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Esther

Scene in Power

Esther 7,8

Lesson audio

There is a well known species within the sports world: the Monday morning quarterback. After the game is over, all the critics emerge to tell the team what they should have done. It irritates the real quarterback, but the coach does the same thing. MMQ is simply inflating his own ego, but the coach has a purpose. He wants the team to improve, to perform better next time. Let us examine the pivotal action in Esther with an eye to what we can do to improve.

Moments of Decision

Now the king and Haman came to drink wine with Esther the queen. And the king said to Esther on the second day also as they drank their wine at the banquet, "What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be done." Then Queen Esther replied, "If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request; for we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed and to be annihilated. Now if we had only been sold as slaves, men and women, I would have remained silent, for the trouble would not be commensurate with the annoyance to the king." Then King Ahasuerus asked Queen Esther, "Who is he, and where is he, who would presume to do thus?" Esther said, "A foe and an enemy is this wicked Haman!" Then Haman became terrified before the king and queen. The king arose in his anger from drinking wine and went into the palace garden; but Haman stayed to beg for his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that harm had been determined against him by the king. Now when the king returned from the palace garden into the place where they were drinking wine, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was. Then the king said, "Will he even assault the queen with me in the house?" As the word went out of the king's mouth, they covered Haman's face. Then Harbonah, one of the eunuchs who were before the king said, "Behold indeed, the gallows standing at Haman's house fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai who spoke good on behalf of the king!" And the king said, "Hang him on it." So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai, and the king's anger subsided.

(Est 7:1-10 NASB)

Esther

It is likely that Esther spent the night before this banquet in prayer – for she knew what was coming. What was coming? Fear.

  • First, there is the fear of uncharted waters – an oriental queen leads a sheltered life; she would now take that life in her hands.
  • More than that, there is “the sum of all fears.” Many things could have happened. She might face death; more likely disgrace. Worst of all, she could have been ignored – patted on the head with a “There, there, honey” She would then have to live with her own ineffectiveness.

God will not answer the sum of fears; He only encourages you and calls you to what I call “combat Christianity.” Permit me an example.

One of my students took up the habit of beating his wife. Somebody needed to rebuke this man, and you can guess who “somebody” was. It occurred to me on the way over that this man had about 5 inches on me, was twenty years younger, and had no hesitation about beating his wife. Which, one might infer, he would have no difficulty in beating me, either. There is only one thing for it: if you face death, injury, destruction, then face it confident in the right. The battle is the Lord’s. Do not ask the odds, ask your duty.

Haman

If ever there was a man who felt like a toy boat in a washing machine, it was Haman. He walked in the door to get Mordecai’s death warrant; he walked out being Mordecai’s personal publicity agent. His pride was hacked, whacked and shellacked.

So when the accusation hit, he was unprepared. The accusation and the king’s reaction to it tell him clearly that he is in big trouble. It is at moments like this that a man’s true character is revealed. He has two options: die like a man, or plead for his skin. One leaves him a dead lion, the other a live dog.

There is a reason that men used to be called “noble” or “vile” for their character. The noble prepare for the call of duty; the vile reveal themselves like this. We no longer make such distinctions; this says a lot about how far we have fallen from grace.

The King

The king, of the three of them, has the most difficult problem. He suddenly faces a tough political problem. His prime minister has proven to be false, a man who has conned him into an act of injustice. But it is no small thing to execute your prime minister – political upheaval will follow. So the king decides to take a minute to make up his mind.

  • He goes into the garden – so he’s not with a glass of wine in his hand.
  • He leaves the scene – to control his anger.
  • And he comes back in – undecided.

Suppose Haman had been a man of honor, and defended himself against Esther’s accusation? But he was not – and the king finds him begging for his life, probably physically taking hold of Esther. You don’t mess with the King’s main squeeze. That decides the king.

A Sense of Justice

On that day King Ahasuerus gave the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews, to Queen Esther; and Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had disclosed what he was to her. The king took off his signet ring which he had taken away from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman. Then Esther spoke again to the king, fell at his feet, wept and implored him to avert the evil scheme of Haman the Agagite and his plot which he had devised against the Jews. The king extended the golden scepter to Esther. So Esther arose and stood before the king. Then she said, "If it pleases the king and if I have found favor before him and the matter seems proper to the king and I am pleasing in his sight, let it be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the king's provinces. "For how can I endure to see the calamity which will befall my people, and how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?" So King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, "Behold, I have given the house of Haman to Esther, and him they have hanged on the gallows because he had stretched out his hands against the Jews. "Now you write to the Jews as you see fit, in the king's name, and seal it with the king's signet ring; for a decree which is written in the name of the king and sealed with the king's signet ring may not be revoked." So the king's scribes were called at that time in the third month (that is, the month Sivan), on the twenty-third day; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded to the Jews, the satraps, the governors and the princes of the provinces which extended from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, to every province according to its script, and to every people according to their language as well as to the Jews according to their script and their language. He wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus, and sealed it with the king's signet ring, and sent letters by couriers on horses, riding on steeds sired by the royal stud. In them the king granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them, including children and women, and to plunder their spoil, on one day in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month (that is, the month Adar). A copy of the edict to be issued as law in each and every province was published to all the peoples, so that the Jews would be ready for this day to avenge themselves on their enemies. The couriers, hastened and impelled by the king's command, went out, riding on the royal steeds; and the decree was given out at the citadel in Susa. Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a large crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. For the Jews there was light and gladness and joy and honor. In each and every province and in each and every city, wherever the king's commandment and his decree arrived, there was gladness and joy for the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many among the peoples of the land became Jews, for the dread of the Jews had fallen on them.

(Est 8:1-17 NASB)

If you ever get elected supreme ayatollah, here are some tips about the matter called justice:

1. See that evil does not prosper – and that your people see it to. We recently passed a law to prevent criminals from profiting by their crimes. Their method? They would write an autobiography – and the more notorious the criminal, the better the sales. This is unjust, and we fixed it.

The king does something similar. The offense is against the Jews, the people of Esther, so Esther will get Haman’s estate. More than that, the king knows the value of justice displayed. The hanging mentioned here is not what we would know from the western movies. The criminal was first dispatched, by garrote or impalement. His body was then bound in chains and suspended from the gallows. His body was left to rot until the chains held it no more - a public warning and lesson.

2. Fix the evil already done, as best you can. The evil of this world always wants its victories to be permanent and its losses temporary. Hence the law of the Medes and the Persians, “which altereth not.”

You can’t fix it all; this is a fallen world. But you should fix what you can. As God told us:

"Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways, As a nation that has done righteousness And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions, They delight in the nearness of God. 'Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?' Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, And drive hard all your workers. "Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high. "Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it for bowing one's head like a reed And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the LORD? "Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? "Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? "Then your light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

(Isa 58:2-8 NASB)

Could the same complaint be made today? Conservatives tell us to value the yoke, for it makes money. Liberals want to remove this yoke – and add a much heavier one. And the children of God?

3. Rejoice and celebrate in the triumph of the right. Think about it: whose birthdays do we celebrate as a nation? Washington, the man who made us a nation, life, liberty, happiness and all. Lincoln, the man who freed the slaves. What are our holidays? The Fourth of July, we proclaim liberty. Veteran’s day, honoring those who kept our freedom. We honor those who break the yoke.

But do we? May I make a comparison for you? On my shelves I have a book which happens to list the toasts made on the 4th of July, 1822, in New Milford, Connecticut:[1]

1.     The Patriots of ’76 – May we ever cherish their principles and imitate their virtues.

2.     The Armies of the United States – The laurels acquired by them in honorable war have never been sullied by outrages like those of our enemies at Hampton[2] and Frenchtown[3].

3.     Our Declaration of Independence – A beacon to the friends of liberty and a terror to monarchs.

4.     Independence – May we not lose its substance and court its shadow.

5.     The Next Congress – May they encourage Domestic Manufacturers and be contented with forty-two dollars a week.

6.     The Legislative and Executive Departments of the United States – May they think less about the next Presidency, and more about our national concern.

7.     The American Fair – Their smiles animate the soldier’s bosom; their virtues awe him into respect.

We have traveled far from this.

The Character of Mordecai

Through all this we have not paid much attention to Mordecai; it now seems a good time to examine his character. I bring to your attention three facts.

He was entrusted with the estate of Haman

Esther had no hesitation in putting him in charge. The main reason is clear; he has shown himself faithful in little, and he will be faithful in much. Perhaps more important is this: he has shown himself a man of wisdom. The slaves serving Haman may not feel particularly happy about the change of the tide; winning them over will take wisdom and effort.

His reaction to being honored by Haman

Think back: what was his reaction? Nothing is recorded. Haman’s idea of honor was that of one who thinks of pomp and prestige; Mordecai had no use for it. Indeed, when the king repeated the honor later[4] he had no reaction then. But what did you expect? Those who fear God treat victory and defeat as things of this world.

He was trusted by the king

The man has proven himself faithful (think about that assassination plot). He has proven himself capable. And – the king knows that because Mordecai is loyal to God he will be loyal to the king[5]. It is interesting to see all the fuss about our current nominee for the Supreme Court. American liberals are shocked, shocked to find that he is Roman Catholic – nothing but a good humanist need apply. Things have changed – or have they?


[1] Eric Sloane’s America, Promontory Press. New York, NY, 1954, 1955, 1956, p.299

[2] I regret that I cannot find anything concerning this battle except its date, June of 1813. A man’s library cannot contain everything.

[3] A battle during the war of 1812 which involved British-allied Indians massacring prisoners of war.

[4] Esther 8:15

[5] Why? I leave this as an exercise for the reader.

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