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Esther Study

Week Ten

November 10, 2021 • Mitzi Barber • Esther 9:1–19

• Our battles belong to the Lord, and he never loses! He never has and he never will! • Three times we are told the Jews "didn’t take the plunder.” They did only what was necessary to defend themselves, which is in line with God’s original command against the Amalakites, found in 1 Samuel 15. • Take note of the unity at the end of this passage. The Jews (and others!) were gathered together, full of joy and gladness, to rest and rejoice and feast! This battle united them! • Though invisible, God is always with us, fighting for us. Sometimes he fights alone, and sometimes he invites us to fight WITH him, like we see in Esther 9. • In what ways do we fight the battles we face today? What are our weapons, or armor? See Ephesians 6! • What is your focus when facing any battle? Your own inadequacy or God’s faithfulness, sovereignty, and power? How would it change the view of our battles if we had an eternal, God-centered perspective?

Week Nine

November 3, 2021 • Jaime Carnaggio • Esther 8

• We see a bunch of great reversals take place in this chapter. Take note of them from Esther 3:10-4:4, and also Esther 7:3-4. • Esther didn't need the house of Haman because there was something even more important to her: the deliverance of the Jews. Take note of the passion and burden she feels for the Jews, who she calls "my people... my kindred." • This upcoming "holy war" may not sit well with us, but these wars were necessary at this time in redemptive history, to preserve and protect God's people at a time when our salvation was not yet secure. From the beginning of time, God’s war has been against sin and evil… we seem to want God to destroy sin and evil but leave humanity alone, but those things don’t exist apart from humanity.” Lydia Brownback • We can rest knowing, that there will be no more holy wars in this era… not until the final holy war that comes at the end times, when God’s final judgment will fall on the wicked. And on that day of final judgment, we can rest assured knowing that a better Esther, a better mediator, someone who has pleaded our case before the King… Jesus Christ, who left the glories of heaven… fought his own personal holy war on our behalf, conquering death once for all, so that we who are rebellious sinners may have everlasting life with him. This is the Greatest Reversal to which all the reversals in Esther’s story point. [Iain Duguid] • If the people of Persia could rejoice and celebrate with "light and joy and gladness and honor," over the hope of potential victory... how much more should WE rejoice that the victory has already been won!? • Our hope is certain. We still may fight these earthly battles, but we don’t fight from a defeated position, but from a delivered one. We, too, can be full of “light and gladness and joy and honor." “You turned my lament into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness” (Psalm 30:11). “Let the people praise you, God; let all the people praise you. Let the nations rejoice and shout for joy” (Psalm 67:3-4). • So who holds the power at the end of this chapter? Who’s the hero? Not Haman. Not the king. And not even Esther or Mordecai. The LORD always has and always will hold the power. And because of that, because the LORD holds the power (and not US), we can rest assured that all is going according to plan, and we can celebrate our secure salvation in him, our guaranteed victory. Because the Lord holds the power, we can celebrate this great reversal of our eternal fate. We have "light and joy and gladness and honor" in the irrevocable and irreversible power of the Lord our God.

Week Eight

October 27, 2021 • Jaime Carnaggio • Esther 7

• In this chapter we finally see Esther make her big ask to have mercy on the Jews and revoke the decree, which was very risky because 1) The king is fickle 2) It required her to reveal her identity as a Jew 3) It would cost the king 10,000 talents 4) It was an irrevocable decree! But, as Ecclesiastes 3: 7 says, "There's a time to be silent, and a time to speak." • Take notice of Esther's choice of words in verses 13-14, not just what she chooses to say, but how she says it. It was very courageous, personal, and king-centered, and she was careful not to place any blame on the king himself (even though he was ultimately responsible!) • Consider all the ironies in this chapter: Haman, who had sought to take Esther's life, now begs that she spare his. Haman dies the humiliating death he plotted for Mordecai just 24 hours before. Haman, who wanted to kill a Jew for not falling down before him was ultimately executed on a charge of falling down inappropriately before a Jew! • Consider the interplay in this chapter between God's sovereignty and human responsibility. God's sovereignty is worked out as Esther climatically confronts the king. However, he worked out his sovereignty through her actions. She wasn’t a passive participant in his plans. She had responsibility, she had to have the resolve, the boldness, the courage to confront the king and make this big ask. • In God's economy, what is high will be humbled and what is low will be exalted. Read Luke 14: 7-11.

Week Seven

October 20, 2021 • Katie Schellack

• We see God's providence at work in this chapter through Insomnia (vs. 1-2), Investigation (vs. 3-4), Interruption (vs. 5), Irony (vs. 6-9) and Invitation (vs. 10-14). • When God seems most invisible, that's when he's most at work! • Have you ever felt like some of the good things you've done go unnoticed or unrecognized? There is good news in Hebrews 6: 10. God sees us! • Haman thought his timing was perfect. But he was actually too late. God's timing is always perfect. • There are great paradoxes in this chapter: Shame vs. Honor, Impulsiveness vs. Resolve, Exaltation vs. Humility. This is a chapter of great reversals! If there's someone on the rise, we can be sure someone else is about to fall! • Haman and the king both thought they were in control, when in reality, neither of them were. God was! Can you think of a time when you thought you were in control but clearly weren't? • God's conviction and power even works through pagan people - like with Zeresh and Haman's family, who foreshadows that Haman would fall before Mordecai. • When we steal honor that belongs only to the Lord, we end up shamed. And we want to honor ourselves, but he's promised us that what is low will be made high. He exalts us out of our humility! John 3: 30!

Week Six

October 13, 2021

• Esther 5 has been called the Tale of Two Plans. The first half walks us through Esther’s plan with the king. The second half details Haman’s plan with Mordecai. What differences do you notice in each plans approach? How can we be certain we’re discerning God’s plan for our lives from his Word rather than devising our OWN plans void of him? • The king’s first wife, Queen Vashti, risked her life by not appearing before the king when summoned; now Esther risked her life by appearing before the king unsummoned! • Esther more fully assumes the dignity and power of her royal position as queen AFTER she decides to align herself with God’s people, after she decides that it’s her Jewish identity that will define her. • Esther’s plan highlights the importance of showing restraint and resolve, and of listening to and trusting in God’s timing. There are times when we need to “dare to be a Daniel,” to be more direct and bolder. But there are also times when a more indirect, subtle approach is appropriate . . . and will yield greater results. God will equip us with faith to participate in his plan and to seek discernment concerning whether to “dare to be a Daniel” or to show restraint like Esther. We can rely on him and trust him to lead us and guide us appropriately. • How amazing that God invites us to come into his presence regularly, frequently, and make known to him our petitions and requests . . . that he delights in our presence. • When we make worldly things (like our own egos) our idols and then feed those idols instead of starving them, we end up emptier than ever, in even greater bondage than before! When we make idols of worldly things, it consumes us and robs us of our true joy found only in the Lord. Reflection: In what ways do you feed your idolatry rather than starving it? • When our idols are being threatened (or when we feed our idols rather than starve them), we’re most at risk for our emotions to become very disproportionate to whatever offended us. “The identity of our idols is most easily exposed by analyzing our strongest emotions. What is it that causes you to be angry out of all proportion to the offense? The answer is a clue that one of our idols is being threatened.” Iain Duguid

Week Five

October 6, 2021 • Jaime Carnaggio

Favorite Takeaways: • How do you relate to Esther’s first response to Mordecai’s request? • Reflection: How does it impact you to know that you, like Esther, were created for “such a time as this?” “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place (Acts 17: 26).” • Reflection: Describe a time when God has moved in your heart to action, when you were faced with something you didn’t want to do, but you weren’t able to deny his nudging. • “We have a natural proneness for seeing the difficulties rather than anticipating what GOD can do. We tend to set our gaze on our deficiencies rather than God’s sufficient grace and love. We focus on our human limitations rather than God’s limitless power.” Ian Duguid • Ian Duguid also says, “Isn’t it a shame when God has to work AROUND us instead of THROUGH us?” God really wanted to work THROUGH Esther, so he placed her where she was, in this position, at this time. God is no less intentional with our lives than he was with hers. • “The safest place you’ll ever be is in the will of the God.” HB Charles Jr. • Reflection: What opportunities have you missed out on to participate in God’s work because you were scared or uncomfortable or because the stakes seemed too high? • God will equip us with the faith to trust him, and to act if it’s his will for us to do so, he will equip us to participate in the work he has called us to, even when we don’t know how it will turn out or what the end result will be. • Esther’s story is a beautiful foreshadowing of a much bigger sacrifice that would come centuries later, when we get to another man who found himself in a place and position “for such a time as this.” John 12:27-28: “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose, I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” Jesus came at this hour, at this time, to submit to His Father’s will, to intercede for us, to be obedient to the point death on a cross, saving us once for all. God couldn’t work around Jesus, he HAD to work through him. God didn’t have to equip him with the faith to participate in this plan… because it was HIS plan too.

Week Four

September 1, 2021 • Katie Schellack

• Mordecai was in the right place at the right time . . . this wasn’t a coincidence; it was divine providence that Mordecai discovered the assassination plot against the king. And it was divine providence that he included Esther in revealing this plan to the king. • When the king discovered they saved him, he made a record of it in his chronicles. That’s it? Wouldn’t we expect something more? The world isn’t always going to reward us or repay us for our faith in the Lord or our good deeds. • Why did the king’s servants (Mordecai’s “comrades”) eventually turn Mordecai into the king? Ultimately, because they weren’t Jewish! They weren’t allegiant to the same thing. What united them (their work!) was weak, which highlights how the Jews in Persia (even though dispersed) were united in a much stronger way than they probably realized. • We see the king here, once again, acting impulsively (this wasn’t a smart decree, the Jews weren’t even a threat to him or the Persian kingdom), and the people responded with confusion. He was out of touch with the people he led, easily manipulated and weak. In contrast, we cannot be weak on the gospel. We cannot be flimsy thinkers, but instead stand firmly and boldly in our faith. • Mordecai’s identity as a Jew was revealed, and it was this detail that ultimately resulted in a decree to “destroy, kill, and annihilate” all of the Jews in Persia. This decree “just happened” to go out at the time of Passover. So in God’s providence, while the Jews were learning that they had 11 months to live, at the same time, they were remembering how God had delivered them and protected them and saved them at another time in history when they were to be destroyed. • Sin may complicate our lives and cause unnecessary or unexpected turns, but it can’t thwart God’s plans! 2 Timothy 2:13.

Week Three

September 22, 2021 • Jaime Carnaggio • Esther 2:1–18

• Hadassah (Esther’s Hebrew name) means “myrtle." Isaiah prophesied several hundred years earlier, “Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off” (Isaiah 55:13). • Compare and contrast Daniel's life and experience in the kingdom of Babylon with Esther's in the kingdom of Persia. How are they similar? How are they different? • Reflection: When have we been tempted to conceal our faith out of comfort or convenience, out of fear of rejection, or to avoid conflict or confrontation? What does this reveal about who's approval we are seeking? • These were dark times in ancient Persia. Our world today, in many ways, is just as dark. Luckily, as we’ll soon discover for Esther, dark times are no obstacle for God. In fact, sometimes it’s in the darkest of times that His glory is revealed most powerfully. • Take note of the seven references to the number seven in Esther 1:1-2:16. (Hint: 1:1, 1:5, 1:10 (2), 1:14, 2:9, 2:16.) Seven is the number used in Scripture most often to reflect the completeness or wholeness of God. God's name may not be mentioned, but there are whispers of God all over! • Why does Esther advance over all the other girls? Take note of the repeated word "favor" in verses 9, 15, and 17. That's the big Hebrew word HESED that we find here, pointing us to God's covenantal, steadfast love. The king finding favor with her was GOD’s doing. Esther finds herself in a position of prominence because of God’s providence. • Regardless of our disobedience, God’s hand hovers over every detail, moving the pieces into the places he’s determined. Though God may discipline us, he NEVER discards us. He works in and through and despite the sin and suffering in our lives, all for the good of those who love him and who’ve been called according to his purpose. • God’s not seeking a perfect servant, one who can be perfectly obedient. He sent one: Jesus Christ. • Esther was being prepared (as a bride) for the king. She spent so much time and energy undergoing beauty treatments in order to make herself acceptable for the king. What makes us beautiful before the Father? The cross of Christ. All of the ugliness of our sin and shame, nailed to that cross, so gruesome and bloody and violent… so that we could be washed clean, so that his righteousness would be imputed on US, so that we are beautiful in the Father’s eyes. • “The gospel is not a love story in which a good-looking groom meets and falls in love with a radiant, pure bride. The gospel is a love story in which a radiant and pure groom chooses to love and purify a wretched bride who has repeatedly given herself to the devouring love of the flesh and the world… Christ took us who were spiritually ugly and gave us HIS beauty.” Landon Dowden

Week Two

September 15, 2021 • Jaime Carnaggio • Esther 1:9–22

• It’s interesting to read Esther 1 in the original context and see how the events unfolded completely normally for “them then,” and then look at it through a wider perspective for “us today," with the gospel in view. We have the advantage of seeing things that the original readers wouldn’t have seen. We see the limitations of Ahasuerus’ power exposed. • Why do you think this story is included in Scripture? What do we learn from it? • Reflect on the king’s advisors. Do you think the decree the advisors suggested was wise? Why or why not? Why is it important for us today to seek Godly counsel from faithful believers? • Esther repeatedly gives us opportunities to compare the Kingdom of Persia to the Kingdom of God. This passage was no exception. Compare Ahasuerus’ power in this story to God’s power. Why can we trust God’s sovereignty above all? How can we seek God’s sovereignty in our daily lives? • Reflection: Who in your life do you seek when you need council? Who are your godly counselors who steadily push you to the Word and encourage you in your faith? • Compare Ahasuerus’ view of his bride (the Queen) to Jesus’ view of his bride (the church). When Christ summons his bride (the church) to his banquet table, he does so not to expose our shame, but to lavish his grace and mercy upon us. And we aren’t beautiful by nature, our sin is very unattractive, and yet, Christ gave himself for us, in that state, laid down his life for us, washed all that ugliness away and welcomes us to him. And what’s more, he pursues us no matter our resistance. We, like Vashti, will be tempted to say “no” when he requests something of us – to rebel and disobey, and yet, Christ, unlike Ahasuerus, doesn’t just dispose of us or give up on us. He relentlessly pursues us, over and over. (See the song "Reckless Love", by Cory Asbury!) And so we can submit to our bridegroom (Jesus Christ) with full assurance of his reckless love for us! • This story in Esther reminds us (yet again!) to seek God, in places we may not expect. What seemed insignificant for them then had a lot of significance for God’s people. God uses Ahasuerus’ impulsiveness and Vashti’s rebellion to open the door for Esther’s future reign, to position her where she needs to be so she could rise to a position of power in order to protect God’s people against an enemy that was on the rise. • Reflection: Think back on your life . . . where do you see God’s hand at work in seemingly small, ordinary details, that you may have not recognized at the time?

Week One

September 8, 2021 • Jaime Carnaggio

The book of Esther tells how an exiled Jewish girl became the queen of Persia and, with the help of her cousin Mordecai, rescued God’s people from those that sought to destroy them.There were no signs and wonders, no special revelations, no miracles. This teaches us that God’s plan is often achieved through his divine providence working through ordinary events. Even the actions of those that oppose God are woven into the purposes determined by him.