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September 20th, 2010

DAILY BIBLE READING

 Sep 20: Haggai
Sep 21:
Zech 1-7
Sep 22:
Zech 8-14
Sep 23:
Est 1-5
Sep 24:
Est 6-10
Sep 25:
Ezra 7-10
Sep 26:
Neh 1-5
Sep 27:
Neh 6-7

 

NOTES ON THIS WEEK’S READINGS

·         Haggai and Zechariah are prophetic twins, in that they both speak to the same circumstance.  The people of Israel have been allowed to return to their homeland after the Babylonian exile.  But a generation has passed and they have not yet accomplished what should have been their number one priority – rebuilding the temple of Yahweh.

·         Haggai is direct – “Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house” (Haggai 1:7).  Zechariah is a big picture guy – emphasizing both “big” and “picture.”  He loves the visual (visions, symbols, and images).  But he loves the “big” because his vision of the future extends far beyond the task at hand.

·         Esther takes us to the next stage of the exile.  On the world scene, Persia replaces Babylon as the dominant empire in the Middle East.  Many Jews remain far from their homeland.  Their faith is foreign and even threatening to their hosts.  That may well be why the book of Esther never mentions the name of God.  See devotions below on this story.  You’re probably familiar with it – but it’s always a powerful story, whether you’re reading it for the first time or the hundredth.

·         Nehemiah has long been a favorite of mine.  Almost a century after the temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem, the wall surrounding the city is still a pile of rubble, and the people are discouraged and intimidated by their enemies.  Another Jew born “for such a time as this” (as Esther was) is serving in the palace of the emperor.  His leadership instincts are uncanny as the book develops.

 

DEVOTIONS

“For such a time as this” (Esther 4:13).  What a profound thought.

Esther is a profound story.  In 140 characters (worthy of Twitter):  “Jewish girl becomes queen of world empire, then saves her people from annihalation through bravery, conniving, and providential timing.”

Esther is all about God’s timing and protection, but God’s name is never mentioned in the book.  As a result, there have been fierce debates among Jews and Christians whether the story even belongs in the Bible.

I can’t imagine a Bible without Esther.  Her story speaks of the way so many believers live out their lives.    An obscure, unlikely nobody who has the chance to something unexpectedly great.  A passion to do what’s right, but a situation that seems to require compromises.  A conflict between short-term and long-term ends.  No visible miracles, but evidence all around that God is at work.  A difficult choice that feels like a lose-lose proposition.  An influential mentor with less at stake personally who nevertheless steps in to offer counsel.

Timing is at the heart of Esther’s story.  Timing is where God’s imprint is most evident, even if he doesn’t receive name recognition.  Esther has come to royal position through her uncle’s advocacy and her own diligence.   But her uncle reminds her that there is always an unseen factor to be recognized and reckoned with.  Could it be that her rise is “for such a time as this”?

What about your life?  Stop and take some time to ask the “timing” questions.  What circumstances are converging that only God could put together?  What “signs” of his handiwork are evident?  Could this be a time for decisive, risky action?  Or is this the time to wait on the Lord?

 

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