Seasons come and seasons go.  Like you, I have at times endured the autumn of life drying up, what seems like death overtaking everything, and all seems dark around you.  Also like you, I have experienced the spring of renewal, new growth, and fragrant, colorful blossoms all around.  Specifically, I’m referring to my own study of the Word of God.  At times, and even for years, I had ached for a group study to share, discuss, and learn with others.  Currently, despite the brown autumn turning gray winter outside my window, I am in the midst of enjoying summer’s bounty, harvesting rich nutrients of truth from the Word, shared with multiple groups.

Our weekly house church digs deeper into the Sunday sermon, discussing personal application, seeking intimacy in Christ, praying for each other, and bearing one another’s burdens.  Two of the other groups I am privileged to be a part of have delved into “homework-rich” Beth Moore studies.  One Saturday a month, I meet with the women of Missio Dei to study and discuss the book of James.  Weekly, I skype (Oh the joys of technology!) into my “radical girls” group (named for doing our best to radically live out the Gospel after having read the book by David Platt) back home in Florida  as we work through the life and wild story of a Jewish exiled orphan named Hadassah, more commonly known by her Persian name, Esther.

{DISCLAIMER: While the story of Esther is about a woman and the study I’m doing was written by a woman, there is rich truth for all, so hang in there with me fellas!}

One of the things I appreciate most about Beth Moore is that her own excitement to know and understand the Word of God overflows onto every page of her study and you walk away with a deeper desire to study for yourself.  In the first two weeks, I have already learned more than I ever imagined, about a story I read so many times as a child.  Here is a brief summary to bring you up to date:

The Jews had formerly been taken captive to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar, which later fell to the Persian empire.  Xerxes now reigns and the Jews were free to return home, though many did not.  The king had been publically embarrassed by his queen for her refusal to submit to his authority, thus he banished her.  He also decreed that all men throughout the land “man-up” and control their wives.  You could say this was not a jolly season for women in Persia.

After a few years, regretful Xerxes apparently tires of his concubines and once again desires a new trophy-wife by his side.  The decree is made and young virgins are lined up in the streets, selected solely for their looks, brought to the palace for a year of beauty treatments, and this culminates in their “audition” of sorts for the crown.  Their only job?…to be beautiful and sexually please the king.  They were given ONE chance to stand out from the king’s blur of hundreds of nights with hundreds of women.

Enter Esther, our protagonist, in a literal rags-to-riches tale if considered from a secular worldview.  She was a young woman, possibly in her early teens, whose parents had both passed away, adopted by her cousin, living in the only land she had ever known as home, though culturally worlds apart from her heritage, snatched up and brought to the royal palace with a shot at the crown.  Who wouldn’t want that?

Let’s consider the aftermath: these women have now lost their chance to have a normal existence, love, husband, or family; they’re taken captive to a life not their own, as a sexual toy for the king, to be used and most likely rejected.  Remember, only one of them gets to be queen.

So Esther arrives on the scene, hiding her true identity, as a king would never choose for himself a former exile who is parent-less.  What a lack of nobility!  Esther soon wins the favor of Hegai, the head eunuch, and receives special treatment.  You can bet this was not based solely on her looks.  Can you imagine hundreds of beautiful women, knowing they were chosen for their beauty, all living together going through beauty treatments in the competition of their lifetimes?  It’s like [America’s Top Model + The Bachelor] x 100…on steroids!  (I’m beginning to pity the eunuchs for more than just having been…well, made a eunuch…now they have to put up with all of this?  Ouch!)  Esther earned the favor of Hegai, it was not just given her.  The original text says she gained it.  He was so pleased with her, he gave her everything in his power to help her ascend the heights and stand out from the rest of the women.  Sounds like he was casting his vote for his future queen.

Today’s study struck me with a truth, a beautiful reminder from Scripture that we all need from time to time.  Here is Esther, preparing herself with a year’s worth of royal beauty treatments for an earthly king, who will value her for her physical beauty and sensuality as she stands before him uncovered, just another woman in the blur of the pornographic life the king lives.  But to the contrary for you and I, to quote Moore,

“Praise God for a King who gives a woman dignity instead of taking it, a righteous King whose commands are always for our good and whose ways are always toward our wholeness.  In contrast to the gods of many world religions, our God never asks anything perverse of us. … Our God views women with purity, not sensuality.”

If that didn’t strike you as magnanimous, please read it again.  Gents, there is a fantastical double-meaning in that quote which stands just as much for you as it does for us ladies.  We can take the word woman in Moore’s quote and substitute bride…we are ALL the bride of Christ.  The point might come across more conspicuously in reference to women, but the ultimate truth is for all followers of Christ.

I then went on through the study to read Isaiah 61:10 which speaks of how we are clothed with garments of salvation, covered with the robe of righteousness.  What a contrast to the paradigm of this world!  We see the beautiful picture of a bride and groom, decorated for each other on their wedding day.  Then in Revelation 19:7-8, the bride of the spotless Lamb has been granted to clothe herself with fine linen, the righteous deeds of the saints.  And lastly, Ephesians 5:25-27 tells us of a Husband who loved his bride so much He gave Himself up for her, to sanctify her and cleanse her, to present her holy, without blemish or stain, in splendor.  This sanctification comes through “the washing of water with the word.”

Instantly I felt honored, privileged, like the one chosen for the King.  And He does want to purify me and cleanse me.  He does want to present me to Himself beautiful and holy as his bride.  For just a moment, my mind raced and I began to wonder if it is my responsibility to prepare myself, to put myself through some “spiritual” beauty treatments like Esther went through.  For just a split-second I went down the legalistic trail of “I must cleanse myself with the Word, I must do this daily, and that more often, I must…I must.”  And then the verse jumped off the page (well actually, off the screen) and I read it again.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”  The difference must be known, I cannot make myself holy.  He does it.  He sanctifies.  He cleanses.  He presents us to Himself.  I can read the Word, but I cannot make myself holy.  I can study and pray, but I cannot make myself pure.  As I read, as I study, as I seek Him, He clothes me, He dresses me, He prepares me as His bride.

This entry was published on December 10, 2012 at 1:24 am and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “Seasons

  1. Wow! You so beautifully captured the story of Esther………bringing it into our reality, our journey. Love you, sweet daughter.

  2. Harriet on said:

    SOme great writing and insights. Thanks for sharing.

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