Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther: when God seems silent

Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther are known as the post-captivity books. Ezra, the faithful scribe, records the Jews returning to their homeland after 70 years of captivity in Babylon. His records show God’s faithfulness to keep His promise to restore his people to their land. Nehemiah demonstrates leaders as he guides the Jews to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Finally, Esther is the story of courage to stand up to certain death for the livelihood of others and the celebration created as a reminder of that courage. Many people will point out that God is silent in these books. Although God doesn’t speak in these books, He isn’t inactive as the events unfold and His guidance is seen in the faithfulness and devotion of these three people.

Ezra, the true and faithful scribe, records the events which return the Jews to Jerusalem. The Lord moved in the heart of Cyrus, the king of Persia as he proclaimed that the temple was to be rebuilt in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-2). Despite opposition from some Persian officials, the rebuilding begins with the king’s increasing support. Ezra was a committed student of the Law. He was determined to follow and teach the God’s word. Once the Jews were back in Jerusalem, he was determined to get the Jews back on track with God as he taught the Law to the returning families. Ezra showed the people that God kept His promise to return them to their land and they must show their gratitude by returning to God and the practice of His Word. “For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). Ezra is an example of how devotion and commitment to knowing and practicing God’s Word has a direct effect on how God works in our lives.

Nehemiah, the rebuilder of walls, was the cupbearer to the king (Nehemiah 1:11). A cupbearer was an important position. He was to ensure the safety and quality of the king’s drink. It also gave him unique opportunities to speak with the king. As Nehemiah waited for the right moment to approach the king with his requests, King Artaxerxes notices Nehemiah’s distress and opens the door for Nehemiah ask to be sent to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of the city (Nehemiah 2:1-6). In Jerusalem, Nehemiah was the type of leader which gets the work done. He carefully planned and encourage teamwork as he solved problems which often arise when people work together. He also have courage and tremendous faith to get the work done even if it meant getting dirty with the workers himself. He was a leader that people will follow. “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what they king had said to me. They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding.’ So they began the good work” (Nehemiah 2:18).

Esther, the Jewish orphan who become queen and she was placed in a position to risk for her life for others. Her cousin, Mordecai, had overheard a plot to kill the Jews by the government official Haman and he became distress as it was a king’s decree. Word got back to Esther about the plot and Mordecai pleads with her to tell the king (Esther 4:13-14). She agrees, “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Esther devises a clever plan to expose the plot to the king by throwing a feast for Haman. At the banquet, she makes one more request. She asks the king to spare her people and the king is outraged that such a thing was plotted (Esther 7:3-5). She exposes Haman as the plotter and he is hanged. The king then decrees that the Jews had the right to protect themselves from whoever tried to do them harm (Esther 7:11). In response to these events, the Jews began a new celebration, Purim. Purim is celebrated as a day of joy and feasting. It is a day of giving presents to one another in remembrance of Esther’s bravery and courage.

In conclusion, while God is silent in these three books, He certainly isn’t inactive. He sent in motion the Jews return to their lands. He can be seen in the story of Ezra, a man who never forgot where he was from. He worked within the law of the land he lived with respect but he never let God’s law become second. He can be seen in the story of Nehemiah, a godly leader, one who isn’t afraid to work alongside the men to complete the work as well as caring for his men when the practice wasn’t so generous. And He can be seen in the story of Esther, a woman who hid her true heritage, only to reveal it when a greater threat loomed. From these examples, we need to remember that when God seems to be silent, He is working. He is working in your life and when you least expect it, that work will be reveal. Follow the examples of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther, keep the faith and trust in God.