Esther 8:1-10:3, 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13, Psalms 37:1-11, Proverbs 21:23-24
Today is the 20th day of August. Welcome to the Daily Audio Bible. I am Brian and of course every day is…well…is a wonderful day to come around the global campfire together and just allow God’s word to speak to us, give ourselves permission for a few moments of serenity and focus, knowing that whatever is happening, it’ll have its space and time for us to deal with. Right now, we’re here together and we’ll be concluding the book of Esther. So, we started Esther a couple days ago and we’ll reach the conclusion of that story today before moving into our reading from first Corinthians. So, we’re reading from the Christian Standard Bible this week. Esther chapters 8 through 10.
Okay. So, today we finished the book of Esther. Obviously, the story of Esther is incredibly dramatic, and it really comes at a welcome time after we’ve moved to so much genealogical record and just how…how profoundly the exiles affected the story. So, coming into Esther is like a breath of fresh air. So, I always enjoy reaching this point and actually all the points come next. So, it’s good to be here. But especially interesting thing about the book of Esther, the Greek Septuagint, which is a very early translation of the Bible from Hebrew into Greek has some additional versus, additional things in it than some of the original Hebrew manuscripts or the Latin Vulgate. Unless we think like we’re talking like…like recent translations, these are translations are way…like a thousand years older than the King James translation, so like way back. And, so, it’s really interesting. I’ve read the additions to Esther. And, so, when we’re reading like through Esther in the Bible now, we find Mordechai, you know, going to the Queen and saying, “for such a time as this” basically. And she knows that she has to risk her life. And, so, her attendants, they’re going to fast and pray and she instructs Mordechai to get people together to fast and pray, right? And, so some of these additions to Esther are those prayers, what they were praying for. So, if that’s fascinating to you, that kind of stuff is fascinating to me. I have read the additions to Esther. Like I’ve read that complete version of Esther, including the additions to Esther as well as some of the other apocryphal books and those are available in the Daily Audio Bible shop. Having completed that project. That was a long project. But I’ve read some of them. And, so, it’s a lot of historical information between the Old and New Testaments and stuff like that. So, if that’s intriguing to you, those are available in the Daily Audio Bible Shop and the additions to Esther are there as well.
So, we concluded Esther and we haven’t concluded first Corinthians, but we’ve definitely gotten to the heart of this letter and we’ve reached one of the…like one of the most famous well-known pieces of Scripture in the whole Bible is first Corinthians chapter 13, right, the love chapter. So, a lot…you know…we’re mostly aware of this and many of you can quote this whole chapter but we don’t usually…and this is the funny thing about famous passages of Scripture. We know the passage, whether it’s one verse or even if it’s a whole chapter but we don’t know where it’s sitting, right, the context of where it’s sitting. So, what about this love chapter? What is the context? So, when we were reading first Corinthians yesterday Paul’s discussing spiritual gifts, and he shows like how everybody has a unique place and together all of our gifts make a whole, like a mosaic, like we’re all a piece of a greater whole, but together we make a whole. And he used our physicality, our human body as an example. Like, we have many parts to our bodies. Some of them you can see, some of them you can’t see, but all the different parts of the body are important to making up the whole body. And that’s how it is with what we call the body of Christ. We collectively, together on this earth are disciples of Jesus and we each are uniquely gifted, we’re each uniquely placed somewhere on this earth, and we each have full, complete permission to be exactly who we were created to be. In fact, that’s the point. We have to become who we were created to be in order for this body to be whole, in order for this body to thrive, right? So, that’s when Paul’s like, “I can’t say to the ear, I don’t need you or I can’t say to the foot…”, like it’s all needed for the body to thrive. And, so, a finger can’t say to a toe, “I don’t need you”. A finger actually needs to fully be a finger in order for the body to thrive. So, Paul’s showing us we’re all unique. We all need to be who we are. We all need each other. And because there are gifts in the mix they’re all needed. That’s what Paul’s discussing today - apostles and prophets, teachers, people who could work a miracle, people who could work with the gift of healing, people who are helpful, who are administrative, who are leaders, those who can speak in unknown languages. Paul’s basically saying, “look…we look at each other’s giftings and we wish we had those giftings things but can all of us have all of these things?” And, of course, that’s no. We can’t all be all of those things, but there is one thing that all of those gifting’s require, one thing that ties it all together, one thing that makes many separate things a whole - love which is how we get to the love chapter. Paul says, “desire the greater gifts”, right? So, yes, desire and press into these gifting’s but I will show you an even better way. That’s what launches us into, “if I speak with the tongues of men of angels”. Like, that’s what gets us to the love chapter. And as we get into love chapter, right, he’s naming all these gifts…” if I speak with the tongues of men of angels, if I have the gift of prophecy, if I understand mysteries and knowledge, if I have faith that can even move mountains, if I give away everything I have, if I even give over my body, if I don’t have love, then these gifts have no purpose and they are not animated. Without love all of these gifting’s are nothing, right? Now, when you sit with that for second you understand the context of the love chapter then you realize, yeah, the love chapter stands on its own, but its context is incredibly disruptive because we’re chasing giftings, we’re like really trying to worship gifting’s. We’re being jealous and envious of each other’s gifting’s when what Paul is saying, yeah these are gifts. Nobody’s earned these gifts. They were bestowed. Everyone has gifts. Every gift is necessary to make up the whole body. We are all in this together whether we like it or not. We are part of the same whole.” But when we’re running around trying to worship the gifting or to perfect the gifting or get the gifting to get us attention or get us something and we don’t have love, then it’s empty. There’s nothing to it. Love is the thing that makes the gift work. Okay. So, then understanding that now we understand why Paul is trying to create a definition of what love looks like because nothing else will work without it. That’s when we get to the very famous part of this chapter. “Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, love is not boastful. Love is not arrogant. Love is not rude. Love is not self-seeking. Love is not irritable, and it does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. So, what Paul’s doing here is defining the characteristics of love certainly, but if you have a gifting and you do not have love, as defined here, then it doesn’t mean anything, right? So, if you are a great teacher, but you are boastful and arrogant and rude and self-seeking, then your gift does not matter, right? If you are a great manager, if you are a great administrator, like if you are a great strategic planner, but you aren’t patient and you are kind and you are envious, well then it just doesn’t matter, you’re only after what you can get. Like, you’re using your gifting for your own exaltation. It’s like a banging gong or a clanging cymbal according to the Scriptures. And Paul, after he defines this, he goes on. He’s like, “listen, all of these gifts everybody’s so enamored with. Like oh your gift is better than my gift or your gift is more prominent or more visible than my gift, all those things are all going away. All that we have right now is partial. We are moving toward the whole. The whole is coming and when the whole comes, like when we become fully whole then all the things that are in part will go away. So, like, don’t put all your stock in all of your gifting’s and all of your notoriety. Put it all in love because love is the only common denominator that’s going to go through all of this. All the other stuff will pass away.” In fact, Paul says, “look, in the end three things will be left standing - faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.
Father that…that takes us through some complex territory to get to something very fundamental and easy to understand because we understand love. We can’t explain love, but we can’t live without love and we know what love is. And, so, when we know when we are experiencing love, we know when we are giving love and we know when love is absent. And so often, we’re just not paying attention, we’re trying to develop our gifting’s, we’re trying to get somewhere, we’re trying to get somewhere even for You. We’re trying to use our gifting’s to build Your kingdom and not focusing on the question, “am I doing this in love? Like, is love the thing that’s animating this motivation?” So, help us to know Lord. If it’s not, then it’s going nowhere. It never could. We’re trying to push a boulder up a mountain if we don’t have love. So, come Holy Spirit, we invite You into that. How are we loving? That is what we will be known by, that is what our Savior Jesus said, “we will be known by our love” and now we’re seeing the apostle Paul say, “without it, nothing means anything and everything that we’re chasing is going to pass away anyway except love and faith and hope.” And, so we invite You into that today. What have we been chasing and not doing it in love at all? Come Holy Spirit we pray. In the name of Jesus, we ask. Amen.