Devotional Week 40 Tuesday
Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
Chosen for a Reason
“You are a chosen people…that you may declare the praises of Him Who called you!”
1 Peter 2: 9
This is a remarkably encouraging passage of Scripture! It tells us of our chosenness, our royal role in this world, and our inheritance as children of the most High God! We read verses like this and are amazed at the high and holy nature of our calling! We realize that mercy has been lavished upon us and we’re in a privileged place! We are the ultimate rags-to-riches story!
But the amazing story doesn’t end there! God hasn’t just saved us and then written “the end!” There’s more to the plot than that! We are chosen so that we might declare His praises!As verse 9 continues, we have been transferred from a kingdom of darkness to a Kingdom of Light! We were blind, but now we see! We were hidden and then revealed! We were lost in a dark, murky wilderness, then plucked out of it and placed on streets of gold glimmering under the perpetual radiance of the Son! And according to this verse, there’s a more ultimate purpose to our salvation than ourselves! We are bestowed with the honor of chosenness with the specific purpose of declaring His praises!”
“We were saved to worship God! All that Christ has done for us in the past and all that He is doing now leads to this one end.”
A. W. Tozer
“Today’s Study Text:
“Go gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day; I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king.”
Esther 4: 16
“Nurturing The Embers of Hope”
“From Feasting to Fasting” Part 30 Section A
“Fasting is the voluntary denial of a normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.”
Richard J. Foster
What are my thoughts personally about what fasting and praying do for my life?
“Fasting is calculated to bring a note of urgency and importance into our praying, and give force to our pleading in the court of heaven. The man (and woman) who prays with fasting is giving heaven notice that he (she) is truly in earnest.”
What is it that I think I must do in order to carry out a spirit of fasting?
“If you fast regularly, do not be inflated with pride, but if you think highly of yourself because of it, then you had better eat meat. It is better for a man to eat meat than to be inflated with pride and to glorify himself.”
“Rather is not this the fast that I have chosen; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the band of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every enslaving yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house – when you see the naked that you cover him, and that you hide not yourself from the needs of your own flesh and blood. Then shall your light break forth like the morning, and your healing, your restoration and the power of a new life shall spring forth speedily; your righteousness – your justice and your right relationship with God shall go before you conducting you to peace and prosperity, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard” (Isaiah 58: 6-8, Amplified Bible).
“For the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”
(Isaiah 58: 12, Amplified Bible).
Rear guard: “A detachment of troops assigned to protect the rear of a military force.”
Several months ago, I happened to be wandering the aisles in a Barnes and Noble bookstore, focusing especially on the “Religious” section where there were shelves of Christian books. I must admit I became rather fascinated by all the book titles on the topic of “Fasting.” I’m not certain why there were so many Christian pastors and teachers who were writing on this particular subject. But as I pursued several of the books, I noted that most of the authors focused simply on “Fasting” as it pertained to the intake or lack of intake of food.
As we continue to uncover the “happenings” in Medo-Persia we find that the land of feasting became a land of fasting for the Jewish inhabitants. With the lives of all the Jews on-the-line, Mordecai understood that Esther’s elevated position as Queen of Medo-Persia was not something that happened by chance. In fact, Mordecai informed Esther that in his mind, she had been called to a position of importance in the kingdom for “such a time as this.”
With this reminder from her cousin who had raised her and protected her up to this point in her life, Esther bade the messengers to tell Mordecai to gather all the Jews in Shushan together and she would do likewise with the maidens who served her and they would fast and pray both night and day for three days.
This combination of fasting and praying is spoken of throughout the Scriptures. However, in the book of Esther, the call to fasting stands in stark contrast to a country used to feasting beginning with King Ahasuerus’ 6-month feast followed by his seven-day garden feast at the Shushan palace as well as Vashti’s – day feast for the women. But the feasting didn’t stop when Vashti was deposed. When Esther was elevated to Queen of Medo-Persia, Esther 2: 18 records the fact that Ahasuerus hosted another feast for “all his princes and his servants, even ‘Esther’s feast,’ as it was called.
However, with the death decree calling for the murder of all the Jews, while the king and his sidekick Haman “sat down to drink” the rest of Shushan “was perplexed.” And it was at this point in the story where we are witness to the fact that rather than feasting, Queen Esther uses not only her position but her voice to send out a call for fasting.
As Biblical commentator Samuel Wells perfectly describes the situation:
“Esther, in a decisive moment, overaccepts not only her situation but also Mordecai’s appeal. ‘Go,’ she says, ‘gather all the Jews to be found in Susa.’ She overaccepts her Jewishness, by asking for the joint action of the Jews in Susa in solidarity with her. She overaccepts her position as queen, by recognizing that it is not an end in itself but a means to a much higher end. She overaccepts her cousin’s petition, by going further than he had dared ask. She overaccepts her whole story by perceiving that she has been placed on earth for exactly this moment and she overaccepts even her own death, but realizing that her fundamental choice is between redemption and futile resistance. By overaccepting she finds a power unknown to those who strive to block. This power is the way the book of Esther discloses the power of God.”
As observers of the story as well as readers of the biblical record we are witness to the two ways that Esther taps into the power of God – through fasting and prayer. Esther’s decision was to stake her trust in Jehovah. In the words of author Margaret Hess, “Fasting wouldn’t improve her beauty. The way of the pagan harem was to apply fine creams, perfumes, and decide which clothes and jewelry to wear. Rest and proper foods were necessary for Esther to appear at her peak. But Esther fasted. She placed her trust in God, not in the bloom in her cheeks. In the moment of decision, she became strong, not weak.”
It is Esther’s divinely appointed position and her behavior which leads us to take some time out to look at the way fasting became part of the Jewish heritage. We recognize a humble return to the Lord was called for. As the prophet Ezra penned in Ezra 8: 21 after another time of apostasy: “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might affict (Hebrew: humble) ourselves before our God, to seek of Him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.”
It is this passage which got me to thinking about the act of fasting in a broader perspective than just going without food. Years ago, I was having a discussion with a close friend about the act of fasting and he told me that going without food was “nothing” to him. In fact, as he laughingly admitted, stopping for meals was such a bore to him that he would rather take a pill three times a day in place of mealtimes.
I don’t know about your routine but I enjoy the fact that three times a day I have to get something to eat. But for those who aren’t particularly enchanted with food, fasting, which only requires an elimination of food isn’t really about giving up something which requires sacrifice. This is why digging into the wisdom shared by Christians down through time has been extremely illuminating to my life and I pray to your life as well.
In the words written by Bernard of Clairvaux, in the 1100’s: “If the appetite alone hath sinned, let it alone fast, but if other members also have sinned, why should they not fast, too? Let the eye fast from strange sights and from every wantonness…let the ear, blameably eager to listen, fast from tales and rumors…let the tongue fast from slanders and murmurings, and from useless, vain, and scurrilous words…let the hand abstain from all toils which are not imperatively necessary…but also let the soul abstain from all evils and from acting out its own will. For without such abstinence the other things find no favor with the Lord.”
For the young Jewish queen, Esther, her call to fast and pray was evidence that her reliance was not on her position in the palace of Shushan but in the God of Israel, whose throne she came to in humble submission and ultimate trust. May we do the same in our own lives.
“Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works.
If you see a poor man, take pity on him.
If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him.
Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear
and the feet and the hands and all the members of our bodies.
Let the hands fast, by being free from avarice.
Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin.
Let the eyes fast, by discipling them not to glare
at that which is sinful.
Let the ear fast, by not listening to evil talk and gossip.
Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.
For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes,
but bite and devour our brothers?
May HE who came to the world to save sinners
strengthen us to complete the fast with humility,
have mercy on us and save us.”
help us all to follow You into the desert,
with You to fast, denying false luxury,
refusing the tempting ways of self-indulgence,
the way of success at all costs,
the way of coercive persuasion.
Servant Christ, help us all to follow You.”
Worship in an Indian Context
“What Doth the Lord Require?”
“Wherewith shall I come before the Lord,
And bow myself before the high God?
Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings,
With calves of a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousand of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good;
And what doth the Lord require of thee,
But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to
walk humbly with thy God?”
8th Century B.C.
“With eye of faith we see today
That cross-led column wind its way
Up life’s repeated Calvary.
We rise, O Christ, to follow Thee!”
4th Stanza from
“The Martyr’s Hymn”
Adapted from a poem by
Dr. Francis H. Rose in
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus