Saturday, May 14, 2011

God's Grace in the story of Esther, Chapters 4-10

Esther has to be one of my favorite Old Testament stories.  It is everything that a good book should be, filled with mystery, intrigue, a little romance, stories of loyalty, heroism and the good guys win.  How can you beat that. 

Haman, a descendant from the Amalekites, has risen to power and become Artaxerxes right hand man.  He has issued an official edict that will allow the enemies of the Jews to slaughter them and take their property on the 14th day of Adar ( 11 months later).  Esther has become Queen replacing Vashti.  Mordecai, Esther's cousin, has uncovered a plot against the king and saved his life.  Haman's anger grows against Mordecai and consumes his thinking because Mordecai will not bow before him.  Mordecai learns of Haman's plot against the Jews and appeals to Esther to intervene with the King.  Esther hesitates.  The law of the land is that no one can enter into the King's private chambers without being summoned.  To do so could mean death and it has been a month since she has been with Artaxerxes.

Mordecai's words are some of the best in the Old Testament.  "Do not think that you shall be spared because of your relationship.  If you are silent, God will raise up another to intercede for the Jews.  But think, God may have placed you in the King's household for such a time as this.  Can you imagine that you life has such meaning?  That God has placed you exactly where you are to do some work that is especially designed for you?  Can we be bold enough, brave enough to trust that God will complete the good work that he has begun in us?  Esther asks Mordecai to have all of the Jews in Susa to fast and pray for three days that she might be bold enough and wise enough to save her people from Haman's treachery.

Haman continues to plot against Mordecai and has a 75 foot pole erected in the city upon which he will have Mordecai impaled.  Esther grows bold and approaches the King.  He finds favor with and responds to her request to come to a banquet that she will hold in his honor and he agrees to bring Haman.  On the night before the banquet the King cannot sleep.  He asks to be read to.  The book at hand is the Chronicles of the events in his own kingdom.  A portion of that which is read retells the story of Mordecai's deed in preserving the king.  On the next morning the King asks Haman how he should reward one who has done a great service to the king.  Haman thinks the king is speaking of him and suggests that the King honor him by putting a royal robe on him and placing him on one of the king's own horses and parade him through the city streets that all will know that the king thinks most highly of this person.  Artaxerxes declares "so be it" and orders Haman to do so to Mordecai.  Imagine the humiliation to Haman and the fear that swells in his heart.

At Esther's banquet she asks the king for protection for her and her people from one who has falsely accused them of treason.  "spare my life and the life of my people.  we have been sold to be destroyed?"  The king responds, "who has done this evil thing."  "Our adversary and enemy is the evil Haman!"  There is a complete reversal of fortunes.  The oppressed have become the conquerers, the vanquished have become the victors.  The world has been turned upside down.  Is this not the final outcome for all evil.  Will not our Savior return to cast the evil one into the lake of fire and take his bride (the church) to live eternally?   Shakespeare in hamlet said of the villain, "he has been hoist on his own petard (a weapon of war)"  That which Haman meant for evil, God has turned against him.
Haman is slain on the very device that he had erected for Mordecai.

Mordecai is elevated to the right hand of Artaxerxes and is given the kings signet ring.  He is instructed by the King to undo that which Mordecai has set in motion and he does.  When the evil is undone all of the Jews gather to celebrate their deliverance on the 14th day of Adar, the date that had once been determined for their destruction.  This celebration is the Feast of Purim which is celebrated in Synagogues to this very day.  Israel's sorrow has been turned to joy and her mourning to celebration.  So, too, shall our tears one day be dried as our Savior delivers us from every evil that has beset us.  God will reign and his righteous rule will bring peace at last to every heart.

Consider all of the events in this story that God used to orchestrate the deliverance of the Jews: Vashti looses her crown, Esther is chosen to replace her and gains special favor in the eyes of the King, Mordecai overhears the plot against Artaxerxes, Haman's use of lots to set the day of destruction results in 11 months of time to deal with the threat, Haman's edict of death is to be carried out by private hands and not the king's army (that would have been more difficult to stop), Artaxerxes sleepless night on the eve of his banquet with Esther and the book at his hand is inexplicably opened to the events about Mordecai's loyal deed.  Some people call these accidents of fate, I chose to believe that God is at work in his people and he will complete the good that he has begun in us.  Praise be to the God of our Salvation and to his Son Jesus Christ who has bought our pardon and who stands at the right hand of the Father to advocate for that which is best for us, the children of his flock.

I hope that you have enjoyed Esther.  It is a wonderful story of God's presence among us.  Hope to see you on the Sabbath.  God bless you.

No comments:

Post a Comment