Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 Thy Will be Done (The Story of Esther)

 

Today, we are going to study the book of Esther.  If you have never read it or if it has been a long time and the details have become a little fuzzy, get ready, because this is an exciting story.

There are five major characters in this book, and I’ll introduce them now to make things easier to follow.

Xerxes is the 5 th king of the Persian Empire and he is in the 3rd year of his rein, which began in 486 BC, after the death of his father, Darius the First.

Vashti is the Queen of Persia.  She is a woman of character and conviction.

Mordecai is a Jewish man, whose family was exiled when Jerusalem fell.  He is a cousin of Esther, and has been raising her ever since her parents died.

Esther is an orphan girl, who is being raised by Mordecai.  She is a woman of both inner and outer beauty.

Hamon is the villain of the story.  He is dressed in black and wearing a black hat.  He is the second in command of the Persian Empire.

As we study this thrilling account from the word of God, we will see that though God’s name is never mentioned in this book, that His presence, His providence, His moving, is very apparent as the story unfolds.

It is like God is off stage, directing those who are on stage.  He is setting the scenes and guiding the action.

You know, it is so easy to see God in the spectacular and the miraculous, but it is a lot harder to see God in the seemingly mundane and ordinary times of our life.  But God is also present there, weaving a plan and working in our lives.

Scene One: “The Party”

This drama, from the word of God, opens in 483 BC, during the 3 rd year of King Xerxes rein, in the city of Susa, in what today would be the country of Iran.

God’s people have been scattered throughout the Persian Empire since the fall of Jerusalem, which occurred in 587 BC at the hands of the Babylonians.

So here we have King Xerxes in his capital city.  And I think we would have to call him the ultimate party animal.

He is throwing a party for all of his nobles, officials, princes and military leaders; one commentator said it was a group of 10,000-15,000.

And do you know how long his party lasted?  For 180 days.  And do you know what he did right after the party?  He threw another one for ten days in the enclosed garden of his palace.

And while this party was going on, the ladies were having their own party, given by Queen Vashti.

And as the party was nearly over, the King (no doubt drunk) thought, “Hey, I have a great looking wife; I think I’ll have her get all prettied up and come in and walk around in front of my drunken friends.”  So he sent his messengers to get her.

What do you think Queen Vashti did when she heard the King’s order?  She refused; she wasn’t about to allow herself and the King (who was not in his right mind) to be disgraced; she was a woman of conviction and even though she knew that the price would be high to refuse, she sent back word, “I’m not coming.”

So they remove Vashti’s crown and issue a decree that all women in the empire, must respect their husband.  It is as if they thought that they could demand that their wives respect them.  But that’s not how it works; respect cannot be demanded, it must be earned.

Scene Two, “The Pageant”

They are looking for a replacement for Queen Vashti.  Xerxes’ attendant suggests sending out commissioners to all 127 provinces, and that they should bring back to Susa the most beautiful women they can find.

He said, “And let the one who pleases you, be the next Queen, and we will help you judge.”

It is here that we see the invisible hand of God begin to move, and it stops at Esther.

Esther is chosen as one of the girls from her province.  Mordecai, her adopted father, tells her to keep the fact that she is a Jew hidden.

Regardless of the odds, Esther would win.  After she had gone through the prescribed beauty treatments, 6 months of oils and 6 months of perfumes and cosmetics, she was brought before Xerxes.

17 Well, the king loved Esther more than any of the other girls. He was so delighted with her that he set the royal crown on her head and declared her queen instead of Vashti.
18 To celebrate the occasion, he threw another big party for all his officials and servants, giving generous gifts to everyone and making grants to the provinces in the form of remission of taxes.
  Esth 2:17-18 (Living)

Scene two closes with a very important point stuck in at the end.  Mordecai worked at the king’s gate where he overheard two men plotting to assassinate Xerxes.  He told Esther, and Esther told Xerxes, and the men were arrested, found guilty and hanged.  And this event was recorded in The Book of Annals, which was kind of like the minutes of a meeting.

Now you need to remember that bit if information, because you will need it later.

Scene Three, “The Plot”

As this scene opens up, the villain steps on stage for the first time.  We finally meet Hamon.

We see Hamon being promoted to the highest office in the kingdom; he is made second in command to Xerxes, himself, and Xerxes has also ordered that whenever Hamon walks by, everyone must bow down and worship him.

Mordicai, who worked at the gate, refused to bow down and give homage and worship to Hamon.  When Hamon learned of this, he was furious, and when he learned that Mordachi was a Jew, his fury raged with even more intensity.

Hamon hated the Jews.  They were the most stubborn people that he had ever seen.  All of the other conquered nations would bow and give honors to Persian leaders, but not the Jews.  They would not bow to anyone except their God.  Listen to these two verses:

5,6 Haman was furious but decided not to lay hands on Mordecai alone, but to move against all of Mordecai's people, the Jews, and destroy all of them throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.
  Esth 3:5,6 (Living)

Then Hamon went to Xerxes, to try to sell the king on his idea.  Can’t you just imagine Hamon buttering-up the King.

8 Haman now approached the king about the matter. "There is a certain race of people scattered through all the provinces of your kingdom," he began, "and their laws are different from those of any other nation, and they refuse to obey the king's laws; therefore, it is not in the king's interest to let them live.
9 If it please the king, issue a decree that they be destroyed, and I will pay $20,000,000 into the royal treasury for the expenses involved in this purge."
  Esth 3:8-9 (Living)

Then Xerxes took off his signet ring and gave it to Hamon.  This would be like a presidential seal, and Xerxes told Hamon, “Keep the money, and you can do with these people as you please.”

And so an official, irrevocable decree was issued, saying that on a single day, the 13th day of the 12th month, all the Jews, men, women, and children were to be annihilated.

Scene Four, “The Purpose”

1 When Mordecai learned what had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, crying with a loud and bitter wail.
2 Then he stood outside the gate of the palace, for no one was permitted to enter in mourning clothes.
3 And throughout all the provinces there was great mourning among the Jews, fasting, weeping, and despair at the king's decree; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
  Esth 4:1-3 (Living)

Suppose you are watching TV tonight, and they break into your program to bring a special news bulletin.  It’s a message from the oval office; the cameras zoom in on the president, and he makes this announcement, “Today, we want all people in America to hear this decree.  We have decided, with America’s best interests in mind, to make the following law.  We therefore declare that on this day, June 16, 2002, that on December 25, 2002, all Christians; men, women and children are to be completely and utterly annihilated.”

How would you feel?  What would you do?

Right now, for us, this is a hypothetical situation, but for the Jews, it was cold, dark reality.

And Mordecai and the Jews, were in deep, and I mean deep, emotional turmoil and distress.  They said, “We are all going to die and so are our precious little children.”

When news about Mordecai reached Esther in the palace, she was greatly distressed, so she sent clothing to Mordecai to put on instead of sack cloth, but Mordecai refused to take them.  Esther apparently did not know about the decree, so she sent her attendants back to find out what it was that had caused such great mourning.

Mordecai told them everything; he even gave her a copy of the text of the King’s edict.  And Mordecai urged Esther to go into the King’s presence and plead with him, for mercy for her people.

The messenger brings to Esther the words of Mordecai, and she sends these words back to him.  “Now everyone knows that if anyone goes into the presence of the King without being summoned, that the king has but one law; put them to death.  The only exception is for the King to extend his golden scepter, and grant him life.  It’s been 30 days since the king has summoned me; if I go, I risk my very life.

Now, let’s pick up the reading again.

12 So Hathach gave Esther's message to Mordecai.
13 This was Mordecai's reply to Esther: "Do you think you will escape there in the palace when all other Jews are killed?
14 If you keep quiet at a time like this, God will deliver the Jews from some other source, but you and your relatives will die; what's more, who can say but that God has brought you into the palace for just such a time as this?"
  Esth 4:12-14 (Living)

He said, “Sooner or later it will come out that you are also a Jew, Esther.  Esther, you are not indispensable.  It is God’s plan to send the Messiah as a Jew.  God’s plan will work.  And if you don’t do it, someone else will.  God’s will, will be done.”

Mordecai continued, “And Esther, not only are you not indispensable, but if you reject God and His people, while the Jews are being delivered by another, you and your family will perish.”

And now listen to these powerful words, “And who knows, but that you have come to this royal position, for such a time as this.”

What Mordecai is saying to Esther is this, “Esther, I believe that God’s invisible hand has guided you, and has brought you to this very place, to this very time, so that you can deliver His people from destruction.  Esther, this is your moment of truth, this is the purpose of your life.”

15 Then Esther sent this message to Mordecai:
16 "Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day; and I and my maids will do the same; and then, though it is strictly forbidden, I will go in to see the king; and if I perish, I perish."
17 So Mordecai did as Esther told him to.
  Esth 4:15-17 (Living)

Esther sent back these words to Mordecai, “Let’s seek God’s guidance on the matter-have all the Jews in Susa fast for 72 hours and I and my maids will fast as well, here at the palace.”

“And when this is done, I will go before the King, even though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”

“If I die doing God’s will, then I die.”  Esther understood, like the apostle Paul who wrote, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Obeying God’s will is the most important thing we will ever do.  Esther was willing to stand upon that rock!

Scene four ends with thousands of Jews in the city and Esther and her maids, all in humble prayer before their God.

Scene 5, “The Petition”

After three days of fasting and praying, Esther is assured of God’s presence and provision, and she goes for it; she goes for broke.

You can just about feel Esther’s heart beating as she puts on her royal robes, and as she walks down the corridor to the King’s chamber.  She’s probably praying, over and over again, “Please let him extend his scepter.”

And Xerxes is setting on his royal throne, reading the sports page.  And he looks up and he sees Esther, and Xerxes extends his golden scepter, and Esther walks up and touches the tip.

Xerxes says he will grant her petition, up to half his kingdom.  And Esther replies, I would like for you and Hamon to come to a banquet I will prepare for you.  And then I will tell you my petition.

Now Hamon left the palace that day in high spirits thinking to himself, “Boy, I’m really special, the King likes me, and now Esther the Queen has invited me to a banquet; just for me and the King.”  Old Hamon was smiling and almost skipping as he walked.  And then he walked by the King’s gate and saw Mordecai, and his high spirits flew out the window, and was replaced with unrelenting rage.

He restrained himself for the moment, and when he got home, he told his wife about all the great things that had been happening.  He tells her about the banquet and then he says, “But all that gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai setting at the King’s gate.”

Hamon was pretty stupid.  He had a lot going for him, but he let one person steal his joy.

After hearing her husband whine, Hamon’s wife says, “Now, now, Hamon, Don’t be upset.  Why don’t you just build a 75’ gallows and ask the King if you can hang that nasty Mordecai on it tomorrow.”

As scene 5 closes, we see the gallows being built, we hear the hammers pounding, and things don’t look good for the home team.

Scene Six, “The Plan”

In scene six, we see God moving in mighty ways, unfolding and implementing His plan.

And remember, there is no such thing in our lives as a coincidence, when it concerns the will of God.  A coincidence is simply a time, where God has chosen to act anonymously.

God can work through many things to bring about His will; He worked through a flood, a Pharaoh, a 40 year trek through the wilderness, a rod that budded, a rock that gave water, a donkey that talked, and even a cross.  And here in Esther we see God working through insomnia.

King Xerxes was tossing and turning, unable to sleep.  And since they didn’t have Sominex back then, Xerxes asked for the next best thing; he asked for someone to read the book of the chronicles of his rein to him.  Remember, those were the minutes?  He figured that if anything would put him to sleep, it would be the minutes.  And so as he lay there listening to the minutes, his ears perk up when he hears about an assassination plot, that occurred several years earlier, and how a man named Mordecai had saved his life.

And Xerxes asked, “What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?”  And the attendant said, “Nothing has been done for him.”

Just then Xerxes hears someone coming into the outer court to speak with him.  It’s Hamon, and he is coming to ask Xerxes about hanging Mordecai on the gallows he has just built.

Xerxes says, “Send him in!”

When Hamon comes in, Xerxes doesn’t give him time to ask his question, but instead asks Hamon, “What should be done for a man, whom the king delights to honor?”

Now we know that Xerxes is talking about Mordecai, but Hamon doesn’t know that, and he figures that Xerxes has to be talking about honoring him.  After all, who else could it be; he thinks, “Who could be more deserving than me?”  So Hamon is really going to pour it on thick, because he thinks he is talking about what’s going to be done for him.
 
7,8 So he replied, "Bring out some of the royal robes the king himself has worn, and the king's own horse, and the royal crown,
9 and instruct one of the king's most noble princes to robe the man and to lead him through the streets on the king's own horse, shouting before him, 'This is the way the king honors those who truly please him!' "
  Esth 6:7-9 (Living)

And then Xerxes says, “That’s a great idea Hamon.  Now go at once, get the robe, and get the horse, and do exactly what you have suggested.  For Mordecai is the Jew that sets at the king’s gate and be sure that you do not neglect anything that you have recommended.”

Wow!  Can you just imagine how Hamon felt; he was angry and humiliated.

11 So Haman took the robes and put them on Mordecai, and mounted him on the king's own steed, and led him through the streets of the city, shouting, "This is the way the king honors those he delights in."
12 Afterwards Mordecai returned to his job, but Haman hurried home utterly humiliated.
  Esth 6:11-12 (Living)

I doubt that he sounded very enthusiastic when he made the proclamation.

After this he went home, but he did not get any sympathy from his wife, when he got there.  And soon after, the King’s eunuch arrived to escort him to the Queen’s banquet.

Now it is time to see the courage of the Queen, for we read:

1 So the king and Haman came to Esther's banquet.
2 Again, during the wine course, the king asked her, "What is your petition, Queen Esther? What do you wish? Whatever it is, I will give it to you, even if it is half of my kingdom!"
3 And at last Queen Esther replied, "If I have won your favor, O King, and if it please Your Majesty, save my life and the lives of my people.
4 For I and my people have been sold to those who will destroy us. We are doomed to destruction and slaughter. If we were only to be sold as slaves, perhaps I could remain quiet, though even then there would be incalculable damage to the king that no amount of money could begin to cover."
5 "What are you talking about?" King Xerxes demanded. "Who would dare touch you?"
6 Esther replied, "This wicked Haman is our enemy." Then Haman grew pale with fright before the king and queen.
7 The king jumped to his feet and went out into the palace garden as Haman stood up to plead for his life to Queen Esther, for he knew that he was doomed.
8 In despair he fell upon the couch where Queen Esther was reclining, just as the king returned from the palace garden. "Will he even rape the queen right here in the palace, before my very eyes?" the king roared. Instantly the death veil was placed over Haman's face.
9 Then Harbona, one of the king's aides, said, "Sir, Haman has just ordered a 75-foot gallows constructed, to hang Mordecai, the man who saved the king from assassination! It stands in Haman's courtyard." "Hang Haman on it," the king ordered.
10 So they did, and the king's wrath was pacified.
  Esth 7:1-10 (Living)

Scene 7, “The Preservation”

In this scene, we see King Xerxes issuing a new decree that brings about the preservation of the Jewish people.

11 This decree gave the Jews everywhere permission to unite in the defense of their lives and their families, to destroy all the forces opposed to them, and to take their property.
  Esth 8:11 (Living)
15 Then Mordecai put on the royal robes of blue and white and the great crown of gold, with an outer cloak of fine linen and purple, and went out from the presence of the king through the city streets filled with shouting people.
16 And the Jews had joy and gladness and were honored everywhere.
17 And in every city and province, as the king's decree arrived, the Jews were filled with joy and had a great celebration and declared a holiday. And many of the people of the land pretended to be Jews, for they feared what the Jews might do to them.
  Esth 8:15-17 (Living)

God’s people were saved, and God’s plan remained intact, as always.

And as this true life drama ends with the Jews experiencing victory, some written words come on the screen, telling of what became of Mordecai.

“Mordecai, the Jew, was made second in rank to King Xerxes.  He was preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem, because he worked for the good of his people, and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.”

What a powerful and exciting story.

But what can we take with us from this story?  Let me give you six things.

1. God’s will, will be done.  Nothing can stop God’s will.  Nothing can stop his church.  Jesus said, the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
2. Though God is invisible, He is invincible.  He will win in the end, and so will those who stand with Him.
3. Though God is silent, He is still in control.  We need to listen to the whisper of God behind the roar of our circumstances.
4. God can turn things around in our life, regardless of our past and present circumstances.  He can make something beautiful out of our lives.
5. God may have placed us in the position or circumstances that we are in, for such a time as this, so we can bear witness to His power and glory.
6. That God has chosen to work out his plan through faithful men and women.  God still needs Mordecai’s today; people not afraid to stand up for what is right regardless of the price, and who have a deep love for their people.

And God still needs Esther’s today; people, who though they may not know all the answers, still trust God and allow Him to work through their lives.

You know it’s great to read a book like Esther, where you can see the whole picture, and where you can see the how’s, and know the why’s; where you can see God and His invisible hand moving His plan and His people to victory.

But our life is not always like that is it?  We don’t always know the what’s and the why’s and the how’s behind life’s circumstances, do we?  And neither did Mordecai and Esther, when they were living the words we just studied.

So we must trust and obey.

That’s what Mordecai did, and what Esther did.  And that is what we must do; trust and obey.  Because there really is no other way.  Are you trusting in God now, despite the circumstances, knowing that His will, will be done.  Knowing that His ultimate will for your life is only good things, when all is said and done. 

Are you walking with the Lord, in the light of his word?

That’s how to be a winner.

 

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