Today’s reading is Job 1:1-3:26, 1 Corinthians 14:1-17, Psalm 37:12-29, Proverbs 21:25-26.
However, my thoughts are still back in the story of Esther. Let’s savor that story for just a bit longer. We will continue to walk through the story as if it were a play.
Scene 8: Revenge is sweet—for a season.
When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was furious. Having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he began to plan a way to destroy not only Mordecai, but also the entire Jewish race. He appealed to the pride of King Xerxes, telling them of a group of people in his kingdom who did not follow the customs of the land and who did not follow the king’s laws and that it was not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. Haman then suggested that a decree be issued to destroy them all.
The king agreed and plans were made for the total destruction of the Jewish people. When the Jewish people, including Mordecai, found out about the decree there was weeping and mourning throughout the land. Esther’s maid came to tell her that Mordecai was in great distress; she was very worried about him. She had not heard the report yet about the planned destruction of the Jews, and she sent someone to find out what was troubling Mordecai. He sent back a copy of the edict of destruction urging her to go into the king’s presence and beg for mercy and plead with him for her people. She sent word back reminding him of the law that stated that if anyone approached the king in the inner court without being summoned they would be put to death. The only exception was if the king were to extend his golden scepter to them and spare their life. And, Esther informed Mordecai that the king had not sent for her in a full month. Mordecai sent her back a very powerful reply, saying:
“Don’t think that just because you are the Queen that you will not face destruction, too. And if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your family will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have come to royal position for such a time as this.”
Esther 4:13b, 14
Scene 9: For such a time as this!
Well, that did it for Esther. She realized that this could be the greatest purpose of her life. She sent back her reply saying for Mordecai to gather all of the Jews in the area and they along with Esther and her maids should fast and pray for three days. Then, she said, “When this fast is over, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).
When the three days were over, Esther put on her royal robes and went to the inner court of the king. He was pleased to see her and extended the golden scepter to her. Then he asked, “Queen Esther, what is your request? Whatever it is, it will be given to you, even up to half the kingdom” (Esther 5:3). Esther wisely waited for the right time to discuss her people’s plight, and instead invited the king and Haman to a banquet that she had prepared for them. They immediately went to the banquet where the king again asked Esther concerning her request. She responded that she requested that he and Haman return tomorrow for another banquet, at which time she would answer his question.
Haman went home that night very puffed up about being invited to the queen’s banquets. On his way home, he saw Mordecai who neither bowed, nor showed fear in his presence. This infuriated Haman. He went home and gathered all of his friends and family, bragging to them about being invited to Queen Esther’s banquets. But, he confessed that this satisfaction was diminished every time he saw Mordecai. His wife and friends suggested that he have gallows built, seventy-five feet high, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai hanged on it. This suggestion delighted Haman and he had the gallows built.
Scene 10: As good as Ambien.
That night, the king could not sleep so he ordered that the book of the annals be brought in and read to him. It had been recorded there that Mordecai had exposed the assassination plan of the king, thus saving his life. The king realized that nothing had ever been done to show his appreciation to Mordecai. Right at that time, Haman came to the outer court to ask the king to give permission to hang Mordecai. The king called Haman in, but before he could ask the king asked him what should be done for someone who pleased the king. Thinking proudly that the king was referring to himself, Haman replied that that man should receive one of the king’s royal robes and royal crests and royal horses and be led throughout the city, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor” (Esther 6:6). The king then commanded Haman to go at once and do for Mordecai just as he had suggested. So Haman had to lead Mordecai through the streets, announcing that the king delighted in him. He was mortified, of course, but soon after had to go to Queen Esther’s banquet.
Scene 11: Vengeance is mine, says the Lord!
At the banquet, the king once again asked Queen Esther what her request was, and vowed that whatever it was it would be granted, up to half the kingdom. At that time, Esther revealed her request: that he would grant her life, and also spare the lives of her people. Not knowing that she was of Jewish descent, the king did not know what she was talking about. He asked, “Who is he? Who would dare to do such a thing?” (Esther 7:5). She replied, “The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman” (Esther 7:6). The king was enraged, and Haman was terrified. The king left in a rage to go out into the garden. Haman stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life. When the king came back into the room, Haman was falling on the couch where Queen Esther was reclining. The king screamed, “Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?” (Esther 7:8). Haman was immediately taken out and hung on the very gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai.
Scene 12: Lest they forget.
That very day, a new edict was signed by the king and sealed with his ring which overruled the destruction of the Jews. There was great rejoicing and celebrating, and Mordecai sent word that this festival should be an annual celebration in remembrance of the Jews being spared. It was called the Festival of Purim, and it is still celebrated to this day.
In the story of Esther, we find the repetitive cycle that exists throughout biblical history and even into our own lives: People are hungry for God; God gives His instructions and warnings; People obey for a season, then forget their allegiance to God; God gives warnings; People do not heed the warnings; God allows the people to suffer the consequences of their disobedience for a season; The people are humbled and begin to seek the Lord and His ways again, and then God provides a way of escape, a savior.
As always, the Old Testament is a mirror image of the New Testament. The New Testament always fulfills the Old Testament. In many ways, Esther was a sacrificial lamb that saved her people from sure destruction. This was an image of what was to come. That is why, in our Christian tradition, Jesus is called the Lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice, after which no sacrifice was ever needed to be offered again.
It is interesting that Esther told Mordecai that the law was death for anyone who approached the king in the inner court. In the history of the Israelite temple, the inner court of the temple was called the Holy of Holies, the place where God, the King of Kings dwelt. It was so holy that no one could stand in the inner court, lest he die. It was separated from the rest of the temple by a great curtain, very high and very thick. Once a year, the high priest went into the inner court to offer a sacrifice for the sins of the people. A rope was tied about his ankle so that he could be pulled out of the inner court if he died in that holy place. We are told in Scripture that the day that Jesus died on the cross, this mighty curtain ripped from top to bottom. It was too high and thick for a man to rip it. Our Christian tradition maintains that it was ripped by God, symbolizing that we could now come boldly to the throne of grace because of the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf. The royal scepter of the King is now extended to us.
Today, go boldly to the Throne of Grace. Go to the King of Kings and place your requests before Him. Ask Him what He wants you to do and to be “for such a time as this.”
This is the day we wrap up our lessons of Esther. We have seen God take an orphan girl and make her a queen. We have seen Him call her out of her ordinary status to walk the life of one chosen to risk all for the sake of the Holy One. There are many things we can learn from the story of Esther. Today I want to focus on just four things. I call them The Four P’s.
What we learn from the story of Esther can be summed up in the following way:
Preparation, Perspective, Prayer, Praise
Preparation: God wants to prepare us for the extraordinary. We can only receive that preparation by reaching up to Him. That is why I always emphasize the concept of Reaching Up to God. You prepare for the extraordinary by letting God be God in your life. He wants to be your redeemer. He wants to use even the difficult circumstances in your life to show His mighty power and His glory. He will also use His Word, godly people, and His Holy Spirit to prepare you for the extraordinary.
Perspective: We should seek God’s perspective in every situation, knowing that we will never be able to—this side of heaven—see the whole tapestry of our lives. Esther could not have known all the many ways her story of obedience and purpose would bear fruit even thousands of years later. To have a godly perspective our eyes must be on Him, not on us. It is about trusting that He is able to do far more than we could ever hope, or dream, or imagine, even if we don’t see the end of the story.
Prayer: I don’t exactly know how prayer works, but it does. Sometimes prayer changes situations, but always prayer changes me. Prayer is honest communication with God. Prayer is talking and listening. Prayer is acknowledging God’s power and acknowledging your weakness. Esther fasted and prayed for three days (there’s that holy number three again!) before she went before the king. And she got others to pray with her and for her. Prayer is crucial in finding and participating in God’s extraordinary plan for your life. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For you are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Pray that God will show you the good works that He has prepared for you!
Praise: Lastly, the outcome of the extraordinary purpose and plan for Esther resulted in praise to God alone. Recently I read a book by Steve Saint where he described being in Israel during the Feast of Purim, which is a celebration of God intervention and salvation through Queen Esther. This celebration still exists today. Through that feast, centuries after the fact, there is still much praise and celebration toward our extraordinary God for the extraordinary work He did in and through Esther, an ordinary girl. Our ordinary ways, surrendered to His will can produce extraordinary fruit. God loves to use the ordinary to produce the extraordinary. Because when extraordinary things happen in and through the ordinary, the glory and honor and praise go to Him alone. Let God use you. He will do far more than you could ever hope or dream or imagine.