Deuteronomy Summary

Deuteronomy Summary: As I said last week, we’ll be studying the book of Joshua in Sunday School. Let me give a little background for that.

Originally I thought that studying through the book of Judges would be helpful. I see parallels to the situation today in Christ’s church with what the Israelites experienced under the Judges.

But as I studied and talked with others, I thought it would be best to start with Joshua. You can land in the book of Judges without teaching Joshua but we’d probably miss some things. So, I thought we might as well start with Joshua.

But then I further noticed that the book of Deuteronomy really has bearing on the circumstances we see later in the books of Joshua and Judges – really, even in the books of Ruth and Samuel and Kings.

So I’m going to take this lesson just preparing us for the book of Joshua by studying the book of Deuteronomy.

You might wonder if I might as well start at Genesis. Well, that would be interesting and I’m sure helpful. But we’ll just stick with Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy really stands as a good summary of all that has happened to Israel from Genesis through to the end of Numbers.

So this is where we’ll start. Deuteronomy. The “second (deuteros) Law (nomos)”.

This book is not narrative. I’m not quite sure what kind of writing it is. Some suggest that it’s patterned after legal documents. As if Yahweh is legally renewing his covenant with his chosen people, Israel.

Yet, even though it’s not a narrative, Moses does set the scene for us. Let’s read Deu 1:1-5.

1:1 ¶ These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab. 2 (There are eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadeshbarnea.) 3 And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them; 4 After he had slain Sihon the king of the Amorites, which dwelt in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, which dwelt at Astaroth in Edrei: 5 On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law, saying…

So, picture Israel. You can look at the map section in your Bible. Its west border is the Mediteranean Sea. Its east boundary is the Jordan River. The Jordan runs north from the Sea of Galilee to the south, emptying into the Dead Sea. Jericho is just a little north of the Dead Sea. Right across the Jordan to the east is the modern-day nation of Jordan. In Old Testament times that was the land of the Amorites. Now, the Jordan valley is flanked to the east and west by hills. But down in the valley is where the sons of Israel were. They hadn’t crossed the Jordan yet. They’re on the east side of the Jordan, in the land they had just captured from the 2 Amorite kings. They can look over the Jordan and see Jericho. They can see the land which God had promised to them and their fathers. They’re so close.

In verse 2 we’re reminded that the way from Horeb (a.k.a. Sinai) to Kadesh-barnea was only 11 days. Kadesh-barnea was where the Israelites were supposed to enter Canaan. But they rebelled. And so instead of entering the land in 11 days, it took them – verse 3 – 40 years! Before they could finally enter the land though they needed to – verse 4 – slay two Amorite kings: Sihon and Og.

They did that. And now finally the people are ready to enter the land. But Moses isn’t going to enter. The Lord was angry at him and wouldn’t allow him to enter. So he just needs to encourage Joshua to lead the people in there. But Moses isn’t going to address Joshua alone. Moses, this godly leader who had led the Israelites these 40 years, he has a number of things on his heart to communicate to his people. Important things. Things God wants him to say. Moses has a message. And we can summarize this message like this: Love God and Be Blessed.

Deuteronomy is a book of 34 chapters. There’s no way I could cover this book chapter-by-chapter in one message. So I’m going to be teaching the content of this book without specifically referencing or even turning to the individual passages. So you can just listen and take notes if that would help you follow the message.

Alright, so Moses’ message is Love God and Be Blessed. But an Israelite may have asked, “why should I love God?” Moses gives a number of reasons, but he starts off by giving a history of God’s gracious dealings with Israel.

He starts off with Israel going down to Egypt and being oppressed. So God granted Israel a miraculous deliverance from Egypt. He brought them through the Red Sea. We’re also reminded that Amalek viciously and mercileslly attacked them after that episode. Remember Haman?? Amalek to Agag to Haman. Anyway, after Amalek, God brought Israel to Sinai – or as Moses calls it in this book, Horeb.

At Horeb, God appeared to Israel on the mountain in fire and darkness and thick gloom with trumpet blasts. It was terrifying. So Israel asked for a mediator. They could not stand to hear God’s voice and see God’s presence. So God commended the people’s reaction and made Moses the mediator. God gave Moses his commands that Moses was then to command Israel. But while God was giving his commands to Moses, Israel got together and made an idol! Unbelievable. So Moses had to leave his mediatorial work and come down from the mountain and deal with his people. In the process he angrily broke the original tablets containing the 10 Commandments. And God himself was so angry at the people that he wanted to destroy Israel and make a new nation out of Moses. But Moses loved God’s people and interceded for them. He even had to intercede for his own brother, Aaron. So the Lord listened to Moses and turned from his desire to destroy Israel.

Eventually God told Israel to leave Horeb and travel north to Kadesh-barnea, which was somewhere along the southern boundary of Canaan. God told Moses that Israel should go up from there and attack the Canaanites. But the people actually approached Moses and asked if they could send some spies to figure out the best way to go up into the land. Moses says that that request pleased him. The question is whether that request pleased God. I’m not sure. That’s just something to think about. But at any rate, the spies go up. They scope out the land. They bring back a report. And in Deuteronomy Moses emphasizes the good report which the 2 spies brought back. The people hear that report but they still rebell and refuse to trust God. So God is angry with them and forbids the unbelieving men from entering Canaan. The people make some effort to confess their sin and obey God, but it’s too late. God has spoken. But the people go up anyway and get turned back by the Canaanites.

The book of Deuteronomy then gives one meager verse to their 40 years of wilderness wanderings. I get the sense that Moses really didn’t want to think very much about that disappointing time in Israel’s history.

But then finally the word comes from the Lord. Go up! Pass northeast through Edom! But don’t attack them. Pass north through Moab! But leave him alone. Pass north through Ammon! But don’t touch his land. OK, now pass through to the Amorite Sihon! Ah, yes, you can attack him. I will give him into your hand. Continue on and attack Og the Amorite! His land is yours.

Yes, the Ammonites and Moabites hire Balaam the false prophet to curse Israel. But God turned it into a blessing. Yes, Baal-peor happens. That was where Balaam advising Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel. Balaam told Balak to tempt the Israelites with foreign women who would commit immorality with the Israelites and lead them astray to follow after false Gods. And God had to deal with the Israelites for that sinful situation.

But now, Israel is on the plains opposite Jericho. God brought them all the way there. He didn’t leave or forsake them. But that’s the past. Israel needs to do right — now and into the future. They need to Love God and Be Blessed. That’s Moses’ message to them as they’re on the verge of entering the land that God promised to them.

So Israel needs to love God. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 – “Hear O Israel…You shall love the Lord your God.” But how would Israel know if they were loving God? Jesus – the very God of the Israelites in the Old Testament says this in the New Testament. “If you love me, … keep my commandments.” Listen. We can’t and Israel couldn’t walk in the disobedience of our hearts, all the while claiming to love God. Throughout the Scripture, loving God is linked to the degree of your obedience to him. Now, don’t get me wrong. Obeying God never brought people into a relationship with him. That’s impossible since our obedience to God is always so imperfect and incomplete. But obedience to God grows our relationship with him. Pastor has mentioned a godly man of old who would say something like “If you want to know God, mind him.” There’s no question that this is the case. Israel needed to love God by obeying him.

Now, we’ve mentioned this matter of having a relationship with God. We New Testament believers enter into this relationship with God through faith. The same actually was true of individual Old Testament saints as well. They came to know God by faith. Romans 4 tells us that this is how Abraham and David understood their relationship with God. But you know, in Deuteronomy we’re told about a momentous event in which the whole nation of Israel was brought into a special relationship with God. It happened at Mount Sinai or Horeb. God mentions this event several times in Deuteronomy. God views this event as a covenantal occasion. He made a special covenant with the nation of Israel. He took them to himself as a special people. And he was to be their one and only God. It was as if God took Israel as his wife. It’s a very special tender relationship that they had. Does this help your understanding of all these Laws that God gives to Israel? God didn’t just come on the scene and start barking out orders to Israel. He brought them out of bondage in Egypt. He took them unto himself and swore that they alone would be his people. These commandments to Israel can really be viewed as something like wedding vows.

And you know, when Israel obeys these reasonable requests from their God, they will experience tremendous blessings. I’d advise you to just read through this book and note the number of times God promises blessing for obedience. Love God and Be Blessed is Moses’ message in this book, after all. How would Israel be blessed for loving God? Israel’s land will yield abundant produce. Their enemies will flee before them. Their animals and wives will not be barren. They will have no diseases. They will have abundant money and livestock and rain. Really, God plainly states that there will be no poor people among them – they’ll all be rich. All the nations around them will marvel at them because they have such a close relationship with God and have such just and wise laws. Blessing…upon…blessing!

Now, as this nation prepares to enter the land of Canaan they have a few commands that stand out above and beyond the rest. One such command is the one that says they need to destroy the nations. Well, not all the nations, actually. Just the 7 nations in the land of Canaan are the ones that need to be destroyed. The other nations they can offer terms of peace to. And if they don’t accept the terms of peace then the Israelites would destroy the men in that nation but leave the others alive. Not so with the 7 nations in Canaan! The Israelites were to utterly destroy man, woman, and child — and anything else that breathed — in those nations.

This might be one of the most difficult commands in the whole Old Testament to come to terms with. God really wanted the Israelites to destroy even innocent women and children? Yeah. God says that if even the ones who seemed most innocent were allowed to live, then they would teach God’s people Israel to follow after other gods and repeat the same sins that these 7 nations committed. These 7 nations were so evil that God had a special plan for their destruction. God says that they do everything – every thing – that he hates. They even sacrificed their children – the ones we don’t want to see die – they sacrifice their own children to demons! This all might be hard to accept. But it is God’s mind on the matter. And we always do well to just believe what God has to say without trying to wiggle out from under its uncomfortable truth.

Now, these 7 nations were stronger and larger than Israel. It wasn’t an easy thing they were setting out to do. But God promised victory. If Israel obeys, God will destroy these nations before them and give to Israel all their stuff – houses filled with good things, cisterns, vineyards, olive groves, everything they could want. That is, if they love God.

Now, you might wonder why God chose Israel over these other nations. Positively, God chose them to keep his promises to their fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Negatively, God says he certainly didn’t choose them for either of the following reasons – their size (they were smaller than all nations) or for their righteousness (he gives them their history of rebellion as proof).

The second big bold command that comes to our attention multiple times – scores of times – in this book is that Israel needs to worship God alone. This makes sense. God took this nation to himself in a relationship very much reminiscent of the marriage covenant. It makes sense then if God is the husband that Israel — the wife — would be faithful to him alone.

What does this look like? Negatively, they need to stay away from worshipping idols. Again, this is one big reason they need to completely destroy the nations across the Jordan in Canaan. Idolatry is contageous. Israel needs to rid the land of it ASAP. And Moses speaks of this urgent matter constantly in the book of Deuteronomy. The Israelites must not immitate the pagans in any way. They were to be totally holy and separate from the evil that characterized the pagans – especially their idolatry.

You know, even the way that God appeared on Mount Horeb should have taught Israel to not construct idols. Moses says in Deuteronomy that when God appeared to them on Horeb they didn’t see a form at all. They heard a voice from heaven. But God didn’t appear as a man. He didn’t appear as a bird, or a fish, or a lion. This was intentional. He appeared as fire – something that really is quite difficult to make into an idol. And so because God revelaed himself without a form but he did utter his voice – because of that, Israel needed to pay attention to God’s WORDS, not his form. Don’t focus on his FORM, Israel! Focus on what he had to say to you from heaven.

What did he say anyway? What are the words that Israel must obey and thereby be blessed? Well, we mentioned two broad commands. Worship God alone and destroy the 7 nations who are especially sinful and who will influence you to idolatry against the true God of heaven.

But the book of Deuteronomy consists of 34 chapters! There’s a lot more to God’s commands than these two areas – worshipping God only and destroying the nations. I’ll mention a few things. God gives Israel rules about what to do in the case of immorality. He tells Israel what to do when a murder is committed. He gives instructions about what to do with a habitual and hardened disobedient child. He commands them to build a railing on top of their roof to prevent people from falling off. Israel must eat only clean animals. When they find a mother bird with a nest of eggs, they can take the eggs but not the mother. When they eat a young goat they were not to boil it in its mother’s milk. God tells them whom Israel should accept to fight in their battles. He tells them that when they enter the land they will sacrifice ONLY in the place the Lord will chose. God forbids them from cross-dressing. And what I’ve just mentioned now leaves out a number of other commands that he gives Israel.

And you can’t find a flaw in any of these commands. There’s nothing immoral or unrighteous in these laws. Even if we don’t quite understand them or think them a little out-of-step with the way we live our lives – you can’t find a flaw with these commands. And that’s exactly why Moses tells Israel that the nations will be jealous of the nation of Israel. Because they have a God who is so near and who gives them such righteous statutes. That’s right. Moses did not say, “Yeah, I know these laws are a little embarassing and kind of out-of-step with the mainstream thinking of this day. But, you know, just kind of deal with it and it’ll be alright.” No. Moses says with a straight face that these laws are going to cause the nations around them to covet the relationship they have with their God. That is… if Israel actually obeys these laws.

And not only obeys them. But another big theme of Deuteronomy is that Israel needs to constantly teach their children God’s commands. They’re supposed to teach when they’re sitting, standing, walking, and lying down. They need to know God’s commands well enough to teach their children.

(Summary of Obedience) So these laws are righteous. Obeying them doesn’t bring Israel into a relationship with God – God did that at Horeb. But obeying these laws were to help the Israelites maintain their relationship with God. Obeying would show that they Love God. And as they love God by obeying him they would Be Blessed with all the blessings we already mentioned.

But Israel had a choice. They could choose whether or not they were going to obey. We’re going to see those choices played out in the coming weeks and months as we study through Joshua and Judges. We see the foundation begin to chip in Joshua.

For example, one of the Israelites disobeys God and takes something under the ban. In that case Israel did not love God. And as a result Israel was not blessed. She’s defeated right after that by the people of the tiny city of Ai.

Later on, the Gibeonites pretend to be a people far away and they seek to make a treaty with Israel. That wasn’t supposed to happen. And Joshua did not seek the Lord about it. So Israel got into a treaty with some of the inhabitants of Canaan. This was a violation of one of God’s commands to them.

But the worst comes in the book of Judges. Joshua dies and when he does, Israel starts seriously spiraling out of control. They cannot or will not conquer their enemies, as God commanded them. As a result they’re tempted with idolatry like God told them would happen. And so God gives them over to their enemies.

Wait, what?! Gives them over to their enemies? I thought Israel was supposed to be the head and their enemies the tail. I thought Israel would lend but not borrow. The enemies were supposed to come against Israel one way and flee before them seven ways! Yes. But that only happens – those blessings – only happen when they Love God.

And you know what? Even in the book of Deuteronomy, God knows that Israel is going to disobey. He holds out blessings for obedience. And yet in the next or even the same chapter that he gives promises of blessings for obedience, he also tells them that he knows they’re going to disobey.

God points to their track record of disobedience. From the day Moses brought the people out of the land of Egypt they’ve been stiff-knecked and hard-hearted. They provoked God to anger to such an extent at Horeb that he would have utterly destroyed the whole nation, including Aaron. Remember the rebellion they commited at Kadesh-Barnea? And that generation – just read through the books of Exodus and Numbers – they’re complaining all the time and acting as if God hates them and isn’t powerful or loving. They’re completely faithless. And without faith it’s impossible to please God. And so God was not pleased with that generation. He let them die in the wilderness.

So that’s the previous generation. But what about the current generation? The generation that was about to enter the land? Moses makes this statement in Deuteronomy 31:27 – He says to the generation about to enter the land of Canaan – “For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?” Even that generation had been rebellious against God. And Moses fears what they will do when he’s gone.

And the consequences for not loving God are so severe. Just like the blessings for obeying God were numerous and beyond your wildest imagination, so too are the curses for disobedying and not loving God.

Israel would be defeated before their enemy. Their property ripped from their hands. Their wives violated by other men. They would experience life-threatening diseases. They would experience pestilence and mildew and terror. Their children would be taken from them while they can only look on as its happening. They’d be driven mad with these sights and experiences.

And you know, this was not what God wanted for his people… My family reads the Scripture at night before bedtime – about a chapter a night. We just read through the book of Revelation at the request of one of our children. You can guess which one – the one that can talk. And so now we just started in the book of Genesis. As we were reading Genesis 1, I was struck by this simple fact. God’s default mode – if you will – is to bless. God blessed man in the beginning. God blessed the Sabbath Day. He enjoys blessing people and things. He is a good and blessing God. And yet sin brings to light a whole new side of God. Sin is completely anti-thetical to God. He can’t bless sin. He can only punish and destroy it. And so, in Deuteronoy God warns Israel that this will happen – that he needs to punish sin. He even gives Moses a song to teach the people so that when they do turn from God they will have this song as a testimony against them.

And the ultimate consequence for Israel’s disobedience, even stated here in Deuteronomy, was that God would have to cast Israel out of the land. They will get to the place where they’re practicing the abominations of the nations they were supposed to utterly destroy. And just like God had to drive out those nations, he would have to drive out his worldly people who acted like those nations.

So, that’s bleak. And yet God gives a ray of hope, even here in this book. He says that when Israel sins against him to the extent he needs to drive them to other lands where they’ll worship idols — he says that after that happens he will bring them back to their land eventually. And that’s actually what we saw in Ezra and Nehemiah – the Jews came back to their land.

So, Israel is standing on the plains. They see the Jordan over which they will soon cross. They see Jericho, which they’ll attack and conquer in just a few days or weeks. And Moses is reminding them of the blessings that await them if they only love God and obey him. He also warns them sternly about failing to love God. Moses and God himself want Israel to live long in that land. The only way to receive this blessing of long life in God’s land is to love God.

We’re a lot like Israel. We don’t enter into a relationship with God through Law. We do so through a covenant. We have the New Covenant, whereby our sins are forgiven. While Israel had the Old Covenant given at Sinai. And God desires for us now to love him – to obey him in what he’s commanded us. The commands for us are different than for Israel in some ways. The blessings are different. But God still desires us – his New Testament people – to love him. Being free from the Law doesn’t mean we’re free to not love God. Jesus tells us that we must abide in him. And — as Jesus says — this is the only way we’ll be blessed and bear much fruit.

So, may the Lord help us to Love God and Be Blessed.

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.