Scott Pennington, Small Group Host
Ezra 6:14-22 summary: These verses describe the completion of the temple in 516 BC. This is the second temple. The first temple was destroyed in 586 BC when most of the Jews were exiled to Babylon. This second temple survived until 70 AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. The destruction of both of the temples is still remembered each year with the Jewish fast Tisha B’Av, but at this time, the completion and dedication of the second temple was a period of great joy and celebration.
Ezra 6:14-22 Application: These verses are a message for us all. We all suffer times of defeat and discouragement. The suffering hurts. We think it will never end, but there is a light at the end of the dark days. If we are patient and persevere in faith, better times will arrive and we will experience joy again.
Esther 1:1-4:17 Summary: These verses are the start of an amazing book. Esther is one of only two books in the Bible named after women. Can you name the other? The story begins with Xerxes, also known as Ahasuerus, ruling a large empire from Egypt, the Middle East and Greece on the western border stretching east all the way to India. He throws this blowout party for military leaders, princes and nobles that lasts seven days. At the end, he commands his queen, Queen Vashti, to parade in front of his guests. This she will not do. Upon refusal, Vashti is removed from her position and the search for a new queen begins. After a variety of events, including twelve months of beauty treatments, Esther (also known as Hadassah) is chosen to be the new queen from among many young women.
Throughout these events, a man named Mordecai kept vigil by the city gate, waiting for news of Esther. Mordecai had adopted Esther, his uncle’s daughter, when she became an orphan. He raised her as if she were his own daughter. At the gate, Mordecai overhears a plot to assassinate the King and prevents this. This good deed gives Mordecai some credibility later on in the story.
Haman, the nemesis in this tale, is a trusted assistant of the King, and plots to kill all of the Jews in the territory. Mordecai persuades Esther that she must go in to see the King to appeal for the lives of the Jews. The trouble is that anyone who approaches the King without being summoned according to the law will be put to death. Esther is afraid, but Mordecai gives her some powerful words of wisdom. Read them carefully. “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Esther 1:1-4:17 Application: This story is powerful on so many fronts. It illustrates the powerlessness of women in that time, yet it also illustrates the strength and abilities women have. Importantly, it can trigger us to ask ourselves what impact we are having on our families and our community … at such a time as this. Are we just a neutral force in this world or are we striving to make a difference? Wayne Watson wrote a song entitled “For Such a Time as This” a number of years ago. Take a few minutes to listen to it.