"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Raising The Standard: Endurance Is Uniting With Those Of Like Mind To Withstand Destructive Influences

"... Follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." ~ 2 Timothy 2:22
"Two are better than one ... and a threefold cord is not quickly broken." ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9a, 12b
From The Pages Of Scripture: Scripture states that two are better than one and a three-fold cord is not easily broken . It may be easy for one person to become discouraged and give up, but it is not so easy for two or three to surrender a purpose to which they are committed. The survival of a family depends upon the ability of its members to unite quickly with harmony of conviction when anything threatens to diminish their purpose or potential. One time a treacherous plan was designed by a proud, godless ruler to destroy every family that put God's laws above his laws. The plan would have succeeded had it not been for the effectiveness of a counter proposal which allowed families of a like-mind to unite together.
How Does Scripture Illustrate Endurance In Uniting With Those Of Like Mind?
A wise government will not design programs for "the good of the community" but rather for the good of the family. Who in Scripture thwarted an attempt to sacrifice godly families for the supposed benefit of the government and the economic welfare of the community? Queen Esther! An ambitious official of one of history's greatest empires stared scornfully at a man who refused to bow down to him. The official learned that this man was committed to following God's laws rather than the laws of government when the two conflicted. He also learned that the law of the empire gave this man and his people the right to do just that. The official realized that as long as these families remained in the empire, he would not have the worship and power he desired. He carefully composed a government program and presented it to the ruler. The king was told that certain families who were a threat to his kingdom could be eliminated if this measure was signed into law. The king was assured that the program would be politically sound and economically beneficial. He agreed to authorize it. The new law was translated into all the languages of that great empire and carried by swift messengers to all parts of the kingdom. Those who were marked for destruction looked at each other in disbelief, then cried out to God in prayer and fasting. The man who had refused to bow to that official rent his clothes and humbled himself in sackcloth and ashes before God. Then he sent a message to his cousin, the beautiful queen, whom the king favored. That message informed her of what was to happen and urged her to appeal to the king. The king had no idea that she was a member of one of those families that he had marked for destruction. This was a time of crisis, she was told, and "who knows whether you are come to the kingdom for such a time as this." The queen fasted and prayed for three days and then prepared a wise and gracious appeal to the king. He was shocked to learn the implications of the law he had signed and the wicked motives of the one who designed it. He ordered that the ambitious officer be killed, but he was unable to change the decree which had been made. The people would be destroyed and their possessions stolen. The king gave Queen Esther the authority to do what she could to save her people, but she had to move swiftly. A new law was quickly written and translated into the languages of all one hundred twenty-seven provinces. Then it was hastily delivered by horses, mules, camels, and young dromedaries. Families that were marked for death listened eagerly to the proclamation. Their weeping turned to hope. They now had a chance to survive. The king was allowing them to gather their families and unite against their enemies. They were given the authority to defend themselves against all who would assault them. As the day of their planned destruction approached, families united together throughout the empire. God gave them favor among all the people, and they were greatly helped. Those who had purposed to kill them were destroyed. Millions of families celebrate the memory of this event each year in a feast called Purim. It is a tribute to brave Queen Esther and to the power of families uniting to withstand destructive influences (From Esther 3-9).
Why Didn't Esther Seize The First Opportunity To Make Her Request?
When Esther went to appeal to her husband, she knew that if Ahesuerus did not raise his sceptre, she would be put to death according to Persian law. She also knew that "the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; he turneth it whithersoever he will." (Proverbs 21:1) This was why she requested that Mordecai and all the Jews in Sushan fast for three days before she even dared approach her capricious and unpredictable husband. When "she obtained favor in his sight," he said unto her, "What wilt thou, Queen Esther? And what is thy request? It shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom." (Esther 5:2-3) Why didn't Esther reveal her Jewish identity and plead for the cause of her people then? Esther, sensitive to the promptings of God's Spirit, knew that this was not the best time. That very night the king would have insomnia and be reminded of the time that Mordecai had saved his life. The next day Haman, having prepared a gallows for Mordecai's execution, would be commanded by the king to honor him instead. The Lord was still turning the heart of Ahasuerus, and Esther was sensitive and patient to wait for an even more ideal opportunity two days later.
What Was The Secret Of Esther's Enduring Faith?
Esther was born a Jew without a nation. The land of her fathers had been taken captive and her people sold into slavery. As a young girl she was orphaned. Even her rare beauty seemed to work against her, for one day she was seized from her loving cousin to become the possession of the cruel king, Ahasuerus. Torn from the only family she had, she could have cried out in bitterness and cursed her lot. But Esther had been taught by her righteous cousin that there was a God who controls the universe and orders our lives. She had been instructed in the great promises given to the Jewish nation through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Daniel (Genesis 28:13-14; 2 Samuel 7:12-13; Daniel 9:24-27). She knew that God was not finished with Israel, and she identified with her nation in its hour of crisis (Esther 7:4). Like Moses, she chose "rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." (Hebrews 11:25)
How Did Esther's Example Help Her People Withstand Destruction?
Even though the king was inclined to spare the Jews, he was limited by Persian law. The permission he had granted the enemies of the Jews was to rise up and kill them on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar could not be revoked. The only solution was for the Jews to be allowed to gather together in various cities throughout the 127 provinces. Since many were probably still in slavery, they needed permission to leave their assigned tasks (cf Esther 2:6). Others, like Esther, were able to conceal their Jewish identity and might have been able to escape harm (cf Esther 2:10). It was those Jews who needed to identify themselves with their brothers in order to make the solution work. If they refused to unite to help defend their people, the known Jews would be slaughtered without defense. But Esther provided the example. She dramatically risked her life by revealing her identity. As a result, the Jews rallied together on the appointed day and were able to defeat their enemies. Illustrated In The World Of Nature: The coot's antics, constant calling, and general behavior often earn it the title "clown of the pond." Other names attached to the coot are "mud hen" and "rice hen." It's an interesting bird which, except during breeding season, is very sociable, mixes well, and enjoys the company of other waterfowl. As a rule it spends most of its time in the water. It even sleeps in the water. The coot prefers a habitat of marshes or the reed-grown shores of ponds, lakes, rivers, creeks, saltwater estuaries, and bays.
How Does The Coot Illustrate Endurance By Uniting Together?
A clamoring chorus of high, cackling notes could be heard for a half a mile. The alarm alerted the birds in the water and everything else within hearing range. These wary birds were alert to possible danger and quick to notify the rest of the flock. It was mid-August. Their breeding season was over, and the coots had begun to regroup after being separated in various individual territories to raise their young. By this time the fledglings were mature enough to join the flock with their parents. The coot is a sociable and tolerant bird which enjoys the company of its own kind and mingles well with ducks and other waterfowl. The loud, clamoring noise made by these raucous birds was precipitated by a large goshawk which flew overhead. When a hungry hawk such as this is on the prowl, there is only one thing the coot can do to protect itself. There are other alternatives which might seem more feasible but each of these end in destruction. For example, the coot could take to wing and try to escape by flying away, but the hawk could easily and without much difficulty snatch it in mid-air. The coot could also dive under the water to elude its predator. But this, too, is a futile tactic for the hawk would watch the coot's underwater course. When the bird surfaced for air, the hawk would drive it beneath the water again. It will continue to do so until the coot is exhausted. Finally it will be forced to surface, and when it does, the hawk will pluck it from the water. The most effective defense against the hawk, the one which will afford the greatest protection for the coot, is the one that seems least likely to succeed. When the danger alarm is given, the coots immediately swim together to form a solid mass in the middle of the water. As the hawk circles above, it begins to work its strategy of intimidation and fear on the congregated birds. It fixes its wings and dives toward the group making sweep after sweep in an effort to dislodge and single out one of the members of the flock. If it is successful in doing this, it will have no difficulty capturing that bird. But the wily coot seems to know this and rather than flee, the flock unites together to withstand the destructive attack. It is very difficult to coax one of these birds away from the flock. As long as they remain together, huddled in this tight mass, they will thwart the enemy. For the hawk appears to have a fear that if it attacked the group, the whole flock would respond in a united counter-attack against it. As long as the birds stay together they are safe, and the hawk will be forced to move on and look for a more accessible meal.

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