Sow & Gather

Esther

All My People

EstherMarci AnthonyComment

Then Esther spoke again to the king, fell at his feet, wept and implored him to avert the evil scheme of Haman the Agagite and his plot which he had devised against the Jews. Esther 8:3 (NASB) 

My son, Michael, had a favorite song when he was a preteen.  He could be caught many times singing into a microphone, “All my people, all my people….”  The song was by a Christian rapper and, let’s just say Michael’s career in rapping began and ended with “All My People.”   

While I can still feel the slight irritation at those words that were repeated over and over throughout our home, I do still love the phrase, All MY People.  Esther is a Queen who knows who HER people are.  She sacrificed herself and her way of life to fight for her people.  She openly and loudly implored the king to save her people.  She wept for her people.  There is no doubt after reading the entire book of Esther, this precious young woman deeply loved HER people, the Jews. 

As I have reflected on this beautiful slice of history, I can’t help but wonder about this love that Esther had.  It brings to mind that encouraging chapter in 1 Corinthians.   

Love never gives up. 
Love cares more for others than for self. 
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. 
Love doesn’t strut, 
Doesn’t have a swelled head, 
Doesn’t force itself on others, 
Isn’t always “me first,” 
Doesn’t fly off the handle, 
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, 
Doesn’t revel when others grovel, 
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, 
Puts up with anything, 
Trusts God always, 
Always looks for the best, 
Never looks back, 
But keeps going to the end.
 

                           1 Corinthians 13:3-7 (The Message) 

This chapter was written to a group of people as well, the family of God.  You see, the group of believers in Corinth were having difficulty getting along.  They had forgotten that they should love “all their people.”  So, in this chapter Paul encourages them with these words.  He basically says, no matter what you do, love YOUR people.   

We, in the family of God, could learn from the example of Esther.  In this particular time in history there are many, many things to distract us from loving each other.  Politics, societal issues, community values, reactions to life styles, and even movies have taken first place in our discourse and love for our fellow believers has been set aside.  What if all of the believers in your own family of faith decided to care for each other like Esther cared for her people?  What if in the family of God, we united in fighting for each other instead of fighting against each other? Esther’s fighting for “all her people,” had an amazing result.   

Esther 10

“King Xerxes imposed tribute throughout the empire, to its distant shores. And all his acts of power and might, together with a full account of the greatness of Mordecai, whom the king had promoted, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Media and Persia? Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.” 

Remember, Mordecai was Esther’s cousin.  Because of the commitment, she made to her people, her cousin now helped rule the land and he “worked for the good of his people.” 

Wonder what would be the end of our story if we committed to all our people?  Actually, Jesus tells us in John 17.  In this chapter, we have the account of Jesus praying for His disciples and for those of us that will come in the future.  He prays, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Wow, now that would be one amazing result, wouldn’t it?  As we, members of the local and corporate family of God, love each other in unity, fight for each other, pray for each other and even weep for each other, the world will believe!!! 

Will you join me in learning from the example of Esther?  Will you consider committing to “ALL YOUR PEOPLE?”  Will you love?  Will you commit to unity?  Will you decide that the world believing is the very most important issue we can discourse about? 

Digging Deeper |

Read Paul’s entire letter to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians

Action Items |

Please consider joining me in learning from Esther. 

Prayer |

Dear Jesus, may I learn from the example of Esther.  God, give me a heart for my people as she had.  Lord, help me love all in the family of God.  Lord, help me to accept, forgive, never give up, and love all my local family and the corporate family of God.  Amen.

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I'm Not The Star And That's Okay

EstherMarci AnthonyComment

I and my attendants will fast as you do. Esther 4:16 NIV 

It's been another wrap on awards season for actors, films, and television shows.  Maybe your favorite movie won best picture, or not. If you watched the Oscars, you might have been a little confused on who won – the announcer sure was.  

I always enjoy the award for supporting actor. For the star of the movie to truly shine and develop her character, she needs to interact with other people. The character and qualities of the star unfold for the audience by watching the interactions with those in supporting roles. 

This month the writers of Sow & Gather are focused on the book and story of Esther. It has always struck me how the people surrounding Esther admired, loved, and respected her so much that they wanted her to be a shining star in the king's palace. I've often tried to place myself into the mind of Esther's attendants. What was it like to always be in a supporting role to such a beautiful woman? 

Esther was a Jew in the king's palace. She had not disclosed her heritage. Even when she became queen, she kept her secret. While Esther was in the palace, the king made a decree to kill all the Jewish people in the king's region. We don't know, but can assume, that none of her attendants were Jewish. Her Jewish uncle Mordecai was visibly upset over the decree and Esther sent one of the king's eunuchs to provide him clothing and exchange messages with him in the courtyard. By her actions in supporting Mordecai, I'm sure her attendants suspected her true heritage. Her attendants, both male and female, cared for her so much they were willing to sacrifice food and comfort to pray for, and with, Esther. They also faithfully protected her identity. 

The eunuchs and maid servants had nothing to gain by caring for Esther in her time of need. I imagine they placed themselves in harm’s way by supporting Esther. Yet, they did more than what was required of them. They humbled themselves before Esther and Esther's God. They allowed others to shine. They supported Esther in her time of need. 

Each of us is a supporting actor in someone else's life. You may never understand the importance of that roll. You will surely be blessed by fulfilling that calling with all your heart. 

Dig Deeper

Esther 3, 4

Action Item |

Identify two people in your life that you support. Write down three ways you can serve them and take the next step in making each of their lives a little easier this week. 

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father, I love how You intertwine our lives with others. It may seem obvious that we support people in our families and our boss. But help us to see how we support our co-workers and those that report to us at work. Help us to nurture the relationships around us so that everyone feels the love of God. Amen. 

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God’s Underdogs

EstherMarci AnthonyComment

Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes preeminent among the Jews and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews. Esther 10:3 NIV

Do you love a good movie? If it’s a heartfelt story about overcoming adversity, do you root for the underdog to come out on top in the end? I love movies about athletes that overcome adversity; a term we usually use in these situations is “underdog.” One of my favorite underdog stories is the Disney movie, “McFarlin USA.” It’s a true story about a Latino track team in McFarlin, California whose chances in doing anything significant in life or going anywhere other than McFarlin are less than favorable. This changes when a coach is hired by the school and turns the tables on the track program helping the students and the community come together.   

The book of Esther and throughout the Old Testament we hear story after story about underdogs. The Jewish people of the Old Testament were biblical underdogs; they were persecuted, beaten, enslaved, poor, and desperate. All throughout the Old Testament we see the Jews in precarious positions trying desperately to win out in their fight for survival. Many of us know of the book, Esther. Reading the book one would gather that the book of Esther is all about the protagonist Esther and her rise from a simple Jew to become Queen of one of the most powerful nations of her time. While this is true, I’d like to offer a different perspective. There is one captivating figure throughout the book that is instrumental in helping rescue the Jews behind the scenes. His name is Mordecai.  

It is Mordecai, who I believe, God is speaking to throughout the entire book of Esther. There are many instances where Mordecai is quietly working behind the scenes to bring about God’s victory. Mordecai is Esther’s cousin and her guardian. From the very beginning he is instrumental in getting Esther to be in the right place at the right time so she could be noticed by King Xerxes and, therefore, chosen as his next queen. Mordecai uncovers a conspiracy plot to assassinate the king. In another twist of fate, Mordecai does not bow to Haman, the king’s second in command, and, therefore, creates an enemy who wants to have Mordecai killed along with his people, the Jews. Mordecai, armed with this knowledge, tells Esther of Haman’s plot to destroy their people. He then convinces Esther to go before the king to ask for his leniency and save the Jews. Having succeeded to bring about Haman’s downfall, Mordecai and Esther declare the celebration of Purim to commemorate the Jew’s victory over their enemies. 

Mordecai was the ultimate underdog, but it’s what we don’t see that is happening behind the scenes as God uses him to bring about the Jew’s triumph over adversity. It is Mordecai, not Esther, who is mentioned in the last chapter of this book. In the final verse there is a familiarity that captures the essence of what makes this underdog story so great. “Mordecai, the Jew, was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.”  

Like all good underdog stories Mordecai wasn’t looking out for himself. He was focused on others and was being led by God to help bring about a change for the Jews. Who’s your favorite underdog? 

Dig Deeper |

Isaiah 40:29; Isaiah 41:10 

Action Item |

Is God calling you to speak out for injustice? Is there an area where God is leading you to serve? Take an ounce of courage this week and follow where God is prompting you to make a difference. 

Prayer |

Heavenly Father, thank You for men and women of the Bible who are great examples of stepping out in faith to follow Your prompting. Help me to be more willing and obedient to Your call. Train my ears so they can discern Your calling. I am Your obedient servant. Here I am send me.     

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Can I Really Trust God With My Life?

EstherMarci AnthonyComment

When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. Esther 5:2 NIV

Have you ever been watching a movie or reading a book and when you get to the climax, you almost hold your breath in anticipation of what will happen next? The climax of any movie or book is the most important and pivotal scene.  This verse is the climactic moment in the book of Esther. Everything in the book of Esther prior to this verse has lead up to this moment. This seemingly simple gesture of a scepter extended from King to his beloved Queen would be passed over as insignificant if it wasn’t for the drama that could have occurred. 

King Xerxes was a leader who was consumed by extravagance and loved to show off his wealth and power.  His past behavior and subsequent divorce from his former wife Vashti was known throughout the land. When King Xerxes would sit in his chamber, he would call on individuals with whom he wanted to discuss matters of his kingdom.  This was not an open forum. The penalty for coming and addressing the king without being called was death. Esther needed to go before the king without being called to petition him to save her people.  Whether the king would extend his scepter to her was a matter of life or death.

Esther fasted and prayed for days before going to the king. She prepared herself with her most beautiful robes. Esther wanted to make sure that she was not only prepared on the outside, but also that her heart was prepared. She fasted and prayed to prepare her spirit for how God would intercede on her behalf.  

When we look at the way Esther prepared to address the king, we get a sense of how we should come before God. Being in the presence of God is an honor and one that should be met with reverence. So many times we go before the Father boasting of our own achievements, with a righteous expectation of God to answer our prayers instead of an attitude of humble respect. When we go before God with a large request, do we fast, allowing our minds to be focused solely on our petition to God?

Esther’s heart was heavy, but her concern was not for her own safety but for the safety of her people. She put her entire life in God’s hands and trusted Him to soften the king’s heart so that she could petition the king with a request. When we come before God, are our hearts heavy with the burden of our prayers and are we willing to allow God to work for His purpose?  Are we too afraid that God’s response might mean we have to step out of our comfort zone and so we fail to acknowledge the weight God has placed on our heart?

So what happened when Esther went before the king? Was she met with the gallows or was she spared? Well, you probably guessed from reading the verse that the king’s heart was softened and he extended his scepter to Esther, which she touched with her finger as a humble petitioner. If God has the ability to affect others’ hearts, He has the power to change our own.  Are you ready to trust Him with your life?  

Digging Deeper |

Daniel 10:2-3, Philippians 4:6, Luke 2:37

Action Item |

If you are struggling with a particular issue or a request hangs heavy on your heart, try to fast and see if that changes your focus. When we fast we remove our dependence on daily distractions and we turn our eyes towards God to provide for us spiritually.

Prayer |

Heavenly Father, You are great and mighty. Your power extends beyond my understanding. If there are any areas of my life that I have not turned over completely to You, lay those areas on my heart that I might change my focus. Thank You for the story of Esther and her example of being bold in her commitment towards her people. Allow me to be brave and bold for You.   

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Slay the “Green-Eyed Monster”

EstherMarci AnthonyComment
#sowandgather #esther

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:25-26 NIV

Have you ever experienced the “Green-Eyed Monster?” 

This monster was created by the writer, William Shakespeare, in the play, "Othello". And, at times it has crept into my mind, seized my thoughts and entangled them into a ball of disarray.  

It is the monster we call jealousy or envy. I truly dislike this monster because it appears all over my life. I have been envious of my friends' houses, jobs, or the fact they don’t have to work, vacations, their children’s progress, recognition of service well done even at church, their cooking skills, and, yes, even their clothes and how well they look in them.   

But I am not alone. In the book of Esther a man named Haman, who was given the highest seat of honor by King Xerxes and Queen Esther, also experienced envy. As he moved throughout the city, Haman was given homage by all the people except by one man, Mordecai. In Esther 5:13 he exclaims, “All this honor gives me no satisfaction as long as I see Mordecai, the Jew, just sitting at the king’s gate.” Haman was so jealous he attempted to kill Mordecai and the Jewish people but instead he ended up hanging from the gallows himself. 

From the example of Haman and the verse in Galatians, I am exhorted to put away this envy or jealousy. I am to keep in step with the Spirit. So, as that monster begins to bite, I need to stop, pray, and ask God to focus my thoughts on Him, His goodness, and all He has given me. God’s Spirit will prevail in that moment and this monster will be slayed. 

Digging Deeper |

I Corinthians 13:4; I Peter 2:1

Action Item |

Slay the monster! 

Prayer |

Dear God, Thank you for helping me when I become jealous or envious. I know that only through your words and strength I can be victorious.  Amen.  

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What Is Your God-given, Divine Purpose?

EstherMarci AnthonyComment

And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this. Esther 4:14b NIV

Esther was an unlikely choice for a queen. She was an orphan, raised by her cousin Mordecai and, to add to her insurmountable odds, she was a Jew. This is the perfect story for any Hollywood studio. When you look at just one of these facts you might think the odds are stacked against Esther, but God had other plans. Esther was a long shot for queen but she never let her circumstances dictate her outcome. Instead, she trusted in God and through supernatural (Godly) intervention, Esther became queen.

Esther’s position was no accident. God had placed her in a position of influence for a very specific purpose.  Your position in life is not an accident either. God has you exactly where He wants you for His purposes. Sure, we try to sabotage God’s plans all the time with our own, but no matter what we do, God’s plans are carried out whether we realize it or not.

Mordecai is speaking to Esther when he says “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this.” He is explaining to her that if she stays silent, help for the Jews will come from someone else, and she will die knowing that she did nothing. God had a plan for her life; He placed her in a powerful position so that she could make a difference in the lives of her people.

We don’t know what Esther’s faith looked like. God’s name is not mentioned in the entire book. We do know that she was a Jew and it was her love for her people that made her willing to sacrifice herself to save them. God’s love for us in John 3:16 is the most selfless form of love in the entire Bible. Jesus’ short time on earth was spent loving others and putting their needs before His own.  

Throughout the Bible, God uses unlikely individuals to serve His purpose. What is your purpose? When you look back at your life, can you see the hand of God directing your story? Whether you believe it or not, you’re exactly where God wants you. You may think you’re in control of your own destiny but God has other plans.  

Instead of spinning your wheels trying to figure out what God’s purpose and direction is for your life, try just seeking what He wants from you today. If God asks you to do something that is out of your comfort zone, just trust Him and do it. Who knows, you might just discover His purpose for your life.

Dig Deeper |

Proverbs 16:9

Action Item |

Make a list of roles in your life. Maybe you’re a mother, daughter, wife, corporate executive….  Next to each role, write what you believe is God’s purpose for you as you serve in each of these roles. (Maybe as a daughter your role right now is to care for elderly parents).  Look at each of the roles you’ve listed. How are you making an impact for God in each of those areas? (If you are caring for your parents, maybe it’s showing God’s love to them even during difficult times). If you see areas where you are not showing God’s love or impacting the lives of others for Christ, ask God to help you develop the character qualities necessary so you can be a positive influence for Him in those areas.

Prayer |

Dear God, I know You have me exactly where You want me to be, but sometimes I get so shortsighted that I can’t see the big picture. Allow me to make a difference and to impact others for You in the different areas of my life. If You find me lacking in any area, please help me develop the qualities You want in me to be successful for Your glory. Help me to be who You want me to be.   

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