But his goal in working all things out together for good to those who love him, Romans 8.28, is found in its purpose and fulfillment, Romans 8.29, so that we would not be comfortable, but that we would be conformable to the image of his Son.
That's why he isn't as interested in delivering us from the challenges of life as he is in developing us through the challenges of life. God offers a special partnership with those who submit to his providence. The book of Esther is filled with intrigue. Haman conspired to wipe out the entire Jewish population.
The plot takes a turn because God is at work behind the scenes. Haman's plot unravels because what Haman didn't know is that a Jewish woman is now the queen of the land. It's like there's a chess match being played in the kingdom of Persia between Haman and the Jewish people. And just when it seems like Haman effectively has the king in check, a forgotten opponent emerges and strikes a surprising blow to thwart Haman's strategy.
Stephen Davey explores this today in a message called Chess, Checkers, and the Game of Life. One of the lessons our grandmother taught us when she was teaching us how to play chess was you always kept your eye on the queen. The queen was to be protected and guarded more than any other piece that you had except of course the king. The queen was the most powerful offensive weapon you had. You didn't want to lose her. And at the same time you needed to keep your eye, a wary eye, out on that opponent's queen. Where's he moving her?
What's he got in mind? If you want to summarize up to this point the book of Esther and the downfall of Persia's prime minister Haman, you could do it in one sentence. Haman had failed to keep his eye on the queen.
She was about to become his most dreaded opponent. Now when we last studied this drama together, you remember Esther has risked her life for something that would seem inconsequential or so it seems. The king probably thinks she wants more clothing or maybe some property or maybe her own little palace extension. She invites the king and his prime minister Haman to dinner in order to deliver her special request. And then to our surprise and probably I believe to hers, she doesn't ask her petition.
She chokes out as it were, will you come back tomorrow night and I'll ask you tomorrow night what my petition is. None of this is a surprise to God. In fact it's going to be during that intervening night when the hand of God will be most visible. God inspired insomnia first affects the king. He can't sleep. So he calls for the Persian congressional record to be brought up from the palace library.
That'll knock him out. And he has a servant just begin reading. The servant randomly chooses to read several years back at a place where Mordecai, this Jewish man, saves the king's life and discovers in the reading of that that night that the king has not rewarded him properly for what he's done.
He hasn't become one of the king's benefactors, this Jewish man named Mordecai. Just across town about the same time he's reading or hearing this, Haman is constructing a gallows seven stories tall upon which to hang Mordecai, not knowing what's going on. Haman finishes building the gallows, changes out of his work clothes, rushes to the palace early. This is going to be the greatest day of my life, he thinks. He gets there in time to hear the king ask him, how do I honor a man?
How do I make him one of my benefactors? And Haman lays it all out assuming it'll be him and he discovers it's to be Mordecai and he's leading Mordecai through the town square in honor. As Haman declares the glory of the one seated upon this horse, a king's benefactor, he mapped it all out ahead of time.
He'd worked it all out in his mind and for Haman the game of life had become the game of chase. He'd failed to keep his eye on the queen as we're about to discover in our study today. Let's pick it up there at chapter 7 verse 1.
This only adds to his problems and to his shock, ultimately his death. The king and Haman came to drink wine with Esther the queen, literally party with Esther the queen. This is the second night. And the king said to Esther on the second day also as they drank their wine at the banquet, that is the meal's over now, what is your petition, Queen Esther? Don't fear, he's implying, it's going to be granted to you, so what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be done. Then, here's what Queen Esther replied, verse 3, if I have found favor in your sight, oh king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my petition and my people as my request. For we have been sold, I and my people. Now Esther borrows, by the way, from the language of the edict, she'll use the same three verbs in the same order as Haman wrote it out.
I and my people are going to be destroyed, we're going to be killed, we're going to be annihilated. She doesn't want trinkets after all. She doesn't want more stuff. She wants her life, and she wants the life of her people as well.
In fact, if you missed it, you can't help but pick it up in this very courageous, diplomatic, wise speech that there's a change obviously happening for a little more than five years. She's kept this secret safe. Her motto has been in life, I am a Jew and no one will ever find out. In fact, I thought about what the option could have been for her, it's possible. She could have tried to maintain the masquerade, walked in and her petition would have been something like, King, I know I've heard about this edict and I think Jewish people are nice.
I have some attendants who work for me that are Jews and I wish you'd just stop this edict from being carried out. Oh no, her plan involves coming out with this secret twice in this courageous speech. You could circle that personal pronoun in your text, I and my people, my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. Now you need to understand as this drama unfolds and it's in fast forward and I'm going to continue to hit the pause button, you need to understand the king isn't quite catching on here. Although Haman's heart is immediately beginning to race as soon as he hears this come out of Esther's mouth.
But she's not finished, she goes on and creates even more suspense. Look at the middle part of verse 4. Now, okay, if we'd only been sold as slaves, men and women, I would have remained silent for the trouble would not be commensurate with the annoyance to the king. In other words, if we were going to just be sold into slavery, I wouldn't have bothered you with it.
But we're not being sold, we're going to be slain. And this is absolutely stunning news to both of these men. The king is finding out for the first time that his wife's life is in danger. He really doesn't know why. Esther wisely avoids implicating him. Frankly, I believe the king doesn't even know at this point that it is the Jewish people that he's condemned to death in the edict that Haman drew up.
And in his callous disregard for life, he has simply allowed Haman to drop the edict, attempt to get rid of some people that have been causing some problem in the kingdom and that's okay, go ahead with that. In fact, it's not until later on, according to chapter 8, that Esther will give the king the total picture, including the fact that she and Mordecai are cousins. But for now, Esther is wisely refraining from giving too many specifics because she wants her husband to get the one thing he needs to know.
And you wives do that to your husbands too. A lot of details and you know he's probably going to miss most of them and so just get this one thing, this one thing. And the one thing is this, somebody wants to kill me and my extended family. And that grabs its attention. Haman, on the other hand at this moment, has just discovered to his shock that Esther is Jewish. He knows exactly what Esther is saying here because he wrote the edict and she won't have to say anything more to Haman for him to get the full picture.
Haman had used those three verbs in that same order that Esther has now quoted from. The Jews are to be destroyed, killed, annihilated. And he has been licking his chops to take off their heads. In fact, he can't wait for 11 months to come when the edict will be fulfilled. He wants Mordecai's head now. Now to his horror he discovers that of all the people in the kingdom, Esther the queen is one of them. He had never really taken note of the queen and he missed it in the providence of God.
He's sick, his stomach immediately lurching, his heart racing, wondering what's next. The king is enraged. Again, two entirely different reasons, but somebody is after his wife. Frankly, I think he's probably more troubled with the fact that that means someone is trying to affect his authority. Verse 5, the king asked queen Esther, who is he?
Where is he? Who would presume to do this? And Esther said, a foe and an enemy is this wicked Haman. What a devastating opponent this queen was. By the way, do you notice she doesn't just blurt out his name. She doesn't just say, well, it's him. She continues to raise tension and deliver to the king the fullest verdict of this man with each word, a foe, an enemy, this wicked Haman. He is immediately terrified, the text tells us, and rightly so. The king, verse 7, gets up and goes out in the garden.
The text indicates that there's a rapid succession of movement. He rushes out, shocked, and now shocked all over again. He's got quite a predicament on his hands, doesn't he?
I mean, think about all the layers of it. How can he punish Haman for an edict that he has stamped with his own royal seal? How can he deal with Haman without implicating himself? How can he rescind an edict, which is now the law of the Medes and Persians? How could he soften the edict when it leaves no loophole that the Jewish people entirely are to be completely destroyed? Can he somehow protect Esther's life while at the same time protecting his own reputation, which mattered to him more than anybody?
And if he can't protect her, how in the world is he going to explain her death apart from his own culpability? He's probably thinking, why did I trust Haman so completely? Why in the world did I let him sign that edict and why did not I read the fine print? One author summarized, he says, you know, think about the fact that Ahasuerus would have signed multiple edicts that day. Who knows how many pressing matters of government were on his mind. He had countless decisions to make when Haman was concocting this scheme. And Haman, who was a trusted official, had proposed it in such a way that he seemed like he was just simply solving a little problem in the kingdom.
It was for the good of the kingdom. But he knows none of that's going to matter because his own signature is effectively on that edict. The king doesn't know it yet, but he's about to be immensely helped by the foolishness of his prime minister. Before we get there, think of the problem he has.
He's got a bigger problem on his hands, doesn't he? He has effectively condemned the queen to death. Verse seven, the king arose in his anger from drinking wine and went into the palace garden, but Haman stayed to beg for his life from Queen Esther. In other words, he makes a split second decision. He weighs his options in that moment and decides he will not follow the king out to try to talk him into sparing his life. He has seen the expression of the king, and he knows the king is determined against him. He can't run.
That's an option. But to run would imply guilt. All the king has to do is send his soldiers after him. They'll kill him on the spot. So he chooses the only other option he can imagine. He stays to beg his life from Esther the queen.
And I want you to understand the irony of this. He is begging for his life from someone he has condemned to die. In fact, she can't save his life. She is now under the law of Medes and Persians condemned in about 11 months from now to die.
So when you think about chapter seven and what's just happened, consider the fact that they are both begging for their lives, and they can do nothing about it. It's entirely, or so it would seem, bound up in the decision of the king who is now at an impasse. Now the text tells us that in his terror and implied anger and threatening behavior, and I don't want you to miss that, that Haman is falling on the couch where Esther had reclined for dinner. You need to understand that according to a Persian law, no man was allowed within seven steps of any member of the king's harem. In fact, Persian kings, if a man rode his horse along the carriage to just take a look at the king's harem and rode past the carriage, he would be put to death. Furthermore, the Persian law held that touching the king's wife in any way was penalized by death. Now because of what the king is going to say, read back in there and picture a little bit of a different scene. Haman in his terror and his passion and his anger, which leads him to effectively threaten her, the king will see this in a moment.
He falls on her couch, more than likely kneeling over her, she's reclined. Perhaps even grabbing her by the shoulders, we don't know for sure, but I can only guess, this man's hatred for the Jews would have spilled out all over the scene with something like, who do you think you are? I'm the prime minister of Persia. You're just a little Jew.
You ought to die. How dare you trap me? While he's threatening her in some way, shape or form, the king walks back in from the garden, sees what's going on, and in the latter part of verse 8 says, and will he even assault the queen with me in the house? In other words, he's going to kill my wife right here in front of me. Verse 8, as the word went out of the king's mouth, they covered Haman's face. In other words, according to their custom, he's not worthy to look upon another human being, and no human needs ever to look upon him again.
That could be a life sentence. What leads the king ultimately to move forward in executing Haman? According to Herodotus, a historian who lived during this time, and talked quite a bit about Persian law, it required at least two serious accusations that would stand up in a court of law in order for the king to deliver this verdict. Two serious accusations, and now he has them. They're shaky, but he could perhaps prove his point, and maybe, and I'm sure because of the fear of this man, he would win. Haman's plot to kill the Jews could be construed as a direct threat against the king's own wife, perhaps attempting to prove that he knew she was a Jewess.
That might hold up. That would be one offense. But then Haman has approached the queen. He's gotten beyond this seven step distance. In fact, he's probably touched her. He's probably grabbed her by the shoulders out of his hatred for her in a threatening manner, threatening physical harm. But what really ties it all up is something Esther had not planned on, something surprising in the drama. At that moment, out of nowhere, certainly beyond Esther's choreographed events that she's worked out in her mind, what settles it beyond dispute and puts Haman on the fast track to his own execution is what happens next.
Look at verse nine, then at that moment, Harmanah, one of the eunuchs who stood before the king said, behold indeed, the gallows standing at Haman's house, 50 cubits high, which Haman, note this, made for Mordecai who spoke good on behalf of the king. God is the ultimate strategist. The game belongs to him. Even when he's silent, he's present. Remember? Even when he seems removed, he remains sovereign.
Even when he seems behind schedule and off the clock late, his purposes are fulfilled at the right second, at just the right moment. One of the men in our church sent me an email this week. It read, while we were eating lunch after church, my youngest son asked me what was the biggest number I had ever counted up to.
Isn't that great? I said, I didn't know. Well, then I asked him how high he'd ever counted. And immediately he responded, 5,372. Wow, Dad said, when did you count up that number? He said, today. I said, well, why did you stop there? He said, well, the sermon was over. Stop counting. Keep counting, kids. I'm not finished yet, okay?
I just wanted to wake your mom and dad back up. All right, let me make four observations quickly about the strategy of God as he works the game of life through his myriad of providential ways. Number one, God often uses reversals in our lives to move us forward and make us deeper. Think about the fact that things had gone so well for quite some time. Esther won the crown.
How amazing is that? She's able to promote Mordecai to CFO in the kingdom, part of the king's own administrative staff, and then wham, out of nowhere. All because of one little man who got all bent out of shape over the fact that Mordecai would not gravel at his feet.
But look beyond that for just a moment. Listen, if that edict had never been signed, if this reversal had never taken place in their lives, Esther would still be holding onto a secret. So would Mordecai. In fact, we have every reason to believe that they would have lived in hypocrisy until the day they died. God often, secondly, uses unlikely things to carry out his thoughts.
Of all the planning, I just love how God inserts his plan and certainly we plan. She had no idea that the final blow would be delivered by one of the servants who provided sort of the last nail to Haman's coffin. Have you ever lost a game of chess because of a pawn?
I have. I'd rather be crushed by the queen or nailed by a bishop. But a pawn, that's exactly what happens here.
An unlikely person to bring about God's purposes. You know why? So that at the end of the day, we can all say, isn't Esther clever? Aren't Esther and Mordecai, aren't they together?
No. Isn't God amazing and wise? Thirdly, God often puts us through the greatest difficulty before providing deliverance. The truth is if God simply wanted to deliver us, he could do it quickly and painlessly, right? He's not after deliverance.
He's after development. If the Lord only wanted to make us comfortable, he wouldn't allow roadblocks and reversals and trials and hopeless conditions or situations where we're drawn to him. But his goal in working all things out together for good to those who love him, Romans 8.28, is found in its purpose and fulfillment, Romans 8.29, so that we would not be comfortable, but that we would be conformable to the image of his son. That's why he isn't as interested in delivering us from the challenges of life as he is in developing us through the challenges of life. So God often not only puts us through great difficulty before providing deliverance, he not only uses unlikely things and people to carry out his thoughts, he not only uses reversals to move us forward and grow us deeper.
One more. God offers a special partnership with those who submit to his providence. This is the co-laboring principle that exists to our day between us and our great God.
It's a mystery to me. But this is what the Apostle Paul wanted to maximize with his own life. He talked about fruit according to his labor while at the same time recognizing the power to labor belong with God.
He would write to the Corinthians, now he who plants and he who waters are one, part of the same body, but each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor, 1 Corinthians 3.8. So it's not that somebody has a greater, more powerful position or a more important job or some service. The point is that we serve in whatever way, wherever we're placed as we submit, just like that grandfather we saw on the video, the kids are waiting to see. He submitted to that particular point of service. Wherever we're placed on the chessboard by the providence of God, whether we are a queen or a knight or a bishop or a pawn, we are all one. This was Paul's encouragement to the Philippian church who financially supported him.
This is a staggering concept to consider. He wrote to them to thank them for supporting him. And then he informs them of this principle that because of their support for him, he writes in Philippians 1.22 and also 4.17, he says the fruit of his labor will abound to their account. Who wouldn't want to have the dividends of the apostle Paul's labor? He says, you're over here and you're not on that missionary journey but you're supporting me and I want you to know my fruit is abounding to your account.
Wow. You stand and you serve in whatever way. You submit to the providence of God where he has you now. Thanks for joining us today here on Wisdom for the Heart. This is the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey.
You can learn more about us if you visit our website which is wisdomonline.org. Once you go there, you'll be able to access the complete archive of Stephen's Bible teaching ministry. There are many other resources as well and one that I want to highlight today is Stephen's commentary through the book of Esther. It's a practical and pastoral look through each verse in Esther.
Our supply is limited right now but we're making those that we have available at a discount. You'll find this book, Esther, on our website. We also have a monthly magazine.
It's called Heart to Heart. We send Heart to Heart magazine to all of our wisdom partners but we'd be happy to send you the next three issues if you'd like to see it for yourself. You can sign up for it on our website or you can call us today. Our number is 866-48-BIBLE. That's 866-482-4253. Call today. We're so glad you were with us and I hope you'll be with us for our next Bible message here on Wisdom for the Heart.
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