Unseen God | Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther PART V | The Plan | Esther 5

October 4, 2020 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: Unseen God: Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Esther 5:1–5:15

Christopher Rich – September 27, 2020

Unseen God | Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther

PART IV| | Mourning Injustice | Esther 4

 

Introduction | What’s your plan? 

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 is your plan? What drives “your plan”? Is it reactive or proactive? How do you deal with it facing adversity or doesn’t all come together? Is your “plan” usually about you or others? What happens when you “win” how do you feel, how long does that last? Where are you finding true and lasting satisfaction? 

Recap-  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. Esther struggles but processes through a journey of compliance and conformity leading to conviction and courage. She is not as safe as she thinks she is, but God is more active than we realize. Mordecai has confidence that God will deliver and raise up relief but Esther has been placed in this role and season for a reason. She is resolved to risk her life now to help her people rather than stand by and wait for things to get worse. The Jews in Susa fast with her and for her. Now it’s go time. In this chapter, two plans are laid out. One plan is developed for the Jews' destruction, and looks formidable. Esther's plan, the plan with the look of weakness - is developed for the salvation of God's people. Esther's plan is destined for success not because Esther is beautiful and brilliant, but rather because God's plan is unstoppable.   

 

PART I | “Esther’s” Plan | Esther 5:1-8

Esther 5:1-8 | On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king's palace, in front of the king's quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace. And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. And the king said to her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.” And Esther said, “If it please the king, let the king and Haman come today to a feast that I have prepared for the king.” Then the king said, “Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther has asked.” So the king and Haman came to the feast that Esther had prepared. And as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king said to Esther, “What is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” Then Esther answered, “My wish and my request is: If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my wish and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come to the feast that I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said.”

Prayer & Action - Fasting is the most explicitly spiritual aspect of Esther, denial for a purpose of being reminded how dependent you are. Fasting is so counter cultural to the setting of this book. It stands out in contrast to the near constant feasting we see both for the king’s glory and for the queen’s planning. We don’t know that it included prayer, but we don’t know that it didn’t. It’s likely. Regardless you see reliance, solidarity, patience and preparation all proceeding boldness and action. She’s prepared, includes putting on her “royal” robes, this is going to be official business and an intentional plan. Here’s the plan. 

 

Step #1 - First hurdle take bold step, don’t die.  If this plan is to get off the ground this has to be done.  She risks her life to appear before the King unsummoned. The king sees here she’s crossed the state line, risked death, but this time has been rewarded with favor from the king. She’s steady comes and touches (or kisses) the scepter in an official ceremony and she is addressed in her official capacity. He’s not like hey babe, it’s “What is your request “Queen Esther” she is received and recognized for her role. Check. 

 

Step #2 - Second steward the King’s favor. What now?  I’ll give you whatever you want up to half my Kingdom! Here is go time! Just ask right? Maybe not. She knows this guy is quick to throw this stuff out because it shows his significance. Ancient Greek Historian Herodotus, points out the king has given this offer before to a daughter-in-law(also a lover and His niece) that offer lead to the murder of his brother, sister-in-law (who the king also wanted as his) and several nephews. The king is so easily manipulated, and the results are not usually good. Earlier in Esther, he told Haman to do “whatever you see fit.” It’s matters how she proceeds. Come to a feast I’ve prepared for you (in our honor) and have Haman come too. Sure! A feast for me by my Queen! Hazzah! Get Haman and let’s get this going. She had already prepared it so it was more difficult for him to refuse, but let’s be honest this guy likely assumes he’s having a feast on the daily. Food, entertainment, and drink are had. The king is loosened up and makes his offer again…. 

 

Step #3 - Another feast? WHAT?!  (How is this a strategy for Victory?) At this point she’s got everyone in the room, she’s got the kings and there is a delay. She doesn’t come out and call out Haman, she don’t beg for the safety of her people or ask the king from taking the “embarrassing step of reversing course”. When the banquet comes, instead of telling the King, she delays again. She is steady, patient, strategic. She is urgent, but deliberate. She knows the king is fickle and capricious she needs to be calculating on how, when to garner favor. This seems like stalling the pace of this is so deliberate it is nearly painful, let’s get to the action! But she is playing the long game. She’s using tact, strategy, wooing for influence, planning for an effective outcome. Being strategic and savy isn’t contrary to Gospel it’s an outcome of being wise to the world and faithful to Jesus. Matthew 10:16 | “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.  Jesus tells His disciples to be prepared to engage to be wise, cunning, shrewd, and strategic. She is being urgent but unhurried. She seems slow but she’s really being savy. When there is an urgent situation we want it addressed quickly especially when there are high stakes. Patience is virtue but not one we particularly like. We want it instantly. When we don’t we begin to think God is somehow delaying and not active. It us assuming we know and have the whole plan figured out. 2 Peter 3:9 | The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

 

She is leading the King before the BIG ask. She’s going to have to get him to reverse an “irreversible” command, one that was initiated by the King’s top advisor/officer, that promises to increase the king’s treasury by 375 tons of silver. She would also have to expose her “why” (i.e. her Jewish identity) to compelling him on why it’s important for him/her risking her safety with Haman present and for the King to make this happen he’d have to be willing to lose literal tons of money and even more face and respect. For a level 10 narcissist this more than a big ask, it’s nearly impossible. She is bold but God is the Hero. 

Proverbs 21:1 The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.

She can be as prepared, bold, courageous, shrewd, and strategic as she wants but ultimately in this setting it is the King of Persia who has the power to end her request or grant it. Here it the term ‘grant’ won or found favor are used multiple times in this book and chapter. This king’s heart and whims play such a big role in this narrative, but they are directed by the will of a bigger God and Greater King. The second request for a banquet is accepted and the tension in the story builds as we anticipate the next meeting. 

 

PART II |Haman’s Plan | Esther 5:9-14

Esther 5:9-14 |And Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate, that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai. 10 Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home, and he sent and brought his friends and his wife Zeresh. 11 And Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king. 12 Then Haman said, “Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king. 13 Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.” 14 Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it. Then go joyfully with the king to the feast.” This idea pleased Haman, and he had the gallows made.

 

Royal Feast to Pity Party - We transition from patient and deliberate plan of Esther to pride and diabolical nature of Haman. He has been living his best life as he defines it. He’s been given access, just a great feast. He’s in the inner of inner circle of the King and Queen Esther. He is riding as high as you can get.

But then.. Mordecai. Look at this drop off and change attitude. Joyful and glad to vengeful and mad.  There is someone out there that isn’t impressed with us, that doesn’t honor us the way we think we deserve. In this case for Haman, Mordecai’s response (or lack of) is twofold. 1. He doesn’t rise with respect. 2. and/or doesn’t tremble with fear or reverence. Haman’s issue is one of worship, namely that Mordecai doesn’t see him as worthy of worship. This is more than enough for dramatic turn of mood from revelry to wrath. Not just a little annoyed he is “filled” with wrath. And yet is says he “restrained” himself, (so much self- control) Maybe it is because he knew that Mordecai is slated to die along with all the rest of God’s people months from now. However, that is little consolation for him as he wants the “disrespect” to end now. It’s like when you cannot sleep because there is someone wrong on the internet. He goes home and calls up his friends. 

 

He will never be satisfied. He has enjoyed great favor and dare I say blessing in his life. When we read this we think “hey man! Can’t you just enjoy what you have that is good? Why do you have to go all Tiger King to Mordecai’s Carol Baskin?” But let’s look at ourselves for a moment.  When is “enough” enough for you? We have all been there. What was the greatest year, or day of your life? What was the most complete season? Did you enjoy it? I hope so! We are made to enjoy today but we are also made to long for eternity.  Have we ever  truly satisfy with a sustained satisfaction? We have had the good day followed by the… drop, the flip of something coming into our consciousness that just doesn’t fit in to how we think our world (really our little world) should work and it spins us out more that it should. This is pride in us that the world should always satisfy us, others should bow to us, and we should be free from opposition, or anything other than complete affirmation not matter how entitled, or even evil we may act. We hate being challenged.  

In his anger and wrath, he attempts to sooth himself by recounting all “his” wins. They are impressive covering nearly every aspect of life: Wealth Splendor of riches, Family Blessed/Legacy Secure- So many sons! (what about daughters?) Work Accomplishments – Persian Assistant Manager, no assistant to the manager Influence – Can set policy Comparison – He’s winning AND “beating” others around him. Exclusive access – Only one at the dinner with Queen Esther gaining a deeper foothold in the King’s Court. What more can he want? Most of us would say this is a pretty accomplished guy. None of these things are bad on their own. These can all be good things, but for Haman they are his god’s rather than God’s blessings. It’s idolatry, it’s empty and doesn’t satisfy. Moreover, as great as all these things are (and they are) in his warped mindset they are counted all as rubbish compared the knowledge that he is not universally loved and his evil plan is being protested by his enemy. We’ve talked about the opposite and or the antidote for pride isn’t just humility but gratitude. When blessings are minimized and offenses are maximized, pride will blind and undo us. 

 

The company we keep matters. Let’s look at his community around him. He has intentionally brought these people together to help comfort him in his anger and rather than confronting him with his beastly attitude they feed into it. How would things be different if he had good friends who lovingly listened, empathized with his frustration and then reminded him what is true and then redirected him to a significant shift in how he saw and engaged with his world? Instead, he has ‘friends’ and family that don’t serve his formation but rather fuel his narcissism. We all have this through social media we have a curated and self-selected (and algorithmically tuned) counsel of people who don’t give us much push back or alternate views, but instead encourage our anger through conformation bias where our opponents are dehumanized and we are sainted. We need good mirrors: Paul Tripp – “My Self Perception is as accurate as a carnival mirror”  

 

Calcifying a prideful narcissist -  He doesn’t have is worse tendencies and impulses softened but rather solidified by “encouragement”. Phycologists and counselors will tell you, when a spouse is colluding with a narcissist rather than challenging them lovingly, there is almost no chance for recognition and repentance. Unconditional acceptance is not the same thing as unconditional affirmation.  The satisfaction of human pride in its demand for honor and respect outweigh the value of human life in the pagan world of Persia. Haman’s friends an wife plan destruction for Mordecai with an elaborate execution for all Susa to see. 

 

Self-serving community affirms our worst parts of us. Gospel Community meets us at our worst knows our worst and still loves us and propels us to our best. The community we surround ourselves with will have an impact to either encourage grace and humility or selfishness and pride. Where do you go where you might have people speak the truth in love to you? Who is around you that is not that impressed with you but loves you enough to let you know when you’re out of line, gone too far, or forgotten what is true? Community like this isn’t easy to foster. I want us to have a clear and positive vision for what that looks like here at Mercy Fellowship, because sometimes “speak the truth in love” and “faithful are the wounds of a friend” can easily get condensed to “speak truth and wound” Pastor and Author  Ray Ortlund explains it this way: 

Gospel + safety + time. It’s what everyone needs. A lot of gospel + a lot of safety + a lot of time.

 

  • Gospel: good news for bad people through the finished work of Christ on the cross and the endless power of the Holy Spirit. Multiple exposures. Constant immersion. Wave upon wave of grace and truth, according to the Bible. (Good news not good advice daily and deliberate)
  • Safety: a non-accusing environment. No embarrassing anyone. No cornering anyone. No shaming. But respect and sympathy and listening and understanding, so that people can exhale and open up and unburden their souls. A church environment where no one seeking the Lord has anything to fear. (Allows expression our pain and darkness so light can shine on it.) 
  • Time: no pressure. Not even self-imposed pressure. No deadlines on growth. Urgency, but not hurry, because no one changes quickly. A lot of “space” for complicated people to rethink their lives at a deep level. God is patient. (Running a marathon together not demanding a sprint)

 

 

This is what our churches must be: gentle environments of gospel + safety + time. It’s where we’re finally free to grow. (As we fellowship together all of us need to remember these ingredients

 

PART III |Satisfied in Christ’s Person and Secure in Christ’s Plan | Philippians 3:7-9 

Philippians 3:7-9 | But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

 

Satisfied in Christ’s Person – Unlike Haman, Paul who was also very successful with an impressive resume, after recounting all his accolades, heritage, accomplishments, put them in perspective to see that they are truly worth nothing if it doesn’t included Jesus and in fact they are more than worthless they are a loss compared to knowing Jesus. He is willing to (and basically does) lose everything so that he cannot rely on his achievements but on Christ’s work in His place. He isn’t pridefully creating a world around himself but in honest humility (after being confronted in his pride by Christ) hide his life in Christ. He is satisfied even with pain and trial because he has the proper perspective of eternity. He isn’t choosing to be satisfied with less but rather is finding joy in turning from idolatry to worshiping one who is worthy of our satisfaction. 

 

Ephesians 1:7-12 |In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory

 

Secure in Christ’s Plan – At this point in the story much of Esther’s plan is still seems like a mystery and we don’t know how wise it is or have any assurance it will ultimately succeed. Haman’s plan is foolish and sinister and seems clearly capable of achieving it’s desire end. But God’s plan is perfectly wise and has been revealed in Jesus a plan not for our condemnation but for our forgiveness. God’s plan isn’t hanging His enemies on the gallows but lifting up and nailing His son on a cross on behalf of His enemies. This is foolishness to the world but the wisdom of God that secures our redemption, our forgiveness, and promises us that both justice/wrath and our wearily hungry souls will be fully and eternally satisfied in Christ by Christ. The outcome of this plan will be us receiving a lavish inheritance we did not accomplish, a promotion into the forever family of God we did not earn, hope for today and joyfully paise for eternity when we Trust Jesus!