Greatness – Esther 10

Esther 10 is by far the shortest chapter of the book, and if you haven’t read it recently you can do so here

On the surface, it seems to be about how great Mordecai is. We see that the King is pretty powerful and mighty (v.2), and that Mordecai was honoured pretty substantially (v.2). Mordecai seems to occupy the role of Prime Minister (v.3), and was well thought of by all he encountered.

The last few words of the book, again, foreshadow and preview Jesus, did you notice?

“…he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people.”

As we wrap up Esther, consider these things today;

  1. There are no miracles recorded in the book, yet we still have the sense that God is great.
  2. God’s sovereign plans and purposes all come to pass, yet through the actions and decisions of people with free will.
  3. Esther intervened for her people from a position of influence, from being next to the throne, as does Jesus for you right now (cf. Hebrews 7.25).

We don’t need to get lost in the search for the miraculous, the out-of-the-ordinary, because God is at work in the day-to-day interactions of your life. Where you are, who you are with, when you are there is all part of His good and perfect plan. Partner with Him, join with Him, exercise your God-given free will in a way that glorifies Him and builds up those put in your path. 

Overall through Esther we’ve seen someone taken from relative obscurity (John 1.46), put in a position of honour and influence (Philippians 2.9-11), who intercedes for God’s people in a situation that seems bleak and destined for ruin (John 12.44-50). 

Therein lies the beauty of the Word of God;

are we talking about Esther or are we talking about Jesus?

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus explained to His travelling companions what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself. No doubt this story of despair, redemption, victory, seeking God, and providence was part of that. 

Recording and Remembering – Esther 9

How often we forget the good things in our life, the good done to us, how often we forget the good done for us when things get tough.

If you haven’t read Esther 9 recently, you can do so here

Expecting and fearing defeat, God’s people find that with the help of the King, the reverse occurred (v.1). Their victory is complete and we see the principle of Romans 8.31 shining through, 

7b59a9d0169639682b2c2c45eab591e5

Interestingly, one line of thinking says that the total victory requested by Esther (v.13) is an outworking of God’s decree in 1 Samuel 15 where the ancestors of Haman (3.1, Haman the Agagite) are destined for destruction. 

God’s people are delivered from death and told to remember their deliverance (vv.20-22).

How quickly we forget the good done to us, for us, with us, the good done on our behalf. Recording the good done for us and remembering it with feasting and gladness, with gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor is never a bad thing, is it?

If God’s people here are told to record and remember their deliverance from earthly circumstances that were leading to death, how much more should we, eternally redeemed through the blood of Jesus record and remember this? 

The recording has already been taken care of, bigger picture, hasn’t it? Read your New Testament and you will see the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. How this recording looks in your own life is down to you though; Scripture in the home, time spend reading the Word with family, prayer with and for others, daily time with the Lord…your recording will be what you make of it. 

The remembrance is again very personal. There are things we are commanded to do as believers – make disciples, baptism, and communion to name but three. Again, your daily hour-to-hour remembrance is down to you.

Do all your thoughts, words, and deeds go through the filter of ‘God loved me so much as to deliver me from impending death, therefore I should/shouldn’t…‘?

Today – and every day – work this recording and remembering into your life, and see how it changes you from the inside out, and see how it changes you for the better!

Replace // Revoke – Esther 8

We would be forgiven for thinking that now Haman is out of the way (7.10) that everything is going to be ok, but the decree to kill all of the Jews in the Empire is still valid (cf. 1.19) as we get into Esther 8. If you haven’t read the chapter recently, you can do so here

The honour given to Haman is bestowed on Mordecai, and the shame that was intended for Mordecai and his people found its way to Haman (vv.1-2). Esther is intense in her emotions as she approaches the King again (v.3), and the King states that the old letter and proclamation be replaced by a new (v.8). We see that the old directive cannot be revoked, but it can be replaced. There is an urgency with this new message (v.14), and the good news produces in God’s people light and gladness and joy and honour. These feelings came from the good news that God’s people would be able to take vengeance on their enemies, to triumph over their enemies, to gather and defend their lives.

Again when reading the book of Esther, even though not specifically mentioned by name or in Christian-ese terminology, we see a wonderful preview and picture of Jesus and the New Covenant that He came, lived, died, and rose to secure. The old letter from the King cannot be revoked, nor should it be really.

Once a Sovereign declares something, do we really want them to revoke and go back on their word? Would we take seriously a leader who says one thing, waits a while, then changes their mind? If this leader is wise, the first declaration will have been long thought-over and saturated with wisdom. When people in their fallen sinful humanity behave as such, is it right for that leader simply to revoke what they said? I think of that old phrase about the tail wagging the dog…

Rather, here we see that Xerxes stuck to his word, but also gave provision for the deliverance of the innocent (v.8). This is a wonderful preview of the Old and New Covenants. The Old was initiated in good faith, with good conscience, and with the intention of furthering the kingdom (3.8-11). Now, it is important to say that, obviously, Xerxes was deceived into making this agreement and did so not knowing the full picture, but, in principle, he thought he was acting in the best interests of his kingdom.

Likewise, the Old Covenant was given for the best interests of God’s Kingdom and His people. But, people being people, the sinful and fallen humanity twisted and broke this covenant to the point where a New Covenant was needed, one that sought to reestablish the original intention of the first, one that rested on a much more trustworthy person, and one that truly did seek what was best for God’s people.

How grateful we are that we live now under this New Covenant, that this New Covenant doesn’t rest on us to uphold it (for it would surely have been broken by now), and that this New Covenant truly does provide what is best for God’s people.

Guilty // Innocent – Esther 7

For an Old Testament book that is often overlooked or forgotten, Esther is proving to be a wonderful Christ-centered text to read, isn’t it. If you haven’t read Esther 7 recently, you can do so here.

The story picks up at the feast arranged in 5.8, and Esther finally lays out her request before the King,

“If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king.”

vv.3-4

Here is where Esther finally identifies herself as Jewish (my people…we have…I and my people…we had been…our affliction…). Following her request, Esther lays the responsibility square where it belongs, “A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!” Inviting him to a private party with the King and Queen proved a very shrewd move indeed.

Xerxes is filled with wrath and, sensibly for a man who commanded the sea to be whipped, takes a walk in the garden (v.7). Haman begs for his life, trips, falls on to the couch Esther is sitting on, incriminates himself even more, and is taken away to be executed (vv.7-8). He is then impaled on the stake he had prepared for Mordecai, as in 2.23, and the wrath of the king abated.

Esther 7 gives us a wonderful type (preview, foreshadow) of the substitutionary death of Jesus. Here in Esther, the guilty party dies to abate the wrath of the king and save the innocent. However, flip that around and we see the story of Jesus shining though; the innocent dies to satisfy the wrath coming against the guilty.

Just think, are we talking here about Haman or Jesus?

A substitutionary death to calm the anger of a King.

A substitutionary death to save God’s people.

A substitutionary death to turn away wrath.

A substitutionary death to absorb punishment.

A substitutionary death.

See, when we look, when we think, when we pause, and when we see, Jesus is in every book of the Bible. All of the law and the prophets point to Him, and it is those He came to fulfill. Here in Esther 7, His death that gave us life is shining through!

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.

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 coursing/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!