Unseen God | Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther PART VIII | The Last Word | Esther 8
November 15, 2020 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: Unseen God: Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Esther 8
Christopher Rich – November 15, 2020
Unseen God | Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther
PART VIII | | The Last Word | Esther 8
Introduction | When will it change?
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!
We see bad stories all the time both in our lives and in the world. We have unhappy beginnings, the middle can be discouraging and at times distressing, but then there can be a turn where victory seems possible, hope seems probable but final resolution hasn’t happened yet. It’s not how a story starts; it’s how it finishes.
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. Mordechai is responds with 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. She fasts, plans, prepares and 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 to hang Mordecai before lunch the next day. He agrees to the plan, and the scene is set. But then there is a sleepless night where the king is reminded that Mordecai saved him years ago and was never honored. In an ironically comic scene Haman is asked what a man should receive when he’s honored by the king and he goes big! Kings Robes, Kings Whip, Kings crown all while being treated like royalty by royalty. It ends up being all for… Mordecai and Haman has to make it so. He desires honor but ends up humiliated as he runs home to whine to his wife and advisors who being to let him know the tide has turned and his defeat is likely. The next feast Haman is exposed by Esther as an evil plotter and the King’s Justice is swift and merciless as Haman is hung from the gallows he created. The author of evil has been defeated but his plot and plan of destruction still looms over the people. There is a victory experienced, but work to be done remains. We don't have the ability to undo the wrongs done to us, that is a God- sized task. Our attempts at justice either go too far, or not far enough. Our desire for justice is from God, we should also expect God will be the one who perfectly provides it. He has the Last word!
PART I | Justice Advocated | Esther 8:1-6
Esther 8:1-6 |On that day King Ahasuerus gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her. 2 And the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman. 3 Then Esther spoke again to the king. She fell at his feet and wept and pleaded with him to avert the evil plan of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews. 4 When the king held out the golden scepter to Esther, Esther rose and stood before the king. 5 And she said, “If it please the king, and if I have found favor in his sight, and if the thing seems right before the king, and I am pleasing in his eyes, let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the provinces of the king. 6 For how can I bear to see the calamity that is coming to my people? Or how can I bear to see the destruction of my kindred?”
Royal Reversals – Haman is hung, his body not yet cold, but as a royal criminal his estate is now state property and Xerxes gives it to Esther, all the home, wealth servants etc. He was one of the wealthiest people in the empire and now a former exile orphan has inherited all of it! Much is revealed as she also explains the nature of her relationship with Mordecai as surrogate father, mentor, and advocate for her people so he is also honored. Esther is given Haman’s possessions; Mordechai is given Haman’s position.
This is a dramatic reversal of fortunes of trajectory of the story. We have a story that began with none of God’s people even mentioned, none with power, where now two of the top three in the empire are now identified as activist for their people. Any fear we have of our two main characters facing harm has been eradicated. One of Esther’s motivations for exposing Haman’s plot to exterminate the Jews as been effectively ended as their safety and prosperity is now assured. Surely, we can exhale and move on. They have been blessed greatly, but their blessing is not intended to terminate with them but to bless others.
Advocating for Justice is a continual posture and purpose as long as injustice exists. A great threat still remains for God’s people. Haman is dead but his edict lives on. Esther far from dignified, deliberately humbles herself and passionately begs for the king to undo what is to come. She’s in tears on the ground pleading. The king still has a process, you can address him if he approves. He holds out the scepter granting her permission to speak. Esther pulls out all the stops focusing on his narcissism and her appeal. “If I am pleasing in your eyes will you bring justice and mercy to my people?” She is clear what needs to be done and she’s appealing based on her worthiness before the king. If I have any favor with you grant this!
We are easily satisfied with a Gospel that terminates on us rather than one that transforms others - I wonder how we would respond if in the face of great harm and evil we so our personal threat end and we saw our personal prosperity increase while others remained under condemnation. Esther and Mordecai have both been spared and honored but they are not satisfied because their mission isn’t personal it’s corporate. She cannot bear to see pain, injustice, destruction come to others. She’s empowered with empathy that moves her to advocate for those who are not able to advocate for themselves.
We believe God will act for us if and when we are pleasing to him – Like Esther appealing to her beauty in the eyes of the king, we think our ability to advocate for justice, for God to move in a certain way, for favor to be granted is based on our attractiveness and approval before God. This means when our prayers aren’t answered in the way we want we think “shoot” I better make myself more pleasing to God so he will respond to me favorably. That is religion not the Gospel. We don’t have to wonder “If we have found favor” or “if we are pleasing in His sight”. Because of sin, brokenness, we know we are not worthy before the king in fact we wouldn’t even be given an audience. We are not the pleasing Esther, but the desperate Jews under condemnation. But, in Christ we know God is for us because of Christ in our place.
PART II |Justice Delegated by the King of Complacency | Esther 8:7-8
7 Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows, because he intended to lay hands on the Jews. 8 But you may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king's ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king's ring cannot be revoked.”
Justice delegated by the King of complacency – We all want leaders who will courageously confront injustice, but we fear they will not address issues or challenge evil. We need leadership and advocacy that is ready to engage in difficult work that brings about a better future. All of Esther’s appeal to the king and pleading for the king is not effective for the King to actually become engage in actively bringing peace and justice. In fact, as he begins to respond you can even sense his irritation in a sense at them not being satisfied with all he’s already done for them. “Behold” I already gave you everything Haman had “because he intended to harm the Jews”. That’s not entirely accurate! He did that because he saw Haman “falling” on Esther and the king felt his honor was under attack now he wants that credited as his contribution to racial/social justice in Persia. Haven’t I done enough? Enough for you personally and for the cause? I promoted Mordecai into my cabinet see representation. I’d rather just do that then have to undo or enact a more comprehensive policy to help many. The king has not been moved from indifference to effective action. All of these recent positive changes but he still lacks to character of a good and just king.
Proverbs 31:8-9 | 8 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. 9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. Xerxes is not there. Esther has been clear that the previous decree will lead to the death of thousands and destruction of the Jewish people. But there is a disinterested level of comfort and complacency the King has regarding this matter the matter. It’s a lot of work, in fact it’s considered impossible to revoke the king’s previous command. Rather than lead, rather than promote justice, and pursue the end of injustice, Xerxes is content to let Esther and Mordecai write the next decree. “Why don’t you just take the power I’ve given you and you fix it however you want?”
We might be tempted to think God is like this king - We might think our God and King has done enough for us and that he is disinterested in blessing us any further. We might think God has left it up to us to fix what is broken. But we have a God who is called “Rich in Mercy” and who “lavishes” grace upon us ways that are immeasurable. Our God doesn’t grow tired of our pleading for life and who empowers our flourishing.
PART III |Evil is Defeated by the God of Justice | Esther 8:9-17
Esther 8:9-19 | 9 The king's scribes were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day. And an edict was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded concerning the Jews, to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language. 10 And he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed it with the king's signet ring. Then he sent the letters by mounted couriers riding on swift horses that were used in the king's service, bred from the royal stud, 11 saying that the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods, 12 on one day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. 13 A copy of what was written was to be issued as a decree in every province, being publicly displayed to all peoples, and the Jews were to be ready on that day to take vengeance on their enemies. 14 So the couriers, mounted on their swift horses that were used in the king's service, rode out hurriedly, urged by the king's command. And the decree was issued in Susa the citadel.
15 Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a robe of fine linen and purple, and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. 16 The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor. 17 And in every province and in every city, wherever the king's command and his edict reached, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them.
Evil is defeated by the God of Justice, bringing praise to God (v9-19) – Esther has pleaded, the king has relented, now Mordecai is getting to work. Mirroring the words of the evil decree from Chapter 3, it is Mordecai’s who will have the last word in regard to his people. There is good news for God’s people! There is an urgency and intentionality in the distribution of this good news! Good news of life, justice, and mercy are translated to every language and specifically to God’s people so that everyone regardless of where or who they are can receive this decree in a way they can both understand and respond to it. There are trained and effective “evangelists” who are equipped with the king’s best horses to get the word out fast! Good news of freedom from fear and condemnation cannot be delayed. The word that goes out silences condemnation. The first decree would have emboldened those hostile to God’s people thinking they had the upper hand. Persecution would have been the tone across the empire, but it is now replaced with a decree of overwhelming victory. Attacking God’s people is not only no longer allowed or promoted, but will in fact be met with severe consequences. Those who have been threatening and taunting the Jews will now be put to flight. From the City to the Country, let condemnation end and let freedom ring!
Chaos to Celebration (v15-17) – When Haman’s decree went out the City was thrown into confusion and fear, but as Mordecai is brought out an shown in his new position there is great celebration. His sackcloth and ashes have been turned into royal robes. As the word of the new decree goes forward there are celebrations and feasts by the Jews. Before it was words of “mourning” “fasting” “weeping” “wailing” now it is words of “light = Happiness” “joy” “feasting” and “honor”. This is what the fullness of Good News does it reverses the condemnation of the last words and replaces them with the goodness of the last words. People who were terrified are now empowered and that is contagious, people want freedom and flourishing and when they see it they want to identify with it so it says many identified as Jews in response.
PART IV | Jesus Our Advocate | Romans 3:21-26
Romans 3:21-26 | 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although though the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
JESUS IS OUR ADVOCATE, before a Just God. We need an advocate In our sin, we are as helpless as the Jews in Persia but we are also as guilty and deserving of the Kings wrath as Haman. He is the one who goes before God to argue on our behalf - like a perfect lawyer. Not only that, He also gives us His righteousness making all things right again. Jesus is the just and the justifier. All have sinned and are marked with the word “condemned”. But in Christ, we have great confidence that while evil has spoken, it is God who gets the last word. Jesus’s last words on the Cross where “it is finished” so that we can rest and rely that God’s words for us are life, light, freedom, joy, mercy and grace, when we simply Trust Jesus.
More in Unseen God: Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther
November 22, 2020Unseen God | Hidden Hope Found in the Book of Esther PART IX | Restoration Seen | Esther 9-10
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