The Bible says “When the righteous become numerous, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” (Proverbs 29:2). It was in such a time as this that Esther and Mordecai lived. The king Xerxes was absolutely a wicked king. The writer of the book implies that,
A. Xerxes was a fool: He probably asked queen Vashti to make an appearance before his drunkard guests without her clothes on and dethroned her because she disagreed.
B. Xerxes was a play boy: He wasted people’s tax money on banquets that lasted for months, to show off his wealth and impress his guests with the greatness of his kingdom.
C. Xerxes was a heathen: He was not a worshiper of our God. In matters of urgency he consulted astrologers and magicians who gave counsel according to their reading of celestial phenomena.
D. Xerxes was corrupted: He gladly accepted Haman’s bribe in exchange for permission to the mass slaughter of Jews. Ten thousand talents of silver weighed at least 375 tons and was the equivalent of two thirds of the annual income of the Persian empire. (His rejection of Haman’s silver was only an example of Oriental politeness that did not actually mean he rejected the payment).
Unarguably Satan exploited the flaws in the king’s character to devise a plan to rid the earth of Jews because it’s through them the Messiah will be born. We already know that God uses a man to carry out his plans. Likewise Satan also has used different people at different times, (Judas – Luke 22:3). In the book of Esther Xerxes and Haman become his instruments and we read how God used a woman to thwart Satan’s plan.
Some preachers put a significant weight on the virtues of the people who saved the Jews from certain genocide. This sermon however is about the providence of God and his ability to accomplish his will, despite the imperfections of his people.
1. God’s invisible hand
Read: Esther 1:1-22
A. The book of Esther is often scrutinized for the lack of any reference to God in it. This is probably because God was awfully silent during this period as Israel’s sin against him had reached its peak. This silence doesn’t mean that God was inactive though. (He did not leave his people behind to die at the hands of a heathen king.) He was actually working in the background quietly and unknown to his people.
B. He foresaw that the very existence of Israel will be threatened (even before he laid the foundations of the earth. Even before Esther was formed in her mother’s womb God planned to use her to carry out his rescue mission right under the king’s nose.)
C. His invisible hand is well evident behind Queen Vashti’s dethronement and the search for a new queen. Instead of looking for a girl with a reputable ancestry and nobility, which Esther didn’t have, the only qualifications the advisers expected were that the girl should be attractive and a virgin. In God’s perfect planning, Esther was not just attractive – but incredibly beautiful.
Lesson: God’s fatherly attribute is the reason why he silently worked behind the scenes to deliver his people. The fatherly heart is not a quality attributed to God in the Old Testament. Still his fatherly nature can be seen in many things that he has said and done, especially in the book of Esther. Although he used Babylonians to discipline his people he never allowed his people to die at the hands of these invading nations.
The beauty of God’s discipline is he does not administer discipline out of hatred for his children. It’s rather an act of correction motivated by a deep love for us. It is temporary because God restores the disciplined, (Illustration: “The kissed hand“). The new testament also confirms this conclusion, (Hebrews 12:6). Unfortunately a considerable number of people lost heart at God when he waited for 70 years to bring restoration.
The truth to draw from this analysis is no matter how painful and frustrating things may seem but we must not lose heart at God when he disciplines us. In disciplining us God doesn’t aim to abandon us to die but to bring us back to our right senses. The sooner we repent sooner he restores us.
Now discipline is not the only reason why God remains silent. Spiritual edification of the believer is one other reason why God may remain quiet at times of crisis, (1 Kings 19:11-12).
For instance there may be some of you here today who say “I have been praying for years. without an answer from God.” God is never too early or too late. Your unanswered prayer does not imply that the Lord is not active in your life anymore. He is indeed preparing to send the answer but in a much more glorious manner that you and I cannot even imagine.
2. Good out of the bad
Read: Esther 2:1-23
A. Mordecai believed that the end justifies the means. He probably worried about Esther’s future because he was the only protector she had and there will be no one to look after her after his death. When the king announced the search for a potential queen Mordecai considered it an opportunity. He encouraged Esther to conceal her true identity so that she shall not be considered disqualified. (While the other fathers hid their daughters. Which is why a search had to be carried out.).
B. Esther wasn’t a committed Jewess either. She obeyed Mordecai’s instructions to the letter. Unlike Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego she totally compromised her walk with God, (Esther 2:8). She violated all the dietary laws. She married a heathen king. This condition definitely makes us ask why did God lead Esther into such a compromising situation?
C. The answer is found in Genesis 50:20 “ As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people. It was Mordecai’s lack of faith in God that put her in this situation, not God. God just allowed it and brought out a greater good using Esther’s elevated position as queen to save the lives of many, (Esther 4:14c)
Lesson: As Christians we should learn to recognize God’s hand in the middle of the escalating global sin and catastrophes. These things should not worry us or make us anxious about the future. The existence of Carnal people in the church must not discourage us from following God wholeheartedly because God is fully capable of bringing good out of every bad situation.
3. God’s way is a man
Read: Esther 4:1-17
A. God is capable of using anyone for his purposes. He was not limited to using just Esther (He even used a Donkey once – Numbers 22:28). But he rebukes disobedience. The way God dealt with others who refused to obey his call supports this conclusion, (Moses – Exodus 4:14, Jonah – Jonah 1:4-5). Esther also acted reluctantly, and in large measure, in self-interest, (Esther 4:11).
B. God uses different methods to rebuke people into obedience. In Exodus God himself rebuked Moses into obedience, (Exodus 4:14). In the book of Jonah he used a storm to convince the fleeing prophet, (Jonah 1:4-7). In the book of Esther God used Mordecai an ungodly man to rebuke Esther into obedience.
C. Another biblical theme in the book of Esther is divine providence follows people God that use to serve his purposes, (Jonah 1:17). The end would have been much different If it is not for the Lord who gave Esther grace and favor in the eyes of the king, when she walked into his inner court without being summoned, (Esther 5:2).
Lesson: To be an instrument of God is the highest degree of honor any human can have. Esther had the privilege of playing the key role in the greatest rescue mission the world had ever seen. Yet because of her careless attitude she did not know that it was the Lord almighty using her for his glory.
She did not respond to the hour of the need without a rebuke from Mordecai, (Esther 4:13). Even when she finally agreed to intercede with the king on behalf of the Jews it was because she had no other option, (Esther 4:16d). Had she recognized the divine call in her life and obeyed out of submission to God, her life could have never been the same again.
Like anything else we do, in ministry also we must give our heart into it. The danger in obeying the call out of obligation is that we shall never find satisfaction in the work we do for God. This is why Esther wasn’t content with deliverance of her people and wrote a decree authorizing the Jews to slaughter and plunder their enemies with the king’s permission.
The highly questionable moral and ethical practices of Mordecai and Esther makes the book sound like something that should not be in the Bible. However unlike authors of the other sacred writings the writers of the Bible never attempted to hide the failures of God’s people. When God, the author of scripture inspired humans to write the Bible he assured that the negative and embarrassing facts are also included so that they will serve as an example for us. The same could be said about the book of Esther.