Esther: Steps in Spirit Warfare
The Fear Of God And His Glory
Before concluding the story of Esther, we must look at the critical absolute of fearing God. Without this background, Esther's final actions are unexplainable. With it she teaches us vital truth!
We hear little about the fear of God today. It's usually explained away or given a negative connotation. Profoundly, it is the only way we can begin to know God.
The book of Proverbs opens with
- "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction."
"Wisdom and instruction" are akin to the "listening and hearing" of Jesus' parable about the Sower and the Seed (Part 4). Even as "hearers" progress in their journey to fruitfulness, those who fear God progress through degrees of fear, as well.
Degrees Of Fear
- First, there is the fear which accompanies true repentance from sin.
When a sinner comes face to face with the Holy God, he or she is stricken with fear at their own sinfulness.
The Apostle Paul said: "I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death" (II Corinthians 7:9-10).
- Second, there is the fear or respect that comes from love.
Real repentance brings us face to face with the mercy and love of God for us when we experience His forgiveness. Immediately we begin to walk according to the Holy Spirit and fear sinning because we don't want to offend or hurt Him, nor mar our fellowship with God. Submission and obedience spring from this fear, which always pleases Him.
- Third comes the consuming awe of God
known by the Levitical priests of Wilderness days who carried the Ark of the Covenant on their shoulders.
Wooden poles overlaid with gold supported the Ark through rings on its corners so that no bodily contact was made during mounting and transporting it. While the Levites literally carried God's glory, they did not touch it and were forbidden to do so.
What Do We Do With God's Glory?
Centuries after Israel's Wilderness journey and Canaan conquest, Israel sank into idolatry and the Ark fell into enemy hands. The Philistines thought the presence of the Ark in the camp of the Israelites meant God would give them victory.
Not so. After defeating Israel in battle, the Philistines took the Ark to Ashdod and treated it like it was another idol, setting it in the shrine built to their god, Dagon, to humiliate God.
The next morning Dagon lay on the ground face down before the Ark. The Philistines set him on his pedestal again, but during the night, Dagon fell before the Ark again. This time his head and hands broke off.
Remember the fear of God that brings a person to repentance? God tried to bring that fear on the Philistines. Even after seeing what happened to Dagon, they didn't turn to worship God, so I Samuel 5:6 says "...the hand of the LORD was heavy on the Ashdodites, and He ravaged them and smote them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territories." The tumors refer to painful hemorrhoids that afflicted the people like an epidemic.
They knew it was God's judgment on them and moved the Ark first to Gath, and then to Ekron, cities they had taken from Israel. For seven months, wherever the Ark went, God put confusion on the Philistines. Many developed hemorrhoids, while others died. Rather than fearing God and turning from idolatry to serve Him, the Philistine leaders got rid of the Ark instead! They could not stand God's glory.
Setting it on a new cart pulled by two milk cows, they put gold replicas of their hemorrhoids and mice that had overrun their cities in a box beside the Ark as a guilt offering. As the Philistines predicted, the cows headed straight for Israelite territory because they had the Ark on board!
Just over the border at Beth-Shemesh, Israelites reaping wheat saw the cart stop near a big rock. Levites removed the Ark and 'gift' box, while other men used the cart for firewood to sacrifice the cows as a burnt offering to the LORD.
They set the Ark on the rock and offered the LORD more burnt offerings and sacrifices. Philistines in hiding watched the whole affair.
Sadly, some of the Israelites raised the Ark's cover to look inside. God struck 50,070 men dead. Such fear gripped the rest of the people they gave the Ark to Israelites from Kiriath-jearim, who set it in the house of Abinadab.
All Israel mourned under the Philistine oppression. Finally, the prophet Samuel exhorted Israel to return to God (repent) with ALL their hearts by getting rid of their own idols to serve ONLY God. Then He would let them defeat the Philistines.
Seeing their genuine repentance, Samuel called an assembly at Mizpah, where he prayed for his people. Philistine scouts saw the assemblage and knew the Israelites were mustering for battle. They organized a counteroffensive and marched in to fight just as Samuel offered a lamb as a burnt offering to God.
Loud thunder sent by God against the Philistines confused them and they retreated with Israel on their heels. Israel easily took back her cities and land.
Yet, the Ark remained at Abinadab's house for 20 years until King David came to return it to Jerusalem. He brought Levites who put the Ark on an ox cart. Enroute, the Ark wiggled when the cart hit a bump in the road, and Uzzah, a Levite, reached out with his hand to steady the Ark. He died instantly, because he had treated the Glory of God with such irreverence.
David was too afraid of God to continue the trip and took the Ark to the house of Obed-edom instead. For three months Obed-edom and his household were blessed because of the Presence of the LORD. When David found out the Ark was so desirable and a source of such blessing, he brought it to Jerusalem with gladness, celebrating with sacrifices to God all along the route. This time, the Levites carried the Ark on poles as they were supposed to do!
The Effects Of The Fear Of God And God's Glory
The preceding paragraphs have described the effects of the Ark (the glory of God) on various people:
- The idolatrous Israelites who possessed the Ark were judged for their sins: their army lost the battle and the Ark (Glory).
- The pagan Philistines found their idol on its face before the Ark twice, the second time broken.
- The unrepentant Philistines were stricken with confusion, hemorrhoids and death.
- The unrepentant AND unbelieving Philistines got rid of the Glory.
- The Glory seeks out those who know the truths of God: the cows headed for Israel!
- God's own people die from lack of knowledge: the men who looked into the Ark died, though they should have known better from their own heritage!
- God's Glory rests on faithful individuals (Samuel) who can pray for those without the Glory.
- Israel became desperate enough in their oppression by the Philistines to repent.
- The repentant Israelites won the next battle and reclaimed their cities and lands.
- The Glory of the Ark brings untold blessing on the one (Obed-Edom) willing to welcome Him.
- A leader (David) with the Glory (anointing) can lead a group or nation into reclaiming the Ark of God's glory.
- The Ark must be treated with great reverence or fear of God or it brings judgment on the one(s) who mishandles it.
- Correct reverence for God's Glory and proper observance of His laws for carrying His anointing (Ark) bring indescribable joy and gladness to its bearers.
It is therefore safe to conclude that
- Until we fear God we do not hate sin or stop sinning.
- Submission and obedience are the opposite of sinning and are the way to develop a right fear of God.
- Only those who possess and are possessed by a holy reverence or fear of God can know Him intimately.
Having presented these points by which to measure one's fear of God and relation to His glory, we shall turn our attention to Esther's final position in Spirit warfare.
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