Most of us are familiar with the proverb: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” But we all know kids who were raised in church and, yet, have walked away from God. What went wrong? Did their parents miss something? Did God fail to keep His Word? Do we have a guarantee that our children will continue to walk with God?
We’ll also read about:
As we start the book of Esther, we’ll look at what God was up to, and the un-fairy-tale like ending for the other young virgins taken as “potential queen for a night.”
Yesterday in Romans 1 we read about God’s rebuke to “wise fools” who reject God and the downward spiral of sin that follows. In today’s reading in Romans 2, God speaks to believers, warning us of the danger of self-righteously judging others.
Esther 1 & 2
Virgins, Self-Righteousness & Parental Guarantees
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, He is 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 has been 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, he strips away her crown.
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 the kingdom to the palace 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” (Esther 2.8). This was not voluntary; these girls were taken to the palace.
Each of them was 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 it would have been a lonely existence—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.
This is not a guarantee that our children will always walk with God. 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 truth 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.
Our job is to be faithful: faithful to take our children to a good Bible-believing church. Faithful to teach them by example and as we go about our daily activities.
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
We should also teach God’s Word to our children in a formal, systematic way. That is not, primarily, the church’s responsibility, but ours. Family devotions is one of the most neglected responsibilities in the church today. There is nothing that will impact our children and grandchildren more than to see us faithfully read and study God’s Word individually and to faithfully and formally have times where we read and study God’s Word together as a family.
Randy Patten, the Executive Director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (formerly NANC) for many years, says we must remember there are three factors at work in our children’s lives: there is our teaching and training, there is their will, and there is the Holy Spirit.
We are responsible to do our part faithfully. Notice I said faithfully, not perfectly! There is only one Perfect Parent and have you noticed His children go astray, too? We can rest assured that as we do, God’s Holy Spirit will be at work in their lives, reminding them of the truth, even if they wake up one day in their own pigsty.
If you have a prodigal, I would encourage you to read my post on the subject, “The Care & Feeding of Prodigals.”
Self-Righteousness, Judgment, & Guilt
In chapter 1 we saw the downward spiral of sin. Even believers can get caught in a that 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!
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.
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.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment … (Matt. 5.21-22).
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? It’s us!
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 the 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” (Rom. 2.4).
In the next few days, we’ll look at Esther’s big step of faith, what we mean when we talk about the fear of God, and what it means to be an uncommon friend. We’ll also look at the question, “Why bother living right if God forgives us for every sin?” Perhaps you’ve asked the same question. Be sure to sign up so you won’t miss any of these upcoming posts.
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