RiSK for an undeniable cause (Esther 4)

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Guess who I am:

Every true leader has it. It’s in the blood of most every soldier. Our community emergency responders (police, fire, medical, etc.) display it in emergencies. You even see it in superstar athletes.                               I am courage.

Courage Quotes:

  • We Bought A Zoo quote “in life we need 10 seconds of courage”
  • “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” ~Karl Barth, Swiss Theologian
  • “Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.” ~Eddie Rickenbacker
  • “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you cannot do.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
  • “One Person with Courage is a Majority” (John Maxwell)
  • “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
  • “The Japanese character for ‘crisis’ is a combination of the characters for ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’ (or promise); crisis is therefore not an end of opportunity but in reality only its beginning; the point where danger and opportunity meet; where the future is in the balance and where events can go either way.” David Bosch, Missiologist, quoted in Verge by Hirsch & Ferguson, p.203
  • Revelation 21:8 “But as for the cowardly, the faithless… their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

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EXAMINE       Esther   Title: RiSK for an undeniable cause

TIMELINE

  • ~605-536BC Daniel
  • 586BC King Neb of Babylon conquers Israel
  • 538BC Cyrus of Persia decrees return of Jews
  • 535BC Temple construction begins
  • 515BC Temple completed
  • 478-473BC Esther
  • 457BC Artaxerxes to Ezra 7:12-26            (Beginning of 490 years from Daniel 9:24)
  • 444BC Rebuilding of city walls (Nehemiah 2:1-6)
  • 430-400BC Malachi last prophet before Christ’s advent

 

Interactive: – Ahasuerus: “hmmmm”               – Esther: “woa baby”          – Haman: “boooo”          – Mordecai: “yeaaaa!”

 

Read Esther 1:1-12

King Ahasuerus had a week long party to pridefully display the riches of his kingdom. He reigned over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia. At another party he sat on couches of gold and walked on silver mosaic pavement. Drinks were served in golden vessels of different kinds. In fact, Persia was known for creating ornate drinking vessels as no two were alike.

After much drunkenness the King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to come before him. However, she refused causing Ahasuerus great anger. Ahasuerus consulted his advisers and essentially ex-communicated her from being Queen.

  • The downfall of every person always leads back to pride. Pride will swell until hell; in other words, the more we allow sinful attitudes and actions to go unchecked is the more likely apathy sets in and we will experience the ultimate consequences of sin (Proverbs 16:18; 29:1).
  • Men are called to love and lead their wives sacrificially not severely (Ephesians 5:25-32). Ahasuerus treated Vashti in a demeaning manner and
  • Women are called to treat husbands with respect not being rude or insulting. Vashti had every right to protest but her manner appears disrespectful to trump Ahasuerus’ leadership.
  • Human value is not in affluence or appearance. In beginning King throws a banquet that lasts 180 days to show his wealth. Later, he has a beauty show to parade thousands of virgins to select the prettiest. So, it seems that a man’s worth is by his affluence and a woman’s value is by her appearance. But this is not so with God – His name is unmentioned but still is evident that He is due all the glory.

 

Read Esther 2:15-20

King Ahasuerus made a search of all the beautiful young virgins to become the next queen – essentially a beauty pageant. Esther’s (Hadassah) beauty stood out among the other women and she was chosen as Vashti’s replacement. The catch was Esther’s nationality was Jewish meaning she was not a natural Persian and possibly could have been in danger for anti-Jewish treatment.

  • Culture of male dominance (not male leadership) was improper: demeaning and parading women for male pleasure.
  • Human trafficking exists all over the world, including in America. Victims are tricked, transported, transferred, harbored, and used in exploitive and immoral manners. Children may be used as slave laborers, as soldiers in acts of war, and even forced sexual encounters. The distinction of a person created in the image of God and the dignity of a person is removed in all these cases. This appears to be part of the culture in Persia, and unfortunately today.[1]
  • Domestic Violence is equally immoral.
  • Christians must work to correct this culture and return the value of people created in God’s image. Christians must be salt & light – a detectable difference in their community.

 

Read Esther 2:19-23

Mordecai was an exiled Jew (Esther 2:6) who hung around the King’s gate and heard about a plot to kill King Ahasuerus. He told Esther who told the King and the plot was discovered to spare the King’s life. This event was recorded in the King’s chronicled record (cf. Esther 6:1).

  • God is the silent sovereign. He is at work behind the scenes to bring Mordecai from an exile to an ear at the King’s gate that will spare not just the King’s life but eventually lead to sparing the entire Jewish nation.
  • Are you living in darkness and doubting God? The darkness you experience is but a shadow of God’s presence (cf. Psalm 139:12). The clouds are but the dust of His feet (Nahum 1:3). We can trust that God is faithful and foresees every trial and trouble we face and is working to bring about His good in our life (Romans 8:28-29). God is recording every act in His book and one day will read it to bring justice and avenge all wrong.

 

Read Esther 3:1-11

King Ahasuerus made Haman a royal official. Haman was just as prideful as any other Persian leader. When he realized Mordecai would not bow to him and that he was a Jew, Haman sought to eliminate them and most especially Mordecai, Esther’s uncle.

  • Discrimination is evil. Haman’s desire to rid the Jews stemmed from personal pride not any moral or divine reasoning. Christianity must persevere to be a people who discriminate against discrimination.

 

Read Esther 4:8-17

Following King Ahasuerus order the Jews were in great distress. They mourned for their deliverance. Mordecai fasted, wept and mourned. He went to Esther and reminded her to use her position to save the Jewish people. However, Esther was fearful and lacked faith in her relationship with the Queen. In Mordecai’s eyes, the hand of providence became clear for why Esther became the Queen. Esther had to learn that being queen was not about her but for the salvation of others.

  • We must see our circumstances, our credentials, clout, and connections as all provided blessings from God. We are blessed, “for such a time as this”, to be a blessing to others for the glory of God. Unfortunately too often we see our circumstances as a result of our own accomplishment and therefore instead of helping others we hoard for our own fame and protection.
  • If we fail to risk for God’s glory then we misunderstand God’s provision in our life and we will miss God’s purpose for our life. God will accomplish His purposes and His counsel shall stand (Isa 46:10).
  • We can risk in the present because God is certain of the future.

 

Read Esther 6:14-7:10

Esther prepares a banquet for King Ahasuerus in which he seeks to bless her with any wish, up to half the kingdom. Esther requests that her life with all the other Jews be spared. King Ahasuerus asks who made such a decree against these people and Esther lets it be known that it was Haman. King Ahasuerus decides to hang Haman on the gallows that he created for Mordecai. The Jews were allowed to defend themselves and they survive. The day of victory became a national holiday – The feast of Purim (lots).

  • Revenge belongs to God. Romans 12:17-19, 21 “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
  • We cannot control circumstances but we can place ourselves in position to trust God to honor His name in our life. Mordecai or Esther did not pursue revenge but they entrusted themselves to the king’s favor. Likewise, we must rely on God’s providential grace.

APPLY/THINK

God is the Hidden Hero.

Interestingly enough, the name of God is no where in this book. Esther is the only book in the Bible that does not mention God, but it seems this is intentional to show the circumstances of the Jews as being distant and undeserving of God’s salvation. Yet, that is precisely what God does in His providential grace. God is the Hidden Hero.

God’s fingerprints touch every page of the entire story of Esther. God works behind the scenes as the executive producer to direct each character and every scene. God is sovereign in the smallest of details, writing His beautiful story to accomplish His grand purpose.

One of my favorite books is The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones. In the introduction of this children’s bible she writes,

“Now some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done. Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose). They get afraid and run away. At times they are downright mean. No, the Bible isn’t a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story… lots of stories telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them…

It’s an adventure story about a young HERO who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life.”

 

So, the book of Esther isn’t about her and Mordecai as heroes. It’s about God, the hidden Hero. And the same is true of your life. Stop grumbling about the circumstances of your life… it’s not about you but God. So trust that God is greater than your circumstances and will be the Hero to rescue you in His time.

 

God is the Sovereign Savior.

God does raise up leaders and spiritual influences for His purposes “for such a time as this”. Who would ever guess that a young orphan girl would become Queen of Persia – one of the greatest empires in the world at just the right time for God’s people? Only God can turn weakness into wise strength. Only God can change the destiny of an entire group of people from death to life in a single moment.

It is not random chance that

  • The Medes & Persians conquer Babylon who conquered Israel.
  • Esther just happens to be the most beautiful of the virgins to get selected to be Queen
  • Likewise, that Esther is Jewish.
  • That Mordecai just happens to be sitting at the right place at the right time to hear a conversation that will help spare the King’s life.
  • That Ahasuerus cannot sleep and reads the record book to reward Mordecai based ironically on Haman’s recommendation.
  • That Esther has established a relationship for the King’s favor to protect herself and her people the Jews.
  • God uses people in every sphere of life: Ezra a priest, Nehemiah a planner & builder, Esther an orphan turned civic leader. We are called to use the credentials, clout and connections we have for the glory of God, “for such a time as this.”
  • God uses and blesses your obedience to risk with faith. “without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6)
  • God will conquer every enemy. There will be a day when the record books are opened and there shall be no army or individual who will stand against God. We must pray for our persecuted brothers & sisters to endure in the fight of faith to withstand the enemy’s attacks. = NOVEMBER 2 2014
    • Like Haman, every person who works against God’s people is an enemy of God. You are either united with God and His people or against them. Haman felt and thought he was close to the king but in reality was revealed to be far from the king’s plans. Be careful you are working towards unity and not division.

But let’s be clear… Esther is no hero or savior. She shows no concern for dietary laws when taken into the King’s court. She conceals his Jewish identity rather than promotes it. She engages in the pagan beauty contest. She gives her virginity away to a pagan king, whom she is not married. She is not bold in prayer but needs prodding to risk. She shies away from saving her Jewish people.

 

Jesus in Esther

  • Jesus is the greater King Ahasuerus who’s bride (Vashti) rejects Him but He still pursues her in sacrificial (not self-serving) love.
  • Esther was twice chosen: chosen by adoption (Mordecai) and by royalty (Ahasuerus). Likewise, the Christian is twice-chosen being created and adopted by God and called to become a royal priesthood bridging the gap for others to know God.
  • Esther’s name means “star”. She is the star that points to the gospel. Esther identifies with her people and falls under condemnation. Yet, the king accepts her, grants her favor and raises her up. Jesus left His palace to identify with His people and be under condemnation of sin. Yet, God accepts His sacrifice, resurrects His life and exalts Him to the name above every name. In the process is the salvation of many from all nations.
  • Haman sought acceptance of the king through his own works and he received judgment. Esther sought undeserving mercy and received it based on the king’s favor.
  • Jesus is the greater Esther who had intrinsic beauty yet sacrificed it to make us beautiful. Our value and worth is not based on external appearance but on the sacrifice of Jesus. We are lovely because He loves us!
  • Jesus is the greater Esther who left his palace willingly and without prodding, to not just risk his life but to give his life to save His people. Jesus did not just say, “If I perish, I perish”, but said, “When I perish, I perish [for my people]”.
  • Jesus is the greater Mordecai. Haman’s law could not be revoked and threatened death. Mordecai had the signet ring of the great king that provided an escape from death. God’s law of moral perfection brings death to a sinful humanity, yet through Jesus becomes our freedom by fulfilling the law and providing life (Romans 5:20-21).
  • The gallows our enemy meant for our destruction were his own defeat.
  • Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is a day of fasting. Feast of Purim is a day of feasting. In these we have a picture of the gospel with repentance by grace through faith resulting in victory and celebration.

 

[1] For more information see http://www.unicefusa.org/mission/protect/trafficking

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