Like Other Nations

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“But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel.  And they said, ”No!  But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations…”  (I Samuel 8:19, 20).

The Israelites have a story like no other nation.  They were slaves.  They wandered in the desert for 40 years.  They walked between walls of water on dry ground not once but twice while following a cloud.  They ate bread that fell from heaven.  They drank water that came from a rock.  As they wandered in the desert for 40 years, their shoes never wore out.  Above all else, they are called “God’s people.”

The Israelites will never be like any other nation.

They have a story and a history that is rich with the hand of God seen in many ways.  The hand of God was obvious to all the nations surrounding them. This is what Rahab told the two spies that were spying in the city of Jericho.  “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you.  For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond they Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction.  And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heavens above and on the earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:9-11).

If God who had done all these wondrous, magnificent, and mighty acts on behalf of the Israelites which had struck fear in the hearts of the nations surrounding the Israelites, why did they want to be like all the nations?

They had the Creator of the Universe leading them.  They had God who divided the waters of the Red Sea directing their steps.  They had Jehovah Jirah who provided for their basic necessities.   They had God who is rich in love and mercy protecting them and fighting for them against their enemies.  They stood out among the nations.  “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God.  The LORD you God has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6).

Why would these people want to be “like all the other nations?”  They were unique, special, and chosen.

They wanted a king who would “Judge them and go before them and fight their battles.” (I Samuel 8:20).  It seemed God had done this for them and yet they were not satisfied with the leadership God had provided them.  They were not satisfied with the care that God had provided them.  They wanted what they thought they were missing out on.

Rather than enjoy the uniqueness of their nation, they desired to be like everyone else.

As the history of Israel is traced throughout Scripture, this desire to be like all the other nations caused them great heart ache, captivity, wars, separation of families, slavery, and death.  The blessings that God had so richly bestowed on them vanished in the presence of their desire to be like the other nations.

People of God cannot be like other nations and a treasured possession of His too.

Today, in our culture many strive to be like the world in the way they dress, the way they talk, and the way they live their lives.  Rather than strive to be set apart before God, they strive to be the same as the world.

God did not call Christians to sameness, He called us to uniqueness.  “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness in His marvelous light.”  (I Peter 2:9).

As Christians God has called us to be different.  If we live like the world, we have lost our uniqueness.  The whole purpose of being different is so that we can proclaim the Excellencies of God.  If we live like the world, God’s excellencies cannot show through our lives.  As the Israelites followed the king, the great and awesome works that God had done to bring them to the Promised Land stopped.

God allowed the Israelites to have a king.  He gives us each a choice.  We either follow Him or live like the world.  Those around us can see how we are living.

“Choose you this day whom you will serve…” ( Joshua 24:15).

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The Pieces Take Shape

It is fun to put a puzzle together and see the picture on the box begin to unfold before your eyes.  This concept applies to anything as we plan: a vacation, a new job, a remodel project, or any other endeavor.  Anytime we see our plans come together and see the finished product, a sense of fulfillment or completion with how these things came together is very self-satisfying.

Esther chapter seven is a short chapter with the pieces of the previous six chapters being woven together.  The main characters all come together in one scene and the hand of God is seen as the purpose of the dinner is revealed.  The King is curious to know what the Queen wants or needs so desperately that she has a dinner two days in a row for the King and Haman.  His curiosity is peaked so he asked the queen, “What is your wish, Queen Esther?  It shall be granted you.  And what is your request?  Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” (Esther 7:3).  Esther lays out the plot against her and her people that has developed slowly over the last year.  She lays out the scenario in such a humble way that the story of the mistreated and misrepresented people makes our hearts sympathize over this sad account.  How could a person sell out an entire group of people to be destroyed, killed, and annihilated?  Who would dare to do such a thing?

Recalling the events from Esther 3, the interaction between Haman and the King was presented in quite a different light than Queen Esther is presenting.  Haman presents the Jews as people that have different laws and do not keep the king’s laws, “so it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them.” (Esther 3:8).  The King trusted Haman so much that he was willing to allow him write the edict concerning the destruction of the Jews based on this little bit of information.  The King is so ill-informed, so easily swayed, and so foolish that he is willing to send a people to the slaughter based on a few words from Haman.  The King did not do his research or consult any other wise officials that were in his kingdom regarding this matter.  He merely took Haman at his word.  The King gives Haman his ring and tells him to “do as it seems good to you.” (Esther 3:11).

Now the King is faced with the reality of the situation and hopefully a valuable lesson is learned through this situation:  seek wise counsel about all matters, especially one that involves an entire race of people. After hearing the report from Esther that it was the wicked Haman who plotted this evil plan, the king gets up from the table and goes to the garden to evaluate the situation.  During the King’s absence Haman begs Queen Esther for his life.  When the King returns it does not appear to be Haman begging for his life, but rather it looks like Haman is assaulting the Queen.  No sooner had the King made this observation, the Eunuchs and guards in attendance came and took Haman away and hung him on the same gallows that he had built for Mordecai.

“…Be sure your sins will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23).  Haman’s deception of the King did not lead to the satisfaction of Haman’s wrath, but rather it led to Haman’s destruction.  Deception may satisfy for a time, but in the end when the truth is revealed right must be done.  As hard as it is at times to watch and wait for a scenario to play out, it is often better to seek the Lord’s counsel and act in accordance with patience and wisdom rather than rash decisions.  If Esther had rashly gone into the King’s court after she heard the edict rather than spend time with her people fasting and praying, the outcome may have turned out differently.  Instead she patiently followed God’s leading and acted in a controlled manner presenting the facts to the King.  As we continue to follow the story of Esther, there are still many lessons to be learned

Questions:

  1. Read Esther 3:13 and compare it with Esther 7:4. Do you notice any similarities?
  1. What might have happened if Esther had not spent time fasting and praying before she first approached the King? What if she had rushed into the King distraught over the news?
  1. Why would God want us to wait rather to act impetuously?
  1. What do you notice about the presentation Esther made to the king with the information about the destruction of the Jews?
  1. When Haman presented the information about “a certain people who do not keep the king’s laws” what vital information did he conveniently leave out? What vital questions did the King forget to ask?
  1. If you recall from Esther 6:10 the King knew Mordecai was a Jew and Mordecai’s “word saved the king,” as the eunuch reminded the King in Esther 7:9. How important is it for a King and for the rest of us to have people of wisdom around us that give us godly, Biblical counsel during times of need?
  1. When do we not want to listen or ask for advice and wise council from our wise friends?
  1. Read Proverbs 12:15 and compare this verse with the story of Esther, the King, and Haman.
  1. Did the King “redeem” himself?