Unseen God | Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther PART IV | Mourning Injustice | Esther 4
September 27, 2020 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: Unseen God: Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Esther 4
Christopher Rich – September 27, 2020
Unseen God | Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther
PART IV| | Mourning Injustice | Esther 4
Introduction | Passivity is Not Humility
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 have you lost this year? What has changed in a way that has caused you to move from pretty good to melancholy? What pain have you experience that has actually caused you to need to mourn. Maybe it’s personal or it’s something you’ve seen happen to others. What injustice have you seen or experienced? How do you typically react? How have you reacted to the pain, lose, and injustice around us? Has it lead you anger, activism, or paralyzed you with passivity? Passivity is not humility. Most of us want to or are inclined to live peaceful lives. But even when I say that, we are mistaking “peaceful” lives with conflict free lives. We love NW nice and so we get really uncomfortable with people expressing opinions different that the mainstream of the day. When we are faced with grave injustice, we are not to cooperate with it or capitulate to it. We are to be confronted with the truth of a situation and then be humbly conformed to God’s will which will include processing grief and may include confronting injustice so our mourning can be turn to joy.
PART I | Mourning | Esther 4:1-5
Esther 4:1-5 | When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry. 2 He went up to the entrance of the king's gate, for no one was allowed to enter the king's gate clothed in sackcloth. 3 And in every province, wherever the king's command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes. 4 When Esther's young women and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed. She sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king's eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this was and why it was.
Mourning (v1-5) – The self-centered king of Persia has dismissed his bride the queen launched a massive war, taken all the eligible young women in the nation for himself (not once but twice) made Esther (a jewish minority, orphan, exile) his new queen. Dodged an assignation attempt (thanks to the heads up from Mordechai) promoted the sinister Haman to second in command. Haman is disrespected by Mordechai leading to Haman’s genocidal plot to become the Persian Hitler complete with a set date for the “final solution” to be literally executed eliminating all Jews in Persia… and effectively ending the potential for God’s promise to send a savior TO the nations FROM the nation of Israel. This is real pain, real injustice, causing real mourning and lament. When we are first made aware of injustice with tender hearts our reaction should be one of mourning. Mordechai is responding the truth of the situation with true lament.
Let’s stop pretending everything is ok. God is like you don’t have to pretend… I know it’s bad. Grief is a natural and health response that comes out of us when we experience or are keenly aware of injustice and pain. Grief is agreeing with God that there has been an injustice and/or loss. (unknown)
Mordechai is expressing grief and pain of a clear injustice with a public protest. One that is not “legally permitted” but he’s right at the line “I won’t go in because you cannot be in the “King’s gate” if you’re not properly dressed and certainly if you’re in sackcloth (universal sign of mourning) you cannot be anyway near power. We have to maintain a pretense in the presense of the King that everything is ok. But Mordechai is right up front, out in public, right at the entrance for all to see. He’s not alone in his grief, pain and peaceful protest. It’s become a movement across the empire joined by all with whom are experiencing the injustice and who stand under the cloud of condemnation. You have an entire portion of the population who is collectively in grief over the fresh condemnation of Haman’s plot an power over them. Jews in Persia lament the plot with sackcloth, torn clothes, and shed tears. Corporate injustice equals corporate lament.
Why is it difficult for us to mourn properly? One thing we don’t do well is acknowledge, lament, process. Why is it easier for us to hide or conceal our pain and grief than it is share it with others or process it in healthy ways? We don’t process grief well because we don’t like to interact with pain. We fail to process grief or mourn injustice in the following ways: We pretend it didn’t happen or isn’t happening that way there isn’t really anything wrong. (I did this last week with a leaky toilet in our home) We compartmentalize (that was the past time to move on). We minimize (it wasn’t really that bad) each of these are completely ineffective because it leaves us emotionally constipated and/or the grief and pain will come out in unhealthy or unproductive ways. If we can be honest about our grief then we have an opportunity put it in its proper perspective, and process in a way that is profitable in moving forward. Grief at times has to be brought out and shared with others so we can remember we’re known and so others can process too.
If we are uncomfortable with our own grief than we are really uncomfortable with the grief of others.
Esther becomes aware of this protest (though not aware of the particulars of the ”why” yet) and her response is to be “deeply distressed”. We know she’s distressed by the protest and not by the injustice because of how she tries to “help”. She sends him nice clothes to wear. Just cover up your pain, turn your frown upside, smile, or just don’t be abnormal. It makes us incredibly uncomfortable. We want to rush to the happy ending, to the courageous turning point, to the promises of victory, rather than sitting in soaking in and processing the truth of how much we’ve been wounded. We might be missing what God is doing now.
Let’s be uncomfortable for a moment. How many of you have lost something this year (season) how many of you have been angry and or short tempered? How many of you have had fear about the future of our society/country/community or family/individual health and flourishing. Hand ups… even you introverts. I want us to know collectively, we are not alone in our grief, sorrow, pain. Let lament of corporate injustice be expressed with corporate lament. Take a moment in your mind to name that which is most painful that you’ve lost or fear. Now turn that lament into a prayer not asking for God to fix or change it but in coming to God with your grief with the expectation that God has care and compassion for us in our grief. Know God hates injustice that God’s desire for us is abundant life and God is one who walks with us in our pain.
PART II |Providence and Action | Esther 4:6-14
Esther 4:6-14 |6 Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king's gate, 7 and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king's treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. 8 Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people. 9 And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, 11 “All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.” 12 And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. 13 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Maybe we don’t think there is much to mourn. We need to be humbly inquisitive more than we need to be blissfully ignorant. Sometimes we don’t know how to grieve well with others or are not moved to action because we don’t understand the nature and depth of pain and or injustice others are or have experienced. We need to not be aloof from injustice but aware of it, which requires a humbly posture of listening and empathizing. We come back to word that is so important, curiosity. Esther’s compassionate curiosity drives her to seek the “why” behind the grief. Using Hathach as her go between she “does some research” and is presented with the clarity of the depth of the issue at hand. Who is behind the injustice, what is driving the injustice, who is benefiting, who is the victim and the victimizer? What are the stakes? How can it be addressed? The dirty details of what is coming for God’s people if nothing changes.
Haman is behind the injustice but the King is propping him up because he hopes to benefit from the injustice. The King be protected from anymore “mal contents” or those who are un patriotic, Persian culture is preserved, and the treasury will be prosperous as 750klbs (375 Tons) of silver will be paid this is the equivalent of 2/3 of annual revenue to the Persian government at the time. The details of the plan are all out there to see but she’s been shielded from most of it. Just because we are blind to or haven’t seen or experienced injustice doesn’t mean it’s not there. We saw last week the city has been sent into confusion. Now there are public protest and lament happening all over the empire. Neighbors, friends, business partners, are all impacted. This is and will tear at the very fabric of this civilization. In action or passivity doesn’t seem to be an option because the stakes are both the life and flourishing of God’s people and the fulfillment of God’s promises. Mordechai in his response give a clear “command” More than feeling bad about it, or just praying, here is some specific action you can take! You have influence you have an office…. GO TO THE KING AND BEG AND PLEA for favor and to fix this!!!! What is the point of a position if you don’t use the power to help others (and also preserve yourself) when a crisis arises.
But there is a problem… It’s not lawful for her to go see the king. He’s got a bit of a legal wall up that anyone that shows up unannounced or disturbs him is going to get killed. And this totally seems in character for him. She has fallen out of favor with him at least in not being called in 30 days. The powers that be do not like the possibility of being challenged or confronted when they’re inflicting pain on others. In order to pursue justice, life, and flourishing, she is going to have to practice a level of civil disobedience that could lead to painful consequences. She has to risk something for the prospect of gaining something great for her AND others. Awareness to Advocacy - Mourning over injustice should turn us to appeal for justice! We begin to see God’s “why” for Esther’s quick assent into the royal court. It is her people who have been decreed for destruction and she is in a unique position to attempt influence over the king “for such a time as this”.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
Lack of awareness of pain or injustice doesn’t mean we are immune to it. We have the illusion of safety that comes from living a quiet and no confrontational life. However, some issues need to be addressed. The truth needs to be told, and sometimes maintaining the status quo is actually to allow injustice and pain to continue and ultimately destroy the society. Mordechai let’s her know she’s not a protected as she thinks. He’s already outed himself as a Jew. Evil and injustice will not be appeased it is unrelenting. Haman will continue until every last Hebrew is killed. While she has hidden her nationally, Mordechai lets her know she’s going to be outed. Esther’s choice isn’t between safety or risk but between risking with the potential for life or compliance with the assurance of death.
Mordechai is displaying great faith for the situation. He’s not putting it all on Esther. He says if you don’t act relief and deliverance WILL rise from “another place”. That cannot be a Jewish upraising because they are simply powerless in the face of the Persian empire. He has a confidence that God is and will work in this situation. A guy who has been pretty reserved has move to resistance and resolve. It has to be faith in the providence of God. It’s unnamed but it’s not unknown. God doesn’t need your obedience, courage, or action to accomplish His purposes in the world. But you might need what God will accomplish in you through faithful obedience, courage, and action He’s called you to. The questions is not will the story end well, God has already promised over and over that it will. The question is, what will your role in the story be?
For such a time as this… For Esther, we are beginning to see the purpose for her pain and her current position. We know God appoints the time and places you live. Right now, a lot of us would rather live in a few other years or some other places. But the reality is by nature of us being right here and right now, we are here for “such a time as this”. Regardless of if you believe it or not, we were made for 2020. And we were meant for Western Washington. To be active agents of hope and faithfulness. We cannot wait to get the end when we are called to engage and endure with the present. We need an understanding of what God has called us to that doesn’t lead us to check out but to press in. We need courage.
PART III |Courageous Plot and Concerned Fasting | Esther 4:15-17
Esther 4:15-17 | 15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” 17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.
Courageous plot and concerned fasting - Esther’s initial reluctance to engage in this issue is met with persuasion from Mordecai that it is in her self-interest and self-preservation to work to reverse the direction of Haman’s plot. Her reticence is replaced with resolve that regardless of her personal cost she will step in help save her people from destruction. She invites the community to fast “on her behalf” to show support and solidarity. She will act as a mediator for He people to plea for their salvation which will require here during this “unprecedented time” to move beyond the stated restrictions set by the king for the purpose of pursuing what is truly best for her, her people, and the society at large. She knows what she is doing is against what the government has set, and knows there is the potential for painful consequences. This gets to the heart of courage. While Esthes is not a perfect heroin it doesn’t mean that she is no heroic in her actions. There is great risk involved that is seen as “worth it” for the purposes of reversing the course things are on. “If I perish, I perish” can only be said if there is a real threat that she could. She has calculated the consequences of inaction are greater than the potential of action. Through curiosity about the grief pain and injustice around her, Esther’s complacency and conformity have been replaced to conviction and courage.
PART III |Jesus mourns… Jesus acts and Jesus brings Joy | Isaiah 61:1-4
JESUS MOURNS WITH US – In Jesus, we have a savior king who not only hates injustice, but also comes to bring justice. He does not engage or even sacrifice reluctantly but rather for “the joy set before him endures the cross” so His people can be spared. Jesus is the God who feels with us and acts for us. This was promised a few hundred years before Esther and 700+ before Jesus arrival “for such a time.”
Isaiah 61:1-4 | The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. 4 They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
God’s mission in Jesus is to bring Good News where Bad News is reigning. It comes to the poor (or afflicted), the brokenhearted. Jesus comes to set captives free “or open up the eyes of the blind” to see what is true. That a year of God’s favor also includes a day Justice (vengeance). Comfort is there for those in mourning.
Ashes and grief are turned to anointed and gladness. Worry and weakness get turned to worship. Strength is given so they can endure and be a stable blessing to the world around it (the OAK). God doesn’t need our rooted life to sustain us but God may be using our stability to provide blessing to others. What has been lost and even rotten will be restored and renewed Jesus read this and said… this is me!! This is why God sent me.. I do this. They all cheered! Then he said “this healing is going far beyond the racial/religious lines you’re comfortable with and they raged….
He promised life from death and healing where there is mourning. Then he did it for Lazarus…. Right before He is about to raise His friend Lazarus from the dead, He weeps with the gathered mourners who only know loss. Jesus meets us in our mourning even when He is bringing new life engaging with our grief, agreeing with our greif for the purpose of our comfort and courage. Then he told us he would keep doing it.
John 16:20,22 | 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. ……… 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
Later that same night Jesus plead with the Father saying, “if there is any other way Lord let’s do that… but not my will, your will.” Jesus doesn’t risk the potential of pain and death, He is assured of it. Esther says “If I perish, I perish” Jesus doesn’t say IF. Jesus says “I will perish, so you WILL Live” Esther is a mediator that will risk suffering to plea for salvation, Jesus is a mediator who has suffered to secure salvation.
When has God called you to step out of your comfort zone to confront injustice? When have you been able to use a position of power or influence to engage with a difficult issue on behalf of others? Ask God to reveal where He has placed you to engage for His glory others joy. Thank God for the ways He has worked to expose injustice. Praise God that He deeply feels our pain and grief and that He is mighty to act in our lives and circumstances so we can engage and endure as we Trust Jesus!
More in Unseen God: Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther
October 18, 2020Unseen God | Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther PART VII | Justice Revealed | Esther 7
October 11, 2020Unseen God | Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther PART VI | Vindication Given | Esther 6
October 4, 2020Unseen God | Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther PART V | The Plan | Esther 5