The Jewish “Star”
By: Betty Predmore
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE CHARACTARISTICS OF ESTHER?
~ Need for Guidance: Esther sought guidance in times of difficulties (4:15-17)
~Selflessness: Esther was selfless – ready to sacrifice for the good of others
~Appreciation: Co-operation and help from fellow believers should be valued
~Acceptance: Be willing to take wisdom and counsel from those who are more mature (4:12-16)
WHAT PREPARATION DID ESTHER GO THROUGH TO BECOME QUEEN? LESSONS WE CAN LEARN FROM HER STORY…
1. Esther was obedient to her time of preparation, even though it was a lengthy process. Do you have the patience to wait as God prepares you? If God is going to use us, he sometimes needs to refine us. Sometimes we have to undergo that “bitter rubbing”, that hard time we go through as He rubs away at our pride, stubbornness, disobedience, or unwillingness.
Does anyone feel like they are in the “refining process” right now?
2. We all need God’s favor. Both Esther and Mordecai found favor with the king. When we live a life that pleases and glorifies God, we receive His favor. When we are obedient to Him, we reap the reward of his favor. He also blesses us by giving us the favor of those around us.
Have you seen evidence of God’s favor in your life?
3. God’s timing is uniquely His. (4:13-14) Esther, through patience and obedience, acted in right timing. Sometimes we get anxious or excited about something and jump right in, without waiting for God’s assurance that the timing is right. It’s not that He doesn’t want you to have something, maybe He just wants it for you at a different time in your life. If we are in tune with the Holy Spirit and faithful to His calling, He will reveal His timing for the things in our lives.
Is there a time that you feel God’s timing was perfect, that He put you here for “such a time as this”?
4. Your past doesn’t define your future. Esther was an orphan. Who would’ve imagined she would ever become queen? God used her, despite her circumstances, just like he used fishermen and tax collectors. God can use any of us, despite our past, if we have faith in Him and a desire in our hearts to serve Him. That is when all those thing you have overcome in your past can be an awesome testimony.
Is there a time when your past has been an effective testimony? A time when your past allowed you to make a difference in someone’s future?
Esther was royalty. She was brave and obedient. But SO ARE WE! We are daughters of the Almighty King and because of that assurance, we can be BRAVE and BOLD for our God!
Father God, hear our prayer. Help us to be brave and bold for you. Help us to realize that our past does not define our future, and that our testimony is an opportunity, not a hindrance. Give us the patience, obedience, and humility of this gentle queen, and help us to always remember Whose we are and what You can do through us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The Praying Mama
The Story of Hannah
By: Betty Predmore
THE THREE STAGES OF HANNAH’S TRANSFORMATION:
1. Childless and unhappy: (1 Samuel 1: 1-8)
Hannah was not able to bear a son for Elkannah because she was barren. He was also married to Peninnah, who bore him several children. As years went by, Hannah’s agony grew. She had a home and her husband’s riches, but she wanted a son of her own. And while Peninnah provided heirs for Elkannah, it was Hannah that he truly loved. Penninah was cruel and spoke terrible things to Hannah, most likely because she was jealous of his affection. Through all the torment from Peninnah, Hannah remained gracious and in control. And even though God had not granted her a child, she still remained faithful to Him.
Has there been a time when jealousy caused you to act in a cruel way towards someone else?
Has there been a time when someone treated you cruelly? How did you respond?
Has there been a time when God didn’t give you what you wanted? Did you remain faithful and gracious?
Guard your tongues. One thoughtless, unkind word has the potential to cause others pain. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10)
Is your tongue one of your greatest weapons?
2. The Vow: (1 Samuel 1: 9-19)
Hannah promises God that if He will give her a child, “raise her into the empire of motherhood”, she will dedicate that child to Him. She is so passionate and consumed with this prayer that Eli the priest thinks she is drunk, because she did not speak her prayer out loud. Her lips were moving, but no sound was coming out. She was praying from her heart. Her whole demeanor was caught up in the urgency of her prayer. (Notice that even though she was “childless”, she was not “prayerless”.) She convinces Eli that she is sober by pouring out her heart to him. Convinced of her sobriety, he adds his prayers to her, that God would grant her wish. She leaves that time of prayer with a content heart, believing in joy and confidence that her prayer would be answered. Another thing to note is that, even though she had been tormented by Peninnah, she did not pray for Peninnah to suffer in any way. Instead, she prayed that the reason for her own pain would be removed from her.
Have you ever prayed with the urgency of Hannah?
Have you ever had such a powerful prayer that you finished with such peace and assuredness, lie Hannah?
3. Fulfillment of the Vow: (1 Samuel 1:19-28, 2:1-10, 18-21)
Hannah made a promise in prayer, and she honored that promise. One he was old enough, she took him back to the house of the Lord “there to abide forever.” She visited him every year, bringing him a new cloak each time that she had lovingly made. Because of her honor and sacrifice, God blessed her with 5 more children (3 sons & 2 daughters). Samuel grew up to be as godly as his mother. He became a man who lived a life of prayer and intercession as a prophet, and was given great power from God.
Mothers have a huge impact on the character of a child. We shape and influence who they are by our own attitudes and behaviors.
How have you been blessed by honoring your word, keeping your promises to God and others?
No matter what our source of pain is, we can be assured that we can take it to God. When we live life in complete obedience to and confidence in Him, He will heal our troubled hearts. Never give up hope!
Father God, hear our prayer to you today. Help us to have full trust and faith in you, despite our circumstances. Help us to pray fervently to you, trusting that you hear our prayers, and will answer in accordance with your will. Help us also to fulfill our promises and honor our word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The Shunned Believer
The Story of Hagar
By Betty Predmore
Hagar means “One Who Flees”. This woman was the Egyptian servant of Sarah (Genesis 16:1) and the mother of Ishmael (16:15), who was the son of Abraham. God had promised Abraham a son in his old age. When his wife Sarah could not conceive, she offered up her servant Hagar to Abraham as a concubine. (Genesis 16:3-4). When Hagar became pregnant, this made Sarah jealous so she threw her out to the desert. An angel came and spoke to Hagar in the desert, promising her a blessing over her child. The angel named the unborn child Ishmael “Good Heart”. Hagar returned to the household.
Fourteen years later, Sarah gave birth to her own son, Isaac. After observing Ishmael mocking Isaac one afternoon, Sarah once again cast Hagar, and her son, out into the desert. (Genesis 16:6-7, 21:14). Hagar wondered around hopelessly until she ran out of water. She was sure that she and her son were going to die. God heard her crying and sent another angel to assure her that God had heard her and she did not need to be afraid. He reminded her of the promise God had made to her. He provided a spring of fresh water. Hagar and Ishmael lived there and prospered. When the time came, Hagar found an Egyptian wife for her son and they had 12 sons of their own, all tribal chiefs.
WHAT LIFE LESSONS CAN WE LEARN FROM HAGAR:
1. She was Strong ~ Hagar experienced prejudice, injustice, abuse, and despair.
Does your life mirror Hagar’s? Have you experienced the same things? Think of a time when you have felt the effects of abuse, injustice, despair, or prejudice…yet your strength helped you to overcome.
2. She had Hope ~ God saw her and provided for her needs. He told her he would, and this gave her the hope she needed to continue on in a helpless situation.
Think of a time when God has provided for you in a way that way greater than you ever imagined. How did that give you hope to continue on your journey?
3. She had Faith ~ Despite her difficult circumstances, she kept her faith in God and what he had promised. Yes, she did need a little reminding from the angel, but we all need a nudge sometimes.
Sometimes, it is hard to move forward when we are not sure of the road ahead. Have you been in a situation where it was really difficult, and the only thing that got you through was your faith in God?
This story of Hagar and Ishmael is a story that is common today. It is a story of exploitation and trafficking. It is a story of disability. It is a story of rejection. Just as God heard the cries of Hagar in the desert, He also hears our cries. He knows of our heartbreak. He is in tune with our moments of despair and defeat. And just like He promised a brighter future for Hagar and her son, He promises us a brighter tomorrow. When we have faith, as Hagar did, when we believe, as Hagar did, God has some awesome promises for us. We should always seek our refuge in Him.
We thank you that you are our refuge and our strength. We pray in faith for your promises, and we believe that you will hold true to them. Thank you for never leaving us. Thank you for being that thirst-quenching drink of water in our dry deserts. We praise you for your provision as we seek refuge under your wings. In Jesus’ name ~ Amen.
The Woman of Promise
A Story of Elizabeth
By: Betty Predmore
“Elizabeth” means “God’s promise.” This is a fitting name for this woman, as she was a part of the fulfillment of a promise God made to the people of Israel…that He would send a Messiah who would be a bridge to God himself, and whose act of sacrifice would give unending redemption to the people of this world.
THREE EPISODES TO THE STORY OF ELIZABETH:
1. Elizabeth becomes pregnant (Luke 1:5-25)
Here we are with yet another barren woman past the prime of childbearing. Both she and her husband, Zechariah, were from a long line of priests. In those days, her barrenness was not just a sad situation, it was a disgrace.
At this particular time, Zechariah was chosen among about 8,000 priests to be the one to enter the Temple and offer incense as part of the daily Temple worship. What an honor that was! It was during one afternoon of him performing these duties that an angel appeared in front of him. This angel told Zechariah that Elizabeth would have a son. This angel was very specific in the characteristics this child would have:
1. He would be great in the sight of God
2. He would drink no wine and live the life of a Nazarene, which would set him apart from others
3. He would be filled with the Spirit from the moment of conception
4. He would prepare for the Messiah and be the catalyst between Israel and God
Do you think Zechariah believed this angel at first? Of course not! He was made deaf and mute, which startled everyone when he left the temple. Elizabeth did become pregnant, and she stayed home in seclusion.
This was a miraculous time in the life of Elizabeth. God granted her a heart’s desire. Has there been a time in your life when God has granted you something that you thought would be impossible for you to attain?
2. Mary visits Elizabeth (Luke 1:57-66)
We all know the situation Mary was in…pregnant, engaged to a man who was not the father, and ridiculed. Her visit to Elizabeth was an effort to get her away from the madness of what was going on around her until a solution could be found.
When the two women came face to face, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb responded by kicking and moving. She was about 28 weeks along at this time. She took this to mean that the angel had been correct in saying that her child would be filled with the Spirit from the moment of conception, and she saw Mary as the mother of the expected and long-awaited Messiah. She spoke this blessing over Mary:
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believes that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
Although it is not specifically spoken, it is assumed that given the timing of the incident, that Mary was present when Elizabeth gave birth to John.
Elizabeth spoke a blessing over Mary. She did so out of love, honor, and reverence. Have you ever had the opportunity to speak a blessing over someone else? How did it make you feel?
3. Elizabeth gives birth to John (Luke 1:67-80)
Elizabeth defied custom when her son was born. Babies were typically named on the day of circumcision (about 8 days after birth), and they were typically named after the family. She boldly stepped forward and told everyone present that her son would be named “John” (meaning God is gracious). There was a lot of disagreement, but she would not back down. When the family members couldn’t get her to change her mind, they turned to Zechariah for backup. Since he still could not speak, he asked for a writing tablet. He wrote out one sentence: “His name is John.” Immediately upon doing so, his speech and hearing returned. Everyone was in awe of this, and came to the conclusion that this son must be destined for greatness, that “the hand of God was with him”.
Think of a time in your life when you decided something and others were trying to change your mind. Were you able to stand firm in your decision, knowing it was right in the eyes of God?
What were Elizabeth’s Accomplishments?
What were Elizabeth’s strengths?
What life lesson can we learn from Elizabeth?
Heavenly Father, We thank you that you are a God of miracles. We thank you that you give up opportunity to speak blessings in to the lives of others. We are so grateful that you are a God of great promises. We pray that you will pour out your blessings on our lives, as you did in the lives of Elizabeth and Mary. In Jesus’ name ~ Amen.