by Marcia Hoehne
One of the scariest passages in the Bible is, Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matt. 7:22, 23)
Those who seek to prophesy, heal, and do miracles must tread carefully. Desiring the supernatural for our own glory won’t do. When Jesus sent out the seventy-two, they came back rejoicing that demons submitted to them, and Jesus countered that they should instead rejoice in their own salvation (Luke 10:17, 20). Not even working miracles or prophesying for the sake of ministry is enough. In fact, to do merely this is downright unsafe. It is possible to do mightier supernatural works than most of us have yet seen, all in Jesus’ name, and not know Him — and even to be cast away from Him.
However, we do want signs and wonders to follow us, because that is how we’re going to get society’s attention. Mark 16:17 says that signs will accompany those who believe. The verse does not say “may” accompany “some” who believe. Such signs, wonders and miracles as driving out demons and healing the sick are for all believers. Why did crowds follow Jesus? Because He healed them. Some took their healing and went away, but from out of those crowds came the people who believed. Since we are like our Teacher and not above our Teacher (Matt 10:24, 25), we have little reason to think we can reach large numbers of people unless we do the same and “even greater things than these” (John 14:12), meeting needs through miracles so obvious that they can’t be explained away. Out of these large numbers who receive healing and miracles will come many people who believe and get saved. But how do we tap into the ability to work such miracles? For insight, let’s look to the life of Esther.
Esther was an ordinary Jewish girl who accomplished a miracle that saved her people from death. How did Esther miraculously save her people? Yes, strategy, prayer, and fasting all played a part. But first, Esther knew the king. Not only did Esther know the king, she became the king’s bride. Had she not become that intimate with the king, she would have had no position of influence from which to work the miraculous turnaround that saved the people who were her assignment to save.
How did Esther become the king’s bride? First, she surrendered her former life. For her, this meant giving up life as a Jewish maiden and entering a pagan king’s harem (Esther 2:8). Do we appreciate how radical that is? Do we appreciate how many people, even Christians, would refuse this degree of change, and doubly so if it’s not religiously correct? When we become Christians, we must take care not to exchange the devil’s shackles for religion’s shackles and from then on strive only to live proper, churchy lives. It takes a person free of a religious spirit to make even the first step toward radical intimacy with the king.
Second, Esther began six months of treatment with oil of myrrh (Esther 2:12). Myrrh is both bitter and pleasantly fragrant. It was used to embalm people, and was burned at funerals to disguise the smell of dead flesh, yet it heals many ailments. It both removes impurities and softens the skin. Treatment with myrrh represents repentance, dying to self, and the sweetness of losing our lives and finding them (Matthew 16:25). Myrrh removed the smell of flesh from Esther.
Third, Esther received another six months of perfumes and cosmetics. These probably included frankincense and other spices. Frankincense releases its fragrance when set on fire. This treatment represents praise and worship, becoming a sweet aroma unto the Lord, bowing before Him and focusing on Him. Esther did not just undergo a few makeup sessions or dab on some cologne. The treatment was constant and prolonged. Esther became physically saturated with sweet spices and symbolically saturated with worship.
Fourth, Esther’s turn came to go into the king’s chamber. She was allowed to take with her anything from the harem that she chose (Esther 2:13). This probably means she could choose what to wear, how to do her hair and makeup, and whether or not to bring a gift of some kind. Esther asked for nothing except what the king’s servant Hegai suggested (Esther 2:15). In other words, she didn’t get dressed according to what would make her feel pretty. She took advice from someone who knew the king’s taste so she could present herself in a way that would please him. Once she got into the chamber, she was his to do with as he saw fit. She spent, threw away, and wasted herself on him. When the night was over, she was ruined for any kind of life outside of him. There was no alternative open to her except to go back to the harem and live out her years (Esther 2:14).
But her preparation won the king’s favor, and she became his bride. When she learned of the plot against the Jews, she was, with the help of prayer and fasting and knowledge of the king, in a position to effect a miraculous reversal of fortune for her people. They had been as good as dead, and now they were saved.
If Esther’s pattern is one to follow for achieving intimacy with our King, where are we to begin? First, by surrendering our former lives. Though we do this at salvation, as we walk with the Lord we find the Holy Spirit gradually and lovingly making us conscious of more and more areas we need to surrender. More than just a vague intention to live better, real surrender is total and radical. With Esther, we say, “I will never again live in a way that is not in pursuit of the King.”
Second comes repentance. Again, we repent at the time of salvation, but Esther’s treatment with oil of myrrh represents something deeper. This repentance goes beyond turning from specific sins and becomes a lifetime attitude of repentance, a spiritual posture we maintain before the King, so that to Him we even begin to smell like repentance. Rather than viewing repentance as a series of responses to sins as we commit them, we immerse ourselves to soak in an atmosphere of repentance.
Third, we prepare for intimacy with the King through praise and worship. As we might expect, this goes beyond the Sunday song service, and even beyond music itself. This is a heart so surrendered to worship that you set yourself ablaze for Him, so that the sweet fragrance of the incense that is you will rise before His throne and be pleasing to Him. In this stage, we include deep worship as part of our alone time with God. Perhaps you will turn on some music and lie prone in His presence. Or you may sing to Him spontaneous songs from your heart. You may feel moved to dance for Him to a beautiful instrumental. Or meditate on a Scripture He has quickened to your heart, and listen for His voice. Here, we soak in His presence. We focus on His face and not His hand. We focus on Him so intently that the world falls away.
After we’ve prepared to meet Him, as we woo Him and seek only to please Him, we enter His presence. In His chamber, in His throne room, our first priority is intimate relationship with the King. When we truly unite with Him, we are ruined for any lesser experience and are never again satisfied with life outside of the King.
When we abandon ourselves to loving Him, we will have the King’s favor and His ear, and we will ask for what we will and it shall be done for us (John 14:13, 14). That is when we will become equipped to manifest signs and wonders and bring about a miraculous reversal for those around us who are dead while they live, but will be saved. And besides that, we will avoid the peril of doing great things in His name without knowing Him.
© 2006 by Marcia Hoehne. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Marcia Hoehne is the author of eight children’s novels and a young adult biography of Puritan poet Anne Bradstreet. She teaches writing at the Institute of Children’s Literature, where a number of her students are home schooled teens and home schooling parents. Visit her at MarciaHoehne.com.