Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Esther I: Esther and Obergefell

I have begun what I hope to be a long-term study of the Biblical book of Esther, which I have come to believe is an extraordinarily significant book for Christians in our time. It’s also a remarkably neglected book, and a remarkably misunderstood book. I’m reading and listening to everything I can get my hands on by James Jordan for this study, so a lot of what you read here will be due to his considerable insight into Scripture (seriously, if you’re not familiar with him, you need to be).

My intentions, beyond simply trying to better understand the Bible, are to write and produce an audio adaptation of Esther, and perhaps to publish a popular-level accompanying study guide. This will be in 2016 at the earliest.

The posts here on this blog concerning Esther will not be laid out in a systematic and orderly fashion, but more like occasional, firing-from-the-hip, blasts at the target. I begin with a quote from The Handwriting on the Wall, James Jordan’s commentary on Daniel, that also illuminates the events of Esther:

“Notions of ‘natural law’ and ‘common grace’ usually leave room for a word from man. They leave room for human pride and accomplishment. They promote a distant God who, unlike the God of the Jews (see Exodus 21–23 and the book of Deuteronomy) has not given laws and commands for every detail of life, but has left them to us. They advocate a God who does not come into human life and judge it in its details. They leave room for Nebuchadnezzars to take pride in the Babylons they build.

“But when God’s kingdom comes, such notions must die. Godly rulers must know the Most High personally and fear before Him. They must tremble at His judgments, knowing that they will give an account. They must assiduously seek proper and valid applications of the intimately detailed Law He gave first to Israel. They must open their ears to the prophets who come from the Jews, those who speak for Holy God and not for ‘natural law,’ who today are God’s spokesmen in the Church.

“The Church must seek to be Belteshazzars, men who have the ear of the secular rulers and are ready to help them. But they must also be Daniels, bringing the Bible and the God of the Bible, and nothing less than these, not vague principles, before the minds of such rulers, however uncomfortable it may make the ruler.”

Now, the reason this reminded me of Esther is that Esther, a Jew, a worshipper of the Holy God of Israel, did have the ear of the secular ruler. But, at least in the beginning of the story, she did not take proper advantage of that fact. Why? Because she had been told by Mordecai, her cousin and adoptive father, not to do so. Remember? Mordecai told her not to tell anyone she was a Jew. So, unlike Daniel and his friends, who kept even the seemingly minor dietary laws of God while in exile in Babylon (Daniel 1), Esther broke those laws when she went to the palace of the king. The very reason the Jews had been sent out into the world empires of Babylon and, now, Persia, was because God wanted them to fulfill their mission of being a light to the Gentiles, a priestly people to the nations of the world. Esther is given an opportunity—the ear of the secular ruler—when she is made Queen, yet she hides her candle under a bushel, neglecting God’s plan for the Jews to be the light of the world. God blessed Daniel and his friends for their obedience, but Esther’s compromised position led to an extremely serious threat, not only to her and her family, but to all the Jewish people. This came about, in the first instance, because of a failure to be a witness.

How does this apply in our day? Jordan reveals the answer in the quote above: instead of bearing witness to the truth of God and His Word, we argue for “social conservatism” or “traditional marriage” based on natural law and common grace philosophy. I have not read all the various arguments from the pro-marriage side that were presented by conservatives in the Obergefell decision, but my understanding is that those who argued for “our” side used only natural law-type arguments. That is, they talked about the benefits of marriage to human society throughout history, and the biological realities that underlie male-female marriage, and the negative effects on society when children grow up without both a mother and a father.

And of course, all those arguments are true. But why are they true? They are true because that is the way God made the world. He reveals to us in His law the nature of man, and marriage, and the destructive and immoral nature of homosexual activity. But such uncomfortable truths were not employed by the "conservatives" before the Supreme Court.

It is our responsibility, when we have the ear of the king (or the president, or the Supreme Court, or the Congress, or the Governor, or the Mayor) to bear witness, not as advocates of natural law arguments, however true they may be, but as servants of the Most High.

Esther, in the end, learned that lesson, and did bear witness as she should have from the beginning. I wonder if we will learn that lesson as well.  

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