Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Esther 4-6 and Acts 2

Esther 4 – A long chapter what with Greek additions: Mordecai puts on sackcloth and ashes when he hears about the order that has gone out, and so do all the Jews when they hear the decree.

Mordecai goes to see Esther, but cannot be admitted to the palace in sackcloth. A eunuch, Hathach is the go-between. Mordecai sends her a message begging her not to forget her “humbler circumstances” and telling her she should go and plead for her people. She sends back a message that only those summoned can go before the king on pain of death.

Mordecai’s response is good: “Do not suppose that because you are in the king’s palace, you are going to be the one Jew to escape. No, if you persist in remaining silent at such a time, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, but both you and the House of your father will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to the throne for just such a time as this” (4:13-14).

Esther promises to do what she can.

Then follows the Greek prayers of Mordecai and Esther, both concerned also to lay out that what they have done—Mordecai’s refusal to “bow down” to Haman, and Esther’s favor at the king’s court are not things that should be held against them, that their intentions were always good. They both appeal to God to listen to “the voice of the desperate, [and] save [them] from the hand of the wicked” (4:17z) – this prayer is in the Greek version and is not in Protestant Bibles that excluded them.

Esther 5 – The Hebrew text is much elaborated in the Greek additions, but basically it says Esther dressed up and went to see the king. The Hebrew has no comment on her emotion. Nor does the Hebrew much describe the king’s dress or emotion, which is depicted in the Greek as furious at first. The Hebrew shows him willing from the first to help her: ‘Tell me what you desire; even if it is half my kingdom, I grant it you.’ She requests that Haman be summoned to a feast.
It is done. When he is there the king asked again what she wants. She says she wants Haman to come to yet another banquet the next day. Haman leaves the banquet full of joy, but runs into Mordecai who shows him no deference at all. Haman is furious again, but goes home, tells his wife he is honored to be invited as the only guest to this banquet with the king and Esther Apparently he does not know that Esther is a Jew. He also mentions the aggravation he felt at seeing Mordecai. The wife and friends suggest he have a gallows prepared so he can ask the king to have Mordecai hanged for his offenses. Haman does this

Esther 6 – That night the king cannot sleep. He has the record book [of state matters] brought to him and reads about how it was Mordecai who helped him with the two men who had plotted against him. The story reads almost like a play because the timing of lines and ironies involved is so dramatic. As Haman comes in to ask the king to hang Mordecai, the king is actually deep in thought about how he never honored Mordecai for the good deed had did for him; Haman, of course, thinks that the king must be thinking of him—Haman (so full is he of himself). So, he answers, “have royal robes brought, which the king has worn, and a horse which the king has ridden, with a royal diadem on its head . . . .[and] he should array the man whom the king wishes to honor and lead him on horseback through the city square. . .” (6:9). So the king tells Haman to do just this for Mordecai and not to leave anything out.
So Haman does these things, suffers terribly for it and goes home to tell his wife and his friends. They tell him it means the end for him.

Acts 2 – They are together at Pentacost. Suddenly “from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (2:2-4). There were Jews in Jerusalem from everywhere and they recognize their various languages—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, etc. They hear “them speaking about God’s deeds of power” (2:11).

 Peter, standing with the eleven, addresses the men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem. He tells them that the prophesy of Joel is being fulfilled: This is the first recorded preaching of the apostles after Jesus’ death and resurrection:

[Citing words of the prophet Joel 3:1-5] In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see vision, and our old men shall dream dreams . . .The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (2:17-21)
He goes on to say that Jesus, whose divine authority was proven to them by deeds of power, was “handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” He was killed “by the hands of those outside the law” (2:23), but he was raised by God, “freed . . .from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power” (2:24).

He goes on to explain that Jesus’ resurrection is fulfillment of the promise God made to David to put one of his descendants on the throne. This Jesus is now “both Lord and Messiah” (2:36).
At this last, the crowd is “cut to the heart” (2:37). They ask what they should do, and Peter tells them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him” (2:38-39). He urges them to save themselves “from this corrupt generation” (2:40). About 3,000 people are baptized. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (2:42).
People are awed by the many wonders and signs the apostles perform. “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (2:44-47).

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