Esther 4

Esther Decides to Risk Everything in order to Help Her People

4 Now when Mordecai became aware of all that had been done, he tore his garments and put on sackcloth and ashes. He went out into the city, crying out in a loud and bitter voice. 2 But he went no further than the king’s gate, for no one was permitted to enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth. 3 Throughout each and every province where the king’s edict and law were announced there was considerable mourning among the Jews, along with fasting, weeping, and sorrow. Sackcloth and ashes were characteristic of many. 4 When Esther’s female attendants and her eunuchs came and informed her about Mordecai’s behavior, the queen was overcome with anguish. Although she sent garments for Mordecai to put on so that he could remove his sackcloth, he would not accept them. 5 So Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs who had been placed at her service, and instructed him to find out the cause and reason for Mordecai’s behavior. 6 So Hathach went to Mordecai at the plaza of the city in front of the king’s gate. 7 Then Mordecai related to him everything that had happened to him, even the specific amount of money that Haman had offered to pay to the king’s treasuries for the Jews to be destroyed. 8 He also gave him a written copy of the law that had been disseminated in Susa for their destruction so that he could show it to Esther and talk to her about it. He also gave instructions that she should go to the king to implore him and petition him on behalf of her people. 9 So Hathach returned and related Mordecai’s instructions to Esther.

10 Then Esther replied to Hathach with instructions for Mordecai: 11 “All the servants of the king and the people of the king’s provinces know that there is only one law applicable to any man or woman who comes uninvited to the king in the inner court – that person will be put to death, unless the king extends to him the gold scepter, permitting him to be spared. Now I have not been invited to come to the king for some thirty days!”

12 When Esther’s reply was conveyed to Mordecai, 13 he said to take back this answer to Esther: “Don’t imagine that because you are part of the king’s household you will be the one Jew who will escape. 14 If you keep quiet at this time, liberation and protection for the Jews will appear from another source, while you and your father’s household perish. It may very well be that you have achieved royal status for such a time as this!”

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa and fast in my behalf. Don’t eat and don’t drink for three days, night or day. My female attendants and I will also fast in the same way. Afterward I will go to the king, even though it violates the law. If I perish, I perish!”

17 So Mordecai set out to do everything that Esther had instructed him.

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1 Corinthians 2:1-5

TAKE THE CHALLENGE to go to lunch with “your group” and DISCUSS THE FOLLOWING:
• What programs (routines, plans, preferences, boundaries or personalities) define you/us?
• What is good about your/our programs?
• Give an example of a time when you/we put programs over people.
• What would you/we do differently if, when we gathered, our goal was to MOTIVATE others?
• How would we approach difficult conversations with individuals who don’t follow Jesus if our goal was RECONCILIATION?

2 When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superior eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed the testimony of God. 2 For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling. 4 My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

 

TAKE THE CHALLENGE to go to lunch with “your group” and DISCUSS THE FOLLOWING:
• What programs (routines, plans, preferences, boundaries or personalities) define you/us?
• What is good about your/our programs?
• Give an example of a time when you/we put programs over people.
• What would you/we do differently if, when we gathered, our goal was to MOTIVATE others?
• How would we approach difficult conversations with individuals who don’t follow Jesus if our goal was RECONCILIATION?

2 When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superior eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed the testimony of God. 2 For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling. 4 My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God.

Ephesians 5:25-30

25 Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 26 to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, 27 so that he may present the church to himself as glorious – not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In the same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one has ever hated his own body, but he feeds it and takes care of it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.

Acts 15:13-30

13 After they stopped speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has explained how God first concerned himself to select from among the Gentiles a people for his name. 15 The words of the prophets agree with this, as it is written,

16 ‘After this I will return,

and I will rebuild the fallen tent of David;

I will rebuild its ruins and restore it,

17 so that the rest of humanity may seek the Lord,

namely, all the Gentiles I have called to be my own,’ says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from long ago.

19 “Therefore I conclude that we should not cause extra difficulty for those among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we should write them a letter telling them to abstain from things defiled by idols and from sexual immorality and from what has been strangled and from blood. 21 For Moses has had those who proclaim him in every town from ancient times, because he is read aloud in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to send men chosen from among them, Judas called Barsabbas and Silas, leaders among the brothers, to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. 23 They sent this letter with them:

From the apostles and elders, your brothers, to the Gentile brothers and sisters in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, greetings! 24 Since we have heard that some have gone out from among us with no orders from us and have confused you, upsetting your minds by what they said, 25 we have unanimously decided to choose men to send to you along with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul, 26 who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas who will tell you these things themselves in person. 28 For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: 29 that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from doing these things, you will do well. Farewell.

30 So when they were dismissed, they went down to Antioch, and after gathering the entire group together, they delivered the letter.

Acts 15:1-12

The Jerusalem Council

15 Now some men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 When Paul and Barnabas had a major argument and debate with them, the church appointed Paul and Barnabas and some others from among them to go up to meet with the apostles and elders in Jerusalem about this point of disagreement. 3 So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they were relating at length the conversion of the Gentiles and bringing great joy to all the brothers. 4 When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all the things God had done with them. 5 But some from the religious party of the Pharisees who had believed stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise the Gentiles and to order them to observe the law of Moses.”

6 Both the apostles and the elders met together to deliberate about this matter. 7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that some time ago God chose me to preach to the Gentiles so they would hear the message of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, has testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between them and us, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 So now why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they are.”

12 The whole group kept quiet and listened to Barnabas and Paul while they explained all the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.

Genesis 6:9-22

The Judgment of the Flood

9 This is the account of Noah.

Noah was a godly man; he was blameless among his contemporaries. He walked with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

11 The earth was ruined in the sight of God; the earth was filled with violence. 12 God saw the earth, and indeed it was ruined, for all living creatures on the earth were sinful. 13 So God said to Noah, “I have decided that all living creatures must die, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. Now I am about to destroy them and the earth. 14 Make for yourself an ark of cypress wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you should make it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. 16 Make a roof for the ark and finish it, leaving 18 inches from the top. Put a door in the side of the ark, and make lower, middle, and upper decks. 17 I am about to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy from under the sky all the living creatures that have the breath of life in them. Everything that is on the earth will die, 18 but I will confirm my covenant with you. You will enter the ark – you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 You must bring into the ark two of every kind of living creature from all flesh, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Of the birds after their kinds, and of the cattle after their kinds, and of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind will come to you so you can keep them alive. 21 And you must take for yourself every kind of food that is eaten, and gather it together. It will be food for you and for them.”

22 And Noah did all that God commanded him – he did indeed.