Weeping for a Night, Joy in the Morning

When Mordecai learned all that had been done, [he] tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry. He went up to the entrance of the king’s gate, for no one was allowed to enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth. And in every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes…” “Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a robe of fine linen and purple, and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor. And in every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his edict reached, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday.” Esther 4:1-3; 8:15-17

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

How quickly can be a divine turn of events! Mordecai and his people were doomed to destruction due to the crafty plot of wicked, jealous Haman. The death knell hung heavy and spread quickly to devastate the Jews throughout Persia and Media. He wept, he challenged his adopted niece Queen Esther to entreat the king, he sought his Lord. He knew his God could change what was then inevitable, but it would take His merciful favor worked out in a drastic, supernatural way. And God, ever the mighty change agent, came through. Within days, sackcloth was exchanged for royal robes, impending death turned to exalted life and honor. The edict that would spare no Jews was overruled by a new proclamation they could defend themselves against any enemy, and Mordecai, the one despised by pompous Haman, was promoted even as Haman was executed. God, without being named, divinely turned all inside out and upside down to accomplish His purpose of salvation.

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And He still does so today. We are born under the curse of death, apart from Him, marked by sin for destruction. But Jesus intervenes, applying His atoning death on our behalf, writing the edict that rescues us from the enemy and changes our fate forever. By faith we receive His gift, in Him our helplessness turns to rejoicing and gladness. How glorious is His grace! And once we know Him, how magnificent His changing of our course of life, of heart, of habit, of season! He daily gives a way out in temptation, strength in weakness, sight for blindness, light in darkness, hope in despair, fresh mercies. (1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Luke 7:22; Psalm 112:4; Isaiah 9:2; Psalm 42:5,11; Lamentations 3:22-23)

What brokenness, stubborn obstacles, fears, inhibitions, impossibilities, will I bring to my Lord today to transform? Will I, unwavering in faith, be bold to hope against hope, convinced that God is able to do all He promises and intends? (Romans 4:19-21)

O God, You Who put to death and raise to life, know all that needs to be inverted in me. Have Your way in every part, that I be changed, and You be exalted in light and gladness and joy and honor.

At Table with Jesus

And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him. And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’” Mark 2:14-17

Jesus lived intentionally every moment. As He walked along, as He taught, as He passed by, He was always about His Father’s business, always alert to opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, always a bubbling fount of truth and love to those He encountered, always present. His call to Levi (Matthew) was effectual; the one with a dubious reputation because of his line of work (think shady used car salesman) heard his Savior’s call and could not resist. He not only followed, but he couldn’t get enough, and invited Jesus, and his colleagues, to follow him home.

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The gathering that ensues, when we realize what is really taking place, can startle many of us, maybe make us uneasy. Jesus went, and reclined at Levi’s table with ‘many;’ we imagine Him conversing, laughing, asking penetrating and get-to-know-you questions as He, effusive with care, interest, and compassion, dined with the social outcasts. Jesus, the perfect, holy One, was relaxed, available, at ease, in the moment. And not accidentally. This was Who He was. He had come to seek and to save the lost, and was therefore in His element. (Matthew 9:36; Luke 19:10)

What drives me as I go on my way each day? Am I more bent on my preferences and agenda than on looking for and seizing divine opportunities? Am I so enthusiastic and deliberate to get involved with those I see as “impossibles” or “pricklies,” to go where they are, to love on them? What providential appointments do I, because of neglect, prejudice, a closed heart, or a harried schedule, miss? Whom will I invite to sit with Jesus? The same Savior Who moves me to follow Him can transform my thinking and desires and mission toward others He is inviting to the table.

“Jesus! what a Friend for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul;
friends may fail me, foes assail me, He, my Savior makes me whole.
Hallelujah! what a Savior! Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end.” ~J. Wilbur Chapman (1910)

Savior, You Who have befriended me, teach me to be Your kind of friend to others. Open wide my heart and mind to look for the lost, to go out of my way to care about and spend time with those unloved by others, to include them, to share with them my attention over a feast of the Bread of life. (John 6:35; 10:10)

For Such a Time

Hathach went out to Mordecai… in front of the king’s gate, and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people. ‘[Tell Esther,] “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews… Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”’ Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.’” Esther 4:6-8,13-16 

Esther recognized the seriousness of the edict against all Jews, and, knowing the law was against her in attempting to approach the king without being summoned, was yet moved by the sense of God’s providence. We can infer that her uncle had taught her of God’s marvelous, hidden, supernatural ways, and that she understood it was He Who had placed her in the palace at this particular time for a special work. Emboldened by the fasting and prayer from her people, she arranged the settings for conversation and maneuvered patiently through timing to uncover the perpetrator’s plot. Her thoughtful, clever planning unfolded and she dauntlessly approached the king with her request.

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Without a mention of God’s name in this book, His hand actively moves throughout, and His voice urges us to follow Esther’s example of willing, confident bravery in our appointed time and place. “He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” If God is sovereign, it is not only a comfort to rest in the hard places where He has us, but it should motivate us to be bold and act in the challenges and opportunities He presents. What a privilege to be part of His grand scheme of life and history and kingdom building! (Acts 17:25-26)

What each of us goes through is unique to God’s plan for us. He masterfully entwines our lives with others to give us chances to support, lean on, pray, get involved, observe glimpses of His beauty in all that transpires. I am where I am because of His grace; His providence rules, and in that I can rejoice. Am I prone to compare with envy, or criticism, or dissatisfaction, or do I gratefully accept my lot and place and expectantly listen for His personal call to me?

Father, You have me here and now for Your such time. Keep my knees bowed, my hands and feet ready for Your every assignment, that Your will be done.

Jewels from Light

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Psalm 36:9; 119:18

I sat facing a window this morning, and as the sun awoke, it reflected off my diamond ring, splashing tiny jeweled rainbows all over the pages of scripture, delighting my senses. Within moments, the great light that rules the day had shifted the tiniest bit and the twinkles disappeared. What a vivid picture of the gems the Holy Spirit makes pop out of God’s word when we take time to read, the beautiful truths, comforts, assurances, rays of hope, promises, nuggets of wisdom, confirmations, clear answers when we ask God for the light of understanding. We must be present, open-hearted, looking and listening intently, savoring the moment in the ancient words, or the insight may pass by.

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Heavenly light adds much to what we take in of the Scriptures. Without it, our minds can be dull, our hearts unmoved. Interruptions can break concentration, distractions steal sweet thoughts, never to be retrieved. I regret the times I have been on a treasure hunt and stopped half-way, that exploration aborted by some stray thought or task that veered me off course and on an endless detour. When I pause to ask for illumination, and take time and attention to focus, the Lord always comes through with some precious jewel, a perfect truth for that day or situation.

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:1-6

Holy Spirit, open my eyes to see and absorb all the delights You have for me in Your word. May I treasure them for the value they hold, eternal words that are the foundation of my soul, a shining light to my path. Teach me new facets of You, Your colors and resplendence and glory, every time I open Your good book. Keep me in the moment, to treasure all You have to convey, to carry me through all You know is ahead. (Exodus 33:13,18; Psalm 119:105; Luke 6:47-48)

Sojourning in the Land

“The LORD appeared to him and said, ‘Dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you,.. and will give to your offspring all these lands… So Isaac settled in Gerar…And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The LORD blessed him, and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy… So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father. But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, he herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, ‘The water is ours…’ And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, ‘For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land’… They said, ‘We see plainly that the LORD has been with you.’” Genesis 26:2-4,6,12-13,17-20,22,28

The LORD’s promises were sure, though Isaac’s steps were not. God gave instruction, and assurance the land would belong to Isaac and his descendants, but this came about through the patriarch’s faltering ways, misjudgment, and antagonism. At first he lied in fear about his wife Rebekah, risking life, reputation, and his seed with King Abimelech, but God in grace protected him and used it for building up his wealth. Then he encountered quarreling with herdsmen over wells. Many were his sojournings and settlings, none without travail, contention, or hostility, until he finally arrived at Rehoboth, “broad places; room,” and built an altar and pitched a tent at Beersheba.

The Lord indeed prepares us room when our hearts prepare Him same, calling upon and honoring His name. He bids us “go,” to sojourn in the land of Scriptures and life, to learn to listen and follow and make wise choices, to interact with others and remain above reproach, to take hold of and appropriate His good promises. We take detours, meet opposition, learn from errors of judgment and relational havoc, but can return by His kind mercy to the altar of worship and know we are in His appointed place. (Proverbs 2:1-8; Colossians 1:22)

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When sojourning takes us through regret and consequences over past choices, or valleys of sorrow, doubt, depression, or conflict with colleagues or family members, or pain of diagnoses or harmful habits, or pressures of job, finances, life challenges, we can know the One Who sends. He is good, trustworthy, present, our constant companion. He has prepared the land for fruitfulness. As I step and turn along the way, what good fruit of love, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control am I yielding? (Psalm 111:7; Joshua 1:9; Galatians 5:22-23)

LORD my King, keep me in Your paths and set my heart to trust and honor You in any circumstance. May the choices I make, the way I interact with others, the places I set up camp, bear evidence that You have been with me.

Giving Not Taking

After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.)  And he blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.  And the king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.’ But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, “I have made Abram rich.”’” Genesis 14:17-23

During a battle between five kings and four where Lot was captured along with the people of Sodom, Abram took his trained army of 318 in a passioned rescue of his nephew. He returned, Lot, women, children, and possessions in tow, and was met by two kings. One, the mysterious King of Salem and Priest of Most High God, gave him both blessing and refreshment, to which Abram responded with generous offering of one tenth (the first tithe). The King of Sodom, whose pride, people, and very position he had restored, offered him the goods he’d retrieved, and Abram wanted nothing of his “reward.” What strikes me is that after such a magnificent military victory, Abram’s joy and reward was to give, to honor and offer sacrifice of gratitude, not to receive. He deflected all glory, owning that only God, Possessor of heaven and earth, could have delivered them and made them rich.

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What is my practice, my impulse, when playing a part in any victory or achievement? When I say no to temptation, when I overcome fear for a task or a new relationship, when after many failures I actually hold my tongue and bless instead of curse, when I realize my tendency to complain is softening into a practice of thanking, do I take credit? Is there a hint of smugness that I knew I could solve it, I have arrived, a feeling of superiority over another who is weaker in a certain area? May it never be! Every victory is a gift of grace, every battle won by the Spirit’s hand. All praise goes to Him.

Abraham did what he had to do; he had no thought for himself, no swagger for position or recognition. His hands were lifted to the Possessor of heaven and earth, his life owned by Him; all honor was His.

God Most High, my Priest and King, may I not only recognize but acknowledge that all comes from You, every victory is Yours, won by Your righteous right hand.

Inverted Thinking

They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.’ And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” but you make it a den of robbers.’”

“And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant, and they said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read,“Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise”?’ …Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes”?'” Matthew 21:7-16,42

This passage displays the inverted thinking of man. Shouted hosannas to Jesus, the One they called a prophet, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, the royal transport of the time,  voiced the crowd’s anticipation that He was deigned to become their earthly king. Jesus then, in righteous anger, threw over the tables of the dishonest traders in the temple, upending their practiced toleration of taking financial advantage of worshipers. The religious leaders, rather than marveling in gratitude at His merciful, wondrous miracles of healing, are indignant and critical, disturbed because their authority had been threatened. It is Jesus Who points out that the purest praise, the clearest understanding of Who He is, comes from the more innocent, unencumbered, less complicated minds of infants and children.

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He overturns our thinking, too, if we allow Him. We get bent on certain thought-patterns and ride mental paths that travel in a lower, parallel universe from His lofty ways. We get intrigued with and beguiled by lesser, earthly, temporal things, emotions, desires, vantage points, and fail to ascend to His eternal and holy one. We dress ourselves in pride, touchiness, wearing badges of rights and identities and power that are dictated by this world and increasingly restrictive and difficult to discard. We end up rejecting what He has laid as our very foundation of truth and freedom, helpless to change apart from His mercy and renewal.

Lord, cleanse me. Invert my whole thought-process and any hint of perspective that is opposed to Yours, that I might whole-heartedly, with all my soul and might, bless You in the highest.