In chapter 8 of What’s So Amazing About Scripture? I equip the Bible reader to ask what the timeless truths are in each passage by using this question,

“Is there a principle to apply, example to follow, warning to heed, promise to believe, doctrine to grasp,[1] wisdom to learn, instruction to follow?”

To illustrate these forms of timeless truth, let us look at an example of the first five in the list above as we find them in the biblical book of Esther:

We find a principle to apply in 2:11-20. As Esther is prepared for the crucial role she will play in God’s work to preserve his people, she was patient (v12), submitting to a year-long beautification process; humble (v13-15), opting to graciously receive what is given her rather than using her rights to demand it; and mentored by Mordecai (v11-12, 20) and Hegai (v15). The principle to apply is that patience, humility and wise mentors may help us prepare for our future work for God.

We find an example to follow in 4:15-17. We see that Esther was convinced that it really was the will of God to approach Xerxes. Although she knew that God wanted her to do this, God had not told her what results to expect. She chose to do it anyway, regardless of the outcome, saying, “If I perish, I perish” (v16). We are not to put conditions on obedience to God. The example to follow is that true obedience leaves the outcome to God.

We find a warning to heed in chapter 5. We see that Haman has lots of friends (v10), wealth, honour and sons. He was even the king’s favourite (v11). But his prosperity had resulted in pride and self-glory. The moment someone did not bow before him, his high spirits turned into rage (v9). He boasted about all his possessions (v11). He boasted about his seemingly bright future—he was sure that it would only get brighter and brighter (v12). Yet he cannot enjoy himself because of just one person who failed to honour him (v13). The warning to heed is that prosperity can make us dangerously proud.

We find a promise to believe in 8:14-17. Haman had tried to destroy the Jews who were already an oppressed minority. But as the Jews continued trust in God, he intervened by turning what their enemy intended for harm into something good: Haman’s plans back-fired and the result was that instead of the oppressed Jews being exterminated, they were liberated. They landed up in a much better position than the one they had at the beginning of this story, despite (and also precisely because of) the evil intent of Haman. Esther, Mordecai, and the people of God had faced tumultuous times, but the great tests only resulted in greater testimonies. The promise to believe is that God is able to work all things for the good of those who believe.

We find a doctrine to grasp in the way the author of Esther records dates so carefully. The incident with Vashti happened in 435 BC (1:3). Esther became queen in 431 BC (2:16). Then Haman plotted the Jewish destruction in 427 BC (3:7). Haman, being suspicious threw a dice (‘pur’) to see which month of the year to kill the Jews. It fell on the twelfth month (3:3) a full eleven months later. This is very relevant, because had it been sooner, the genocidal decree would not have been able to be overthrown (later in the story), and the Jews would not have been able to defend themselves. The Jews would later recognize the hand of God in that dice-throw—commemorating it on an annual day called ‘Purim’ (from ‘pur’ which means lot or dice) to celebrate the way God is able to deliver his people in his time and way. The doctrine to grasp is that “our times are in God’s hands.”[2]

[1] By ‘doctrine’ I mean what the Bible, all its parts taken together and properly interpreted, teaches about those subjects that loom largest in Scripture and describe reality, such as God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Scripture itself, humanity, creation, salvation, the church, the kingdom, and the future of all things. The word is often used interchangeably with ‘theology,’ ‘beliefs’ or ‘teaching.’

[2] Psalm 31:5

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