20170514FBCAM [Mother’s Day]
Before we get into Esther, there’s a strange issue about this book of the Bible that we need to consider: God is never mentioned in Esther. Not once.
Does that surprise you? How can it be that there be a book in the Bible—a ten chapter book—where God isn’t mentioned?
I actually think that is the point of the book. Often, God does not seem to us to be at the forefront in our lives. He is unseen.
We may live out our entire lives and never see a bonafide miracle. Does that mean that God is not working? No, of course not. Even in the midst of our darkest times, God is doing 10,000 things!
This is what we will discover in Esther. Despite perilous times, she trusted the unseen God and he worked behind the scenes to save not only her, but her people.
First, let’s see…
HOW GOD USED A KING’S SIN TO MAKE A QUEEN
Esther 1:1 NOW it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus [sometimes known as Xerxes]…
Esther 1:5 …the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace;
Esther 1:10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded…
Esther 1:11 To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on.
Esther 1:12 But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.
At this point, the king comes to the decision to dispose of Vashti and hold a beauty contest to get a new queen. It’s a disgusting sexist mess really, and one that we ought not to copy.
Biblically, husbands don’t get to throw away their wives when they are displeased with them. It’s also not a good idea to hold a beauty contest to choose your next wife.
But this ugly situation is what God uses to place a young Jewish lady named Esther in a situation where he would use her to save his people.
Esther 2:5 Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai…
Esther 2:7 And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter.
Esther 2:8 So it came to pass, when the king’s commandment and his decree was heard, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the palace, to the custody of Hegai, that Esther was brought also unto the king’s house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women.
Esther and uncle Mordecai are faithful Jews.
Esther, it appears by no choice of her own, is swept into the king’s beauty contest. Each of the young women are to take turns spending the night with the king. We read that, for each woman…
Esther 2:14 In the evening she went, and on the morrow she returned into the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s chamberlain, which kept the concubines: she came in unto the king no more, except the king delighted in her, and that she were called by name.
We have to wonder why God would have allowed one of his people to be swept into such a impure situation. The answer is to read the whole book of Esther and see. The unseen God was working behind the scenes.
Esther 2:17 And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.
So, in God’s providence, a key actress is put into place to fulfill a part in his plan. Now, that does seem pretty obvious to us—that God put a person in a powerful place. But God’s plan also includes details that are overlooked by our human eyes at the time.
MORDECAI’S FORGOTTEN DEED
Esther 2:21 In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king’s gate, two of the king’s chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those which kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus.
Esther 2:22 And the thing was known to Mordecai, who told it unto Esther the queen; and Esther certified the king thereof in Mordecai’s name.
Esther 2:23 And when inquisition was made of the matter, it was found out; therefore they were both hanged on a tree: and it was written in the book of the chronicles before the king.
At this point, the great deed of Mordecai is forgotten. This is something that happens in life a lot. Something you may have thought was important is pushed to the side.
Mordecai’s great deed is recorded, and forgotten, for now. However, that doesn’t mean God had forgotten.
HAMAN, THE BAD, BAD GUY
Esther 3:1 After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite [an ancient enemy of the Jews, see 1 Samuel 15], and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him.
Esther 3:2 And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence.
Esther 3:5 And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath.
Esther 3:6 And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.
Haman’s pride knows no bounds. His pride leads him to not only hate another person who crosses him, but to hate even the race of people that person belongs to.
And really, we are all capable of such a thing because of the sin that dwells in us.
Haman presented his plan to the king—
Esther 3:8 And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them.
Esther 3:9 If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king’s treasuries.
Esther 3:10 And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy.
Basically Haman says, “These people are different from the rest of us. They have traditions and customs that are different, and they don’t keep the law of the land.”
The last part wasn’t exactly true. Yes, Mordecai didn’t bow before Haman, which was breaking the king’s law.
But there’s no indication that the Jews as a whole disobeyed the law of the land any more than any other group. In fact, they probably obeyed better.
This order is, however, approved by the king, who assumed everything Haman did was a good thing.
MORDECAI URGES ESTHER TO ACT
Mordecai mourns deeply and publicly, in sackcloth and ashes. This gets back to Esther, and a conversation ensues between her and Mordecai through a messenger.
Mordecai tells her that she has to approach the king and get him to change his mind about the order. Esther explains that she just can’t approach the king any time she wants. You see, there’s this law—
Esther 4:11 All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.
Mordecai’s response is that the Queen herself might perish and, besides that…
Esther 4:14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
How does this verse show us God?
1. If you don’t help now, the Jews will be delivered some other way. How does Mordecai know this? Because he knows that God will not abandon his people.
2. You may have come to the position you are now “for such a time as this?”
Is Mordecai saying that it is lucky that Esther has risen to a position of power and influence? No, Mordecai is saying that God has put her in the position she is at, and he did so for a reason.
Esther’s response is in verse 16, “if I perish, I perish.” She decides to step out in faith and do what she knows is right. She leaves herself completely in God’s will.
After three days, Esther has a plan. She enters the king’s presence, and he holds out the “golden sceptre” and asks Esther what she would like. So far, so good!
Esther invites the king and Haman to a banquet where she will tell him her request. So, at the banquet that very day she tells the king:
Esther 5:8 If I have found favour in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition, and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do to morrow as the king hath said.
All this makes Haman very happy. He goes home and tells his family how great he is:
Esther 5:11 And Haman told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king.
Esther 5:12 Haman said moreover, Yea, Esther the queen did let no man come in with the king unto the banquet that she had prepared but myself; and to morrow am I invited unto her also with the king.
Well, he is happy all except for one thing:
Esther 5:13 Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.
Esther 5:14 Then said Zeresh his wife and all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high, and to morrow speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon: then go thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet. And the thing pleased Haman; and he caused the gallows to be made.
These “gallows” were to be seventy-five feet high. It seems a bit overdone, but the Persians were known to do things in a big way. The great height would ensure that lots of people would see Mordecai’s dead body for many days afterwards.
Furthermore, we shouldn’t think that this was the kind of gallows that we’ve seen in old Western movies with the platform and trapdoor. It was far simpler, perhaps even just a pole, whereupon the victim was either hung by rope or even impaled.
We also see more of the pride and vicious of Haman and his wife. She says to hang Mordecai and go “merrily with the king unto the banquet.”
So it looks as if people more powerful than Mordecai have determined his fate. He doesn’t know it yet, but by morning, he will be dead.
Meanwhile, the unseen God is still working behind the scenes.
UNSEEN, GOD WORKS BEHIND THE SCENES
Esther 6:1 On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.
Esther 6:2 And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus.
Esther 6:3 And the king said, What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him.
Forgotten work? Not by God!
Here’s where God’s providential and ironic sense of humor comes into play. The king is determined to make things right by Mordecai.
Esther 6:4 And the king said, Who is in the court? Now Haman was come into the outward court of the king’s house, to speak unto the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him.
Haman just happens to be coming to see the king about that business about executing Mordecai. If he hadn’t been so bent on executing Mordecai, he may not have been in the court for the king to snag.
But this isn’t bad luck, it’s God’s providence.
The king calls him in and asks what he should do to honor a person that’s done a great thing for the king. Haman thinks that the king is talking about himself, so he comes up with the grandest thing he can think of—
Esther 6:8 Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head:
Esther 6:9 And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.
That sounds good, the king says, go and do it to Mordecai! I would have loved to see the look on Haman’s face!
Isn’t God’s providential and ironic sense of humor delightful? Not only does Haman get ordered to honor Mordecai, he also unwittingly determined the kind of honor to give him!
But he still has a dinner date with the king and queen, so it can’t be all bad, right?
THE SECOND BANQUET
Now it’s time for Esther’s second banquet. The king asks again what Esther would like.
Esther 7:3 Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request:
Esther 7:4 For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king’s damage.
Esther 7:5 Then the king Ahasuerus answered and said unto Esther the queen, Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?
Esther 7:6 And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen.
Esther 7:7a And the king arising from the banquet of wine in his wrath went into the palace garden…
Okay, here’s where things get dicey. Haman is, for some reason, the king’s favorite advisor. Esther is, by all accounts, a favorite queen of his. So what is he going to do?
Esther didn’t know what the king was going to decide. She didn’t know if she had made the right decision in telling the king the situation and that she was a Jew. It was all unseen and unknown.
That’s the way it is for us. The unseen God works behind the scenes. There is no voice from Heaven narrating our lives that tells us what is going to happen. We don’t know for sure what is going to happen and what God is doing in it.
Esther is now stepping out in complete faith and trust in God.
THE END OF HAMAN
Esther 7:7b …and Haman stood up to make request for his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king.
Esther 7:8 Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine; and Haman was fallen upon the bed whereon Esther was. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? As the word went out of the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.
Haman is taken away, and in a ironic twist, hanged on the gallows that he had built for Mordecai! What’s more, Mordecai is elevated into Haman’s place.
THE FINAL SOLUTION
Justice has been doled out on Haman, but the problem that Haman had created still existed—the Jews were still under a decree of death.
Well, no problem, we think. The king can just reverse the order he had given, right? Not so easy. Esther goes into the king to formally request that the king put a stop to the executive order that he had signed.
But there’s a law that says that no one, even the king, can reverse the king’s executive orders. Apparently, some king didn’t want his successors undoing his executive orders!
The rest of the book of Esther tells how they devise a plan to allow the Jews to defend themselves against whoever would want to kill them.
So on the day that the Jews were to be slaughtered, the 13th of Adar, they instead are able to defend themselves. All their enemies are destroyed—some 75,000 throughout the land.
There is great rejoicing among the Jews. Esther and Mordecai even make the date a Jewish holiday called “Purim” (9:26). It’s called Purim because “pur” means “lot.” Verse 24 connects this with Haman—
Esther 9:24 Because Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had devised against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is, the lot, to consume them, and to destroy them;
Haman cast the “lot” in the sense that he had decided to destroy the Jews. Purim celebrates the fact that the Lord decided to save the Jews. How true is the statement in Proverbs—
33 The lot is cast into the lap; But the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord. (Proverbs 16:33)
This brings us back to the theme of this book—the unseen God is at work behind the scenes in our lives, even when it doesn’t seem like he is there at all.
1) Forgotten Work
Mothers often wonder if they missed it. Was giving up a career or slowing down a career worth it?
Motherhood is day after day of first, dirty diapers and crying babies. Then there’s trying toddlers and disobedient children. Then there’s teenagers that you sit up at night and worry about. It seems so long and unappreciated.
But when we realize that the unseen God is working behind the scenes, we can trust that what we do for him is not forgotten, even when we feel forgotten.
I watched a Mother’s Day video this week that showed a father teaching his little boy to catch a football. The mother is in the background smiling.
Then the next scene has the father throwing the football to his now older son. The mother is bringing in groceries in the background.
Then the father is coaching his now even older son’s little league football team.
Then there’s the high school football games. The mother and father are cheering on the sidelines, but the father is the most vocal and active in his cheering.
Then the son is off to the College National Football Championships. The father and mother are at home, watching it on television. Again, the father is the more emotional one cheering on his son, jumping up and down, spilling his snack food everywhere.
The son’s team wins the championship and is interviewed on television. The reporter asks him, “Is there anything you’d like to say to the folks back home?” The son says, “Hi Mom!”
Mothers—you are not forgotten…and even if it seems like you are, the unseen God above has not forgotten you.
2) God Behind The Scenes
One of the interesting things about God’s work in Esther is that he works through the human sin to achieve his plan and goals. This doesn’t excuse sin, but it does show us how powerful and far-reaching God’s providence is.
Another time we see this is with his Son, Jesus Christ—
22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: (Acts 2:22–23)
God’s Son was killed by sinful human beings. But that was the plan—to die for the sins of humanity. Isn’t it ironic that Christ was killed for sinful humans by sinful humans?
Have you come to understand this plan of God to save us from our sins by the sacrifice of his Son for our sins?
God determined to have his Son die in your place and rise again to prove that he did indeed pay for your sins. All you have to do is place your faith in him.
You can do that with a simple prayer. I won’t tell you what exactly to say in that prayer, it has to come from your heart.
But you need to admit that you are a sinner, that you believe that Jesus died for your sins and rose again, and that you confess him has your Lord and Savior.