Sept. 8, 2017
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Scripture: Esther 3:5-6, When Haman saw that Mordecai would not bow down or show him respect, he was filled with rage. He had learned of Mordecai’s nationality, so he decided it was not enough to lay hands on Mordecai alone. Instead, he looked for a way to destroy all the Jews throughout the entire empire of Xerxes.
Observation: In this chapter, we are introduced to Haman, the king’s right hand man. The king issues a decree that all the king’s servants are to bow down to Haman when he passes by. Mordecai, Esther’s relative who serves at the king’s gate, refuses to do so. We can assume that it wasn’t bowing that was a problem for Mordecai (bowing was simply a sign of respect), but specifically bowing down to Haman. Mordecai saw Haman as an enemy of God’s people. (See the next paragraph for background on this.) Mordecai refused to bow to Haman as a sign of loyalty to God. He knew there would be consequences to this act of defiance, but he did it anyway. Haman then decides this is the perfect opportunity to not just punish Mordecai but the whole Jewish people.
Background - While certainly Haman had a huge issue with pride, there was more than just a big ego behind his hatred for the Jews. Haman was descended from the Amalekites who fought against the Jews during the time of King Saul. The animosity between the Jews and Amalekites actually went all the way back to Moses (see Deut. 25:17-19). In I Samuel 15, God commanded Saul to kill all the Amalekites, as they were an enemy of God’s people. Saul did attack but he spared the life of the king and some of the people, disobeying God’s command. The hatred between the two groups had been festering for generations. Fast forward, Haman now sees this opportunity to get back at the Jews for good.
Application: Standing up for our principles can often be difficult. We live in a world in which it is easy to let things slide to get ahead in our job, to get along with others, or to not appear weird. But as Christ-followers, we aren’t supposed to fit so neatly into our culture. One of my favorite scripture verses is from Romans 12:2 (The Message) and speaks to this:
“…Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
There will be times in which God calls us to take a stand for what is right, to advocate for the marginalized, or to say no when asked to do something unethical or immoral. And like Mordecai refusing to bow to Haman, our God-honoring decisions may sometimes have undesirable earthly consequences. Our first allegiance is always to God. As difficult as it is, I would rather face the scorn and ridicule of human beings and have a clean heart before God. Are you facing a difficult decision? Are you being pressured to give in to something you know is not right? Pray to God for wisdom, discernment, and courage. God will guide you and give you the strength to do the right thing.
Prayer: God, This world is broken and so are we. Give us wisdom and courage to do the right thing and to stand up for the right thing, even when it’s hard, and all the while be conduits of your grace and love. Help us not fit so well into this culture that we become Christians in name only. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
P.S. Continue to pray for those in the path of Hurricane Irma. As of this morning, we are still planning to have worship on Sunday morning (so bring your UMCOR flood buckets and hygiene kits -http://www.umcor.org/UMCOR/Relief-Supplies for victims of Harvey and possibly Irma). However, we will reassess the situation this evening and will let you know if anything changes. Regardless, stay safe!