Esther 10 NLT

Esther 10 NLT

Esther 10 NLT: The very brief 10th chapter tells us that Mordecai was great. The king advanced him. He was second only to the king in the most powerful empire of his day. He found favor among his kinsmen. He sought the welfare of his people.

You walk away from the 10th chapter almost wondering if perhaps the book should be called “the book of Mordecai”! Really, he’s the closest thing the Jews experienced to a king since the days before the exile when they lived in the land under a monarchy.

Do you remember when we studied the book of Nehemiah? By the end of that book we were left yearning for a great ruler like Nehemiah to shepherd God’s people. And I think the same is true with the book of Esther.

We’re left with this kingly character caring for God’s people. And we’re supposed to long for that final and ultimate King of God’s people, the Messiah. Someday he’ll return.

Throughout this message we’ve heard about God’s Providential Peripety regarding the Jews of Esther and Mordecai’s day. But there will be a time in the future when Christ returns and brings about the final and ultimate “reversal of circumstances” for his people.

Now, we’ve just recently studied Ezra, Nehemiah, and now Esther. When did these books take place?

They all happened after the exile – sometime in the 500s and 400s BC. The exile of course was when the Jews were expelled from the land because of their unfaithfulness to God.

But of course that means that they were originally in the land at some point. Wouldn’t you like to hear how the Jews came to inhabit that land in the first place?

Well, I hope so! Because that’s what we’re going to start studying next week. We’ll be starting a study in the book of Joshua.

Until then, let’s look for and be thankful to God for any and all sudden or unexpected reversals of circumstances he brings our way. Let’s thank God for his Providential Peripety.

Esther 9 Sermon

Esther 9 Sermon

Alright, now before we start into this Esther 9 sermon, we’ve seen Haman’s edict written and sent out. Then we saw the reaction to it. Likewise, we’ve seen Mordecai’s edict written and sent out. And we just saw the reaction to it. But what’s left to see? Both edicts are authorizing some serious conflict and destruction. And that’s what we finally see played-out in 9:1-5.

Esther 9 Commentary (1-5)

9:1 ¶ Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them, (though it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them;) 2 The Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt: and no man could withstand them; for the fear of them fell upon all people. 3 And all the rulers of the provinces, and the lieutenants, and the deputies, and officers of the king, helped the Jews; because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them. 4 For Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame went out throughout all the provinces: for this man Mordecai waxed greater and greater. 5 Thus the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and slaughter, and destruction, and did what they would unto those that hated them.

The text mentioned that the Jews attacked those who “sought their hurt”. So, I’m trying to picture the scene. I’m not sure if the enemies still gathered themselves together to fight the Jews, based on Haman’s original edict. Remember, that still wasn’t revoked because it was written with the king’s authority. Or did the Jews seek out their enemies who were in hiding throughout the kingdom? Whatever the case, the Jews themselves gathered together. And whether they attacked groups of enemy fighters or whether they had to search for and find those who had been hostile to them in various ways, the Jews attacked and destroyed their enemies – the ones who would have liked to see the Jews themselves destroyed. And no one could stand before them. Why? Because the peoples feared them.

Even the government officials joined hands with the Jews and assisted in the fight. Why? The text says that they were afraid of Mordecai. Let this sink in. Powerful government officials all over the kingdom feared Mordecai – this previously inconsequential Jew living in the capital of Shushan; this man who just that year had faced near-certain death. But now rulers are fearing him. The people, great and small, feared the Jews and their leader.

So, we have some general information about this 13th day of the 12th month. But how many people are we talking about dying here? Let’s read 9:6-12.

Esther 9 Commentary (6-12)

9:6 And in Shushan the palace the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men. 7 And Parshandatha, and Dalphon, and Aspatha, 8 And Poratha, and Adalia, and Aridatha, 9 And Parmashta, and Arisai, and Aridai, and Vajezatha, 10 The ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews, slew they; but on the spoil laid they not their hand. 11 ¶ On that day the number of those that were slain in Shushan the palace was brought before the king. 12 And the king said unto Esther the queen, The Jews have slain and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the palace, and the ten sons of Haman; what have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? now what is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: or what is thy request further? and it shall be done.

The writer intentionally notes that the Jews didn’t take any spoil. Greed wasn’t their motivating factor. The edict issued by Mordecai told them that they could take the spoil if they wanted to. But they didn’t do it. The Jews were simply trying to defend their lives against their enemies.

Now, it says the Jews killed 500 men in Shushan including Haman’s 10 sons whom he bragged about before. Honestly, if I was king Ahasuerus I’d be a little concerned, I think. Maybe I’m not thinking right. I mean, I know that the Jews are in the right and they’re defending themselves. And I’m all for that. But I’m just a little apprehensive of all the death and destruction. But you know who wasn’t, at all? Ahasuerus wasn’t! Did you hear his statement to Esther? He’s impressed that the Jews have it in them to defend themselves! I can imagine the new admiration this brutal pagan monarch now has for the Jews. He’s like “Wow! 500 people in Shushan alone? What have they done throughout the rest of the kingdom?!” And then you can sense his enthusiastic elation and excitement – almost like a little kid – and he asks Esther what she would like further from him. He’s completely on her side. So, what does she ask? Read 9:13-15.

Esther 9 Commentary (13-15)

9:13 Then said Esther, If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews which are in Shushan to do to morrow also according unto this day’s decree, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged upon the gallows. 14 And the king commanded it so to be done: and the decree was given at Shushan; and they hanged Haman’s ten sons. 15 For the Jews that were in Shushan gathered themselves together on the fourteenth day also of the month Adar, and slew three hundred men at Shushan; but on the prey they laid not their hand.

Does Esther’s request strike you as ungodly? She asks for a one-day extension of the Jews’ ability to defend themselves and to destroy their enemies. You know, I think she’s doing right. This is how things worked in the Old Testament when God’s people were a national entity and God’s command was to destroy the enemies. The New Testament believer is told now that we don’t wrestle as individual believers against flesh and blood. We are a kingdom of priests, yes. But — just like it was for Christ on this earth — our kingdom is not of this realm. We’re told on the personal level to not take our own vengeance. So, is Esther’s additional request a godly one? I think it was for her. It would have been completely appropriate for an Old Testament believer to seek the welfare of her nation through the permission to defend against those who would try to destroy that nation.

She adds to this her request to hang Haman’s 10 sons on the gallows. And so that happens. They were dead already, so I guess this was just a symbolic gesture.

So the Jews in Shushan killed about 800 people between the 13th and 14th days of the 12th month. So we know what happened in Shushan. But Ahasuerus’ original question still stands unanswered – What happened in the rest of the kingdom? Let’s read 9:16-19 for the end of the action in this story.

Esther 9 Commentary (16-19)

9:16 ¶ But the other Jews that were in the king’s provinces gathered themselves together, and stood for their lives, and had rest from their enemies, and slew of their foes seventy and five thousand, but they laid not their hands on the prey, 17 On the thirteenth day of the month Adar; and on the fourteenth day of the same rested they, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. 18 But the Jews that were at Shushan assembled together on the thirteenth day thereof, and on the fourteenth thereof; and on the fifteenth day of the same they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. 19 Therefore the Jews of the villages, that dwelt in the unwalled towns, made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another.

The Jews outside of Shushan killed 75,000 of their enemies. But again, their motivation wasn’t greed. They didn’t take the spoil. But they only had one day – the 13th of the 12th month to do their work. Whereas the Jews in Shushan had two days – the 13th and 14th of the 12th month. The Jews in Shushan then rested on the 15th day while the Jews elsewhere rested on the 14th day. The Jews today typically celebrate this feast on the 14th day only. Though there are some exceptions.

At any rate, we reached the end of the action of this story. The rest (9:20-10:3) is a conclusion to the whole narrative. It basically explains how this historical event that we just studied through is the reason that the Jews celebrate Purim and have done so for 2500 years now. Haman sought to destroy all the Jews. But in the end his plan was turned right back on him so that he was the one who was destroyed.

 

Esther 8 Sermon

Esther 8 Sermon

Let’s open our Bibles to the 8th chapter of the book of Esther for this Esther 8 sermon. We’ll be covering the last 3 chapters in the book of Esther in this lesson.

Peripety

There’s a literary term called peripety. Here’s its definition — “the sudden or unexpected reversal of circumstances”. I thought that this term describes pretty well what’s happening at the end of the book of Esther. So, I’ll call this message “God’s Providential Peripety”.

The story of mankind

Have you ever thought of the history and future of mankind as a narrative – a story? How does the Bible present the past, present, and future of mankind? How would you classify that “story”? What kind of story is it? Some might say it’s a “tragedy”. There’s some truth to that. God created Adam and Eve alone in his own image. They were given a dignified place in God’s creation. They were the apex of the creation week. And then, tragedy! They disobey God and fall from their state of perfect obedience. They chose unwisely. They were tested and they failed. And our race has both experienced and perpetuated the consequences ever since. So in this sense, the story of mankind is truly tragic.

Jesus Christ changed it all

But thankfully it doesn’t end there. Jesus Christ entered the picture and died for the sins of mankind by shedding his blood on the cross. And so now anyone who trusts Christ experiences a full reversal of the consequences of Adam’s sin. Any one of Adam’s children can be restored from the tragedy which his sin started. So the picture of our human race is no longer a tragedy. It’s actually a comedy. Not that everything is just a great laugh for us now. But this is what a literary comedy is – the character (mankind in our example) starts off doing well. Then he falls. And finally he’s restored.

Restoration of man

But let me ask you this – for people who trust Christ to save them – are we put back in the same state in which Adam found himself originally? Will we be put back in the garden to tend the earth and manage the creatures? Will we be able to sin and fall out of God’s grace? Will Satan be around in the end, able to tempt us to turn from God? The answer to all those questions is “no”. We have something far better. We’ll be with a countless number of saints and angels praising the Christ who died for us. We’ll never sin again. Sin won’t even enter into the picture. What we have in Christ is far better even than what Adam had before the fall.

Jesus Shall Reign

Isaac Watts captures this dynamic well in his hymn Jesus Shall Reign. One of the stanzas says this. Speaking of Christ, he says, “In Him the tribes of Adam boast More blessings than their father lost.” And that’s exactly the case. In the comedy that is the story of man, mankind doesn’t just go back to what it was before the fall. No. We’re bestowed with incredible unimaginable blessing-upon-blessing from an all-merciful, all-generous, loving God.

The situation was bad for the Jews

Now, you’re asking, “what does this have to do with the book of Esther?” Well, we’ve come to understand that this book itself is a comedy, literarily-speaking – just like the overall story of mankind. The book of Esther started off as a tragedy. The Jews were catapulted into positions of prominence throughout the Persian Empire. But then one of their mortal enemies, Haman, was promoted to a position of power and influence. From that position, Haman plotted the complete destruction of the Jews. And the plot looks like it’s sure to succeed. It’s just one more step until the Jews’ story becomes a complete tragedy.

Things got better for the Jews

And yet we see the situation turning for the better. Esther decides to petition the king and reveal her people despite the peril that puts her in. She and all the Jews in Shushan fast to the God who is largely silent in this book. Nevertheless, we see the silent answer to Esther’s desperate prayer. Esther reveals Haman’s wicked plot to Ahasuerus, who then orders the swift execution of Haman on the gallows – the gallows he made originally in order to kill the Jew Mordecai.

Back to equilibrium

And that’s where we ended last week. It’s wonderful! The Jews are put right back into the position they were before that rotten old Haman came on the scene. Yes, but we’re not done yet. In this book we don’t see the Jews back at their pre-Haman existence for long. No, we see them soar to new heights of blessing and honor and success. I actually expected this part of the book to be a little boring at one point. That was before I actually studied it. Now it’s thrilling to me to read.

Esther gets Haman’s estate

For example, in verses 1 and 2 of chapter 8 we see the king give Haman’s estate to Esther. Mordecai comes before the king and receives the signet ring which the king had previously given to Haman. These two lowly Jews are exalted even higher than they were to begin the story. But that’s not all.

That pesky edict

And yet, before we see the blessings in store for the Jews we need to take care of one minor detail. Well, the edict that Haman wrote with the king’s authority? The one authorizing the destruction, the annihilation, and the killing of all the Jews? Yeah, it’s still in effect. And so Esther approaches the king in 8:3-8.

8:3 ¶ And Esther spake yet again before the king, and fell down at his feet, and besought him with tears to put away the mischief of Haman the Agagite, and his device that he had devised against the Jews. 4 Then the king held out the golden sceptre toward Esther. So Esther arose, and stood before the king, 5 And said, If it please the king, and if I have found favour in his sight, and the thing seem right before the king, and I be pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews which are in all the king’s provinces: 6 For how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred? 7 Then the king Ahasuerus said unto Esther the queen and to Mordecai the Jew, Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and him they have hanged upon the gallows, because he laid his hand upon the Jews. 8 Write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s ring: for the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse.

When did this scene take place? It may have happened right after Haman was hung and his stuff given to Esther and Mordecai. Maybe it was the same day. Maybe it was a little later. But whenever it happened, Esther, Mordecai, and the king were all together in the same place at the same time.

Now, Esther remembers Haman’s decree, which is still in effect. And when it’s carried out in just about 9 months it will have devastating consequences on Esther’s people. So Esther comes to king Ahasuerus – apparently with Mordecai – and falls on her face. It’s serious. And she asks the king to save the lives of her people. Notice her concern for her people. She’s not afraid to identify God’s people as her very own. And the way she says it is kind of poetic – in a Hebrew sort of way. Maybe you just thought it was wordy. Well, it is. But I think it’s designed to be such. She says if what she’s about to say pleases the king and if she has found favor in his eyes – then she basically rephrases that sentence – if the king wants to implement my idea and if he’s pleased with me. So, “if the king likes my idea and he likes me” And “if the king likes my idea and he likes me”. That’s what it amounts to. Why does she phrase it like this? Well, I don’t know all the reasons probably, but I do know that Ahasuerus talks like that in this story. Remember phrases from him such as “what is your petition? it shall be granted. and what is your request? it shall be done.” Did you notice the repetition in that kind of question? Apparently this was normal — at least in the Persian court. At any rate, after Esther’s introduction to her new request she asks the king to reverse Haman’s wicked plot to exterminate all the Jews. And then she ends with a rhetorical question put somewhat poetically once more. “How can I endure the evil done to my people? How can I endure to see the destruction done to them?”

What’s Ahasuerus’ response? He points to the fact that he just previously ordered the destruction of Haman for the simple fact that he raised his hand against the Jews. Therefore, verse 8, Esther and Mordecai can write whatever they want in the king’s name to all the people in his land. Of course as we all know, such a writing, sealed by the king’s signet ring, can’t be revoked. And that’s a comfort to know that Esther and Mordecai can write an irrevocable letter to all the land for the Jews’ defense. However, what would they not be able to do as a result of that? The king’s command can’t be revoked, right? Well, was Haman’s letter written in the king’s authority with his signet ring? You know it was! So they can’t just revoke that edict.

Write another edict

But they can write something that would overpower that edict. And that’s just what we see in 8:9-14. Let’s read it.

8:9 ¶ Then were the king’s scribes called at that time in the third month, that is, the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia, an hundred twenty and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language. 10 And he wrote in the king Ahasuerus’ name, and sealed it with the king’s ring, and sent letters by posts on horseback, and riders on mules, camels, and young dromedaries: 11 Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey, 12 Upon one day in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus, namely, upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar. 13 The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, and that the Jews should be ready against that day to avenge themselves on their enemies. 14 So the posts that rode upon mules and camels went out, being hastened and pressed on by the king’s commandment. And the decree was given at Shushan the palace.

Does the wording here sound faintly familiar? It should. It actually shares multiple phrases with a scene in chapter 3 starting in verse 12. Do you remember that? It’s where Haman writes his edict to destroy the Jews. It’s very fitting that now Mordecai is doing just what Haman did, only for the good of God’s people – not for their destruction. Let me note some other similarities and differences between what Haman did and now what Mordecai is doing.

Back in 3:12 Haman wrote on the 13th day of the first month. And in 8:9 we’re now over two months beyond that – on the 23rd day of the 3rd month. That’s less than 9 months away from the date that Haman’s original edict was to go into effect!

8:9 tells us that Mordecai wrote to the Jews as well as to the satraps, governors, and princes. It mentions his addressing the Jews again in verse 9. Of course Haman didn’t write to the Jews. He wanted to destroy them. He was writing to those who would be opposed to the Jews. Mordecai is addressing those folks, too. But he’s also directly addressing his people — the Jews.

Now, 8:11 starts the content of Mordecai’s edict. The Jews are given authority to assemble on the 13th day of the 12th month (Adar) and defend themselves. Instead of them being destroyed, killed, and annihilated like Haman wanted, now the Jews themselves are the ones who are given authority to do that to others. Oh, OK. So they can just go out on a murderous rampage? No. They’re restricted to attacking only a certain group of individuals. Did you catch which group that is? The people who would assault them. So they were exercising self-defense. People were planning to attack them. That’s the truth. Haman’s letter was still around and had roused all the Jews’ enemies to be ready for this day. But now the Jews were authorized to defend themselves against such attacks. They were the recipients of this royal decree. They were to be ready. This message went out throughout the kingdom just like Haman’s did.

Reactions to the edict

Now, do you remember what happened in chapter 3 after Haman’s edict went out? There was a reaction across the kingdom – both in Shushan the capital and really everywhere else that there were Jews. What kind of reaction was it? Happy? No. It was a mournful reaction. What do you suppose the reaction is to this edict issued by Mordecai? Let’s read 8:15-17.

8:15 ¶ And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple: and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. 16 The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour. 17 And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.

Remember the kind of clothing Mordecai put on when Haman’s edict was issued? Sackcloth, right? What is he wearing now after his edict goes out? Royal apparel and a crown of gold.

And the Jews lamented and mourned when Haman’s edict went out. How do they react now? With light, gladness, joy, and honor in verse 16. Joy, gladness, a feast, and a good day (holiday) in verse 17. What a complete reversal of circumstances! What peripety!

And it’s not a simple restoration for the Jews to how they were before Haman’s plans. No, now they’re in a far better position. Those enemies that hate them will be out of the picture in less than a year. Two of their own – Esther and Mordecai – are in positions of supreme authority and will see to it that their people are treated with equity.

And did you catch one of the most amazing comments in this book? It’s right at the end of this scene we just read. Many people in the empire… became Jews. If you’re like me you can read through the whole Old Testament and miss short simple statements like this. This is significant. This was God’s plan from the beginning for Israel – that they would be a nation of priests mediating between the Gentiles and God. Isaiah said that they were to be God’s witnesses. The nations should have been able to look at Israel and be lead to her God. Unfortunately all-too-often throughout the Old Testament, Israel was disobedient to her calling from God. But in the book of Esther here you see it happening. The fear of the Jews fell upon the people. You know, there was a time when that fear fell upon a prostitute who lived in a pagan city. That city’s name was Jericho and that prostitute’s name was Rahab. She heard of God drying up the Red Sea and subduing kings before the Israelites. And she feared. And she sought for peace with that nation and their God.

Now, let’s keep looking at the reaction to this edict. Do you remember what the narrator told us happened in the city of Shushan when Haman’s edict went out earlier in the book? The city was in confusion. How is the city reacting now that it sees Mordecai’s edict? The city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. Proverbs 11:10 tells us “When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting.” And that’s exactly what we see played out here in this part of the book of Esther.

 

Esther 7 Sermon

Esther 7 Sermon

Enjoy this Esther 7 sermon: Just as Haman receives this awful news — that Mordecai the Jew will be the death of him — the king’s messengers come and quickly whisk him away to Esther’s second banquet. Let’s read about it in 7:1-8.

To the banquet

7:1 ¶ So the king and Haman came to banquet with Esther the queen. 2 And the king said again unto Esther on the second day at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition, queen Esther? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? and it shall be performed, even to the half of the kingdom. 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: 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. 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? 6 And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen. 7 And the king arising from the banquet of wine in his wrath went into the palace garden: 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. 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.

The king and Haman are sitting there. Is Haman looking around nervously? Is he wondering where Mordecai might spring from and bring about his demise? It doesn’t say. But I imagine he’s not real care-free at this point. Then the king asks the 3rd time what Esther’s request is. Have you ever heard a preacher that said something more than 3 times in a row? He said it over… and over… and over… and over… and over? Oh, that’s 5 times. It might just be me, but when someone repeats something over… and over… and over again – that’s 3 times – on that 3rd time I’m ready for him to conclude. I’m ready for a resolution. So Ahasuerus asks his question the 3rd time. I don’t know about you but I’m ready for an answer. At Esther’s 1st banquet she simply delays revealing her request. Not at this banquet. Now she’s ready to make her request known. She reveals that her people are in danger of destruction. She even says that if they were simply sold as slaves she wouldn’t even bother the king about it – showing some respect to him and his time constraints and duties. So when the king hears about this you can feel his blood pressure start to rise. I can imagine he grits his teeth, his face perhaps starting to turn shades of red, and says, “who is he and here is he who would do such a thing?!” Esther points to Haman as the culprit. Haman apparently had no idea that Esther was a Jew. So the king angrily storms out of the room while Haman stays to beg for his life from Esther. When the king returns he finds Haman falling on the bed where Esther was sitting. And in another humorous misunderstanding, Ahasuerus thinks that Haman is trying to sexually assault his queen! So the servants cover Haman’s face. Let’s read 7:9-10 for the end to this episode.

Gallows for Haman

7:9 And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon. 10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified.

Up ‘til now Ahasuerus had no idea that Haman had built a gallows to hang Mordecai on – Mordecai, the defender of the king. The king apparently himself sees the sweet irony of the situation and says very tersly – “hang him on it.” And just like that, Haman is dead. And Ahasuerus’ wrath which can be such a source of destruction is turned so that it’s actually working for the good of the Jews.

What an incredible turn of events! I know Christmas has passed. But I want to quote a Christmas song that I thought of regarding these chapters of Scripture. It’s called “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and it was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He’s lamenting injustice in the world throughout the song. The kind of injustice we’ve seen from the plots of the wicked Haman against the defenseless innocent Jews. But at the end he says this, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.’”

God – the God of the Jews in the book of Esther, our God – He’s not dead. He’s not asleep. In the end he’ll punish the wrong and he’ll cause the right to win. Sometimes injustice won’t be punished until the judgement day. And yet sometimes in God’s providence we don’t need to wait until the end. Sometimes he brings about swift justice in this life. And the result? Well, in the case of the Jews we’ll see some of this “peace on earth” that Longfellow writes about. But that’s for next week.

For now, we can look for and be thankful for God’s Providential Poetic Justice.

Esther 6 Bible Study

Esther 6 Bible Study

As we start this Esther 6 Bible study,  Haman is now on his way to the palace. Walking through the streets. Entering the gate. Right into the outer court. But he is unaware of what’s been happening with the king that night. Let’s read about it 6:1-5.

What keeps the king awake

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. 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. 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. 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. 5 And the king’s servants said unto him, Behold, Haman standeth in the court. And the king said, Let him come in.

Verse 1 makes me laugh. The king couldn’t get to sleep. Did he want to sleep? Yeah, I imagine he did. Now these days when we can’t sleep we might reach for some supplement or medicine or herb. We might even read a book. Dr. Oats last week recommended Systematic Theology books. Ahasuerus – not surprisingly – didn’t have one of these. And so he reached for a second best – a book wherein were recorded all the proceedings of the kingdom. And civil happenings are often not very interesting. So the king thinks this might put him to sleep. But it didn’t! Why? Because he actually found something interesting in there. He found that this man named Mordecai had saved his life! This thwarted-assassination would have happened probably over 5 years ago. And so he needs some help remembering if anyone ever did anything to honor Mordecai. No, nothing had been done. Apparently Ahasuerus hears some stir in the outer court as Haman enters. So he has Haman enter his room. Apparently the golden scepter rule doesn’t apply to Haman for whatever reason.

Now don’t miss the sweet irony here. This is exhilarating. You should be at the edge of your seats. Mordecai’s life hangs in the balance. Haman has come to see to it that that balance is tipped to Mordecai’s destruction. And Haman does this right at the time when king Ahasuerus not only knows who Mordecai actually is – but now the king has his heart set on honoring this man… whom Haman wants dead. We need to keep reading! 6:6-11.

Here comes Haman!

6:6 So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself? 7 And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delighteth to honour, 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: 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. 10 Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king’s gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken. 11 Then took Haman the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and brought him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him, Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour.

Misunderstandings and miss-communications are a commonplace of literature. I think that’s because they’re a commonplace of every day life. No matter whether you lived in Esther’s day or ours, these things happen.

I remember when Lori and I were on our honeymoon in Nova Scotia. It was New Year’s Day. And the cabin owner came by and told us they were “letting the polar bears out today.” We looked at each other and agreed we should go. On the way there I said to Lori in all earnestness, “boy, I would think it wouldn’t be very healthy to be a polar bear.” Lori turned to me as if I was crazy. She asked why I would even wonder something ridiculous like that. I started to feel a little hurt by her apparently callous response. UNTIL – I discerned she and I were thinking that we were going to see two very different types of “polar bears” that day. So I let the secret lie until we got to the lake shore. And shortly after we arrived, the countdown started. And then there they came! The polar bears! A bunch of big Canadian men running into the freezing cold water. Meanwhile… Lori was still looking for the polar bears. You know, the kind with claws and white fur? You’re laughing – or at least you should be!

And now you know how we’re supposed to take this interchange between Haman and Ahasuerus. They’re talking past each other. And it’s humorous. Ahasuerus asks for Haman’s advice here. And he’s also trying to find someone to whom he can delegate this task. The king asks Haman how he should honor a certain individual. Of course, Haman can think only of himself, and so he thinks up a marvelous extravagant plan involving horses, royal garments, and a herald! I can imagine Ahasuerus watching Haman as he gives this detailed plan of how the king can honor him. Haman ends. And Ahasuerus maybe leans forward and says, “That sounds good. Go and do that… for Mordecai!” Ahasuerus has no idea of the enmity between Haman and Mordecai. Oh, to see the look on Haman’s face! And what about when he’s being forced to lead his mortal enemy around and issue his proclamation before him? What a sight that would have been!

This truly is the turning point of the whole book. Up until now the situation for the Jews has been looking worse and worse. And now – just when Haman was going to request the execution of Mordecai – it’s Mordecai who triumphed over Haman. As I said at the beginning of this message, this scene is the apex toward which the story has been building. Now there’s nowhere to go for the enemy of the Jews besides DOWN! Let’s read the next scene as we descend the mountain in 6:12-14.

The enemies are going down

6:12 ¶ And Mordecai came again to the king’s gate. But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered. 13 And Haman told Zeresh his wife and all his friends every thing that had befallen him. Then said his wise men and Zeresh his wife unto him, If Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him. 14 ¶ And while they were yet talking with him, came the king’s chamberlains, and hasted to bring Haman unto the banquet that Esther had prepared.

I love how humble Mordecai is. He just simply returns to work. He probably wouldn’t have known anything about how this developed – how it was that his mortal enemy came and honored him. I guess Mordecai just didn’t think too much about it. He just goes back about his business. But Haman on the other hand certainly does think about what just happened. And he’s grieving about it. So he again calls his wife and friends together. Remember, last time they suggested that he build a 75 foot high gallows upon which he might hang Mordecai. But this time their counsel is different. I imagine that Haman was again looking for some consolation. But he would not be receiving it from this group this time. This time, they give him an ominous and morbid warning. If Mordecai is a Jew and he’s starting to prevail over you, he’s going to be the death of you!