Young Adult Sunday School Lesson – September 2, 2012
The posts went out, being hastened by the king's commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed. Esther 3:15
It can’t happen again…
Those of us native to the Mid-South experienced another hurricane this week, and although on Monday it appeared to be no call for concern, by the end of the week most of us had changed our minds. No electricity and thousands of gallons of rainwater will do that to you. When we lost power, I connected a generator to the important appliances (air conditioning!) and saved a few amps for the television as our family hunkered down in the living room to weather the storm. Watching the New Orleans stations it came as a mild shock to see people being evacuated from Plaquemines parish via boat and National Guard trucks, despite the urgent requests well before the storm made landfall by all of the pundits in authority. This advice was given out during seemingly round-the-clock news conferences and punctuated by dire, not-so-subtle warnings. I found myself perplexed, indeed. How could this be?
However, later I witnessed an interview with one of the evacuees and it made a little more sense. The rain-soaked and much the worse for wear interviewee stated that “We didn’t figure that it would ever be as bad as Katrina, because we remember what all she did. There are new levees in place and everything was supposed to be taken care of. Plus—it was a much weaker storm!” A warning was given, but seven years of security and extra preparations along with a mere Category One storm classification had lulled her and her family (along with many others) into a false sense of security. I can understand that train of thought. Heck, I can even respect it. But then again, we should always remember our past trials and heed future warnings ahead of time, because you just never know.
In Deuteronomy 25, G_d warns Moses: “Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not G_d.”
G_d charged the Children of Israel to never forget what the Amalekites had done to them while they were on their way to the Promised Land. The books of Joshua and Judges, and later in 1st and 2nd Samuel, are replete with stories of almost constant warfare between Israel and Amalek. Finally, in I Samuel chapter 15, King Saul is ordered by JEHOVAH to slay all of the Amalekites. Saul failed in the task and did not complete the job. The prophet Samuel had to kill the Amalekite King named Agag and there is a graphic description of how he did so included in the chapter. (Incidentally, another Amalekite king named Agag is also mentioned in Numbers 24:7.)
This failure to follow G_d’s plan and heed His warnings is where we find ourselves in this week’s lesson from Esther. In the third chapter, we see an evil man gaining favor and a promotion in King Ahasuerus’s palace. We also learn that he is an Agagite:
After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him. Esther 3:1
Jewish literature considers Haman to be a direct descendent of Agag the Amalekite. The coincidences in the names of the two Kings we mentioned earlier and the heritage of Haman, along with his later actions, are too close to be ignored. G_d had warned his children from the wilderness through the times of the Kings of what they should do and how they should deal with the children of Amalek. Israel’s failure to eliminate Amalek despite several opportunities to do so would almost lead to the utter destruction of their nation in the book of Esther 800 years later.
But what can we learn from this?
In all of our lives, G_d has a plan in place and it is up to us to find it and follow it. He speaks to us through His Word; and through His Holy Spirit He guides us along the perfect path He has put in place for every Christian’s life. Sometimes the instructions appear hazy and open to our own interpretation, but we are warned against this many times in the Bible. We are commanded to “lean not unto our own understanding” and reminded twice in Proverbs chapters 14 and 16 that “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
In my own life, there are many times I can recall where I have gone against the plan I knew G_d had in store for me, and many times I thought I had slipped under the radar and gotten away with it. A lot of ‘if only’s’ are recorded in those dreary chapters of my life, and they all revolve around ‘if only’ I had listened to the Shepherd’s call at that moment in time, how much turmoil would have and could have been avoided.
Closer, and more personally to the point, I’ve also been known to have ‘pet sins’ that I hang on to—thinking of them as harmless compared to the sins that others commit—all the while knowing that any sin is against G_d’s Law and I will be held accountable for my actions at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Small, insignificant sins are still rebellion from G_d, and left unattended in my own heart can blossom into a proverbial Category 5 Hurricane in my soul. At that point there are no answers. You can find yourself stranded and looking for help all because you thought you were better prepared and, of course, it could never happen to you.
In my foolish heart you could picture me in that interview—dirty, dripping wet, hungry, and lucky to be alive—all the while knowing that I had been warned and had no one or anything to blame except for my own sense of complacency.
It’s a good thing I serve a Living G_d Who is always there to rescue me—even when I don’t deserve it.