“Hanging Together Or Hanging Separately?” – One Year Bible Reading – August 19

Old Testament:  Esther 4:1-7:10

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Esther 4:1-7:10   Talionic Justice

Yesterday, we learned of a young Jewish lady named Esther.  Her parents had died and she was being raised by her uncle, Mordecai.  Summary of yesterday’s reading:  Persian king and wife have a domestic disturbance so he dismisses her.  A Miss Persia contest yields a gorgeous, young wife, Esther who unbeknownst to the king is Jewish.  One of the king’s anti-semitic aides Haman, tricks the king into exterminating all the Jews because one of them, Modecai will not show him proper respect.

Picking up in chapter four, Mordecai mourns in sackcloth and ashes when he realizes that his people are about to be exterminated.  All the Jews went into mourning.  Esther sent clean clothes to Mordecai. Mordecai sent back word to Esther of exactly what Haman had done with the exact amount of money he was paying the king to get the job done.

Esther reported back to Mordecai that no one could approach the king without being summoned even the queen upon penalty of death.  The only exception is that the king could put out his scepter to anyone who approached and they wouldn’t be killed.  The king had not asked for Esther for a month.

Mordecai replied back to Esther that she shouldn’t think all the Jews would be exterminated and she would be spared.  Here is the key to the book of Esther, verse 14, “who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”  In fact, the center point of the book of Esther is God’s providential care of his people, Israel.  She had been elevated to the place of queen just so she could save the nation.  

Esther asked Mordecai to have all the people fast for three days.  Then Esther said she would approach the king and if “she got offed, she’d get offed” (v. 16).

In chapter five, Esther approached the king and he extended his scepter to her.  The king said, “Whazup, Queenie?” but in Persian.  Esther asked the king if she could throw a banquet and invite Haman.  At the banquet, the king asked Esther what she really wanted.  She said that she would tell the king the next day at another banquet.  Haman went out skipping and jumping relishing the joy from being in the king’s company.  His mood was soured when he saw Mordecai at the gate who wouldn’t show him any respect.  Haman was torqued.  His wife cheered him up, “Just ask the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows when you see him in the morning and then go and enjoy the banquet with the queen” (v. 14).  So Hangman, I mean, Haman had the gallows erected.

In chapter six, the king couldn’t sleep one night so he had the book brought to him that had everything noteworthy that had happened during his reign.  While it was being read to him he was reminded that Mordecai had saved him from being assassinated.  The king asked if Mordecai had ever been given a reward and he found out that he hadn’t.  Just at that moment Haman came in to ask the king to off Mordecai on the gallows.  So the king asked Haman’s advice as to what should be done for a national hero.  Haman, thinking he was the national hero, told the king that the best honor would be a parade through town clothed with game worn royal robes and horse.  An announcer would proclaim, ‘Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor” (v. 9).

Haman was ecstatic!  Then the king said, “Great ideas.  Now get the clothes and horse and honor Mordecai just as you described.”  You could have knocked over Haman with a feather.

Haman hurried home as a snake after winning a Nathan’s hotdog-eating contest.  His wife said that if Mordecai was Jewish that he was going to be in a lot of trouble but not to get hung up over it.  While they were still conversing, the king’s eunuchs whisked him away to the banquet.

In chapter seven, the king asked the queen again at the second banquet what he could do for her.  The queen said, “well, if you really want to know, it’d be good if you could spare my life and the life of my people” (v. 3).  She explained that her people had been sold to be destroyed, killed and also annihilated (v. 4, cf. John 10: 10).  The king asked her, “Who would do such a thing?”  The queen motioned toward Haman with her thumb and said, “this wicked guy” (v. 6).  Haman did his best Casper the Ghost imitation.

The king was torqued and got up to go to the palace garden.  Haman stayed at the banquet to beg Queen Esther for his life.  Haman was leaning over the couch by Esther when the king returned.  The king got the wrong idea that Haman was hitting on her.  Harbonah, one of the eunuchs, pointed out to the king that a gallows had already been put up over by Haman’s house for the express purpose of offing Mordecai.  The king said, “Good.  Hang Haman on it” (v. 9).  So they did.  Then the king calmed down.

New Testament:  1 Corinthians 12:1-26

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1 Corinthians 12:1-26    Hanging Together Or Hanging Separately?

There are four chapters on spiritual gifts in the New Testament.  One is here.  The others are easy to remember.  Two are chapter twelves and two are chapter fours.  Romans 12 has a bit on gifts, as does 1 Pet. 4 and Eph. 4.  This is the most extensive portion on gifts since the Corinthians were having so many problems with them.

Again, pride is a problem at Corinth.  The gifts were to be used for the body, not to puff someone up.  Of course, they were being prideful.  Paul begins by telling them that no one curses the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit.  By the same token, no one can truly say Christ is Lord (v. 3, cf. Matt. 7:21, 22 for example of false prophets) by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul goes on to explain that there are many different gifts (v. 4) but the same Holy Spirit empowers them.  Everyone is given at least one spiritual gift (v. 7).  Paul lists several gifts, the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongue and interpretation of tongues.  There are probably more gifts than are listed in the New Testament since there is a lot of overlap and there doesn’t seem to be a definitive  list of gifts.  The Holy Spirit decides who to give the gift He wants to any certain person (v. 11).  Anyone can ask for whatever gift they want but that is not a guarantee that the Holy Spirit would give it to them (v. 31).  Paul encourages them to seek the higher gifts, supposedly the ones at the top of his list having to do with wisdom and knowledge as opposed to tongues which are at the end of the end.  People in the body were making a big deal out of their gift of tongues just as some do today.

Paul draws an analogy of the church body to our physical bodies (v. 12).  He says though there are many members in the physical body, there are also many in Christ’s body.  Verse 13 has been taken out of context quite a bit.  Paul says that the Holy Spirit put us all in one universal body throughout all time.  This is the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.”  Remember the Corinthians’ problem with divisions?  He is telling them that they are all one in Christ (v. 13).

Using his analogy with the physical body, he says, “what if my foot says I’m going to secede from the body because it wants to be a hand,” would it really be able to?  Ears can’t rebel either just because they might want to be an eye.  If a body was only composed of eyes or ears, it’d be a mess (v. 17).  Paul says He has allocated the gifts the way He wants (v. 18).  Eyes and heads can’t say they want to work independent of the hands and feet.  What seem to be the weakest and least important parts of the body are sometimes the most important (v. 23).

If one member suffers, the whole body suffers, Paul says.  How true.  If I get a head cold, my whole body suffers!  So with the body, if one person is hurting, we all hurt.

The point is that there are not any parts of the body that are more important than others, physically or spiritually.  Our church is currently so tiny that if we miss anyone we almost miss everyone!  Large or small, everyone is necessary in the body.  That is the way God has made it.

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