Every person can see God’s providence in this passage by seeing the events that cause victory for the Jewish people.
Captain Johnson was serving his men as chaplain on an inland in the South Pacific. He prepared to go on a bombing rain on Jap-occupied islands several hundred miles away. The mission was a complete success. On the homeward course the plane began to lose altitude and the engines seemed to fade out. But God had provided an island, and a safe landing was made. Later they learned that the enemy was just one –half mile in each direction, yet their landing had not been discovered. The staff sergeant came and said, “Chaplain, you have been telling us for months of the need of praying and believing God to answer in time of trouble, and that He does it right away. Now it is your chance to prove what you have been preaching. We’re out of gas, base several hundred miles away . . . and almost surrounded by japs.” Johnson began to pray and lay hold of the promises and believed that God would work a miracle. All afternoon he was on his knees. Night came and the crew slept on the ground. Johnson continues to pray. About 2 a.m. the staff sergeant was strangely around and walking to the water’s edge, discovered a metal float, which had drifted up on the beach – a barge on which was fifty barrels of high octane gasoline. In a few hours the crew reached their home base safely. An investigation revealed that the skipper of a U. S. tanker, finding his ship in sub infested waters, had his gasoline cargo removed so as to minimize the danger of a torpedo hit. Barrels were placed on barges and put adrift 600 miles from where Johnson and the plane crew were forced down. God had navigated one of these barges through wind and current and beached it fifty steps from the stranded men.
We can clearly see how God provided for these men, through the prayers of a faithful chaplain. I would like to look now at the events of Esther’s life and examine God’s providence there.
Event I. Esther is made queen
A. Esther is a Jewish girl in Babylon. She like most of the people I haves spoken of over the past several weeks is there because of the exile. This Jewish girl somehow ends up being the queen of Babylon. But, before she can become queen the existing queen needs to get out of the way. King Xerxes was irritated when Queen Vashti is not willing to show herself off at a party like he wanted. In his anger he has the queen deposed. He was having a party before he heads off to make war. So when he gets back he does not have a queen. One of his advisors suggests that the king have a sort of beauty competition, where all of the most beautiful women of the kingdom are brought to the king and he would choose a queen from among these women.
B. Out of all of the women in the kingdom, Esther is chosen to be one of the beautiful young women and she is chosen as the one to become the queen. Esther gained the attention of the king over all of the other women, and she also had a good reputation among the others in the harem who were watching over all of these women. This was not just a matter of chance. The time is coming when the existence of the Jewish people is threatened. Having a Jewish woman right next to the king seems to be a very strategic move. At this point however, the king does not know that Esther is a Jewish woman. This is not just a matter of chance. It is God’s providence at work. He manufactured this situation to preserve the existence of the Jewish people.
C. Esther was a Jewish girl, and she had been raised by her cousin Mordecai. Mordecai taught Esther how to be a good Jew; consequently she might not have had the desire to be in this place. She is going from being a nothing to being the queen sitting next to the king. It was a big responsibility. Perhaps something too big for her to take on, but it was something she choose to do.
D. Perhaps you have been called on to do something, thinking I really don’t want to do this. Or maybe your response was I don’t feel equipped to carry out this task. That might be true if you are trying to do it by yourself, but if you are following God’s plan you will know that God will give you the resources you need to do the task and to do it well. Don’t shy away, just because it is undesirable, or seems like more than you can handle.
Event II. Mordecai uncovers a conspiracy
A. Mordecai is kind of a lurker. He is Esther’s cousin who took the responsibility of raising Esther. Now he is staying close to the palace. It seems as if he is there to keep an eye on Esther. If it is possible he makes contact with her. Mordecai is Esther’s unofficial advisor. He has told Esther that she is not to tell anyone that she is a Jew. This is supposed to be a secret kept by Esther and Mordecai.
B. While he is staying near the palace gates he hears of a conspiracy by a couple of the king’s guards. They were angry with the king and they were working on some way that they might assassinate the king. Mordecai heard about the plot, reported what he heard to the queen, who in turn tells the king. The king investigates this and finds it to be true. He has the would be assassins hanged, and he also has it recorded in the official record that Mordecai had uncovered their plot.
C. This really seems to be a minor point. Mordecai simply does what needs to be done. He acts as a good citizen and protects his king from harm. He is also protecting his cousin’s husband. It is all the work of a good person. There is one short sentence that is very significant in 2:23, “All this was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king.” Mordecai was just doing his duty, but it causes him to be noticed by the king. That little sentence slips by so quickly that we could almost forget it ever happened. Now the king knows who Mordecai is.
D. Maybe doing the right thing never really seems to be a big deal. Maybe it is such a small deal that we forget to do the right thing. Mordecai does the right thing and it pays big benefits for him. Maybe by us doing the right thing it could pay big benefits for us as well.
Event III. Esther uses her influence
A. Another character in this story is Haman. He is the bad guy. In chapter 3 he is honored by the king and given a place higher than all of the other nobles. Whenever Haman shows up everyone bows down in recognition of his greatness, except for Mordecai. This really gets under Haman’s skin. It is such an irritation to him that he is not satisfied with getting rid of Mordecai; instead he learns that Mordecai is a Jew and decides to have all of the Jewish people killed. He even gets the king to agree to this plan. He kind of stretches the truth to convince the king. He says, “"There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them.” 3:8. they agree that on a certain day, all of the Jewish people will be killed. Basically it will be all of the Babylonians given permission to execute the Jewish people however they want.
B. The king does not realize that Esther is one of the Jewish people, nor does he realize that Mordecai is related to Esther. Mordecai gets a message to Esther of what is going on, and he convinces her to do something about it. The problem is that Esther and the king had been married for five years and she had not been granted an audience with the king very often lately. Another problem was that if she did enter the presence of the king without his permission she could be executed. Esther asks that the Jewish people would fast and pray for three days and she would do the same. At the end of those three days she would go to the king. Her message to Mordecai is, “When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish." She was willing to give her life for her people.
C. When Esther does go into the presence of the king she finds a warm reception. The king offers Esther his gold scepter which was an indication that he was pleased to see her. He even offers her whatever she wants she can have. Rather than just blurting out what is on her mind she invites the king and Haman to a banquet hosted by the king. So, Esther got to keep her life, the king gets to have dinner with his lady, and Haman gets to sit in as well. Haman is giddy with excitement over this invitation.
D. There had to be some painful reality that was connected with this. Esther had to know that she had been placed in this position for the sake of her people. At the same time she knew that her own execution could happen. She chooses to obey God in spite of the possible consequences. She does what is right.
E. It is hard for us to say that we would demonstrate that same integrity that Esther did. We have the potential of being placed somewhere for a special purpose, just like Esther did. It is God’s providence. It is not a coincidence or a mistake. It is a part of God’s design. We need to be willing to do what is right.
Event IV. Mordecai is honored
A. I find this to be a humorous part of the story. Haman was giddy about getting to go to the queen’s house for a banquet. On his way home to get ready he sees Mordecai, which steals all of his joy from him. While at home his wife, family and friends, tell him to just get rid of Mordecai as quickly as possible. Since he has such a high position in the kingdom, this should not be a problem. He can go to the king get permission and have it done with. This should be no problem at all. So Haman decides this is what he will do.
B. It seems that while Haman is planning his request of the king, the king is having trouble sleeping. I guess his bed time stories consisted of the record of his reign. About five years earlier Mordecai had stopped an assignation attempt on the king. This just happens to be one of the passages read to the king that night. The king remembers this, but he does not remember thanking Mordecai for what he did. The king wants something done of honor Mordecai. About that time he hears someone in his outer chamber; it is Haman with his request to kill Mordecai. The king invites Haman in with a question, “"What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?" Haman was confident that the king was talking about him. You can imagine him stroking his beard and pondering the best gift he would like to give himself. He suggests that this man be dressed in kingly apparel, and paraded through the streets on one of the kings horses, while it is announced, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!” When the king said go and do this for Mordecai, I would guess that Haman felt as if all of the air had been sucked out of his body. The man he wanted to kill was now to be honored and Haman was the one who would lead the parade.
C. Just before the Jews are killed, and just before Haman comes to get permission to kill Mordecai, the king is reminded that nothing has been done for Mordecai. I don’t think that the king even realized that Haman wanted to exterminate the Jewish people. Haman had referred to the Jews as, “a certain people dispersed and scattered among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom.” With the honor the king gives to Mordecai, who he knows is a Jew; I don’t think he knew the order was for the Jews. This was another piece of God’s plan.
Event V. The Jewish people are allowed to defend themselves
A. Esther does not reveal Haman’s plot at the banquet that she gives for the king and Haman. When the king asks the queen what she wants she asks that they return the next night for another banquet. It is there that Esther reveals Haman’s plot and tells the king that it would affect her as well as her cousin Mordecai. She points the finger directly at Haman. This news enrages the king, and he orders the immediate execution of Haman on the gallows that had been built by Haman to kill Mordecai.
B. There is a problem that still exists. The decree that had been issued by Haman in the name of the king still stood and it was impossible for this decree to be terminated. Instead the king issues another decree that allows the Jewish people to defend themselves if anyone tries to harm them as a result of this first decree. Consequently the Jewish people are able to save themselves from this wrath.
C. Even though we are looking at Esther following Nehemiah, Nehemiah actually follows Esther chronologically. Esther was queen around 40 years before Nehemiah began the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem. It might have been Esther’s position as the queen that allowed Nehemiah to find favor in the palace of the king. If Esther had not exercised bravery and wisdom, the Jewish people might have been exterminated. The walls of Jerusalem and the Temple might have never been rebuilt. There would have been no Jews at the time of Jesus, and there might have never been a Jesus. Consequently we would be living in a lost world with no hope. Esther did act wisely and courageously, and none of that ever has to be known.
Esther was a woman who was placed in a unique situation and she was allowed to have a great impact on history and salvation. We can see the fingerprints of God all over her life. God gave Esther what she needed when she needed it. He will do the same for you. Look at where God has placed you and consider how he might want to use you. Be brave and wise in carrying out the plans God has for you.