Exhortation on Esther

Text:  Esther 5:9 – 6:14:  And Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai. Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home, and he sent and brought his friends and his wife Zeresh. And Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king. Then Haman said, “Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king. Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it. Then go joyfully with the king to the feast.” This idea pleased Haman, and he had the gallows made. On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. And it was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. And the king said, “What honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” The king’s young men who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.” And the king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for him. And the king’s young men told him, “Haman is there, standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him come in.” So Haman came in, and the king said to him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” And Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?” And Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set. And let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.'” Then the king said to Haman, “Hurry; take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew who sits at the king’s gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.” So Haman took the robes and the horse, and he dressed Mordecai and led him through the square of the city, proclaiming before him, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.” Then Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman hurried to his house, mourning and with his head covered. And Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.” While they were yet talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried to bring Haman to the feast that Esther had prepared

 

New Testament Reading:  Luke 1:67-75: And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

 

In the construction industry, a builder enters into a contract agreement to deliver a project based upon a pre-designed plan.  The plan illustrates what the product or building is to look like and is the basis of the contract agreement.  During the construction of the project the builder assumes the liabilities associated with it.  The project is susceptible to damage by rain, fire, sabotage, theft, and other threats.  It is the responsibility of the builder, however to intervene or prevent such things from ruining the project and delaying its completion.  In a similar manner God enters into a covenant or contract agreement to deliver a people according to a pre-designed plan.  In order to bring that promise to fruition He has had to intervene to prevent the schemes and plotting by the Devil to ruin it.  The book of Esther brings us a story of one intervention that God performed in history.  

 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our text today we are brought to a point in history when the people of God were threatened with annihilation at the hands of their enemies.  However, as we read the passage we discover that God, although not mentioned by name, is at work and orchestrating a turning point in the plight of His people.  Thus, far in the book of Esther we have learned that the Persian Empire is dominating the world at this time.  Due to their transgressions, God’s people had been driven into exile and given into the hands of foreign captors, the Babylonians.  The Babylonians had destroyed the temple in 586 BC and taken Israel from the Promised Land.  The  Babylonians, however were also judged by God for their own sin.  As foretold in the book of Daniel, God used the Medes and Persians to accomplish this judgment through their conquest of the Babylonian empire.  It was under the reign of this empire that the conditions of God’s people improved, however very quickly changed for the worse.  As was foretold by the prophet Isaiah, Cyrus the Persian issued a decree around 538 BC to allow the Jews to return to their homeland.  However, as we see here in Esther after almost 100 years from that decree not all the Jews returned to the Promised Land, some remained dispersed in foreign lands. 

 

The main characters of the story, Esther and Mordecai, were Jews living in the Persian city of Susa during a time when God’s people were struggling in the Promised Land.  The fact that they remained in exile suggests that their lives were pretty good.  Mordecai had acquired a job in the king’s administration, although a kosher Jew by lineage, he assumed a pagan name derived from the pagan god Marduk.  Hadassa was a close relative of Mordecai whom he adopted as a daughter after the death of her parents.  She too, assumed a pagan name, Esther, derived from the pagan goddess Ishtar.  King Ahasuerus is introduced at the beginning of the book and throughout the story he is portrayed as a person who cannot think for himself and has a quick irrational temper.  After his queen refused an order given by him, she was deposed and a new queen was sought to fill her spot.  After an elaborate search for beautiful virgins through the empire, Esther was chosen as her replacement.  Incidentally, prior to entering the selection process which was nothing more than a beauty contest with a one night stand with the king, Esther was told by Mordecai not to reveal her Jewish heritage.  This would have meant that she would have been fully assimilated into her surrounding pagan culture.  Finally, Haman was a close advisor to the king who was to be honored as sort of a Prime Minister similar to Joseph’s position in Egypt.  Haman is introduced as an Agagite, which would mean that he was a descendent of Agag king of the Amalekites, Israel’s sworn enemy.  In 1 Samuel 15, Saul was disobedient to the Lord and failed to kill all of the Amalekites and here in the book of Esther we learn of the consequences of that failure.

 

Previously in chapter 3, we are told of an encounter between Haman and Mordecai who incidentally is from the same tribe as king Saul.  Despite what appears to be his full assimilation into the surrounding culture, Mordecai refuses to show any reverence to Haman.  No doubt this has to do with the historical enmity that exists between them.  For Mordecai, this was where the line was drawn with regards to his assimilation.  This refusal caused Haman to be furious and seek vengeance on not only Mordecai, but his people the Jews as well.  Due to the prominence of his position and a roundabout bribe, he is able to persuade the king into ratifying a decree that would cause all the Jews within the empire to be destroyed.

Here in chapter 5:9, we enter the story right in the midst of Queen Esther’s plan to intercede for her people. At the risk of her life, she entered into the king’s presence without being requested and found favor in his eyes.  As a result, he grants her a request that she uses to invite the king and Haman to a banquet.  The text says Haman was glad and pleased of heart.  After partaking in a private banquet with the king and queen one can imagine he is thinking he is a really important person.  However, this feeling of giddiness does not last for long.  Haman is on his way from that banquet where he again encounters Mordecai the Jew who refuses to pay him any honor again.  This again filled Haman with anger he must have thought to himself, “Doesn’t this Mordecai know who I am?”  “Doesn’t he realize I alone have the privilege of gaining audience to the inner circles of royalty?”  Although, this infuriates him, he keeps his composure and proceeds to his house to talk it over with his wife and his friends.

 

The text goes onto indicate the conversations with his wife and his friends.  He begins by gloating in all his possessions and his important position in the kingdom, which is above everyone else.  This self-exalting talk is closely related to the parable of the rich man in Luke 12, who took pride in his possessions.  Christ tells us that such a man is a fool who stores up treasures for himself and is not rich toward God.  Nonetheless, what are we to expect from the enemy of God’s people?  He goes on to gloat about his attendance at the banquet with Queen Esther and his invitation to another one the next day.  Yet, all of this did not satisfy him since Mordecai the Jew was sitting at the king’s gate.  There are two observations we should consider in this text.  One it is evident that Haman had no idea that Esther was of Jewish heritage, which means that all the distinguishing marks that would have identified her as part of God’s people must have been absent. Marks such as, a ceremonially clean diet, Sabbath observation, refraining from worshipping idols and participating in the sacramental observation of Passover were absent from Esther’s life.  Even though from all appearances she had fully identified herself as an unbeliever, “a Christian in name only”, God still chooses to use her in this situation.  Second, although Haman had already set into motion his vengeance against Mordecai, his pride would not allow him to be satisfied by that thought.  Everything had been going Haman’s way yet he was still unsatisfied and wanted to obtain full satisfaction.  This is the brokenness and depravity of sin, which is always void and empty and would devour everything if given the opportunity.  He is finally comforted in implementing the advice from his wife and friends to move forward with the immediate execution of Mordecai.  He has a 75 foot impalement stake built specifically for Mordecai.  A stake of this size would allow the entire city to see what happens to those who cross Haman.

 

Brothers and sisters in the Lord, things are really bad at this point in history for God’s people.  In fact, it appears to have reached the point where things could not get any worse.  The edict to destroy the covenant people has been set into law.  The enemy of God’s people had reached the most influential and powerful position in the empire and is now planning to make an example out of those who do not submit themselves to him.  Esther is in the process of appealing for her people, however laws in the Persian empire were irrevocable as we learned from Chapter 1:19.  Her influence was almost insignificant already and how much could really be expected at this point?  Truly we need divine intervention to escape this peril, humanly speaking the game is over and the bell has all but rung.

 

In Chapter 6, we clearly reach a turning point in the story and it is evident that the hand of God is intervening here.  We find that king Ahasuerus is unable to sleep the night before Haman planned to ask for Mordecai’s execution.  And in the middle of the night, the most powerful man in the world who had anything at his disposal, any woman he wanted, any type of entertainment, the best of food and drink chooses to have court records read to him.  For sure this record was probably lengthy, yet the royal readers just so happened to read about a good deed that Mordecai had done.  Back in chapter 2:21-22 we were informed of Mordecai’s involvement in uncovering an assassination plot against the king.  This deed was recorded, however went unrewarded at the time.  This is highly unusual for Persian kings, who typically were very quick to award any person who saved their life.  Clearly, if this type of behavior was rewarded it would inspire more people to do it.  Conversely, if it went unrewarded it would deter people from wanting to help out the king.  So, certainly king Ahasuerus wants to correct this mistake as soon as possible and make sure that Mordecai receives a reward for this great deed.  This whole episode is a wonderful example of God being in control of all events.  And it is apparent that we are seeing firsthand the truth of Proverbs 21:1 which states, “The kings heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord”.     

 

In chapter 6:4 it doesn’t stop, but it gets even better.  King Ahasuerus who has difficulty coming up with an original thought, seeks one of his advisors to help him come up with a suitable reward.  Guess who is in the court awaiting the kings audience…Haman the enemy of God’s people seeking to request the execution of who…..Mordecai the very person the king is seeking to reward.  The king asks Haman, “What is to be done for the man whom the king desires to honor?”  Haman thinks to himself who else would the king want to honor besides me and goes on to describe his fantasy come true.  He goes on to recommend the man should be allowed to wear royal robes, worn by the king, ride on the kings horse whose head is crowned, and then an important noble to escort him through the city and shout “Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.”  The king responds, great idea I want you to do all that you said for Mordecai the Jew.  Imagine the look and reaction that Haman must have had.  This was a complete 180 degree turn in the life of Haman who had come from being on cloud 9 to utter humiliation and disgrace. 

 

After Mordecai is honored by Haman we read in chapter 6:12 that he returned to his job and Haman hurried home in shame.  Things go from bad to worse for Haman his wife warns him that this will be his downfall and then he is rushed off to the second banquet with Queen Esther and learns there that she also is a Jew.  He will go on to be executed on the stake he prepared for Mordecai and Mordecai will assume his position in the empire.  The Jews will be rescued through the ratification of another law that basically canceled out the previous one by allowing the Jews to defend themselves from their enemies.  Ultimately we know that it is God who rescued them from this situation.  At this point, let’s go back to the statement that Haman’s wife made in verse 13.  She states, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish origin, you will not overcome him, but will surely fall.” The term “of Jewish origin” is a paraphrase from the literal rendering “from the seed of the Jews”.  Why is this important?  Well, it’s important to know that God had to intervene in this situation and save the Jews from destruction.  He had to intervene in order to keep his promise, which was to provide a redeemer from this “seed”.

 

This promise was first given in Genesis 3:15 after the fall, during the pronouncement of the curses, a glimmer of hope was announced.  God had promised from the seed of the woman one would come forth to crush the head of the serpent, but have his heel bruised in the process.  Since that day, a battle began to wage among the cosmic powers between the seed of the woman and seed of the serpent.  It began with Cain slaying his brother Abel.  It waged on through seduction as the sons of God, the line of Seth, intermarried with the daughters of men, the line of Cain.  It was Satan’s attempt to corrupt all mankind and when we get to Genesis 6 it seemed to be working extremely effectively.  However, Noah remained faithful to God and he was preserved while the rest mankind perished in the flood.  The line continued on until we reach Abraham whom God chose out of a pagan nation and idol worship to be the father of the faithful.  It is in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob we learn this “seed” was to come from Jewish origin.  In the meantime though, Satan did not give up his attempt to abolish this seed. 

 

The battle waged on through the killing of the sons of Israel by Pharaoh in Egypt, Satan even worked within Israel to turn her away from God through idolatry and unfaithfulness.  From the time of the wilderness wanderings, the period of the judges and the line of kings, Israel proved her unfaithfulness over and over.  Yet God remained faithful to His promise and reaffirmed this in the preservation of a remnant within Israel.  This preservation continued through exile and subjection to foreign powers.  And as we read here in the book Esther, Haman the enemy of God’s people induced by hatred and pride, plots to extinguish Israel.  Of course, this is what we see on the surface, but behind the scenes we can be assured that the main enemy of God, that roaring lion the Devil, was on the offensive to stamp out that promised seed who would be the redeemer.  God intervened, however, to rescue His people in this case causing the enemy to suffer a defeat.  Yet it was far from being over and the decisive battle in the war was to be held 400 years later.

 

In our New Testament reading of Luke, we see that the seed did finally come in fulfillment of the promises of God.  Nonetheless, this did not end the war it only escalated the battle as was displayed in the continued strikes from the enemy.  Herod’s slaying of the children in Bethlehem, the 3 temptations of Christ in the desert, and even the rebuke from Peter at Caesarea Philippi were attempts to stop God from fulfilling His promise.  Finally, the ultimate battle plan was implemented through Judas, the Devils agent, to bring about the downfall of the Son of Man.  After Good Friday it had appeared that Satan had won the war with the death of the promised One.  Like in the days of Esther it looked like hope was lost for the people of God and the enemy of God’s people would be victorious.  It looked again as if God had lost and Satan had won, and it is at this point we see who is truly in control of all things.  On Easter morning the tomb was empty and God’s victory revealed.

 

The seed, the Savior of mankind was vindicated in His resurrection from the dead as a testimony to all that God had fulfilled His promise.  Now with the benefit of the New Testament we come to learn that this had to occur according to God’s pre-designed plan to save sinful humanity.  We learn from the Scriptures that it was necessary for a perfect sacrifice to be made.  The Scriptures indicate that this perfect sacrifice would be the only appropriate substitute to bridge the gap between God and man.  And so, Christ was bruised for our iniquities and pierced for our transgressions.  He took our place before God to bear the judgment that we deserve for our sin and rebellion against His holy and true word.  God’s justice required sin to be punished and our sins were punished to their full extent.  However, rather than us receiving the punishment we deserved, Christ was punished in our place.  He was bruised to the point of dying on the cross.

 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is not the only benefit of the cross that we receive.  Christ also fulfilled the law that we are unable to obey in our sinfulness.  And it is this righteousness that God now transfers to our account.  This is the good news, this is the Gospel.  Christ has borne our punishment and then gives us His righteousness, so that we can now enter the presence of a holy God.  And this is what the Devil in past generations worked so hard to prevent.  In our text today it looked as if he would be successful.  However, he was defeated here and he was defeated at the resurrection.  The deciding battle has been won, but the war is not over yet.  The Devil still wars against the seed of the woman when he attacks us, the saints of the Church.  Imagine that, we are saints, not because of anything we have done on our own but we are saints on account of Christ.  His righteousness clothes us like a garment functioning like a breastplate of righteousness that can withstand the flaming darts of the enemy.  So the next time you think that you are burdened by your sin and think that you are not good enough to enter into God’s presence remember that you aren’t.  You aren’t, but Christ is and faith in Him is what your entrance into heaven depends on.

Now that we have been redeemed our victory is sure and we can have confidence that we will enter heaven, which is our true home.  We are just like Esther and Mordecai who live in a foreign country that is not our true home.  Esther and Mordecai were children of God, but many people were unaware of this due to the great job of assimilating into the culture they did.  Our text today reminds us that even if we have compromised and assimilated into the culture, God can still use us in His unfolding plan of redemption.  Esther and Mordecai were used in the preservation of the seed, the promised one, who fulfilled the promise of the gospel.  Although, our involvement in the plan of redemption may not be this essential it is still extremely important.  Even though we like Esther and Mordecai may have assimilated into this world, we can still be used for the kingdom of God.  We can be used through the sharing of the gospel with unbelievers, inviting people to hear the gospel at Church, contributing our time and money to the mission of the Church and other missionary endeavors.  Let us not be discouraged since we have assurance in Christ and let us seek to share that good news with others.  This can be our contribution to that great battle in history, our contribution to the victory of God’s people that is bringing the good news of Jesus so that others may have redemption.  The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Let us in the midst of assimilation heed the call to stand for the kingdom of God.

For our God is not unable to bring about the salvation of His people without us.  However, as we see from our text today that He chooses to use weak and fallen creatures to bring about His salvation and His victory over the evil one.  And in doing so He reveals to Esther and Mordecai that He was not impotent to save them.  Their wisdom in choosing to hide their identity did not deliver them from persecution and trouble.  And we should not be afraid of who we are as believers.  For we serve a King who is in control of all things, even our rulers.  Therefore, let us stand in confidence, in the righteousness of Christ and in reliance on our Sovereign King who has over and over demonstrated His faithfulness in fulfilling His promises.

Responses

  1. Excellent!

  2. Thanks, Bruce. Just trying to stick to the greatest story ever told.

  3. […] Exhortation on Esther […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: