For Such a Time as This
Part 2: God’s Plan for His People
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - May 27, 2012
*Last week we began to look at this story of Esther that took place almost 500 years before Jesus was born. The Jews had begun to go home after 70 years of Babylonian captivity, but many of them remained it Persia. It was the greatest empire of the day, stretching all the way from India to Ethiopia. And it was ruled by King Ahasuerus, who was also called Xerxes.
*Xerxes was a rowdy, carnal, fickle, cruel despot. And at the end of a 6-month drunken celebration, the king commanded that the queen be brought before that crowd. He wanted to put Queen Vashti on display in an ungodly and indecent way, but Queen Vashti refused.
*In his drunken rage, King Xerxes agreed to a plan to take the crown away from Vashti and give it to another. Here in Esther 2, the king’s plan began to unfold.
*What does all of this have to do with us? -- The answer is: A lot, because Xerxes may have had a plan, but God had a greater plan.
*From the courts of Persia to Grayson, Louisiana on a Sunday night, God always has a plan for His people.
-And there are lessons for us tonight in this part of Esther.
1. First: Rejecting God’s way leads to a sick society.
*We can see the sickness starting in vs. 1-4:
1. After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus subsided, he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what had been decreed against her.
2. Then the king's servants who attended him said: "Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king;
3. and let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather all the beautiful young virgins to Shushan the citadel, into the women's quarters, under the custody of Hegai the king's eunuch, custodian of the women. And let beauty preparations be given them.
4. Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.'' This thing pleased the king, and he did so.
*Verses 1-4 don’t seem too different from today. It reminds me a little of “American Idol” and all of those dating reality shows that seem to be so popular today. Except that back in Persia, it probably wasn’t voluntary. If the king’s officer told you to come, -- you had to come.
*The corruption becomes clearer down in v. 12-14:
12. Each young woman's turn came to go in to King Ahasuerus after she had completed twelve months' preparation, according to the regulations for the women, for thus were the days of their preparation apportioned: six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women.
13. Thus prepared, each young woman went to the king, and she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the women's quarters to the king's palace.
14. In the evening she went, and in the morning she returned to the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch who kept the concubines. She would not go in to the king again unless the king delighted in her and called for her by name.
*The Jewish historian, Josephus, reported that eventually, Xerxes greatly regretted rejecting Vashti. But he could not take her back, because the judgment was irreversible under the laws of his empire. Therefore, to make him forget Vashti, they planned to entertain him with a great number of concubines, so Xerxes could choose the best of them as his new wife. The whole empire was searched for beautiful, young virgins.
*Those chosen were prepared for 12 months before being taken to the king. And after the king had once taken them to his bed, they were made recluses for the rest of their lives, unless the king desired to send for them. These women were looked upon as secondary wives, and could not marry another. (1)
*And all of this was the result of rejecting the true God who created men and women, the true God who designed a perfect plan for family life.
*Well, thank God, it’s not that bad in America today, but we are well on the way. In 1996, Robert Bork wrote a book about the decline of American culture. He called it, “Slouching Towards Gomorrah.”
*Now we are 16 years farther down that road, and we could discuss countless examples. But a picture is worth a thousand words, and this week Bill Clinton went to a big gala in Monaco, where he posed for photos with two adult film starlets. That says a lot. (2)
*Rejecting God’s way always leads to a sick society.
-That’s the first lesson tonight.
2. The second lesson is that God wants his servants to stand in the gap.
*This is the main point of the whole Esther story, but here in chapter 2 we see a preview in the life of Mordecai. Please look back at vs. 5-7:
5. Now in Shushan the citadel there was a certain Jew whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite.
6. Kish had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captives who had been captured with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away.
7. And Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle's daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman was lovely and beautiful. When her father and mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.
*Mordecai was a good and Godly man. Even though he had been brought up in a pagan land, he was raised in a Godly home and he lived a Godly life. So Mordecai was the kind of man who was able and willing to stand in the gap for others.
*And a great need came up in his own family. Mordecai’s aunt and uncle had died, leaving their daughter as an orphan. And Mordecai stood in the gap to bring up his young cousin, Esther.
*When Esther’s father and mother were dead, Mordecai reared her as his own daughter. And Esther was able to stand in the gap for her people years later, only because Mordecai stood in the gap for her when she was a little girl.
*In Ezekiel 22, the Lord had the prophet list many of the sins that led to the Babylonian captivity. Then in Ezekiel 22:30, the Lord said: “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.”
*After the captivity, Mordecai stood in the gap for his family. God is still looking for people to stand in the gap today. And we can do it.
*Standing in the gap is certainly a Godly thing to do. And we know that because Jesus stood in the gap for us when He died on the cross for our sins. No one has ever stood in the gap more than Jesus Christ. And we are never more like Christ than when we stand in the gap for others.
*Even children can stand in the gap for other people. Barbara Vogel helps us see this truth. In 1998, Barbara was a fourth grade teacher at Highline Community School in Aurora, Colorado. Barbara began to read about the civil war in Sudan.
*Muslims in the north were rounding up Christians in southern Sudan, and selling them into slavery. Barbara began telling her class about it as a part of their current events lessons. The children could not believe that slavery still took place. And they decided to do something about it.
*So they started what they called “S.T.O.P.” -- “Slavery That Oppresses People.” The kids learned about a group called “Christian Solidarity.” This organization buys slaves back and returns them to their families.
*The kids started saving their allowances to raise money. They also sold lemonade, T-shirts and old toys. Then they started a letter writing campaign to newspapers and public officials. In 9 months those fourth graders raised more than $50,000, and more than 5,000 slaves were set free through their efforts.
*Congress gave the class special recognition. And Barbara Vogel later said, “As a public-school teacher, I cannot say (in class) that Christ is the most important thing in my life, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t model my faith.” (3)
*Barbara and her class found a way to stand in the gap. And that’s what the Lord wants us to do.
3. The third lesson for us here is that God has a heavenly purpose for our earthly success.
*We see Esther’s success starting in vs. 8&9:
8. So it was, when the king's command and decree were heard, and when many young women were gathered at Shushan the citadel, under the custody of Hegai, that Esther also was taken to the king's palace, into the care of Hegai the custodian of the women.
9. Now the young woman pleased him, and she obtained his favor; so he readily gave beauty preparations to her, besides her allowance. Then seven choice maidservants were provided for her from the king's palace, and he moved her and her maidservants to the best place in the house of the women.
*Then Esther’s success multiplied in vs. 15-17:
15. Now when the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his daughter, to go in to the king, she requested nothing but what Hegai the king's eunuch, the custodian of the women, advised. And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her.
16. So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.
17. The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.
*Esther and her uncle Mordecai were both greatly promoted in this book. This fact reminds us that there is nothing wrong with earthly success, per se. We need Godly leaders in sports, the arts, education, entertainment, government, medicine and the law.
 One of the worst things we could do is withdraw from the world. -- God doesn’t want us to do that.
*Jesus wants us to be the salt and the light of the world! Listen to the Lord from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:13-16. Here the Lord told His followers:
13. “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
14. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
16. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
*So, it’s alright for us to pursue success, as long as we keep a Biblical perspective, remembering something else Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
*God doesn’t want us to withdraw from world.
 But He also doesn’t want us to sell out to the world. We are supposed to take a stand for goodness, love and light. Most of all, we are supposed to take a stand for Jesus Christ.
*God has a heavenly purpose for our earthly success, even when we don’t realize it. Esther certainly didn’t realize her purpose at the time she was chosen to be the queen.
-But God had a heavenly purpose for her life.
-And God has a heavenly purpose for our earthly success.
4. The fourth lesson here tonight is simply that the right choice changes everything.
*King Xerxes actually reminds us of this truth in vs. 17, which says, “The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”
*Esther was chosen. And what a difference that made for the king, for Esther, and for all of her people.
*King Xerxes’ choice also made a big difference for us, because God’s primary purpose at this point was to preserve the bloodline of His covenant promise with Abraham and David. And Esther was the instrument used by the Hand of God to preserve His people.
*See, God had already made a choice. The Lord had chosen the Jews as the people of His Old Testament covenant. Listen to it from Deuteronomy 7:6-8, where the Lord told them:
6. “. . . You are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.
7. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples;
8. but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
*The Lord had chosen His people, and the Father had chosen His Messiah. Listen to this insight from Matthew 12:14-21:
14. Then the Pharisees went out and took counsel against Him, how they might destroy Him.
15. But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there; and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all.
16. And He warned them not to make Him known,
17. that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
18. "Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen, my Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles.
19. He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.
20. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory.
21. And in His name Gentiles will trust.''
*Jesus was chosen to come from Heaven to Earth.
-Chosen to die on the cross for our sins.
-And chosen to rise again, because He never deserved to die.
*Now we must choose. As Joshua told the children of Israel: “If it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
*Serve the Lord! -- Because God has a plan for His people.
-Rejecting His way leads to a sick society
-He wants his servants to stand in the gap
-He has a heavenly purpose for your earthly success
-And the right choice changes everything.
*Let’s go to the Lord in prayer.
1. Adapted from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible - Esther 2:1-20
3. SermonCentral sermon “The Year Hope Died” by Rodney Buchanan - Isaiah 6:1-13