“ON EAGLES’ WINGS MINISTRIES”
“Did God Establish—A Man’s World?” Part 7; May 2010
At this juncture our study brings into focus the life and times of Ruth featured in the Book of Ruth. In trying to learn all I can about this fabulous lady I happened upon the following work by an unknown author. “Since the Ruth of ancient Bible times, her name has ever been a most popular one for girls. Her name was placed seventh in the most popular female names in America. Her story begins with famine being severe in Bethlehem-Judah, in so much that an entire family decided to immigrate to the neighboring country of Moab. The family consisted of a man named Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Cilion. The Moabites were idolaters and it was simply a very bad omen for Hebrews who believed and worship the true God to mix and mingle with people who served other gods. It holds true even today, that in the absence of God’s true Word as a form of constant food for the soul, people will turn to fables and idols in numerous forms. This family left with a well balanced number. There was the husband, the wife, and two sons; that seemed to be a fair combination for success in any village or town. But they were headed in the wrong direction! In basic layman’s terms, they were leaving where God’s grace and mercy ruled predominantly to where he was unknown; thus, they were headed in the wrong direction.
The first sign of trouble came when Elimelech, the key figure in the family died. The second stroke of misfortune came when the fatherless young brothers both took wives of Moab. This family, seemingly, continued to drift in the wrong direction. Not only did they sojourn in this foreign land, but they became engrafted into the very fabric of Moabite society, thus shedding their Hebrew identity, or at least compromising it. The name Ruth is a contraction of reuth, which may either be the word for “the act of seeing” “sight” thus in English “objectively, a sight, something worth seeing—or the word for “friendship” or “female friend” like reu in Reuel, “friend of God.” Both meanings of the name were true of Ruth, for as a bright young woman from Moab, she was beautiful to look at. Her character presented her to be a woman capable of rare friendship. Mahlon took Ruth to wife after the death of his father. After about ten years sojourn in Moab, Mahlon and Chilion died, leaving two wives with a grieving mother in law. The norm in today’s world is that mother in laws are difficult to get along with. Even comedians on television make fun of the issue, but obviously Naomi got along very well with her daughters in law. These three women had one thing in common! They were bound together by grief in the loss of the men in their lives. In this well of grief it would appear that Ruth was the most optimistic of all three. Naomi seemed to have taken it the hardest because the girls lost only one man each, but Naomi had lost all three that had formed the bulwark of her life even in the most grievous of times.
Word reached Naomi that the Lord had visited his people in Bethlehem-Judah and food was now plentiful and she decided to return to her own people. The three women began their journey towards Naomi’s homeland, and for Naomi it had to be said that she went out full and was coming home empty. The human emotion embodied in this lesson is overwhelming if we put ourselves in the story as if we are recording events as they happen. You are there, and you hear Naomi say to her two daughters in law; “Go, return each to her mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. However, at this point both women refused to return and insisted in going forth with Naomi. Their mother in law laid out the facts as she saw them in stark reality. “And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? Are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also tonight, and should also bear sons; would ye tarry for them till they were grown? Would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me. And they lifted up their voice, and wept again. Ruth 1 14. At this point, Orpah the widow of Chilion bought into Naomi’s argument and decided to return to her own country. She saw everything that Ruth saw! She heard everything that Ruth heard! But her heart was not like Ruth’s and she proved this by kissing her mother in law and headed back to her own country, but Ruth clave unto Naomi. Naomi tried to persuade Ruth by saying, “Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.” What follows is the grandest, noblest, and most profound depiction of true love and devotion that the world has ever seen. It grabs one in the heart and touches every emotional cord in one’s deepest recesses. It was as if somewhere over ensuing years Ruth’s heart had secretly undergone a complete change. In fact we could call it a metamorphosis and a true conversion. This lady wasn’t buying into all the practical points highlighted by Naomi. Her reply was clear, distinct, and concise! “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for wither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”
I think it would not be fair for us to infer or to suppose that Ruth was so well proportioned and full of resilience and fortitude that she felt little grief over the loss of her husband. What is candidly portrayed in Ruth’s case is that she had relinquished her relationship with her people, and had given up her gods. She told her mother in law, “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” In doing so, she severed all ties with her past just as true conversion should be. No more would she serve idols, but would worship the God of the Hebrews, who is the only true God even though in reality he is the true God of all peoples that dwell upon the earth, even to those who do not know him.
As if perfectly timed, Naomi and Ruth arrived back in Bethlehem at harvest time, so both could get engaged in reaping the harvest in short order. Ruth quickly arrived in the fields of a wealthy land owner named Boaz, and was put to work in a field for the poor. She quietly took her place among the poor and outcast working in the field of Boaz which was not a coincidence. Boaz was a kind man who walked among the gleaners in his field, possibly simply to show kindness. It was here that he encountered Ruth, poorly clad and possibly looking a little haggard. Making inquiries about her, Boaz learns of her sacrifice for Naomi, and of her conversion to the worship of Jehovah, and commands the reapers to purposely drop extra sheaves for Ruth’s benefit. Boaz also bade Ruth to glean only in his field, and to stand fast by his female workers. Boaz was one of Naomi’s closest relatives and one of the few remaining kinsmen of her husband’s family. Therefore he was able to befriend Ruth and according to the deep principle pervading the law of Israel regarding the preservation of families. It required that if a husband died without children, the nearest brother in law might be called upon by the widow to perform for her all the duties of a husband, and raise up seed for the deceased.
In the case of Ruth, however, no brother in law was available seeing the only sons Elimelech had were dead. In this case, the nearest of kin could be called upon to act as “redeemer” (goel) for the unfortunate. There was one relative other than Boaz who could render the services required to settle of inheritance and offspring, thus prolonging the family name. Boaz took ten men of the city and sat down with the kinsman who’s right it was to perform the necessary duties. “And he said unto the kinsman, Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech’s: And I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee.” After being told that Ruth came with the package and was a part of the deal, the kinsman refused and left the way clear for Boaz, the next nearest kinsman to act upon the transaction. “Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbor: and this was a testimony in Israel. Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So he drew off his shoe. And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all the was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, of the hand of Naomi. Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance. And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The lord make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel.” Ruth 4:1-11. We are going to do a recap of some of the vital points we have covered so far, especially as they pertain to the lineage of Jesus Christ. As we inferred before, the pervading belief in Christendom is that down through time, God had always secured a “pure blood line” through which Jesus would come. I suppose it had to be “pure” since it pertained to God and his Son. But as we have seen in these studies that concept is far from the truth, and the high degree of importance that the church world has placed upon the role of the Jews in producing the Christ-child is unwarranted and even unscriptural. Nothing we say here is meant to be “anti-Jewish” or anti-Semitic. I said in an earlier issue that as a Christian I cannot help but being pro-Israel, but I am also pro-Arabs, pro-Palestinians, and pro-people at large. Let us recap our story so far, beginning with Abram and Sarai nestled snugly in their prosperous town in Ur of the Chaldees. It has been established that the ancient city was located in Southern Iraq, making the most prominent couple who became father and mother of nations and of kings Iraqi citizens. It has also been established that Rebecca, the wife of Isaac was a Syrian, and her brother to whom Jacob fled was Syrian; and so were both his wives Rachel and Leah. We have learned that Tamar was a Canaanite and she produced Pharez through whose lineage Jesus came out of incest with her father in law.
As we fast-forward to Rahab we learn that she was a product of the Amorites who were idol worshippers. From whom did this tribe emerge? They were the offspring of Canaan the son of Ham. Ruth was from the land of Moab and they were the descendants of Moab, the son of Lot’s eldest daughter born out of incest with her father. Here are the realities in a nutshell! Salmon married Rahab who was an Amorite, so Boaz was half Jew. Boaz married Ruth of the land of Moab, thus making Obed a quarter Jew. Obed produced Jesse the father David through whom Jesus came. So it is evident that all along, from ancient times God’s scheme was to bring forth a Son whose lineage was intermingled with many nations upon earth, so that no single race, creed, or people can lay claim to his ancestry. All nations were created IN HIM (Ephesians 2:10) and he came to earth bearing the imprint (DNA) of all nations. As such, no one is a stranger to the Stranger of Galilee’s shore. It is not by accident that God declared: “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth shall die.” Ezekiel 18: 4.
There is something unique about Jesus the Christ that I think is largely missed by the clergy and laity alike. It came to my attention, only because back in London, England, about 1968, the Lord spoke to me and said, “When you read the bible, read slowly and watch every word, for words have meanings.” So, I got to reading how Jesus had just past his 29th birthday and the bible said that he “began to be 30 years old” when he came to be baptized of John in the Jordan River. Here is the actual narrative of scripture! “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was SUPPOSED) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.” Luke 3: 23. First question here is this: “Why did the scripture say that Jesus began to be about thirty years of age?” We in our current society celebrate our birthdays on this wise. On March 20th I will be 75 years old, so we gather for a big birthday party. But in reality if you say that you will be 75 years old on March 20, 2010, the truth is that at 12 midnight March 20, 2009, you began to be 75. We count the year at its end, but in the case of Jesus, his 30th year began right after his 29th birthday, so he began to be 30 years old. When we celebrate a birthday, we have actually lived it already, and at midnight on that day, we begin to live the next birth-year.
But that’s not all in the verse that caught my eye! Jesus was portrayed in this manner: “being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph.”Those three small words change the dynamics of the entire subject, because in reality, Jesus was not the son of Joseph, and this verse serves to highlight this fact. It does not say it all, but enough was said to prompt us to take a second, closer look. We move on to the big day of Pentecost, after the Holy Ghost fell upon all those who were gathered in the upper room. Peter along with the eleven got up and began to preach his dynamic sermon that yielded 3,000 souls into the arms of Jesus. I can see Peter now! He stands up with his colleagues and waves his hand, asking for calm. He begins his memorable sermon by saying: “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.”Acts 2:29,30. First Jesus was “supposed” to be the son of Joseph, and now he is next of kin to David-according to the flesh. A plane and simple family tie needs no clarification, but such was not the case with Jesus. From Acts we move to Romans and here is what the record said: “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.”Romans 1: 3. Again, we are compelled to ask; “why was it necessary to clarify Jesus’ relationship to David if he had been an undisputed offspring?” Why highlight the fact that the relationship is based solely upon flesh, when this clarification was not necessary for any other person in the bible? For a full treatment of this subject, go to my website at: www.godfire.net/kennedy and click on the link, “Whom Do Men Say That I Am?” I have offered a very detailed and concise study of the subject there. But for this study, we have turned the spotlight on this truth because it brings every human being into that personal link with Jesus, and that makes him our outstanding and foremost big brother. Every human being is directly related to Jesus and he testified to this truth in Hebrews. “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God has given me.” Hebrews 2: 11-13.
We have said all of the above, to re-emphasize the fact that God did not preserve a pure blood line through which Jesus would come. God knows no man after the flesh for he is Spirit and as Jesus said, “The flesh profits nothing.” I like what Paul alluded to in his letter to the Corinthians: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2nd Corinthians 5: 21. In my humble opinion, this did not happen until Jesus took our sins in his body on the tree, and let it be understood that he took every person’s sin at that moment. He offered one sacrifice for sin forever, and for every person who ever lived dating back to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden. Hebrews 10: 12. Many speak incessantly about the “humanity of Christ” in an effort to make him a Jew, and even Pilate in anger asked “Am I a Jew?” asserting that it was the Jews who accused him and brought him to trial. But Paul clarified that issue this way: “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.” 1st Corinthians 15: 47. Long before Saul of Tarsus became the apostle Paul, Jesus looked at the gainsayers and doubters and declared: “Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.” John 8: 23. Who among us is willing to make an argument out of this truth? If Jesus is the Lord from heaven, and said himself that he is from above, why are we running about making him Mary’s son? and a Jew out of the house of David? We are taken back to the term, “According to the flesh.”
Paul gives us a good reason in his letter: “Forasmuch then as the children, (of men) are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part of the same; (for what purpose and to what end?) that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.”Hebrews 2: 14. That is why the mixture of a harlot, some born out of incest, and others of mixed races and tribes, being figured into the lineage of Jesus matters not. In fact, that is exactly how God ordained it, because in this abundant mixture of races, class distinctions, and human characters, his only begotten Son, drew unto himself all of what human components are made of. Thank you Jesus! All of what I am and what you are, and what all human beings are made of became a part of the lineage of Jesus “according to the flesh.” Let us slow down a bit here! If Jesus had taken on the sins of mankind at birth by being born in sin and shapen in iniquity, he could not have been the sacrificial Lamb without blemish. But had he not identified himself with us, according to the flesh, he could not have been our true representative on the cross. God had this thing so meticulously structured that the mystery of it all is mind boggling. I stand amazed as I gaze upon the man Christ Jesus who was not ashamed to call us brethren. Can you imagine the very Lord of heaven allowing the varied mixture of human beings to be figured into his lineage? He pulled from a harlot, from some born out of incest such as Lot with his daughter and Judah with his daughter in law. He included the Jebusites, the Moabites, the Syrians, the Iraqis, the Canaanites, and finally included the debt owed by every man before God. Can we amass such love in our own lifetime? There was never a time when such a man walked the earth, and never will be, because he was not a mere man. He was the Lord from heaven who laid aside Deity and fashioned himself in the likeness of fallen man, in order to lift man back into the bosom of the Father out of whom we came before time began. We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before (the foundation of the world) ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2: 10. All of these truths seem to overtake us, and we are left to wonder, but none of this happened overnight or by chance. Listen to something beautiful! “Be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” 2nd Timothy 1:8b, 9. Sometimes we humans are caught into circumstances and situations in which we have to play it by ear, or improvise through a series of hits and misses. But not so with God! Can you picture God at work, even when he had not yet formed the earth? All aspects of life from an earth worm to a huge elephant; from a tiny shrimp to a mighty great white shark; every living thing and person had their DNA structured and put in place before the world was; and this included a way to feed itself and defend itself. I watch with marvel as we are shown how little creatures hunt and feed themselves and avoid danger with superb camouflage. Through it all, I look beyond Darwin and see a mighty creator whose mind has no end. When we examine the human anatomy and the function of every nervous system and organs in the body, we can only lift our hands in amazement.
God’s master plan of salvation culminating in the Christ of Calvary is a massive inclusive one. It encompasses all human life, and even the creation around us is on tip toe, waiting in earnest to see man’s complete salvation, because then, creation will also obtain its own redemption from decay and futility. Yes, our men and women are dying in two wars and I hate to think of it. I shed a tear many a day for the loss of our loved ones. Drug lords are having a hay day across borders as dead bodies pile up. It is a combined groaning of a creation that cries out for deliverance, but deep inside as children of God, we see beyond the mist and the shadows, and lo, a bright and beautiful day is just beyond the horizon. Every nation will have the right to rejoice in him who took upon himself the form of earthly man, taken out of all the peoples of the world. That is why the apostle John in exile wrote: “For all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” Revelation 15: 4b. All nations can participate and rejoice because Jesus partook of all nations’ sins and likeness, in order to represent and mediate on behalf of all nations. Nothing is by chance with God! Hallelujah!
The story of Ruth excels among love stories that we are familiar with. We have learned about Romeo and Juliet, Cleopatra and Anthony, King Edward V111, who abdicated the British throne to marry an American divorcee named Mrs. Wallis Simpson. But what makes the story of Ruth and Boaz more compelling and meaningful is the spiritual realities that it conveys. It stands in front of them all because of how Christ and the Church came to be reflected in this amazing love story. As far as ancient biblical women are concerned, Sarah stands in the forefront even to a highly exalted place in this church age. So I put her in a class by herself, or as they say, she stands in her own rights. But taking one step back in time to one of the many conflicts Israel had, and stood in dire need to be delivered, one amazing lady stepped to the fore-front, took over at the helm, and guarded Israel out of troubled waters. She was Queen Esther! I think every Jew in Israel or any other country will smile and feel a sense of national pride whenever the name of this queen is mentioned. Yes! I love her too!
Esther was an orphan Jewish child raised in Persia (modern Iran) by her cousin Mordecai who raised her as his own daughter. Her original name was Hadassah that means “myrtle” and her new name Esther means “star”. Even though her life experiences may have differed from what “star” or “myrtle” represents in reality, the path to the throne was written as it were, in her genes. King Ahasuerus reigned from India to Ethiopia, a total of one 127 provinces, and seemingly, was one of those “no nonsense kings” who did not hesitate to show his anger in punishment and death. He sent for Queen Vashti to attend a huge feast at the Shushan palace, the same palace where Daniel the prophet died well up in years. Vashti refused the king’s invitation and was disinherited. A search went out for virgins, fair, and virtuous to be brought before the king so he could choose another queen. Esther was chosen, but had to hide her identity being a Jew. After she became queen, the issue of her people came to the forefront, and they were slated to be destroyed. As the practice was, the queen could not approach the king uninvited, and if she did, she would only survive if the king held out the golden scepter. Mordecai her cousin who continued to watch over her well being as it were from the shadows made it plain to Queen Esther that it was up to her to save herself and her people from certain death and total annihilation. Mordecai prodded the Queen to make a stand on behalf of herself and her people, in view of the hideous plot that Haman had woven against all Jews in the country. He sent the following message to Queen 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? Then Esther bade them (the messengers) return Mordecai this answer, Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast 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.” Esther 4: 13-15. So many times over the years as we sought to know the deeper things of God, and as we saw overwhelming needs around us, this thought tugged at my heart: “Who knows whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” I treat this as something sacred and personal! Ask yourself right now; “Am I come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” If so, what will your contribution be, or what are my responsibilities? To whom do I minister, and what do I minister? The other part of Esther’s response that has always moved me in the Spirit is her words that we, as preachers, have set in form of a sermon: “If I perish, I perish” but I must see the king!” We generally use this text to promote and instill in the hearts of God’s children, determination, dedication, persistence, and total abandonment to the service of Christ the King.
For an orphan Jewish girl, who was raised by a cousin to rise to such prominence that a book in the bible is named after her, is quite an achievement indeed. But notice that Esther did not prove her stalwart qualities by modeling clothes, or in being crowned as the winner of a beauty contest. We have to believe that the hand of God was with her even as a tiny girl starting her life without father or mother. We have to believe that God’s hand was with her as she, along with other virgins were introduced to the king. We have heard the term, “if I have found favor in thy sight” or “having favor with man and God.” “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Luke 2: 52.” Members of the newly born Apostolic Church on the day of Pentecost went about; “Praising God, and having favour with all the people.” Acts 2: 47. We are told in Psalm 30: 5; that in God’s favour is life. Who among us do not embrace and welcome a little favor from time to time? Thus, Esther found favor with her keepers and her maidens and in the eyes of the king, and it was that favor that got her on the throne as Queen Esther. In Esther 5: 8, we hear Esther saying to the king, “If I have found favour in thy sight.” This sentiment was repeated again in chapter 7:3, and again in chapter 8:5. We could deem it to be psychology or protocol. In one case she said, “If it please the king and if I have found favour in thy sight.” This puts the ball in the king’s court! She does not seem to be demanding anything, but by putting the king’s own pleasure and her favor with him on the line, was like placing the king in a bind with only one way out; he had to say yes to her wishes. It reminds me of Paul in his trial before King Agrippa! He asked the king, “Believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.” Having said that, he disarmed the king and took all denial out of this hand!
The favor Esther found with the king would be tested as if in an oven. The test involved her life and the life of all her people who lived in all 127 provinces over which the king ruled. As we have seen in the previous verses, Mordecai laid before Esther the plain facts in terse remarks. “Don’t think that you are going to escape because you are in the king’s palace! Don’t think that being queen has rendered as null and void the fact that you are a Jew. What befalls them outside the palace gates will befall you within the gates! My Queen! You are not immune! You have not become an untouchable! Like in many cases in our own times, it is the moment of crisis that causes us to reach within for fortitude and resilience. In many cases, it is in such trying moments that we wake up to realize who we are and what our purpose really is. Queen Esther was driven in a corner with her back to the wall, and the only way out was up to her, not only for her own life, but for her people. Approaching the king uninvited could mean death under the law, and there was no guarantee that the king would hold out to her the golden sceptre, but she had no choice, and decided, “If I perish, I perish.” We can classify this action in any term we wish, but the fact remains that this was Esther’s most shining moment. It reminds me of Paul’s exhortation to the churches in Antioch, Lystra, and Iconium, that through much tribulation must we enter into the kingdom. Isn’t this the very reason why each gate into the city was made of a pearl? Sure, because a pearl is made out of intense and constant pressure. Esther’s situation was not unique! In other words, it was not uncommon among human beings. A wise man once said: “I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.” Ecclesiastes 3:10. It is in times of pressure and severe tests that we develop stronger links with Him who stands ready at the very point when we seem to come to the end of ourselves. I like a song that I learned while serving as pastor in West Palm Beach, Florida, and it goes like this: “When we come to the end of ourselves, there’ll be no broken vessels sitting down on God’s shelf; all men free, all men see, that God is all that is left, when we come to the end of ourselves.” Seemingly, it is the very opposite with us! When we aspire unto great things, our mindset is to claim progress, claim success at any cost, and in fact, we endeavor to do all in our power to achieve that which has become our life’s goal. But coming to the end of ourselves is not listed on our “to do” list. The paradoxes of life are plenty. It is in giving away, that we get! It is in dying that we save our lives! It is in letting loose, that we keep. Esther had to come through the valley of decision! The choice was hers, and indeed, God had brought her to the kingdom for such a time as this. In secular life, we see the same pattern replicated time and time again! When the world seemed to be teetering on sheer disaster, men like Churchill, Eisenhower, Omar Nelson Bradley, George C. Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Daniel “Chappie” James and the Tuskegee Airmen stepped to the forefront and became saviors of many nations of the world. When the wicked hands of apartheid became slated for its demise, God visited a prison house and released a man named Nelson Mandela. In spite of 27 years in prison on Robben Island, and a full six years in solitary confinement, this man emerged as a man of peace. Hatred and revenge could have permeated this man’s soul, and he could have turned South Africa into a blood bath. But the Lord had created within him a heart for peace that has placed an entire nation on a road of respect and dignity in the eyes of other nations of the world. Coming into the body of Christ poses a personal question for each person. “Am I come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” The actions of Queen Esther and Mordecai in turning back the evils of Haman have resulted in establishing the Jewish feast called “Purim” held the 14th day of the twelfth month, Adar (March) to commemorate the deliverance of the Jews from Haman. The life of Esther, an orphan Jewish girl has been so greatly admired and has been considered of such value that a book in the bible bears her name.
One amazing feature of the Book of Esther is that its narrative does not mention the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It does not mention the power of the Almighty to deliver in times of trouble. It does not mention God, who lifts up the beggar from the dunghill and set him among princes. Divine providence seems to be missing as far as written records go. But having said that, who among us can argue that God was absent in the life story of this orphan girl? Can we deny that God was with this girl from birth? Having been made an orphan, she found a home and love with her cousin, Mordecai, who, in turn, loved her as his own daughter. But there is something else of vital importance we don’t want to miss. Little Hadassah (Esther’s original name) was awash in obedience to her cousin. He guided her expertly, even as she sat on the throne, and even at this stage of “having arrived” as we Americans say, she listened and learned from Mordecai.
I was raised on a little country farm in Jamaica, located 15 miles from Port Antonio along the banks of the Rio Grande River. The district had no electricity and the homes had no running water or indoor plumbing. We walked 2 miles to and from school over rough gravel roads. I had to leave school at the age of 14 because of the illness of my adopted parents. I got to know my mother at about age 10, but I never knew my father, even though at age 16, back in the city of Kingston were I was born, I could have gone to meet him. However, I was now walking the streets of the city looking for work with the help of some Chinese relatives. So at that point in time I did not think I needed him. Today I look on my life in retrospect and the path it took, the people who offered me a hand up, especially in the Church, and I marvel how God’s hand has been with me all the way. I have learned to see HIM not only in large outstanding events, but in very small things. So it was with this orphan child who grew in beauty and personal character to become Queen Esther. The down side of Esther’s story is that she personally sought and obtained the death of Haman’s ten sons, having them hanged in public along with five hundred men in Shushan. It is safe to say, had Esther lived in the Christian era, the love and forgiveness of your enemies that Jesus taught would have made her a queen of reconciliation. Of Mordecai we read: “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.” Esther 10: 3. This story highlights the life of another woman in history who made a difference by not counting her own life.
In the story of Jesus’ earthly ministry it was customary for him to take the bread and to bless it. But with the very next breath, he broke the bread and shared it among his disciples. Once, in a desert place at evening tide his disciples would have the multitude leave to buy bread in town. But Jesus said, “they need not depart; give ye them to eat.” The lesson is that although we rejoice when the hand of God blesses us, we must remember that the same hand in due time will break us, so that we can be fed to the world as part of “the bread of life.” Our life is only good and worthwhile if it is spent serving others in Christ’s stead—as his voice—as his hands—as his feet. In our own little capacity each one of us can say, “Here am I, Lord, send me.”
Royce O. Kennedy