Priorities – Esther 5

Today Esther takes great courage and puts her plan (4.16) into action. If you’ve not read Esther 5 you can do so here.

Going in to see the King unannounced took great courage, give the law of the land (4.11) and the King’s previous dealings with his wives (1.12). Providentially, Esther is received with favour (v.2), and rather than get straight to business, Esther builds trust and relationship with the King (vv.4-8).

This might be difficult to understand to those with a Western, black-and-white, truth and error worldview; Esther needs something, the King can grant it, so let’s ask him for it. However, given the culture in which these events took place, relationship is more important than truth, shame and honour trump right and wrong, and going from 0-100 when making requests and petitions is not the done-thing.

Esther gets her priorities right, but we see that Haman has his all wrong. Having been invited to a private party with the King and Queen, he still find himself filled with wrath on seeing Mordecai. He is irrational, selfish, prideful, and boastful, and cares more about what others think of him than what is actually going on in his life. He is so consumed by all of this that he agrees to have Mordecai put to death in the most horrendous way, despite the fact that the annihilation of his people is already coming (3.15). Haman arranges for Mordecai to be impaled on a giant stake,

“A pointed stake is set upright in the ground, and the culprit is taken, placed on the sharp point, and then pulled down by his legs till the stake that went in at the fundament passes up through the body and comes out through the neck. A most dreadful species of punishment, in which revenge and cruelty may glut the utmost of their malice. The culprit lives a considerable time in excruciating agonies.” 

So irrational, so consumed, so bothered about what others think of him and how he is treated, he is pleased by this idea and has the gallows made.


This same irrational hatred and self-centredness led people to kill another innocent man.

Another innocent man was hung on a large, wooden torture device.

Another innocent man was killed to satisfy the self-important, self-centred, self-centric priorities of people.


 

The same irrational, violent hatred that made Haman want to see Mordecai hang to his death is the same irrational, violent hatred that made man want to hang Jesus on a cross.

Where we have wrong priorities, wrong choices and wrong actions are sure to be close behind. Esther focused on others, on relationships, on honouring people. Haman focused on himself. For the modern day believer, we could do a lot worse than model the priorities of Esther in our approach to Jesus; courage to approach, a focus on relationship, and seeking to honour.

Foreshadow- Esther 4

Coming off the back of learning that his people are to be systematically killed (3.13), Mordecai responds somewhat understandably and seeks out help. Perhaps he feels responsible(3.5-6), perhaps he knows this cannot be changed (1.9), perhaps he is just overcome with sadness, but he makes enough of a scene to attract the attention of Esther (v.4). 

Mordecai wants Esther to boldly approach the King to stop this coming atrocity (v.8). Esther is in a difficult situation wherein she wants to help, but circumstances seem to be very much against her (v.11). 

After laying some harsh truth on Esther (v.13), Mordecai then says,

And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Esther 4.14b 

Could this be a reason behind the providence shown to her?

Could this be why Esther has been taken from relative obscurity to this privileged and powerful position?

Could it be that Esther was put in this role for this very moment, to be the representative for her people against a seemingly undefeatable enemy?

The courageous actions of one from humble beginnings allowing God’s people to be saved?

Esther gathers collective support (v.16), and commits boldly to being the representative that God’s people need (v.16b). 

Reading this chapter, we cannot escape the foreshadowing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus. One from humble beginnings, called to take on the task of snatching God’s people from impending death through a situation that looks like it will claim the life of the redeemer.

It would be easy to read this chapter and think of ourselves as Esther; you are here, you need to be bold, you need to save some people…the problem with that is that it leaves Jesus out of the story completely, the One whom all the Scriptures point to. 

He defeated a seemingly undefeatable situation.

He entered into the battle even though it seemed like it would claim His life.

He saved God’s people.

He saved you from impending death.

Friends, you don’t need to be Esther in this story because you are the redeemed, you are the saved, you are the people snatched from death to life through the person and work of Jesus.

Inherent and Intrinsic- Esther 3

Yesterday we saw the providence of God, and today the story continues. If you haven’t read Esther 3 recently, you can do so here.

After his assasination plot is foiled (2.21-23), the King appoints what looks like a Prime Minister (v.1), and Haman the Agagite seems to be enjoying this new-found power and respect. The Agagites were historical enemies of God’s people (Exodus 17.14-16), and this may explain why Mordecai was reluctant to bow down or pay homage. Haman obviously didn’t like this, and sought to destroy all the Jews. He engineers a situation wherein the King probably doesn’t realise who or what Haman is talking about (vv.8-11). The Jews in all the land were, essentially, given prior warning of their impending death sentence (vv.13-15), and Haman cosied up to the King as all this took place (v.15b).

The de-humanising of people has been a perennial problem that is often the pre-cursor to terrible atrocities. Here Haman refers to God’s people, people made in the image of God, lives with inherent and intrinsic worth and value, as a certain people, …their laws…, it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate themthe peopledo with them

This way of thinking leads, inevitably, to conflict, loss of life, slavery, oppression, and generally nothing positive. How grateful we are that Jesus made the very important point that human life is of infinite value, regardless of national origin, culture, language, or tradition in Luke 10.25-37. Paul writes very explicitly that we are all one in Christ Jesus, regardless of things that may differentiate between us in an earthly sense (Galatians 3.28). Simply, there is more to unite us than divide us.

Today, let us see those around us as humans made in the image of God, lives with inherent and intrinsic value and dignity, people loved by the Lord and redeemed at such a high price, and those that God wishes to reach with His love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace…through you.

Providence – Esther 2

Yesterday we saw the terrible decisions made by King Ahasuerus (aka Xerxes), and today the providence of God shines through in the midst of what is going on.

If you haven’t read Esther 2 recently, you can do so here.

There is a time gap of around 4 years between the end of chapter 1 and the start of chapter 2 (Esther 1.3 cf. 2.16), in which time Xerxes led a failed invasion of Greece. Depending on where you read about it, you may come across a battle that was widely popularized in the movie ‘300’, “This. Is. Sparta.”  ¹ .

Coming back from this failure, it seems that Xerxes wanted to cheer himself up, so organizes what is essentially a ‘Miss Persia’ contest (vv.1-4). Considering this was the world’s biggest Empire at the time, the chances of one girl winning were astronomical, but we know that when the Lord has purposed to do something, it happens. History says 400 were chosen to go through to the next stage, so to speak, this intense beauty regime (vv.12-14). Partly to accentuate what is natural, partly to ensure nobody was already pregnant, Esther found herself among this 400 (vv.5-11).

As the King took poor counsel and made poor decisions in chapter 1, here Esther listens to those who know better than her (v.15), and from the 400 she is chosen to be Queen (vv.16-18).

Esther has gone from an orphan being raised by her cousin (vv.5-7), to being the Queen of the world’s largest Empire. If God has a plan for someone so seemingly insignificant as Esther, we can take a great deal of comfort from knowing that He has a plan for us too.

Chapter 2 ends with Esther’s cousin/guardian Mordecai foiling an assassination attempt on the King’s life (vv.19-23), and this again speaks to the providence of God; Mordecai and Esther found themselves in the right place at the right time, and in the right roles, to be used of God to stand up for what is right and report what is wrong. 

Friends, God has a plan for you. It may look different to what you imagined for yourself, but trust Him, His plans are always better than anything we could imagine anyway! Being where you are in the world right now is no accident, being in the job you are in now is no accident, and being surrounded by the people you are now is no accident. We serve a God who is all knowing, all loving, all powerful, and all wise, and either through His declarations or permissions, His good and perfect will is always going to come to fruition. Remember today when things look confusing – God has a plan for you!

Bad Decisions – Esther 1

Esther is the last of the historical books in the Bible, the next book is Job and with that comes the section commonly known as the wisdom literature. At the time these events took place, the Persian Empire was the biggest empire that the world had ever seen, and archaeology has found remnants of the palace in which many of these dramatic moments happened ¹.

We join the story around 30 years after Ezra had returned to Jerusalem, and around 40 years before Nehemiah would join the returned and endeavour to rebuild the walls of the city. King Ahasuerus, commonly known as Xerxes, consistently comes across as a prideful and arrogant person, and in Esther 1 he is seen to be giving feats for all his officials and servants…while he showed the riches of his royal glory and the splendour and pomp of his greatness. These feasts, then, seem to be for no other reason than to show off how great he thinks he is.

The king then makes the first of many terrible decisions, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he decides to up the ante of his prideful boasting and parade his wife in front of his friends those gathered. Here is our first lesson; drunk decisions are bad decisions. Paul writes pretty clearly about this,

Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit…

Ephesians 5.18

He wants to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at. Different sources will give different interpretations of what was means by show the peoples; some think it meant to dance, some think she was to be paraded in naked, but, either way, Vashti refused and chose instead to keep her modesty and dignity in tact (v.12). However, refusing the king had terrible consequences, and Xerxes was enraged and his anger burned within him

The king then makes another terrible decision when he listens to the bad counsel of Memucan and decrees that Vashti is never to again come before King Ahasuerus. The goal is somewhat noble, that all women will give honour to their husbands, high and low alike, but the method of seeing it through (the deposition of Vashti) was heavy-handed, to say the least.

How thankful we are that to be loved by a God who has the highest of standards for our character, our homes, our marriages, our lives, but never seeks to impart them on us by any other method than love and personal demonstration.

Rather than commanding us to do this and that and hoping we don’t rebel against the harsh and heavy yoke imposed on us, the God of the Bible, God Most High, loves us to the point of death – and resurrection – and would rather demonstrate His love for us than command and decree that we must live as simple robots with flesh and blood, as Xerxes wanted to have Vashti be.

How thankful we are to serve a God who asks us to do nothing more than He did Himself in the person of Jesus, who, though being equal with God, made the decision to [humble] himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2.8). 


 

If you have never read Esther 1, you can do so here;

https://www.esv.org/Esther+1/