I once watched a TV show where dancers did a jazz dance. It mimicked office executives cutting a deal. The dramatic routine highlighted dancers using an actual table as a prop to jump over, dance on, and shake hands under. I happened to record it, and it’s one of my favorites. I even labeled the VHS, “Do Not Record Over!”
If you have not taken time to really read the book of Esther, do so. Esther highlights the way God works in unseen ways, while the rest of humanity is quite oblivious to what He is doing because of love. Here is the verse we will ponder together: Esther 9:1b says, “…On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them.” Meaning, the Jewish race had an enemy that had it in for them. The death warrant read, “destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews” (Esther 3:13). Instead, in 484 BC, the Jews in Persia survived because God intervened.
Interesting. Even all those years ago, the cliché that the “tables were turned” was still effective speech. For me it makes the Bible that much more intimate and understandable. I know how tables can be turned! Jesus turned the tables for us. His opponent Satan had it in for us. The death warrant read, “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Instead, God intervenes because of love.
Let’s enter the room at the Last Supper. “When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve…. While they were eating, Jesus took break, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:20, 26-28).”
Lots of traditions happen around tables. The most obvious is thanksgiving. A church tradition mirrors what we read. It’s called communion. It is important to gather around this table with other believers, because it reminds us that Jesus turned the table for us. Without Jesus dying on the cross days later, Satan could fulfill his wishes to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Instead, God intervened and turned the table for me, for you, for humanity.
Table turning happens in other places in Scripture. Only these tables were not only turned, they were overturned. John 2:15 says, “So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” Do you notice in this scene how Jesus overturned “their tables”? This passage does not tell us about the tables that did not flip, as Beth Moore pointed out in her study, Esther. I think perhaps some tables stood after Jesus walked away; at least His altar.
God will keep things that bring Him glory in our lives. Unnecessary tables felt Jesus’ hand overturn them. He took what people found so necessary and flipped it over. Doesn’t He do the same with us? In Esther, we see that God loved His people enough to turn the tables to avoid their utter destruction. In Matthew, God loves us enough to turn the tables to avoid our utter destruction. In John, Jesus did the table flipping quite unexpectedly, again to avoid utter destruction of true worship and true love.
Some scholars call the table turning “reversal of destiny.” It’s a pivot, a move to start heading the opposite direction. It is when the dancer takes a step and finds themselves facing a different direction. Even if it is on a VHS tape marked, “Do Not Record Over!” Keep your eyes out for tables. And your hearts open to turning.
(First published at http://christianonlinemagazine.com, a site that no longer exists.)
Photo by Diego Rosa on Unsplash
© 2011, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.