Bible reading for January 27--28
Jan 27 -- Esther 4 and Acts 27
Jan 28 -- Esther 5 and Acts 28
"For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14)
FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS. The Bible reveals God to be the Lord of time, and times. He creates order in the passing of time (Genesis 1). The sun, moon, and stars serve as lights and markers: "...for signs and for seasons, and for days and years" (Gen 1:14). The word "time" in Scripture may refer merely to the passing of time, but often the sense is that of an appointed time, or the right time, designating a point or season of significance or opportunity. In Israel's history, the men of Issachar knew that it was the right time to come to King David's aid, for they "had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do" (1 Chron 12:32). At just the right time, in the fullness of time, Christ came into the world for our rescue (Rom 5:6; Gal 4:4). A great part of wisdom is knowing what season we are in (Eccles 3:1-8), in order that we might know how best to use the time and opportunities God gives us (Eph 5:16). In the story of Esther the wicked Haman is casting lots to determine the right time to move against the Jews. And Mordecai urges his cousin Esther to discern her opportunity in "such a time as this." She needed the courage to speak up at the right time.
PRAYING FOR WISDOM. We live in confusing times, don't we? When do we speak up? When should we be silent? James wrote, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him" (James 1:5). Here's an example of a prayer for guidance, taken from the Book of Common Prayer: "O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." (Prayers and Thanksgivings, 58) When Reinhold Niebuhr first penned his well-known Serenity Prayer (ca. 1932), he listed courage first, and specifically, "for changing things that must be changed, not things that simply can be changed" (Wikipedia). "Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other." O Lord, how we need insight, discernment, and wisdom! We need courage for the hour, as well as the peace and contentment that only you can give. Amen.
TURN, TURN BACK THE CLOCK. Though Pete Seeger wrote this song in 1959, it was the Byrds who took "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)" to the number one spot on the charts in 1965. Seeger based his lyrics upon Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Why not turn the clock back and enjoy the Byrds once again.
"He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance." (Acts 28:30-31)
ARRIVAL AT ROME. Paul's adventures in chapters 27 and 28 seem to alternate between miracle and near-disaster. By remarkable providences, both natural and supernatural, Paul and his associates arrive safely (though not unscathed) at the capital of the empire. True to the Lord's word, Paul is in Rome and will testify before the Caesar. So, the book ends with him under house arrest from about AD 60--62. This also helps determine the date the book of Acts was written. He will be released, travel more, and be arrested again and martyred by Nero around AD 65. Since Luke's account does not cover that very important information, Acts must have been written before AD 65.
UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES. What we should note, in keeping with the theme of God's timing in Esther, is that Paul himself is making the most of his time in quarantine, so to speak. He is in lockdown for two years, awaiting trial. He may not be out in the marketplace sharing the gospel, but he is welcoming all who come to visit him, and is boldly proclaiming Christ in his particular situation. John Blanchard once said, "No Christian should feel 'under' the circumstances, because the circumstances are under God."
FINAL QUOTE. “Every age has had its darkness and its dangers. The task of the Christian is not to whine about the moment in which he or she lives but to understand its problems and respond appropriately to them.” (Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self)
INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY is this Wednesday. What was the Holocaust? Read more here.
Image credit. Album cover courtesy of Columbia Records. About this newsletter: I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Another resource I recommend is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.