Mortal Combat

“You yourselves write a decree concerning the Jews, as you please, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s signet ring, for whatever is written in the king’s name and sealed with the king’s ring, no one can revoke…By these letters the king permitted the Jews who were in every city to gather together and protect their lives-to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province that would assault them…” Esther 9:8,11

Have you seen that Capital One credit card commercial, the one that depicts a horde of marauding invaders descending on an unwary consumer? Just before they reach him, the consumer whips out his low interest Capital One card and the attackers are thwarted. Their weapons fall slack and with dejected faces they return to wherever they came from. Well, I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time barbarians swarmed my suburban neighborhood. Yet the commercial hits home because the advertisers nailed the fear that comes with uncontrolled debt.

You don’t have to look very far to find someone in financial distress. I have a couple of neighbors who were let go from their jobs, and I imagine they felt terror breathing down their necks. And there’s more to dread than the lack of money. Just mention the “C” word – we all know someone who is fighting or has fought it.  Watch people cross themselves or knock on wood or do anything they can think of to ward it off. It isn’t just cancer people fear. There are scores of incurable diseases nowadays. I’ve watched the clerk at the convenience store down the street from my house become more and more palsied as each month goes by. I know and she knows it will only get worse until eventually it’ll become so bad she’ll have to give up her job, and then what? I don’t suppose a slow siege like that is any less frightening, or any less brutal, than a bunch of big, hairy guys coming at you with axes and swords. Wouldn’t it be nice to have protection from that sort of thing that’s as effective as the credit card in the commercials?

Wait a minute! Isn’t that the gospel we preach?

All Christians believe in deliverance, but a dividing line falls along the boundary between whether deliverance is “here and now” (this life) or “there and then” (the next). I’ve believed the “here and now” version of the gospel, sometimes dubbed “Word of Faith”, for a long time. You might wonder how I can hold to that with all the suffering I see good-living Christians go through. Well, all I can say is if I formed my beliefs based on what I see I never would have become a Christian in the first place.

The book of Esther lays it out for me. The King sent out a decree, a curse if you will, on all those poor Jews. Their enemies were waiting in the wings to take advantage of it. Then surprise! Someone intercedes on the Jews’ behalf. The King can’t rescind the first decree: it’s out there to stay. So He issues a second. “When your enemy attacks you, don’t just lie down and take it! Fight back! Behold! I give you power over all the power of the enemy!” Sounds like good news to me. It’s a good thing the messengers in Esther’s day spread the word to every village.

So, don’t triumph over me, oh my enemy, when I stumble and fall. I, the righteous in Jesus, will surely rise again! But as for you, Devil, you’re going down and there is none to save you.

To all who believe the second decree, happy charging!

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