Psalm 38:10–17; Esther 1; Romans 8:9–19

Psalm 38:10–17: In the midst of the despair that is the beginning of this psalm, our poet has only one person he can turn to:
Oh, Master, before You is all my desire
and my sighs are not hidden from You.” (10)

He describes his present pass with a mournful elegance that is a beautiful model for us to pray when we feel hurt and abandoned by our friends and even our blood relatives:
My heart spins around, my strength forsakes me,
and the light of my eyes, too, is gone from me.
My friends and companions stand off from my plight
and my kinsmen stand far away.” (11, 12)

But our psalmist, writing of David’s plight when he is on the run from Saul, shows us that conspiracy by those we thought to be our friends is even worse than sorrow and abandonment:
“They lay snares, who seek my life and want my harm.
They speak lies, deceit utter all day long.” (13)

In fact, his emotional state is so fraught that he cannot reply to his accusers:
I become like a man who does not hear
and has no rebuke in his mouth.” (15)

So, when all hope is lost, David—and the psalmist and all of us—are left with but one place to turn:
For in You, O Lord, I have hoped.
You will answer, O Master, my God.” (16)

Notice that even in the depths, David has the assurance that God is indeed with him. The other lesson here is that there is no situation in our own lives that is so dire that we cannot turn to God with the confidence that God will indeed hear us. Which of course is what prayer is all about.

Esther 1: This narrative history of one of the great post-exilic heros of Israel is written from a strictly human point of view. While the word “God” does not appear in it, we can see God’s hand moving through the main characters throughout this book.

The book opens by telling us, “This happened in the days of Ahasuerus, the same Ahasuerus who ruled over one hundred twenty-seven provinces from India to Ethiopia.” (1), which we know as the Persian empire, whose capital is Susa.

Perhaps one of the remarkable things here is that King Ahasuerus gives a banquet (and other parties we presume) for his officials and ministers that lasts 6 months! Following this, “the king gave for all the people present in the citadel of Susa, both great and small, a banquet lasting for seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace.” (6) Our author then describes the wealth of the setting and the fact that “Drinking was by flagons, without restraint; for the king had given orders to all the officials of his palace to do as each one desired.” (8) This party must have been quite the debauch…

Thoroughly drunk, the king demands that his wife, Queen Vashti, come to him in order to show her off, “for she was fair to behold.” (11) Vashti refuses to become objectified by the king and refuses to appear. In a rage, Ahasuerus consults with his lawyers, who use the slippery slope argument that if she does not appear, other women will follow suit. On their advice, the king publishes a decree that “all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.” (20) Treating women as second-class citizens and vassals of their husbands has a long history.

The lawyer, a certain Memucan, also advise that the king divorce Vashti, that he banish her from court, and that he seek out a replacement queen.

Romans 8:9–19: In one of the most dense but profound chapters of theology in the entire Bible, Paul informs us that we are no longer “in the flesh”—a concept that is shorthand for humans who believe God (or the idea of God) is irrelevant to them and that they are the ones in control of their circumstances and ultimately their destiny.

But Christians “are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.” (9a) Moreover, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (9b) Employing his usual Pauline logic, he observes that it is the same Holy Spirit “who raised Christ from the dead [who] will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (11)

Paul goes on to say that “if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (13) It is actually a very simple binary choice. If we “live by the flesh,” i.e., keep ourselves the as the center of our universe, we will die both physically and spiritually. But if we choose to let the Holy Spirit live within us and control our lives, we become the adopted children of God: “you have received a spirit of adoption.” (15)

Think for a moment on the radical nature of this concept: that we are the adopted children of God. The Jews certainly did not buy this idea, and it would be equally alien to the Gentiles for whom the ‘gods’ were fundamentally mythical beings. And yet here is Paul telling us that because the Holy Spirit lives in us we can call God, “Daddy,”

And as God’s adopted children we are written into the will: “and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” (17a) But being a member of the family entails great responsibility. And with that responsibility as a member of the Christian family, something we really don’t like all that much: present suffering for future glory: “if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (17b)

Now that he is on the subject of present suffering, Paul turns his attention to its profound implications with this introduction:  “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” (18) More on this to follow…



  1. John Helgeson says

    RE: But if we choose to let the Holy Spirit live within us and control our lives, we become the adopted children of God: “you have received a spirit of adoption.” (15)

    I wonder about the word ‘control’ in the above musing. I might prefer a word more like ‘influence’ there. The whole context contrasts being in slavery (i.e. controlled) versus sonship (i.e. being free within the relationship) Paul then uses the metaphor of the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit (i.e., more of a conversation), not taking over our spirit. That sentence continues by noting that it is because we are fellow heirs with Christ. Thus we should have learned from him what listening to God’s spirit would involves.
    Thanks for your continuing Musings!

    • Thanks, John. I agree that how I have used ‘control’ here is imprecise. However, I see Paul’s use of ‘slavery’ as meaning enslavement to the illusion that we are “in control” of our actions and ultimately our destiny. This is manifested in the cult of individualism that we see all around us in the culture. When I speak of the HS as being “in control” I am thinking of the idea that we have abandoned that need to control our lives and happily turned that leading & guiding (‘influence’ seems somewhat weak to me) over to the HS and thereby become adopted by “Abba.”

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