[Note to Boone’s Creek Family: I’ve posted an eight-minute talk on the benefits and possible struggles one may face with praying and fasting. This is the information I shared on Sunday evening, January 2, 2011. Hope you find it helpful.]
And in every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes” (Esther 4:3).
God’s people were in trouble. During the time when the people of Israel were exiled in Babylon/Persia, King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite to second in command, even commanding that all who saw him must bow and pay homage to him. Mordecai refused.
[3 ] Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you transgress the king’s command?” [4 ] And when they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai’s words would stand, for he had told them that he was a Jew. [5 ] And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was filled with fury. [6 ] But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus (Esther 3:3-6).
Haman convinced the king that the Jews were a threat and crafted an edict to destroy them. The king signed off on this. The Jews reacted to this terrible news with “great mourning…, with fasting and weeping and lamenting” (4:3)—the traditional way of grieving in the Ancient Near East.
Esther, hand-picked queen of Persia, was a Jew—but questioned whether she had enough traction and influence with the king to do anything. She may have felt that she was consigned to her fate because no one approached the king without permission (4:11). Her cousin Mordecai understood the sovereignty of God much differently—that God placed Esther in this position “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Esther then requested this of Mordecai: “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish” (4:16).
Fasting comes out of sorrow, but it can come for strengthening. In the sorrow, we disconnect from the world and its noise pollution and its nearsighted perspective so we can hear from the Lord in all His fullness. The church may also fast in the midst of that gloom for strength—either personal strength or strength for the heightened influence of the leaders. That’s called intercession.
Read John 4:
- In what ways do you grieve for your church and culture? In what ways can your fasting be for your leaders during these difficult times?
- Who is Jesus dealing with in John 4? Why was the conversation Jesus had a taboo in Near East culture? Why do you believe Jesus violated that cultural custom? Are there certain customs in our culture that may be self-imposed barriers to interacting with someone who needs to know Jesus?
- What are some physical objects that Jesus used to point to eternal truths? In what ways may we be creative in this?
- After Jesus left, what did she do? What did the disciples do? How did Jesus answer them in order to set the disciples straight? What did Jesus reveal about his purpose for coming to earth?
Pray for the three people that need to know Jesus—and how God can open the doors for you to share with them.
Fast to disconnect from the world and its distractions.
Journal your journey.
Can’t wait to see what you all shared on Sunday evening, January 30!
P.P.S. Bro. Turner from Second Independent called me yesterday, telling me that a pastor friend of his from Georgetown as well as his air conditioning repairman want to go to Trinidad. That makes 12! Who else feels led to come? Join us at our meeting on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. For more information, go to http://www.boonescreekchurch.com/impactt2011.