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DAY 18

God in Disguise

[5 minutes]
Mind Setter Moment: Write down the names of 3 people in your life who don’t know Jesus. Take a couple of minutes to pray from them. Ask God to provide opportunities to share his love with them this week.

[15 minutes]
Scripture reading:

Esther 1:1 - 3:15
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Psalm 35:17-28
Proverbs 21:19-20

Devotional thought
We finished the story of Nehemiah yesterday, and today we are starting a story that is set about a century later. There were a group of Jewish exiles who returned to rebuild the temple in Judea, but there were also many exiles who chose to stay in the Persian Empire. Think about it, after spending over 200 years away from the homeland of their forefathers, Persia is the only home the exiles have ever known.

In a situation like this one, it would have taken courage to return to a homeland you never knew. It also would have required courage to stay in Persia and remain faithful to God in the midst of a pagan nation. While the stories of Ezra and Nehemiah give insight into the lives of those who returned to Judah, the book of Esther tells us a story about the group who decided to remain in Persia.

Scholars believe that much of the Old Testament writings were actually completed and compiled during this time in Jewish history. Removed from the land God had promised and the temple which was central to their worship, exiles who remained in Persia would rely on the text and prescribed festivals to stay connected with God.

There are several holidays that the Jewish community celebrates each year. One of these holidays is called Purim. It is a festival to remember the story of Esther with one of the key features of the holiday being costume. Much like Halloween, those celebrating Purim wear disguises to remember how God was disguised in the story of Esther.

What applies to me?
You might be thinking, God in disguise? Isn’t this a BIBLE story? Did you know that in the entire story of Esther, the name of God is not mentioned once? Yet no one can read the story and think that God was not there! How often is this true in our lives? Sometimes it seems like God has forgotten us at the moment, but when we look back, God is evident everywhere.

Many of us can probably relate to the exiles who remained in Persia even more than we relate to the exiles who returned to Judea. Like the Jews who stayed, we find ourselves serving God in a culture where it often seems as though God is silent or absent.

More than perhaps anything else, the story of Esther shows us what it looks like to engage in an earthly kingdom while prioritizing God’s Kingdom. In just the first few chapters of this story, we find a king with a short fuse, willing to take extreme measures to solidify his power. We meet an egotistical and wealthy nobleman, Haman, who would commit massive genocide over a minor slight, while nobles and courtiers vie for prominence.

All of these characters create a backdrop for the courage and commitment of Esther and Mordecai. It can be easy to desire a fully Christian culture. We might even be tempted to force our beliefs and ideals on the world around us. God, however, will place us in situations that are opposite the ideal so that He is highlighted. Against the backdrop of darkness, the smallest flicker of light shines bright.

[10 minutes]
Write it out: Who is King Xerxes in your story? Is there a Haman you are dealing with? How can you share God’s love with the difficult people in your life? Write a few ideas in your journal.

Pray it out: Who are the unpleasant characters in your story? Do you have a conceited co-worker, a testing toddler, or a nagging neighbor? Jesus said to pray for such characters (Matthew 5:44). Ask God how you can pray for them, and to give you the courage to show and share His love.

Live it out: Show God’s love to a difficult person in your life today.