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For Such a Time as This - Part 1

Notes & Transcripts

For Such a Time as This

Part 1

Esther 1:1-22 (Reading vs. 1-12)

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - May 20, 2012

*For such a time as this. Many of us know Esther as a favorite Bible story, a story of taking a stand to do the right thing, a story of God taking care of His people. And as we begin to take a look at Esther, it’s good to know some of the background.

*The events in this book took place almost 500 years before the birth of Christ. The Jews had begun to return home after 70 years in Babylonian captivity.

*Bruce Wilkinson tells us that the story of Esther’s life fits between chapters 6 and 7 of Ezra, between the first return led by Zerubbabel and the second return led by Ezra. So the Book of Ezra deals primarily with the restoration of the Jewish people after the Exile, Nehemiah deals with their physical and spiritual reconstruction, and Esther deals with their preservation.

*Esther is a most dramatic story with unexpected twists and turns. . . It is still read on the Feast of Purim. . . It provides the only biblical portrait of the vast majority of Jews who choose to remain in Persia rather than return to Palestine after the Exile. . . Not all of the godly people left. Some did not return to Israel for legitimate reasons, but most were disobedient in staying in Persia. Nevertheless, God continued to care for His people in voluntary exile. (1)

*God’s hand of providence and protection on behalf of His people is evident throughout the book, though His name does not appear even once. Though the name of God is not in Esther, -- His finger is. (2)

*Well, what in the world does all of this have to do with us?

-We will see that it has a lot to do with us.

-In this passage of Scripture, God gives us 5 lessons as timely as today.

1. The first lesson is that we need leaders who love the Lord.

*Vs. 1-4 remind us of this crucial truth:

1. Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus (this was the Ahasuerus who reigned over 127 provinces, from India to Ethiopia),

2. in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the citadel,

3. that in the third year of his reign he made a feast for all his officials and servants -- the powers of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the princes of the provinces being before him.

4. when he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty for many days, one hundred and eighty days in all.

*We need Godly leaders. But Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes) comes across as ungodly here. He seems extravagant and vain in vs. 4, by showing the riches of his glorious kingdom and splendor of his excellent majesty for 180 days!

*I wonder how much money was wasted on this lavish feast. Where did he get the money? -- As we look at the governmental leaders in this book we see a huge problem with greed and corruption, waste and extravagance.

*It reminds me of the ongoing GSA Scandal about the big party they threw out in Vegas that cost over $800,000. (3)

*We could talk all night about the scandals of the Obama administration. Much of it has been covered up, but there is no way to cover up what the President did on May 9th. That was the day that President Obama had an interview with ABC News to announce his support of legalizing same-sex marriage. (4)

*We don’t have time to go into great detail about homosexuality tonight, but here are a few important truths:

-All of us “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23).

-None of us chooses how we are tempted, but all of us can choose how to respond to temptation.

-And Jesus came to set the captives free! (Isaiah 61:1)

*But when it comes to whether or not homosexuality (or anything else) is right or wrong, here is the bottom line: We can never say that something is right, if God says it is wrong. And God does say that homosexuality is wrong, both in the Old Testament and the New. (Romans 1 gives a clear example.)

*And we need Godly leaders in our country! From the top of our courts to the mayors of our cities, pray for Godly leaders.

*God shows us here that we need leaders who love the Lord.

2. The next lesson is that we should avoid the dangers of alcohol.

*We find this lesson in vs. 5-11, where they continued to party for 7 more days. It was a lavish feast with much drinking, so vs. 7 says: “They served drinks in golden vessels, each vessel being different from the other, with royal wine in abundance, according to the generosity of the king.”

*Trouble started vs. 10-11:

10. On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus,

11. to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold.

*The king was drunk when he commanded his eunuchs to bring the queen before that crowd. He wanted to put Queen Vashti on display, but not in a good and godly way.

*Bible scholar Albert Barnes reported that this command, was contrary to Persian customs. (5)

*John Gill said the request was not wise or proper or safe. She probably knew that he was drunk and thinking foolishly.

*[This request] was contrary to the law of the Persians, which [did not allow] women to be seen in public; and particularly did not allow their wives to be with them at feasts, only their concubines and harlots, with whom they could behave with more indecency. As for their wives, they were kept out of sight, at home. Therefore Vashti might think it an indignity to be treated as a harlot or concubine. One of the ancient Jewish Targums reported that the King actually requested her to appear before that drunken mob wearing nothing but her crown. (6)

*Bruce Wilkinson tells us that King Xerxes was a boisterous man of emotional extremes, whose actions were often strange and contradictory. (1)

-James Gray adds that King Xerxes was a sensual, fickle, and cruel despot. (7)

-And the king was drunk when he gave this ungodly command. -- So we see the dangers of alcohol.

*They partied for 187 days! -- My first thought on that over-the-top feast was that we don’t have many people who party for 6 months straight. But there are a lot of people in America today who would party like that if they could

*Then I realized that there are people here who do party for 6 months or more. As a matter of fact, I partied for 6 years, back when I was young, foolish and lost. I don’t mean that partying was the only thing I did. But it was the only thing I lived for.

*And there are lots of people living like that today, even in a small-town place like Caldwell Parish. “Let the good times roll!”

*According to the CDC, 64% of Americans drink alcohol and 50% are ‘regular drinkers’. (8)

-MADD estimates that this year, 10,839 people will die in drunk-driving crashes, one every 50 minutes.

-One in three people will be involved in an alcohol-related crash in their lifetime.

-One in three 8th graders drinks alcohol.

-One in five teens binge drink.

-Every minute, one person is injured from an alcohol-related crash. (9)

-And 64% of murders are associated with alcohol. (10)

*But I don’t have to look at statistics to know that alcohol is a problem. Both of my mother’s parents were alcoholics. And the relationship was so strained that after my mom married my dad, she broke off all contact with my grandparents. The only time I ever visited my grandparents’ home in South Carolina was for their funerals.

*Then I can look back at my own experience. It is a miracle of the grace of God that I am able to stand here before you tonight. I should have died in my car many times.

*No wonder the Bible warns us so strongly about the dangers of alcohol.

-Proverbs 20:1 says, “Wine is a mocker, intoxicating drink arouses brawling, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”

-Proverbs 23:29-32 asks:

29. Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?

30. Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine.

31. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly;

32. at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper.

*Here God shows us to avoid the dangers of alcohol.

3. But He also reminds us that we should risk doing the right thing.

*This is what Queen Vashti appears to do in vs. 12: “But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command brought by his eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him.”

*Vashti was trying to do the right thing by disobeying the king’s drunken request. But there was a price to pay. We see the cost to Vashti starting in vs. 13:

13. Then the king said to the wise men who understood the times (for this was the king's manner toward all who knew law and justice,

14. those closest to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who had access to the king's presence, and who ranked highest in the kingdom):

15. "What shall we do to Queen Vashti, according to law, because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus brought to her by the eunuchs?''

*And down in vs. 19, one of the king’s counselors came up with a plan:

19. If it pleases the king, let a royal decree go out from him, and let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it will not be altered, that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she.

*Then in vs. 21:

21. And the reply pleased the king and the princes, and the king did according to the word of Memucan.

*The world and the crowd will often disapprove when we try to do the right thing. And there can be a high price to pay for doing the right thing. We don’t know everything that happened to Vashti as a result of her stand. But she paid a high price. Her royal estate was given to another.

*Sometimes doing the right thing costs the highest price.

*Pastor Wayne Rouse saw that so clearly in the life and death of a girl named Alice. Alice was a childhood friend of Wayne’s wife back in Cozad, Nebraska. Alice’s mother and grandmother had a reputation for being the “worst of the worst.” They made life miserable for Alice, her brothers and her sisters.

*Driving drunk one afternoon, Alice’s mother and grandmother had all the kids in the car, when they stalled on the train tracks. Off in the distance a freight train blew its whistle, and Alice could see the train racing toward them.

*When Alice realized that her mother and grandmother were too drunk to understand the danger they were in, she began to get her brothers and sisters safely out of the car. Then she dragged both her mother and grandmother out.

*But as she pulled them to safety, the train hit the car at 60 mph, and Alice was killed. The highest price was paid to do the right thing.

*Wayne Rouse summed up the meaning of Alice’s death in the light of the cross. He wrote: “Our Lord and Savior expressed extravagant love for the unlovely, the wretched, the worst of the worst. He saved our lives while giving up His own. He experienced the full weight of sin and it smashed into Him at Calvary, while we stood at a safe distance and watched.” (11)

*Jesus paid the highest price to do the right thing. And God reminds us here that we should risk doing the right thing.

4. The 4th lesson for us tonight is that we have the right plan for family problems.

*They certainly had family problems in Persia, so they came up with a plan. We see it coming together in vs. 15-20, as the king asked:

15. "What shall we do to Queen Vashti, according to law, because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus brought to her by the eunuchs?''

16. And Memucan answered before the king and the princes: "Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes, and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus.

17. For the queen's behavior will become known to all women, so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes, when they report, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in before him, but she did not come.’

18. This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media will say to all the king's officials that they have heard of the behavior of the queen. Thus there will be excessive contempt and wrath.

19. If it pleases the king, let a royal decree go out from him, and let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it will not be altered, that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she.

20. When the king's decree which he will make is proclaimed throughout all his empire (for it is great), all wives will honor their husbands, both great and small.”

*They had family problems in Persia, so they had a plan. Of course we also have family problems today. -- But we have an infinitely better plan.

-God’s Word has the perfect plan for family life.

-And since God created the family, it makes perfect sense to follow His plan.

*Vs. 20 actually parallels God’s plan, because it is part of God’s plan for wives to honor their husbands. One reason why is because God designed men with a built-in need for respect. And all things being equal, men respond to respect.

*Giving honor to your husband is the woman’s responsibility. But the problem with the Persian plan is that they didn’t do anything about the man’s responsibility. And that’s a shame, because the problem at this point of the story wasn’t the wife. -- It was the husband.

*This was a classic case of how not to treat a woman. But God shows us how. My favorite place to see it is Ephesians 5, where the key verse for husbands is vs. 25, where Paul says: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church & gave Himself for it.”

*That great love is a major part of God’s family plan. Jeremy Houck tells about a young husband who was doing everything possible to move up in his company.

*In just 3 weeks he had built up 52 hours of overtime working on a new project. Then one night he slipped in after midnight, and quietly crawled into bed next to his new bride. His wife felt him get in the bed, and woke up long enough to say, “You’ve got to alphabetize.”

*He was a little confused and asked her, “What do you mean?”

-Without missing a beat she replied, “Wife comes before work.” (12)

*That’s Bible! -- How do we know? -- God tells us to work. But He doesn’t tell us to love our work the way Christ loved the church. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it.”

*Church: We’ve got the right plan for families in trouble today: God’s plan.

5. We’ve also found the King worth following. This is the 5th lesson for us tonight: We’ve found the King worth following.

*Aren’t you glad that Xerxes is not your king? -- He had the greatest earthly power of his day. But we follow a King whose power stretches forever, -- from one end of the universe to the other!

*Our King is Jesus Christ!

-He never gets drunk.

-He never mistreats His subjects.

-He’s never selfish.

-He’s never angry without a good reason.

*Jesus always does the right thing at the right time in the right way.

-He loves us in a God-sized way.

-And He even died on the cross for our sins.

*Jesus Christ makes the difference.

-In our society.

-In our families.

-In our hearts.

-In our eternity.

*Thank God that Jesus Christ is your King tonight!

-He has made the difference in our lives.

-And He can use us to make a difference in our world.

*The Lord wants us to know all of these things, for such a time as this.

-Let’s go to God in prayer.

1. Adapted from Bruce Wilkinson - “Walk through the Bible”

2. Adapted from “Easton’s Book Synopsis”

3. “GSA Vegas scandal prompts bills that would gut spending on federal agency conferences” - “Washington Post” - “Politics” - Posted at 11:40 AM ET, 04202012 - By Ed O'Keefe

4. Family Research Council (FRC) - Washington, D.C. - May 9, 2012 - J.P. Duffy or Darin Miller, (866) FRC-NEWS or (866)-372-6397 - www.frc.org

5. “Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible” - Esther 1:11

6. Adapted from “John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible” - Esther 1:11-12

7. “Gray’s Home Bible Commentary - Citation: - ESTHER CHAPTERS 1-7 - Chapter Heading: - THE JEWS IMPERILLED” by James M. Gray

8. www.myaddiction.com/education/articles/alcohol_statistics.html

9. 2012 Statistics from MADD - http://www.madd.org/statistics/

10. SermonCentral illustration contributed by Jason Cole

11. Sermon: “The Cross We Do Not Want to See” by King Duncan - Passion/Palm Sunday, Matthew 26:14-27:66 - Source: “Dynamic Preaching” - March 1996, Vol. XI, No. 3

12. SermonCentral illustration contributed by Jeremy Houck

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