Do you believe in prayer? Do you think prayer is powerful? Would you agree with James that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (Jas. 5:16)? I know a man who believed wholeheartedly in the power of prayer. His name is Nehemiah.
On several occasions in the book of the same name, Nehemiah was involved in prayer and in speaking to God (1:4, 6, 11, 2:4, 4:4, 4:9, 13:14, 22, 31). Nehemiah knew that if he was going to get anything done, he needed to make sure he was communicating with the God of Heaven!
A casual reading of the passages above shows us that Nehemiah prayed to God to confess sins and ask for forgiveness. He also prayed to God for help in times of need. He was a man who was acquainted with God and made talking to God a priority! As we read this book, we will see that such a prayer life was vital to his survival, as well as the survival of the people in Jerusalem.
What kind of a prayer-life do you have? How often do you pray? I hope you are not like George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life), who said he was not a “praying man.” Worse, I hope you are not like Charlie Anderson (Shenandoah), who bowed his head and said, “Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvest it. We cook the harvest. It wouldn't be here, and we wouldn't be eating it if we hadn't done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we're about to eat, amen.”
Instead, let us learn from Nehemiah (Rom. 15:4). His example shows us how we ought to be. He led the people and helped to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem in fifty-two days (Neh. 6:15)! This was not done without God’s help. Instead, it was done by God’s power! Not only did Nehemiah pray for God’s blessing through it all, but when the work was done, prayers still ascended! Nehemiah 9:4-38, for example, is a prayer offered to God by the Levites who were in the city and had gathered the people to read God’s word and to repent of sins committed through the years. In the final chapter of this book, we read of three occasions where Nehemiah asks God to remember him (13:14, 22, 31)!
Prayer is a powerful weapon in our arsenal (Eph. 6:18)! When suffering, let us pray (Jas. 5:13, 16)! When tempted, pray (I Cor. 10:13)! When we are grateful, pray (Ps. 110:4: Col. 3:15; I Thess. 5:18)! Let us be like Nehemiah and “pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
After Haman’s plans for killing the Jews, including Esther, were revealed (Est. 7:6), things moved very quickly. Mordecai’s enemy ended up hanging from the gallows he had made for him (v. 10). Not only this, but the ring Haman once wore was given to Mordecai (Est. 8:2). The position once held by Haman, Mordecai now held. The entire population of Jews, once oppressed, were allowed weapons and to have a fair fight against the Persians (Est. 8:11-12, 9:2-3). Yes, God in His providence caused a complete reversal in the plans of Haman “the enemy of the Jews.”
This is not the only time we read about this happening. When Jesus spoke about the eternal destiny of the rich man and Lazarus, we find another time when things were reversed (Lk. 16:19-31). Specifically, Abraham reminds the rich man, “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented” (v. 25). Upon analyzing the context, we see many “reversals” that took place between the rich man and Lazarus. Just like Haman and Mordecai, many things changed between them. I marvel at this because perhaps those five brothers he left behind thought of their brother as a godly man and one bound for eternal bliss. God knew what was going on “behind the scenes,” and this man got what he deserved. In reality, the rich man and Lazarus experienced a true reversal from what they had experienced on earth.
The most significant reversal of all was the reversal Christ performed when He made salvation possible through His death, burial, and resurrection (Matt. 26:28; Col. 1:14, 20; Heb. 9:28; I Jn. 2:2; Rom. 6:2-6, 16-18; I Pet. 3:21). Satan thought that he had won. He had succeeded in tempting the first people to sin (Gen. 3:1-6). They sinned, and we have had to live with the consequences on this earth ever since (Gen. 3:16-24). Satan then tempted Cain (Gen. 4:1-11), Abraham (Gen. 12, 20), Moses (Num. 20), David (II Sam. 11-12), and every other man and woman on earth (Rom. 3:23)! He succeeded in getting humanity to sin and to jeopardize their souls before God.
Satan seemed to be winning until Christ came to earth! At that time, we see a reversal taking place. Christ was tempted like others, but did not yield (Matt. 4:1-11; Lk. 4:1-13; Heb. 4:15). He “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (I Pet. 2:22). Furthermore, when He died, He did not die in sin but died to be a sacrifice for others’ sins (I Pet. 3:18). Where Adam brought death, we see that Christ brings life (I Cor. 15:22). Yes, a complete reversal is possible in Christ!
Are you ready for a new beginning? Are you ready for “light, and gladness, and joy, and honor” (Est. 8:16)? Spiritually, you can have these things by following the Lord and doing what He says. Become a Christian (Acts 11:26; Mk. 16:16). Live faithfully for the Lord (I Cor. 15:58), and you can look forward to Heaven (another reversal from life on earth) when this life is over (Matt. 25:34)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
As we open the book of Esther, we read about Ahasuerus and the great party he threw (Est. 1:4-5). We also read about him choosing a new mate (Est. 2) and choosing a man to be his second-in-command (Est. 3:1). After this, we read little about the king. He was on the throne, doing the work of a leader, but where was he when the people needed him (Est. 3:15b)? He was satisfied to take a bribe from Haman and go about whatever work he deemed essential to the kingdom (Est. 3:9-11).
We know this because while the city was “perplexed” (3:15), and while Mordecai mourned at the gate (4:2), the king seemed to be so engrossed in other work that he saw none of this. In fact, Esther remarked to Mordecai how it had been a month, and even she had not seen her husband (Est. 4:11)! What was he doing that demanded he ignore his wife and the cries of the people for a month?
From the attitude shown by the king in Esther 5:2-3, his negligence was not because he was angry or had some grudge against Esther or the others. If I could conjecture, it seems he got so caught up in certain aspects of being a king that he ignored other parts that were just as important. Does this sound like a problem we have had in the past? Does this sound like a problem we are having right now?
In 21st century America, we have so many things vying for our time and attention that we cannot adequately deal with them all. Some of these are our own doing, while other things have been “thrust” on us. We need to learn to prioritize and put “first things first”! Sadly, this does not happen as it should.
When Jesus walked the earth, He told those who listened to His preaching to, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). He rebuked the Pharisees who “pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.” He said, “these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matt. 23:23). In other words, the Pharisees faced a similar problem to Ahasuerus. They focused on the areas they deemed necessary and ignored other things that were just as important. Friend, look into God’s mirror (Jas. 1:22-25). Is this you? What occupies your time? What do you deem important?
It took Esther entering the king’s presence unannounced to wake him up to what was going on in His kingdom. What is it going to take to wake you up to the spiritual reality around you? Paul said it is “high time to awake out of sleep” (Rom. 13:11). If those people in Rome needed this message, how much more do we need it?
Are you awake to spiritual realities around you (II Cor. 4:18)? Are you a Christian (Acts 11:26, 22:16)? If not, why are you putting it off (II Cor. 6:2)? What is occupying your time? How are you doing as a parent? Your children are growing every day! Are you bringing them up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” or are you waiting until they get older (Eph. 6:4)? Have you taken the time to tell your children or to tell a close friend about Jesus yet (II Tim. 2:2; Mk. 16:15)? What is stopping you? What is more important than telling someone about the Lord?
Don’t become like Ahasuerus and turn a blind eye to what is going on around you, thinking that what you are doing is more important! You may be doing things you consider crucial in your life, but nothing is more important than making your life right with God and then teaching your children what God wants as well (Matt. 16:26; Eph. 6:4)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Many today treat sin as nothing. Some tell us that sin is non-existent. Others treat sin as a fairy tale to scare children. Many people act as if they have “outgrown” sin, and they live their lives oblivious to the harm they are doing to their souls and the souls of others. Proverbs 14:9 declares, “Fools make a mock at sin ….”
When it was known that Haman’s law was in force, Mordecai “cried with a loud and bitter cry; he even came before the king’s gate … clothed with sackcloth” (Est. 4:1-2). He later told Esther how her life stood in jeopardy along with the rest of the Jews (v. 13-14). They faced death from a bitter enemy all because this enemy allowed his pride, envy, and anger to influence his decisions. Mordecai didn’t treat Haman’s actions as a joke or a fairy tale.
Sin is no joke (Prov. 14:9)! It is not silly, nor is it something where one gets a “slap on the hand” or has to sit in the corner to make things right. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), and it is high time we realized how dangerous sin is! We see a picture of the horrible nature of sin when we read Mordecai’s response (Est. 4:1-2). He and his nation were going to suffer because of a man’s sinful action if something was not done quickly.
The same is true today. We stand in spiritual jeopardy because of sin (Ezek. 18:20). We have sinned because we have given in to our lusts and acted in ways we ought not (Jas. 1:14-15). What are we doing to correct the situation? Did we notice that after Mordecai cried, he got busy! We need to do the same thing.
Once we realize that we have sinned, we need to act to be free from sin (Rom. 6:17-18). I am impressed that in the New Testament when we read where people understood the heinous nature of their sin, they moved quickly to get out of it. They didn’t wait, but went “the same hour of the night … immediately” (Acts 16:33) to correct their error. This was not an accident but was the result of preachers telling them that they needed to act quickly (II Cor. 6:2). “Today if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” is the message of the gospel (Heb. 3:7-8, 15)!
Do not wait until tomorrow or farther into the future. We have no lease on life (Jas. 4:14; Ps. 90:12). We must act quickly. The true face of sin is horrible. It is far worse than the physical death that Mordecai dreaded. Sin leads us to an eternal death where there is nothing but darkness, pain, and suffering for eternity (Matt. 22:13, 25:30; Rev. 14:10-11).
Mordecai hoped a change of the law might save them. In like manner, a “change of the law” (Heb. 7:12-14) has made all the difference for us. Since Christ died upon the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, we now have a way to become free from sin (Rom. 6:17-18). When we follow the Lord’s plan of salvation (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38), we can be free and do not have to face the consequences of our sin. The true face of sin leads us to an eternity away from the Lord in a Devil’s Hell. The remedy for sin is to be baptized and to remain faithful to the Lord (I Cor. 15:58). “Put on the armor of light … make no provision for the flesh” and enjoy the blessings that come in Christ (Rom. 13:11, 14; Eph. 1:3).
Christ defeated sin. Have you done what the Lord wants? The true face of sin is worse than anything you can imagine. Do not go to your grave in sin!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
In our world, it seems that the wicked have the advantage. People have observed this fact for millennia (Ps. 73:1-16). Though the wicked seem to prosper and the righteous do not, God assures us that this is not the case. Solomon wrote, “Be assured that the evil person will not be unpunished” (Prov. 11:21, NET).
The book of Ecclesiastes declares a similar truth. Solomon said, “Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him: But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God” (Ecc. 8:12-13).
In the book of Esther, it seemed that wicked Haman was going to prosper. It looked like his plan for killing Mordecai, and the Jews could not be thwarted (Est. 3-7). Even after his death, his law was still in motion! Since he had used the king’s ring to seal the law, it seemed nothing could stop it. In Esther 8-9, however, we find Esther, Mordecai, and even the king acting quickly to try to stop Haman’s evil plan. At first, it seemed that the wicked might win. Thankfully, God had other plans! The law of Esther and Mordecai won (Est. 9:2-3)! God will not allow the wicked to continue. Those who obey God’s plans will be blessed.
Let us learn a lesson from this great queen and her godly cousin (Rom. 15:4). Satan and wicked people might seem to have the advantage at times, but rest assured, they will lose (Ps. 37:1-3). God will not allow the wicked to continue. If you are not sure about this, look at the life of Christ. Though He was harassed and mistreated by His enemies to the point of death (Matt. 27:35, 50); it is He who resurrected from the dead and overcame Satan (Gen. 3:15).
The apostles and other early Christians also suffered much at the hands of men (Acts 5:40; II Cor. 11:23-28; etc.). Wicked people had killed all of the apostles except John. Yet, the Lord’s church has thrived and prospered for the last 2000 years! Today, we remember the words and deeds of the apostles, and the enemies have been lost to history! Take heart that the Lord will not allow the wicked to continue. Besides the consequences they face on earth, the Judgment Day is coming for them (Matt. 25:46)!
Stay strong and continue to serve God while you live. It will be worth it (Rom. 8:18; II Cor. 4:17)! “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).
- Jarrod M. Jacobs