God’s Completed Work – Esther 9-10

God finishes what He starts. God finished creation. God finished the work to secure salvation on the cross. God will finish all of His work in order to fulfill prophecy of end times. At the end of the book of Esther we find God’s finishing another chapter in the lives of His people. His work continues to be completed in the life of every believer.

Seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive.” That was God’s counsel to the Jews through the Prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 29:7, nkjv); and for the most part, they obeyed it. It wasn’t the people of God  who had declared war on the their enemies, but the enemies of God’s people who had declared war on them.

“D Day” arrived for the Jews, the day appointed by Haman’s decree for the slaughter of God’s chosen people in the empire. But Mordecai’s decree had changed that “D” from “destruction” to “deliverance.” The Jews had permission to resist their enemies and had been given nine months to prepare for the encounter. The people in the empire who hated the Jews were hoping for victory, but “the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them” (Est. 9:1, niv).

1. Defend the People of God  (Est. 9:1-16)

The Jewish men were organized and armed, ready to meet any enemy who would attack them and their families and try to take their possessions. But the Lord had given them a greater weapon than their swords, because “the fear of the Jews fell upon them” (8:17, kjv; 9:2). This was a fear that God had sent into the hearts of the Gentiles to keep them from fighting His people.

One of the problems with our world today is that “there is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:18, kjv). Like Pharaoh, people are saying, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice?” (Ex. 5:2, kjv) But have they seen anything in the people of God that would make them want to fear the Lord? Is there such devotion to God among God’s people that an outsider attending one of our meetings would fall down on his face, worship God, and “report that God is truly among you“? (1 Cor. 14:25, nkjv)

The fear of God protects those who fear God and believe His promises. Because the Jews believed Mordecai’s decree, they had new courage and were not afraid of the enemy; and their courage put fear into the hearts of the enemy. (See Phil. 1:28.) Before King Jehoshaphat went out to battle, God’s message to him was: “Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chron. 20:20). That is still wise counsel.

But there was another aspect to this fear that helped give the Jews their victory, and that was the people’s fear of Mordecai (Est. 9:3). The princes, deputies, governors, and officers of the king throughout the empire were in such awe of Mordecai that they even helped the Jews defend themselves against the Persians. God had given Mordecai his high position and his great reputation, and Mordecai used his authority to do the will of God.

The Persians who attacked the Jews were actually cooperating with Haman, an Amalekite; and this made them the enemies of God (Est. 9:5). In slaying those who attacked them, the Jews were only doing to the enemy what King Saul had refused to do (1 Sam. 15).

In Esther 9:5-15, we’re given the report from Shushan; and, in verses 16-17, additional news is given about what happened in the other parts of the empire. During two days of conflict, the Jews killed 800 of their enemies in Susa alone (vv. 6, 15). It’s remarkable that so many Persians would have dared to attack the Jews right in the king’s own city where both Esther and Mordecai lived. Perhaps these people had been loyal to Haman and dependant on his bounty. Now they were angry because their hero had fallen and his wealth was gone.

Since the Jews were not the aggressors, it means that the ten sons of Haman had taken up arms and attacked the Jews; and all ten of them were slain. The bodies of the ten sons were hanged on Hainan’s gallows as a warning to the enemy. (In the text of the Hebrew Scriptures, the ten names are arranged on the page to look like a gallows. On the Feast of Purim, the synagogue reader reads these ten names all in one breath because the sons of Haman all died together.) The sight of ten corpses on Hainan’s gallows would certainly deter the Persians from attacking the Jews and would result in the saving of lives.

Some commentators have seen Esther’s request in verses 12-13 as evidence of a vindictive spirit on her part, but this was not the case. Haman’s strongest support was in the capital city where people had bowed down to him and benefited from his favors. Since it would be easy for them to get together and plan their strategy, Esther wanted to be sure that none of them would survive to cause further trouble. Perhaps she had received private intelligence that Haman’s supporters had planned to attack again the next day, prompting her to ask Ahasuerus for permission to extend the Jews’ right to defend themselves.

The Jews in the other parts of the empire killed 75,000 in one day, which shows how many people hated the Jews and wanted to destroy them. It averages out to about 600 per province. Since the Jews were greatly outnumbered in the empire, their victory was certainly a tribute to their faith and courage.

Three times in the record it’s stated that the Jews didn’t take any of the spoil (vv. 10, 15-16). It was in taking spoil from the enemy that King Saul lost his kingdom (1 Sam. 15:12-23), and the Jews didn’t repeat his mistake. They were not out after wealth. They wanted only to protect themselves and vindicate their right to live safely in the empire. And remember, the Jews killed only those who first attacked them; the Jews were not the aggressors.

2. Celebrate the Salvation of God  (Est. 9:17-32)

It’s sad when a nation (or a church) forgets its heroes and the providential events that have kept it alive. How easy it is for a new generation to come along and take for granted the blessings that previous generations struggled and sacrificed to attain! The Jews didn’t make that mistake but established the Feast of Purim to remind their children year after year that God had saved Israel from destruction.

While Purim is not a Christian festival, Christians certainly ought to rejoice with their Jewish friends because every spiritual blessing we have has come through the Jews. The Jews gave to the world the knowledge of the true and living God, the Scriptures, and the Savior. The first Christians were Jewish believers, and so were the first missionaries. Jesus was a Jew who died on Passover, a Jewish feast day, and rose again from the dead on another Jewish holy day, the Feast of Firstfruits. The Holy Spirit came from heaven upon a group of Jewish believers on a Jewish holiday, Pentecost. “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). If there had been no Jews, there would be no church.

There’s nothing wrong with meaningful tradition. The church is always one generation short of extinction; and if we don’t pass on to our children and grandchildren what God has done for us and our fathers, the church will die of apathy and ignorance. “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Ps. 34:11, niv). It’s when tradition gradually becomes traditionalism that we get into trouble. Theologian Jaroslav Pelikan said, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

The Jews in the provinces finished their fighting on the thirteenth day of Adar (March) and spent the next day celebrating. But since the Jews in Shushan were still defending themselves on the fourteenth day, they didn’t get to celebrate until the fifteenth. In the beginning, the Jews were united in their victory but divided in their celebration. It all depended on whether you lived in the city or the country. Mordecai, however, later issued a letter that instructed all the Jews to celebrate on both the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month (Est. 9:20-22).

The name “Purim” is the plural of the Babylonian word pur which means “lot.” It originates from Hainan’s casting of lots to determine the day when the Jews would be destroyed (Est. 9:24; 3:7). Even though there was no divine sanction given to this new feast, the Jews determined that it would be celebrated from generation to generation (9:26-28). Note the emphasis on teaching the children the meaning of Purim so that the message of the feast would not be lost in future generations.

There is a godly patriotism that goes beyond mere nationalism and civic pride and gives glory to God for what He has done. To see the hand of God in history and praise God for His goodness and mercy, and to ask God to forgive us for our sins, is perhaps the best way for the Christian patriot to celebrate a national holiday. But dedication must follow celebration. The American political leader Adlai Stevenson said, “Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”

Not only did Mordecai the prime minister send a letter of instruction to the Jews in the empire, but Esther the queen also joined Mordecai in sending a second letter (vv. 29-32). Perhaps some of the Jews in the provinces didn’t want to change from their original day of celebration (v. 19), and it was necessary for both the queen and prime minister to issue this second letter to keep peace in the nation. Too often God’s people defeat the enemy and then celebrate the victory by fighting among themselves!

This second letter is described as “words of peace and truth” (v. 30), which suggests that there was a division among the Jewish people that needed to be healed. Not only did Esther and Mordecai send letters, but they also had the matter written into the book (diary?) that Mordecai used as his personal record (vv. 20, 32). It’s possible that this book became a part of the official records of the empire.

The story of the victory of the Jews over their enemies was celebrated in an annual feast, recorded in two official letters, written in a journal, and ultimately included in the Old Testament Scriptures! What a rebuke to our modern “throw-away society” that has forgotten history and, like the Athenians of old, spends its time “in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21, kjv). Philosopher George Santayana was right when he said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.”

3. Continue the Work of God  (Est. 10:1-3)

This brief chapter tells us that Mordecai, unlike his predecessor Haman, used his office to serve the king and help the Jews. Sometimes when people are elevated to high office, they forget their roots and ignore the needs of the common people. Mordecai wasn’t that kind of man. Even though his political deeds are recorded in the official annals of the empire, what he did for his people has been recorded by the Lord and will be rewarded.

Why did the author mention the new tax program of King Ahasuerus? What does this have to do with Mordecai and the Jews? Some Bible students think that it was Mordecai who engineered this new system of tribute as a substitute for war and plunder as a source of kingdom wealth. Now that there was peace in the kingdom, the Jews were free to work, earn money, and prosper; and the prosperity of the Jews increased the prosperity of the empire in general. Mordecai reminded the king that the throne deserved a share in that prosperity. After all, it was the king who had chosen Esther, a Jewess, and promoted Mordecai, a Jew; and all three of them had worked together to save the Jews from destruction. Didn’t the people of the empire, Jews and Gentiles alike, have an obligation to their monarch?

But the important message in this chapter is that God continued to use Mordecai to help the Jewish people. The Jews were aliens in a foreign land and subject to all kinds of harassment and abuse. Mordecai saw to it that they were treated with fairness. The last words of the book are variously translated. The Authorized Version says “and speaking peace to all his seed,” suggesting that he encouraged the Jews and kept them at peace with one another. The niv reads “and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.” This implies that there were still forces at work in the empire opposing and threatening the Jews, but Mordecai represented them at court and protected them. “He did his best for his people, and was a friend at court for all of them” (TLB).

The exciting drama of Esther is over, but the blessings go right on. God preserved the Jewish nation so that we today can have a Bible and a Savior.  In the book of Esther, we clearly see God at work in the lives of individuals and in the affairs of a nation. Even when it looks as if the world is in the hands of evil people, God is still in control, protecting those who are his. Although we may not understand everything happening around us, we must trust in God’s protection and retain our integrity by doing what we know is right. Esther, who risked her life by appearing before the king, became a heroine. Mordecai, who was effectively condemned to death, rose to become the second highest ranking official in the nation. No matter how hopeless our condition, or how much we would like to give up, we need not despair. God is in control of our world.

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Sources: Life Application Study Bible , (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Chapter 10”.
The Bible Exposition Commentary – History, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2003), WORD
search CROSS e-book, 746-751.
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Victory for God’s People – Esther 8

Long after wicked people are gone, the consequences of their evil words and deeds live on. Even today, innocent people are suffering because of guilty people who lie in their graves.

Unless something intervened, within nine months the Persians would attack the Jews and wipe them off the face of the earth. There were about 15 million Jews among the estimated 100 million people in the empire. Therefore, the odds were definitely against God’s people. Of course, God’s people have always been a minority; and “one with God is a majority.” The Lord had brought Esther and Mordecai to the kingdom “for such a time as this,” and they were prepared to act.

  1. Mordecai’s Promotion (Est 8:1-2, 15)

According to the ancient historians, whenever a traitor was executed, the throne appropriated his property. Had Ahasuerus confiscated Hainan’s property for himself, he would have acquired a great deal of wealth; but he chose to give Haman’s estate to Esther. More than an act of generosity, this gift was probably the king’s way of atoning for his foolish decisions that had brought so much pain to Esther and her people. It’s possible that Esther later shared some of this great wealth with the Jews so they could prepare themselves for the coming crisis.

Ahasuerus knew that both Esther and Mordecai were Jews, but now he was to learn that they were also cousins. Ahasuerus and Mordecai were relatives by marriage! When Haman was deposed, the king took back his royal ring (3:10), the insignia of the authority of the throne (8:8, 10; 3:12), and he gave the ring to Mordecai, making him prime minister. With a Jewish queen and a Jewish prime minister in the palace, the Jews in the empire were in a better political position than ever before.

Esther gave the management of Haman’s vast estate into the hands of Mordecai, who had first opposed Haman and refused to bow down. Were it not for Mordecai’s courage and encouragement of Esther, Haman would still be in control. “Wait on the Lord, and keep His way, and He shall exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you shall see it. I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a native green tree. Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more” (Ps. 37:34-36, nkjv).

The king made sure that Mordecai had a uniform worthy of his office, and it’s described in Esther 8:15. No longer did Mordecai wear old, borrowed robes (6:7-11) but new robes prepared especially for him. The official royal colors were blue and white (see 1:6). The golden “crown” was probably a large turban which, along with the robe of white and purple, identified Mordecai as an important man of great authority.

Everything that Haman had acquired from the king by his scheming, Mordecai received as gifts, because Mordecai was a deserving man. At the beginning of this story, Esther and Mordecai were hardly exemplary in the way they practiced their religious faith; but now we get the impression that things have changed. Both of them have affirmed their Jewish nationality and both were the means of calling all the Jews in the empire to prayer and fasting. In one sense, they spearheaded a Jewish “revival” and made being Jewish a more honorable thing in the empire.

God doesn’t always give this kind of a “happy ending” to everybody’s story. Today, not all faithful Christians are promoted and given special honors. Some of them get fired because of their stand for Christ! God hasn’t promised that we’ll be promoted and made rich, but He has assured us that He’s in control of all circumstances and that He will write the last chapter of the story. If God doesn’t promote us here on earth, He certainly will when we get to glory.

  1. Esther’s Plea (Est. 8:3-6)

Wealth, prestige, and personal security could never satisfy Esther so long as her people were still in danger. To her, the most important thing in life was not her comfort but their deliverance; and she couldn’t rest until the matter was settled. How unlike some believers today who ignore the needs of a lost world while they search for new ways to spend money and have fun! They think that attending church and bringing their offerings fulfills their Christian responsibilities and gives them the freedom to do whatever they please with the rest of their time and money. We need more people like Esther whose burden for condemned people was greater than any other thing in her life.

Years ago, in a Youth for Christ late-night prayer meeting, I heard attorney Jacob Stam pray, “Lord, the only thing most of us know about sacrifice is how to spell the word.” I never forgot that statement, and I confess that it sometimes still haunts me. I recall another YFC staff meeting at which the late Bill Carle sang “So Send I You,” and the Spirit of God brought all of us to our knees in prayer with a new dedication to help reach the world for Christ.

Esther couldn’t do everything, but she could do something; and what she could do, she did. She approached the throne of the king and asked him to reverse the edict that Haman had devised. It was her interceding at the throne that saved the people of Israel from slaughter. She was asking nothing for herself, except that the king save her people and deliver her from the heavy burden on her heart.

Esther’s example encourages us to come to God’s throne and intercede on behalf of others, especially the nations of the world where lost souls need to be delivered from death. One concerned person devoted to prayer can make a great difference in this world, for prayer is the key that releases the power of God. “Yet you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2, nkjv).

  1. Xerxes’ Proclamation (Est. 8:7-17)

The problem Esther and Mordecai faced was that the king, simply by executive fiat, couldn’t cancel the first edict since the laws of the Medes and Persians were unalterable. In modern democratic nations, legislatures can reverse decisions and revoke laws, and the supreme court of the land can even declare laws unconstitutional; but not so in the ancient despotic Persian Empire. The voice of the king was the law of the land, and the king could do no wrong.

The king couldn’t legally revoke his edict, but he could issue a new decree that would favor the Jews. The new decree would let everybody in the empire know that the king wanted his people to have a different attitude toward the Jews and look favorably upon them. The citizens didn’t have to hire a lawyer to explain the new edict to them. You can be sure they got the message: Don’t attack the Jews on March 7.

Since Mordecai was now prime minister, it was his job to draft the new decree. What he did was give the Jews permission to defend themselves against anybody who tried to kill them and take their property. There were many people in the empire like Hainan, who hated the Jews, wanted to destroy them, and get their hands on their wealth. The new decree allowed the Jews to assemble and defend themselves, but they were not allowed to be the aggressors.

If you read 3:11-13, you will see the similarity of the wording of the two decrees. Mordecai used the “official language” of the government, because legal statements must be expressed in legal language. This language may seem strange to outsiders, but without it we would have confusion and misinterpretation. You can’t write the law the way you write a poem or a recipe.

According to 8:9, the new edict was written on the twenty-third day of the third month, which on our calendar would be June 25, 474 B.C. (Remember, the Jewish calendar begins with the month of April.) The first decree was issued on April 17 (3:12). Thus, about seventy days had passed since Haman had declared war on the Jews. “D Day” for the Jews was March 7 (3:13). Therefore, the people had about eight months to get ready.

We must pause and consider whether it was really ethical for Mordecai to give the Jews the authority to kill and loot. People who deny the divine inspiration of the Bible like to point to the various “massacres” in Scripture as evidence that the God of the Bible is “a bully.” Imagine worshiping a god that commanded the slaughter of whole populations!

First, let’s consider the edict that Ahasuerus issued, for that’s where all the trouble started. If it was wicked for Mordecai to tell the Jews to defend themselves, then it was even more wicked for Haman and Ahasuerus to tell the Persians to attack the Jews in the first place! Self-defense isn’t a crime, but genocide definitely is. Do these critics approve of the king’s edict? I certainly hope not! Well, if they don’t approve of the king’s decree, which permitted murder, then how can they disapprove of Mordecai’s decree, which allowed the Jews the right to defend themselves? Better that Haman’s decree had never been issued; but since it was published, better that Mordecai disarmed it by issuing his decree.

Mordecai’s decree was in complete harmony with God’s covenant with Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you” (Gen. 12:3, nkjv). Isaac also would have agreed with Mordecai; for when Isaac blessed Jacob, he said, “Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you” (27:29, nkjv). In addition, God promised Moses, “I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries” (Ex. 23:22, nkjv). And don’t forget that quotation from Dr. J. Vernon McGee: “The Jew has attended the funeral of every one of the nations that tried to exterminate him.”

It’s one thing to write a liberating new edict and quite another thing to get the message out to the people. Mordecai put the secretaries to work translating and copying the decree, and then he sent the couriers to carry the good news to the people in the various provinces of the empire. The couriers “hastened” because they were “pressed on by the king’s commandment” (Est. 8:14, kjv). The niv translates it “spurred on by the king’s command.”

Ever since the fall of Adam, “the law of sin and of death” has been in force in this world (Rom. 8:2; 5:12-21); and God will not rescind that law. The wages of sin is still death (Rom. 6:23). Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God put another law into effect, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2). God obeyed the law of sin and death when He gave His Son, Jesus, to bear our sins and die on the cross. But then God raised Him from the dead and put a new decree into effect that makes it possible for sinners to be saved. Now He wants us to put that good news into every tongue and take that good news to every nation.

This chapter begins with Queen Esther in tears (Est. 8:3), but it ends with the Jews rejoicing and feasting (vv. 15-17). Happiness of one kind or another is mentioned in this paragraph at least seven times. (This is the eighth feast mentioned in the Book of Esther.) The Jews had been mourning and fasting, but now they were ecstatic with joy.

The thing that made the difference was not the writing of the decree or even its distribution in the various provinces. The thing that made the difference was the fact that the Jews believed the decree. It was their faith in Mordecai’s word that changed their lives. They had hope, joy, and peace because they had faith in what the prime minister said. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13, nkjv).

The statement that “many of the people of the land became Jews” (Est. 8:17, kjv) is variously interpreted. The obvious meaning is that many Gentiles in the empire forsook their pagan religions and became Jewish proselytes. But since the Jews were far from Jerusalem and the ministry of the priests, these “converts” couldn’t be initiated fully into the Jewish faith. They became what were known later as “Godfearers” or “worshipers of God” (Acts 10:2; 16:14; 18:7).

I think the phrase means that many of the Gentiles in the empire sided with the Jews and acted as though they were Jews. They weren’t ashamed to be identified with the Jews even though the Jews had enemies.

After President Reagan was shot, when he was being prepared for surgery, he jokingly said to the medical team, “I hope all of you are Republicans.” One of the doctors replied, “Mr. President, today all of us are Republicans.” That was the attitude of many of the people in the Persian Empire when Mordecai’s edict was published: “Today, all of us are Jews.”

The Book of Esther opens with the Jews keeping a very low profile, so much so that Esther and Mordecai wouldn’t even confess their nationality. But now the Jews are proud of their race and so happy with what God had done that they were attracting others to their faith! Even the pagan Gentiles could see that God was caring for His people in a remarkable way.

Evangelist Billy Sunday said, “If you have no joy in your religion, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere.” If Christian believers today manifested more of the joy of the Lord, perhaps those outside the faith would be attracted to the church and be willing to consider the message of the Gospel. It’s worth trying.

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Source: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – History, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 741-746.
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We Reap What We Sow – Esther 7

The principle of sowing and reaping is one of the great principles of life and a strong teaching in God’s Word. Whatever a person sows, he will reap.  If we sow hard work, and diligence, we will reap some material reward. But if we sow laziness, we will reap unemployment and little material provisions. Within a marriage, if we sow true love, care, tenderness, and morality, we will reap faithfulness and a growing love and commitment. But if we sow dishonesty, we will reap hurt, pain and divorce. If we sow lawlessness and violence, we will reap due punishment.

Sowing and reaping is the theme of this Scripture. The king now favored the Jew Mordecai because Moredecai had saved the king’s life. In addition, Haman had just been utterly humiliated and publicly shamed by this unexpected honor bestowed upon Mordecai, his avowed enemy. After the unsettling incident, Haman was warned by his wife and friends to turn away from his enmity against the Jews and stop his plot to exterminate them. They warned him that his downfall had already started. In fact, while Haman’s friends were still talking with him, the king’s attendants arrived to rush him to the banquet Queen Esther had prepared for the king and his prime minister. Rushing to the banquet with a heavy heart and broken spirit, Haman had absolutely no idea what was to come.

  1. (7:1-6) Esther Exposed the Evil

Esther’s exposure of Haman’s evil plot against the Jews was about to take place. While the king and Haman were having dinner with Esther, the king would receive one of the biggest shocks of his life. Esther would expose the evil conspiracy of his prime minister, a conspiracy that involved the killing of Queen Esther as well as all the Jewish people. In a scene of high drama and suspense, Scripture paints the picture of what happened:

After eating their meal, the king and Haman were sitting around drinking wine just as they had done at the banquet the evening before. Ever since the queen first approached him regarding a very special request, King Xerxes had been wondering with some expectation what her request was. But each time he had asked, she had delayed making her petition. But not this night. Esther had promised to reveal her request at this second banquet. So while sitting there drinking wine, Xerxes asked for the third time what Esther’s request was, and he repeated his offer to grant any wish she made (5:6).

At long last Esther had the opening she was waiting for. The king’s heart was soft and tender toward her, and she sensed that within him. If the king was ever going to grant her request to reverse the Decree of Extermination, it would be now. If he accepted her plea for mercy upon her and the Jews, God’s people would be delivered. But if the king rejected her plea, she herself would be executed.

Risking her life, Queen Esther made a stunning yet perplexing request of the king: that her life be spared as well as the lives of her people (v.3). “Spare my life—this is my petition. And spare the lives of my people—this is my request” (v.3).

No doubt the king had expected Esther to ask for some material possession or for extra time with him or perhaps for the right to take some journey. Therefore having anticipated a certain type of request only increased his utter shock at her actual petition. Who would dare endanger the life of his queen? And for what reason would they seek to kill Queen Esther and her people?

Obviously shocked by Esther’s petition, the king was unable to say anything before Esther continued speaking to explain what she meant (v.4). She reminded the king of the Decree of Extermination (3:1-15). She then charged that a man had committed a conspiracy against her and her people. This man had sold them for extermination. Note that she spelled out the extermination in the very words that were included in the decree: this man had sold them to be killed, slaughtered, and annihilated (3:13). In hearing these words, the king would have remembered the decree and realized what Esther meant by sparing her life. Esther does not mention the Jews by name, but she personally identifies with them by saying that she too will be killed. To stress the seriousness of the conspiracy, Esther tells the king that she would not have disturbed him if she and her people had only been sold as slaves. She would have kept quiet for being enslaved was a matter too trivial to justify disturbing the king. Of course, the king knew as she did that slavery was not a trivial, meaningless event in a person’s life. Slavery was very serious for the person being enslaved. But the king understood her point. The plot to take her and her people’s lives was far more serious than being enslaved. Cold-blooded, unjustifiable murder is most tragic because it snuffs out an innocent person’s life carelessly and senselessly. And slaughtering an entire race of people is of course a far more serious offense.

Stunned and outraged that any man would attempt to kill the queen, the king managed to calm himself enough to ask a multifaceted question: Who is this man? Where is he who would dare touch the queen? Who would dare injure the king by killing his queen? These were the very questions Esther needed the king to ask. The providential care of God was guiding the conversation between the king and his queen.

In a brief but pointed statement, Queen Esther exposed the evil man (v.6). The adversary and enemy was wicked Haman. Terror paralyzed Haman when he heard his name mentioned and panic rushed through his body. He was utterly helpless and hopeless before the king.

Just as Haman’s evil was exposed, so all sin will be exposed by God. We may attempt to hide drugs and alcohol from family, but it will eventually be exposed. We may have premarital sex or adultery behind closed doors, but our immorality will be exposed. We may steal when no one else is looking, but our theft will eventually be known. We may lie and deceive, but the truth will eventually come out. We may abuse, assault, commit lawless or criminal acts and even escape punishment for a while, but eventually we will be caught and suffer just punishment for our illegal behavior.

All acts of sin, wickedness, and evil will be exposed, brought out into the light.

  1. (7:7-10) God Judges Evil

Haman’s execution is a clear picture of the surety of judgment. No matter who the person is, even if he is the prime minister of a nation, he will face the judgment of God for the deeds he has done. Note the downfall of this prime minister, the highest-ranking official of Persia whose power was super-ceded only by that of the king. As soon as Xerxes heard Esther’s identification of Haman as the culprit, the king jumped to his feet in a rage and abruptly walked into the palace garden to get alone (v.7). No doubt he needed time to collect his thoughts, time to think through the conspiracy. Esther had just exposed Haman’s deception in leading him to issue the Decree of Extermination. Xerxes’ anger burned toward Haman…

  • because Haman had been so deceptive
  • because Haman had misled him into issuing the decree of extermination
  • because Haman’s conspiracy meant that his own dear wife and her adoptive father, who had saved the king’s life, would also be killed
  • because he had personally misjudged Haman’s character and promoted him to be prime minister
  • because he had made Haman the closest and most trusted advisor to the king
  • because Haman had betrayed the trust he had put in him as prime minister
  • because Haman had worked his way into the king’s heart, seemingly becoming the closes friend to the king

Haman quickly realized that the king had already determined his fate and that his only hope was to plead with Esther for his life (v.7). Therefore as soon as the king left the room, Haman arose and walked over to Esther to beg for mercy. Just as Haman reached her the king returned and saw Haman, shockingly, fall at the feet of Esther where she was reclining on a couch (v.8). Angrily, he charged the prime minister with molesting his wife. He then immediately ordered the guards to cover Haman’s face and escort him out, away from both him and the queen. By covering Haman’s face, the king was signaling his doom. A covering was placed over the face of someone condemned to death because Persian kings refused to look upon the face of a condemned person.

He was to be executed. Standing nearby was a eunuch named Harbona who attended the king. He informed the king that Haman had constructed a gallows 75 feet high by the side of his house. The gallows had been built for the execution of Mordecai. Without a moment’s hesitation, the king ordered Haman to be executed upon the gallows. The order was promptly carried out, after which the king’s fury calmed down.

The same evil that Haman had planned for Mordecai was turned against him. Haman reaped what he had sown. Whatever a person sows, he will reap, and whatever a person measures, it will be measured back to him. God’s justice will be right.  Justice will be perfectly executed by God. There will be no opportunity in the Day of Judgment to accuse God of judging someone unfairly, too lightly or too severely. Judgment will be completely accurate and precise. And there will be no escape from God’s judgment.  Turn to Jesus for forgiveness, he was executed and judged for our sins.  Thank you Jesus.

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Sources:  The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, (Chattanooga: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 2004), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “D. The Suspenseful Exposure and Downfall of Haman: A Picture of Reaping Exactly What One Sows—Justice, Measure for Measure, 7:1-10”.
Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 778-779.
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God is in Control – Esther 6

There are times when things seem very out of control. Everything appears to be going wrong.  And yet, in war, in peace, in bad times, in good times, in sickness, and in health, God is still in control.

How often has a small event changed our lives? Some seemingly insignificant circumstance, experience, problem, or joyful occasion took place, and our lives were twisted and turned completely around. What we expected did not happen. Instead, a complete reversal of our plans took place and our lives changed dramatically. In some cases our fate and destiny were completely changed.

The theological term that describes that God is in control is called “Providence” and it simply means that God loves and cares for this world and His purposes prevail. Through His providential care, moving and using human events, He saves, guides, protects, and sustains His people.  (Romans 8:28)

God’s providence is the subject of today’s Scripture. The story of Esther is one that suddenly and unexpectedly twists and turns. What is expected does not happen. The unexpected does. A complete reversal of events takes place. The story changes dramatically as honor is bestowed upon Mordecai and dishonor upon Haman.

God’s Timing  is Perfect

During the very night of Esther’s banquet, eight very simple yet incredible circumstances pointed to God’s perfect timing.

  1. After enjoying Queen Esther’s presence at her banquet, King Xerxes returned to his own quarters. But he had a very sleepless night (v.1). What kept him from sleeping? Was it the pleasure of Esther’s company once again? Had he begun to long for her presence? Or was it a matter of state business that weighed heavily on his mind? Or did he perhaps eat and drink too much at the banquet? Or was the mystery of Esther’s request confounding him, wondering what her petition would be?

The fact that King Xerxes could not sleep after a dinner of wine is surprising, a clear evidence that God was keeping him awake. The Lord had begun to work in the king’s heart, so He could arouse Xerxes to save the Jewish people. Because of the king’s sleepless night, a series of events were to take place that would change the course of Jewish history. The Jews would not be exterminated as a race; instead, they would be saved. And God would continue to fulfill the covenant promises He had made to Abraham, Moses, and David.

  1. Unable to sleep, the king ordered the royal records to be brought in and read to him (v.1). For a man who wanted to sleep, this was a strange solution to insomnia. It would have made far more sense to have ordered music or have a simple, relaxing story read. Or, he could have easily summoned a concubine to massage and spend time with him helping him to relax. But instead, he ordered the royal records, which is clear evidence that God’s timing was moving and using even the king’s decision to save His people.
  2. The third event used by God was the king’s choice of records to be read (v.2). Of all the royal records that could have been read, the one chosen by the servant recorded the uncovering of the assassination plot by Mordecai (2:21-23). No doubt there were many volumes of the royal records in the king’s library, but the one chosen happened to include the fact that Mordecai had saved the king’s life several years earlier. A sleepless night, a decision to read the royal records, choosing the very record that included Mordecai’s having saved the king’s life—three simple events, all taking place just hours before Haman was planning to execute Mordecai. God’s providence was moving and using events to save His people. Warren Wiersbe gives an excellent application of this point.

Can God direct in the books that people pick up and read? Yes, He can. Late in February 1916, a British student bought a book at a used-book stall in a railway station. He had looked at that book and rejected it at least a dozen times before, but that day he purchased it. It was Phantastes by George MacDonald, and the reading of that book eventually led to that young man’s conversion. Who was he? C.S. Lewis, perhaps the greatest and most popular apologist for the Christian faith of the middle-twentieth century. He wrote to a friend that he had picked up the book “by hazard” but I believe God had directed his choice.

God can even direct what we read in a book. A young man in North Africa sought peace, first in sensual pleasures and then in philosophy, but only became more miserable. One day he heard a neighbor child playing a game and saying, “Take it and read! Take it and read!” The young man immediately picked up the Scriptures and “happened” to open to Romans 13:13-14; and those verses brought him to faith in Christ. We know that young man today as Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, and author of numerous Christian classics.

The king’s servant picked out the very book that told about Mordecai’s good deed and read that section to Xerxes. How marvelous is the providence of God!

God’s Delay’s Aren’t Denials

  1. Fourth, God’s providence moved and used the king’s delay in rewarding Mordecai to save His people. It had been five years since Mordecai had uncovered the plot and saved the king’s life. If Mordecai had been immediately rewarded, the event now about to take place would have never happened. Most likely Mordecai would have been executed and the Jews exterminated. The hand of God’s providential guidance and care for His people can be clearly seen in the king’s delay in rewarding Mordecai. Again, Warren W. Wiersbe gives an excellent practical application to this point that is well worth quoting:

Is God in charge of schedules? He certainly is! After befriending Pharaoh’s butler, Joseph thought it would lead to his being released from prison; but Joseph had to wait two more years until the time God had chosen for him to become second ruler in Egypt (Gen. 40:23–41:1). God had a specific day selected for the Jews to leave Egypt (Ex. 12:40-42); see Gen. 15:13-16), and even the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem occurred “when the fullness of the time was come” (Gal. 4:4, NKJV). In the midst of a confused and troubled world, the dedicated believer is able to say, “My times are in Your hand” (Ps. 31:15, NKJV) and find peace in God’s will.

  1. Fifth, God moved and used the early, timely arrival of Haman to the palace in order to save Mordecai and His people (vv.4-5). Remember, the previous evening Haman had made the decision to approach the king to suggest the immediate execution of Mordecai (5:14). Anxious to secure the warrant of execution from the king as soon as day broke, Haman rushed to the palace.

Not having slept all night, the king apparently heard Haman when he entered the outer court. Not knowing who it was, the king asked his attendants for the identity of the person. When they mentioned that it was Haman standing in the court, the king ordered them to bring him in. Evidently the king was still in his bedchamber. Whatever the case, the king was most anxious to honor Mordecai who had saved his life.

Even in the early arrival of Haman to the palace, we can see the hand of God’s providence. He used Haman’s bitter hatred against Mordecai to arouse him to be the first royal official to arrive at the palace on this particular morning.

  1. Sixth, when Haman entered the king’s presence, the Lord moved and used the wording of the king’s question to Haman (v.6). Note that the king’s question did not identify the man whom the king wished to reward. Addressing Haman, the king asked what should be done for the man whom the king wishes to honor?

The question stirred Haman’s prideful, evil heart, for he believed the king was planning to honor him. Within his mind, he was asking himself: Just who is the king going to honor? It must be me, for no one deserves it as much as I do. After all, I am the closest advisor and counselor to the king. The king’s vague question is clear evidence of God’s sovereign power, for He used the exact words of the king’s question to help His people.

  1. Seventh, God moved and used the selfish, ambitious answer of Haman to save Mordecai and the Jews (vv.7-9). Thinking that he was the one to be honored by the king, Haman suggested the highest honor that could be given to a person. The man would be second only to the king.
  2. The man should be given a royal robe, one of the same robes the king himself had worn (v.8). He should also be given one of the royal stallions the king had ridden, and the stallion should have the royal crest placed on its head.
  3. The man should be presented to the people as a member of royalty with royal authority, second only to the king (v.9). In all the pomp and ceremony of the king himself, he should be led through the city streets by one of the king’s most noble officials, proclaiming that this man was honored by the king and was to be honored as second only to the king. Even in Haman’s self-centered and determined answer, God was moving to save Mordecai and His people from Haman’s evil plot. The prime minister had just spelled out the honor that was soon to be bestowed upon Mordecai.
  4. Finally, God used the king to give the shocking order that reversed the fate, the destiny of Haman and Mordecai (v.10). Pleased with the suggestion of Haman, the king ordered the prime minister to immediately secure the king’s robe and horse and then to do exactly as he had prepared—for Mordecai the Jew. Utterly shocked and horrified, Haman’s spirit no doubt crumpled. Above all others throughout the empire, Haman never would have expected Mordecai to be the man the king wished to honor. Continuing his command, the king warned Haman: he must not neglect anything he had recommended. Every honor suggested by the prime minister was to be bestowed upon Mordecai the Jew.

Through His providential care, God guides, provides, protects, sustains, and preserves His people, all who turn to him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ep.2:8-9)

Although God promises to reward our good deeds, we sometimes feel our “payoff” is too far away. Be patient. God steps in when it will do the most good.

www.Upwards.Church

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Sources:
Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 778.
The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, (Chattanooga: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 2004), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “C. The Unexpected Honor Bestowed Upon Mordecai: A Picture of God ’s Providence, Guidance, and Love for His People, 6:1-14”.
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – History, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 734.
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