By Gerald Flurry • February 12
In 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the United States Congress about the biblical book of Esther. He said:
My friends, I’ve come here today because, as prime minister of Israel, I feel a profound obligation to speak to you about an issue that could well threaten the survival of my country and the future of my people: Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons.
We’re an ancient people. In our nearly 4,000 years of history, many have tried repeatedly to destroy the Jewish people. Tomorrow night, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, we’ll read the book of Esther. We’ll read of a powerful Persian viceroy named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. But a courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, exposed the plot and gave for the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against their enemies.
The plot was foiled. Our people were saved.
Today, Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map. They speak often about “Death to America” as well. But what does this have to do with you and me?
The message of Esther has everything to do with continuing God’s plan on Earth! It is tied to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ!
Queen Esther of Persia, a Jew, was the wife of King Xerxes.
Ernest Martin wrote in the February 1961 Good News:
Why was the king [Artaxerxes] so interested in the Jews’ religion, and why did he want Jerusalem to be rebuilt and inhabited? The answer is plain.
The Bible records how Esther, a Jewish girl from the tribe of Benjamin, became queen of Persia, and Mordecai, her [older cousin], became prime minister of the kingdom (Esther 2:17; 10:3). Esther was married to King Xerxes (Ahasuerus), who ruled according to Persian reckoning from 485 to 465 b.c. The king under whom Ezra was appointed to rebuild Jerusalem was Artaxerxes I—the son of Xerxes.
It’s also worth noting that Xerxes’s grandfather was King Cyrus, who was inspired by God to issue the initial decree permitting the Jews to return to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-3). God used Cyrus, Esther, Xerxes and Artaxerxes to continue His work and plan.
An evil man named Haman was second in command under Xerxes over all of Persia, the nation that basically ruled the world at the time. He plotted to destroy the Jewish race. This concerned Mordecai and Esther, of course. They knew someone would have to expose his plot to King Xerxes.
But this was a complicated and dangerous task, as Esther reminded Mordecai through a messenger: “All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days” (Esther 4:11). Anyone who came before the king could only do so at the king’s request—or risk execution by showing up unannounced. Esther didn’t see how she could deliver the urgent news to the king when he hadn’t called her to visit at all in the past month.
Mordecai’s reply stirred Esther to action: “… Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (verses 13-14). Mordecai saw God at work in this situation. He knew that God would find someone else to save the Jews if Esther wouldn’t step up, but that Esther and her family would die as a result. The only alternative was the extermination of the Jews, which was contrary to God’s plan.
Mordecai asked Esther if perhaps God had placed her on the scene at this crucial moment in Jewish history. What if this was Esther’s main purpose in life? This was a hard, hard question for her to answer.
Mordecai was Esther’s older cousin. He had practically raised her. He knew how to reassure her and convince her to fulfill her calling. God uses individuals to advance His plan, and sometimes they don’t want to do what God wants them to do! The Prophet Jeremiah told God he was just a child, but God had blessed him with the Holy Spirit from birth! We could easily ask, How could God want me? I’m not qualified. That’s why your Bible says “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). God calls us out of the world and gives us some pretty impressive jobs—if we will actually accept our mission.
It’s obvious that Esther was not just called, but chosen. “Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him” (Esther 4:15-17). Esther got to the point where she no longer feared death! What a courageous woman! How many people on Earth today are willing to die for their people? Our forefathers spilled their blood so we might have freedom today, such as the freedom to declare this inspiring message.
Are you willing to take a stand for your people? We’re all one human family. We all came from Adam and Eve. Everyone will learn this very soon. But God warns us of the sacrifices we must make to do His work and declare His message, which is routinely rejected by mankind. We must be willing to give up family and even life itself! (Luke 14:26).
Ezra and Nehemiah
About eight years after the reign of King Xerxes—15 years after Queen Esther saved the Jews from Haman—Ezra returned from Persia to Jerusalem. Martin explained why:
After the deaths of Zerubbabel and Joshua, who led the first wave of returning Jews to Palestine, the people began to take a lackadaisical attitude concerning the services in the temple and religion in general. Even though the temple had been completed in the early months of 515 b.c., the people of Palestine took no interest in rebuilding the city of Jerusalem. It still remained in ruins! The people had also begun to intermarry freely with the idolatrous Gentile people round about. The religious life of the people in general was becoming corrupt. This condition was prompted because the people in general did not have any real spiritual leaders after the death of Zerubbabel and Joshua. As the years rolled by, the condition became worse and worse.
Finally, in the summer of the year 457 b.c., the seventh year of Artaxerxes, Jewish reckoning, Ezra came to Palestine to rectify the situation that was beginning to get out of hand (Ezra 7:7-8).
Thirteen years after this, Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem. These men were inspired by Esther’s example and wanted to build a much more secure and safe home for their people. Back then, like now, the Jews’ hostile neighbors were a real threat to their survival.
The setting here is during the reign of King Artaxerxes, the son of King Xerxes, who was married to Esther. Esther was right in the midst of world rulers, putting her life on the line with tremendous courage! This is the spirit the Jews need to survive today because they are surrounded by enemies.
“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments. Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord, and of his statutes to Israel. Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time” (Ezra 7:10-12). King Artaxerxes wrote a letter of safe passage for Ezra so everyone along the way would allow him to return to Jerusalem without any trouble.
Under Cyrus, Xerxes and Artaxerxes, the Jews united as one man behind a common cause. Esther was a part of this nearly unmatched Jewish unity. Today, the Jewish people are bitterly divided. So are the Americans and British. A nation divided cannot stand, as Jesus Christ warns in the New Testament.
Whereas Ezra was more of a civil servant of King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah came to Jerusalem as the governor of the whole province of Judea. He had much more power, strengthening Ezra’s position. They worked together to rebuild Jerusalem. Some of our Herbert W. Armstrong College students have helped Israeli archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar uncover a section of the wall Nehemiah built around the city. They have also assisted her in discovering King David’s palace, which is even more exciting!
Zechariah and Haggai
The two temple prophets, Zechariah and Haggai, warned the Jews to reignite their passion for rebuilding Jerusalem. Yet their biblical books are prophetic—for this end time! This is proof of this history being only a type of what’s coming. Zerubbabel built the second temple, Joshua assisted him, and Zechariah and Haggai warned the Jews.
God’s ultimate interest is not in a physical temple but a spiritual temple. Today, His loyal Church is the spiritual temple (Ephesians 2:20-22). Jesus Christ is preparing it for His Second Coming, to help Him rule the world and the universe! That’s the reward for standing up, obeying God, and doing His work today. How dizzyingly wonderful!
Zechariah tells us there was another Zerubbabel in this end time who rebuilt God’s spiritual temple, the Church. The predecessor of the Philadelphia Church of God, the late Herbert W. Armstrong, wrote about this duality: “As Zerubbabel built the first temple of material stone, wood and other materials, he was a forerunner or type of one through whom Christ would raise up or build the spiritual temple—His Church of our time, prior to the Day of the Lord and Christ’s Second Coming” (co-worker letter; March 19, 1981). (Request my free booklets on Zechariah and Haggai to prove that Mr. Armstrong fulfilled this end-time Zerubbabel role.)
The spiritual temple is the sons of God! God is creating a Family! That’s precious. A physical building is nothing by comparison. The end-time Zerubbabel built God’s Family by the power of God (Zechariah 4:6). We need God’s Holy Spirit to do God’s work, taking a stand like Esther did.
“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you” (verse 9). A human being did this! We can do so much when we let God work in us like Esther did.
“For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land” (Haggai 2:6; Revised Standard Version). This is an end-time spiritual shaking, but also a physical shaking. God is creating a new world. The Church is the beginning of that world! The Church will marry Christ and rule alongside Him forever! We will repair and raise the ruins caused by Lucifer’s rebellion against God, which pockmarked the universe (Romans 8).
This is a spiritual shaking because spiritual lives are at stake. That’s worth everything. We must cling to this future! We are here on this Earth to become sons and daughters of God and live forever in the God Family! We are universe beings!Read More