“… in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” (Rom. 2.1)—strong words that should cause us to examine our own hearts and lives and to remember that it’s the goodness of God that leads us and others to repentance.
Esther 1 & 2
Esther 1 & 2:
Young virgins & a selfish king
The book of Esther takes place sometime between the time the Jews began to return to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel and the second return under Ezra. It’s quite an interesting book. Though the name of God is not mentioned at all in the book, He’s seen everywhere, and is in control of the events of this book in a grand way!—as He is in all the events of history and the world.
The book starts out with a party and what a party it is—7 days, free flowing wine, everyone is invited (the men, at least!), golden goblets, entertainment … wine, women (probably the entertainment) and song, as the saying goes.
Finally, the drunken king decides to show off his wife and she refuses to come. The men were faced with a problem. If word got around that the queen didn’t obey the king, all the women would refuse to obey their husbands! So, at the other men’s urging, she lost her position as queen.
But when the king sobered up and got over his fit, he realized what he had done. He missed the queen, so the men devised another plan—to bring all the beautiful women in and let him choose the one who suited his fancy as the new queen.
As glamorous as it might sound to have a chance to be queen, this was not a good thing for these young girls. They were probably mostly very young teenagers. And notice it says, “Esther also was taken.” This was not voluntary; these girls were taken to the palace.
Each of them was to get to spend one night with the king and never to be with him again unless she was chosen. In the meantime, they would have lost their virginity to a lecherous king who cared little about anyone but himself. And in that society, what was left for them in the way of marriage and family? They probably would be supported afterwards, but I think that would have ended up being a lonely existence—probably never to have a husband or children of their own.
But God was at work in the situation and was setting the stage to use this pagan king and Esther to do something great.
God is always at work
From the viewpoint of the psalmist it looked like God had forsaken his people, but we know He had not. Sometimes we feel that way, but we must know that God is at work even when we can’t figure it out.
The truth will be there
Verse 6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
This is not a guarantee that our children will always walk with God. But what it does mean is that if we are faithful to train our children in God’s ways, they will never be able to get away from the truths they’ve learned. It will follow them like their shadow! So even if they make bad choices, the truth will be there to guide them back, when they repent, just like the prodigal son in Luke 15.
Self-righteousness, judgment, & guilt
In chapter 1 we saw the downward spiral of sin. Even believers can get caught in a downward spiral if they reject God’s wisdom and clear commands, but chapter 1 is primarily speaking to unbelievers who, although they can readily see God in creation, refuse to acknowledge Him as God.
But here is chapter 2 Paul is speaking to believers who judge others while they continue in sin themselves, even doing the things they condemn (v. 3)!
1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jere. 17.9). Just like the Jews Paul was speaking to here, we are so easily deceived. We look at unbelievers who sin openly and we get puffed up with pride and self-righteousness.
“I would never have an abortion. Don’t they know that’s murder!”
“Homosexuality is an abomination to God!”
“She’s living with her boyfriend!”
“Why can’t she leave her old dead church?”
“They’re so deceived. They’re involved in a cult!”
“We would never let our kids watch that movie!”
And all the while we murder with our words.
21 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment …
We lust after a man or woman we view as more “spiritual” or more attractive than our spouse. Lust isn’t always sexual; it can be any strongly held desire.
We attend a church where the Word is taught, but go out and live like the world Monday through Saturday.
Even if we are seeking to live righteously, few of us really study and read our own Bibles, rarely share the gospel with unbelievers, and couldn’t really defend our faith if we had to!
We refuse to let our kids watch certain movies or programs, then send them to bed and watch the garbage ourselves! Read verse 1 again:
“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” (v. 1).
Who do you think will come under a harsher judgment? Who is more accountable for knowing the truth?
Jesus said, “… first take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to help take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matt. 5.7).
We do need to pray for and lovingly confront those who are sinning with truth, but not with a prideful, self-righteous attitude. When we do, we judge and disqualify ourselves. We must see ourselves as the sinners that we are, constantly in need of applying the gospel to our own hearts and lives, and then share the “goodness of God that leads men to repentance” (v. 4).
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