Choosing to Stand
I just finished reading Revolution in World Missions, a book about the push toward indigenous missionaries during these last days.1 With so many countries closing to Westerners – I’m sure many of you have been in frustrating or even hostile situations – the author reasons that the next big wave of cross-cultural work should be equipping natives to take the gospel to their own and to neighboring, closed countries.
The most compelling part of the book is how these native evangelists are operating with little money and hardly any resources, but are propelled by a great love for God and for the lost. In the face of rejection, extreme brutality, even death, they all have the same mindset – “To live is Christ, but to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) They are choosing to stand in the Valley of the Shadow of Death to save others from hell.
When I was about 7 months pregnant with my son, I went with hundreds of fellow believers from several churches in our city to a busy intersection of town on a Sunday afternoon. We each held a sign with a simple statement against abortion and stood there for 1 hour as cars alternately raced past or slowed down, drivers either shouting in anger or cheering out open windows in agreement.
I was exhilarated. There I was, a former never-getting-married, never-having-children journalist who was out to save the world, now hugely pregnant and standing up for the voiceless unborn.
But then I went to work the next day.
I was still a journalist, working for the local newspaper. A fellow reporter and photographer sent to cover the previous day’s event had seen me and told a couple of editors. So, that Monday morning I was called into the managing editor’s office. As an employee and representative of our newspaper, I was told I had no business “protesting” in such a manner. It was an obvious, direct violation of how an unbiased reporter should be acting. I could have my beliefs – I just needed to keep them to myself.
Should I keep my beliefs to myself? Should indigenous missionaries keep silent? There are things God places on our hearts, situations in which He chooses to place us, that require action. Quite often that action is to simply stand. In our study this week we’ll see how the Jews during Esther’s time chose to stand, what it means and how we can be encouraged to do the same.
DAYS ONE AND TWO
Esther and the Jews of Persia now find themselves in the month Adar – on the very day that the Jews may defend themselves against the likely onslaught of enemy attacks.
A. Read Esther 9:1-4. It’s been 10 months since Haman’s plan was foiled. Under the original edict, the enemies of the Jews were to “gain mastery” over them. Instead, the winds have shifted. The king, the queen, the second-in-command of Persia, the princes, the governors, the satraps and many who might have been originally ambivalent to the situation are all on the side of the Jews.
1. It’s easier to stand when powerful or influential leaders pave the way. There’s a beautiful story about the king of Denmark, King Christian X, who led his nation against the Nazi regime’s edicts and made escape possible for hundreds of European Jews during World War II. When discussing with a member of his cabinet the possibility of the Nazi’s forcing Jews to wear the yellow Star of David even in Denmark King Christian said, “Perhaps then we should all wear it.”2
a. Godly leaders need to follow wisdom far higher than their own to remain effective and righteous. Read Psalm 25:5, 27:11, 31:3, 61:2, 143:10 and Daniel 12:3.
b. As a Christian, you are a leader. In what ways do you need to be willing to step forward? Are you willing to be the first to step forward so that others might have courage to follow?
2. What if the story of Esther didn’t feature such an outpouring of support for the Jews? It isn’t easy to do right when leaders are heading the opposite direction of righteousness. If you are not consistently choosing to stand by seeking God’s face and opinion in all areas of life, you won’t be prepared to stand alone.
a. Read Daniel 6. On a recent Sunday, my pastor pointed out that Daniel didn’t change his behavior when the laws changed. He didn’t suddenly begin praying. Daniel didn’t decide to flaunt what hadn’t been part of his life just because he hoped to defy a bad edict. He simply continued to stand, honoring the one true God he sought day after day and before all else.
b. In what ways can you improve your ability to stand alone before the need arises?
B. In a period of only 10 months, Mordecai’s fame spread throughout all the provinces, according to verse 4. His focus during that short period of time had been to see to it that God’s people were protected. Subjects throughout Persia recognized this power and “the dread” of Mordecai and the Jews was on them. (vs. 2, 3)
1. What was this “dread” really? This particular term is used most often to represent the fear, awe and respect felt in the presence of God and His power.3 It wasn’t Mordecai or even the Jews but the Power behind them that was dreaded – something unexplainable in mere human terms.
2. Read 2 Chronicles 20:1-30. This event during the reign of King Jehoshaphat is one of those amazing situations where God acted on behalf of His people. From this passage, list those actions that reflected an understanding and trust in God’s power taken by the people of Judah.
3. Look at Isaiah 26:12. In choosing to stand we remember that it is God who does the work and any awe or fame we receive is actually His.
a. What works has God done for you as you have chosen to stand for Him? (Have you made sure that others know what God did for you?)
C. Let’s look again at the time factor. It’s been 10 months since Mordecai’s gone from unknown Jew doomed to destruction to being “great in the king’s house.”
1. Looking back over the last 10 months, how have you spent your time? What have you chosen to stand for? What are some goals you would like to make for the next 10 months that could bring greater glory to the Lord?
Sometimes choosing to stand can offend people’s sensibilities.
A. Read Esther 9:5-15 along with Esther 8:11. Ahasuerus didn’t order the Jews to simply attack their fellow Persians. The Jews were given the right to “assemble and defend their lives” by any means possible against those who rose up in hatred against them to kill them. There was even the implication that an army had been amassed against the Jews for this very purpose.
1. There were 800 enemies of the Jews killed in Susa. Though the planned attack on as well as the defense of the Jews was set for the thirteenth of the month, the defense effort in the capital lasted yet another day at Esther’s request. It stands to reason that Haman’s base of operations would have the most opposition to the Jews. But what is interesting is that everything done and all the numbers were reported to the king – perhaps Ahasuerus decided to be more proactive in the edicts of his realm.
2. Against whom could action be taken according to the second edict? (Esther 8:11) But who, ultimately, were destroyed? (Esther 9:6,15)
B. Many don’t believe the Bible is a reliable source of history. In their minds, stories like Esther don’t depict the love of God in an acceptable way – they reason that a God of love would never allow killing, or that God would be more kind and fair. The goal of anyone trying to discredit our faith is to first discredit its source. If God’s Word is in fact correct in its entirety then those who hate the Bible’s contents as well as its Author are in deep trouble.
1. Read Luke 21:33; I Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 1:23. In what situations has God called you to stand for His Word?
2. In what way does God want you to stand that defies what the world has deemed acceptable?
DAYS FOUR AND FIVE
Choosing to stand means staying strong to the end.
A. Read Esther 9:16-19. In the New American Standard the words “to defend” come from the same root as “stand.” In this sense it means “to remain, to endure.”4 I emphasize this because of what we read three separate times in this chapter – “they did not lay their hands on the plunder.” In choosing to kill only armed men and not taking any material property, the Jews were effectively providing for the widows and children of their enemies, even though the edict gave them the right to do otherwise.5
1. Describe a time you chose to give up your rights in order to help someone else.
2. Has anyone ever given up their rights for you?
B. Skim 2 Chronicles 34:1 to 35:19. The story of King Josiah of Judah choosing to stand is inspiring, to say the least. Likewise, the Jews in Esther’s day had permission to do something and instead chose a more honorable way, holding themselves accountable to the king. The Jews under Josiah found they had overlooked some things and chose God’s way, holding themselves accountable to the King.
1. Read again 2 Chronicles 34:29-32. The king stood as he made his covenant. He stood in the sight of his subjects as well as the Lord.
2. In what ways have you made what you stand for clear?
C. Due to the nature of Haman’s plan, inaction was not an option. Life in this world poses many challenges and some with potentially devastating impacts. However, the manner in which we stand may differ from one person to another. One of our family policies is to refrain from watching any movie without doing some research and reading of reliable, Godly reviews first. Not all families are burdened in the same way.
1. Read Ephesians 5:1-17.
2. What are some of the ideas from this passage in which God is calling you personally to stand?
In choosing to stand we acknowledge God as the one source of sustaining power and sovereignty in this world. There is no other basis for life, no other reason to wake up in the morning, no other hope.
Two teenagers have written an absolutely amazing book called Do Hard Things. It’s essentially a call to other young people not to waste time in typical teen apathy and the low expectations associated with that age. Yet, the call to stand and accept challenges God places before us is for all ages. The authors said that when we realize that nothing we do for God is in vain then “doing the hard thing of taking a stand will always be the easiest choice. Through every stand, God will strengthen our convictions and our faith – and we’ll be prepared for even bigger challenges in the future.”6
1. Revolution in World Missions, K.P. Yohannan, gfa books, a division of Gospel for Asia, 1986.
3. Walker, W. L. “Fear,” International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia. Edited by James Orr. Blue Letter Bible. 1913. 1 Apr 2007.
4. Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for `amad (Strong’s 5975)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2008.
5. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Complete and Unabridged in 6 Volumes (Hendrickson Publisher, 1991) Esther 9.
6. Do Hard Things, Alex and Brett Harris, Multnomah, Colorado Springs, 2008, pg. 156-157.
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