We really are fortunate as God’s people in America to live in an extraordinary era. Though we are troubled by the dark clouds of anti-religious, anti-Christian hostility and derision that are gathering on the horizon, still, by all comparisons to most ages in which God’s people have lived, we have it very good.
Persecution and opposition to our faith is par for the course. It is expected. The world’s natural order is in opposition and rebellion against God and truth. Being aligned with God and the Word Incarnate — Jesus Christ — is going to bring down upon us a certain measure of public and personal difficulty.
Jesus said this to the disciples in Matthew 10 — “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues.” Now isn’t that encouraging? What’s all this sheep stuff about? Shouldn’t we be at the top of the feeding chain by being aligned with Christ?
There are Christians today, somewhere in the world, who are giving their lives for believing in Jesus and boldly refusing to deny him in their culture and in the face of their persecutors. Here is a story from this past week (from Voice of the Martyrs):
Two Churches Bombed in Nepal — Two bombs exploded in churches in eastern Nepal last week, while bombs left at a third church failed to detonate. The attackers left anti-Christian pamphlets at each site. Flyers by the Hindu Morcha Nepal, a Hindu radical group were left at each location. The flyers said that all Christian leaders must reconvert to Hinduism and that the Christianization of Nepal is happening with the support of foreign nations.
It was recently reported that close to 100,000 Christians are being killed every year because of their faith, according to statistics from a Pew Research Survey and the International Society for Human Rights, a non-religious organization. These figures mean that about 273 Christians are killed daily, or 11 every hour.
In the story of Esther, as the news spreads of the plans to eradicate the Jews, Mordecai perhaps has a large response to it out of a sense of personal responsibility in causing the situation …
4:1 – When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.2 But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. 3 In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
4 When Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther summoned Hathak, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.
6 So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. 7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.
Extreme times call for extreme measures, and as we will see in coming days, for Esther to go before the king as an advocate for the Jewish people was an extreme measure. Up until this point, it was not revealed to King Xerxes that Esther was Jewish. I guess he presumed her to be just another pretty Persian girl from his empire with its amalgamation of people groups.
We are going to talk about the idea of advocacy this week, both in the story and as well of the greater advocate we have in Christ. But today, when thinking of the persecuted church around the world, take a moment to pray for our brothers and sisters who face this reality, even while you read these words and advocate for them before the Father.
Hebrews 13:3 — “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”