Sunday, November 13, 2016

With the Measure You Use

(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today: Esther 7 & 8
I can't stand Styrofoam cups. Let me clarify, I can't stand any pansy 6 -10 oz. cup for any kind of beverage- especially coffee. I need something that can hold more, something that doesn't force me to fill multiple cups or make multiple trips.
One day I found it. I was participating in some church function, and about to get coffee in the same old lame Dixie cups, when I found myself in the church kitchen, because we were out of sugar. And then I saw it- the exact same measuring cup as pictured above. Sixteen ounces of unadulterated holding capacity! (That's five hundred milligrams for our Canadian readers!) Right then and there, I staked my claim on that vessel. It has given me new joy to each brunch and potluck dinner. We've been inseparable ever since.
Esther is a book of precise measurements. But even more than being precise, these measurements border on the absurd. We are told three times about the 127 provinces of Persia, as if we needed to be reminded of the obscene power of this empire. When you own everything from India to Ethiopia, why bother counting? (1)
We are given the exact number of days celebrating Persian pomp and splendor- 187, if you count the week-long party at the end (2). We are told the details and length of the beauty treatments for the future "Miss Persia" contest (3). Maybe it IS Maybelline! We are even given the exact weight in silver that Haman attempts to use to bribe the king to carry out his evil plan (4).
But the ultimate measurement overkill of the entire book is Haman's gallows, hands down (5).
Seventy five feet high, when 10-15 feet would do the trick. Insanity.
That is the best word to describe Haman's hatred of Mordecai. Here is a man who has it all: money, power, prestige, influence. Yet in his own words: "all this is worth nothing to me." All because one lowly Jew would not patronize him with a token curtsy (6).
But isn't that the essence of hatred and revenge? When one has to avenge each affront and right every wrong, it can only end in madness. For Haman, his rage inspires him to destroy an entire people. It gives him dreams of executing his enemy. But in the end, he only has destroyed his own family and himself. It is he, and not Mordecai, who sways 75 feet up in the sky. None of this happens without Haman's absurd blood thirst and enmity- he is the architect of his own demise.
The end of Haman in this story goes way beyond poetic justice or irony. It is just another fulfilment of the words of Christ. Jesus warned us to be careful to take justice into our own hands. He said:
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:37-38)
Remember this: hatred, grudges, revenge, and unforgiveness did not end with Haman. We do not have control over people's actions towards us, but we are given a choice with our response.
We control the measurement, for good or ill. Every time we give in to thoughts of hate and payback we too are constructing gallows- watch out, lest they become our own.
(1) Esther 1:1
(2) Esther 1:4
(3) Esther 2:12
(4) Esther 3:9
(5) Esther 5:14
(6) Esther 5:13

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