Choosing Well – Remembering and Being Remembered
Big events often include recalling memories. Graduations bring back the studiousness and the fun of school years. At weddings people often feature pictures of the bride and groom as babies, then growing up, and then dating. Anniversaries are a time for people to reminisce about God holding things together through the years. And funerals – for those who died in Christ – have an element of joy as people stand to give testimony of someone who’s influenced their lives and impacted the kingdom.
A couple of months ago I went to a funeral. When it comes to Christian funerals, I almost like them better than any other kind of celebration. The happy-tears at a home-going and listening to stories filled with humor and love are wonderful. This particular elderly man had been a faithful husband, father, grandfather and friend. And he loved spending his retirement days helping elementary school students in a program we have at our church for local, at-risk kids. He listened to their Bible verse recitations, tutored them in homework and was there to simply listen to them. What made this funeral note-worthy was a group of 7 or 8 of these youngsters who were picked up from school just so they could share their memories of “Mr. Bill.” The unrehearsed testimonies about their appreciation for the little things done by this sweet man were moving.
He chose well.
In this week’s lesson we’ll look at the Jews remembering and being remembered and how we, too, can choose well.
DAYS ONE AND TWO
For Jews, covenant feasts are an integral part of who they are. God instituted seven holidays called “feasts of the Lord” that carefully tell the story of His plan for Israel, depicting Christ’s future work through and for God’s chosen people. (Leviticus 23) They are also for us, now in their fulfilled state, as ones who have been grafted into God’s family by Christ.[i] Purim, the feast established during Esther’s time, is not among the God-required feasts. But, Purim is a biblical feast, arguably the best-known holiday added to the list since Moses’ day.[ii]
A. Read Esther 9:20-32. Celebrations of remembrance have two parts – whether you are a Jew or a Christian. First, the facts. Who, what, where, when, why and how – just like a news story – answer the foundational information of the event’s inception. Secondly, the meaning behind the details. The significance of the occasion, why we should care about it, and most importantly, how God used it for His glory.
1. Some Jews will prepare for the Purim season with a fast, reminiscent of Esther’s 3-day fast prior to approaching the king. Purim itself consists of four main parts: 1) listening to a public reading of the book of Esther, usually at a synagogue, in the evening and again the next morning, 2) sending food gifts to friends, 3) giving charity to the poor, and 4) eating a festive meal. Year after year, the Jews begin the holiday with the facts of the story so that it is in the forefronts of the people’s minds. Because it is written down, the basics do not change. What has happened has happened.
a. Read Exodus 17:8-16. This is another portion of Scripture read by Jews on the morning of Purim. Here we have the first mention of the sons of Amalek, descendent of Esau, coming against the Hebrews under Moses. These are facts that form the foundation for the conflicts in Esther – it connects with the possible heritage of Haman as we learned in lesson 4.
b. To go deeper into this idea of remembering, let’s look at another Jewish holiday. Passover is one of the high holy feasts for Jews that has great significance for the lives of believers. As Jewish families begin to celebrate Passover, the youngest child in the household will ask, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Read Exodus 12 and recount the significant events of the Passover night.
c. As you look over your year or even over the past several weeks of studying Esther, what facts can you write down of a significant work God has done – or is continuing to do – in your life?
2. Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” “Pur” means lot. What seemed to be a chance decision of fate through Haman was actually God’s hand. Sovereign design and deliverance is the centerpiece of Purim. Reviewing the facts puts Ahasuerus’ eviction of Vashti, Esther’s opportunity, Haman’s twisted determination, and Mordecai’s listening post at the palace gate into a constantly fresh and new perspective on meaning for the here and now. God’s hand and plan were in motion in the days of Esther – God’s hand and plans are evident in our lives today.
a. Read Genesis 45:5-8. Write down how Esther could have said those same verses for her situation.
b. To go along with your study of Passover in 1.b, read John 1:29; John 12:24; I Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 9:22 and 1 Peter 1:19. In what ways does Christ fulfill the symbolism woven throughout the Passover facts?
c. What God does for us is often amazing and wonderful, even in quiet and hidden ways. But choosing well means taking those facts and putting them to consistent use in celebrating God’s sovereign hand. Using the significant work you wrote about in 1.c, try to express what it means and how God is glorified in it.
B. As we saw listed earlier, another significant part of Purim is the concept of blessing others. Making food for friends, neighbors and especially giving to the poor are integral to the holiday.
1. Read Leviticus 23:22; Deuteronomy 15:4-8; Nehemiah 8:10; Proverbs 28:27; Psalms 37:21, 26.
2. How are you sharing the bounty God’s given – spiritually and emotionally, as well as physically – with those less fortunate around you? In what ways are you encouraging others to look for and share God’s goodness?
C. Of course, in the definition of “feast” or “holiday” there is the actual celebrating.
1. Purim revelers will often dress up as the various characters of the Esther story and children will act out the narrative. Noise-makers drown out the name of “Haman” each time it is read. Laughter and the joy of God’s deliverance are evident throughout.[iii]
a. Esther 9:27 & 28 emphasize the desire for a lasting, national remembrance in establishing Purim. The Jews made sure the goodness of God was remembered throughout history. “For the honor of God and the encouragement of His people to trust Him at all times.”[iv]
b. Choosing well means allowing your joy to be contagious. How can you make what God has done for you an encouraging celebration for others?
DAYS THREE AND FOUR
Esther 10 is one of the shortest chapters in the Bible. Yet, God often puts important lessons into small packages. Here we can see the impact of the second half of choosing well – being remembered.
A. Read Esther 10. Mordecai’s greatness was written in “the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia.” (vs. 2) Scripture tells us there was a “full account” of his accomplishments, his authority, and his greatness.
1. Ecclesiastes 5:20 says, “God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.” Mordecai’s great, glad calling was seeking the good of his people and being a spokesman for their welfare. (vs. 3)
a. What makes you most satisfied in your service to the Lord?
B. Written accounts are important to God. His memory is trustworthy but ours is not. For us to have a visible reminder of His commands, His desires, His plan and His love for us is what God’s word is all about. Within the Bible are a host of “books” mentioned. Some we still have as individual books of Scripture. Others are historic record to which we don’t necessarily have access, and some are still being compiled.
1. Look up Genesis 5:1; Exodus 24:7, 32:33; Number 21:14; Joshua 10:13, 18:9; 1 Kings 11:41, 14:19; 2 Chronicles 28:26, 35:12; Psalm 69:28, 139:16; Daniel 12:1; Nahum 1:1; Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 20:12, 21:7. Jot down the name of each book mentioned.
C. Writing something whether in a note, a letter, a poem, a journal or a book means it was worthy of remembering. It sets the event or the idea apart, helping both the writer and the recipient or reader to meditate on the thought, inspiring change, action and even further recording.
1. Of the books mentioned in the above Bible passages, which one most stood out to you and why?
2. Psalm 56:8-9 says, “You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; this I know, that God is for me.”(NASB) How does this verse reflect the book of Esther? How does it encourage you in your life?
Throughout this study of Esther, we’ve been challenged to choose to be godly counselors and be a godly advisor, a compliant spirit, to look beyond, brokenness, humility, the way of escape, restraint, veracity, and to stand. With this final lesson we are challenged to choose well in remembering and being remembered.
A. Purim, the culmination of Esther’s story, was a way for the Jews to commemorate an incredible act of God on their behalf. It was to be celebrated annually by Jews everywhere so that the memory would not and could not fade from generation to generation. (Esther 9:28)
1. Think about this for a minute: do we choose to make and set memorial celebrations? How important is commemorating God’s hand in my life?
a. Read 2 Samuel 6:12-19. What did David celebrate? How did he celebrate? Even though Scripture doesn’t indicate a new Jewish holiday being established, I’m sure David remembered each year and it’s recorded for us in Scripture for all time.
b. For me, even seemingly small things are worth remembering with memorial celebrations. The date of the first paycheck of a young business embarked on in faith. Doing something special on a spiritual birthday – still a goal for me. Noting the year my daughter first played her clarinet with our small church orchestra. Keeping my son’s 5-foot-tall award for Bible memory in Awana – in spite of having to dust it. Displaying the little cup from a child’s first communion.
c. What has God done in your life that could be honored and remembered with a memorial celebration?
2. Take a moment to look back over your lessons in Esther. Select the “choosing” that was most significant for you.
a. How could you turn what God has done with that particular choosing into a memorial celebration? What about a yearly fast specifically designed to remember when you chose brokenness? Could you have a tea with friends to talk about those little things you’ve confronted in your lives since choosing veracity? Make and send portions of food to neighbors or church members less fortunate to help them choose to look beyond. Celebrate to remember.
B. In choosing well you will find a lot of daily things happen in life. These are things will most likely never be noticed by anyone – not even by you – except God alone. He sees your heart. He knows when you’ve chosen a compliant spirit and it’s becoming a habit. He feels those moments of choosing restraint when you are so focused on Him that you didn’t even see it as such. Its part of choosing well – being remembered. No matter what, no matter how insignificant, the Father remembers all of them.
1. Malachi 3:16 says, “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and esteem his name.” (NASB)
Thank God right now for all the forgotten and unsung times you have chosen rightly for His glory. Ask Him to keep your heart in such a place that His book of remembrance will be full to overflowing of your “choosings” – for His reading pleasure.
My wedding anniversary is coming up in less than a month. My husband and I are celebrating 19 years. I recently heard that not only does marriage depict Christ’s oneness with the church, but it also gives us a complete picture of God Himself. In celebrating our anniversary, we are celebrating Who God is and His relationship with His people – to be made perfect when He comes again. Then, what a wedding celebration that will be!
Choosing well seizes every opportunity to celebrate not only what He has done, but who He is. Be remembered as one who remembered.
1. The Feasts of the Lord, Kevin Howard and Marv Rosenthal, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, 1997.
2. Ibid., pg. 178.
3. For a deeper understanding of Purim, including its significance for Christians and some of the myths associated with its celebration, go to www.jewsforjesus.org.
4. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Complete and Unabridged in 6 Volumes (Hendrickson Publisher, 1991) Esther 9.
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