IF I PERISH, I PERISH 1 MAY 2014
“IF I PERISH, I PERISH”: Counting all loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ. This post is about God’s Ways to confront the enemies of God’s people. The title is Esther’s brave words, & the subtitle is Paul’s attitude. Like a football team which runs different plays, the warrior for God is going to have different moves. Can we learn from God’s Word how to oppose enemies?? Certainly. It is hoped that this post will help those on the front lines to gain focus on some guiding & comforting principles.
CONFRONTATION IS TO BE EXPECTED. DT 20 (also DT 21:10-14 & 23:9-14) gives God’s instructions for waging war, for instance: be sensitive to recruits, don’t rape captured women, allow towns to surrender peacefully, don’t destroy the environment during a war, and don’t be cruel to civilians. The guidelines given here can be used for spiritual warfare also, for instance: When you war the most important thing is your devotion to God, and God will direct & empower you. While God divinely controls events, God’s people are not to be passive, but actively participate in what He is doing. And God repeatedly warns about not fearing one’s enemies. Moses challenged the magicians & his rod becomes a snake that swallows their snakes. Elijah must confront the prophets of Baal. Christ’s disciples, familiar w/ these stories, wanted to call down fire on 2 wicked towns like Elijah had done w/ the prophets of Baal. Christ told them that was not the way to do things. David, a great man of God & of war, was not allowed to build the temple because he was a man of war; there is a spiritual price to pay for using carnal weapons. In case we are tempted to ignored the Scripture that says the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, early church leader Polycarp in c. 110 A.D. in a letter to a church wrote, “Pray also for kings & powers & rulers, & for those who persecute & hate you…that your fruit may be evident among all the people…” We are trying to spiritually win by taking the moral high ground, and showing a better way.
ESTHER. Many of us are in situations like hers. Like many of us, she lived in a worldly culture, without visible support from God or any godly group. She became the wife of one of biggest egomaniacs of history, a king who thought he was god. Her life illustrates the principle, “to the pure, all things are pure.” TIT 1:15 She was an orphan who was raised by the kindness of her uncle Mordecai, who worked for the pagan King & juggled being loyal to both TPTB as well as God. In the Bible book of Esther, the king is known only by a title Ahasuerus, but most scholars feel confident that this king of Persia is Xerxes I (the Great). Xerxes ruled an empire that stretched from India to Ethiopia, & he tried to add the Greek states. I recently saw a 3D movie based on an unreleased novel Xerxes (entitled “300: Rise of An Empire”). Xerxes, in this Hollyweird drama, struts around thinking he is a man-god. While the movie is part fiction, I think it captures emotionally the concept of a king thinking he is god. The historical Kg. Xerxes (486-465 B.C.) did not allow anyone to enter his presence w/out his request, to do so was the automatic death penalty. And yet that is exactly what Esther did… why & how did she do it?
SOME BACKGROUND TO ETHER’S STORY. Xerxes in the beginning of Esther is seen having an incredible long expensive banquet/party to instill loyalty in all the numerous leaders of his empire in preparation for his Greek invasion. When invaded, the Greeks put up incredible resistance to Xerxes’ military force incl. the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae & the Greek navy at Salamis. After his defeat, he returned to his palace at Susa to enjoy the comfort of his harem. Drunk at one of his lavish parties, he decides his prettiest head queen will dance nude for his drunk party. She refuses & is executed. In the beauty contest for her replacement, Esther shows her wisdom by competing using her natural beauty while the others used lots of makeup. It also shows that she had beauty inside & out. And this is a key to her success—she had a radiant personality w/ integrity. When we have that, we can get by w/ breaking rules that others can’t. It would be her wisdom, courage, faith, integrity, respect for the king, poise, serenity & charm that would save her when she went into the King’s presence w/out permission and then later allow her to save her Jewish people from genocide. (By the way, Esther was not formally a Queen, only women of the elite 7 bloodlines were that, but as the King’s main squeeze out of his harem she was unofficially titled a queen.) “You are come to the Kingdom for such a time as this.” Providence places us in situations. God permits things into our lives.
In one of those history-repeats-itself things—the villain Haman (the King’s beloved egotistical right hand man, who is a desc. of Amalekite King Agag) & his protagonist Mordecai (a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin) are enemies. Centuries before, King Saul of the tribe of Benj. & King Agag were enemies, & now their descendants are also. When Haman tricks the king to pronounce death on Mordecai & all the Jews in the Persian Empire, Mordecai creates a national spectacle of protest—a peaceful demonstration empire wide in sackcloth & ashes, & then asks Esther to go to the King & save him & all the Jews of the empire. Esther’s story is too long for here, but she strategizes, uses the moral high ground, & several times has great timing. Spiritual timing is a key in conflicts with the enemy. (“A word spoken in season, how good is it.”) It requires sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Xerxes, left sleepless because Esther doesn’t immediately tell him what she wants, has records read to him that commend Mordecai for warning of an assassination plot…here we see the Bible principle “And I will bring the [spiritually] blind by a way that they knew not.” ISA 42:16.
A common thread thru all these examples is the courage of God’s people. The Word says, “When you meet an army greater than yours, do not be faint-hearted or afraid.” Another common thread is reliance upon God, & a sensitivity for the Spirit.
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