SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Esther 8, 9
Key Verse: The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honor. – Esther 8:16
This lesson helps us as Christians to realize our debt to Judaism. Many of the great principles of the Christian faith have their origin in the history of the Hebrews.
The spirit of celebration is embedded in Christianity. Our worship is a celebration of God’s goodness. Even in the worst of times, we do not gather to mourn but to rejoice in God’s mercy. This is evident in the remarkable story of the Prodigal son. The father’s words to the elder son show us the heart of God: “But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke ). Celebration and Christian faith “go together like a horse and carriage,” to use a phrase from an old song. To know Jesus Christ in saving faith is to celebrate!
cardinal principle of our faith is the conviction that in everything God is always working
for the good of those who love him.
Having said that, look at what this Old Testament lesson in Esther teaches us. God was at work! He was able to use a pagan King to deliver his people from the sentence of death. In the story, Esther’s courage and Mordecai’s righteousness are important. This God, who is always able to do “more than we could imagine or think,” uses to persuade King Ahasuerus to save the Jews from execution. Paul, himself a Jew, understood clearly that God is always working behind the scenes for the benefit of his people. Paul’s experience with Christ only reinforced this faith principle that he had gained from his Old Testament studies.
The key idea of today’s lesson is celebration. God turned a day of sadness into a day of rejoicing. The king cannot rescind his own order for the execution of the Jews, so he permits the Jews to arm themselves and organize to defend themselves. Instead of being helpless sheep led to a slaughter, they are able to rebuff and defeat their attackers.
Mordecai orders a two-day celebration of their deliverance, on the 14th and 15th days of the month. This joyous festival, known as “Purim,” became an annual event, a time for giving thanks to God, and sharing food with the poor. God’s grace, his unmerited favor, causes his people to celebrate! The ancient Hebrews used feasts and special days to celebrate God’s deliverance for them. We are, therefore, indebted to the Jews for giving Christianity the principle of celebration.
were important to our Lord Jesus. He transformed Jewish celebrations by giving
them new meaning for his disciples. When we baptize persons, we celebrate the
sacrifice of Christ for our sins (Romans 6:1-11). When we share the Lord’s Supper, we rejoice
that his body was broken for us and that his blood was poured out for the
forgiveness of our sins. Memorial days were significant for the ancient Jews.
Such days are equally significant for the “new”
God is at work! His people have reason to celebrate! When things look dark and dreary, let us remember our heritage and believe that our God is at work, always working for our good. When we see people delivered from darkness to light, from unbelief to faith in Jesus, we have reason to celebrate. God is still in the deliverance business! Almost every week I see with my own eyes someone delivered from the stranglehold of sin to freedom in Jesus. Often when I pray with seekers at an altar, I pray earnestly for their deliverance – that the power of Satan may be broken so that new believers may find sweet refuge in Jesus. There is no sweeter sight than the smile on the tear-stained face of a seeker who has been set free to embrace the love of Jesus. What an honor God gives to those who serve him – to see with our own eyes people experiencing God’s deliverance personally!
Surely, God, who is able, is ready to deliver our friends and family members who are bound in sin. Surely, God desires that we pray earnestly for their deliverance. Should we not be on our knees more, both at home and at church, praying that we may see a fresh work of God in our church? Where believers are praying, even begging, for God to release his delivering power, that church will not be a boring place to worship! God wants to hear and answer the prayers of his people. He is already at work even before we begin to pray.
Friends, God is at work! Let us celebrate with gladness and joy, and give God glory! + + + + (Walter may be contacted at email@example.com)