Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Lesson in Grace

grace  |`grās|
a : unmerited divine assistance
b : a manifestation of favor
c : pardon
ORIGIN  from Latin gratia- favor; also Greek χάρη (chári)- pardon 

     Grace. It's just one word, but yet it's filled with so much significance and power. Grace has really been on my mind this past summer. The definition of grace is unmerited favor, but just what does that mean? It means that God, the astounding, incredible being who just created the universe out of nothing, sent His only son to save us, the wretched, unworthy people who deserve nothing more than death. God showed us favor. He smiled upon us! 
     This reminds me of a story from The Old Testament. In Persia during the time of King Xerxes, no one was allowed to approach the king without being invited by him first. No one. Not his best friend, not his cousin, not even his mother. The punishment for this? Death. Needless to say, it was a major offense. 
     Now Xerxes had taken a wife from among the people of his kingdom. Her name was Hadassah, but she's most known as Esther. Esther was a Jew; however, her husband Xerxes did not know this. A man in his court known as Haman the Agagite, a descendant of Agag, King of Amalek, had been persecuting the Jews for years. Esther's parents had been killed at the hands of Haman's men, so she lived with her uncle, Mordecai. When she and Mordecai learned of Haman's plans to completely annihilate the Jewish people, she became very distressed and longed to tell her husband so that he might stop him. She planned for days to tell him, but she just couldn't find an opportunity to impart what she knew of Haman's plans to him. I'll use this scripture to tell you the next part...
"On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter."
 Esther 5:1-2
     It may not seem like this scripture is chock-full of grace, but if we look at it in context, the amount of grace actually shown is astounding! Like I pointed out earlier, it was a major, death-punishable offense to approach the king without his permission. In this passage Esther donned her royal robes. Not just any robes. Royal ones. They were extravagant and beautiful. Most definitely the best she owned. Basically she was dressed to impress because she knew that what she was about to do was unheard of. Scandalous even. She walked, most likely scared out of her mind, into the room where the king was holding court. 
     So not only did she approach the king unsought, but she purposely approached the king unsought in public. Picture the court as she does this. Complete upheaval. Mayhem. A cataclysm. People rising off of their cushions. Questioning in confusion. "What!?" "Why is the queen here?" " She was not invited!" The royal advisors turning towards the king, "But your majesty. You know what the punishment is for this. She must die for insulting you in this way." But what did he do? 
     He extended grace. The grace that only the king could extend. The grace that only the one offended has the right to give. He pardoned her. He smiled upon her. But the verse doesn't end there. She "approached and touched the tip of the scepter." The scepter was an emblem of power. When she touched the scepter she acknowledged his position as king and accepted the pro-offered grace at the same time. 
     Without the king's grace, Esther would have died in accordance to the law. It's important that she accepted it, just as it's important that we accept Jesus as our Savior. Without Jesus, without grace, we would be dead because we as a fallen people can't live a perfect life in step with God's Law. We cheat. We lie. We don't trust in God. We are broken. But that's exactly why grace is so powerful! It has the power to go beyond what we deserve, beyond the law, to save our lives. So to tell you that we as God's children are blessed and loved would be the biggest understatement of the year! 
     Now to fill you in on what happened to Esther next, just because her story is so good. After she touched the tip of the scepter the king asked her what she requested. He said, "Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given to you." Half the kingdom... yeah, that's a lot. And Jesus offers us even more. Eternal life with Him in the Kingdom of God. Wow. Just wow. 
     Esther's response was an invitation to a private banquet prepared for Haman and the king. At that banquet the king asked again what Esther requested. And again she invited them to another banquet on another night during which she would share her request with the king. They accepted. The next day Haman was out riding through the Jewish quarters of the kingdom. He commanded the people to bow to him, but one man, Mordecai, would not, nor did he show fear in his presence. Now Haman was filled with rage against him and saw it fit to kill Mordecai. 
     That night the king could not sleep, so he ordered a book with the record of his reign be brought and read to him. It was then that he discovered that Mordecai had saved his life by exposing two men who had conspired to assassinate him. Xerxes wanted to honor Mordecai for this and sought the opinion of Haman for the way he should honor a great man who served the king well. Haman was very conceited and thought that he king was talking about him. Haman suggested that he be given a royal robe. Not just any royal robe though. One that the king has already worn in public so that all would know that the wearer was a very important person to receive such a gift from the king. He also suggested giving the man a horse ridden by the king with the royal crest placed on his head and a crier to proclaim his deeds to the people as he is pompously ridden around.  
     So the king ordered Haman to go at once and do this for Mordecai. Mordecai! The man Haman wants to kill! Talk about a big piece of humble pie! So basically after that he went home and cried to his wife and then went to the banquet Esther prepared. It was at this banquet that Esther told her husband that she was distressed that a man was trying to kill her people. He asked her, "Who is he- the man who has dared to do such a thing?" Esther replied, "An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!" 
     In the end, the king ordered Haman to die in the very same way Haman had planned for Mordecai to die, and he ordered a written decree on behalf of the Jews. God worked through Esther and protected His people. Just like He still does today. 
     Hopefully you can understand why grace has been on my heart a lot. It's a big subject, and it makes me fall even more in love with God each time I think about it! I hope that from now, the start of this new school year, until May, that I will have grown even more in my faith and will have grasped more about grace and my true love, Jesus Christ.