With much anxiety, I am sure, the king is approached by his queen. To her pleasant surprise the king receives her warmly. She then unfolds the plan she made to the king (unknown to him) by having a banquet where only three are invited: the king, herself, and Haman. Haman, a man who is on the rise in the political climate of the time, is unaware that he has already reached the pinnacle of his success and in on his way down. It will be a hard fall.
Application: As you consider Haman and his response to the events of the day, reflect for a moment with regard to yourself: have you ever experienced joy to whatever degree, only to have it removed almost immediately because of circumstances that, when looked back on, are related to that joyous experience? You may not have, but I have. It taught me a lesson I have not forgotten; whether I have properly interpreted the reason for the joy, I have also taken note that I lost it (in fact, this happened more than once). Thus, I have approached it much differently since, and more simply. I refuse to allow myself to get “too high” with joy, because when (if) it is removed, the fall is harder. I merely approach the joy and whatever displeasure that follows with a modest approach to the Lord thanking Him for that which is in my life – even when I don’t understand. This is a lesson and an application I have learned.
The dye was cast and now what were the Jews to do. Mordecai presented himself to all who looked upon him as a man greatly trouble, troubled to the point of receiving no comfort. The queen (Hadassah) learns of this and seeks to take attention away from the man she loved more than any other (because he raised her), but in his refusal to accept she learns what it is all about. Frightened and perplexed about what to do, Mordecai places upon her a responsibility that is monumental.
APPLICATION: For some reason this chapter moved me today. I am not sure why because I have it many time and was not touched like I was today. I suppose it had to do with 4:14. When you think about why you are where you are at in this country and in your current circumstances, have you wondered why? I have. Why am I so fortunate that the Lord saw to it that I was born in the USA, to a solid middle-class family structured environment? Why was I so fortunate that I could go to college, enter the military, enjoy the liberties, and obey the gospel without molestation? I do not know; I can only guess. What I can do and what I can know, however, is that a responsibility has been placed on me to do something (Galatians 6:10), I think I had better make sure I do it.
An eventful occasion arose for the empire when a man was elevated from his position of responsibility to a position that was the equivalent of Joseph’s (cf. Genesis 41:41ff). The position required due deference to any who came in contact with him (Haman). Mordecai, however, was not willing to bow before the man; no reason is given, but Mordecai had a conscientious objection to it. Haman was not going to let that stand (if you will); in fact, he appealed to the king that all the Jews who were in the empire be eradicated. This perplexed the people greatly.
Application: The chapter does not make the king look good at all, but it makes him appear as a stooge – one who is led around by those serving under him. Of course, this is not accurate, as we will come to learn, but it does give one the impression. Moreover, what is to be said about Haman, but that he was insecure and radical in his “solution” to the problem of one failing to give due deference. The opportunity to have an amicable solution was put to a blustery wind and blown away.
The king now decides to replace his queen with a “beautiful young virgin.” Gathering up “many young women” to Shushan, there was one Jewish girl Hadassah (Esther) who was also present. As was custom the women were scheduled a time with the king; a time in which the king was to value or not value his time with the particular young woman. When Esther went in the king found her to be the most pleasing of all the young women he encountered. To vouch for the choice he made, the queen actually saved the king’s life at a later point (with her uncle Mordecai actually giving the information that saved him).
Application: The weakness of the male, among many, is the female. Whatever bravado he musters she can temper him. Whatever toughness he displays she can soften him. Esther’s virtue was not only her modesty, pleasing disposition, but also her loyalty. She was loyal to the one who raised her and she was loyal to the one to whom she married. Her position was one of great significance and though she did not know it on this early occasion, the saving of the king’s life resulted in the saving of her people as well.
The occasion was a festive occasion. The king had present with him the nobles of his court and for seven days there was a festive spirit. The queen also did the same. The festive occasion, however, ended in a sour and embarrassing note for the king. He sought to parade his wife for her beauty, but she refused to be used in such a manner. The embarrassment caused the king to take drastic action, and that action was the disposing of his queen for another, coupled with a new law stating that the man is the master of his house. This new law made clear that no woman of the house was to usurp his authority without consequences.
Application: This notable chapter is a great example of a law “run amuck.” The law of man – whatever it is – has authority, but its authority does not hold sway above a dignity that God has instilled within each person. It may be that a person will compromise their dignity, but a moral law greater than man is to be recognized. More than that, however, is the fact that if a man-made law has to be set in place for a wife to honor her husband, then there is a flaw in that law and in a society that demands as much. Following after God’s ideal the wife and the husband will have a mutual relationship that is honed with respect and a willingness to serve in God-ordained roles.
This chapter has Nehemiah, having returned to the king, now back in Jerusalem. What was before him was much corruption. He set himself to cleansing and getting the people back to where they needed to be.
Application: This chapter is a chapter of separation. As we read Ezra 10 and take note of that chapter as a chapter of separation, we see separation in other areas here: a) Separation of association with regard to assembly (13:1-3); b) Separation of association with corrupted people (13:4-9); c) Separation with regard to failing to support the Levites (13:10-13); d) Separation with regard to failure in observing the Sabbath (13:15-22); e) Separation with regard to marriage (13:23-27); f) Separation with regard to those who are properly serving. In all this Nehemiah did it with much anxiety and determination (cf. 13:14, 22b, 29).
“This chapter is made up of two portions: (a) lists of the leading priests and Levites at different periods Neh. 12:1-26: (b) the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem Neh. 12:27-47. This latter passage is certainly from the pen of Nehemiah, and was written probably about 433 B.C. The lists included in (a) are four: (1) the chief priestly and Levitical families which returned to Jerusalem Neh. 12:1-9; (2) the succession of the high priests from Jeshua to Jaddua Neh. 12:10-11; (3) the actual heads of the priestly families in the time of the high priest Joiakim Neh. 12:12-21; (4) the chief Levitical families at the same period Neh. 12:24-26. Of these lists, List 1, List 3, and List 4, may have been drawn up in the time of Nehemiah, but List 2, in its present form, must be much later. See the introduction of the Book of Nehemiah” (Barnes, E-Sword).
Application: A day of thanksgiving by those of Judah has an appropriate quality to it even for our day.
With Jerusalem having been rebuilt, with the wall surrounding the city rebuilt, they now needed residents.it was only natural that some would desire to go to the home of their ancestors, but there was a greater need for the community to have people stay in the capital city, the city that houses the religious center.
Application: The one noteworthy thing that stands out to me is the acceptance of doing what is right for the larger group than for self. Reflect on this for a moment. Would you not want to go to the land where your father resided? Surely you would, but as you considered the prospects for the important city – what are you willing to do?
After the prayer for the nation that had returned from exile – a nation that was but a fraction of itself when the Lord brought them from Egyptian bondage – that same nation had now committed itself to do those things the Lord outlined long ago.
Application: Making a commitment is something that many people do, but fail to hold on to. I have heard and observed through the years people expressing a strong desire with regard to themselves, a determination to do they know needs to be done. They are convinced that they have the necessary “stick-to-it” attitude that will pull them though and even over the waves they will experience; they made a commitment. One’s determination, however, can be clouded with distractions and when that occurs then one’s initial determination begins to “grow” weak. Ultimately, then, for some, the commitment is lost. That which is necessary to hold on to a commitment are the following: a) a deep abiding trust in the Lord, b) a volition that refuses to allow outside distraction to intercede, c) brethren to exhort us along the way.
Later in the 7th month the assembly gathered and offered a prayer to the Lord that recounted in brief the history of their transgressions, and how merciful the Lord was to them as a nation. As they reflected on their current circumstances they appealed to the Lord for relief and a reconfirmation from them to Him they would be loyal.
The nation of Israel had a national covenant with the Lord (Exodus 19:4-6). But, as a nation, they did not keep that covenant. Thus, as a nation they appealed to the Lord for His mercy. Under the new covenant it is the individual who replaces the physical nation; under the new, it is the individual who must appeal to the Lord for mercy. There is no national leader to whom we can appeal to lead us, but there is an eternal Leader to whom appeal has been made when we go to Him.
After the wall had been built, the gates installed, Nehemiah sets over the city a governor with particular instructions (7:1-4). Nehemiah also looks into a list of those who returned from Babylon; he took note of not only who returned, but that some were not able to support their contention with regard to genealogy. *** A large gathering of the people was present as the Book of the Law was read by Ezra. It was during the 7th month that they gathered and heard the Book of the Law read; moreover, they observed the occasion to dwell on booths. So neglected was this (8:17), that it was worthy of a special note. “When it is said that since the days of Jeshua had not the children of Israel done so, we must understand, not that there had been no celebration of the feast of tabernacles since that time not even that there had been no celebration accompanied by ‘dwelling in booths,’ but only that there had been no such joyous and general celebration of the festival (comp. what is said in 2Kings 23:22 and 2Chronicles 35:18 of the passover kept in Josiah’s eighteenth year). It is the very great gladness that is especially insisted upon” (Pulpit, E-Sword).
Application: In 7:64 we notice that some could not serve the Lord in a particular way (as Levite priest) because they were unable to support the heritage. So important was God’s will to them they were not even going to think of compromising what he said. How unlike that for a great many people today, isn’t it? *** What kind of reverence do you have for God’s word (cf. 8:1-5)? Is your reverence to such a degree that when you hear it read (from the pulpit for instance) that your ears are attentive? Or, are you still “fumbling” around tending to other matters because you know this is a formality of the worship hour? Tuning our ears to hear to the holy word of God is very important, but after that if we tend to other matters without regard to and for God’s word, then what?
A chapter of conflict and tensions. The wall was completed in 52 days; the people in the surrounding areas found this threatening and did what they could to thwart its accomplishment. This includes a private meeting with Nehemiah, a threatening letter to the king with lies concerning Nehemiah, and a potential meeting with a priest who was proposing a ruse to get Nehemiah to do wrong in order to have some substantive charge to level against him.
Application: From one event and effort to the next, the minions of Satan will do what they can to thwart that which is right (cf. Luke 4:13). When a person stays on the course that the Lord set forth he has only one way to go. Those who attack will come from every which way. It is hard enough to defend self when a person sees a frontal attack, now just imagine it coming from all directions and how one will handle it then (cf. Philippians 4:13).
The economic hardship some were experiencing is the thrust of this chapter. To Nehemiah’s attention it was brought, and when he learned to what extent it was his anger was aroused. Those guilty of levying a burden against the poor Nehemiah’s anger was particularly focused.
Application: This chapter addresses what might be called “social justice.” Social justice, however, is to be understood in relation to the Lord’s will, not the arbitrary actions on the part of government. Interestingly enough, the experiences of those in Jerusalem was not exclusive to them, but was a problem in other parts of the empire (EBC-R, vol. 3, p. 496). Social justice is a red-flag term in our current conversation; but that justice is to be rendered to (and within) society is a truth that can’t be negated. Justice pertains to law, whether it is man’s law or God’s law. We will benefit society when each of us accepts and implements the roles assigned by God. For instance, the wife of the family is the manager of the home; the father of the family is the head of the house. Those who work in the community are to work; if they don’t let them not eat.
Chapter 3 is a chapter that mentions the diligent work of the various people; all had a place to work, and all set themselves to that work. Chapter 4 deals with the affliction of 2:19 as those who opposed the Lord’s work mustered up a plan to thwart it. That plan, however, was revealed, and Nehemiah took the necessary steps to protect the work and those who worked it.
Application: The people had a mind to work, the Scripture says (4:6), and this mind to work was coupled with good leadership and the Lord’s protective care. Add to this a belief in the cause that is pursued and it was not long before much had been accomplished. Though much was accomplished, it was not achieved without great concern. That is the way it is many times; we look upon the work to be accomplished as a mountain to be scaled, but when we set our minds to it, before we know it, it is done.
As the taster of wine (cupbearer) for the king, Nehemiah was in a position that the king paid particular attention to; Nehemiah had a sad countenance, and the king noticed (2:1-2). Nehemiah was able to convince him there was no threat to his (the king’s) life, but that his countenance was the result of the circumstances in his homeland. Having received permission to take a party back there, Nehemiah leaves with the king’s authority, with the ultimate desire to return to the king’s service. Having arrived in Jerusalem, Nehemiah surveyed the landscape and gave encouragement to the people about the work that needs to be done, and the king’s authority will bring about its accomplishment.
Application: The NKJV says, “Then they set their hands to this good work” (2:18). In the midst of this work that had to be done, there was opposition (2:19). Paul and Barnabas encouraged the brethren many years later that with much tribulation we shall enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22; cf. 2 Timothy 3:12). In such circumstances this calls upon each of us to take inventory (2 Corinthians 13:5), and to determine what is of value to us (Matthew 13:45-46).