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First — the book of the chronicles.

Xerxes couldn’t sleep, so he asked for the book of the chronicles to be read (Esther 6v1). It is during the reading of the book of the chronicles that he is confronted with the events that had happened some 5 years earlier, where Mordecai had uncovered a conspiracy and thereby saved the king’s life.

We live in an age where there is a belief that we really are the first educated, literate generation. That previous generations were illiterate and, by implication, unintelligent. The Bible records write several times that this or that is “written in the book of such and such”, which stands against this belief by showing that in the ancient Near East, people were actually very literate. So for example:

1 Kings 11:41 (esv) “now the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the Book of the Acts of Solomon?”

1 Kings 14:19 (esv) “now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, how he warred and how he reigned, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel”.

1 Chronicles 9:1 (esv) “So all Israel was recorded in genealogies, and these are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel.”

These are just three references, but there are in fact dozens of them through you the Old Testament.

We also have records of people reading these books. Obviously here, but in 2 Kings 22v1–20, there is an account that one such book was found and read out to King Josiah and this event triggered all of his reforms.

When Moses confirms the covenant with the people in Exodus 24, we are told that “he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.” Exodus 24:7 (niv).

My point here is the significance of writing things down. I want to approach this in two ways. Firstly, I want to talk about how it benefits US when we write things down, and secondly, how do we approach Scripture?

Firstly US.

Journalling as it used to be called is a form of personally chronicling your life. Famous people have biographies written about them, or they write autobiographies themselves. In a sense, when we write our testimony, we are doing the same thing.

Few people nowadays write in a journal like they used to, though if you think about it, blogging and posting on Social Media is a modern equivalent. I have had a facebook account since August 2008, so I now have a chronicle of my life — a diary as it were of things I’ve done over the last 13 years. Some people have been on facebook much longer than that. Downloading this string of posts and photos will give me a history I can read. Obviously, it only contains that which I’ve written, so if I’m not careful about what I post and comment on, I will only have a record of meals I’ve eaten and arguments I’ve had! The same is true, I think, of Twitter (though I don’t use my Twitter account at all), and it is also true of the blog posts I have written for The Seed.

How can this be important?

  1. It can help us to look back and see how far we’ve come. This is especially true if we go through stuff and have a tendency to be consumed by the problems of the moment. Looking back through a journal, or your facebook feed, can help you to realise that your troubles ultimately are temporary. There are exceptions, but for the most part, looking back at my Facebook feed, I can see some of the stuff we struggled with is a now distant memory. Yet at the time it was so really significant to us. This perspective can help us to keep a grip on what is significant in life.
  2. It improves our memory — in fact, in a way, it becomes our memory. We do tend to misremember things, and I’ve spoken about the significance of memory fairly recently, so I’m not going to revisit this now. But note, at a future point, if we have a written record of the past, we don’t have to rely on our faulty memory of those events. We can read about them and maybe some significant details, which might otherwise be forgotten, are remembered. This is EXACTLY what happened for Xerxes as he has the book read to him in Esther 6.
  3. It protects us from ourselves. The best way to explain this is to quote writer and philosopher George Santayana, who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In other words, we carry our weaknesses and faults into the future with us, and sometimes we forget the pain of making wrong choices or the benefits of making right ones. Writing this kind of stuff down ensures we don’t make those mistakes.

Secondly The Bible

It can’t have failed you to notice that Scripture is exactly this. It is, in fact,a record an anthology of how God has interacted with man through the ages.

Scripture means “writing”, it has the same root as the word “script” which is a written document.

Bible means “book”. In fact, the Bible is not just one book, it is 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New. Every one of which is an account of God’s dealings with humanity. It takes many forms, history, poetry, prophesy, letters, legislation, and even a type of literature which is called “apocrypha” (that’s Revelation).

What is astounding is the coherence of the Bible. This collection of documents written over 1500 years by over 40 different authors, most of whom never met. It is written in three languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic) from dozens of locations all over the ancient world (which is important as you couldn’t phone or message someone to ask for their opinion, let alone hop on a plane and go and see them) and it has a coherence which defies natural explanation. In fact, the only way people who are anti-God can deal with its coherence is to deny its authenticity and claim it is a late invention by people with an agenda.

This is not a message about the authenticity of the Bible, or how it has come to us. Except to say that if you sue the discipline known as textual criticism, (which is used to identify the authenticity of ancient documents not just the Bible), you will find that the claim of late and collaborative authorship of the Biblical documents is just not persuasive. We can know with a very high degree of certainty that the bible is what it appears to be, it was written when it claims to have been written, AND that what we have today in our Bibles today is essentially what the original author wrote. Obviously, we have to understand what we are reading is a translation from those original languages. As such, we have to wise about how we read our Bibles (different translations help to give us a breadth of understanding) as we seek to hear what God is saying to us, but we can have a high degree of confidence that it is NOT the deceptive document atheists claim it is.

Essentially, the Bible is a record of God’s involvement with mankind over the generations. And it is important to us.

About “bibliolatry” (which is an elevation of Scripture to a level on a par with God himself). Note:

  1. In ancient times, when a King wrote things down, and they were sealed with his signet ring, the written words carried with them the same authority as is he was speaking himself. We believe that the Scripture is God speaking to us. If that is true, what the Bible says about a matter is no different to what God says about it. Read the gospels and notice how frequently Jesus answered a question with “what does the Scripture say?”, or “haven’t you read?”. He was, in effect, saying: “you don’t need me to answer that question, you already have an answer”. Jesus believed the Scripture had authority to speak to us.
  2. People will sometimes say “I don’t follow the book, I follow the man” that is to say, I take my cues from Jesus, not the Bible. One question to that is, “without the Bible, HOW do you know what Jesus was like?” “How can you tell what He wants you to do?” You can’t rely on your internal senses because they are incredibly unreliable and affected by all sorts of things. Such as your health, your emotional state at the time, external factors such as drugs and any number of other factors. You need a yardstick up against which you can measure this sense. That’s the Bible.
  3. So, although evangelicals (which is what we are) have a high view of the Bible, we do not worship it. The Bible will not save you, the Bible has no power to deal with sin in your life, its significant comes from the person it reveals to you. God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
  4. Do not worship the Bible, worship God. But get to know God and Jesus in the pages of this book.
  5. So, given all that, the Bible does a few things for us …
  6. Like journaling, it can show us where we come from. The Bible is very honest about what humans are like. In stark contrast to pretty much every other worldview we have around us today, the Bible says that people are not essentially good. They are essentially inclined towards evil and doing the wrong thing.
  7. So Jeremiah can say, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” In Jeremiah 17:9 (niv), Genesis records that “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” Genesis 6:5 (niv) and David says, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good”. Psalm 14:1 (niv)
  8. Paul describes the state of the human heart in several places, so for example, 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 says, “do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
  9. Note he says, “and that is what some of you were”. I think sometimes we need to be reminded of what we have been saved from. Especially when we have been Christians a long time, our pre-Christian life takes on a quality that makes it not quite real.
  10. The Bible reminds us of our sinfulness, of the fact that we were DEAD in our sins before we were rescued by Christ.
  11. But it does more than that, it doesn’t just offer us a glimpse into our own hearts and sinfulness, it reminds us of who God is and what He has done for our benefit.
  12. Luke and John both specify why they are writing their books (Luke 1v1–4, John 20:31)
  13. “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31 niv)
  14. “I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught”. (Luke 1:3,4 niv)
  15. The Bible is, supremely, a written record of how God has acted in history, from the creation of the world, through His relationship with His chosen people, the Jews. It is a record of the life and ministry of Jesus and the growth of the early church, and it is a reminder to us and a way in which we can find peace within and peace with God himself.
  16. Lastly, in Revelation, we read that there are two books opened in heaven,
  17. “I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:11–15 (niv)
  18. Jeremiah says, “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10 (niv)
  19. Just as Mordecai’s deeds were written in the chronicle that was read to Xerxes, our deeds are recorded and we, too, will receive that which our deeds deserve. Either honour, or not.
  20. ::Stop & Restart video recording::

Second — the tables turn

It seems to me that one of the lessons we can learn for Haman is how he finds his own plotting and seeming is meted back onto him. People with a non-Christian worldview would probably call it Karma. We have this sense that people should “get what they deserve”. We have inbuilt in us a belief that unjust actions should be punished in some way, and this certainly happens to Haman. Every bad thing he was planing for Mordecai comes to him, and every good thing he feels he deserves gets given to Mordecai.

Esther is full of such reversals, here is a list of the switch or turnaround from Haman to Mordecai …

  1. 3:10 the king gives Haman his ring / 8:2 the king gives Mordecai the same ring
  2. 3:12 Haman summons the king’s scribes / 8:9 Mordecai summons the king’s scribes
  3. 3:12 letters written, sealed with ring / 8:10 letters written, sealed with same ring
  4. 3:13 the Jews, even women and children, to be killed on one day / 8:11 the enemies, even women and children, to be killed on one day
  5. 3:14 Haman’s decree publicly displayed as law / 8:13 Mordecai’s decree publicly displayed as law
  6. 3:15 couriers go out in haste / 8:14 couriers go out in haste
  7. 3:15 the city of Susa is bewildered / 8:15 the city of Susa rejoices
  8. 4:1 Mordecai wears sackcloth and ashes / 8:15 Mordecai wears royal robes
  9. 4:1 Mordecai goes through city crying / 6:11 Mordecai led through the city in honour
  10. 5:14 Zeresh advises Mordecai’s death / 6:13 Zeresh predicts Haman’s ruin
  11. Interestingly, the Bible has something else to say on this subject generally. We first come across this in the Pentateuch, where the example of someone giving false witness against someone is addressed.
  12. Note Deuteronomy 19:15–21 (niv) “If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse someone of a crime, the two people involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the LORD before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party.”
  13. If enacted today, this single Old Testament law would substantially reduce the number of lawsuits in our courts! People sue indiscriminately because they have no penalties to fear.
  14. Even in the New Testament, we find Jesus giving us a rule to live by which was given a name: the “Golden rule” which we find in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31 :
  15. so, for example, Matthew 7:12 “in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
  16. In fact when Jesus brilliantly condenses the Old Testament law in the Matthew 22:37–40 (niv) “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” He echoes the golden rule here as well with “as yourself”.
  17. This is a mark of a Christian (John 13:35). In fact, Christians cannot claim to love God if they don’t actively love other people as well. “If someone says, ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).
  18. Finally, we have already noted that ultimately how we act is judged. I’ll read the passage again:
  19. “I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:11–15 (niv)
  20. Many people don’t believe that there is an afterlife, so they will act in accordance with that belief. If they can act selfishly and get away with it in this life, then they will do so.
  21. Knowing that you will have to account for your actions before God — EVEN if you get away with them in this world — you will act very differently in this world. This is one major reason I believe that Godless societies and ideologies are the most brutal and murderous and hateful in history. The Communist regimes in Russia, China, and North Korea have between them murdered more people in the 20th century than all the “religious wars” in history added together have killed. If you think about it, that’s not surprising, none of these regimes believe there will ever be any accountability for their actions if they can keep their hold on power.
  22. As Christians, our belief in the ultimate judgment of every person who ever lived by the God who sees all and knows the very thoughts of our hearts gives us two things.
  23. We can be confident that even if judgment doesn’t come to someone in this life, it doesn’t mean they have got away with it. We can know that every wrong deed will ultimately get justice.
  24. Furthermore, we know that we ourselves will face this judgment, so it will limit our own tendency to be selfish and hateful and sinful. Thankfully, as Christians, we know that Jesus has taken the eternal punishment our sins deserve, but we will nevertheless have to answer to God for how we live our lives.
  25. I wonder how this knowledge would have impacted Haman!
  26. How does it impact us?

#Esther

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