4 Mordecai mourned when he found out what had happened. He ripped his clothes, put on sackcloth, and wiped ash onto his body. Then he went through the city, weeping loudly in anguish. 2 When he came to the king’s gate, not far from the palace, he stopped since those wearing sackcloth were not permitted to enter it and disrupt the mood of the court.
3 In the meantime, as word of the king’s decree began to spread throughout all of the provinces, terrible distress grew among the Jews. They fasted, wept, and screamed out in misery. Like Mordecai, many put on sackcloth and ashes.
4 Back in Susa, Esther’s maids and eunuchs witnessed Mordecai mourning outside of the king’s gate. They went and reported to the queen all that they saw.
Esther: What is wrong? Why is he doing this? It breaks my heart to think of him like this. Take these clothes to Mordecai so he can put them on instead of wearing sackcloth.
But when the servants arrived, Mordecai refused to wear the clothes Queen Esther had sent. 5 So Esther sent for Hathach, who was one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to serve her.
Esther: Hathach, go to Mordecai at once. Find out why he is mourning, and report back to me all that he says.
6 Hathach went to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. 7 Mordecai told the queen’s servant everything that had happened and how much money Haman had pledged to place into the royal treasury in exchange for the destruction of the Jews. 8 Then he gave Hathach a copy of the order for mass murder of the Jews, the same order issued in the city of Susa.
Mordecai: Show it to Esther. Tell her everything I have told you. Convince her to go before her king and plead for his favor, not only for her life, but also for the lives of her people.
9 Hathach returned to Esther and told her everything Mordecai had said. 10 Esther ordered Hathach to return to the city gate and reply to Mordecai.
Esther: 11 How am I supposed to see the king? It’s known throughout the land, from the greatest of the king’s officials to the common folk who live in the provinces, that any person who approaches the king in the inner chamber without being invited is sentenced to death. That’s the law! There’s only one exception, and that’s if the king were to hold out the gold scepter to that person and spare his or her life. It’s been 30 days since the king last summoned me!
12 Hathach and the other servants took Esther’s response to Mordecai.
Mordecai: 13 Tell Esther, “Don’t be fooled. Just because you are living inside the king’s palace doesn’t mean that you out of all of the Jews will escape the carnage. You must go before your king. 14 If you stay silent during this time, deliverance for the Jews will come from somewhere, but you, my child, and all of your father’s family will die. And who knows? Perhaps you have been made queen for such a time as this.”
Of all the books in the Bible, Esther is unique because God is never once mentioned explicitly. Still, for those who know God and who know history, God is in the story, behind it, above it, beneath it. He is the main actor in history, even if He is not acknowledged. Here, Mordecai shows great wisdom. The Jews, God’s chosen people, will be delivered whether Esther involves herself or not. Divine Providence has ways and means that go beyond human understanding. Still Providence has made Esther queen for a purpose, a purpose she cannot easily escape.
15 Once again, Hathach returned to Queen Esther with Mordecai’s message. In turn she sent a reply back to Mordecai.
Esther: Tell Mordecai, 16 “In preparation for my audience with the king, do this: gather together all the Jews in Susa, and fast and pray for me. Intercede for me. For three days and nights, abstain from all food and drink. My maids and I will join you in this time. And after the three days, I will go in to the king and plead my people’s case, even though it means breaking the law. And if I die, then I die!”
17 Mordecai left the king’s gate and put all of Esther’s instructions into action.
5 When the third day arrived, Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace across from the king’s rooms. The king was sitting on his throne facing the palace entrance. 2 He was pleased when he noticed Queen Esther waiting in the court. He extended his gold scepter with his hand, inviting her in. Esther walked toward him, and when she was close enough, she reached out and touched the king’s scepter.
King Ahasuerus: 3 What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? I’ll give you anything—even half of my kingdom—all you need to do is ask.
Queen Esther: 4 If it would please you, my king, I’d like for you and Haman to come today to a banquet I have made in your honor.
King Ahasuerus (looking at his servants): 5 Go and find Haman this instant, so we can do as Esther desires.
So the king and Haman came to Esther’s banquet. 6 As Haman, the king, and Esther were enjoying the wine at the end of her banquet, the king pressed the question.
King Ahasuerus: Now, my queen, what is your request? I promise that half of my kingdom is not too much to ask! Don’t be afraid to ask for whatever you want.
Queen Esther: 7 I do want something. My request is: 8 If I have found favor before you, and if you truly desire to grant my request, would you and Haman join me again tomorrow for another banquet I will prepare? Then I will answer your question.
9 Haman left dinner in high spirits, almost gleeful, but his joy was short lived. As he walked through the king’s gate, he passed by Mordecai. It angered Haman to see the Jew unwilling to stand and, worse still, seemingly unafraid. 10 But he resisted showing his anger right then and there. Instead, he went home and spent time with friends and Zeresh, his wife. 11 Haman spent the evening bragging to them about being rich and having lots of sons in his family. He even boasted about his relationship with the king, talking to his guests about his promotion above all of his fellow nobles and the officials of the king.
Haman: 12 And that’s not all! Queen Esther invited me today to dine with her and the king. Just the three of us! And guess what? She’s invited me again tomorrow. What do you think about that? 13 But I must be honest; seeing that Jew, Mordecai, as I pass through the gate makes it difficult to celebrate any of my good fortune.
14 Then his wife Zeresh and all of his friends came up with an idea.
Zeresh and His Friends: You should make a wood pole 75 feet high! Tomorrow morning, have the king sentence Mordecai to be executed on it. Then you’ll be able to have a good time at the banquet with the king.
Haman thought the idea was brilliant. So he had the pole made.
The Persians have a particularly grisly way of humiliating and killing those they hate. A tree is cut down and sharpened to a point at one end. In some cases, the condemned are killed, and their lifeless bodies are impaled on it. Others are hung on the pole as a mode of torture and execution. It is erected in some public place as an example for others, and the 75-foot pole described here is high enough to be seen over most buildings and small trees. Soon birds and insects begin eating away at the dead or dying. Political enemies, criminals, and dissidents often end their lives this way. The threat of public death and humiliation has kept many from disobeying the law, but not Mordecai.
6 That same night the king was unable to sleep, so he ordered the official records of his reign to be brought and read before him. 2 As the record was read, the king was reminded of the time when Mordecai saved his life. Mordecai had been the one who reported that Bigthana and Teresh, two of the royal eunuchs who guarded the doors, were plotting to assassinate the king.[a]
King Ahasuerus (to his servants): 3 Did Mordecai receive any recognition for this action? Was he honored in any way?
Servants: He received no recognition for this.
King Ahasuerus: 4 Is anyone out in the court now?
Haman had just arrived at the outer court of King Ahasuerus’ palace. He hoped to speak with the king about executing Mordecai and hanging him on the pole he had prepared.
Servants: 5 Haman is here waiting in the court to see you.
King Ahasuerus: Allow him to come in.
6 So Haman entered the king’s chambers. He waited for the king to speak first.
King Ahasuerus: Haman, I want to ask you something. What do you believe is the proper manner in which to honor a man who has pleased me?
Then Haman thought to himself, “There is no one the king wishes to honor more than me.”
Haman: 7 If you desire to honor a man, I believe you should do this: 8 First, have your servants bring one of the robes you have worn and one of the horses you have ridden that has worn the royal crown on its head. 9 Then, you should give the robe and horse to one of your most noble officials. Have him robe the man whom you want to honor and then lead the man on horseback throughout the center of the city. It should be announced that this is what happens for the man whom the king wants to honor.
King Ahasuerus: 10 Your idea is perfect, Haman. I want you to go and do this immediately. Take one of my robes and one of my horses and do exactly what you have suggested to Mordecai, the Jewish man who sits at my gate. Do everything you have said, and don’t leave out one single detail. Not one!
The situation is now reversed, and Haman is forced to honor the man he has sought to kill.
11 Haman was mortified. He took the robe and horse; he dressed Mordecai in the king’s robe and led him throughout the square of the city.
Haman (shouting): This is what happens for the man whom the king desires to honor!
12 When it was done, Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman fled to his home, mourning and covering his head in humiliation. 13 He told his wife, Zeresh, and all his friends everything that had happened to him. They offered him a bit of wise advice.
Zeresh and His Friends: You must be very careful with how you handle Mordecai! If he really is a Jew, a descendant of the nation that defeated your ancestors, then you won’t be able to succeed. In fact, you will most certainly be destroyed! Look, you’ve already begun to bow to him.
14 In the middle of their conversation, the king’s eunuchs arrived at Haman’s house and rushed him off to have dinner with Esther and the king.
7 King Ahasuerus and Haman came to dine with Queen Esther; 2 and while they were drinking wine, the king posed his question once again.
King Ahasuerus: What is your request, Queen Esther? I’m willing to give you anything you want. Just make your request. Even if it’s half the kingdom you desire, I will make it happen!
Queen Esther: 3 If you favor me, my king, and if it pleases you, spare my life. That’s all I’m asking for—that my people and I be spared. That is my wish. 4 There are some, my king, who wish to rid your kingdom of us. For my people and I have been sold, marked for destruction and massacre. Now if the plan were simply to sell our men and women into slavery, I would have kept my mouth closed because that would not have been important enough to disturb you, my king.
Esther’s plea to Ahasuerus echoes the words of Moses to Pharaoh: “Let my people go.”
King Ahasuerus: 5 Who has targeted your people? Where is this man who dares to do this?
Queen Esther (pointing to Haman): 6 The man responsible for these actions is wicked Haman. He is vile, and an enemy to my people.
In that moment, Haman’s joy turned to terror before the king and queen. 7 Angered, the king shoved away from the table, left his wine, and walked into the palace garden. But Haman, aware that King Ahasuerus had already sealed his fate, didn’t follow behind. Instead, he pleaded with Queen Esther to spare his life. 8 In desperation, he threw himself onto the couch where Queen Esther was sitting, just as King Ahasuerus walked back from the garden to the place where the wine and the banquet had been set.
King Ahasuerus: Haman, will you even violate my queen right here in the palace, where I can see you?
As soon as the king gave the order, the royal eunuchs covered Haman’s face. His fate had been sealed. 9 One of those eunuchs was Harbonah.
Harbonah: Look! Haman has prepared a 75-foot pole for execution in his own courtyard. He was hoping to use it to hang Mordecai, the man who spoke up and saved the king.
King Ahasuerus: Well, hang him on it!
10 So they took Haman and killed him and displayed him on the pole he had made ready for Mordecai. And King Ahasuerus’ anger subsided.
1 Corinthians 12:1-26
12 Now let me turn to some issues about spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters. There’s much you need to learn.
2 Remember the way you used to live when you were pagans apart from God? You were engrossed—enchanted with voiceless idols, led astray by mere images carved by human hands. 3 With that in mind, I want you to understand that no one saying “Jesus is cursed” is operating under God’s Spirit, and no one confessing “Jesus is Lord” can do so without the Holy Spirit’s inspiration.
4 Now there are many kinds of grace gifts, but they are all from the same Spirit. 5 There are many different ways to serve, but they’re all directed by the same Lord. 6 There are many amazing working gifts in the church, but it is the same God who energizes them all in all who have the gifts.
Paul’s description of the works of the Spirit, the Lord (Jesus), and God (the Father) links the three persons together in remarkable ways. Although Paul never articulates the doctrine of the Trinity, what he writes here about the Godhead relationship—their community of persons—becomes the raw materials used by later believers to construct the church’s teaching on the Trinity. In this chapter the apostle emphasizes the agency of the Spirit. For him the Spirit is not just an impersonal force or feeling; He is just as much a person within the Trinity as the Father and the Son. Accordingly, the Spirit chooses where to impart gifts as He works together with the Father and the Son to build up the church.
7 Each believer has received a gift that manifests the Spirit’s power and presence. That gift is given for the good of the whole community. 8 The Spirit gives one person a word of wisdom, but to the next person the same Spirit gives a word of knowledge. 9 Another will receive the gift of faith by the same Spirit, and still another gifts of healing—all from the one Spirit. 10 One person is enabled by the Spirit to perform miracles, another to prophesy, while another is enabled to distinguish those prophetic spirits. The next one speaks in various kinds of unknown languages, while another is able to interpret those languages. 11 One Spirit works all these things in each of them individually as He sees fit.
12 Just as a body is one whole made up of many different parts, and all the different parts comprise the one body, so it is with the Anointed One. 13 We were all ceremonially washed through baptism[a] together into one body by one Spirit. No matter our heritage—Jew or Greek, insider or outsider—no matter our status—oppressed or free—we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Here’s what I mean: the body is not made of one large part but of many different parts. 15 Would it seem right for the foot to cry, “I am not a hand, so I couldn’t be part of this body”? Even if it did, it wouldn’t be any less joined to the body. 16 And what about an ear? If an ear started to whine, “I am not an eye; I shouldn’t be attached to this body,” in all its pouting, it is still part of the body. 17 Imagine the entire body as an eye. How would a giant eye be able to hear? And if the entire body were an ear, how would an ear be able to smell? 18 This is where God comes in. God has meticulously put this body together; He placed each part in the exact place to perform the exact function He wanted. 19 If all members were a single part, where would the body be? 20 So now, many members function within the one body. 21 The eye cannot wail at the hand, “I have no need for you,” nor could the head bellow at the feet, “I won’t go one more step with you.” 22 It’s actually the opposite. The members who seem to have the weaker functions are necessary to keep the body moving; 23 the body parts that seem less important we treat as some of the most valuable; and those unfit, untamed, unpresentable members we treat with an even greater modesty. 24 That’s something the more presentable members don’t need. But God designed the body in such a way that greater significance is given to the seemingly insignificant part. 25 That way there should be no division in the body; instead, all the parts mutually depend on and care for one another. 26 If one part is suffering, then all the members suffer alongside it. If one member is honored, then all the members celebrate alongside it.
- 12:13 Literally, immersed, in a rite of initiation and purification
For the worship leader. A song of David, the Eternal’s servant.
1 Sin speaks in the depths of the soul
of those who oppose God; they listen closely to its urgings.
You’ll never see the fear of God
in their eyes,
2 For they flatter themselves—
convinced their sin will remain secret, undiscovered, and so unhated.
3 They speak words of evil and deceit.
Wisdom and goodness, they deserted long ago.
4 Even as they sleep, they are plotting mischief.
They journey along a path far from anything good,
gravitating to trouble, welcoming evil.
5 Your love, O Eternal One, towers high into the heavens.
Even the skies are lower than Your faithfulness.
6 Your justice is like the majestic mountains.
Your judgments are as deep as the oceans, and yet in Your greatness,
You, O Eternal, offer life for every person and animal.
7 Your strong love, O True God, is precious.
All people run for shelter under the shadow of Your wings.
8 In Your house, they eat and are full at Your table.
They drink from the river of Your overflowing kindness.
9 You have the fountain of life that quenches our thirst.
Your light has opened our eyes and awakened our souls.
10 May Your love continue to grow deeply in the lives of all who know You.
May Your salvation reach every heart committed to do right.
11 Give me shelter from prideful feet that hunt me down
and wicked hands that push me from Your path.
12 It is there, far away from You, that the wicked will be forced down,
face to the earth, never again returning to their feet.
21 Whoever pursues justice and treats others with kindness
discovers true life marked by integrity and respect.
22 One wise person can rise against a city of mighty men
and cause the citadel they trust to collapse.