Welcome In February I did a personal Bible study on faith, paying particular attention to individuals’ stories that reflected their faith throughout scripture. One of the people I studied was Queen Esther. I was impressed with her story of being able to have faith and take a stand to protect her people. We need this type of faith and action, more than ever. I would like to share a little from her story, and four others who took a stand to do what was right.
Scripture quotations today are from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Food For Thought The book of Esther is pretty fascinating and I admire this Biblical woman so much. I’ll leave it to you to read the entire story, but I focused my study on chapters four through eight. This is a very quick summary and the highlights. Esther ended up being chosen queen, even though her kindred people were Jews. As she learns of the plan to destroy the Jewish people, she agrees to a plan to help Mordecai and save the Jewish people. The bottom line for Esther’s character is that she is obedient and faithful, which end up playing out well, although there was plenty of risk! But she was willing to TAKE A STAND.
Esther 4:16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day, and I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Underline is my addition.)
Esther is doing the right thing for her people even though it goes against social expectation and law. Haman plots to hang Mordecai and the threat becomes very real and close to Esther. But did she back down? No, she stuck with the plan, and took advantage of the king’s favor to help her people.
Esther 6:3 “Then Queen Esther answered, ‘If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king.”
Haman and his plan are called out by Esther in the presence of the king, who becomes enraged, having Haman hung on the gallows intended for Mordecai. Esther’s faith and obedience is greatly rewarded.
Esther 8:1-2 “On that day King Ahasuerus gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her. And the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.
Other great examples of faith and standing up for what is right? How about that great Vacation Bible School story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel, chapter three. These men knew the commands and laws of King Nebuchadnezzar, as well as the consequences, a death sentence at the furnaces. When the men continued to resist worship of Nebuchadnezzar’s idols, he became infuriated, casting the men into the furnace set to burn even hotter than usual. It was so hot, even the men bringing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were killed from its outrageous heat. Some thanks for working for the king, huh? But these three men were not afraid. They stood up to the King, even in the face of grave consequences, and placed their faith in their one True God. The result for their courageous stand? Nebuchadnezzar witnessed the “servants of the Most High God” being delivered from this fiery place and he set forth a decree that no one could speak against these men or their God. The stand of these three men not only saved their own lives, but also protected their people worshiping the one True God.
I also like the very short story of Joseph of Arimathea in Mark 15:42-47. We don’t know much about this man, but what we do know is significant. There is a very key word in verse 43 about his character and example.
Mark 15:43 “Joseph of Arimethea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.”
Did you catch it? COURAGE. Joseph had to have a lot of it, and take a stand, to go to Pilate, the one who had just brought the events of Jesus’ life to culmination through his crucifixion. We don’t know a lot about Joseph, but he plays a very important role in the events leading up to Jesus’ resurrection.
In Acts 4, Peter and John take a stand. I find the word choice in verse 2 so interesting. The priests and Sadducees were “greatly annoyed.” Of course, we see it every day all over the media right now. Every time someone tries to stand up and speak out for good and faith, people all over the world are “greatly annoyed.” Annoyed to the point of ugliness and violence, unfortunately. But this annoyance and harassment didn’t sway Peter and John here. I love Peter’s response here.
Acts 4:8-10 “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead–by him this man is standing before you well.”
Not only does Peter confess that the man was healed through the power and name of Jesus Christ, but he is not afraid to call them out for what they did…”whom you crucified.” That’s a stand, and they’re not backing down.
And finally, I love Paul’s direction in his letter to Timothy, a command we can still follow regarding any stand we need to take regarding our faith.
2 Timothy 1:6-7 “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
Today’s Scripture It’s scary to take a stand. I know that, and I know I’ve backed down on some things, when I should have stood much firmer. But I am learning. When you or I lose our courage for taking a stand, please remember this verse from Isaiah.
Today’s Prayer My Dear Heavenly Father, I need Your help. I need You to be with me when I need to make a stand, when I need to stand up and do what’s right according to Your Will and Purpose, even when it’s difficult, uncomfortable, or could have a high cost. I need to be reminded that doing what’s right in Your eyes will always reap a greater reward than what I can achieve here on earth. It is so easy for me to forget this fact in the wake of hurtful words, criticism, or betrayal. It is easy to be distracted by tangible achievements and rewards that I can have simply by doing what everyone else is doing or wants me to do. Help me to stand firm, even with so many distractions coming at me. I pray for all Your Children to stand up for what they know is right, to not be timid or lose their zeal. Help us unite and stand to bring glory to Your Kingdom. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Today’s Recipe Okay, plain and simple, this is just a cake I made for fun because I wanted to experiment with flavors and ingredients. It was fun to make and fun to eat! I love turtles candies, and if you do too, you can check out this recipe for my Christmas Turtle Candy. This cake is a play on that candy, starting with a cake mix and adding this and that until I came up with what I call The Ultimate Turtle Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting. It is as rich as it looks, but much easier to make than you may think. Enjoy!
Ultimate Turtle Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting ( I used inexpensive store brands, unless otherwise noted)
- 1 pkg. Devil’s Food Cake Mix
- 1 large pkg. instant chocolate pudding mix
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 TBS vanilla (I used Penzey’s pure vanilla)
- 1/2 TBS instant coffee granules
- 6 oz. chocolate chips (1/2 of a regular package)
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 container ready-to-spread cream cheese frosting
- 1 jar caramel sundae topping (I used Hershey’s brand)
- 1 pkg. turtle candies (I used Brach’s sea salt and caramel turtle candies)
- a handful of pecan halves, for garnish
Set oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and dust with cocoa powder (this will prevent the white flour streaks from showing up on the sides of the cakes). In large mixing bowl, combine cake mix and next six ingredients, beating with electric mixer on low for one minute, followed by two minutes on medium. Pour prepared batter into pans. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and chopped pecans over the top of the batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Place on cooling racks for 15 minutes.
Remove cakes from pans and leave to cool on racks for one hour. Place cooled cakes in refrigerator for 30 minutes before frosting (this reduces crumbing factor when frosting). Chop the turtle candies into smaller chunks. In medium bowl, stir together all of the cream cheese frosting, half the jar of caramel topping, and half the turtle candy pieces.
Place one cooled cake layer, chocolate and pecan-side up, on cake plate. Top with half the caramel cream cheese frosting. Place second cake layer on top of this, following same procedure. Use remaining frosting to cover the top cake layer. Use the remaining caramel sauce to drizzle onto cake. To do this, tilt jar and starting in the middle, swing jar back and forth in a pattern like spokes of a wheel, allowing some of the caramel to drizzle down the sides of the cake. Arrange the remaining turtle candies and pecan halves in the middle of the caramel “puddle” in the center of the cake.