Week 31 is scheduled for study July 25-31, 2022. What makes Esther and Mordecai so famous is that they were willing to become the instruments in God’s hands to save their people at any cost.

Day 1

As you read Esther, seek inspiration from the Spirit that is tailored to you, and record impressions you receive.

Esther – The Lord can make me an instrument to bless others.

When we think of instruments, we envision things we can use. We use them for entertainment, as in musical instruments, for art, as in paint brushes or chisels, for work, as in wrenches or scalpels. Instruments are tools we use to accomplish things. When we use another person as a tool, we generally don’t view that as a compliment, as people used as tools often are seen as performing the vile work of those in power to accomplish their own purposes. But if you note the wording of today’s lesson, it says that the Lord is offering to help us become something more than what we are. By becoming a tool in His hands, we will be able to bless the lives of others in ways we couldn’t before.

Esther and Mordechai served God faithfully. Because of their faithful service to the purposes of goodness, the purposes of God, He was able to help them become tools to save their people from a planned extinction event. God needed His people saved, and these two faithful servants were placed in key positions by Him to accomplish His divine intervention to save His people. There is nothing coincidental about the fact that Esther became queen and that Mordecai was put in a position to save the King’s life. God made those arrangements. But He also allowed these two servants to grow and participate in the salvation of their people, a reward for their constancy in their faith in God.

Here is an article I wrote on what it means to be used as an instrument in the hands of God. It was written during our study of the Book of Mormon. That is why it references that book. It also references yet another article I wrote on the same subject, but from a different point of view. Hopefully you will find it all useful in understanding what it means to be used or made into an instrument in the hands of the Lord. I Will Make an Instrument of Thee

It is a privilege to be used as an instrument in the hands of God. He doesn’t use those He cannot trust as the instruments of His goodness. Our goal is to live worthy of becoming an instrument, a facilitator of God’s goodness in the lives of others. This is how we become saviors on Mt. Zion. Simple things we can do are temple attendance, family history work, journal writing, fulfilling our ministering assignments to the best of our abilities, and so much more. All of these things show our Father in Heaven that we want to participate with Him in the blessing and salvation of His other children. It is in this process that we become more like Him.

Day 2

As you read Esther, seek inspiration from the Spirit that is tailored to you, and record impressions you receive.

Esther 3; 5:9-14; 7 – Pride and anger can lead to downfall.

I find this discussion interesting. President Ezra Taft Benson said in his Conference talk many years ago that pride is enmity, enmity of God and enmity of others. Pride is ultimately selfish. Where there is pride there can be no happiness in another’s accomplishment, only in taking what others used to have. Haman was the right hand of the king. The whole kingdom bowed to him. He was richly rewarded with lands, titles, and possessions. Yet, when one humble subject of the king refused to bow to him, he became so enraged for the supposed “slight” that he wanted the offending party killed.

Haman had surrounded himself with others who were just as shallow as he was. When he asked them how he should punish Mordecai for not showing him the respect he felt he deserved, they said to build a gallows 50 cubits high and hang Mordecai from it. Why would anyone need to build a 75 foot high gallows, except to show off the body that hangs from it for all to see? Think of a seven story building. That is so excessive. Haman wasn’t content with wanting to kill Mordecai, he wanted to make an example of him to the whole palace and city.

What Haman hadn’t counted on was Mordecai’s reputation with the King. Mordecai had discovered, in doing his daily duties around the palace, that some people were plotting to kill the king. He reported their plot, and the king killed the conspirators. Haman’s arrogance made him sloppy. He just assumed that Mordecai was a nobody, and that whatever he did to him would go unnoticed by anyone else. It wouldn’t have mattered to anyone else, except the only other person in the kingdom more powerful than Haman was the King, and it certainly mattered to the King.

Haman’s second mistake, born of his own pride and desire for vengeance was his assumption that he could act with impunity, because of his position in government. He knew nothing of a personal nature about the queen God had given the King. So when Haman decided to get revenge on the Jews for Mordecai’s lack of reverence to Haman, Haman talked the King into allowing him to commit genocide by having all the Jews killed in every province of the empire on the same day. It would be a massive extermination. This shows just how far his need for revenge extended. It wasn’t enough for him to punish the one who he thought had slighted him, Haman wanted his entire race wiped from the face of the earth. Wow!

Fortunately, the Lord had inspired Mordecai to counsel Esther to not reveal to the King or anyone in his court that she, herself was a Jew. This counsel kept her safe, until the day Haman got permission from the King to kill every Jew in the empire.

Let’s skip to the end of the story. Haman got his comeuppance in a big way. When the King realized that he had never honored Mordecai, the man who had saved his life, he asked Haman how such a man should be honored. Haman, assuming the King was referring to himself, pronounced an extravagant gesture, which he then had to give to his arch enemy, Mordecai. Next the queen revealed to the King that she was subject to the King’s edict to be slaughtered with all the other Jews on the set date. The King loved Esther, and let her and Mordecai resolve the problem however they saw fit. It ended with the Jews killing tens of thousands of those who had set out to slaughter them, and Haman, along with his 10 sons, were hanged on the 75 foot gallows he had built to display the death of Mordecai.

The nature of pride is enmity, competition, and includes anger and jealousy. These very traits tend to make one sloppy and mean hearted. All Haman had to do was get to know Mordecai to learn more about him as a person, and learn more about his religion. This would have shown him why he acted like he did. They could have been friends. But Haman was too proud to do that. He was too consumed with the idea that he had to squash Mordecai like the little insignificant bug that he was. This led to his own downfall in ways he never could have imagined.

There are lessons here for each of us. Pride never serves a good purpose. It is never useful, and never brings lasting happiness. Anger causes only hurt. Do we each see traces of pride and anger in our own life? Do we ever feel a need to control someone? Do we get offended when someone gets a promotion or raise that elevates them socially, while we remain where we are or are made to serve under them? Pride is everywhere in the world. This is Satan’s guiding attribute. This is why the Lord teaches so strongly against it, and seeks to help us find humility, love, and kindness as guiding attributes in our lives.

Not every story in life ends as well as this one does. Many people are crushed under the heals of those who are filled with pride and anger. But Haman, unwittingly, was going up against God in his quest to crush those whom God had personally placed in a position to save His people. Haman never really stood a chance.

Day 3

As you read Esther, seek inspiration from the Spirit that is tailored to you, and record impressions you receive.

Esther 3-4; 5:2-3; 8:11-12 – Fasting demonstrates my dependence on the Lord.

Fasting is one of those powerful spiritual tools that take many of us years to discover, and even longer to gain any mastery in its use. When I was young, fasting was a form of torture inflicted upon me that I would never have submitted to as an adult. But as a child I just did as I was told, so I suffered. My whole focus was on how much my stomach hurt, and how much I wanted to eat. If I didn’t know how to tell time on an analog clock before this time, I certainly became an expert at counting the hours and calculating how long I would have to wait before I could eat. Having to remain hungry while the smell of pot roast and pie cooked in the kitchen was insult to injury.

It wasn’t until I was in my later teens before I accidentally discovered one fast Sunday that I had made it most of the day without even thinking about my hunger. That got me thinking. Why was this day different from all the other fast days of the past? The only thing I could think of was that I had been preoccupied with helping someone that day. It was only when I sat down and began to think about what the day still held ahead of me that I realized I was hungry. So service had distracted me and made this day not just bearable, but delightful.

From then on whenever I needed to fast, I tried to think of some way I could take the attention off myself and put it on helping others. That way I wouldn’t have to spend the time focused on how much I wanted to eat. This was my initial fast day discovery. I could spend my time serving, reading good books, associating with family or friends, listening to uplifting music, or any of a number of other worthy pursuits. It was years later that I realized that including prayer and petitioning the Lord about what was needed for that day also made my day better. Little by little fasting became a source of pleasure, instead of a source of dread.

There is something about putting one’s body in a state of extreme need that intensifies our desires, helps us feel more humble, and places us in a state of recognition of our own limitations and weakness before God. It is a way to humble ourselves, at least temporarily. It is also in this state that we begin to get real honest with our Father, and are often more willing to take counsel than when we are full and content. I sometimes refer to this condition as a state of divine discontent.

Esther fasted

When Mordecai told Esther that she needed to face the king for the sake of all Jews in the Persian empire, or face genocide, her first response was to fast. And the fast she proposed wasn’t just a regular fast, but an extreme one. Generally, people can’t go much beyond three days without water before they put their health at great risk. She lived in a hot climate, yet her declared fast for all the Jews in the area was to forgo eating AND drinking water for three days and three nights, at which time she would put herself in God’s hands and approach the king.

We know that Esther was beloved of her husband, but the law still stated that anyone, including herself, was at risk of being killed for approaching the King without prior invitation. And her husband hadn’t called for her in the last month, so it had been a while since she had seen him.

The key to her fasting and praying for her people was that she really was putting her life in the Lord’s hands. Before she ever started the fast she declared that if she died, she died. Either way she was still going through with it. This fast was to plead with the Lord to soften the heart of the King to not only let her live for approaching him unbidden, but to help him be willing to spare God’s people, the Jews. She knew Haman’s power with the King. She also knew Haman’s hatred for Mordecai and the Jews. There was no way she could know the outcome ahead of time. She really would have to just do all in her power and leave the results up to the Lord. She was willing to die for her people if that was what was required. She just needed some help getting the strength to face the King and Haman’s wrath to submit her petition to her husband.

Below is a link to a general article on the nature of fasting written while we were  studying the Doctrine and Covenants.

Day 4

As you read Esther, seek inspiration from the Spirit that is tailored to you, and record impressions you receive.

Esther 3:1-11; 4:10-17; 5:1-4 – Doing the right thing often requires great courage.

At the end of the day, I am pretty sure there are very few of us who willingly and deliberately put ourselves into positions of danger just to demonstrate our faith in God. I heard a Mission President say once that while God might protect His missionaries, if they put the noose around their own neck, they shouldn’t expect the Lord to come running after them with a pair of scissors.

The conflict between wickedness and righteousness is ever present and ongoing. As long as we espouse the path of obedience and righteous behavior we are guaranteed to periodically come head to head with those who are actively promoting Satan’s agenda. It is in those times when it takes faith and courage to stand our ground and hold our position. What is sad is that sometimes those we are having to stand our ground against are members of the Church, and who should know better. I was on Facebook recently and a so called “member” made a comment in a thread that God had rejected the whole Church the day the Manifesto was signed, and that there hadn’t been any revelations in the Church since that time. My first thought was, “If God has rejected the Church then why are you still a member?” It didn’t occur to me until later that he probably isn’t an active member of the Church. I testified that there has been and still is revelation taking place in the Church, and was greeted with a slam about needing to do my own research. In as kind a way as I knew how, I told him I didn’t need to do research to validate what had already been revealed to me through the Spirit.

Sometimes it is important to stand boldly for the truth. Other times we are best served just to remain silent. Each of us will have to listen to the Spirit within us to feel what the best response should be in a given situation. But no matter how we respond, love should always be at the heart of our response. God will always support us when we seek to do His will and to promote His works. We never need to be afraid of what man can do to us if we are more concerned about what God thinks of us.

FHE/Personal Study

The feast of Purim or Lots

When Haman chose the month to kill all the Jews in the empire, he cast lots for the month of the year in which it should happen. So when the Jews were saved by being allowed to defend themselves from their attackers, Mordecai declared they should hold a feast commemorating the saving of the people every year in the month Haman had chosen by lot or chance to destroy them.

If you read the whole story of Esther from start to finish, you are really only dealing with four people, Esther, Mordecai, Haman, and the King. The ten chapters of the book of Esther only deal with this one story that takes all ten chapters to tell. As you read it from beginning to end, ask yourself if it doesn’t sound like someone telling the Christmas story from Luke 2. This is a story that is meant to be told or read to all present at the feast of Purim or Lots. When the people hear the name of Haman there is booing, cat calls, and noise makers to drown out his accursed name. When the name of Mordecai is read there is cheering and clapping.

This story from the Bible has become as much a national holiday for the Jews as a demonstration of faith in God. Try reading it like you would read the Christmas story and see if you don’t get a different feel for the story of Esther. It really is meant to be read like a bedtime story or like the story of the Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving in the Americas.

Click the link below to

print a PDF copy of the article.

OT31-2022 – Thou Art Come … For Such a Time As This

Week 31