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O Father, You Are Sovereign! (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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March 9, 2023 3:00 am

O Father, You Are Sovereign! (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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March 9, 2023 3:00 am

Haman was the king’s right-hand man, the very picture of success. He had wealth, power, and prestige in abundance—and yet satisfaction eluded him. What was missing? Find out as we continue to study Esther’s story, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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Heyman was the right hand man to the king of Persia. The very picture of success.

He had wealth, he had power, had prestige and abundance, and yet, satisfaction eluded him. So what was missing? We'll find out today on Truth for Life. Alistair Begg is teaching from the book of Esther. We're in chapter 5. What we need to know as we go into chapter 5 is that Esther has now resolved that she will face the possibility of death for doing what she's about to do as a result of speaking up for her people and identifying with them, rather than taking the alternative, which is to remain silent and hope that there will be sufficient security provided for her because she's actually in the palace.

So let's follow the storyline as it's given to us. First of all, noticing what we'll refer to as the subtlety of Esther. You will see that her approach to the king is brave, it is appropriate, it's cautious, it's humble, it's skillful.

It has conveyed the subtlety, not only in this but also in her dinner plans or to this great feast. Now, the king has issued the first of three requests to do something for his queen. What is it? What is it you want?

Ask whatever you want. Now, he actually has to ask three times, as we'll discover as the narrative unfolds, before he gets the actual answer that she's prepared to convey. In fact, the answer that she now gives appears to be almost anticlimactic, doesn't it?

Because after all, we've had this great setup. Who knows but that you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? That's Mordecai to Esther. It's time for you to step up, Esther. It's time for you to identify with your people.

It's time for you to fulfill your calling under God. Okay, okay, okay. Now go ahead. And so she gets there, and he says, And what is it you want? And she says, Would you like to come to dinner later on today? And would you like to bring Haman with you? So he sends for him, and they came to the feast that Esther had prepared. And verse 6, And as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king said to Esther, Second time, What is your wish? It will be granted to you.

What's your request? Even the other half of my kingdom it shall be fulfilled. Okay, now she's gonna tell him, right?

No. Verse 7, Then Esther answered, My wish and my request is, If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my wish and fulfill my request, then how about we do this again tomorrow night? How about we have another meal? What in the world is going on here? This is a wonderful story.

You understand? The way in which this narrative develops. Because it's creating suspense, it's creating tension.

And the way the story is told is told in order that we might follow along and be intrigued by this, because we've got no way of knowing what is in the mind of Esther. Why does she do this? Why feast one and then why feast two?

Is feast two as a result of a loss of nerve? I think she's just hooking him. She recognizes that she's going to put him in a position whereby, on this next occasion, it will be virtually impossible for him to step back from doing anything other than that which she desires. And remember, what she is asking him to do is significant. In doing so, she's identifying herself with her people.

Remember, she's lived in the shadowlands for five or six years. She is asking him to reverse an irreversible law. She is asking him essentially to lose face in front of his entire kingdom. That's what she's about to do. She's already identified herself and her allegiance with her people.

She is the mediator of her people. But she holds back on actually lowering the boom, as it were, in relationship to what is essential to the plot. Yeah, I think she's very subtle.

Very subtle. She's setting him up, and she's also setting Haman up. And it is to Haman—we come in verse 9—moving from the subtlety of Esther to the stupidity of Haman. He is the archetypal egomaniac. He is the embodiment of a fool.

"'Do you see a man?' writes Solomon, who is wise in his own eyes. There is more hope for a fool than for him."

And here his essential folly stands out. His arrogance stands out against the backdrop of the humility of Esther. Esther is bold, and yet she is winsome. "'If I have found favor in your sight.'" She has actually already found favor in his sight, otherwise she would never have got in there. But she's clever.

She's subtle. "'If I have found favor in your sight.'" Her humility is pervasive. You turn to Haman, and his pride is unmistakable. Now, he'd been there at this banquet, and he'd gone out, verse 9 tells us, that day, joyfully and glad of heart. Joyfully and glad of heart. He went out that day, joyfully and glad of heart. There wasn't gonna be another day like that day. That was his last day for going out joyfully and glad of heart.

You can follow that through on your own. You see, what Haman was about to understand to his great shame, and eventually to his death, was what Robert Burns identifies in his poem Tam O'Shanter, which I'm sure you all will read frequently on a Tuesday. And in that poem, Burns, addressing the transient nature of life and how quickly things go through the fingers of a man or a woman, he says, or he writes, but pleasures are like poppies spread. You seize the flower, its bloom is shed.

And like the snow falls in the river, a moment white, and then gone forever. And he went out from the banquet that day, joyful and glad of heart, but—but the conjunction—but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate, here we go again. Here's the fly in the ointment, as it were. All of the enjoyment, the prestige, the significance, the accolades were insufficient to prevent him from becoming entirely destabilized by the fact that this little guy Mordecai never stood up when Haman came by and certainly never trembled in his presence. And he, verse 9b, was filled with wrath against Mordecai. It wasn't that he was just a little offended, that he was a little ticked.

He was actually consumed with wrath. Pride does that to a man. Because, you see, when I am a proud person, nothing can ever satisfy me. When I am a proud person, no one can ever meet my standards. When I am a proud person, there is always another thing, there is always another floor, there is always another dollar, there is always something else beyond my reach, which, although I have reached this, got that, succeeded here, I cannot enjoy all of this because of the absence of this. You understand why Paul says, Godliness with contentment is great gain—with contentment. Pride and discontentness sleep in the same bed.

But he should have been able to say, Well, it's one little Jew that won't bow. After all, look at me. I'm in the society pages. I'm photographed all the time now with a king.

There's few people who's got as much access as me. I'm going to all the big feasts, the banquets. Who cares about Mordecai? But he can't do it. And so he goes home. He restrained himself from actually presumably reaching out, and he went home. And he sent and brought his friends and his wife Zerush. It's not that he went home and everybody said, Hey, Haman, great to see you!

How are you doing? No, he actually sent for his friends. He brought them in. He surrounded himself with those who would be prepared to listen to him talk about himself.

That's what pride does to us. In verse 11, when he had put this little assembly together, he recounted to them the splendor of his riches. Have you seen my latest painting?

I bought this at such-and-such a Persian gallery. Why don't you come down in the basement and let me show you my wine cellar? Would you like to see the porcelain that I have just picked up recently? What is all of this? It's to say, Look, do you realize how great I am?

Do you realize how significant I am? It's like Liberace when he comes out on stage on one occasion, and he's playing a glass piano. Did you ever see him do this? And he begins to play the piano, and it's entirely… His perspex or glass or whatever it was, you could see the mechanism underneath. And he begins to play, and then he stops and he says, turning to the audience, he says, There are only two pianos like this in the whole world. And then he says, And both of them are mine.

That's what Haman is doing. And he recounts his family. There's a way to be thankful for your family. There's a way to just brag about your family that's obnoxious. Do you think Zerush, his wife, didn't know how many babies she'd had?

He recounted to them the splendor of his riches and the number of his sons. Poor Zerush is sitting there going, Yeah, yeah, I know that. Why are you telling us that? Because this is like a Facebook page gone crazy.

This is a Christmas letter in July. This is the worst. This is the worst. He actually lives with a mistaken notion that he is the center of the universe. He's not even the center of his own universe. His impending death is before him. He doesn't have a clue what's going on. He is stupidity on two legs. He is the full as related in the Bible.

He fits perfectly in contemporary, twenty-first-century Western culture. Who are in the publicity magazines? Who are on the front pages? Who are the heroes of our day? Many of them have done nothing at all.

Nothing! When's the last time you saw the best schoolteacher in America on the front of Vogue magazine? Or when you saw the brightest cardiothoracic surgeon elevated to a position of significance and heralded in town?

Or when you saw a mother that had dealt with children in their infancy and in their adolescence, and had sustained it all, and there she was. But no! No! No, we want the Hamans on the front page. We want ourselves on the front page. You see, the problem is, it's not enough for me to say, oh, look at the pride of Haman, because I look into the Word and I see my own sinful heart.

When Whitefield was a young man, he made the statement in his journal, oh, that I could always see myself in my proper colors. I believe I should have little reason to fall down and worship myself. God be merciful to me, a sinner. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. God opposes the proud. He gives grace to the humble.

Jesus made himself of no reputation, being found in fashion as a man. He became a servant, giving himself up ultimately to death. Uzziah, in the Old Testament, was gloriously helped until he became strong. And when he became strong, he grew proud to his own destruction. We'll come back to this, but let's take our final point from the subtlety of Esther and the stupidity of Haman to just drive home again for us the underlying theme of the entire book and the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God.

The coincidences that we find in this book are, as we said at the beginning, God's way of remaining anonymous. Vashti chose not to come when the king called her, and as a result, she was deposed. She did not choose not to come because she was pre-programmed to choose not to come by some divine plan. Her choice was her own choice, her decision was her own decision, and resulted in her deposition. Esther was exalted as a result of her beauty—a beauty that she did not procure for herself but was given to her by God. She had no control over the way her eyes set in her face, nor the line of her cheek or her jaw. She had no statement to make in relationship to that.

She was the beneficiary of God's goodness, and God, in his grace, chose to use that. Mordecai, realizing that he's separated from his queen, from Esther, chooses to walk around in front of the king's gate. There he picks up snippets of news. It's his choice. It's his decision.

He could have gone and lived in the suburbs, but he chose to live there. And as a result, he becomes the beneficiary of the plot for the assassination of the king, and he's able then in turn to convey that, and so the coincidences continue. And as we read, we discover that behind the surface of all these human decisions and actions, we discover an urgent and an uncontrollable power—a power that is at work in such a way that it cannot ultimately be explained, nor can it ultimately be thwarted. I was reading Jonathan Edwards this week, and he was talking about how, as a young man, he really stumbled over the issue of the sovereignty of God. He didn't like the idea that God was sovereign, that he's involved in the atomic nature of the universe, that his interest extended to every part of humanity. He writes about how he finally resolved that in his own mind, and how his life was radically changed.

Some of us may be still wrestling as Edwards was wrestling. Some of us may have come to a convinced position in relationship to these things. Don't fall foul of a caricature of it. Don't make the mistake of thinking you can either have the sovereignty of God on the one hand, or you can have the free decision of Mordecai and Esther on the other.

No, you have both. If I take the back off my watch, there are wheels that go around against one another, but they work in conjunction with one another in order to make sure that they produce the end result and tell me the time, such is the way of God's intervention in time with the affairs of men and women. Don't take my word for it. Take God's word for it. Go and read your Bibles. The king's heart is a stream of water, says the psalmist.

Says Solomon, he turns it in whichever direction he chooses. The psalmist, when he writes concerning the praise of God—I'll just give you a couple of verses to reinforce this. Why should the nations say, Where is there God? The psalmist says, Our God is in the heavens. He does all that he pleases. He does what he pleases.

135. The Psalms, For I know that the LORD is great, and that our LORD is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does. In heaven and on earth, in the seas and all the deeps, he it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain, and brings forth the wind from his storehouses. Nebuchadnezzar did not believe that.

Confronted by the faith of Daniel and his colleagues, he grew proud to his own destruction. He ended up a poor character, living like a beast in his fields, in his palace grounds, until he tells us that he lifted his eyes to heaven and my reason returned to me. I lifted my eyes to heaven and my reason returned to me. See, people are trying to deal with the world as it is from a rational perspective.

Well, I think it's a reasonable thing to believe this. It's a scientific perspective to believe that and so on. And maybe sometime later on I may actually lift my eyes to heaven. The Bible actually says, No, you will never actually engage as a scientist until you lift your eyes to heaven.

For when you lift your eyes to heaven and you realize the unmistakable power of God behind everything, then you may go about with purpose your scientific investigation. So he says, I bless the Most High and I praise and honor to him, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion. Clearly mine isn't, says Nebuchadnezzar. His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing. It doesn't mean that he's disregarding of individual life, but that the vastness of humanity is just a drop in the bucket in comparison to his immensity. And he does according to his will, among the host of heaven, among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand or say to him, What have you done? This actually makes sense of the storyline, not only of the Bible but the storyline of our lives.

I put it to you, without this, Solomon, or the writer of Ecclesiastes, whoever he was, comes up with the right answer. Meaningless, meaningless, says the teacher, everything is utterly meaningless. He says, I tried to become really educated, and I found that at the end of that there was sadness and despair.

I tried to become really rich, and I found that it didn't answer my questions. I decided to go the route of humor, and when everything became funny, nothing was funny anymore. And then he says, Until I finally recognized that God is God.

You done that? You're here today, you're agnostic, you're pushing around in these things. Then I'm glad you're here, and I'm glad I have the opportunity to address you. Maybe you're actually an atheist. You've decided there is no God. You've come here just to prove your point.

Maybe I've helped you to that end. Maybe you've said, If that's what it is about, I definitely don't believe. C. S. Lewis quite masterfully said, Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning. The only reason there's meaning is because there's God. And if we believe that God is everywhere, why would we not believe that he is in the coincidences that seem so strange to us? For coincidences are God's way of making himself anonymous. Father, thank you for the Bible. Help us to become increasingly students of it and to rest our heads on the soft pillow of your providence.

For your Son's sake we ask it. Amen. Without God, all the wealth and success in the world is, well, it's meaningless.

The writer of Ecclesiastes says it's vanity. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life with the message titled Oh Father, You Are Sovereign. We're about to come up on the highlight of the year for us as Christians. Easter is just a month away and if you're looking for books to help prepare your heart and mind for this special holiday, our team has put together a recommended reading list for Easter. You can browse through the list yourself or find books to give to family or friends who may not fully understand the significance of Jesus' resurrection, what it means for them personally. You'll find the selected titles online at slash Easter. We also have a brief two-week devotional that will help your whole family prepare for Easter.

It's called Darkest Night, Brightest Day. The first half of the book will walk your family through the week that leads up to the crucifixion of Jesus. Then you flip the book over and on Easter Sunday you begin the second week celebrating Jesus' resurrection and his ascension and learning about the Great Commission. This is a hardcover book with colorful illustrations that presents the events surrounding Easter in a way that helps school-aged children understand the significance of the celebration.

Each of the short daily readings draws from the Gospels and ends with a few questions to encourage further discussion. You can request your copy of the book Darkest Night, Brightest Day today when you give a donation to support the teaching ministry of Truth for Life. It's easy to give using the mobile app or online at slash donate or you can always call us. Our number is 888-588-7884. By the way, if you'd like to purchase additional copies of Darkest Night, Brightest Day for your church or to share with others, you'll find them and many other quality books in our online store where they're available for purchase at our cost. Visit slash store. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for joining us today. Tomorrow we'll discover how God is at work in the world, not just in the big events, but in the smallest details of our lives. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-09 04:41:37 / 2023-03-09 04:50:19 / 9

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