King Xerxes replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew…”write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring—for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.”…Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king’s signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king. The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies. (Esther 8:7-8, 10-11)
There are two books of the Bible that never mention God by name: Song of Solomon and Esther, which we have been exploring these past four weeks.
But is God “absent” from these...
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14)
Last week, we focused on the second half of this famous verse. Today, I want to turn our attention to the first half.
But first, a quick recap. Esther, a Jew, has been chosen to be the new queen of King Xerxes, a pagan ruler who has sanctioned plans to kill all of God’s people in his kingdom. Esther’s uncle Mordecai issues a passionate plea to his niece to use her position of influence in the palace to convince the king to stop this assault on God’s people.
Esther eventually agrees, but check out what Mordecai said would have happened had Esther failed to act: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place” (emphasis mine).
When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:12-16)
If you missed last week’s devotional, let me bring you up to speed. Esther has been chosen by King Xerxes to be his new queen. Xerxes has no idea that Esther is of Jewish descent, but he does know (and has...
Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.” “If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.” “Bring Haman at once,” the king said, “so that we may do what Esther asks.” So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared. As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, “Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.” Esther replied, “My petition and my request is this: If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question.” (Esther 5:3-8)
Before we dive into the details of...
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)
Over the past three weeks, we have been dissecting J.R.R. Tolkien’s short story, Leaf by Niggle, and unpacking how this remarkable parable gives us an eternal perspective for our work.
But how can we maintain the perspective we have gained over the past few weeks? How do we “renew our minds” as Paul commands in Romans 12:2? Through study of the Word and fellowship with other believers.
Immediately after Paul commands his readers to renew their minds, he writes a long exposition on the value of the Body of Christ (see Romans 12:3-8). Why? Because Paul knew that community is essential to renewing our minds with eternal truths.
To his credit, J.R.R. Tolkien knew this too. Throughout much of his career, Tolkien met on a near-weekly basis with a group of Christian friends famously known as “the Inklings.” The group included some of...
See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind….[My people] will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. (Isaiah 65:17, 21-22)
We’re in a four-week series exploring the biblical truths illustrated in J.R.R. Tolkien’s remarkable parable, Leaf by Niggle. Niggle was an artist who spent years developing a massive painting of a tree. Sadly, Niggle died only having finished a single leaf. But when Niggle arrives in the heavenly afterlife, he finds his tree finished and even better than he imagined!
Last week, we saw how this story illustrates the biblical hope that there are eternal rewards tied to how we work in this life (see Colossians 3:23-24)....
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)
Last week, I recounted the depressing first half of Leaf by Niggle, the short autobiographical parable written by J.R.R. Tolkien. Niggle was an artist who spent many years working on a painting of an enormous tree. But tragically, Niggle died only having completed a single leaf which was soon forgotten, along with Niggle himself.
Here’s the second half of the story: After his death, Niggle was sent to the afterlife where we find him riding a bicycle through a heavenly countryside. Suddenly, something caught Niggle’s eye that was so extraordinary, he simply fell off his bicycle. Tolkien writes:
“Before [Niggle] stood the Tree, his Tree, finished…‘It’s a gift!’ he said….He went on looking at the Tree. All the leaves...
“So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me.” (Ecclesiastes 2:17-18)
J.R.R. Tolkien had a serious thing for trees. So when a neighbor cut down one of his favorite trees in 1943, Tolkien was furious. But his anger was about much more than the loss of the towering evergreen. Tolkien saw the “lopped and mutilated” tree as a metaphorical preview for what he feared for his “internal Tree”—his life’s work, The Lord of the Rings.
By this time, Tolkien had spent more than a decade toiling away at his magnum opus, but he was still a long way from completing it. World War II was in full swing in Tolkien’s home of Great Britain, and while the fifty-one-year-old was at no risk of being drafted into service, his experience as...
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15:12-14)
Bodily resurrection was a big deal to Paul. So big that Paul dedicated the longest section in his letter to the Corinthians to this topic.
Why does physical resurrection matter so much? Because without it, Paul says our faith is “useless.” And I would argue our work is as well.
Unfortunately, the false teaching Paul was combatting here is still alive and well. Today it appears in our caricatures of heaven as a glorified retirement home where disembodied souls float around doing nothing but relaxing and singing for all eternity. That false vision is a distortion of what theologians like Randy Alcorn call “the intermediate...
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
In reading Paul’s letters, one thing about the Apostle jumps off the page to me: Paul worked incredibly hard. You can see this in today’s verse as well as 1 Corinthians 4:12, 2 Corinthians 6:5, Colossians 1:28-29, and 2 Thessalonians 3:8.
Why did Paul work so hard? Because as Paul makes clear in today’s passage, hard work is part of a believer’s reasonable response to the gospel. “[God’s] grace to me was not without effect,” Paul said. And so, he “worked harder than” all the other apostles.
Just like Paul, part of our response to the gospel is to work diligently on behalf of our Savior’s agenda. That’s why Paul commands us in Colossians 3:23 to follow his example and “work heartily as for the...