The next three weeks reading will conclude the direct plotline for a bit, and move the reader through different classifications of literature. The reader will go from history, through drama, to poetry and wisdom literature. Ezra and Nehemiah will finish telling the tale of the efforts to re-establish roots in the Promised Land, with all the challenges that go along with it. From the rebuilding of the Temple and the wall around Jerusalem, to reconvening their worship practices, the people of God were not without opposition. But, by the faith in God and their own perseverance, they make it. Then, when it looks as if they’re on the road to recovery, we encounter the book of Esther. It serves as a kind of transition work between a record of Jewish history, and the Hebrew poetry and wisdom literature of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon.
The Book of Esther tells the story of a young beautiful Jewish girl who becomes Queen to the King of Persia. Haman, the villain of the story, tries to rid the kingdom of all the Jews, due to his jealousy of Mordecai, the queen’s cousin, who raised her following the death of her parents. I will not tell the tale here because I want you to experience this drama for yourself … it is the stuff of Hollywood! But it’s still read today, and acted out among the Jewish faithful as a drama during the Feast of Purim, since the Book of Esther explains how the festival came to be. But it is a drama with powerful lines, like when Mordecai tells Queen Esther that she may have come to her royal position for “such a time as this!” (Esther 4:14b)
Once again, with things seemingly well once more, the readers jump to the poetry of Job, and find that tragedy strikes again! Yes, the book of Job is poetry. Beginning with this unusual scene between God and Satan, the righteous Job gets caught in the middle. As the poem plays out, these monologs between Job and his “friends” explore the question of, do bad things happen to good people, or do bad things only happen to bad people? So, the reader will be shifting through various forms of literature, but with one common theme, “How to stay faithful when all the world around us seems to be spiraling out of control!” These three weeks of reading are not so much on what God may or may not be doing (so don’t focus your attention there), but on how we humans respond to what does happen. How will Nehemiah respond when his enemies want to keep knocking down the wall? How will Esther respond to a possible genocide of her people? How will Job respond when all is taken from him? How do you respond when tragedy strikes your family? That is the struggle, when faith and life collide. Will your faith help you come out on top?