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Sabbath School Lesson Begins
Lesson 6 August 1-7
Read for This Week’s Study: Esther 1-10; 1 Cor. 9:19-23; John 4:1-26; Acts 17:26; Matt. 22:21; Rom. 1:18-20.
(Esther 4:14 NIV).
if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews
will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will
perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for
such a time as this
Esther was used to carry out a high-level, specialized mission within the dangerous political heart of the Persian Empire. Her mission involved her in a series of striking contrasts. An orphaned female member of a despised ethnic and religious minority living in the superpower of her day, she became the wife of the Persian king. This was no rags-to-riches fairy tale. Rather, she was lifted from obscurity and groomed to carry out a highly specialized mission. It required of her the risky strategy of working, at first, undercover. Later she had to make a perilous full disclosure of her ethnicity and faith.
Supported by her cousin and foster father Mordecai, her daring witness at the intrigue-ridden court of the Persian Empire saved her people, reversed their low social status, and made them empire-wide objects of admiration.
No doubt as a result of her faithfulness, knowledge of the true God
became more widespread among their heathen captors. Though not your
missionary story, the narrative of Esther and Mordecai does present
some interesting principles that can help us to understand what it
means to witness in peculiar circumstances.
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, August 8.
Read Esther 1:2-20. What is happening here? What things about this story are hard to understand from our perspective today? (As you read, remember that a lot of details are not presented.)
The weeklong banquet that King Ahasuerus gave for his nobles and officials seems extravagant, even for someone at the pinnacle of political power, far beyond what most Christians could find acceptable. The unrestricted consumption of alcohol (Esther 1:7-8) was to be expected on such occasions. Such banquets were not unprecedented. Records exist of ancient kings bragging about having entertained thousands of guests on special occasions. Excessive drinking in such circumstances certainly clouded the king’s judgment to the point that he ordered his wife Vashti to provide entertainment for the king’s drunken, all-male gathering. This was far beneath her dignity as a married woman and as a member of the royal family. Whatever her response, she faced the dilemma of losing status, and her courageous choice to retain self-esteem in the face of an autocratic ruler’s base desires prepares the reader to understand the power for good that a principled woman could exert, even in a male-dominated royal court.
Meanwhile, though, we have to deal with the actions of Esther. Esther 2:3 gives the impression that these women were not volunteers. The king issued the decree, and so Esther had to come. Had she refused, who knows the outcome?
Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. In what ways can we apply the principles seen in these verses to what happened with Esther? Or do they apply?
So far in the story the real heroine is Vashti, who then disappears from history. Her modesty and stand on principle opened the way for Esther. In some cases, though, principled stands don’t always lead to an obvious good. In the end, why should we take principled stands, even if we don’t know the outcome of our actions?
Read Esther 2:10,20. What situations might arise where nationality or religious affiliation should be hidden, at least for a time?
Read John 4:1-26, the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. Why did Jesus tell her so openly that He was the Messiah, when among His own people He was not so forthcoming? How does this account, perhaps, help us to understand Mordecai’s words to Esther?
Twice Mordecai charged Esther not to reveal her nationality and family background. This has troubled some commentators, who have questioned the need for this attitude of concealment, especially during a time that the Jewish people were not threatened. Could she not have been a witness about her God to these pagans if she were open about who she was and the God she worshiped? Or could it be argued that to be a Jew lacked credibility at the Persian court and that revealing her ethnicity would have hindered her in gaining access to the king when she pleaded for her people? However, it appears that even before the threat occurred Mordecai had warned Esther not to reveal her identity. The fact is that the Bible does not tell us the reason for his words to her; however, as we can see with the example of Jesus, one does not have to reveal everything at once in every circumstance. Prudence is a virtue.
Meanwhile, why did Jesus speak so openly to the woman at the well and not to His own people?
Christ was far more reserved when He spoke to them. That which
had been withheld from the Jews, and which the disciples were afterward
enjoined to keep secret, was revealed to her. Jesus saw that she would
make use of her knowledge in bringing others to share His grace.—Ellen
G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 190.
Have you ever been in a situation in which you deemed it prudent not to say too much about your faith or your beliefs? What reasons did you have? As you look back now, what might you have done differently, if anything?
For Such a Time As This(Esther 2:19-5:8)
In Esther 3:1-5, the plot of the story starts to unfold. Mordecai, a Jew—following the commandment against idolatry—refused to bow down to Haman, a mere man. Furious, Haman sought a way to avenge himself for what he took as a slight. Mordecai, by his actions, in a way was witnessing among these pagans about the true God.
What excuse did Haman use to try to rid the empire of the Jews? What does this tell us about how easy it is to let cultural differences blind us to the humanity of all people? Esther 3:8-13; see also Acts 17:26.
As Haman’s plot was made known, Mordecai expressed his grief
visibly, using one of the Jewish religious rituals mentioned in the
book of Esther:
He tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, .
. . wailing loudly and bitterly (Esther 4:1 NIV).
In the meantime, Esther prepared to go before the king. She would
become a Jewish breaker of royal Persian law by heroically entering the
king’s presence without invitation, as part of a plan to foil Haman’s
plot. The king admitted her and accepted her invitation to dine. Esther
now takes the lead in the drama faced by the Jewish exiles across all
of Persia. In this story, Esther showed self-denial and heroism (Esther 4:16), tact (Esther 5:8), and courage (Esther 7:6).
“Through Esther the queen the Lord accomplished a mighty deliverance for His people. At a time when it seemed that no power could save them, Esther and the women associated with her, by fasting and prayer and prompt action, met the issue, and brought salvation to their people.
A study of women’s work in connection with the cause of God in
Old Testament times will teach us lessons that will enable us to meet
emergencies in the work today. We may not be brought into such a
critical and prominent place as were the people of God in the time of
Esther; but often converted women can act an important part in more
humble positions.—Ellen G. White Comments,
in The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 1140.
Read Esther 4:14, Mordecai’s famous words to Esther:
(NKJV). In what ways might the
principle behind these words apply to you, right now?
Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom
for such a time as this?
According to Esther 5-8, how was Esther able to save her people?
The accounts of Esther’s two banquets bring the story to its crisis point. They also record the great reversal of the plotted ethnic extermination. On the way, the story exposes the difference between true honor and self-honor, and it records the punishment of the villain. These court intrigues had far-reaching consequences. They give us a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes workings of an absolute monarch and his court. Esther and Mordecai used their positions, their knowledge of the culture in which they lived, and their faith in God’s covenant promises to His people to bring about their deliverance.
Meanwhile, despite his quiet life of service, Mordecai let his faith be known, if through no other means than his refusal to bow down before Haman. People noticed, and they admonished him, but he refused to compromise his faith (Esther 3:3-5). This, surely, was a witness to others.
Read Esther 6:1-3. What does this tell us about Mordecai? What lessons could we draw about how God’s people can function, even witness, in foreign lands?
Though Mordecai obviously was following the Lord, nevertheless he
showed allegiance, and loyalty, to the sovereign of the nation in which
he lived. While refusing to bow before a man, he still was a good
citizen, in that he exposed the plot against the king. Though we can’t
read too much into the fact that he hadn’t been honored for this act,
very possibly he did it and then just went on his way, not expecting
any reward. In time, though, as the story shows, his good deed was more
than rewarded. His example here is perhaps best expressed by these
Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,
and to God the things that are God’s
Read Esther 8. Focus specifically on verse 17. How can we understand this in terms of outreach and witness?
No question, the book of Esther is not a
typical story about
outreach and witness. And yet we can see something like this scenario
happening here toward the end. As a result of the king’s edict on
behalf of the Jews,
many people of other nationalities became Jews
because fear of the Jews had seized them (Esther 8:17). Some
commentators argue that theirs could not have been a true conversion
experience, since fear and anxiety should have no place in
proselytizing. While that’s true, who knows in the longer run how these
people, whatever their motives at first, might have responded to the
working of the Holy Spirit, especially after seeing great differences
between their beliefs and the belief and worship of the one true God?
Read Romans 1:18-20. How might the concepts taught here come into play with these people, especially in the context of this story?
In the original decrees against the Jews, not only were the Jews to
be killed, but the ones to do it were told that they should
their possessions (Esther 3:13, NKJV).
Also, when the Jews were given permission to kill their enemies, they
too were told that they could
plunder the possession of their
enemies (Esther 8:11, NKJV). However, three
times in the book of Esther (Esther 9:10,15-16, NKJV) it specifically says
that the Jews did not
lay a hand on the plunder (NKJV). Though
the texts don’t say why, the fact that it was mentioned three times
shows the emphasis that was placed on this act. Most likely they
refrained because they wanted it known that they were acting out of
self-defense and not greed.
How can we make sure that in our outreach and witness to others we don’t do anything that would cause people to question our motives? Why is this so important?
Further Study: Ellen G. White,
In the Days of Queen Esther, Prophets and Kings, pp. 598-606.
The decree that will finally go forth against the remnant people
of God will be very similar to that issued by Ahasuerus against the
Jews. Today the enemies of the true church see in the little company
keeping the Sabbath commandment a Mordecai at the gate. The reverence
of God’s people for His law is a constant rebuke to those who have cast
off the fear of the Lord and are trampling on His Sabbath.—Ellen G.
White, Prophets and Kings, p. 605.
mark of the beastcomes to the forefront?
Doneshor felt a fervent desire to know the truth. He decided to mark with a red pencil everything he found in the Bible and in the Gita that was good and helpful. Soon he realized that he was marking nearly everything in the Bible. Doneshor decided that one day he would be a Christian, though he had no idea how or when that would happen.
He entered college and had little time to read, but his desire to know God never left him. When he returned home after college, he met an old friend in the marketplace.
I’ve become a Christian, his friend told him. Doneshor was thrilled. He told him about finding the Bible in the river, then said,
Tell me how can I become a Christian.
His friend’s face lit up, and he hugged Doneshor. Then he told him that in a city about 30 miles [45 km] away, there was a church where Doneshor could learn how to become a Christian.
Early Saturday morning Doneshor boarded a bus to the town where the church was located. He found the house church and went in. Everyone sat with their eyes closed. Doneshor didn’t realize they were praying. He looked at them. They look like normal people, he thought. When they opened their eyes, they were surprised to see Doneshor standing near the door. They welcomed him and invited him to join them.
Doneshor attended the church as often as he could, but he couldn’t go every week because the bus fare was expensive. But he felt great joy in what he was learning and began telling his friends about it. Some wanted to visit the church too, so the little group agreed to take turns going, sharing the expense of the bus fare. Then those who had gone could teach the others what they had learned.
For a year Doneshor and his friends attended church this way. Then Doneshor told the pastor that he wanted to be baptized. The pastor was happy to arrange the baptism, but apologized that the little church had no baptistry.
We’ll have to baptize you in the Chengi River, the pastor said apologetically.
That’s wonderful! Doneshor responded.
The same river that brought me the Bible will seal my covenant with God.
Doneshor and 24 others were baptized in the river where his quest for God had begun. Among those other 24 were seven friends who Doneshor had invited to Christ. They are the first Christians among the Tripura people.
Doneshor Tripura studied theology at Bangladesh Adventist Seminary and College in Bangladesh.
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