Old Testament reading: Esther 3-5
Esther 3 introduces us to Haman, one of the greatest villains in all of the Bible. Full of pride and an overinflated sense of self importance, Haman leads us deep into the plot and intrigue of this great account. The king had promoted Haman above his peers and commanded all to bow before him. However, righteous Mordecai refused to pay homage. When this was told to Haman, he was filled with wrath. Not satisfied to punish Mordecai alone, Haman plotted the destruction of the Jews. Knowing that Esther cannot escape the king’s unwitting decree, and believing that deliverance for the Jews is surely forthcoming, Mordecai enlists the help of Esther with the book’s most well known phrase, “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:14). From lowly captive to a nation’s greatest hope, Esther shows us how God can use anyone to accomplish His will. Also of note from this verse is Mordecai’s faith that God would provide a deliverer for His people, be it Esther or someone else.
New Testament reading: Matthew 16-18
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them (18:20). This line is often quoted and misused as an excuse to forsake the assembly of God’s people. Under the guise of piety and service, some will take a few minutes to “worship” while camping, fishing or engaged in some other recreational activity. Or, they make take opportunity at some out of the way, more convenient time to give God a pittance of thought and think they’ve satisfied their obligation to worship Him in spirit and in truth. This phrase is also misused as a blessing upon very small gatherings of brethren as a means to encourage them despite their meager numbers. None of these cases is remotely accurate to the context or intent of the text. In the context (vv 15-20), Jesus is speaking about the practice of disciplining the unrepentant Christian. Taken as it is written, it shows us that even private matters wherein sin is confirmed but not confessed, the church may eventually become involved to the point wherein the offender is removed from the local body. In saying “there I am in the midst of them,” Jesus affirms His approval of such proceedings when it becomes necessary to keep the local body pure.