Unseen God | Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther PART VI | Vindication Given | Esther 6
October 11, 2020 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: Unseen God: Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Esther 6
Christopher Rich – October 11, 2020
Unseen God | Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther
PART VI | | Vindication Given | Esther 6
Introduction | When are things going to turn?
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!
When have we have succeeded and not been rewarded? How do all the “insignificant” details of our lives function to help achieve God’s purposes in our lives? Have you ever experienced a great delay only to later see that it was ultimately profitable? What about a dramatic reversal where you were certain one outcome was assured only to have the tables turn in a way you didn’t expect leading to an outcome you didn’t foresee. When have you experienced wrong or injustice and craved vindication and victory? We begin to see hope.
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. She fasts, plans, prepares an risks her life. She is reward with favor. The king asks what she wants (I’ll give you half the kingdom) and she throws a feast in his honor (with Haman!) and says… “I’ll tell you” tomorrow at another feast. Haman, goes from high to low when he sees Mordecai fail to honor him after the feast. He throws a pity party at home, recounts his awesomeness but says it’s worthless if Mordecai is alive. His wife and “friends” plan for him to build a 75 foot gallows to hang Mordecai before lunch the next day so that all in the city will know what happens when you don’t honor Haman. He agrees to the plan, and the scene is set.
PART I | Sleep Deprived and Valor Recalled | Esther 6:1-3
Esther 6:1-3 | On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. 2 And it was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. 3 And the king said, “What honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” The king's young men who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.”
Intentional Insomnia - With the cloud of death looming and doubt about the outcome of God’s people in Persia (and His plan in History) you’d would expect the scene to shift to Esther and Mordecai each tossing and turning, but instead immediately after we hear of Haman’s evil plot to kill Mordecai the next words we read are “on that night the king could not sleep.” This is going to prove to be incredibly significant in this story. We don’t know why he can’t sleep, indigestion, courisity over what Esther is going to ask tomorrow, maybe the palace is too noisy. How does he deal with it? The same way we all do, we start scrolling through our phones. He’s reading the feed and “it just so happens” that a time hop from 5 years ago comes up about the time he was almost assassinated (back in chapter 2) and how Mordecai was responsible for bring the plot to light. “What did we do for him, like did he get an employee of the month award, gift card, or promotion?” Nothing?! SHOOT! Showing Honor or distinction(promotion) was so important to that culture because with so many plotting to take out the king at any given moment loyalty to the king had to be recognized and reward not just disloyalty punished, to keep people motivated to protect the king. It was also a way for him to show his generosity to the people, like an Oprah giveaway.
God turns the tide - I said this insomnia is intentional, not because the King was awake trying to undo or rectify some injustice or slight but because God used the insomnia of the King to intentionally bring honor to Mordechai. Some Greek translations of this first verse read “The Lord took sleep from the king that night”. This is the pivot point in the story. This is opening where we truly begin to see the opportunity for victory. It is the beginning of the potential for a new and better ending of the story than we have seen up to this point. I bit of light breaking through the darkness. Theologians point out how significant the pivot point of the reversal of fortune being here and not the chapter before because then it’s the human agents (Esther and Mordecai) who are seen at the cause of the reversal instead of the providence of the Unseen God over every detail of the story. God's vindication can start with the smallest detail. Even insomnia can be part of His plan. A sleepless night reminds the king of Mordecai’s goodness to him and now the one protesting injustice and ignoring Haman at the king’s gate will be honored by the government he’s protesting.
PART II |Honor Deserved vs Desired | Esther 6:4-9
Esther 6:4-9 |4 And the king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king's palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for him. 5 And the king's young men told him, “Haman is there, standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him come in.” 6 So Haman came in, and the king said to him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” And Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?” 7 And Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, 8 let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set. 9 And let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king's most noble officials. Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.’”
The King can’t make any decision on his own so he asks that night “Who is in the court?” and there is Haman. He’s just outside waiting to talk to the king about his great plan. It’s likely he’s been working (over seeing work) through the night to get the gallows built for Mordecai. So he’s right there (just outside the court per regulations) ready for His “big ask”, but instead it’s the king who needs his advice. How the king frames it he leaves out a detail. Back in verse 3 it’s “Honor or distinction (promotion)” but here it’s just who does the king delight to honor (promotion is left out) this opens the door or a misunderstanding of epic proportions.
Neither the King nor Haman have any idea what they have been working on or what their intentions are. As such, much of this chapter reads more like a Shakespearian comedy than a tragedy. This is arguably the most ironically comic scene in the entire Bible. As Haman plans his glory and Mordecai's gruesome death, the King has something completely different in mind. But we get this window into Haman’s mindset “Who else could the king possibly want to honor more than me?” It’s back to his pride. Pride not only causes you to not see yourself properly, but it blinds you to the possibilities of others being worth of honor. Pride is such a dangerous sin, all sin separates, but pride is an attempt by us to not be separate from God but to be “over” God. Pride comes before the fall. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. We all think we deserve honor and we avoid humility. But it’s not humility that prevents honor, it’s humility that proceeds honor. “You’re so vain I bet you think this question is about you.” So he’s not answering the question “What’s the best way for the king to show honor” he’s answering “What is the way I want to RECEIVE Honor.”
Details Matter - Royal robes the King as worn (I want a Russell Wilson game worn jersey) Royal Whip -Horse the King has ridden (want to ride in a tank or lambo) Royal Crown Given (I want to hoist the trophy). Have Royal Official serve as Royal Assistant dressing the Honoree, leading the parade, and proclaiming the honor of this man. I want to be treated like royalty BY royalty. In some regard even what he is asking could easily be seen as attempting to unsettle or even unseat the king. He already has the signate ring and power, now he wants the spectacle of respect and the praise of the people. This is really what we all want in some regard. From the beginning of time our pride drives us to desire to be the king and queens of our own lives. It doesn’t matter if we’re truly worthy, we want the recognition and reward for ourselves.
Honor and Shame - Doing all of this in the town square ensures that Mordecai would see it during his protest. Haman is consumed not only with winning but with Mordecai losing. He wants him mocked and he wants him hopeless and he wants him shamed. He believes the lie that honor and privilege is a zero-sum game. That the only way for you to win is for someone else to lose. With that you see his deep desire isn’t for anything of substance but instead wants fleeting fame. He desires honor even if it isn’t deserved. Mordecai deserves honor and has had it delayed. Haman doesn’t deserve honor but instead demands it. Even this evil is used by God for God’s people. God's vindication cannot be stopped by evil men. Haman’s wicked desires are used to bring about the beginning of poetic justice as God turns the tables with ease.
PART III |Reward Received and Defeat Predicted | Esther 6:10-14
Esther 6:10-14 | 10 Then the king said to Haman, “Hurry; take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king's gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.” 11 So Haman took the robes and the horse, and he dressed Mordecai and led him through the square of the city, proclaiming before him, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.”
12 Then Mordecai returned to the king's gate. But Haman hurried to his house, mourning and with his head covered. 13 And Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.” 14 While they were yet talking with him, the king's eunuchs arrived and hurried to bring Haman to the feast that Esther had prepared.
Gut punch – Here’s the plant let’s get his parade going, is going to be tremendous! I’m going to love it! The king commands him to hurry (don’t delay, be aggressive, and urgent) To honor Mordecai?!! Can you imagine the deep swings of emotion Haman goes through? He thinks he’s on the cusp of basically being King (or at least being recognized like one) so close to spiking the football in the face of his sworn enemy. Instead in one command he is put back in his place. He’s not really assistant Persian manager, he’s assistant to the Persian manager and now he is responsible (for every detail) of honoring the one who he has shone the most distain for and who spurred him to decree the destruction of a whole race of people. There can be no protest only capitulation. He will be personally carrying out all the humiliating activities as he hurries to honor Mordecai “The Jew at the king’s gate” he’s aware of what Mordechai has been doing. Imagine if he had been more tempered or thought for a few moments about anyone else but himself. Because of the detail and depth of honor he desired for himself the level of humiliation he is forced to experience is proportionally greater. He has to dress Mordecai, he has to lead the parade, he has to proclaim Mordecai’s honor (and the King’s delight in him) to the entire city!! What was that dressing room moment like? I mean… He HAD to do ALL OF IT! This ironic, like rain on your wedding day… no but really it’s irony where justice is actually served as Haman unwittingly has picked some of his own “punishment” if you will.
Mordecai has a grand parade thrown for him while Haman is humbled by leading the procession, in a scene that reminds us of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It is in that ironic parade where the King of Kings rides into town not on a horse and royal robes but on a donkey and poverty. Honor doesn’t have to be forced like Haman praising Mordecai but instead the worship and praise are so overwhelming that the religious people tell Jesus to rebuke people and Jesus says “if they don’t praise me the Rocks would cry out my glory” This parade give us hope that Mordecai will be spare the gallows since he’s just been lauded as a national hero and perhaps there is a window of hope for God’s people. However, Jesus foolish donkey parade is assured to end at that cross, apparent defeat but will secure ultimate victory.
God has plans to vindicate us through His grace –Brief victory before things return back to “normal” Things move from deliberately slow and plotting to very quick. Action is happening. It is a brief break, but the tide has turned. The opening is here. Mordecai goes back to the kings gate, there is still work to be done and injustice to fight. Haman runs home deflated. And his “friends” recognize that this is not the same situation things were in just a few hours ago. In his weakness is counselors begin to share the truth of the situation as they see it that the God of the Jewish people is more powerful than Persian politics.
Romans 8:31-32 | 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Sometimes we think God is slow and delayed but other times there is a flurry of activity that reminds us just because God is patient doesn’t mean he’s not powerful to make major changes quickly. Haman “ hurries” to take robes to honor Mordecai, He “hurries” to run home to mourn his humiliation. Then he is “hurried” by the kings eunuchs. The end of evil has begun. The fall is assured because, while Esther has been and will be used for such a time as this, Mordecai said in Ch 4 “relief and deliverance has come from another source”. In one morning Haman has gone from full to empty. He was leading the narrative and the plot now he is being led to the next scene in this drama rapidly unfolding in a significant turn.
PART IV | Good News |
Isaiah 30:18 | Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.
God’s timing is perfect so we can be patient. God is working even when we are sleeping so we can rest.
While the king is restless and Haman is pulling an all-nighter of evil, Esther and Mordecai are presumably asleep secure (knowingly or not) in God’s protection. Rest that God is working especially when we are not.
2 Cor 5:21 | For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
We don’t have to save the king from death to earn honor. The king has experienced humiliation and death in our place to save us and he honors us by clothing us with His royal righteousness. We get the great exchange where we deserve humiliation for our sin but Jesus willingly and knowingly takes humiliation for our sake we receive his honor! We ARE clothed in the King’s robes of purity and righteousness, not for a day, but for eternity!
This is the ultimate outcome of God’s 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.
1 Cor 15:56-58 | 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Because of Jesus work to achieve victory death, none of our work now for Him is in vain. Evil, sin, and death are still real. They are an enemy and threat to life, joy, and flourishing that cannot remain. Jesus has achieved victory taking the just consequences of the law for our sin on the cross and shows His great power over death through His resurrection. The End of Evil has begun, the light of hope is shining. We will work now, endure now, and stand firm now, knowing our experience of honor and rewards will be later. Delayed honor is still honor. We will go through seasons of trial and adversity even pain and darkness, but all our work, and all our suffering and all our hope is never in vain when we continue to 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 4, 2020Unseen God | Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther PART V | The Plan | Esther 5
September 27, 2020Unseen God | Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther PART IV | Mourning Injustice | Esther 4