expected to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem so that they could all celebrate together at the three main feasts.
(a) Passover and Unleavened Bread. Read Leviticus 23:4-8. Passover was a time for remembering when many Egyptians died, but death did not enter the houses of God’s people where the blood of a sacrificial lamb had been daubed on the doorposts. Bread made in a hurry without yeast reminded the people that God had taken them out of Egypt in haste. For a whole week the people celebrated their rescue from slavery!
(b) Weeks (or Pentecost). Read Leviticus 23:15-21. The barley has been harvested and the wheat harvest is beginning, so the people have a festival of joy as they celebrate God’s provision of grain and bread. In the time of Jesus, Pentecost was also a reminder of the giving of the Law at Sinai. The people had received God’s word.
(c) Tabernacles. Read Leviticus 23:33-36. After all the grains and fruits had been gathered in, there was a week of celebration with people camping in tents or booths. The people thanked God for His bountiful harvest.
For followers of Jesus, those festivals now have new and deeper significances.
What are they?
In addition Jesus has left us with a new way of remembering Him – anytime, anywhere.
Read 1Corinthians 11:23-26. How are you remembering Jesus today?
A Prayer: Loving Father thank you for all the ways you have blessed me and provided for me. Please fill me with gratitude and praise, so that I remember you are with me all the time. Amen.
Friday 26th June 2020
Do not be Anxious!
Anxiety levels have risen significantly in many lives during the current pandemic. The Bible addresses this issue, and in the words of Jesus and the writings of Paul we have hope to bring to a worried world.
1. What are the things that people are anxious about?
(a) Life – Matthew 6:25,27 Jesus understands the natural inclination to be fearful for our lives and those of our families and addresses the issue in His Sermon on the Mount.
(b) Tomorrow - Matthew 6:34 the temptation is to be fearful about what might happen in the future, but Jesus tells us to take life one day at a time.
(c) Food – Matthew 6:25-26 the stockpiling of food (and toilet rolls!) in recent days has illustrated this anxiety! Jesus reminds us that God cares for the birds so He will certainly care for human beings made in His own image.
(d) Clothing – Matthew 6:28-30 Jesus points out that our Father who created so much beauty in the world is certainly going to care for those whom He has made responsible for looking after it.
(e) Our Responsibilities – read Luke 10:38-42 Martha worked hard at her hospitality, but Jesus gently points out to her that she has allowed her tasks to dominate her life and make her distraught. There are more important things than our work! What are they?
(f) Insults and Accusations – with the growth of social media, anxiety levels have risen and with them an increase in mental health issues and suicides. What did Jesus say about those who suffered false accusations because they followed Him? Matthew 5:11-12.
2. What are the Results of Anxiety?
(a) Proverbs 12:25 “An anxious heart weighs a man down” (NIV) “Worry can rob you of happiness” (GNB). It certainly did that for Martha. But Jesus tells us not to be weighed down by the worries of life (Luke 21:34). Jesus wants us to live in joy (John 15:11).
(b) Psalm 37:8 “Do not give in to worry – it only leads to trouble” (GNB) or “- to evil” (NIV)
(c) Matthew 13:22 Anxiety chokes the seed of God’s word and limits fruitfulness.
3. What are the Solutions to Anxiety?
(a) Both Jesus and Paul tell us that we need to make a deliberate decision not to worry. It’s our choice! See Jesus’ repeated instruction in Matthew 6:25-34, and His advice in John 14:1. Note Paul’s advice for alternative ways of handling worry in Philippians 4:6. What is the solution?
(b) What is Peter’s advice 1Peter 5:7? Read Psalm 94:17-19 any time you are anxious, and remember that our Heavenly Father’s love is lavished upon us 1John 3:1.
(c) We also have a responsibility to support and encourage other people who may be struggling with anxiety – Isaiah 35:3-4a and Proverbs 12:25.
A Prayer: Father please forgive me when I allow anxieties to crowd into my life. Please help me focus my attention on you and your love, and fill me with your joy, so that my life will be a blessing to others. Amen.