Esther: For Such a Time as This (Part I)
I. DAY ONE
1. As we study the book of Esther, we will have the privilege of seeing God’s sovereign control. Wicked men tried to destroy God’s people, but once again God saves His own. Meditate on Psalm 37 this week as you watch God work through the lives of people who are seeking first His Kingdom. Focus your thought toward God as you slowly read Psalm 37:1-4.
2. Did you know the story of Esther is better known to the ordinary Jew than any other part of the Old Testament? This book became a source of hope for the Jews, and the events recorded in it are celebrated annually in the festival called Purim. Esther lived during the period when the Persians dominated all of western Asia and Egypt. Although the Jews were permitted during this time to return to Jerusalem from Babylon (Ezra 1:1-40), they were still the minority and lived under the organizational rule of the Persian Empire. We will become familiar with several characters in the book of Esther, and learn something from each of their lives.
B. Feed: Begin by reading all of Esther, Chapter 1.
1. How long had King Xerxes been in power when he decided to throw this party?
2. What stands out to you about his preparations and details of the festivities? What is your first impression of Xerxes?
3. Describe some of the details of the party for the men.
4. What do you perceive about this kingdom?
5. Queen Vashti was also giving a party for the women. Women in this time period and culture had no rights whatsoever. They were completely subservient to the men. What happened on the seventh day?
6. What did King Xerxes want her to do?
7. What was her response? Can you understand why she would respond this way?
8. How did the king respond to her refusal?
9. When the king consulted his experts, what was their biggest concern? (vv. 16- 20)
10. What was their solution?
11. How did the king dispatch this royal decree?
12. What would he (the king) now have to do? (v.19)
13. What message was this intended to communicate to all the women of the kingdom?
14. At first reading, you may have a puzzled response to this chapter. It will make more sense as we get deeper into the story. However, as your read, be thinking about the BIG picture–how God orchestrates every day, and sometimes even bizarre situations, into His overall plan for good. What do the following verses say about how God works:
a. Proverbs 19:21
b. Proverbs 16:9
c. Proverbs 20:24
d. Psalm 33:11
15. Was King Xerxes really in control? Are you?
C. Fill: Have you ever made plans and had it all mapped out but then everything went wrong? How do these verses from question 4 encourage you? Do you know that it is God who is in control, and not you? Do you trust Him to lead you? Do you talk to Him before making your plans? Is it difficult for you to completely trust Him with your plans? Talk to Him.
D. Follow: Review Psalm 63:1, and begin memorizing Psalm 63:1-2
II. DAY TWO
A. Focus: Psalm 37:5-9
B. Feed: Read all of Esther 2. Due to the culture of that time and the system of government, some of the circumstances may not sit well with us 21st-century Americans. There are still many cultures today in our world that treat women in degrading and offensive ways. Jesus was radical in the way He treated women with respect and complete fairness. For the purpose of this study, we will look past the cultural defects and focus on the hand of God and the obedience of His chosen people.
- King Xerxes needed to find a new queen. What search system was decided upon?
- Who was Mordecai and what do you know about him?
- Why did Mordecai raise Esther (Hadassah was her Hebrew name; Esther was her Persian name)?
- What kind of relationship do they appear to have? How often did Mordecai check on Esther?
- How did Esther respond to the instructions given by Mordecai?
- What did Esther not reveal about herself?
- Describe the process the virgins went through before they entered the presence of the king.
- The girls who were not chosen by the king, would become one of his many concubines (the harem system); neglected wives who spent their days in idleness. What happened when Esther went to the king?
- What did the king do for Esther and in her honor? (Four years had passed since the king had banished Vashti.)
- Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate. What did he hear and who did he tell?
- Queen Esther reported it to the king. Who did she give credit to?
- How was this incident recorded?
- Although it isn’t directly stated in this chapter, it is obvious that God has granted Esther favor from the king for His purposes (just as he did Joseph and Nehemiah). Think about the risk Esther took in being obedient to Mordecai in this matter. The odds were good that she would end up just another rejected concubine in the harem of the king. She didn’t know the king, or love the king. She simply obeyed her father, Mordecai. She placed her faith in him. She followed his instructions. What do you learn about walking by faith from Esther?
- It seems that Mordecai loved Esther. He checked on her every day. She seemed very willing to obey him. Why is love a great motivator for obedience?
- What statement did Jesus make about this fact in John 14:23?
C. Fill: Esther put herself in a tentative situation out of obedience to her father. We are invited to trust our heavenly Father in the same way. Even when it does not make sense, or when our personal comfort may be at risk. Do you love Him enough to trust Him? Are you willing to obey Him? Getting to know God increases our love for Him. Ask God to nourish your love for Him as you study His word.
D. Follow: In your journal, start recording anything you are learning through your study of Esther. Keep memorizing Psalm 63:1-2.
III. DAY THREE
A. Focus: Psalm 37:10-15
B. Feed: Read all of Esther 3.
1. Who is Haman and what position was given to him?
2. Somehow Mordecai became part of the king’s court at the royal gate (a noble). It’s possible that Esther recommended he be assigned that position. What would Mordecai NOT do?
3. When Haman heard about it, how did he react? What plan did he come up with?
a. How did he explain his plan to king?
b. Did he mention that the people he was referring to were the Jews? How did he describe them? What did he appeal to with the king?
c. The king gave Haman full power (v.10-11). Whose name was written on the royal script? What were the orders?
d. Who received copies of this ‘law’?
e. How did the people of Susa react to the orders?
4. Read Esther 5: 1-8. Can you imagine how Mordecai must have felt at this point? His refusal to acknowledge Haman had jeopardized the whole Jewish race! What did he do?
a. When Esther heard about Mordecai, how did she feel (v.4)?
b. What did she do?
c. What did Mordecai send back with Hathach? What did he request of Esther?
5. Read Esther 5:9-17.
a. What was Esther’s reply to Mordecai?
b. What did she have to fear?
c. When was the last time she had even seen the king?
6. Summarize Mordecai’s reply to Esther.
a. Mordecai knew that God would spare his people somehow, but he also believed that Esther was placed in her position for a purpose. Write out his question at the end of verse 14.
b. What did Esther ask of Mordecai?
c. What was she willing to do?
7. What impresses you about this account? What do you learn from Mordecai and Esther?
C. Fill: Esther is being forced to take her eyes off of herself and her own protection, for the sake of the people of God. She is willing to risk her life. What do you think leads up to this kind of commitment and loyalty? Talk to God about what you are learning.
D. Follow: Think about this question: Who would I be willing to risk my life for? Why? Keep memorizing Psalm 63:1-2
IV. DAY FOUR
A. Focus: Psalm 37:16-20
B. Feed: Read Esther 5:1-8.
1. Who had been fasting and praying for Esther for three days (Esther 4:16)?
a. How did she present herself to the king?
b. What did he offer her?
c. What did she ask for?
2. Does it seem strange to you that Esther didn’t come right out and make her request?
a. Esther, too, had been fasting and praying for three days. What do the following verses teach us about prayer:
- James 1:5
- James 4:3
- James 4:7-9
- Proverbs 2:1-8
b. How do you think this time of prayer prepared Esther to face the king?
c. What if she had just run in to see him the moment she heard the awful news? Do you think her approach would have been different? In what way?
d. What do you learn from Esther about the importance of prayer and prayer support?
3. Esther gives a banquet for the king and Haman. Again, the king asks her for her petition. What is her reply this time? (vv. 6-8)
4. Read verses 9-14. In one word, how would you describe Haman?
a. Why was he so happy?
b. What did he brag about?
c. What stole his satisfaction?
d. What do his wife and friends suggest?
e. What does he have built?
C. Fill: Haman is controlled by his ego and emotions. Esther is controlled by wisdom and patience. What makes the difference? Again, Esther took her eyes off of herself. She focused on God’s plan through prayer and listened to Godly counsel from Mordecai. Haman was consumed by his own comfort and reputation and it drove him to extremes. Who do you identify with more? Do you get consumed with your own life and reputation to the point of hurting others in your path? Or, like Esther, do you take the time to seek God’s viewpoint? Are you willing to overlook what may be best for you, for the sake of the Kingdom (God’s people)? Obviously, we don’t have the power to kill like Haman did, but our attitudes can be just as selfish and destructive. Is there someone you despise? Someone who just gets under your skin every time you see them? Ask God to help you in this relationship and seek Him for wisdom (James1:5).
D. Follow: Plan a time to earnestly pray, seeking God’s wisdom for whatever situation in your life that seems impossible. Ask others to pray for you as you face your challenge (Psalm 63:1-2).
V. DAY FIVE
And who knows that you have come – – –
for such a time as this?
A. Focus: Jesus said that we build a strong foundation as we put His Word into practice (Matthew 7:24). This part of the lesson is a little more abstract than Days 1-4. There are no right or wrong answers. The goal of this day is to solidify in your mind and heart what you are learning from God’s word.
1. Look back over your lesson for this week. For each day’s lesson, write one or two key points:
2. What verses seem to stand out to you from your study?
3. Why did you pick these verses?
4. What is one lesson or principle you want to remember from your study?
5. How will you apply this lesson to your everyday life?
B. Summary: Esther’s Portrait of Kingdom Living, Part I
- What did Esther’s life teach you about living with the Kingdom of God as your primary concern?
- Conclude this lesson by discussing what you’ve written above with your Father.
- Write out your memory verse(s).
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