Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 42: Finding God in Esther
February 6, 2011
· Read script, ESV SB notes
Welcome! This week is a little different than most. We have been reading through the Bible, and have gotten to Esther. (BTW: We are picking up our reading again, see insert.)
Esther tells the story of God delivering the Jews from an evil plot. It takes place in around 475 BC, after the Jews had been deported from Israel and were living in what is now Iran.
· I decided that we should do this one a little different – Jewish style.
To this day Jews celebrate this deliverance on Purim. Granted, Purim is in March, but I couldn’t wait, so we are having a little Purim celebration today. There are many Purim traditions:
1. Listen to the story of Esther, melodrama style – booing and cheering, which is what we are doing here.
2. They give gifts to the poor – I encourage you to put a little extra in to the jar for Indian orphans.
3. They have a big feast – we the have potluck.
4. There’s one tradition we won’t follow: Ancient rabbis said you were supposed to get so drunk you can’t distinguish between 'cursed be Haman' and 'blessed be Mordecai.”
For that matter, latter today, I don’t want you unable to tell the difference between “Go Packers!” and “Go Steelers.” But I don’t want you saying “Go Steelers!” at all.
Instructions: I’m going to pray and we will get started, but you need to know your part. Cheer whenever you hear Mordecai’s name, boo for Haman’s, and “ahhhh” for Esther’s.
Prayer (Actors take places)
The meaning of esther
· Curtain call.
Q What is the theme of Esther? Deliverance?
Partially. I think what has made it so popular holiday among the Jews is that over the past 2,500 years, God has protected his people, from the pogrom in Russia to the Holocaust.
· But there are a lot of stories of deliverance in the Bible; something makes Esther special.
There is something very strange about Esther: God is never mentioned by name in the entire book. I actually had to caution the actors not to mention God in their dialogue.
Between the lines
It’s not just that he isn’t mentioned, he is conspicuously absent. The author is very intentional not to mention him. This isn’t an oversight, it is his point.
· It speaks of fasting, which is naturally associated with prayer and calling out to God.
· It uses the “Divine Passive,” saying something happens without saying who, implying that it’s God (Esther 4:14).
Q What is the author’s point?
· Even when you can’t see God, he is still there, working behind the scenes, from Vashti’s fall to Mordecai’s eavesdropping.
In some ways, I can relate more to Esther than any other book the Bible: I didn’t see God part the Red Sea, I haven’t seen Jesus raise anyone from the dead.
· I know God is always there, working behind the scenes and between the lines, even when I can’t understand.
The message of Esther: no matter how distant or silent God seems, he is there, and he is working. And because he is, we know that our lives our not a tragedy; they have a happy ending.
In the words of the NT:
Romans 8:28 28 ¶ And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
It doesn’t say everything is good – Haman’s plot was not “good,” but that God is behind the scenes arranging all things for good.
Even if our lives our filled with sorrow and pain, we know that in eternity, God will redeem it all, and transform it into good.
· He is like a master weaver weaving temporary joys and sorrows together for a greater purpose that is for our good.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.
Called according to his purposes
But notice the very important qualifier: “who love him, who are called according to his purposes.” This isn’t a blanket promise.
· This isn’t because God doesn’t love everyone or want to work good for everyone (he does) but that he can’t.
God is everything that is truly and eternally good. If you don’t desire him, he has nothing else of eternal value to give you.
place your hope in God!
· To put it all together – place you hope in God; he loves you, he is watching out for you, he is there.
I hope that as you go through challenges in the next week, month, and years, you will remember this silly drama, and remember that God is there, even when you can’t see or feel him.
I want to talk very briefly about the communication cards.
Q How many of you have been filling them out?
I know we all hate busy work, so I wanted to give you all a glimpse of how effective they have been. In the three weeks of having all of you collect cards:
I have been able to send about 10 emails and notes to first and second time visitors.
· 10 people have asked about membership.
· 4 people have asked about the “Foundations of Faith”
· 7 people have asked about community groups
· 5 people have asked about serving.
Prior to us all filling out cards, in the same three weeks we would maybe have 1-2 people ask about all of the above in that same time.
Additionally, we have always had room for prayer requests, and we would received (and pray for 1-2 a month). Since the new cards, it has been 3-4 a week.
· All that to say, thank you for serving with your time. It takes a little effort, but it is well worth it.
Furthermore, as God knows that we will take care of those he sends to us, he will send more our way. Keep it up, keep praying for us, and pray and fast tomorrow.
· I am looking forward to our “Purim-styled” study of Esther, complete with a play, but there is one tradition we won’t keep...(link to blog post about Purim celebration)
· Get more info about LYW
· Stay for potluck
· Talk to one person you don’t know
Objectives of sermon:
· Remind us that God is there, even when we cannot see him.