As we look at Esther 5 today we’ll see a contrast between a believer who received courage by trusting God and an unbeliever trusts only in himself. Esther sought God and found direction and courage, Haman ignores God, seeks himself and boasts about his greatness.
Remember that Haman drafted a decree to exterminate the Jews had been issued throughout the Persian Empire. Every Jew—the entire race—was to be slaughtered and wiped off the face of the earth. Mordecai had encouraged Esther to seek an audience with King Xerxes to plead for mercy for the Jewish people. But Esther faced a dilemma, for Persian law prohibited anyone from approaching the king without first being summoned, upon penalty of death. Also of concern, the king had not requested her presence for 30 days, an entire month. Perhaps he no longer desired her presence or favored her. She simply did not know. Therefore, to approach the king under these circumstances was to place her life in danger. The king could react against her, commanding her execution for having broken the Persian law. Nevertheless, Esther became convinced that she had been placed upon the throne as queen for this very purpose: to be the liberator, savior, and deliverer of her people. She sensed deeply that God had appointed her to rescue the Jews from extermination. Holding this conviction down deep within her soul, Esther was willingly ready to risk her life by unlawfully approaching the king. This is, the courageous approach of Esther into the king’s presence: a contrast between a believer’s trust in god and an unbeliever’s pride .
- Esther’s Courage (5:1-8)
Esther made her courageous and unlawful approach before King Xerxes. With all her heart she trusted the Lord to guide, protect, strengthen, and give her wisdom as she approached the king. She was unquestionably a person of strong faith in the Lord, and her trust in Him was now being proven. Now it was time for her to act, and she must do so immediately. Her brave but illegal approach before King Xerxes was both suspenseful and dramatic:
Esther put on her beautiful royal robes, walked out of the queen’s quarters into the inner court of the palace, and stood right at the entrance of the king’s hall (v.1). Sitting on the throne in all his royal splendor as Persian king, Xerxes actually faced the entrance where Queen Esther suddenly appeared.
When the king saw her standing at the entrance of the royal court, instead of being offended, he was very pleased (vv.2-3). Remember, he had not seen her for over a month (4:11). No doubt he was once again stricken with her beauty and stately appearance. But he also knew that she had a matter of urgency that needed his attention, for she had broken one of the major laws of Persia by approaching him without having been summoned. Thus to protect her, he held out his scepter, which indicated that she had permission to approach him. When she approached, she touched the tip of the scepter and expressed gratitude for the privilege of an audience. As would be expected, he asked what she wanted, what her request was. And to show his extreme pleasure with her, he stated that she could request up to half the kingdom and it would be given her (v.3). Of course, this offer was not to be taken literally. It was apparently an oriental custom for kings of that day to show their pleasure in someone by making this statement, which simply meant that the person would be granted what they requested if the request was within reason.
Rather surprisingly, Esther did not bring up the Decree of Extermination that she wanted the king to revoke. Instead, she made a very simple request that the king attend a banquet that she had prepared for him and his prime minister, Haman (v.4). As soon as the king could free himself, she wanted him to spend some time with her. The implication was that she would make her request known at that time. Two questions need to be asked at this point:
First, why did Esther not grasp this opportunity to intercede for the Jews, begging Xerxes to have mercy upon them by revoking the Decree of Extermination? Commentators have various explanations. But regardless, Esther obviously sensed the leadership of the Lord, for her delay was to prove a wise decision. Time was needed for other events to take place before her requests were made. It definitely was not God’s timing, not yet. Xerxes’ heart needed to be prepared, made tender and soft and favorable toward her before she could make an accusation against Prime Minister Haman. The royal court was not the place to make a charge of conspiracy being plotted against the Jews by the prime minister. She needed to confront the king and Haman alone, without anyone else present. By Esther’s standing alone with them, the king was far more likely to accept her charge against the prime minister for plotting evil against her and her people.
Second, why would Esther want Haman present when she exposed the evil plot of the prime minister? No doubt, she wanted to hear what Haman himself had to say. In case the prime minister attempted to defend himself with seemingly justifiable arguments, she wanted to be present to refute these arguments. She wanted to argue the case against him.
Indicating his pleasure with Queen Esther, King Xerxes quickly accepted her invitation (vv.5-6). The meal had already been prepared, so he immediately ordered Haman to be summoned. When Haman arrived, the king and prime minister walked together to the banquet in Esther’s quarters. After King Xerxes and the prime minister finished eating, they relaxed and drank wine. At some point during the conversation, the king again asked Esther what her request was, politely assuring her that it would be granted.
In response, Esther showed reverence to the king and then made another surprising, suspense-filled request (vv.7-8). If the king was really pleased with her and wanted to grant her request, she wanted him and Haman to attend another banquet with her the very next day. At that time she would make her request known. By requesting another banquet with her husband the king, Esther was showing a desire to be in his presence more. This, of course, was bound to build up his ego and at the same time show great reverence for him. She did not want him to think that her request was more important than her desire for his attention and love. By delaying her request one more day and requesting his presence at a second banquet, the king would sense that she desired him as a man as well as the provider of her needs. Thus he was bound to accept the second invitation, giving his wife and queen the honor of his attention once again.
But behind Esther’s request was an effort to soften his spirit and to make him tender toward her. By showing how much she valued his presence and company, she hoped to please him beyond measure. If he was deeply pleased, he would be more likely to accept her charge against Haman, the charge that he was devising an evil plot against her and her people.
Throughout this entire drama, Esther is seen trusting the Lord. By approaching the king without being summoned, she broke the law of the land. Her unauthorized approach to the king could have been interpreted by one of the guards as a threat to his safety and against his life. Also, the king could have been involved in a critically important state matter that demanded privacy. Had that been the case, Esther could have been executed on the spot. Yet Esther risked her life, knowing she had only one source of help available to her. And that source was not a man. It was the Lord God Himself. Imagine what Esther was facing: she had to be accepted by the king and forgiven for having broken the law; she had to have very persuasive powers. She had to trust the Lord to change or convince the king about Haman’s evil plot. In addition, the king’s heart needed to be stirred to revoke, reverse, or counteract the horrendous decree against the Jews. All of this could be worked out only by the Lord God Himself. Therefore Esther’s only hope was to trust the Lord. She had to relinquish her desires, instincts, and fears and turn to the Lord for guidance, protection, strength, health, and wisdom.
When we are facing difficult circumstances in life, we too must turn to the Lord and place our trust in Him. Often there is no help available other than the Lord. During those times, we are foolish if we do not call upon Him. The Lord is always available to help us, and no matter how bad our circumstances are, the Lord loves us and longs to help us.
In difficult circumstances, we must trust the Lord for protection, strength and help.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” Psalm 46:1
In difficult circumstances, we must trust the Lord for wisdom.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all liberally.” James 1:5
- Haman’s Pride (5:9-14)
The true nature of Haman’s heart is exposed in dramatic fashion. His heart was full of shameful pride and bitter anger against the Jews. In these six verses he is pictured as a man of extreme boasting, a man who took great pleasure in bragging about his position, power, and wealth. Scripture exposes the truth of his sinful, evil heart:
Haman was extremely happy and in high spirits as he left the banquet given by Esther (vv.9-10). The queen had shown him the highest honor by inviting him to join her and the king at the banquet. And by being the only invited guest to join the king and queen, he presumed that Esther held him in high esteem. In light of that and because of the honor granted him, Haman’s ego soared. But suddenly, as he walked alone, he saw Mordecai at the palace gate. Haman noticed that he neither stood up in honor of the prime minister nor trembled nervously due to the Decree of Extermination. This caused a raging fury to arise within Haman’s heart. But he restrained himself and went home.
After reaching his house, Haman summoned his friends to a social gathering so he could share the day’s joyful events with them. In his sharing, Scripture exposes the shameful depth of his prideful, arrogant heart. Sitting with his wife and friends and looking forward to the second banquet the next evening, Haman began to focus attention solely upon himself. Flooded with euphoria and pride, he boasted…
- about his vast wealth
- about his ten children
- about the honors the king had bestowed upon him
- about his promotion to be prime minister—the position, authority, and power the king had granted him
- about the distinctive recognition and honor given him by the queen, clearly seen in her invitation to join her and the king at the two banquets
Nevertheless, despite his position, wealth, and power, there was still one disappointment in Haman’s life. This disappointment was Mordecai’s refusal to honor him (vv.13-14). After hearing Haman express his disappointment, his wife and friends offered counsel. What they recommended would immediately remove Mordecai from the scene. They suggested Haman build gallows 75 feet high and then inform the king in the morning of Mordecai’s contempt. The king’s command had been to bow and show reverence for the prime minister, which Mordecai had clearly violated. Thus on hearing of Mordecai’s contempt, the king would have him executed on the gallows immediately. The irritation caused by Mordecai would finally be removed. Haman’s heart could be at peace and he could go about his daily affairs. In addition, he would be able to attend the queen’s banquet free of irritation and disturbance. Hearing this suggestion pleased Haman immensely, and he immediately ordered that the gallows be built.
All of us must guard against shameful pride and boasting, against a spirit of hostility and revenge. How many people do we know who talk about themselves, constantly, using the word “I,” “me,” and “mine” over and over again? How many of us brag about our wealth, children, promotions, or honors? When bragging about our wealth, we expose the hardness of our hearts, for it shows that our thoughts are focused on accumulating wealth not on meeting the desperate needs of the world. When boasting about our children, we are being insensitive to those who cannot have children, who have lost children, or those whose children don’t measure up to our standards—whether in intelligence, education, looks, talents, abilities, or even health. The pain this causes is immeasurable and long-lasting. Think of any area of life where a person can brag and it is wrong, sinful, and wicked.
Our hearts should be thankful for God’s blessings not boastful, for “every good and perfect gift comes from Him” James 1:17. We should be thankful for the honors and promotions given to us, but we should not boast in these things. Boasting always hurts someone, and at the same time it makes us appear obnoxious. Any boasting we do is distasteful, causing people to shy away and want little to do with us. We see a bad example in Haman and a good example in Esther.
Esther’s courageous act gives us a model to follow in approaching a difficult or dangerous task. Like Esther, we can trust in God to lead us, protect us and give us wisdom.
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