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Nov 28, 2018

ESTHER 1-2:
In the final two chapters of Nehemiah, we heard of the culmination of Nehemiah’s work— the ceremony for the dedication of the wall. The people proved that the wall could stand up to more than just a fox walking on it. Then Nehemiah went back to Babylon. When he came back to Jerusalem, he needed to right several wrongs, as the people had allowed a deterioration in the temple worship.

We now turn to the book of Esther, which may have been written by Mordecai (a major character in the book), or by Ezra or Nehemiah, who would have known this story. The king Xerxes was defeated in a famous naval battle against Greece. From the historian Herodotus we find that the feast mentioned in the first chapter of Esther was the occasion for planning that battle. Esther has been compared to Joseph and David. She also started out as just an ordinary person, but God planned something great for her.

ISAIAH 40b:
The three memorable musical compositions in Handel’s Messiah that quote from this chapter are taken from just verses 1-11. We will find more memorable verses in today’s reading.

PHILEMON:
In chapter 4 of Colossians we heard Paul encourage alertness in prayer and making the most of every opportunity to share the Good News. Our speech should be— when literally translated, ‘seasoned with salt’. NLT does a nice job translating that meaningfully as ‘attractive’, and GNT also get’s right to the point with ‘interesting’.

Along with other people, Onesimus was mentioned at the end of Colossians. He was the slave of Philemon. It is likely that the letter Paul mentioned “from Laodicea” at the end of Colossians was the letter that we will read now! I wish that we knew if Onesimus was so attracted to the Gospel after over-hearing Paul speak at Philemon’s house that he ran away to search for Paul during the time when he was under house arrest in Rome. Or did Onesimus just run away as any ordinary slave might do and just ‘happen’ to ‘end up’ in prison with Paul in Rome? Each story would be fascinating!

GNT Translation notes:
Est. 1:3 In the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his officials and administrators. The [military commanders//armies] of Persia and Media were present, as well as the governors and noblemen of the provinces.
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5 For I hear of your love for all of God's people and [your full belief//the faith you have] in the Lord Jesus.

NLT Translation notes:
Phm. 4 I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon,
5 because I keep hearing about your [fully believing//faith] in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people.
6 And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your [believing/faith] as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.
10 I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in [believing the Good News about Jesus//the faith] while here in prison.
25 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with [each of you spiritually//all of your spirits//your spirit].
[The shift to plural-you indicates that Paul is closing with a greeting to all the people mentioned at the first of the letter, not just Philemon. It is amazing to me that many English translations fail to make this clear.]