Example from Mordecai-Esther Interaction—
Understanding Adversity through Bigger Picture
Queen Esther initially was reluctant to honor Mordecai’s request that she appeal to the king against an edict to annihilate Jews. She feared violating a law against visiting the king uninvited, which could attract punishment by death. However, Mordecai redirected her to see the request as an opportunity to use her royal access to appeal the annihilation order and win deliverance for her people. Having thus seen the bigger picture, she called for prayer and fasting and vowed to appeal to the king even if it meant the ultimate punishment: “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”
We continue the study series on Responding to Adversity with focus on Mordecai’s life in captivity. We examine his life during the period in terms of three interactions. As we discuss in a previous study under Living in the Image of God through Adversity—Example from Mordecai, the interactions underscore Mordecai’s commitment to worship and serve God and living to uphold the commitment even in adversity. Also, the interactions triggered event sequences that coalesced to propel Mordecai over his adversity.
The interactions are: (1) he raised his uncle’s orphan daughter as his, (2) reported an assassination plot against the king, and (3) refused to worship an agent of the king even while facing a threat of execution for his refusal. As we discuss in the previous study, he not only raised the daughter but guided her to winning a contest to become the new queen of the land. Also, her position as queen cleared the way for Mordecai to report an assassination plot that he uncovered and earn recorded credit for the report.
This study focuses on events that arose from the third interaction: Mordecai had declined to honor king’s agent Haman because the type of honor demanded of him conveyed connotation of worship. He would not perform the act of honor because it would violate his commitment to worship God, and only God. His refusal to worship Haman ignited an event sequence that initially caused his adversity to grow in scope and intensity before ultimately leading him to triumph over the adversity.
During trials in Jerusalem and Caesarea after his return from Ephesus, Paul demonstrated respect for Jewish laws and custom and for constituted authority. Also, he invoked his civil rights several times to win protection under the law.
BASIS FOR RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY As Paul explained in his letter to the Romans several years later [Romans 13:1–7], and Peter in his epistle [1 Peter 2:13-18], respect for authority is part of God’s mandate and a key aspect of Christian responsibilities to society. People in authority positions (such as president or prime minister, king or queen, governor, clergy, teacher, supervisor, parents, or any person in a position of leadership) help to preserve and propagate natural order and are God’s channels for protecting the good elements of society from the bad. Therefore, we honor God when we respect human authorities.
TWO-PART BIBLE STUDY In this two-part bible study, we discuss Paul’s trial in Jerusalem and Caesarea and subsequent transfer to Rome, to highlight interactions with his Jewish accusers and the Roman authorities and his invoking his rights of citizenship as part of his defense. The current discussion builds on the discussion of his Jerusalem trials in Part 1. Here, we discuss the trials in Caesarea and his transfer to Rome, where he preached the gospel as he did previously in Jerusalem, thereby fulfilling God’s promise to him regarding the trials.
RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY Respect for human authority is part of God’s mandate and a key aspect of the civil responsibilities of a Christian. As Apostles Peter [1 Peter 2:13–18] and Paul [Romans 13:1–7] explain, people in authority position; such as president or prime minister, king or queen, governor, clergy, teacher, supervisor, parents, or any person in a leadership position; have been assigned rights and responsibilities to preserve and propagate one or more aspects of natural order and to protect the good elements of society from the bad. Every authority has been established by God to serve one or more such purpose. Therefore, respect and honor for authority and for laws and customs that define or establish the authority is part of our responsibilities to society.
TWO-PART BIBLE STUDY This is a two-part study of Paul’s civil trials and defense after his return to Jerusalem from sojourn in Ephesus. The trials started in Jerusalem, continued in Caesarea, and eventually took him to Rome. During the trials, Paul demonstrated his respect for authority and invoked civil rights when necessary to support his defense. In Part 1 of the study, we look at his interactions with the authority and his accusers in Jerusalem. Part 2 discusses the trials in Caesarea and Paul’s transfer to Rome thereafter.
INVOCATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS At several points in the trial, Paul invoked his civil rights while respecting the authority and due process to influence the trial proceedings. In one remarkable example, his invocation of civil rights and respect for due process and the authority of Emperor Caesar triggered a chain of events that led to fulfilling God’s promise to him that he will proclaim the gospel in Rome as he did in Jerusalem. Going to Rome not only provided him an opportunity to extend his ministry there but also ended the trial that started in Jerusalem. Therefore, one can say that his respect for civil rights and responsibilities placed him in position to work in alliance with God.
THE PRINCIPLE An individual could assess his/her performance periodically relative to self-established goals, make changes as necessary to improve future performance, and thereby seek to approach closer to God’s purpose.
MOTIVATION The idea is motivated by an interaction between Paul and Ephesian elders just before he departed from their region. He declared he had completed his task for the region, enumerated specific accomplishments, exhorted them to remain steadfast, and informed them he was leaving and did not intend to return to the region. What Paul did here was a self-assessment at the end of a specific task to make a case that he accomplished the assigned objective. In an earlier biblical parallel, Joshua assessed his performance before the leaders and elders of Israel after several decades of leading them successfully to take ownership of territory that God promised them through their ancestors.
You may have at times needed to mediate in a dispute between two parties, calm down a crowd, or help an individual resolve an internal conflict. The bible provides guidance on conducting mediation, through several successful examples. We discuss a few of the examples to understand what they did and from them learn how to prepare for, and the approach to conducting, a mediation.
The first example comes from a city clerk defusing a mob in Ephesus during Paul’s mission with Silas. A large crowd had gathered in the city theater and threatened to riot. The city clerk calmed and dispersed the crowd by explaining the facts in a way to convince them the riot was not necessary. We will also look at King Solomon’s mediation of a dispute between two ladies over a baby and commander Joab helping King David resolve an internal dispute between David the father and David the king. We use these examples to learn the Christian basis for, and approach to, mediation. The study is presented in two sessions. This session focuses on using the Scriptures (e.g., Christ’s teaching on seeking peace and Paul’s letters to the Romans and Galatians) to understand the city clerk’s successful mediation in Ephesus.
This bible study is focused on understanding the fear of God as referenced through an event in Ephesus during Paul’s ministry. As a result of the event, Jews and Greeks in Ephesus were filled with fear, the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor, several people openly confessed their sins, many gave up their practice of sorcery, and the gospel spread widely and grew in power. What is fear and how did it make people turn to God?
Generally, fear arises out of recognizing an extraordinary power to cause or drive events that inflict physical or emotional pain or bodily harm. If one responds by keeping away, hiding, or succumbing to the source of power, then that is negative fear. Christ discourages us from such fear through his teaching in Luke 12:4. If, in contrast, one responds to recognition of such power by seeking to please God, then the fear is positive and is the fear of God. Christ encourages us to fear God through his teaching in Luke 12:5. We discuss the events in Ephesus and several other similar events described in the bible to share an understanding of the fear of God. Also, we make a case that we can learn the nature of fear of parents by understanding fear of God and use the relationship in attempting to understand aspects of parent-child interactions.
How do you respond to a rejection of your offer of service? What determines the offer has been rejected or you need another attempt at getting it accepted? The service could be delivering the gospel, training a subordinate business associate that presents himself or herself as untrainable, parental training of a child that has proved to be non malleable, or other examples. As these examples indicate, responding to rejection requires first a decision, maybe often a difficult decision, that one’s effort at performing the service has been rejected. The bible provides clear instruction on how to respond, having determined that rejection has occurred. It also provides guidance on what needs to be done before declaring a rejection. However, a decision to declare rejection will likely always be difficult, because accepting rejection is equivalent to accepting failure of an effort. We discuss examples of declaring and accepting rejection by the apostle Paul, Christ’s teaching on responding to rejection, and God’s guidance through Prophet Ezekiel on what one needs to do before declaring a rejection.