Expositional Devotions: Esther 9:1-5

Last Sunday night, Kentucky’s men’s basketball team played one of their biggest rivals, North Carolina, for a chance to go to the Final Four. We were just two games away from the National Championship. Kentucky tied the game with only ten seconds remaining. Kentucky fans everywhere, including those of us in Tupelo, were jumping and cheering for joy. However, just ten seconds later everything changed. One of North Carolina’s player’s hit a last second shot to win the game. The player everyone least suspected ended Kentucky’s hope for victory. The tables were turned on my Wildcats last week in dramatic fashion.

The Jews in Esther have experienced a reversal, or turning of the tables, far more dramatic than a basketball game. They have literally gone from fearing death to being feared. They have gone from running for their lives to running after those who would take their lives. Reversals do not get more ironic than the one we see play out in Esther 9. You’ve read, or at least heard of, books with perfect endings, right? Well, the ending of Esther is about as perfect as it gets. In fact, this story is so perfectly constructed that it’s hard to believe it’s real! It’s almost as if someone was intentionally orchestrating events to bring about this particular ending. Weird!

On the very same day that Haman’s plan for the destruction of the Jews was to be enforced, Mordecai’s plan for the protection of the Jews would win the day. In the words of the author of Esther, “the reverse occurred.” The Jews “gained mastery over those who hated them.” Those who were fighting in the name of Haman would meet his fate.

Not only do we see how God sovereignly reverses the fate of his people, but we see that God always conquers his enemies and the enemies of his people. Christ is a valiant warrior-king who tramples his enemies beneath his feet. He is the victorious snake-crusher of Genesis 3:15. While no one could stand against the Jews in Susa, no one in heaven or earth or under the earth will be able to stand against Christ the Lord.

Those who oppose Christ through unbelief now will be overcome by Christ later. Oh, but those who submit to Christ through faith now already walk in victory in the one who has overcome their greatest enemies—sin and death.

17498999_1870940272931412_6999370580315029592_nMathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.


Strange Joy: Three Reasons to Delight in Discipline

Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. –Proverbs 29:17

The hardest thing for any leader to do is to point out or expose the moral deficiencies of those under him or her. However, this is also one of the most important things for leaders to do. Even harder, and seemingly impossible, is the prospect of delighting in this biblical duty to rebuke and subsequently discipline. Whether it is in the classroom, the office, the home, or the church, exposing and punishing moral failure can be one of the hardest parts of leadership.

It is much easier to create an atmosphere that allows for all types of moral failures or sins to exist. This kind of environment is much more comfortable. There are no awkward situations when messages from parent to child or from pastor to congregation are always chipper.

Parents often say, “This hurts me more than it hurts you” or “I am doing this for your good” when they punish their children. And often they punish their children for disobedience despite the emotional pain that presses down upon their souls to punish them. Honestly, I would much rather not discipline my son when he yells “No!” to me after I’ve asked him to please not stick a pencil up his nose.

The dual experience of heart-ripping exposure of sin and subsequent discipline is viewed and even often felt as a begrudging duty rather than a delight.

The Bible speaks very clearly on the importance of checking our children’s sin, disciplining them accordingly, and bringing them up in the instruction of the Lord, all of which is commanded of the Lord and is for their good (see Deut. 6:7; Ps. 78:4; Prov. 19:18; 22:6, 15; 29:17; Eph. 6:4). Similarly, the Bible speaks on numerous occasions and in numerous contexts to the importance of the pastor’s role in leading the local church in the things of God, guarding them from sin, exercising oversight, and calling them to repentance (1 Pt. 5:1-4).

The image that is used to describe the pastor in this sense is the “shepherd.” The pastor is to shepherd the flock that God has entrusted to him. The biblical imagery of shepherding carries with it a sense of providing, guiding, protecting, and constant companionship. This means that when a pastor sees members of the local church he is shepherding indulging in sin, he should stop them with loving rebuke as he calls them to repentance.

Leaders of God’s people throughout Scripture are seen as bearing a special responsibility for the spiritual condition of the covenant community.

“My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold. All who found them have devoured them, and their enemies have said, ‘We are not guilty, for they have sinned against the Lord, their habitation of righteousness, the Lord, the hope of their fathers.’” (Jer. 50:6-7).

Similarly, James warns potential pastors that they will be judged more strictly than other believers (Jam. 3:1). The position of leadership in the family or in the church is one of influence either for ill or good on those under the leader’s care.

So, one crucial duty of a parent and pastor is to expose the sin of children and flock and call both to repentance. There is no denying this. However, the question becomes, can this biblical duty be a delight? And if so, how? I think this can be answered by quickly looking at three reasons why we are called to lead in this kind of exposing, rebuking, and correcting way.

The Father’s Example

Firstly, we are called to expose sin, call to repentance, and if necessary discipline because this is the position our Father who is in heaven takes with regard to sin. God hates sin. He convicts us of our sin through his Word and Spirit (John 16:8). And as our Father, God disciplines the one he loves because he hates to see his children meddle with sin (Heb. 12:6). Christ is the Chief Shepherd and he will not allow one of his sheep to be lost. God as Shepherd is seen very vividly in Ezekiel 34.

“I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost…bring back the strayed…bind up the injured, and…strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice” (Ezek. 34:15-16).

God is jealous both for his glory and for his people. Jesus said, “My Father, who has given them [the sheep] to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:29-30).

Likewise, parents and pastors should be jealous for God’s glory and their children’s/congregation’s eternal state. Let God as Father and Shepherd who disciplines his children and cares for his flock be your example in truly caring for your children and congregation when they sin by exposing sin and calling for repentance. Knowing that this is how God interacts with his children or people when they sin should cause us to find joy in a biblical duty that can be difficult and even sorrowful as you labor in the grace of Christ to help your children and congregation fight sin.

Love’s Motivation

Secondly, we are to expose sin, call to repentance, and if necessary discipline because we love our children and congregation. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:6). This is remarkable. Because God loves us as sons and daughters, he disciplines us. His great and unparalleled love for us—the same love that sent Christ to die for us (Rom. 5:8)—leads God to discipline us. So, parents and pastors, let your love for your children or your congregation lead you to see them in their sin, expose it, and call them to repentance. Joyful discipline is possible, despite the pain, when love is the motivating force.

To put it more strongly, neglecting to call your children or your congregation out in their sin is to not love them. And it would be contrary to the very way that God interacts with his children and flock. Leadership in the home and church is faulty if it does not care about the hearts of those being led. Letting children and congregants freely sin with no buffer of discipline may mask as love, but it is really dressed-up hatred.

Inherent to love is delight. So, when we discipline or call our people to repentance, we can delight in this, as it is an action motivated by our love for them. There is great delight to be found in loving discipline.

Eternal Vision

Thirdly, we can find delight in discipline because when we call children and church members to repentance, we are doing so for their eternal good. What good is it for a parent or pastor to gain the approval of children or congregants who are living in sin if they lose their souls in the process? Our Father in heaven disciplines us for our eternal good (Rom. 8:28). We should do the same. Discipline in the home and in the church serves as a roadblock to keep those in our care from doing further damage to their souls. Not only will discipline be for temporal good as many consequences for sin will be avoided, but it is for eternal good as only those who persevere to the end will be saved (Matt. 24:13; Heb. 10:36).

Discipline is difficult. And though disciplining those we love “hurts us more than it hurts them,” there is a strange delight to be found in discipline. Discipline is the fruit of love. “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Prov. 13:24). Discipline is a demonstration of grace. It is incredibly gracious to stop someone in his or her sin through loving rebuke. “When you discipline a man with rebukes for sin, you consume like a moth what is dear to him” (Ps. 39:11).

Parents, love your children by calling them to repentance through discipline when they fall into sin. Pastors and churches, love the church by calling those to repentance through discipline when they fall into sin.

17498999_1870940272931412_6999370580315029592_nMathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.


Morning Mashup 04/04

Morning Mashup

A daily mashup of book recommendations, articles, and videos for your information, edification, and enjoyment.


The Heart of the Church: The Gospel’s History, Message, and Meaning | Joe Thorn ($8.31)


The Life of the Church: The Table, Pulpit, and Square | Joe Thorn ($7.11)


The Character of the Church: The Marks of God’s Obedient People | Joe Thorn ($7.12)



Porn | Doctrine & Devotion

Joe Thorn & Jimmy Fowler go there. Men, listen up!

Should I Preach the Longer Ending of Mark? | TGC

Danny AkinI do not think verses 9–20 were a part of the original text (though I have good friends and respected scholars who do), so I did not preach on them. Still, for those unfamiliar with issues related to textual criticism, this issue can be extremely troubling. What, then, is a proper pastoral response? Here are five suggestions.

Talking About Jesus, Beauty, and the Beast | Gospel Teacher

I love the way Jack Klumpenhower is always able to teach parents how to use even a trip to the movies to point their kids to Jesus. Pastors and parents will benefit from his reflections on Beauty and the Beast.

A Real Side of Discipleship | Pat Aldridge

Aldridge shows how the “where” of discipleship impacts the “who.”

3 Reasons Why Preaching Is Not Casual | Delivered By Grace

Josh BuiceThe next time you worship with your gathered church—look for the thrill of God’s drama as the preacher unpacks the Word of God before you.  Worship God with a proper and honoring posture.  A true sense of God and His glory will not be a casual experience.

Our National Pastime | TGC

Kevin DeYoungBaseball is unique in the pantheon of professional American sports. It’s the only one where time doesn’t end your game. It’s the only one where offense and defense are totally compartmentalized. And it’s the only sport that actually works on radio.

Patrick Ewing Named Georgetown Head Coach | Bleacher Report

Ewing reportedly will sign a multi-year deal, per Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, and will take over as the team’s head coach immediately, leaving his post as an assistant with the Charlotte Hornets. A press conference is expected for Wednesday, according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports.

What Is True Conversion? | Ligonier

Steven LawsonA true spiritual conversion radically alters the direction of one’s life. It is not a partial change wherein one is able to straddle the fence between two worlds.

Why Easter Matters to Marriage | Challies

Barbara RaineyEaster shows us that if God can resurrect a dead Jesus—and He did!—He can resurrect dead marriages.


Shepherding Your Family Through Ministry Turmoil | TGC


Why You Should Catechize Your Children | TGC