Today's Devotional Thought
February 04, 2011 by Rachel Piferi
It's Just Too Hard to Change
As we have mentioned previously, Wendy and I are reading through the Bible chronologically this year. It has truly been fascinating and the Lord has spoken to both of us daily as we read of the Israelites and Job and the countless other characters who have taught us something about God and his faithfulness. And, I have been overcome with how faithful God was to his promise to Abraham. And ladies, he was faithful when the Israelites didn’t even deserve it.
In addition to reading through the Bible, we are also studying the book of Esther with the ladies at our church. And, as we were examining the history of the book of Esther and why some Jews were even in Persia at the time, I was struck by something that may seem relatively minor in the story. If you examine the history of the great empires and the leaders of those empires, you will see that during the Babylonian Empire, the Jews were kicked out of Jerusalem, their city was destroyed, and they spent several years in captivity in Babylon. You then see that following the Babylonian Empire, the Persians gained power and God used Cyrus the Great (the first king of the Persian Empire) to return the Jews to Jerusalem. In fact, Cyrus the Great issued an order after he conquered Babylon that stated the Jews could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and temple. And he even restored all of their wealth and materials so that they could do it. Throughout the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, you begin to see the Jews returning to Jerusalem and to their promised homeland.
But, when you read the book of Esther, you begin to see that there are some Jews that have not returned to Jerusalem. Some Jews were still in Persia. They hadn’t returned to Jerusalem like they could have. Instead, they had pretty much assimilated into Persian culture and carried on, life as usual.
Why didn’t they return to Jerusalem?
As I have thought about it, it has really bothered me. If you read their history to this point, they’ve been though a lot and have been kicked out of Jerusalem. But, they now can go back and they don’t! Why not? As I read several commentaries on this question, many have written that the Israelites did not leave Persia and go back to Jerusalem simply because it was too hard. It was just easier to stay where they were than go back to Jerusalem.
Reading those commentaries made me very sad. They didn’t go back to their city, where they could worship God, because it was too hard? It makes me think of the choices we make in our lives. Unfortunately, I have seen so many people take the easy route in a tough situation rather than choose the right path. Even recently, I have been disappointed in people who have not stood up for what was right because it may have been uncomfortable for them or may have made them step outside of their comfort zone to follow God. So many times, we don’t choose the right decision or stand up for what is right because we don’t want to change, we don’t want to leave our comforts, and we just don’t want to deal with the hassle that comes with doing what’s right and turning from our current ways. I believe we all have situations like this one faced by the Israelites. Situations where God shows you that the place you are in is no longer good for you and he then opens the door for you to go to a place that is better for you and you just refuse to go because it is too hard to change.
But, I think what is encouraging to me, is that despite the poor decision that the Israelites seem to have made by “staying put” because it was too difficult to return home, God still fulfilled his promise to them. He still protected them and he delivered them from evil through Esther. Isn’t that amazing? We can fall victim to other people’s schemes, make poor decisions ourselves, and find ourselves about to be harmed, and God will still come to our rescue. He delivered his people thousands of years ago and he will deliver you too. Despite the poor decisions you have made, he continues to be faithful.
I think we can learn so much from the Israelites. But one thing I have learned from them is that we must never take our eyes off of God and assimilate into the culture around us. We should never take the easy route because we are too afraid to change or stand up for what is right. God loves us so much that he wants us to follow him to our destiny. And, sometimes that means that we have to make hard decisions and do things that just seem “hard.” Maybe we are so beat up that we just don’t want to do the right thing. It’s just easier to assimilate and do what everyone else is doing. But sweet sisters, it is not best for us to do that.
Living obediently is hard sometimes. But, it is truly the best way to live. God asks us to make some hard choices that may seem temporarily unpleasant and may mean that we leave what is comfortable. But, they are hard decisions that lead us to our home with him and to a life that is abundant. Make the right, and the sometimes hard, choices today.