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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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