Unseen God | Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther PART II | Horror of Pride | Esther 2:19- Ch3

September 20, 2020 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: Unseen God: Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Esther 2:19

Christopher Rich – September 20, 2020

Unseen God | Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther

PART II| | Horror of Pride | Esther 2:19- Ch3


Introduction | Entitlement vs Empathy

Good Morning Welcome to Mercy Fellowship where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we are continuing our series walking the through the book of Esther called UNSEEN GOD: Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther. Thank you for joining us! 

What do you expect (or expected) your life to be like? When you grew up or even now what do you expect life to be like? What are you entitled to experience? What you expect to be shielded or protected from? We walk in entitlement. We believe we are due decadence or at the very least deference, when we succeed all our good actions should receive a reward, people should be throwing parades for us and life should be a series of continual promotions and straight-line growth in wealth, influence, responsibility, pleasure, etc. When something interrupts this progress, we find it personally offensive and how we response tells us (and others around us) a lot about ourselves and the world we believe we live in. We do good or succeed we hate delayed gratification or denied honor. When we fail or know we’ve done something wrong we firmly believe our transgressions should be overlooked. In this current climate fear, insecurity (both personal and in the state of the world) have driven us to be more and more isolated and self-focused. This has made us more susceptible to self-preservation rather than self-sacrifice, fits of paranoia fueled by various conspiracy theories or the truth of brokenness in the world. In isolation and division we see us and them entitlement high and empathy is low. Honor is sought but horror is experienced.  How do you your sense of personal entitlement impact those around you? The driver of entitlement is pride, the driver of empathy is humility. Let’s find perspective in our pride in and hope for humility in Esther 2-3.

PART I | Mordechai Discovers a Plot | Esther 2:19-23

Esther 2:19-23 | 19 Now when the virgins were gathered together the second time, Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate. 20 Esther had not made known her kindred or her people, as Mordecai had commanded her, for Esther obeyed Mordecai just as when she was brought up by him. 21 In those days, as Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, became angry and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. 22 And this came to the knowledge of Mordecai, and he told it to Queen Esther, and Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai. 23 When the affair was investigated and found to be so, the men were both hanged on the gallows. And it was recorded in the book of the chronicles in the presence of the king.


Before we get to the great evil and looming tension in Esther 3 we’re given this small but very significant episode in the life of the Persian Court. Esther has been crowned Queen by “winning” in a nationwide human trafficking program where the King had a different virgin delivered to his bedroom nightly. He “loved” Esther the best and named her queen, but let’s not pretend the King has grown or reformed his ways. “You can take the boy out of the frat but not the frat out of the boy” Even though He “found his queen” it seems like the practice continued so frequently that at some point between year 7 of Esther 2 and year 12 of Esther 3, there needed to be a “second gathering of the virgins” Apparently when governments start a program they rarely end it. This also tells us a little bit about his marriage to Esther. 

It is during this season that we see Mordechai is “at the King’s Gate” this is a position of administration, justice, and a bit of influence (mid-level management) We learn Esther is still very loyal to Mordechai, she’s  obeying him like he’s dad and has kept her religious/ethnic identity secret (as we’ll see Mordechai has also) Ether’s relationship with Mordechai and her new position of influence is paying immediate dividends…for the King. Angry Eunuchs (should be redundant) who are in close proximity to the king (likely acting like secret service agents) are so fed up with the king and are now actively plotting to have him assassinated.  

This plot is discovered by Mordechai, who has choices in how to handle this. This plot is against the King who ordered all the pretty girls taken from their families and who took his cousin (adopted daughter). I mean wouldn’t Persia be better off without this king, wouldn’t Mordechai have plenty of motivation to help? Instead, and we don’t know why, he keeps the current order maintained by telling Esther of the plot for the purpose of saving the king. Esther tells the king “in the name of Mordechai”, who the king must trust enough to have an official investigation launched. The truth of the claim is established, and the two men are swiftly executed “being hung on the gallows” for all to see what happens when you cross the king . Mordechai’s good deed is recorded “in the chronicles in the presence of the king. If you are Mordechai what would you expect to have happen? I mean imagine if you just thwarted the Kennedy assignation? You  would expect to be entitled to some honor, some recognition or reward. Yes Mordechai was doing his job (you work for the government you’re expected to help the government) but surely this is worthy of praise. How often do we want to be rewarded and recognized simply for doing what is necessary? We’ll see sometime even our best or greatest service goes “unnoticed” by the world around us. Know that nothing is unseen to God, none of our work or life is truly in vain, but our reward is not always immediate. 


PART II |Promotion of Haman | Esther 3:1-6

Esther 3:1-6 | 1After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, and advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him. And all the king's servants who were at the king's gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage. Then the king's servants who were at the king's gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you transgress the king's command?” And when they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai's words would stand, for he had told them that he was a Jew. And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was filled with fury. But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.


In the wake internal betrayal, the king begins to limit his circle. We don’t hear as much about the “wise men” or the court moving forward, but instead there is a singular confidant/chief of staff that both has the king’s ear and authority. Often obedience or good works are not immediately rewarded. This incident did lead to a significant promotion… of Haman. While Mordecai was watching out for the King, the King promotes Haman who only watches out for himself.  Haman – Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse than Xerces for God’s people in Persia a more manipulative and sinister figure emerges as the primary villain in this story. Identified as an Agagite. He is a descendant of Agag, the wicked king of the evil Amalekites who God had justly devoted to destruction centuries earlier. Here is some important background.  Amalek attacks Israel during the Exodus in the wilderness, God decrees their ultimate destruction. (Ex 17) God was (and can be slow as we count slowness) to fulfill His decrees. Generations later God said “it’s time to bring the final end to Amalekites”  but who was spared by the unfaithfulness of King Saul in 1 Samuel 15.  God commands Saul to destroy King Agag and the Amalekites…. Saul does not… so Samuel the priest/prophet steps up an hacks him to pieces. Haman is from Agag’s family and has power in Persia. Mordechai can trace his family back to Saul. So this is more than Hatfield and McCoy’s. This is generations of hatred and hostility that has now put evil and pride in a position of power.

Pride Multiples - Culture of narcissism has emerged in the leadership that is bigger than just one leader it’s now part of the DNA King wants unquestionably obedience an honor and Haman does too. Now the number two in the entire kingdom and every official is required to give Haman honor due his position. Haman is backed by the king and wants to be treated like it. He’s seen this is what is valued in the organization and it fuels his personal pride. When we have an ember of pride and you pour on power or position and flame that ignites can either quickly burn us and scorch others around us. This is even compounded when it is protected by a narcissistic culture or others with power that tells you your responses and places of internal pride or external appearance don’t need to be assessed and addressed but are actually what qualifies you for your place in this culture. Haman wants glory, which is not wrong, but he seeks it in himself, which is. He’s reinforced by a King who only knows how to be self-centered. Honor is “commanded” for Haman. Honor commanded and not earned or granted is not honor at all.  


It is in this environment that Mordecai refuses to honor Haman, causing an opportunity for honor to turn to a path of horror. We don’t know if it was a principled stand (God says not to bow) or a personal preference because of the family histories but we know that a guy who has to this point kept his head down, stayed compliant, takes a stand more than once to not bow and/or honor Haman. It’s noticeable and conspicuous enough to the other officials around him who start to question not why don’t you honor Haman, but why are you disobeying the King? This continued day after day to the point where Mordechai eventually tells them his nationality. Mordechai has been hiding his racial and religious identity so well people don’t even know he isn’t Persian. When they find out he is Jewsish these guys go all “Karen 2020” and want to talk the manager about this. Where Haman was previously unaware of this offense but now that he knows of it and the source behind it his pride cannot let it go. When Haman learns why there is a lack of compliance from Mordechai it awakens centuries and generations of ethnic, racial and even familial strife and malice. 


Pride Limits Empathy and Maximizes Entitlement - Pride limits our ability to have compassion and empathy for others. But it also maximizes our ability for entitlement and condemnation of others. In order to have empathy we have to see the suffering and experience of others as worthy to know, understand, and have compassion for. It see others being wronged and righteous discontent or anger well up in us as we seek to have justice reign and mercy prevail. But when pride keeps the focus on us (or even how others see us) then our personal offenses become primary and the response is an unrighteous anger driven by our entitlement. 


Pride is Fragile and Pride Rages - Pride needs universal praise or it falls to utter despair or ultimate rage. Pride doesn’t just go away, it grows deeper and darker. Pride tells us the world, our lives, an our stories are ultimately about us. It distorts where Honor is due and where glory comes from. When we’ve formed a world view that the universe revolves around us and reality show up an contradicts it we respond with various degrees of wrath and rage because the world we’ve created is under attack and we must restore order where everything points back to us being the center.  When our pride is exposed and our world it turned on the axis we’ve set it on our response shouldn’t be rage, but a recognition of reality (I am not the center)  repentance (I cannot act as the center) and recalibration to what is true (God is the center and that is good for me) We need to go from glory seeking to glory reflecting. What does that look like? It looks like gratitude. What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude – Brene Brown


Generations of ethnic enmity and desired revenge built up to this time and place. Disrespect from one turned to distain for many. Consumed with plotting and self-promotion, Haman becomes the aspiring Hitler of Persia and unwitting tool of Satan to attempt to thwart God’s plan of redemption for His people. 

PART III |Genocidal Plot | Esther 3:7-15

Esther 3:7-15 | In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur (that is, they cast lots) before Haman day after day; and they cast it month after month till the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king's laws, so that it is not to the king's profit to tolerate them. If it please the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay 10,000 talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king's business, that they may put it into the king's treasuries.” 10 So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews. 11 And the king said to Haman, “The money is given to you, the people also, to do with them as it seems good to you.” 12 Then the king's scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and an edict, according to all that Haman commanded, was written to the king's satraps and to the governors over all the provinces and to the officials of all the peoples, to every province in its own script and every people in its own language. It was written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king's signet ring. 13 Letters were sent by couriers to all the king's provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. 14 A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province by proclamation to all the peoples to be ready for that day. 15 The couriers went out hurriedly by order of the king, and the decree was issued in Susa the citadel. And the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was thrown into confusion.


Genocidal Plot (v3:7-15) – His intensions are clear the only thing that will satisfy his pride is the pain of others. Haman cast lots/pur and it actually pushes the potential for evil back…. 11 months giving significant time for circumstance to change and for intervention to occur. We know in proverbs every lot cast is from the Lord. It is no accident the “random” time selected as the target date of the “final solution”. 


Pride Lies – Pride and privilege lies and say “you are better than others think you are AND others are worse than they actually are.” Haman appeals to the King’s pride and insecurity and in doing so spins a narrative that is full of what is negative and free of the positive of this party he seeks vengeance on. He leads with slander and fear. “These aren’t really your people. God’s people are not patriotic, they are not loyal, they have their own laws they don’t comply with you always AND they don’t profit you. They are scattered and they are every where so they need to rooted out.” Not only will the King be protected, Persia preserved, but the treasury will be prosperous as 750klbs (375 Tons) of silver will be paid this is the equalivate of 2/3 of annual revenue to the Persian government at the time. Verse 8-9 might as well be a QAnon/Pizzagate post turned into policy driving a king who has experienced betrayal to literally hand over the keys to the kingdom to Haman to do not “what is best for Persia” but “what seems good to” him. 


Edict goes out to every key official in every province. All authority is given to Haman and the result isn’t plan of glory, but a plot of genocide driven by generational sin. Pent up pride and vengeance are now unleased in a plot to “destroy, kill, and annihilate” every Jew in the empire. The condemnation is comprehensive as every man women and child of Jewsish decent are to be destroyed in one day. Ironically, the date this decree of destruction is given on the eve of  “Passover” when God’s people were celebrating His salvation and mighty deliverance from the evil Egyptians Empire. God’s people are constantly under the cloud of demonic threat, but God’s people are constantly under Devine providence. 


The king and Haman are comfortably celebrating, the capitol is in confusion, the Jews in condemnation, but is God who is and remains in control.  Because of our pride and sin, we all sit under a just decree of condemnation. We need a hero worthy of honor to save us and grant us mercy. 


PART III |Jesus IS worthy of Honor | Philippians 2:3-11   

Who are we in the story? I think we want to be the heroes or we can see how we are the ones needing saving, but we are slow to recognize the villain in all of us. We all have a Haman in inside us that is grasping for glory that burns with anger when our egos are not stroked properly and plots vengeance and advancement when we feel we’ve been denied our due. When we rage, feel threatened, insecure or crave honor, and it can manifest itself in ways that destructive to ourselves an unjust to others. Healing can begin and hope can be found when in humility we recognize that we all have a bit of Haman in our hearts. Jesus hates injustice and Jesus hate our pride. He hates it because he knows it robs us of the ability to see our deep need, or deep wounds, and it keeps us from seeing what will ultimately heal and give us life. We easily promote ourselves, but we are called in Philippians Chapter 2 to look to Jesus.


Philippians 2:3-11 |Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


When our perspective is the Perfect Jesus and EVERYONE else (including us) is imperfect the results shouldn’t be pride, but humility. Entitlement for ourselves should be turned to empathy for others. This isn’t a one-time revelation but a daily reorientation. There is a journey we’re invited to go on in killing conceit rather than having relationship killing pride. Curiosity (desire to know) = > Awareness (knowing) => Humility (acceptance) => Intentionality (repentance) = > Gratitude, Worship, Joy

We will not succeed in this, but we know Jesus has succeeded for us perfectly. We don’t need to grasp the mind of Christ but we’ve been given it. We have hope an motivation that the path of humility doesn’t condemn up humiliation but leads to a coronation the glory and honor we seek. Not in ourselves, but Jesus in our place. It is Jesus who humbled himself in obedience to God. Where Haman’s silver secured a decree of death for his sworn enemies, Jesus royal blood is even more valuable and He paid it to secure a destiny of life… for His sworn enemies! That’s not justice we deserve, that’s just mercy and grace given!


The result of Jesus great acts of self-humiliation isn’t ultimately disgrace but glory. Jesus was perfectly obedient and sacrificial for a purpose. It is at the feet and name of Jesus only that every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that He is Lord. The result is that all will bow and confess Jesus is Lord, because HE IS! He is worthy to bow to because He’s compassionate to humble himself FOR us. To restore the proper orientation. Knowing Jesus died for us both gives and reminds us of the great value we have to God AND it shows us how glorious God really is so we don’t have to be inflicted with the horror of pride, but can be humbled that we’re loved direct gratitude to where it is due when we Trust Jesus.