If you are just joining us, you can read the other posts in this series here.
Our post entitled Esther Chosen as Intercessor for the Jews stopped at the point where Esther agreed to approach King Ahasuerus, her husband. She knew the risks that such an act carried. She also realized that Mordecai is a trusted adviser who may be right to note that this cause could be the very reason for which she became queen.
Mordecai touched on a life’s purpose in his response to Esther. In Christian circles, we often refer to this as one’s calling. Our purpose is the thing for which God created us, the task that He has called us to and for which He has been grooming us. In the modern Western culture, we tend to think of ourselves as little islands. Whether we phrase it this way or conceal it, we often think of our lives as independent from everyone else’s. As such, we believe and behave as though our decisions only affect us and no one else has a say in what we do.
This is not the Biblical teaching. Esther is reminded by her cousin and guardian Mordecai that she is a part of a people. She is not insulated from the pain of the Jews or the consequences that they face. Once Esther agreed to approach the king, her response embraced the community of Jews among whom she belonged.
How did Esther commune with the Jews in Susa?
Esther requested that Mordecai gather all of the Jews who could be found in Susa (v. 16). She ordered that they fast day and night on her behalf, as she prepared to approach the king on their behalf.
How does this apply to us today?
The church today is one body (1 Corinthians 12:12). Christ came to establish one church, one bride. When a part of the body is hurting, the entire body hurts. When one of us is rejoicing, we all have grounds to rejoice (Romans 12:15). The communion of the church is emphasized in Acts and the epistles. The writings of Revelations are perhaps the best evidence to the unity of the local church. God sees us as integral parts of the church, and in the final day, He will judge each church and body of believers according to their actions as a body. The words of the apostle John suggest the seriousness with which we should consider church membership and participation (Revelations 2:1-3:22).
Another point of application for us in this segment of Scripture is our responsibility to lift those who are in a position of influence before the Lord. God has placed Christians in every area of leadership that they find themselves in and these individuals rely on our prayers of support, as they give guidance, and as they swim against the waves to keep the prints of the Lord where His Name might have been removed.
The Discipline of Fasting
What is fasting and should Christians fast today?
Fasting is a spiritual discipline that refers to abstinence from food (primarily) out of devotion to God. During a time of fasting, believers devote themselves to prayer, Bible reading, and pure, unadulterated focus on God. In the examples we have in the Bible, most fasts lasted from sunrise to sunset, though in some occasions, as is the case in Esther 4, we see a call for all-day and all-night fasting for a period of time spent in prayer and intercession.
In biblical times, people engaged in fasts:
- To gain God’s attention on behalf of someone’s suffering. This was the case with David after the Lord caused the son that Bathsheba bore him to become ill. David pleaded and fasted for seven days on behalf of the child, in hope that the Lord would be gracious to him and let the child live (2 Samuel 12:15-23).
- To seek the wisdom needed to make critical decisions and to go into battle. One powerful example is of King Jehoshaphat, who resorted to seek the Lord when the Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites rose against Israel. King Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast for all Judah. As the passage states, Jehoshaphat stood in the Lord’s temple before all of Judah and Jerusalem and began to pray to the Lord. He admitted his inadequacy to face his enemies (v.12). The Lord spoke through Jahaziel and comforted Jehoshaphat that the battle was not his, but the Lord’s, and that victory would be theirs because the Lord would fight the battle (2 Chronicles 20). I encourage you to read the full chapter to see the deliverance that the Lord granted to Jehoshaphat and all of Judah.
- In response to being confronted with sin in one’s life. In 1 Samuel 7, the Israelites began to turn their hearts back to God. Samuel prayed for them and they fasted all day and confessed their sins for having turned their hearts to other gods (1 Samuel 7:6). See also Daniel 9:13-19.
- To prepare for ministry. Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights prior to beginning his earthly ministry (Matthew 4:1-2).
Read the following Scripture passages for more examples of fasting:
- To accompany intercession on behalf of a nation after a time of disobedience to God (Ezra 8:23; Nehemiah 1:4).
- To prepare for major events (Acts 13:2-3).
During Esther’s fast, she and the Jews of Susa abstained from food completely. During this time, Esther prepared herself to approach the king in hope of obtaining his favor. Esther’s fast, it can be said, had the purpose of seeking God’s wisdom on how to approach King Ahasuerus and how to request for the king to withdraw the verdict against the Jews.
Read Isaiah 58:1-14 for a description of true fasting. Meditate on the words of this chapter and embrace the Lord’s appeal to His people (applies to Jews and Gentiles by adoption into the Kingdom of God) to fast earnestly and to deny ourselves and embrace righteousness. If we fast as the truly repentant people of God, we have the assurance that the Lord will lead us and restore us.
Weekly Challenge: Resolve to do that which honors God at any cost.