Lesson 17 | Sabbath, 28 April 2018
“The great majority of the Israelites had chosen to remain in the land of their exile rather than undergo the hardships of the return journey and the re-establishment of their desolated cities and homes.
“A score or more of years passed by, when a second decree, quite as favorable as the first, was issued by Darius Hystaspes, the monarch then ruling. Thus did God in mercy provide another opportunity for the Jews in the Medo-Persian realm to return to the land of their fathers. The Lord foresaw the troublous times that were to follow during the reign of Xerxes–the Ahasuerus of the book of Esther–and He not only wrought a change of feeling in the hearts of men in authority, but also inspired Zechariah to plead with the exiles to return.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 598, 599.
Jews living in Persia
1. Who lived in Shushan, the Persian city renowned as the royal residence, around B.C. 474?
Esther 2:5, 6 Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite; 6Who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away.
Mordecai was a faithful Jew living in Shushan. He was the son of Jair, of the tribe of Benjamin, and a cousin of Hadassah, called Esther, an orphan girl whom he adopted. Esther 2:7. He was born in Canaan and was taken into captivity at the time of Jeconiah by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. He appears as one of the principal players in the Book of Esther. After the difficult experiences told about in this book, he gained King Ahasuerus’ confidence and became an influential official in his service. Esther 8:15; 9:4.
2. What did Mordecai find out and warn the king about? What does such action reveal?
Esther 2:21, 22 In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king’s gate, two of the king’s chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those which kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. 22And the thing was known to Mordecai, who told it unto Esther the queen; and Esther certified the king thereof in Mordecai’s name.
Ecclesiastes 11:6 In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.
“This secret conspiracy against the king’s life probably arose out of revenge for the divorce of Vashti, in whose interest, and at whose instigation, these eunuchs may have acted. Through the vigilance of Mordecai, whose fidelity, however, passed unnoticed, the design was frustrated, while the conspirators were condemned to be executed; and as the matter was recorded in the court annals, it became the occasion afterwards of Mordecai’s preferment to the place of power and influence for which, in furtherance of the national interests of the Jews, divine providence intended him.” –Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, Comments on Esther 2:21.
“From Daniel and his companions in Babylon, and from Mordecai in Persia, bright beams of light shone out amid the darkness of the kingly courts.” –In Heavenly Places, p. 316.
3. What made Haman, a high official of King Ahasuerus, dislike Mordecai intensely? How far did his hatred go?
Esther 5:9, 13, 14 Then went Haman forth that day joyful and with a glad heart: but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he stood not up, nor moved for him, he was full of indignation against Mordecai…. 13Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate. 14Then said Zeresh his wife and all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high, and to morrow speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon: then go thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet. And the thing pleased Haman; and he caused the gallows to be made.
“Through Haman the Agagite, an unscrupulous man high in authority in Medo-
Persia, Satan worked at this time to counterwork the purposes of God. Haman cherished bitter malice against Mordecai, a Jew. Mordecai had done Haman no harm, but had simply refused to show him worshipful reverence.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 600.
“Let no one exalt himself, talking of himself, extolling his abilities, displaying his knowledge, and cultivating self-conceit. Let no one seek to tear down the work of others who do not labor according to his standard. The heavenly Teacher gives us the invitation, ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.’ Matthew 11:28-30. Christ was never self-confident, bigoted, or self-conceited. He declared, ‘The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.’ John 5:19….
“No one has the least cause for boasting. No one has any reason to glorify or exalt self, even when one does his very best.” –This Day with God, p. 132.
God’s protection and providence
4. By divine providence, what happened to the king one night? What was the result of his inquiry regarding Mordecai?
Esther 6:1-3 On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king. 2And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. 3And the king said, What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him.
Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
“In Eastern courts, there are scribes or officers whose duty it is to keep a journal of every occurrence worthy of notice. A book of this kind, abounding with anecdotes, is full of interest. It has been a custom with Eastern kings, in all ages, frequently to cause the annals of the kingdom to be read to them. It is resorted to, not merely as a pastime to while away the tedium of an hour, but as a source of instruction to the monarch, by reviewing the important incidents of his own life, as well as those of his ancestors. There was, therefore, nothing uncommon in this Persian monarch calling for the court journal. But, in his being unable to sleep at that particular juncture, in his ordering the book then to be read to him, and in his attention having been specially directed to the important and as yet unrewarded services of Mordecai, the immediate interposition of Providence is distinctly visible.” –Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary,Comments on Esther 2:1.
“God speaks to us through His providential workings, and through the influence of His Spirit upon the heart. In our circumstances and surroundings, in the changes daily taking place around us, we may find precious lessons if our hearts are but open to discern them. The psalmist, tracing the work of God’s providence, says, ‘The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.’ ‘Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.’ Psalm 33:5; 107:43.” –Christian Education, p. 56.
5. When Haman happened to come into his presence that very night for the purpose of asking for permission to put Mordecai to death, what did the king ask him? What was Haman’s reply, thinking that the honor the king was proposing was for himself?
Esther 6:4-9 And the king said, Who is in the court? Now Haman was come into the outward court of the king’s house, to speak unto the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him. 5And the king’s servants said unto him, Behold, Haman standeth in the court. And the king said, Let him come in. 6So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself? 7And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delighteth to honour, 8Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head: 9And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.
“There is no position so lofty that God cannot cut down those occupying it. There is no humiliation so great that God cannot raise up humble men to enjoy the richest blessings. The Lord works to humble human pride in whomever it is found, that men may learn to develop a spirit of true submission to His will. He cannot work with men who counteract His purposes. Those who use their perceptive powers to create an order of things which turns aside God’s purposes will lose the powers, which if exercised aright would have increased and strengthened. God honors those who seek Him in sincerity, humbling self and exalting Him. But when men will not consent to walk in the counsel of God, their wisdom is removed from them. They become incapable of knowing God and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent.” –(Letter 35, 1900) The Publishing Ministry, p. 134.
6. After listening to his proposal, what did King Ahasuerus command Haman to do?
Esther 6:10, 11 Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king’s gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken. 11Then took Haman the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and brought him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him, Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour.
“God’s love for us is proved daily; yet we are thoughtless of His favors and indifferent to His entreaties. He seeks to impress us with His Spirit of tenderness, His love and forbearance; but we scarcely recognize the marks of His kindness and have little sense of the lesson of love He desires us to learn. Some, like Haman, forget all God’s favors, because Mordecai is before them and is not disgraced; because their hearts are filled with enmity and hatred rather than love, the spirit of our dear Redeemer, who gave His precious life for His enemies. We profess to have the same Father, to be bound for the same immortal home, to enjoy the same solemn faith, and to believe the same testing message; and yet many are at strife with one another like quarrelsome children. Some who are engaged in the same branch of the work are at variance with one another and therefore at variance with the Spirit of Christ.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, pp. 222, 223.
7. What effect did this episode have on Haman? However, what very interesting thing did Haman’s wife say after Haman told her what happened?
Esther 6:12, 13 And Mordecai came again to the king’s gate. But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered. 13And Haman told Zeresh his wife and all his friends every thing that had befallen him. Then said his wise men and Zeresh his wife unto him, If Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him.
“It is no degradation for man to bow down before his Maker and confess his sins, and plead for forgiveness through the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour. It is noble to acknowledge your wrong before Him whom you have wounded by transgression and rebellion. It lifts you up before men and angels; for ‘he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.’ But he who kneels before fallen man and opens in confession the secret thoughts and imaginations of his heart is dishonoring himself by debasing his manhood and degrading every noble instinct of his soul. In unfolding the sins of his life to a priest corrupted with wine and licentiousness, his standard of character is lowered, and he is defiled in consequence. God is degraded in his thought to the likeness of sinful humanity, for the priest stands as a representative of God. It is this degrading confession of man to fallen man that accounts for much of the increasing evil which is defiling the world and fitting it for final destruction.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 638, 639.
- On what do you think the comment of Haman’s wife–that if Mordecai was a Jew, Haman would not be able to prevail against him–was based?
- What does this teach us?
- Are the wicked able to do what they wish against God’s people?
- Of what should those who are faithful to the Lord be convinced, regardless of the destructive plans of the enemy?
For additional study
“In all ages the ‘Spirit of Christ which was in them’ (1 Peter 1:11) has made God’s true children the light of the people of their generation. Joseph was a light bearer in Egypt. In his purity and benevolence and filial love he represented Christ in the midst of a nation of idolaters. While the Israelites were on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land, the true-hearted among them were a light to the surrounding nations. Through them God was revealed to the world. From Daniel and his companions in Baby-lon, and from Mordecai in Persia, bright beams of light shone out amid the darkness of the kingly courts. In like manner the disciples of Christ are set as light bearers on the way to heaven; through them the Father’s mercy and goodness are made manifest to a world enshrouded in the darkness of misapprehension of God. By seeing their good works, others are led to glorify the Father who is above; for it is made manifest that there is a God on the throne of the universe whose character is worthy of praise and imitation. The divine love glowing in the heart, the Christlike harmony manifested in the life, are as a glimpse of heaven granted to men of the world, that they may appreciate its excellence.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 41.
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Missionary Report from Northeastern Africa– ”The Horn of Africa”
To be read on Sabbath, April 28, 2018
The Special Sabbath School Offering will be gathered on Sabbath, May 5, 2018
“For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name. Thou shall also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.” Isaiah 62:1-3.
The African continent encompasses a very large territory with many countries. The Reformation message has reached 38 of them, and more are waiting to hear the message. The special Sabbath School Offering for next week is for Northeastern Africa, which includes the countries of Somalia, Djibouti, and Eritrea–a part of Africa known as the “Horn of Africa”–as well as North Sudan and Egypt.
By God’s abundant mercies, the missionary work in Africa is advancing to new territories. The door into these areas opens from time to time, and we are responsible to take advantage of the God-given opportunities. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to the General Conference leadership who laid plans to enter new countries in this continent. We have seen that every good plan has always been attended by God’s blessings as a sign of His approval.
Immediately after the General Conference resolved to focus more attention on entering more countries of Africa, some new believers came into the church. They rejoice in the Reformation message and offered to return to their native countries to spread it. In Djibouti, new souls were baptized in June 2017; some were from Somalia, and others came from Eritrea, while the rest were from Djibouti. Shortly after their baptism, some of them volunteered to return to their native countries (Somalia and Eritrea) to begin the work there. A special project was organized to bring them to Berea Adventist Missionary Institute (BAMI) in Nairobi, Kenya, for additional training and preparation as missionaries. A special intensive course of three months was created just for them. The General Conference funded their travel and education, and they are at BAMI as this report is being written. Following is some information about the countries to be included in next week’s Special Sabbath School Offering.
DJIBOUTI: This small country is located north of Somalia. The population is about 912,000, and the land area is 23,200 square kilometers (8,958 square miles). The country’s religious profile includes 95% Muslim adherents and 1% in other religions, while traditional religions also continue to be practiced. One unique aspect of this country is that although it is a Muslim-dominated country, Christianity and other religions are permitted and protected by law.
Missionary work in Djibouti began more than a year ago, and souls have already been baptized, while others are preparing to take this important step. Elder Dereje Gudeta, from Ethiopia, is a pioneer missionary in this small country, which contains very fertile ground for winning souls.
Special needs include (1) a naturopathic clinic. In Djibouti, we are registered under the International Health Organization, and we must have a health clinic to be able to operate. Preparation has already been made for a person to establish this project. Funds are needed for equipment and personnel. It is expected that this project will be self-supporting. (2) School. There is a great demand for a school offering elementary and secondary education in English. Djibouti is a French-speaking country, and there is no English school. The demand for such a school will help push the missionary outreach forward. (3) Financial support for the services and house rent of the foreign missionary.
SOMALIA: This is a large country with a land area of 627,337 square kilometers (242,215 square miles) and a population of about 16.5 million people, of which 99.9% are Muslim, while all other religions, including Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Baha’i, etc., share the remaining 0.1%. For many years, Somalia has suffered very much under the radical Muslim activities of organizations like Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab. Islam is the state religion, and it is against the law to belong to or teach any other religion. This is a very dangerous place to practice the Christian faith.
Primary needs are (1) financial support for the services and house rent of the missionary worker, (2) a place of worshipfor the new believers, and (3) a health project to provide an opening for missionary outreach.
ERITREA: The land area of this country is 117,600 square kilometers (45,406 square miles), and the population is about 5.4 million, of which 50% are Christian–Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant–while 48% are Muslim and 2% adhere to other beliefs. Unfortunately there is very little religious freedom in this country, because the government has a communist background and suppresses freedom of worship. As with the other countries of northeastern Africa, Eritrea needs (1) financial support for the worker’s services and house rent, (2) a place of worship where the believers can meet, and (3) a health/naturopathic clinic to provide an opening wedge for missionary activities.
SUDAN: Also known as North Sudan, the country’s land area is 1,886,068 square kilometers (728,215 square miles). The population is 42.5 million, of which 95.3% are Muslim (mostly Sunni); 3.2%, Christian; and the rest, animist or believers of indigenous religions. Although Islam is dominant, the Christian faith is tolerated in this country, even though it is not officially recognized.
By God’s grace, through the country’s previous connection with South Sudan, we already have contacts with whom we can start the missionary efforts. Our fellow believers in South Sudan are taking the initiative to advance the message into Sudan. Similar to the other countries described here, the primary needs are (1) financial support for the missionary’s services and house rent, (2) a place of worship for the new believers, and (3) a health/naturopathic clinicfor opening the door to missionary work.
EGYPT: This country’s land area is 995,450 square kilometers (390,100 square miles), with a population of about 94.6 million. This is a Muslim country with 88% of the population being Muslim and 10.9% being Christian, mostly Coptic Orthodox. The history of Christianity in Egypt dates back to the First Century. Early Christians established a very good foundation here. Besides that, the Bible contains very rich historical information about Egypt. We desire the Reformation message to be established in Egypt soon. Several attempts have been made to open work in this country, and we are planning to make a sustained follow-up of that work. We already have potential contacts with whom this work can begin.
The basic needs are (1) financial support for the missionary worker’s services and house rent, (2) a place of worship to rent for the new believers, and (3) a health project to help open the door for missionary work.
An urgent appeal
Advancing the Reformation message into all of these countries is considered a high priority, and the labor has already begun. However, financial constraints require everything to be done slowly and on a small scale. Opening the work in Muslim countries is especially challenging and complex, because we cannot officially register a church; so we enter these countries under the umbrella of the International Health Organization. That is why health clinics have to be set up quickly to meet the various governments’ requirements. We then use this means to evangelize.
We want very much to send missionary teams into these new fields as quickly as possible. Therefore, we appeal for your generous gifts this coming Sabbath in support of these projects. As we unite our human efforts with divine power, we know that the heavenly intelligences will do the major part of the work, for Heaven recognizes every heartfelt gift given for this purpose. God bless you richly as you show your love for His cause and donate your gifts for His work. Jesus promised in John 12:26: “If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be: If any man serve Me, him will My Father honour.”
May our good Lord give each of us a cheerful, willing heart as we join hands to advance the gospel message into the dark places of this planet. Be blessed.
–Parmenas N. Shirima
Outgoing African Division Leader