For Such a Time as This
Part 5: Eternal Truth from Esther’s Trouble
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - June 17, 2012
*Four weeks ago, we began to look at this story 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 in Persia. It was the greatest empire of the day, stretching all the way from Ethiopia to India. And it was ruled by a carnal and often cruel king named Ahasuerus or Xerxes.
*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 Vashti refused. So in a drunken rage, King Xerxes agreed to a plan to take the crown away from Vashti and give it to another.
*In the Providence of God, against incredible odds, Esther the orphan and secret Jew was chosen to be the new queen. Esther’s selection as the new queen turned out to be a matter of life and death for the whole Jewish people. That’s because the new Prime Minister, Haman, hated the Jews and convinced the king to issue an irreversible decree to slaughter them all.
*Esther 3:13 explains that “letters were sent by couriers into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions.”
*Jews all over the empire were devastated when they heard the terrible news. But living in the isolation of the queen’s house, Esther did not know about the slaughter planned for her people, until she was alerted by Mordecai. He was the older cousin who adopted Esther upon the death of her parents.
*Communicating through messengers, Esther first learned of the murderous decree. Then she was persuaded to risk her life by coming before the king to plead for her people. Listen again to the heart of the drama in Esther 4:10-17:
10. Then Esther spoke to Hathach, and gave him a command for Mordecai:
11. "All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days."
12. So they told Mordecai Esther's words.
13. And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews.
14. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
15. Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai:
16. "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!"
17. So Mordecai went his way and did according to all that Esther commanded him.
*Now as we move into chapter 5, we can learn more eternal truth from Esther’s trouble.
1. First: God gives us a lesson from the urgent pardon.
*I am talking about the pardon that Esther so desperately needed from King Xerxes. We read about it in vs. 1-2:
1. Now it happened on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king's palace, across from the king's house, while the king sat on his royal throne in the royal house, facing the entrance of the house.
2. So it was, when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther went near and touched the top of the scepter.
*As strange as it may seem to us, Esther was facing the death penalty for appearing before the king uninvited. But vs. 2 tells us that Esther found “favor” in the sight of the king.
*The word translated as “favor” here also means “grace,” “graciousness” or “acceptance.” It’s the same word used in Genesis 6:8, where “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.”
*Esther desperately needed grace from King Xerxes, but we all need grace from the King of Kings. Thank God that we find His grace in the cross of Jesus Christ! -- As Paul tells Christians in Ephesians 2:4-9:
4. . . God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5. even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6. and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7. that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9. not of works, lest anyone should boast.
*Imagine how relieved Esther must have been when she saw the king raise his scepter to grant her a pardon.
-How foolish she would have been to reject the king’s pardon.
-But not as foolish as we would be to reject a pardon from God!
*And when Esther reached out to receive the king’s pardon in vs. 2, she not only found life, but abundant life. In vs. 3, the king said to her, “What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you up to half my kingdom!” Esther’s pardon reminds us of the abundant, eternal life we can all receive from Jesus Christ, the King of Kings.
*God gives us an important lesson from the urgent pardon.
2. And from the unexpected plan.
*Esther did something unexpected in vs. 3-8:
3. And the king said to her, "What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you up to half my kingdom!''
4. So Esther answered, "If it pleases the king, let the king and Haman come today to the banquet that I have prepared for him.''
5. Then the king said, "Bring Haman quickly, that he may do as Esther has said.'' So the king and Haman went to the banquet that Esther had prepared.
6. At the banquet of wine the king said to Esther, "What is your petition? It shall be granted you. What is your request, up to half my kingdom? It shall be done!''
7. Then Esther answered and said, "My petition and request is this:
8. If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, then let the king and Haman come to the banquet which I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said.''
*John Gill concluded that Esther delayed her request partly in hope of increasing his affection to her, and partly to prepare him to expect an important request. (1)
*That makes sense to me. But it’s not what I would have expected here, and not what most people would have done. Most people wouldn’t have waited two seconds before they complained to the king about Haman’s vicious plot.
*Why did Esther wait? Where did she get her plan? -- No doubt it came from God in answer to three days of prayer and fasting from Esther and God’s people.
*And the unexpected plan reminds me of the truth in Isaiah 55 that God’s ways are not like our ways. God’s plans have often been most unexpected.
-In Exodus 14:15-16, God’s people were trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army.
15. And the LORD said to Moses, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.
16. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
-When Joshua fought the Battle of Jericho, the walls came tumbling down, all in accordance with God’s plan for victory.
-Then in 2 Kings 5:10, Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army, and a good man, but he was sick with the terrible disease of leprosy. What was he to do? -- “Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.’”
*Unexpected plans: God how are you going to save my soul? -- We find the unexpected answer in Romans 10:8-13:
8. . . "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach):
9. that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11. For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."
12. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.
13. For "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
*This is the lesson from the unexpected plan.
3. But there is also a lesson from the uncontrolled pride.
*Starting in vs. 9, we see an example of out-of-control pride. It shows up in the evil Prime Minister, Haman, when he found out about his invitation to the queen’s second banquet.
9. So Haman went out that day joyful and with a glad heart; but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate, and that he did not stand or tremble before him, he was filled with indignation against Mordecai.
*(Pride cannot stand to be challenged.)
10. Nevertheless Haman restrained himself and went home, and he sent and called for his friends and his wife Zeresh.
11. Then Haman told them of his great riches, the multitude of his children, all the ways in which the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and servants of the king.
12. Moreover Haman said, "Besides, Queen Esther invited no one but me to come in with the king to the banquet that she prepared; and tomorrow I am again invited by her, along with the king.
*(Pride loves to brag.)
13. Yet all this avails me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.''
*(Pride is never satisfied without more.)
*C.S. Lewis wrote the best explanation of pride I have ever seen. Here is just a little of what Lewis said: “There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which everyone in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. . .
*According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. . .
-It was through Pride that the devil became the devil.
-Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind. . .
*Pride is essentially competitive . . . -- (It) gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. . .
*Pride has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. Other vices may sometimes bring people together. . . You may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people.
*But pride always means enmity -- it is enmity, and not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God. In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison, you do not know God at all.
*As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people. And, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. (2)
*This is the lesson from the uncontrolled pride.
4. But there is also a lesson from the ungodly plot.
*We see this plot against Mordecai in vs. 14: “Then (Haman’s) wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, ‘Let a gallows be made, fifty cubits high, and in the morning suggest to the king that Mordecai be hanged on it; then go merrily with the king to the banquet.’ And the thing pleased Haman; so he had the gallows made.”
-Notice that the ungodly plotter was pleased with cruelty and the death of an innocent man.
-Notice that the plot was based on advice from ungodly people. (It is almost always a big mistake to get advice from ungodly people.)
-And if you know the end of the story, you know that ungodly plotters plant the seeds of their own destruction.
-But the main thing to notice here is that ungodly plots are ultimately doomed to fail.
*Peter and John remind us of this truth in Acts 3&4. There they were going into the Temple to pray, when a poor beggar asked them for alms. That man had been lame for over 40 years, ever since the day of his birth. And in Acts 3:6, Peter told him: “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
*By the power of Christ, that man was miraculously healed. And it caused a great stir that gave Peter and John the opportunity to preach to the people about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Five thousand people were saved!
*But Peter and John were arrested and hauled before the high court. They were questioned and threatened, but both took a bold stand for the Lord. And the rulers were forced to let them go, because the healed man was there for everyone to see.
*Listen to the prayer the church prayed in Acts 4:24-30, after Peter and John reported everything that had happened.
24. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: "Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them,
25. who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: 'Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things?
26. the kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the LORD and against his Christ.'
27. For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together
28. to do WHATEVER YOUR HAND AND YOUR PURPOSE DETERMINED BEFORE TO BE DONE. (God is in control!)
29. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,
30. by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus."
*God is in control! -- So all ungodly plots are ultimately doomed to fail.
-God was working behind the scenes to help Esther.
-And He is working in our lives today.
*Let’s go to the Lord in prayer.
1. John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible - Esther 5:8
2. Adapted from “The Great Sin” from “Mere Christianity” by C. S. Lewis