Are you looking to plunder?

Kid’s, especially boys, love pirates and stories about pirates, they always have. Yet, most fictional accounts in books and movies have portrayed pirates as the bad guys; that is until recently. “Pirates of the Caribbean” and the sequels have both a good pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow, and bad pirates, both live ones and ghosts.  I know my grandson, when he plays pirate, always wants to be Captain Jack because he represents both a good guy and a bad guy.  I think this how most boys want to be perceived, since girls are too good and if they were perceived as too bad, they’ll be punished for their misdeeds.  So what’s the real story behind pirates?

Pirates have a long and not so glorious past which reaches back before the 1st century BC.  It should come as no surprise that when “booty” began to be transported over the world’s water ways, there would soon be somebody willing to risk their life and reputation to “plunder” it.  This was such a successful strategy to gain wealth and influence that the practice of pirating evolved into what is called “privateering” and was employed by warring governments for hundreds of years. Pirates then became a legitimate instrument of government, having been hired by a king or queen to plunder the commercial vessels of their enemy.  This legitimacy was granted by issuing “Letters of Marque and Reprisal” to a pirate, instantly transforming them into a legitimate instrument of war and earning them the title of “privateer.”  Of course what they did was still stealing but that perception was more about whose side they were on and who was being plundered!

This brings us back to the story of Esther and Mordecai and Esther’s appeal to King Xerxes to spare her people from certain death.  The queen’s appeal was successful and the king’s previous orders were rescinded and a new order was given. But, this time the tables were turned and it would the Jews who were granted specific powers by the king and the authority to carry them out. “The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and to protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies.  For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor.  And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them (Esther 8: 11, 16-17)” I’m sure there was great joy and celebration by God’s people and as far as those who suddenly decided to become a Jew, I’m sure for most it had little or nothing to do with faith and more to do with survival, just as the text suggests.  They feared the Jews, not their God.

Chapter nine describes the conflict and it resembles what we would call a civil war.  We’re not told how many Jews lost their lives in the conflict but the enemy losses are numbered in the tens of thousands.  The leaders that had deceived the king and who were complicit in the original plot against the Jews were hanged at the queen’s request, by orders issued by the king himself.  But, in chapter nine there is one somewhat curious statement repeated three times, “But they did not lay their hands on the plunder (9:10, 15 and 16).”  Remember that the king did not command or require them to plunder their enemies but grated them the right to do so.  It would appear that Mordecai understood this and chose to set aside this “right” and instead obey God and not steal the property of there vanquished enemies.  Although the king had granted them the standing of a privateer, Mordecai understood that if he plundered his enemies, the enemies of God, it  would make him nothing more than a pirate, to put in more modern terms.  I’m also confident that Mordecai had his eye on the future, when he would become the king’s second in command and need to inaugurate a time of healing and not revenge. And although many adopted the faith of the Jews out of fear, Mordecai was intent on showing the nation who and what his God was like in the hope of them following Him for the right reasons, what we call evangelism. This was the policy of Abraham Lincoln toward the south after our civil war. However, he would be assassinated before he would be able to convince the nation that it was the right thing to do, but his example would inspire the manner in which the United States treats their vanquished enemies even today.

So what does this have to do with marriage?  Quite a lot actually, since many marriages, in fact all couples engage in war of sorts, at some time in their relationship and as with all conflicts, there is a winner and a loser, or at least that’s the perception.  So how do we behave toward our vanquished enemy, do we seek reconciliation and show mercy or do we plunder whatever they have left after the fighting has subsided?  Do we attempt to steal their self-respect and dignity?  Do we try to steal their reputation by bragging to others about our victory and the advantage we have gained?  Is part of the strategy to gain favor with our children by blaming our spouse for the conflict and the emotional carnage that was suffered?  Is this the opportunity we have been looking for, to finally have things “our” way, regardless of who it hurts and whether or not it is really the “right” way?  The answer to these questions will have more to do with whether you are a winner or a loser after the fighting has subsided than whether or not you got your way in the end.

“What causes fights and quarrel among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it…you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  These few verses from James chapter four summarize perfectly the problem we face, the result of our sinful nature and our willingness to let it win, and to think that we too have won. “Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  (Instead) come near to God, and He will come near to you.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”  Both Esther and Mordecai understood that if they were to be successful, both for themselves and their people, it would be necessary for them to humble themselves before God and pray that His will be done and they were willing to place the interests of others before their own.  James, in chapter five, verses 13-16, tells us exactly how this can be accomplished, “He (we) should pray.”  This is the answer if you are in trouble, if you are sick, if you have been caught up in sin and even if you are happy.  In that case your prayer is one of thanks and praise for what God has already provided for you and those you have prayed for.  But James points out a condition or requirement that must be met in order for us to be heard by God and then enjoy the fullness of his answer.  “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  That will be the topic for tomorrow, righteousness and becoming righteous.

Tool # 353  “Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you might be healed.”  James 4:16

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