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Bible Stories Which Teach Us How to Live in This World

Aug 22, 2021

by: Jack Lash Series: Bible Stories Which Teach Us How to Live in This World | Category: Faith | Scripture: Esther 4:13–4:16

I. Introduction
A. Series
B. If I were going to be here for 10 more years, I would love to preach through the book of Esther.
II. This story is quite complicated. I’m going to leave out all the details I can, but most of this sermon will be taken up just telling the story.
A. As you know, after hundreds of years living in the promised land, the Jews were taken into exile in Babylon, then Babylon was conquered by Persia.
B. After 70 years, God began to return His people to Palestine – 1Chron.9:3-34; 2Chron.36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-10:44; Neh.1:1-5:13; Neh.6:1-11:36; Neh.12:27-13:28; Dan.5:30-6:27; Hagg.1:1-2:23; Zech.1:1-8:23; 11:4-17.
1. By the time of our story, the first Jews had already returned and rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem.
2. But only a small percentage of the Jews had returned. Most still lived in the lands of the exile.
3. There they had a reputation for being a difficult and stubborn people because of their refusal to bow down to idols or disobey the law of their God.
4. This is the story of two of them. One was Esther, a young woman who was actually an orphan. Her first cousin, Mordecai, was her guardian; he was probably old enough to be her father. They both lived in Susa, which today is in western Iran, just east of Babylon.
C. At the time, the king’s name was Ahasuerus (sometimes identified as Xerxes).
1. He’s also referred to in the book of Ezra 4:6.
2. He ruled over a vast Persian empire, which stretched from all the way from India to Ethiopia.
D. In the 3rd year of his reign, Ahasuerus threw an enormous party, which lasted for 6 mo – Est.1:1-4.
1. His purpose was to show off his royal riches and splendor. And at one point in the party, when the king had had a little too much to drink, he decided that he wanted to parade the glory of his beautiful queen Vashti before his guests.
E. Well, Vashti wasn’t very interested in being paraded before a bunch of inebriated men, and she refused to come – Esther 1:1-12.
1. As a result of this refusal, Ahasuerus decided that Vashti must be removed from her position as queen – 1:13-22.
F. This meant that the king needed to find a new queen. And in order to do this, they basically set up a great beauty contest. All the beautiful, young, eligible women of the empire were brought to Susa – whether they liked it or not – for the king to look over – to choose a new queen – 2:1-4.
G. Well, out of all those young women, Esther won the king’s approval & became queen and moved into the palace – 2:5-18. But, following Mordecai’s advice, she didn’t inform the king that she was Jewish. And every day Mordecai would hang around the palace gate to see how Esther was doing.
H. One day when Mordecai was sitting there, he overheard men discussing a plot to kill the king. Mordecai sent word about this to Esther, who reported it to the king, initiating an investigation which resulted in the execution of two traitors – 2:19-23. The record of the event was written down in the king’s annals, but he forgot to award Mordecai who had saved his life.
I. Now the king’s favorite official was named Haman. And wherever Haman went, the people bowed down to him. All except Mordecai, who – presumably because of his faith in God – refused. This so enraged Haman that he decided to get revenge. He crafted a plan not only to kill Mordecai, but to kill all of Mordecai’s people, i.e. all the Jews in the empire. He went to the king to get permission.
1. “O King, there is a certain people who refuse to keep your laws, and I think the kingdom would be better off if they were disposed of.” And the king gave his approval, much to Haman’s glee. Now he would be able to eliminate that pest Mordecai and everyone like him – 3:5-15. But of course Haman knew nothing about Esther being a Jew, nor about her relationship with Mordecai.
J. So Haman sent out a decree in the name of the king to every corner of the empire, that on a certain day all the people should rise up and kill all the Jews. If Haman’s plot succeeded, all the Jews in the whole world were to be killed, even the ones who had returned to Palestine and rebuilt the temple.
K. When Mordecai heard about the decree, he tore his clothes in grief wept bitterly. Then he sent a message to Esther about the decree, urging her to plead to the king on behalf of her people.
L. But Esther knew that any person who approached the king without being sent for was in danger of being killed, and she hadn’t been called to the king’s side for over a month. She expressed that hesitation to Mordecai – again through messengers.
M. This brings us to our passage... Esther 4:13-16 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” 15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”
N. And then this is what Esther did. After three days of fasting and praying, she went into the king. Ahasuerus smiled and held out his golden scepter to Esther – signifying that she was welcome to come in and address him. When the king asked her what she wanted, she invited Ahasuerus and Haman to a banquet. After the three of them had eaten together, the king asked again what Esther wanted. But she said she would like the two of them to return the next day for another banquet.
O. Haman strode home from lunch with his head held high, proud to have been invited to eat with the king and queen. But on his way out the gate, he passed Mordecai, who again refused to bow to him.
P. When he got home, as he was bragging about the banquet and griping about Mordecai, his wife and friends said, “You should build great tall gallows and then tomorrow you should ask the king to hang Mordecai on them.”
1. Haman loved the idea and had the gallows built that very afternoon. He went to bed eagerly awaiting the sight of watching his enemy hanging from his new gallows, so much so that he got up early in the morning so that as soon as the king woke up he could ask him if he could have Mordecai hanged.
Q. Over at the palace, however, the king was having problems going to sleep. So, he decided to get up and have the annals of his reign read to him.
1. When his servant read the part about Mordecai saving his life by reporting that he heard men discussing an assassination plot, the king asked, “Did Mordecai ever get rewarded for doing that?”
2. “No, O King, he did not.” Then they heard a sound of someone outside the court. “Who is that?,” asked the king. It was Haman. “Come in, Haman, I have a question to ask you. What do you think I should do to honor a man I very much want to honor?”
R. Well, the king was thinking of Mordecai, of course, but proud Haman thought the king must be thinking of him. “Who else would the king want to honor so much as me?”
1. So, he said, “O King, I would recommend that you dress the man up in the king’s own robes, and that one of the king’s most noble princes lead him through the streets on the king’s own horse, while the prince proclaims, “This is the man the king delights to honor!”
S. The king loved this idea and immediately told Haman to do all he said to Mordecai the Jew.
1. We can only imagine Haman’s bitter disappointment, and his humiliation in being forced to honor the man he hated most. But he had to do it.
2. How painful it was to see the people bow to the one he hated instead of bowing to him. 6:1-11
T. Well, when that was over, Haman was summoned to Esther’s second banquet. During the banquet, the king asked Esther once again, “So, what is your petition, my dear. It shall be given to you, even up to half my kingdom.”
1. Esther fell on her knees before the king, and begged him, “Please, O King, let my life be spared, and the life of my people! For we are about to be destroyed!”
2. The king jumped in fury, “Who has dared to do such a thing?”
3. Esther turned and pointed at Haman, “The enemy is this wicked Haman!” 7:1-17
4. The king was so angry that he stomped out of the room to calm himself.
U. While he was gone, Haman desperately went over to Esther to plead for mercy.
1. When the king returned and saw Haman touching the queen, he burst out, “How dare you touch the queen!” Right then and there, the king ordered that Haman be hung on the gallows which Haman himself had just had built – 7:8-10.
V. Esther then asked Ahasuerus to overturn Haman’s injunction (8:1-6), but the only way he could legally do so at that point was to issue another decree giving the Jews the permission and the equipment they would need to defend themselves – 8:7-14. This was enough to thwart the whole plan, and the Jews were protected. Mordecai was promoted to a high position in the land – 10:1-3.
III. Well, that’s a long and beautiful story. And it has so much to teach us about how to live in this world!
A. In His infinite wisdom, God has determined the when and where of our lives.
1. Do you that it’s not by accident that each of us lives when we live and where we live? That’s what the Bible teaches us: Acts 17:24–26 “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.”
2. Well, probably the most famous thing Mordecai says to Esther was: “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
3. And the truth is clear in the story. God had indeed raised up Esther for this great act of courage in this particular moment in history.
4. And the same is true with us. God arranged us to be born when and where He wanted.
5. This is where we belong. We’re here for a reason. Right here, right now.
6. We’re not here by accident. God has a special purpose for our lives in this place in this generation
B. Not only this, but we see in this story that God has made you the way He wants you. He designed you according to His purposes for your life.
1. Obviously, Esther was a very beautiful woman. And God made her that way. If she wasn’t so beautiful, she couldn’t have done what she did.
2. It’s very possible – even likely – that Esther didn’t want to be queen.
3. Certainly, there were a lot of perks, but can you imagine being presented before some much older man who chooses you without even knowing you? And you have no choice in the matter? And your life is in danger if you don’t obey?
4. But Esther’s marital pleasure wasn’t God’s top priority, was it? The salvation of His people needed to be protected. The future existence of the savior Himself had to protected.
5. And it was Esther’s life too which God was sparing. And it was Esther’s salvation too.
6. But the plan would only work if Esther was drop-dead gorgeous.
7. Now, there are plenty of disadvantages of being really good-looking. We saw that in the story of Joseph. Tragic stories abound. And so God doesn’t make everyone that way.
8. Do you know that God made you to look the way you look – in every detail?
9. Do you know how many potential genetic combinations there are between a father and a mother? Believe it or not, it is more than the number of atoms in the entire universe.
10. Well, guess who chooses which combination you get? God does.
11. He picked the color of your hair and your eyes and your skin. He picked your height. He picked your native intelligence. He picked the shape of your nose, and your ears, and your feet.
12. He knitted you together in your mothers womb (Ps.139:13), and He didn’t make any mistakes.
13. If you’re clever or beautiful or healthy, don’t pat yourself on the back. God made you that way.
14. And if you’re slow or plain or sickly, don’t despair. God made you that way for a reason. You’re the way He wants you. And you’re beautiful in His sight.
C. Just because you don’t feel like a great person doesn’t mean God doesn’t have great things for you to do.
1. Esther did nothing to attract attention. She didn’t set out to be a world-changer.
2. Little did she know that God was going to use her to preserve the salvation of the human race.
3. Some people are itching to be great. For others, the thought of being great and important sends shivers down their spine.
4. Esther was probably more like the latter. But God called her to be great, and to be important.
5. God doesn’t always give us the desire to do what He calls us to do, does He?
6. That’s why we must make sure we are willing to do whatever God wants us to do – even if we don’t feel like it.
7. Moses didn’t want to lead the people out of Egypt. “Find somebody else, Lord!”
8. Jeremiah didn’t want to confront the people of Judah with their sin. But God called them.
9. Sometimes He calls people to be single who want to be married. Sometimes He calls people who want to be single to be married. Sometimes He calls people who want to die to keep living. And sometimes He calls those who want to live to die. We need to be willing to Him to make those calls, and not insist on our own preferences.
D. This is a broken world, but God can operate just fine in a broken world.
1. Esther was an orphan. She lived as a member of a people who were at the bottom of the totem pole of society.
2. And yet God provided Esther with everything she needed – to do what He wanted her to do.
3. We too live in a broken world. There are major things wrong with our families, with our society, with our government, with our health, with our environment, even with our church.
4. But our God can operate just fine in a broken world. He can take care of orphans; He can take care of widows; He can take care of those in very painful marriages; He can take care of people who aren’t married but who desperately want to be married; He can take care of those who want to have kids who can’t have kids; He can take care of parents whose kids are in a bad place; He can take care of people who are having deep financial problems.
5. Shadrach/Meshach/Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace, but God still took care of them.
6. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den, but God still took care of him.
7. And Esther was thrown into a very difficult & dangerous situation, but God still took care of her.
8. Don’t you think He can take of you and me?
E. In the WCF V:7, it says that there is a special object of God’s providence.
1. You know, God takes care of all His creatures. He feeds the birds of the sky and clothes the flowers of the field. But there is one thing that God protects, preserves, and provides for above anything else on earth.
2. Do you know what it is? It is His church, His people; it is the objects of His salvation.
3. This is what was at stake in the story of Esther. Jesus Himself was at stake in the story of Esther, along with our salvation. If there were no Jews, there couldn’t be a Jesus. And if there was no Jesus, there was no salvation.
4. Now, of course, Jesus has already come, and His salvation has already been secured. But God is still in the business of making sure His salvation is established and protected.
5. Every one of those He has chosen for salvation will be saved. It is absolutely fixed and unchangeable. With no exceptions. God will do whatever He has to do to make sure each person He has written in His book of life will be brought to faith and will abide in the faith. No matter where they are. No matter who they are.
6. He subdues them to Himself – and then He guards them, preserving them in faith to the end.
F. One more thing. You might have heard that in the book of Esther God is never mentioned. That is true. It’s the only book in the Bible like that.
1. Some people treat this as if it’s a scandal: “How can you claim that it’s written by God if He’s not even mentioned in it?”
2. Actually, the fact that the book of Esther never mentions God tells us something very important, and is, in its own way, beautiful.
3. In fact, it’s sort of the whole point of the book.
4. In the story of Esther we see God’s hand in a very obvious and powerful way, even though He never directly inserts Himself into the story.
5. This is the way most of life is. God doesn’t show up and say, “Here I am!” all the time. But that doesn’t mean He’s not there. That doesn’t mean He’s not at work.
6. We don’t see electricity very often, and yet we sit in our homes and enjoy its benefits: our refrigerators are cold, our lights are on, our clocks keep the time.
7. Just because God doesn’t always part seas or shake mountains doesn’t mean He is isn’t at work – delicately and precisely guiding the affairs of His people toward their glorious end, even to the extent of leading a king to neglect to reward a good deed – so it might be used later.
8. Now, we all love it when God does show up in a really spectacular way. But in the ordinary things, and on the ordinary days, God more subtly reveals Himself to us. We do not insist on a sign, but are content to believe His promises, for we walk by faith and not by sight.
9. God isn’t mentioned in the book of Esther, but His sovereign control of all things, and His zeal for His people’s salvation are on full display.