Esther: The Queen for Such a Time as This

Queen Esther was one of only two influential women in the Bible with a book in her name. She was a Jew born in exile in Persia during the reign of Xerxes, ruler of the powerful Medo-Persian Empire extending from India to Ethiopia. Esther became queen of Persia when she won the beauty contest in search of a replacement for the dethroned Vashti because she disobeyed her ruler-husband’s order.

In his third year, King Xerxes held a great party lasting seven days to show off his riches and majestic glory to all the princes, army officials, and nobles in his kingdom. On the last day, the king ordered his eunuchs to bring Queen Vashti to the party to “display” her beauty to all the people. When the queen refused, the furious king consulted his advisers and banished the queen to set an example to all women so they “will give honour to their husbands.”  (Esther 1:20)

Esther became queen because another queen disobeyed her king. She was chosen not only for her beauty but to also serve as model of a respectful wife.

What greatness did Esther achieve? She saved her Jewish people from being massacred by Haman – a high official the king promoted with authority over all the princes in his kingdom. Every servant of Xerxes at the palace gate bowed in respect to Haman – all except Mordecai, Esther’s cousin and guardian. This enraged Haman to the point that he hated all the Jews because Mordecai was a Jew. Hence, Haman planned to destroy all the Jews throughout the empire. (3:1-5) This launched the crisis of the Jewish people – the threat of racial extinction.

What can we learn from a woman who saved an entire race from annihilation? What kind of a person was she? What leadership principles can we draw from her life?

A leader is called to model humility and submission.

Obedient

Esther obeyed Mordecai. Even when she was already a queen, she followed Mordecai’s advice to keep her identity a secret (2:10,20).

She also listened to Hegai. As a contestant, she must complete 12 months of beauty treatments. She could ask for anything she wanted to take to the king’s palace but she asked for nothing other than what Hegai suggested (2:12-13,15).

Esther was obedient to legitimate authority without violating God’s moral standards.

She became an esteemed queen of influence. But her feet were planted firmly on the ground even as the king offered to grant her half his kingdom. She was married to the most powerful man in the world at that time – one who liked to show off – his wealth, his glory and his beautiful queen (1:4,11-12). A proud king such as Xerxes needs a submissive wife. She became queen to be an example to all women on how to respect their husbands (1:20). As with every commoner, she humbly subjected herself to the rules of the land – risking death for anyone going before the king without his summon. As queen who subjected herself to the king, Esther exemplified humility in her words and actions.

“My petition and my request is: if I have found favour in the sight of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and do what I request…” (5:7-8) 

“If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request;” (7:3)

Esther asked the king for favor. She sought his pleasure. She was a queen who pleaded with the Persian ruler for her life and that of her people. This is a humble stance of purpose. 

Leadership needs a balance of pride and humility; of power and submission. 

Being a woman, let me reflect on the role of women as God intended it to be. God created Eve to be a helper to Adam. He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Gen. 2:18) Esther was chosen to be queen and to honor her husband – a seemingly opposing role of power and submission. Hers was a high position of influence with a humble stance of purpose. And she held her crown with pride and meekness.

We can all be leaders in our own rights like in our family, friends or organization. What kind of leader are you? Are you one to insist on your own way? A self-absorbed leader? An oppressive leader? A self-serving leader? Are you a leader for others? A leader who consults and values the opinion of others? A leader who submit to others regardless of their status? Are you submitting to legitimate authority that is according to God’s moral standards? 

A leader wisely achieves purpose with commitment.

Convicted

If I perish, I perish (4:16b). Esther answered the call to save her people with determination whatever the outcome may be. It was her “que sera sera” moment – whatever will be, will be. It took courage for Esther to declare, “If I perish, so be it.”

Esther accepted Mordecai’s challenge to be queen for such a time as this.

Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (4:13-14)

What leadership principles can be drawn from this challenge?

A position of power is not a security blanket. Mordecai told Esther, “Do not think you are safe because you’re the queen.” A leader never hides behind his position to keep his comfort zone. Are you feeling cozy and secure thinking everything is fine? How do unpleasant events in our community affect you? Do you perhaps claim, “It’s not my job.”?

A leader is not indispensable. Mordecai pointed out to Esther, “If you do not do something to help, help will come from another place. There will be consequences for you.” Every problem is an opportunity for the leader to make a difference. If he forfeits his opportunity, it goes to the next person willing to take up the challenge.

Esther saved her people, the Jews from extinction. She had a hand in making history because eventually, from the Jews came Jesus – the Saviour of the world. If she were to do nothing, God would still find a way for his plan to be fulfilled. If she were silent, she missed the opportunity to make a difference in the account of her people.

Reflect: what might happen if you stay silent when someone needed your encouragement and comfort? Think about how your indifference might affect your relationships wherever you are. Is your apathy causing mediocrity and laziness in your workplace?

A position of power serves a purpose. “Think about why you are queen,” Mordecai prompts Esther. Today, who are you? Why are you where you are? Are you just occupying a useless space in the grand picture of life? How can you make a difference in such a time as this? What kind of influence do you have in your world today?

Is your wife secure in your love? Are you a helper to your husband? A model, perhaps to others to honour and love their spouses? Are your children growing into responsible members of society? Is your workplace a reflection of your integrity? What can you do to bless your church? How can you make your country proud?

As passionate parents at home, motivating movers in any organization, inspiring influencers in the church and community, wherever we are in places of position, power and impact, we must rise to the need of the hour. It is important to be relevant – to be the right person, to do the right thing, in the right manner, at the right place and time, above all for the right reason – the cause of God. 

Wise and Patient

The queen planned well. When Esther went to see the king, he extended his golden scepter to her. “What is troubling you, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be given to you.” (5:3)

Esther did not rush to tell the king her concern. Instead, she invited the king to attend her banquet with Haman. At the feast, the king again offered half of the kingdom to her. “Let Haman and my king dine with me again.”

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Why wait? Perhaps Esther was making sure of the king’s favour. She needed to test the king’s response to her request. Why did she include Haman in the party? She wanted her enemy to be present when she asked the king for help. For two nights, her invitation to Haman made him beam with pride. To his friends and wife, he bragged how the queen invited only him to dine with the king! (5:12)

Esther was wise. She prepared the enemy well. She struck when Haman least expected it. She let him think he was in favor with her and the king.

How do you respond to crisis? Do you prefer to solve things quickly? Why do you find it hard to wait? How does your attitude towards waiting reflect your dependence on God? On others? Are you impatient and self-sufficient? How can you practice being cautious and patient when making crucial decisions as a leader?

Committed

Esther stayed true to her purpose. On the second night, the king asked her for the third time: “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be done.” (7:2)

If a king were to offer his queen half of his kingdom three times, what would have been the more reasonable, expected answer? How tempting – to be presented with half of the greatest kingdom in the world! Yet, Esther’s only goal was to save lives – her own and that of her people. She remained focused on her objective.

What temptation distracts you from God’s purpose for you? How will you overcome this temptation in order to achieve your goal as a leader? Are you committed to your responsibility to help others? What will you do to show you are a faithful leader?

I might not be a queen but as a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, and a follower of Jesus, I too can make a difference. I distinguish myself with pride and in humility. I can influence other wives to honour their husbands. I can model to my daughters how to submit to their future husband.

In submission, I hold a position of power to promote peace and harmony in the home. I am a woman of God – created to help my man, to love God and love my neighbour as myself. God calls me to gently fulfil His purpose with wisdom, courage, commitment, and diligence in complete dependence on Him who reigns. After all, He is my true King.

Dear Lord, help me to rise above the challenges of life to be your servant-leader. Whatever role you give me to play, wherever you lead me to be, at such a time as this, empower me to be brave to do the right thing, in the right way, for the right cause – for your glory and the good of my neighbour. Amen.

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Strong & Radiant

The joy of the Lord is your strength. Neh 8:10

To be joyful in this world full of sadness is only by God’s grace. One reality of life is loss. Life in this temporal world is to have, to hold.. and to let go. Yes, there is a choice.. most of the time. Yet, many things are beyond our choosing. Such is death.

Death is certain. Every living being dies. While death is sure, the how and when of it, no one knows until it comes knocking.

Death is sad. While we celebrate life, we mourn death. We grieve when death is close to home. We sympathise and empathise. All these emotions take their toil. We need to fill up gas to go on.

Where is the gas station? Jesus said I am the bread of Life (John 6:35). I am the living water (John 7:38).

Nehemiah said “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” He also said ‘Do not grieve.’ He encouraged the people not to grieve because they were all sad. Why were they sad? They were sad from hearing the reading of the Law. They realised how they disobeyed God. Why were they told not to be sad? “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” (8:9)

“Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (8:10)

The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.” (8:11)

Everyday is a holy day unto the Lord. While living life in a sad world drains us, we draw our strength from rejoicing in God’s Word. We feed on the Bread of Life. We drink from the Living Water. Jesus said: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

We hang on in faith. We believe God does what He says. We believe God loves us. His love sees and takes us through it all. We go on in hope. We know that eternal life is now as it is in heaven. This hope sustains us. We rejoice in hope that one day we shall see our dear departed ones in the Lord. And death is defeated once and for always. We look forward to the day when we shall meet God face to face… the Only Creator and Sustainer of life now and unto eternity.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Heb. 11:1)

Three things remain: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love. God loves me. The joy of the Lord is my strength.

Why be Holy?

Why be holy? Who cares? Holy is such a perfect word. No one is perfect.
Why be holy? ‘You shall be holy, For I the LORD your God am holy.’ Lev. 19:2 Be
holy because the LORD our God is holy. God cares.

In Leviticus 19, 11 times it is mentioned: “I am the LORD your God.” or “your God. I
am the LORD.” vv.2,3,4,10,12,14,25,31,32,34,36
5 times “I am the LORD.” vv.15,18,28,30,37

Easy English Bible Dictionary definitions:
LORD ~ a special name for God that his people use. He will do what he has promised
them. That is what this name means. It is the covenant name of God. In Hebrew it is Yahweh or Jehovah .
LORD ~ the special name that God gave for himself to the Jews in the Old Testament.

Do not confuse it with ‘Lord’. Lord can be a word for any person that we obey.
All the laws in the OT are about living according to the 2 great commandments of
relationships: Love God and love neighbor.
We are to love the Lord our God because He created us to have a relationship with
us. He is the covenantal God – the God who initiates to enter into a binding
agreement with his people.

From Theopedia.com
Classically, covenants are between nations or other powerful groups (for example, 1
Samuel 11:1; Joshua 9:6,15). At the international level they usually involve an
alliance between two unequal parties – the stronger one pledging protection and
help to the weaker in return for some form of vassal status (as in vassal treaties).
This is similar to the biblical picture of God’s relationship with his people, except
that the inequality between the parties (Creator and creatures) is absolute. It is
always made clear that the initiative is God’s – that He makes covenants with his
people and not vice versa. God initiates, confirms and even fulfills (ultimately in
Christ, both sides of) the covenant.

Who & How to love:
1) God: Keep the Lord’s Sabbath v.3; do not turn to idols v.4; not misuse the name of
the Lord v.12; do not turn to spiritists/mediums v.31. We show our love through
obedience to His command. What is His command? To love Him. It’s like chicken and
egg, doesn’t it? Love to obey, obey to love. v.37

2) Neighbor:

How to love neighbor:
1) show reverence for our parents v. 3
2) help the needy and the stranger v.9-10;
3) do not steal, cheat or lie to one another. v.11
4) do not oppress or rob those who depend on you for a living. v.13 do not withhold
their wages.
5) do not oppress or take advantage of the handicapped – the deaf or the blind or the
marginalized or powerless people. v.14
6) be fair and just – do not look down on the poor and give special treatment to the
great. v.15
7) do not slander (falsely accuse or defame or say untrue things of them) v.16
8) do not kill v.16
9) not to hate. We may reprove (tell him/her of her wrong) but we shall not sin – do
something wrong to him/her. v. 17 which brings us to the next verse
10) not to revenge or bear any grudge (to forgive) v.18
11) to respect and honor the elderly v.32
12) to help the stranger or alien (rationale: the Israelites were also aliens in Egypt.)
they were to treat others because they knew how it was to be alien.

Bottom line: God is holy. I must be holy. He is just. I must be just. He loves me. I
ought to love my neighbor. Yes, it is not an easy – to be holy. But my God is the LORD
– the God of covenant – who enters into an agreement with me – to live in a
relationship with my neighbors and me. He keeps His promises. He will help me do my part.

Leviticus 19
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
2 “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be
holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. 3 Every one of you shall reverence his mother
and his father, and you shall keep My Sabbaths; I am the Lord your God. 4 Do not
turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the Lord your God.
Sundry Laws
9 ‘Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very
corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Nor shall
you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you
shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God.
11 ‘You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. 12 You shall not
swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.
13 ‘You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are
not to remain with you all night until morning. 14 You shall not curse a deaf man,nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the
Lord.
15 ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor
defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. 16 You shall not go
about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of
your neighbor; I am the Lord.
17 ‘You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely
reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take
vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love
your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
32 ‘You shall rise up before the gray headed and honor the aged, and you shall
revere your God; I am the Lord.
33 ‘When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34
The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you
shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord
your God.
35 ‘You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity. 36
You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the Lord
your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt. 37 You shall thus observe all
My statutes and all My ordinances and do them; I am the Lord.’”

Love’s Day Musings

It’s valentine’s day. There is a song by Michael Jackson: Give love on Christmas day. Why is there not a song, give love on Valentine’s day?

Today, I am happy. Not because I receive any roses or chocolates from my hubby. Not because we’re going on a hot date. But you know what… over the weekend, i bought five bunches of flowers: a bunch of 3 red carnations, 2 bunches of 3 pink carnations, a bunch of 3 yellow sunflowers and a bunch of purple flowers to give my mama, my mother-in-law, two of my Chinese teachers in high school: one is 98 years old; the other has dementia and last but not the least, to put in the crypt of my father-in-law.

It makes me happy to show my love for these elderlies in my life. One is in heaven, two of them I have to say: Siensi, goa si 静薇, di pat goa bo?(Teacher, I am Marlene. Do u remember me?) I thank God for my 77 year old mother. Today, she celebrates 13 years and 1 week of life after kidney transplant. I praise God for His grace and mercy having my 92 year old mother-in-law living with us for the past 28 years of our marriage.

Life is short. The psalmist, Moses said
“Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10)

He also prayed: “Teach us to number our days that we may present unto you a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

There is a song called Everyday Christmas. Today, let us begin living the song Everyday Valentine, for we never know when will be the last day for us to show love and give love to the people around us. Let us number this day; seize today – a day we have, to live wisely and love timely.

Written 2/14/2016
******************

In a couple of weeks, my teacher celebrates her 101st birthday. A week after that, my mom-in-law celebrates her 95th. Both are birthdays in the Gregorian calendar – not the Chinese lunar years.

When I wrote the piece above, I did not know that it would be my mom’s and my dad’s last Valentine’s day. Two and a half months later, mama passed away. Papa joined her after 4 months and 9 days. Indeed, we never know when will be the last day for us to show love and give love to the people around us.

Today, hubby and I celebrate our 34th Valentine. It’s definitely not everyday valentine for us… But everyday God’s love, grace and mercy continue to work in and through us – to transform us to be like Jesus: to love through humble giving of oneself, to forgive not once but 70 x 7, to actively forgive by washing each other’s feet. It is far from easy… it is a long painful process of learning humility.

The word love in Hokkien is thiah. It sounds like pain. Love is not a many-splendored thing only; it is often painful. The more one loves, the more one hurts. When I saw the sufferings of my dying parents, it is plain torture to visit them. Each time I had to bear the pain and hanged on to stay a bit longer… to watch and be present to each moment… to be in their shoes in each memory…

Love bears all things…endures all things. Love perseveres even when it is not easy.

Today is another new day to learn to love as Jesus loves.
Jesus loves you, my friend.

The Bald and the Beautiful

This morning, I read good news that brought a smile to my face and lightness to my heart!

“A man who has lost his hair and is bald is clean.”

Wanna know where it’s from? It’s in the derma chapter of the Bible. The whole chapter of Leviticus 13 is devoted to regulations on defiling diseases. In those days in the wilderness, there was no dermatologist among the wandering Israelites. So God was their dermatologist. He assigned the priest to be his assistant. He gave them some basic guidelines to determine whether the person is clean or unclean.

For me, this is common sense for isolation and avoiding contamination and spreading of contagious skin diseases.

Clean or unclean:
1) Time will tell whether it’s clean or unclean.
2) Color: the colour of the skin tells whether clean or unclean.
3) Skin deep: superficial or deeper also determines whether clean or unclean.

Applying to life: Time will reveal the true nature of things. A person of character is revealed over long period of time. Many things in life are skin deep or superficial. Let me discern to look at life beyond the surface – deeper into the soul, into the places where only God gives grace to see.

Mr. Christian, A.T.L.C.

I’ve been reading from Exodus all the details of making the Tabernacle and all the things in it. Once from the instructions of the Lord for the Israelites what to give, what to do and how to do (Exo. 25-28) a second time – a narration of all the people did. (Exo. 36-40)

I wondered what is there for me to take away from all the details in the description and construction of this grand project. But one phrase kept coming up: ATLC

As the Lord commanded… as the Lord commanded Moses/him…

1) Moses was a good listener. He listened attentively and correctly to all of God’s instructions.
2) Moses was a good teacher. He passed on God’s instructions accurately for the people to execute.
3) The people were good followers. They did all that were needed as the Lord commanded.

Applications:
A good listener listens attentively but more importantly, listens with discernment and understanding from the One true source of knowledge and wisdom.

A good teacher teaches diligently making sure the instructions are carried out to the last detail. A good teacher sows not just knowledge but reaps actions and results from the application of the knowledge.

A good follower listens and does as instructed. He hears, he listens and he works with his hands.

Mr. XXX M.D.; Ms. YYY Ph.D.; Mr. ZZZ D.M.D. I always wonder what all the letters after the doctor’s name mean. I surmise that the more letters, the more degrees, the more expertise, the more accomplishments, the more prestigious.

What a different and more impactful Christian witness the world would have if Christians were to have ATLC at the end of their names… not just letters but the spirit of the letters that form the words As the Lord commanded!

How do we know then that ATLC is as what it should be?
Exodus 40
34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

In the Old Testament, the cloud represents God’s presence. The glory of the Lord refers to His presence – it signifies that God is living among them – right in their midst, in their company.

God’s presence
The cloud covered… A covering that encompassed and surrounded all of my being… The cloud settled… A settling – lasting and staying presence that continuously guides my doing…

Is God present in my life? Am I aware that He sees, He hears, He listens, He covers and He settles?

God’s glory
The glory of the Lord filled… A filling that leaves no space for anything else… a filling that overflows so that nothing else occupies… no vacuum… no emptiness

Does God’s glory shine through in my being and doing? Do my words and actions point people to God?

Let me ask myself… Ms. Christian ATLC… how are you doing?

Dear Holy Spirit, help me today to be and do as the Lord commands. Amen

Keeping Out Burnt-out

Burnt-out … worn-out… exhausted and weary? How come? Learn some words of wisdom from Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. See what he had to say of Moses’ work – from morning till night being judge and juror of thousands of cases brought before him.

Exodus 18
17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you are doing is not good. 18 You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.

Truth #1: The task is too heavy for you. You cannot do it alone.

Application: In life, many things and many tasks are too heavy for one person to carry alone.. whether you’re a husband (you need your wife), a mother (you need your children and husband too), a pastor (you need your flock), a leader (you need your followers) to help you out. No superman complex.

19 Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, 20 then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do.

Truth #2: You need God. You go to God. You pass it on.

Application: We often think it works faster for us to do it ourselves than to have to teach them how to do it. Especially for a mother, I tend to just do it myself because it gets done when I want or need it done. I do not have patience to teach or to wait for them to get to it. But we need to teach and show the way – where to go, what to do.

21 Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. 22 Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.

Truth #3: Select able men who fear God, men of truth. Let them judge.

Application: Discern and let go. Delegation is an art. Assign according to abilities but let go. Even small children can be given task to do but learn to guide along the way. Let them do things for themselves to practice. But of course in the case of Moses, he still had to guide – make sure he taught them correctly. Give minor responsibilities to start with. Then lead them to greater ones as they learn more.

23 If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.”

Truth #4: If you share the burden, and follow God still, then you will endure (go a long way for a long time). And these people will get their cases resolved.

Application: Share the burden, teach according to God’s rules, and avoid burnt-out. Consequences of sharing the burden are beneficial both for the one who shares and the ones who help – the leader endures and the followers are secure as well.