You know the story of Esther and her Uncle Mordecai. She was a Jewess in Persia who was chosen via contest by King Xerxes to be his wife. Except that Xerxes didn’t know she was Jewish and when evil Second in Command Haman whispered to Xerxes to make a decree killing all the Jews, she was then in a real bind. It all had started when Uncle Mordecai, who had by then been promoted to an inside the court job in the King’s administrative palace, refused to bow to Xerxes as Lord of all. Though apparently Mordecai had lived a fairly secular life, and perhaps for a while had traded wealth, influence, and power for Yahweh, when pressed, his faith rose up and he came through. It was his defining moment. Who will he bow to? Not Xerxes. God only. Mordecai chose.
“All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor. Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew.” (Esther 3:2-4)
Soon after, Esther was faced with her defining moment. She could lay low, but Mordecai told her,
“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)
So then, her other option was to tell the truth, approach the king, and plead for her people, even at peril for her own life. It was a defining moment for Esther.
In the 1960s and 1970s Firestone had a jingle in which the last line included the now-familiar phrase “Where the rubber meets the road.” The phrase has come to mean not just good tires, lol, but a defining moment of truth, the most important point. It is like an Olympic Athlete who has trained for years, but everything only really counts at the moment of the race. Will he put all his training into a glorious and successful effort? Or will he stumble?
The four soils. In the parable of the soils in Luke 8:5-8, Jesus likened the Word of God to four types of soils the farmers of the times would have been familiar with. In reading Ken Ramey’s book “Expository Listening” I learned that in ancient Palestine there were no fences. Between the fields were paths, which, due to incessant travel over them, had hard-packed the soil to almost cement-like consistency. Any seeds falling on that soil would never take root. Birds would eagerly swoop down instantly to take away the seed. This was a metaphor for a stubborn, unreceptive heart.
The other three soils Jesus spoke of in the parable were rocky, thorny, and good. The soil is an example of the kind of heart on which the word-seed would fall: rocky=shallow, superficial heart, thorny=worldly, strangled heart, good=soft, receptive heart.
From John Piper:
“This hard word is a quote from Isaiah 6:9-10 where God tells Isaiah his ministry to Israel will not only be saving for some but hardening for others. God says to Isaiah, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand.’ Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.” In other words, time had run out for these people and the Word of God was no longer effective to save them, but was only effective to render their hearts insensitive, and their ears dull, and their eyes dim.”
“Even when preaching the Word of God does not soften and save and heal, it is not necessarily ineffective. This preaching of the Word may be doing God’s terrible work of judgment. It may be hardening people, and making their ears so dull that they will never want to hear again. There is a judgment in this world – not just in the world to come (Romans 1:24) – and oh, how we should flee from it. Which in this text means: take heed how you hear! Don’t be cavalier in the hearing of God’s Word week after week. If it is not softening and saving and healing and bearing fruit, it is probably hardening and blinding and dulling (see 2 Corinthians 2:16). (John Piper, From the Sermon: Take Care How You Listen – Part 1, Luke 8:4-18, February 15, 1998, http://www.DesiringGod.org.)
Albert Mohler wrote an eBook recently called
The link above brings you to a page where you can download it for free.
Is America approaching an Esther moment for her Christians living inside her borders? Is there a gathering storm? Will that moment reveal which kind of soil resides in our hearts? I think so. It may not happen today or tomorrow, but soon each Christian in America will have to choose his or her path in the public sphere. We have great privilege here in the US where we can gather on any Sunday, or any day, freely to worship our sovereign. We can claim Him as sovereign and proclaim Him as sovereign, without another competing sovereign quelling our exultation. We can share the Gospel in the public sphere and set up monuments, signs, statues, crosses or whatever we want in certain places, with or without permits in certain circumstances. We can pray in public and we can speak of Him to friend and stranger.
Don’t take these privileges for granted. Freedom to worship is being chipped away at and redefined every day. Be prepared for a chilling effect or even a forced cessation of them.
Do not think that because you are in the king’s house US you alone of all the Jews Christians will escape…the persecution experienced by other Christians around the world in this time or in previous eras.
No matter hat though, our King’s throne is secure and His Kingdom is permanent. His church will thrive no matter the man-made pressure brought to bear against it. His people will be brought home to freely worship Him forever.
For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord. (Zephaniah 3:9).