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Grace and Hope IN THE BIBLe

THE HISTORY BOOKS:

Joshua–Esther Anne O’BrieN Bible Studies on Grace and Hope in the History books of the Old Testament, Joshua – Esther


GRACE AND HOPE IN THE BIBLE THE HISTORY BOOKS (Joshua – Esther) Anne O’Brien

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Grace and Hope in the Book of Joshua It could be said that when we read the Books of Joshua and Judges, it is easy to see God mistakenly, as vengeful and cruel, when we read of thousands of Canaanites being killed in battle. But there are a few points to consider before we come to that conclusion: • There were no laws in Canaan – they were a lawless people and acted as such, without restraint. (Read the books all the way through!) They would be a bad influence on the Israelites. • In their culture one person could be representative of the whole family, or even a tribe or a kingdom. • God still showed grace and mercy to those who accepted his ways and respected his law and his people. God is always righteous in his judgments. So, rather than dwelling on these difficult issues, we will look at those times when God’s grace shines through: • Crossing the Jordan • Saving Rahab and her family • Honouring the promise to the Gibeonites • Causing the Sun to stand still • Defeating all the kings who warred against Israel • Dividing and allotting the land to each tribe • Providing Cities of Refuge Crossing the Jordan – Read chapter 3v5&6, 3v14-4v3 and 8&9 It was harvest time, and the river was in flood. But, as soon as the feet of the priests touched the water (3v15,16) the water stopped flowing and the people could cross on DRY ground! And as soon as they had crossed, and the priests came up out of the water, the Jordan ran as before (4v18). The Ark of the Covenant – the place which represented God’s grace – went before them. God himself made the way for them. What an act of grace and encouragement as they entered the Promised Land. They knew there would be giants ahead – but God had shown that He would be with them. Jericho and Rahab – Read chapter 2v1-18 and 6v16&17 What was it that saved Rahab and her family (see 2v10&11)? It was not just her act of kindness, but the fact that she recognised Israel’s God as Lord. Her faith (like Abraham’s) was credited to her as righteousness. Everyone had heard about Israel’s God, but only Rahab believed. The scarlet cord was a symbol of God’s grace. It tells us that: • Anyone can find redemption when they believe on the Lord • William Evans noted, “Cut the Bible anywhere and it bleeds.” The scarlet cord represents the grace that is in the blood of Jesus as it is prophesied and symbolised throughout the Old Testament. • The scarlet cord was an act of faith. Rahab was saved by grace, through faith alone. We cannot be saved by being an Israelite or by being a member of a church, ONLY BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH. Read Ephesians 2v8 The Gibeonites – Read chapter 9v1-6, v14-18, v26&27 The Gibeonites lived not far from Jerusalem, but they had heard about Israel and their God. They obviously believed in the power of God and had respect for Him, and they did not want to get caught 2


up in the fighting – they knew they could not win. So it was that they decided to dupe the Israelites into believing that they were from another country. Without consulting God, Joshua made a pact with them. Maybe it was the right outcome for the wrong reasons! Anyway, when the other Kings declared war on them because of the pact, Joshua’s army defended Gibeon. It was a huge undertaking, but by God’s grace and careful strategy the war was won. The Sun stood still – Read chapter 10v12-14 This event happened during the battle of Jerusalem. It was a crucial battle where 5 Amorite Kings were subdued and killed. The taking of the Amorites resulted in Joshua’s army being able to march north and take the rest of the Land that was promised to the Israelites – as outlined by Moses. Chapter 11 describes the defeat of the northern kings, and chapter 12 lists the defeated Kings – 31 in all! Part one of Joshua’s mission had been completed under God’s command. This was purely a miracle by God’s grace. The Israelites had come from the wilderness. They were not a fighting force to be reckoned with, just a bunch of nomads. They could not have achieved victory of their own selves. But God graciously went before them which gave them hope in the promise of their inheritance. Dividing and allotting the land – Chapters 15-19 The people of each tribe were descendants of Jacob’s (Israel’s) 12 sons. Jacob prophesied over each of them on his deathbed (Genesis49). Levi does not have land as an inheritance, instead they were given towns to live in so that they could minister to the people. Ten tribes received tribal land each. But Joseph was not allotted land. Instead his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh were given half tribes so that they both inherited (in other words Joseph received a double blessing). At last God’s promise had been fulfilled. He had led them to the Promised land. He had defeated all their foes. They had received their inheritance. The God of grace had kept his side of the Covenant. However, they did not completely take the land, and this was to give them problems in the future.

Cities of Refuge – Read chapter 20v1-6 A person who accidentally killed another was told to run to the nearest city of refuge, where he or she would be given shelter from avenging relatives until a fair trial could be arranged. This was an important provision in an age of blood feuds. The towns on this map show approximately one day’s journey in all directions from each city. It speaks of there always being the opportunity for us to access God’s grace, wherever we are – PRAISE GOD!

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Grace and Hope – Judges This is perhaps the most difficult Book in the Bible to read, and it shows the worse side of mankind. It is set over a period of 250 years following Joshua’s conquest of the Land of Israel and the inheritance of their tribal land. Read chapter 2v10 and v16 The striking thing in the Book of Judges is that the Israelites made the same mistakes over and over again. So that each time they disobey God, their enemies attack them, they call out to God and he brings deliverance. This results in their rededication to Him, but only until the cycle repeats itself. Disobedience Dedication

Defeat

Deliverance As we noted in the Book of Joshua, the Israelites did not completely get rid of the enemy in the Land, so that every so often they would amass help and attack the Israelites. The enemy were both destructive, and an unhealthy influence on the Israelites. For example, they cut off thumbs and big toes as a punishment (1v7); they ruined Israel’s crops and killed their cattle (6v2,3); they took their land and burnt their houses (11v26); they worshipped other gods such as Baal and Asherah (6v30); they took concubines and prostitutes and raped as they pleased; they made human sacrifices. Israel’s sins: They intermarried with foreigners (3v6); worshipped Baals and Asherahs (10v6); made their own idols and worshipped them (8v24-27, 17v1-6); made wrong choices and committed murder (9v1-6); didn’t take all the land that was their inheritance but took some land that wasn’t theirs (18v27-31); acted abominably towards women (chap 19, chap 21); everyone did as they saw fit (last verse!). So, you can see the problems. However, God – in his amazing grace – did not give up on them. When they cried to God for help, he stepped in and provided a “saviour”. Altogether, in this Book we read of twelve judges that God anointed to lead the Israelites back into a place of victory. They were Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson. With God’s anointing they were able to subdue the Mesopotamians from the north; the Amonites, Midianites and Moabites from the east; The Amalakites from the south; and the Philistines from the west. We will briefly look at Deborah who conquered enemies from the north, Gideon who conquered enemies from the east and south, and Samson who defeated the Philistines from the west. Deborah – Read chapter 4v4-10 and 14-21 Deborah, a Judge, used to hold court while sitting beneath a palm tree. She was wise and helped the people solve their problems. She told Barak, commander of an army of Israel, that the Lord wanted him to fight an enemy named Sisera. Barak refused to fight unless Deborah accompanied him. She went along and they defeated Sisera’s army. (Actually God made it happen that the iron chariots of the enemy got bogged down in the mud, and so that had to flee.) During the battle, Sisera escaped and hid in the tent of a woman named Jael. During the night Jael killed Sisera in his sleep. 4


Q. How did God show his grace through Deborah? (Think about the type of person Deborah represents. What weaknesses did she have in common with us?) Gideon – Read chapter 6v1-8a and verses 10-16 Gideon gathered 32,000 Israelites to fight the huge Midianite army of 135,000 men. The Lord commanded Gideon to reduce his army to only 300 men. Gideon and his small army surrounded the Midianite camp at night and, at a signal, smashed jars, blew trumpets, and yelled. Torches were in all of the jars so the Midianites became totally confused by the noise and light display. In their confusion they began to fight and kill each other. As they fled, Gideon ordered all Israelites to attack. Gideon did things God’s way and his small army won a seemingly impossible battle. Q. Why did God reduce his army to only 300 people? (see 7v2) Q. How did God show his grace through Gideon? (Think about the type of person Gideon represents. What weaknesses did he have in common with us?) Samson – Read chapter 16v4,&5, 16&17, and 19-22 Although the Lord chose Samson, Samson did not always choose God! He fell in love with a Philistine woman, named Delilah, who did not believe in God. The Philistine rulers paid Delilah to find out the secret of Samson’s strength. Delilah begged Samson to tell her his secret and finally revealed that his strength was in his long hair. Delilah told the Philistine leaders and they cut Samson’s hair, made him blind, and put him in prison to do hard work. Eventually his hair returned (renewing his Nazarite vow) and so too did his super-natural strength. He took his one opportunity and brought down a huge building killing all the people including himself and the Philistine leaders. Q. How was God’s grace was shown in Samson’s life and death? (Think about the type of person Samson represents. What weaknesses did he have in common with us?) If we look at our world today, we still see the same things happening. And we could be forgiven for thinking the situation is hopeless. But the Book of Judges reminds us that God is not only a God of grace and mercy, he is also a God who brings hope; because he is the only one who is able to bring about change. God loved the world SO MUCH (even then, and even now) that he has sent deliverers throughout history, to turn the tide and bring people back to himself.

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Grace and Hope in the Book of Ruth The story of Ruth is like a rose among thorns. It follows the Book of Judges, and the events took place during that most desperate of times. In fact, it begins with a famine. It also shows us that despite the last verse of Judges (“everyone did what was right in their own eyes”), there were still some who followed the Lord, some who God could use to work out his purposes for mankind. Chapter 1 – God’s grace to Naomi Read verses 1-7 Naomi’s family moved to Moab because there was a famine in Israel. She followed her husband there, but sadly he and her two sons died in Moab, leaving her with two daughters-in-law. It could be said that everything they did was wrong: leaving Israel, intermarrying with the “enemy”, finding their own way to solve their problems. But, in his GRACE, God can still use us when we make mistakes. In this case, as Naomi and Ruth returned to Israel, God was going to (indirectly) use Ruth to bring the nation back on track. Read verses 16-19: Orpah decided to stay in Moab, but Ruth declaring her love for Naomi and for God, decided to go to Israel with Naomi. Naomi is an example to us of still maintaining a testimony when absolutely everything has gone, even though she felt bitter and let down. God showed his grace in Ruth’s conversion. Naomi would have been dis-graced had she returned to Israel with a Moabite daughter-inlaw. But Ruth was a convert who had embraced the Israelite faith. Culturally, it was impossible for a woman to exist without a husband or father to provide for her, and the law made provision for this. It was important that Ruth believed and came under the Law – as will be seen later. Q. In what ways did God show his grace to Naomi?

Chapter 2 – God’s grace in Provision through Boaz Read verses 4-9: God, in his grace was already working. There was now no famine in Israel. God, in his grace, had already made provision for such as Ruth, in the Law: Leviticus 19:9,10 – “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest … leave them for the poor and foreigner. I am the Lord your God.” When Ruth set foot in the field, Boaz just happened to arrive. His “coincidental” arrival was all part of God’s gracious provision. In this story, Boaz was a man who portrayed and typified God’s grace. a) Ruth was less than a servant, but Boaz noticed her and spoke an order of protection and provision over her (v9). b) Boaz showed her kindness and called her daughter (v8) c) He showed her favouritism (14) and gave her a sense of worth. As gentiles, we are undeserving foreigners too. But God lifts us up and shares his grace with us – praise His Name. Read verse 20: Naomi explained to Ruth the Jewish Law of Guardian Redemption. 6


A Kinsman Redeemer (or Guardian Redeemer) is a legal term for a man, usually a close relative, who has an obligation in Jewish law to redeem a relative who is in serious difficulty, with the purpose of providing for them, and giving them a new beginning. The man agrees to take full responsibility for the one who is impoverished. There is nothing in it for the Redeemer, but everything for the redeemed. It is purely an act of grace. Therefore, as Naomi’s relative (because of her husband Elimelech), Boaz could buy back (redeem) Elimelech’s property and keep it in the family. The redeemer also had an obligation to marry the wife of the deceased and bring up her children, who would then inherit the property and thus perpetuate the family mane and inheritance. Jesus, our redeemer, has bought us back, made us his Bride, given us an inheritance – a place in his heavenly kingdom. Just like the Old Testament Law – it is an act of pure grace.

Chapter 3 – A picture of Christ and his church Read verses 1-9: Naomi prepares Ruth. Ruth was washed

Christ ... makes the church holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word. And we must get rid of those things that make us unclean.

Ruth was anointed with perfume

The anointing oil speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit, preparing us to meet with Jesus.

Ruth was dressed in her best clothes

Salvation is pictured as leaving off our dirty rags (our sinful self) and putting on the garments of righteousness.

Ruth submitted to Boaz’s grace and mercy

We can never save ourselves. Relying on God’s mercy and the work of our guardian redeemer, Jesus, is the only way to salvation.

Naomi’s intention was that Ruth should become Boaz’s wife. She wanted only the best for her, because she loved her as her own. Note: “Spread your garment over me” is both a suggestion of marriage and a request for protection. Ruth risked suffering humiliation and rejection, for acting in such a forward manner. But she knew she could trust Boaz. Just as we know that Christ will never reject us. Q. How did Boaz show grace? And show it in abundance (v15)

Chapter 4 – A pivotal day in history! Read chapter 3v12 and 4v4-6: Just as we think everything is about to work itself out smoothly there is a hitch. Someone closer to the family could have first claim on buying back Elimelech’s land. But Boaz is a great tactician. He explained 7


to the man that Ruth the Moabite was to be part of the contract and that the land would then pass on to her children when she had some. This other man did not feel inclined to make this sacrificial act of grace (Boaz was banking on this!!), which left Boaz free to redeem the land, free Naomi and Ruth, and marry Ruth. Read verses 11-16: According to the Law: To be ratified, legal agreements were to be held in the presence of 10 male elders. So it was that the elders witnessed what had happened, but they also prophesied over Ruth: A) She would be as important to Israel as Rachel and Leah (Jacob’s wives). B) She would be famous in Ephratha in Bethlehem (“coincidentally” it would be the place of Jesus’ birth!) C) She would have importance in the line of Judah (Jesus’ tribe) And so we read that Boaz and Ruth had a son who was named Obed, the grandfather of King David and a forefather of Jesus Christ. How amazing is this true story? How full of “coincidences”, or should we say God-incidents? How surprising, set in the time of the judges, that we see God’s mighty hand of grace working in those who chose to believe. Q. What does this story tell us, in our difficult times, about God’s grace in times of adversity? And what does it tell us about God’s grace in the times when we make mistakes in our actions? If you don’t know Jesus, and you don’t know where to turn – he is waiting to become your Guardian Redeemer. You only need to ask him.

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Grace and Hope in the Books of Samuel In which are recorded the events of Samuel’s life, the Kingship of Saul (1st Samuel), and the continuing reign of David (2nd Samuel). The Books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles overlap to some degree – as you will see in the timeline:

-------------1 Chronicles ---------------------------------- SAMUEL -------------

----------------------2 Chronicles ---------------

---------------------- KINGS -----------------------------

1170BC____1095 _____1048 _________1015 _________975 _______ 896 ______ 590 Samuel Saul David Solomon Israel Elijah Elisha Prophet King King over King over splits Mighty Follows & Judge all Israel all Israel into 2 Prophet Elijah Kingdoms Note: The dates are approximate

Today we will look at the three major characters in the Book of Samuel. 1.

Samuel

Samuel was an Ephraimite, and therefore descended from Joseph’s and Joshua’s line. During the chaotic time of the Judges his family had remained faithful to the Lord. Read chapter 1v9-11 Samuel had a Godly mother who dedicated him to the Lord, even before his birth. His very birth was an act of God’s grace (1 Samuel chap 1). Samuel served the Lord in the Temple (v24-28) and learned to love the Lord and hear from the Lord. He would not be a priest because he was not a Levite, but he would become Israel’s greatest Judge and Prophet. Samuel always spoke God’s truth, even when it was uncomfortable. He had to tell Eli of the wickedness of his sons. On many occasions he spoke into the lives of Saul and David. Sadly, Samuel’s sons (who were also Judges) did not follow his ways, which must have been hard for someone so dedicated (Read 8v1-3). Samuel was part of a big change in Israel’s history. The people clamoured for a King ( Read 8v6-9) – against God’s advice – and so it was that Saul was anointed. And 15 years later Samuel anointed David (1 Samuel 16) – although it would be a further 15 years before Saul died and David was crowned King of Israel. Read 1 Samuel chapter 25v1 When Samuel died, he was mourned by all Israel – the mark of a great man of God. He was succeeded by the prophet Nathan. Q. So how was God’s grace shown through Samuel? Consider, the period when he lived, his parents, his reliance on God, his prayers for Israel etc. and what happened after he died.

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2.

King Saul

In the beginning Saul was appealing as King because he was attractive in stature and nature (1 Samuel 10v17-27). But in later years he became: Self-willed and self-reliant Read 1 Sam 13 v11-14 Disobedient (stole the sheep) ‘’ ‘’ 15v11-19 Jealous of David and full of hatred ‘’ ‘’ 18v7-9, 19v1 Superstitious, sought out a medium ‘’ ‘’ 28v8 Committed suicide ‘’ ‘’ 31v1-4 The facts speak for themselves. Saul was a man destroyed by his own jealousy. Instead of working with God’s plans and purposes he set himself against them. So why did God ask Samuel to anoint Saul in the first place? And how did God show his grace throughout this episode? Read 1 Samuel 13v13-14 The kingdom would be stripped from Saul and given to another. Because Saul was the kind of king the people thought they wanted, and yet his heart was far from God. We could say that Saul’s reign is a strange kind of grace that God shows his people. He could have let Saul’s selfish, godless reign end in the destruction of the nation. Instead, God used Saul to teach the people what a king should really be and to prepare them for the coming of a king after His own heart. God’s grace is shown, not by what we can do, but by how much our heart is in tune with Him. 3.

King David

God’s grace shines through in David’s life in the following ways: 1.Read 1 Samuel 16v11-13 David was the youngest one who had been overlooked, but God chose him above his warrior brothers. In the power of the Lord David went out and slayed Goliath (next chapter). 2. Read 2 Samuel chapter 9v2-7 God showed David grace by saving him from powerful enemies, but at the same time giving him a heart of grace which made him want to care for Saul’s offspring – e.g. Mephibosheth, who was Jonathan’s son. David virtually adopted Mephibosheth by bringing him to live in his house and providing for him. Mephibosheth was the “enemy” but David poured out his grace – because he had God’s heart. This is a picture of what Christ has done for us – adopting us into his family. 3. Read 2 Samuel verses 11b-16 “The Lord declares …” The prophet Nathan delivered this prophecy to David concerning these things. Jesus was the Son of God and the Son of David, in fulfilment of these Scriptures. And whilst David (who lived approx. 1000 years before Christ was born) could not really have known the meaning of this, at the same time he had an appreciation of God’s love, the fatherhood of God and the grace and mercy of God – unknown to most others at the time. Read 7v18-29 to see David’s response to this prophesy. We begin to see the kind of man God had in mind for King. God’s ultimate King would be Jesus, whose throne would be eternal. So, God showed his amazing grace through David by: • establishing an eternal throne 10


• • •

beginning with David the inheritance by David’s line (Judah) being in close relationship with him

All these things pointed to Jesus Christ: • whose throne will last forever • who is King over all the earth • who is the Lion of Judah • who also calls God ‘Father’ 4. Read 2 Samuel 11v1-5 and verses 14-17 In those days, according to the Law, David deserved punishment for adultery and murder. He could have got away with it – he was King and kings had done a lot worse. But David knew he was answerable to God. He knew he had spoilt his relationship with God and sought God in repentance (Read 2 Sam. 12 and Psalm 51). God acted graciously toward him – but David was also punished, when Bathsheba’s child by him died. David would suffer mentally, but not spiritually – he did not lose eternal life. What a wonderful picture of God’s grace! We can know forgiveness of sins and know that we have a place prepared for us in Heaven. We can know our relationship with Father God restored.

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Grace and Hope – 1 Kings – Solomon It should be noted that Solomon’s glorious reign and the opportunities afforded to him were a result of the grace of God working through David’s life. God had enabled him to fully unite the twelve tribes of Israel; so that there was peace in the land when Solomon acceded to the throne. Solomon’s story is in the first 11 chapters of 1 Kings. Chapter 1 Read verses 11-14: The story begins with rivalry between David’s eldest son, Adonijah, and Solomon. The prophet Nathan and Bathsheba inform David (on his deathbed) that Adonijah is claiming to be King over Israel. But David proclaimed that Solomon would be king according to his promise – read verses 29&30. Chapter 2 Read verses 1-4: David’s time to die has come, but not before he gives Solomon some words of guidance and advice. He is to live a godly life and he must rid the country of enemies of the Lord’s work (Adonijah v13-25; Abiathar v26,27; Joab v28-35; Shimei v36-46); and he is to show kindness to those who follow the Lord’s ways. Sometimes, like Solomon, we need to be strong in order to protect the work of the kingdom. (Read v 44-46) Q. How might this apply to us in our everyday lives – and how can we show grace at the same time? Chapter 3 Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter, thereby strengthening the alliance between the two countries. Read v 1 and 5-15: Solomon, like us was far from perfect, but he famously prays for wisdom and is promised more than he asked God for (v9 & v12). And in verses 16-28 we can read the well-known story of how his wisdom was put into action (2 women, 1 baby). Note: The ‘high places’ denote the place where the Tabernacle was kept at that time. Have you noticed how many of the gifts of the Spirit are based on God’s grace? Gifts such as wisdom, healing, knowledge etc. all given that we might help one another. And like Solomon, we only have to be willing to obey God and to ask for them without any selfish motive.

Chapter 4 In this chapter we can read about Solomon’s retinue – his officials, the governors and the army commanders; also the amazing amount of produce that was supplied to the Palace every day (250 animals!); and the extent of Solomon’s wisdom. Read verses 29-34 Q. What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge. How does God’s grace help us to use them wisely? 12


Chapter 5 Preparation for building the Temple. Read v 1-6 and 13-18 Solomon took advantage of King David’s friendship with Hiram of Tyre (who was half-Israelite), so that he could get mighty cedars from Lebanon for the building of the Temple. Note: The cedars grew to 100’ long and could support the roof of the Temple. The wood was tied together into rafts which were floated 100 miles south by sea to Joppa. Solomon also used conscripts to cut wood and forced labour (153,000 aliens in the land) to quarry and cut the stone; he also appointed many stone masons dress and shape the stone. Solomon’s objective was to bring worship back to the core of Israel – to put God in his rightful place – and to glorify God amongst the nations. Chapter 6 The importance of the Temple, and God’s promise. Read verses 11-13 So, the Temple was built 500 years after Moses had built the Tabernacle. It was built on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem (the place where Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac and God provided a ram as a substitute). It was 90’ long, 30’ wide and 45’ high. The building was built of dressed stone, clad inside with cedar boards. The inside of the Holy place was covered with gold – even the floor! The curtain before the most Holy Place was very thick, woven with at least 5 yarns. No expense was spared. The whole area of Jerusalem became known as Zion – the City of God. Q. Today we experience our politicians making trading deals etc and we see how difficult it is to get other nations to work alongside us. How do you think Solomon was able to accomplish this so effectively?

Chapter 7 Read verses 1-12 – Solomon’s own Palace It took nearly twice as long to build as the Temple and was nearly twice the size! But it did include the Throne Room and the Hall of Justice. Solomon also built many surrounding buildings and the city walls. It was a golden age of expansion, wealth and peace for the whole country. Chapter 8 The Dedication of the Temple Read verses 10 and 11 The glory of the Lord and his awesome presence fell among the Priests. 2 Chron 7v1 tells us that the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering because the priests were unable to minister. And all the people of Israel surrounding the Temple knelt and worshipped God. God then renewed the Covenant with Solomon that he had made with David – read verses 17&18. Q. How does this kind of experience of God’s grace and presence change our lives?

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Chapter 9 Read v 25 From this verse and from 2 Chron 7v17&18 we see that Solomon was serious in his intent to follow the Lord’s ways and the Lord blessed him with great wealth, for example read verse 28. Chapter 10 Read verses 1-5 and v 10 The Queen of Sheba – probably well-known for her own splendour (she gave him 4 tons of gold!) was overwhelmed by the riches and wisdom of Solomon. Solomon’s greatness and God’s glory were known far and wide. This was the pinnacle of Solomon’s greatness. But … he was heading for a fall! Chapter 11 Read verses 1-4 How sad. We can read what happened next in verse 9-13. The nation would again be split. But for David’s sake God would protect a remnant from Judah so that he could continue his work of grace down through the centuries. Solomon dies at the age of 60. His reign lasted 40 years and he was succeeded by Rehoboam, his son. The country was once again split into two factions. The Temple was razed to the ground by the Babylonians about 350 years later. Q. In Judah, for the sake of David, how did God find a way to show his grace and keep his covenant?

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Grace and Hope – 2 Kings After the death of Solomon, it wasn’t long before the Kingdom split into 2: the ten tribes in the north (referred to as Israel, sometimes Ephraim) and the two tribes in the south (referred to as Judah). Elijah served as prophet in the reign of Ahab and Jezebel and his message was largely one of judgment. Elisha prophesied during the reigns of Joram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Joash. Elisha’s prophetic message was one of grace. It has been said that in many ways Elijah was a figure of John the Baptist, whilst Elisha was a figure of Jesus Christ. Return to this thought at the end. Together they show the two sides of God’s character: Law and Grace ELIJAH Elijah’s story is recorded at the end of 1 Kings and the beginning of 2 Kings. He was a major character in the Old Testament, and this is reinforced by references to him in the New Testament. On the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus met with Elijah and Moses. In James 5v17,18 it says of him: “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit”. •

Why Elijah prayed and how God provided, by his grace

Read 1 Kings 17v1 Ahab had been corrupted by his queen, Jezebel. They ruled over the 10 northern tribes of Israel and were known for their wickedness and disobedience of God. Elijah’s prayer for drought was judgment on Israel for Ahab’s sin. But drought meant famine. Read 1 Kings 17v5,6 Elijah had to flee after delivering the word of judgment and God used the river and the ravens to provide for him. Read 1 Kings 17v10-14 In the time of famine God provides for his own. And here we have an amazing miracle – flour and oil to sustain Elijah until he moved on, but the supply would continue for the widow for three and a half years until the drought came to an end! Read 1 Kings v17-21 Had it all gone wrong – or was God just encouraging people to trust in Him? Again, Elijah prays the “effective fervent prayer”. So that in verse 22 we see God answering prayer. Although God had sent judgment, he was graciously building up trust.

Why Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal and what happened

Read 1 Kings 18v4 and 16-18 Evil Jezebel had persuaded King Ahab to accept the worship of pagan gods and was killing off Israel’s prophets. This was why the country was suffering. Elijah – one man willing to risk his life – challenged the 450 prophets of Baal to a showdown to prove to King Ahab that God was Lord over all. 15


Read 1 kings 18v25-29 and 30-40 Verse 24: “The God who answers by fire – he is the true God.” The prophets of Baal could evoke no response from their “god”. The true God of Israel sent the fire and caused the people to fall down in recognition of his mighty power. This resulted in Elijah’s prophesy that, after three and a half years of drought and famine, rain was on its way (despite the clear blue sky!). •

Why Elijah was discouraged and how God showed him grace.

Read 1 Kings 19v1,2 Elijah became afraid and discouraged and fled for his life. God fed him with bread and drink from an angel, which sustained him for 40 days while he travelled to Horeb, “the mountain of God” – the place where God gave Moses the 10 commandments. In this very place Elijah was confronted with a powerful wind, an earthquake and a fire – demonstrations of God’s powerful presence (v11-12). But when God spoke, it was in a gentle reassuring whisper. God told him he was not alone (there were still 7,000 believers in Israel!), and He instructed Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor so he knew he would have backup. God’s grace spurred Elijah on. •

How was God’s judgment/grace shown to wicked Ahab and Jezebel?

Naboth’s Vineyard In 1 Kings chapter 21 we can read the story of Naboth’s vineyard. Ahab and Jezebel attempt to gain the vineyard of Naboth through their political power. By arranging Naboth’s death Jezebel is able to secure the vineyard for Ahab. Elijah challenges them and prophesies the destruction of Ahab's house. He also prophesies that Ahab and Jezebel’s bodies would be eaten by dogs. Read verses 25-28 Despite Ahab’s great sin, and because he was repentant and humbled himself, God showed grace and mercy to him (but there would still be the consequences of his sin to be judged: verse 27-29 & 2 Kings 10v17).

Jezebel’s fall – literally! In 2 Kings chapter 9 v 30-37 we can read how Jezebel met her end and how Elisha’s prophecy was fulfilled. Israel’s new King, King Jehu, was commissioned by the Lord to judge the house of Ahab. He visited Jezebel in her tower room and ordered the eunuch servants to throw her out of the window (v32-33). But when they went to retrieve her body for burial they found it had been eaten by the dogs. ELIJAH’S LIFE was defined by the grace of God but his legacy was defined by the judgment of God designed to bring Israel back to himself. 2 Kings 2v11 tells us that Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind – what an amazing end to an amazing life! What grace – to have been spared death! ELISHA Elisha’s story is in 2 Kings. His desire for a double portion of God’s grace enabled him to live in victory. His ministry was more towards ordinary people in contrast to Elijah’s which had been to royalty. Elisha’s ministry began in a very special place – at the River Jordan near Jericho. This was the place where 16


Joshua had parted the waters and entered the Promised Land (Joshua 3v17); it was the place where Elijah had also crossed on dry ground (2 Kings 2v8); it was the place where Elisha repeated the miracle (2 Kings 2v14); and it was the place where John baptized Jesus (John 1v28). Elisha had asked for a “double portion” of Elijah’s blessing. Elisha’s ministry was to be twice as long and have twice as many miracles, as follows: 2 Kings Dividing the Jordon river Healing the bad spring water Procuring water for troops Providing oil in the jars Raising of dead child Healing of poisonous stew Feeding 100 with 20 small loaves Healing of Naaman from leprosy Causing the iron axe-head to swim Smiting the Syrians blind but showing compassion on them

2v14 2v19-22 3v15-20 4v1-7 4v18-37 4v38-41 4v42-44 5v5-15 6v1-7 6v18-20

Elisha’s ministry was one of righteousness but also compassion. Discuss: the similarities between Elijah and John the Baptist; and Elisha and Jesus. Both reveal God to be both righteous, just and full of grace.

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Grace and Hope – Chronicles Summarising and tidying up loose ends 1 Chronicles The first 9 chapters of 1 Chronicles detail the genealogy of God’s people from Adam to the exile; and more specifically those who were in the twelve tribes (at this time, the 10 northern tribes of Israel and the 2 southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin). Chapters 11-27 contain the history of Saul and David, which is mostly also covered in the Book of Samuel. Chapters 28 and 29 lead into the crowning of Solomon as King over all Israel. Solomon’s story was covered in 1 Kings, also in the first chapters of 2 Chronicles. 2 Chronicles 2 Chronicles chapter 10 was a turning point in the history of Israel. From this point Chronicles stops being a summary of the past, and begins the sad account of how the kingdom of Israel split into two – north and south. 2 Chronicles 12 onwards is an account of the kings of Judah in the south, beginning with Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. Read 2 Chron 12v13-16 The chart on the following page (taken from the internet, but I can’t quote the source because there wasn’t one) shows, on the right-hand side, how that all the Kings of Israel were bad, despite the warnings from Elijah and Elisha. Their refusal to follow God’s ways resulted in their captivity at the hands of the Assyrians in 722B.C. Israel in the north was left with very few Jewish inhabitants. Many people from Assyria took up residence in the land and married the natives. These became known as the Samaritans whom we read about in Jesus’ day. Because they were of mixed blood they were never really liked by the Jews – until Jesus came with his message of inclusion. Judah and Benjamin escaped captivity at that time and continued with their own kings and prophets and priests.

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Kings and Prophets of Judah and Israel Judah (and Benjamin) King Reign 1. Rehoboam 2. Abijah 3. Asa

931913

17 years

913911 911870

3 years 41 years

Character

Prophets

Bad

Shemaiah

Bad Good

Israel (Ten Northern Tribes) King Reign 1. 93122 Jeroboam 910 years I 9102 2. Nadab 909 years 90924 3. Baasha 886 years 8862 4. Elah 885 years 5. Zimri 885 7 days 88512 6. Omri 874* years 87422 7. Ahab 853 years

4. 870Jehoshaphat 848*

25 years

Good

5. Jehoram

848841*

8 years

Bad

8. Ahaziah

6. Ahaziah

841

Bad

9. Joram

Bad

10. Jehu

841835 835796 796767

1 years 6 years 40 years 29 years

10. Uzziah (Azariah)

767740*

52 years

Good

11. Jotham

740732*

16 years

Good

732716 716687 687642*

16 years 29 years 55 years

642640 640608

2 years 31 years

608

3 mo

7. Athaliah 8. Joash 9. Amaziah

12. Ahaz 13. Hezekiah 14. Manasseh 15. Amon 16. Josiah 17. Jehoahaz

Good

JOEL

Good

ISAIAH MICAH

Good

Bad Bad ELIJAH Bad

782753*

41 years

Bad

753752

6 mo

Bad Bad

10 years 2 years

18. Pekah Nahum Habakkuk 19. Zephaniah Hoshea

740732* 732712

20 years 9 years

Bad

Bad

12 years 28 years 17 years 16 years

752742 742740

Bad/Repented

Bad

852841 841814 814798 798782

1 mo

Bad Bad

19

* Co-regency

ELISHA

Bad Bad Bad

Bad Bad Bad Bad

722 BC Fall of Samaria to Assyria

18. 60811 Bad Jehoiakim 597 years Daniel 19. 597 3 mos Bad Ezekiel Jehoiachin Jeremiah 20. 59711 Bad Zedekiah 586 years Destruction of Jerusalem, 9th Av, 586 BC, Babylonian Captivity

AHIJAH

Bad

2 years

752

Good

Bad

853852

15. Shallum 16. Menahem 17. Pekahiah

Bad

Bad

11. Jehoahaz 12. Jehoash 13. Jeroboam II 14. Zechariah

Character Prophets

JONAH, HOSEA AMOS


How does all this fit into God’s grace for Israel and for us? • You will see on the left-hand side of the chart how that Judah’s kings were not entirely bad, compared to Israel. In fact, there were 9 good kings (i.e. they followed God’s ways) and 11 bad kings. By His grace and for the sake of those who believed and followed God’s ways, God withheld his hand of judgment, but not just for that reason. • It was also that his eternal promise to David would be fulfilled – that the Saviour would come from the line of Judah. The nation of Judah would not be taken captive by Assyria, and lose their faith and identity like Israel. Yes, through disobedience, they would be taken captive by the Babylonians some 136 years later, but the punishment came with the promise that they would return to Judah after 70 years (Jeremiah 29v10). • God’s grace to those who trust him is that, however we mess up, he provides for a way back for us to be reconciled to Him. So, let’s read about some of Judah’s good kings. Having said that, they may have been good – but they were still far from perfect! Asa – Read 2 Chronicles 14v1-7 and v11 Pagan worship had crept into the culture and Asa did as much as he possibly could to bring Israel back to obedience to the Lord and his commandments. When faced with an attack from Ethiopia’s (Cush) mighty army he cried out to God for help – and God caused the enemy to flee. Lesson: God is always with us when we obey him, but there’s no room for compromise. Jehoshaphat – Read 2 Chronicles 18v28-34 Jehoshaphat foolishly joined forces with Israel’s wicked King Ahab to fight against a Syrian attack. Cowardly Ahab asked Jehoshaphat to wear his kingly robes, but Ahab went into battle in plain clothes. Consequently, it looked like Jehoshaphat would ‘take the bullet’, being such an obvious target. But Jehoshaphat called out to God (v31) and was saved from harm. Lesson: We all make mistakes, but we always have the opportunity to turn to God and cry to him for help. Joash – Read 2 Chronicles 24v2 Joash did indeed do good, as long as the priest lived. But sadly, he was doing it for the priest and not for the Lord. As soon as Jehoida died Israel slipped back into idolatry. When the new priest rebuked Joash, Joash ordered his execution! Lesson: A borrowed faith is not good enough and is not real. Will our faith stand when we are on our own? Amaziah – Read 2 Chronicles 25v1-7 Amaziah knew what was right but he didn’t always do what was right because he became arrogant and self-serving in his leadership. Lesson: Hoping to obey God without heartfelt love and motivation is nothing more than wishful thinking. God has to come first. Uzziah: Read 2 Chronicles 26v16-21 We know from 2 Kings 15 that Uzziah’s reign began well, and that the nation prospered for his 52 year reign. But – pride set in. He thought he was above God’s Law, and attempted to do only what was allowed by the priesthood. The result – God struck him with leprosy. Lesson: As we get older and “better” we should not let pride enter our hearts. 20


Jotham – Read 2 Chronicles 27v6-9 and 2 Kings 15v35 Jotham took to the throne when his father, Uzziah, was struck with leprosy. He was a good leader, but he did not destroy the high places of idol worship. And although Uzziah and Jotham were basically good, Jotham’s son, Ahaz, became Judah’s most wicked ruler. Lesson: We may think we are leading good lives, but are we missing what is most important? That is, putting God first, and teaching our children God’s ways. Hezekiah – Read 2 Chronicles 29v1-10 and 2 Kings 20v3 Hezekiah followed Ahaz’s 16 years of wicked reign. He resolutely stamped out idolatry, re-opened the Temple (Ahaz had nailed it shut!), and re-instituted the offerings and Passover. It was a time of reformation for Judah. Hezekiah took the initiative and got on with what he knew was right. Lesson: Do we feel powerless when we look at the problems in our communities? Are we powerless – or can we take the initiative and do something about it? Manasseh – Read 2 Chronicles 33v1-6 and v12&13 Manasseh was Hezekiah’s rebellious son. To begin with he was instrumental in leading the people astray. He brought idolatry and witchcraft into the Temple and even sacrificed his own children to the god Molek. How is he in the list of good kings? He cried out to God in humility and repentance – and God restored him. And on returning to Jerusalem he cleansed the Temple and made regular offerings to God. Lesson: God’s grace is far greater than any sin we can commit – he can change the hardest of hearts. Josiah – Read 2 Chronicles 34v3&4 and v18&19 Josiah followed another bad king, Amon, who had undone all Manasseh’s work. Josiah was zealous and thorough in his mission to cleanse the Temple and the country of idols. When a Book of Law was found in the Temple Josiah was so humbled by God’s commandments that he tore his clothes in repentance and commitment. Lesson: Nothing should take a higher place in our lives than God. Do we really know and follow God’s word? This Book speaks of judgment, but more importantly, of God’s GRACE. For judgment: Read chapter 36 verses 15-21. But for Grace: Read chapter 36 verse 24 This Book which records the records of all the Kings and their sins finishes with the prophecy of Jeremiah in Jer. 25v11 coming true. The people were taken captive by the Babylonians, but 70 years later under the Persians they were able to return to their homeland of Judah (unlike the 10 tribes of northern Israel who were taken by the Assyrians and were dispersed around the world). God’s grace to Judah, David’s line, the line of Jesus, and ultimately all us who believe in Him will ever endure – because he has promised and is faithful to his promises.

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Grace and Hope – Ezra-Nehemiah Grace and Hope – Ezra-Nehemiah STARTING OVER AGAIN: New grace – new hope In the Hebrew Bible, Ezra and Nehemiah are one book and have a shared theme: the return of the Jews to Judah, after 70 years of exile. The book covers the period from the fall of Babylon in 539 BC (to Persian rule) to the second half of the 5th century BC, and tells of the successive missions to Jerusalem, of Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah, and their efforts to restore worship of the God of Israel in Jerusalem. EZRA – Ezra was a priest, scribe and expert in the Law (7 v 1-6), he was devoted to God (7 v 10), well respected (7v21), wise (7v25) and Godly (10v1&6). Read Ezra 1v1-4 God moves the heart of Cyrus to commission Zerubbabel, "the prince of Judah", to rebuild the Temple; 40,000 exiles return to Jerusalem led by Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest. God worked through King Cyrus so that, not only could the Jews return to their homeland, they would also be given silver and gold and all the things from the Temple of the Lord that had been stolen by the Babylonians. Questions How would you feel (as an exile) if you could go back to your homeland? What would you think of God’s provision and grace? How would you feel on your return to find the central place of worship in ruins? What similarities do you see with the Book of Esther? How does it encourage you to hear and trust in prophetic words from God? (Jeremiah had prophesied that the exile would only last 70 years). Ezra Chapters 2-6 In Jerusalem, the Jews overcame the opposition of their enemies, and they rebuilt the altar and lay the foundations of the Temple. The Samaritans, who were their enemies, forced work to be suspended, but in the reign of Darius the decree of Cyrus* was rediscovered, the Temple was completed, and the people celebrated the feast of Passover. *The Cyrus Cylinder, allowing all aliens to return to their homeland, can still be seen today in the British museum – you can Google it and see it online. By God’s grace he has preserved this artefact which gives us historical proof of Ezra and Nehemiah’s return from exile. Read Ezra chapter 7 Now it was Ezra’s turn to return to Jerusalem with a second group. The Persian King, Artaxerxes (meaning after Xerxes, who we met in Esther’s story), decreed that the Jews be allowed to go back (v13); animals for sacrifices were to be provided (v17); money was to be given (v22); and Ezra was to be appointed leader (v25). Ezra’s response was to praise God for his grace and provision (v 27&28). Ezra chapters 8-10 Ezra leads a large body of exiles back to the holy city, where he discovers that Jewish men have been marrying non-Jewish women. He tears his garments in despair and confesses the sins of Israel before God, then braves the opposition of some of his own countrymen to purify the community by dissolving 22


the sinful marriages. One other major problem remains: The city walls had not been rebuilt – Jerusalem was unfortified and lay open to siege. Enter Nehemiah. Nehemiah, the cup-bearer to king Artaxerxes, is informed that Jerusalem remains without walls. ... Artaxerxes commissions him to return to Jerusalem as governor, where he defies the opposition of Judah's enemies on all sides—Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs and Philistines—to rebuild the walls. But first of all, Nehemiah prayed (1v4-11) and waited for God’s timing. (Four months elapses between chapter 1 and chapter 2). Part of Nehemiah’s prayer was that God would show him grace and favour in the presence of the King. (Read 1v11) Nehemiah was to continue to need God’s grace when he was in Jerusalem trying to rebuild the walls – because of the opposition, particularly from Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem (2v19&20). And then further grace was needed when he met with opposition from within his own ranks. Read chapter 4v6-14 It is as we receive God’s grace that we are able to show that grace to others, and sometimes we need to know how to use it. Q. What is the difference between an enemy of God’s work and a non-Christian? What example did Nehemiah give? Read chapter 5v14-19 The earlier governors of Israel had taken taxes from the poor people in the form of silver, food and wine. But Nehemiah says that he: • Never took food for himself from the workers • Worked with the labourers building the walls • Fed 150 Jews and officials at his own table Nehemiah showed the grace of God and led by example. Chapter 8 – A great day of celebration Chapter 6 v15 tells us that the wall was completed on 25th Elul and it had taken 52 days, despite all the opposition the job was done. This was followed by a census of the returned exiles as listed in chapter 7 – and after that, a great celebration – beginning with a reading of the Law by Ezra to all the people. It took 6 hours(!) but we read (v3) that all the people listened attentively. Ezra praised the Lord and all the people responded by worshipping the Lord (v6). In fact, they were all weeping with a sense of their guilt, but Nehemiah encouraged them to receive God’s forgiveness and rejoice in the fact that “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (v10). They knew they had been guilty, but God showed them his grace and mercy and forgiveness. Chapters 9&10 The people got right with God and Nehemiah encouraged them by recounting how God had always delivered them throughout their history. In all that had happened to them God had remained faithful (v33). He then went on to propose that they renew their covenant with such a gracious God. Chapter 10v30-39 The people promise to: • Encourage their children to marry within the faith • Keep the Sabbath holy, no work or trading 23


• Give money to the upkeep of the Temple • Take turns in providing wood to burn upon the altar • Bring the first fruits of their crops/cattle to the Temple • Bring a tithe of their crops to the Levites They had accepted God’s grace and wanted to do something about it. Chapter 12 All the people from the region around Jerusalem then joined in a dedication of the wall: Leaders, musicians, 2 choirs, worshippers. Read verse 42 – there was much joy. Nehemiah was to continue to need God’s grace in his life and to rely on God’s leading. The very last verse of the Book is telling: Read chapter 13v31b “Remember me with favour, my God”, meaning – continue to show me your Grace. We always need God’s grace!

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Grace and Hope – Esther In this story we can see God’s grace and who is really in control. The Book of Esther is a pearl during a terrible time for the Jewish nation. The tribe of Judah had been exiled by the Babylonians. Some time later the Persians conquered the Babylonians. They were world dominators, ruling as far as the border with India in the east, across to Egypt and Libya in the west. The story of Esther begins in the Palace of the Persian King Xerxes (pronounced Zerk-sees), the most powerful man in the world at that time. Characters: King Xerxes, Queen Vashti, Haman, Mordecai, Esther Chapter 1 – Read verses 3 and 10-12 King Xerxes decided to hold a banquet in his opulent Palace to show off his wealth, it was a party which would last 6 months (v4)! One day when the king who was drunk (v10) wanted to parade his wife Vashi before the nobles he was to suffer humiliation when she would not accede to his request. Immediately she was demoted – no longer to be Queen. The result of this was that the King passed a law that all women must respect and obey their husbands – or face the consequences. This was a king who held people’s lives in his hands. But by acting as he did, King Xerxes had unwittingly started a process that was to enable God to work through his people, as the king began a search to replace his Queen. At this stage who was in control? Chapter 2 – Read verses 5-12 The king’s men searched in every province in the realm (127 in all) for the most beautiful virgin; by definition, probably quite young teenage girls – and so a frightening thing for many of them. And Esther, a Jewish orphan being looked after by her uncle, Mordecai, was chosen to be one of the candidates. She was given beauty treatments and instruction – but we read, she did not reveal her faith. Verse 17 reveals that Esther was chosen to be the new queen. Read verses 21-23 – Mordecai hears of an assassination plot and tells Esther. The 2 men are hanged for treason and Mordecai’s part has been recorded in the Palace Log. Despite the character of King Xerxes Mordecai and Esther are obeying the words of Jeremiah, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile”, just as we are expected to obey our rulers and pray for them – whoever they are and whatever they are like. Chapter 3 – Read verses 1-7 9 years later - Enter evil Haman – the encapsulation of all who hate the Jews, in other words an “antichrist” – like many before and after him. Haman was elevated by the king, but Mordecai would not bow the knee to Haman. Haman told the king and the king agreed (he was also offered a bribe of 10,000 pieces of silver) to a law being passed that all Jews in his vast kingdom would be killed on 12th of Adar. Who was in control now? Verses 12-15 describe the terrible day when the people hear of the law to kill them. Chapter 4 – Read verses 1-3, 6-8, 12-14, 15-16 Verses 1-3 imply mourning and repentance. Esther heard about it later from one of the servants (v4,5). Mordecai sent her a letter to explain what was happening and to ask her to intercede with the king on behalf of the Jews. But there is a problem – the Queen cannot enter the Kings presence without him first sending for her. So, she asks Mordecai for prayer (she could lose her life if she did not find favour with the king). Who was in control now? 25


Chapter 5 – Read verses 1-4, 9-12, 14 At the risk of losing her life Esther stands before the king and is invited to speak – she keeps the king happy, but she has a plan! She has to play her cards right for the sake of God’s Name and his people. She knows the king likes Haman and also likes a good party. And Esthre has asked Haman to the party. Haman was responding to flattery just as she hoped he would – telling everyone how marvelous he was. But in verse 14 we see that he goes along with his wife’s suggestion to ask the king if he can execute Mordecai (not knowing that he is Esther’s uncle). Chapter 6 – Read verses 1-3 The comic irony is wonderful – you cannot read this story without laughing. During the night, the king reads the Palace Log and realizes that one Mordecai had saved him from assassination (2v21-23). Even before Haman can condemn Mordecai to death, God is working to save him. Read verses 4-11 How the mighty are fallen!! Haman was asked to publicly exalt the one he had intended to kill! How humiliating for him. But, he didn’t know there was worse to come. It was now time for him to go to Queen Esther’s banquet. Chapter 7 – Read verses 1-6 At Esther’s banquet, the king asks for her request. She had the king’s favour – but she also had the favour of God as his grace worked in her life. With great courage she told the king of the law which had been passed to annihilate all the Jews, including herself. The furious king ordered Haman’s death – impalement (v9,10) on the very pole that Haman had erected for Mordecai’s execution!! Now who was in control? Chapter 8 – Read verses 2, 7&8, 11 Mordecai now had all that belonged to Haman – position and land, and at last he could be with Esther. But Esther could not be happy until she knew the Jews would be safe. The Laws of the Medes and Persians could not be revoked so the king had to find a way round this. Mordecai was allowed to write the new law (v8).The Jews would all be given warning of the date and provided with arms so that they could defend themselves on the day of attack. Things were changing. Instead of hating the Jews, people were fearing them and wishing to join them (v17). Instead of going in secret, Mordecai now walked the palace in royal robes (v15). The God of the Jews was revealing his power and glory – and He was in control! Chapter 9 – Read verses 3&4, 10b, 20-22 Note: they were only fighting those seeking their destruction, but no-one could stand against them because of the influence of Mordecai. They completely dealt with the enemy (in the form of Haman's 10 sons). They killed only for justice - to eradicate God's enemies - not for gain (v.10) because they didn’t take any plunder, even though the king had said they could. CELEBRATIONS! 14th and 15th days of Adar were designated as days for thanking and praising God for their deliverance from Haman’s law. Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jews from their enemies, and continues to do so throughout history. The Feast of the Jews mentioned in John 5v1 was likely to have been Purim. It is usually celebrated in early Spring. Chapter 10 – Read verses 1-3 Mordecai and Esther were God’s people, like Joseph and Nehemiah, who were used by God to change the events of history and bring deliverance to God’s people. 26


Key verse: Esther 4v14b - Who knows, but that you have come to your royal position “for such a time as this”. God’s people were in the right place at the right time. They prayed and waited and acted, and God used them to bring salvation to the Jews. Final questions: 1. Who is never mentioned in this story of Esther? Can you think of a reason why? 2. Who was in control the whole time? How can this help us in our situations? ____________________________________________________________________ Notes Periodically, in history, Satan attempts to bring about the destruction of God's chosen people. 500 years after Haman, the Herod dynasty also set themselves against Jesus, John the Baptist and Peter etc. The Herods were Roman appointed "Kings of the Jews" - puppet kings, put in place as "necessary peacekeepers". But their own power was of greater importance to them and they opposed the 'threat' of Christianity. Herod the Great Had several of his own children and at least one wife killed, and he ordered the killing of the infants in Bethlehem (Matt 2 v 16) to try and kill Jesus. Herod Antipas Imprisoned and executed John the Baptist (Matt 14 v 6-9), and he concurred in the execution of Jesus (Luke 23 v 12) by handing him to the Romans. Herod Agrippa 1st Arranged the murder of the apostle James and imprisoned Peter (Acts 12 v 1-7 & 23) who would also have died if God hadn't miraculously opened the prison doors. Herod Agrippa 2nd Rejected gospel preached by Paul and had incestuous relationship with own sister. ________________________________________________________________ Haman, Herod, and more recently, Hitler. WHY? Do they merely have a hatred of the Jews, or is there a deeper reason? If they had a hatred of God, then who was ruler of their lives? What power does Satan have in this world? Are there any limits? KNOW YOUR ENEMY! Satan is sometimes permitted to afflict God's people: Job 1v12 Satan claims to have authority over this world: Luke 4v6 Sinners are under Satan's rule: Acts 26v18 Satan fights against the saints: Ephesians 6v12 and Zechariah 3v1 Satan deceives people into believing lies: 2 Thess 2v9 and John 8v44 Satan is the tempter: Genesis 3v4, 5 and Matt 4v1 Satan tries to stop people from hearing/reading the Word of God: Matt 13v19 Satan instigates sin: John 13v2 Satan is the adversary of all who believe: 1 Peter 5v8 BUT : Never forget

The one who is in you (Jesus) is greater than the one who is in the world (Satan). 1 John 4v4

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The Estuary Elim Group of Churches are three Essex based Elim Pentecostal Churches in Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend on Sea with a shared Leadership team. We are a group of people responding to the love of God and the life changing message of Jesus Christ. Our services are lively with contemporary music, worship and preaching and teaching relevant to the 21st Century. To find out more about us visit www.estuaryelim. church Whether you are new to church, someone with questions or a committed Christian, we want to serve you and help you discover and fulfil God’s purpose for your life. If you would like an opportunity to email or talk to one of the team email your contact details to info@estuaryelim.co.uk and we will get back to you. The Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend Elim Pentecostal Churches are branches of The Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance (Registered Charity No. 251549)

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Grace and Hope in the History Books: Joshua - Esther  

Bible Studies on Grace and Hope in the Old Testament History Books: Joshua - Esther

Grace and Hope in the History Books: Joshua - Esther  

Bible Studies on Grace and Hope in the Old Testament History Books: Joshua - Esther

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