Esther is the story of a woman who conquered the giant of self. She went from beauty queen to national hero because of the choices that she made. She closed the door on pampering herself, focusing on herself, and she opened the door to selflessness, self-sacrifice. She changed her world. If you want to make a huge impact on the world, you must go beyond living only for yourself. Today on Connect with Skip Heitzig. Skip shares how God can work in you when you choose to live selflessly.
But before we begin, we want to let you know about a resource that will nourish your soul with God's amazing truths. Our lives are punctuated by defining moments, pivot points that shape who we are now and who we'll become, such as choice of marriage partner or where we choose to work, as Skip Heitzig observes. There's predictable events that happens like in your life, but every now and then, life sort of hits you by surprise. It comes crashing down on you. You are going a direction. Your day is planned out, but you get a phone call from a doctor or a friend. The news is not good.
The prognosis is not good, and you didn't see it coming. God's word has the direction to get you through the planned and unplanned pivot points in your life. The pivot point package speaks to marriage, death, depression, recovery, fear of the future, and moving to a new location or job. Get these teachings that include written personal direction from Skip on each of these topics. You'll receive this package when you give $50 or more today to this Bible teaching ministry. We'll send you Pastor Skip's pivot points collection of six messages plus an encouraging letter from Pastor Skip so you can strengthen your faith in defining moments. A faith that cannot be tested is a faith that cannot be trusted.
Get these critical pivot point messages today when you give online securely at connectwithskip.com slash offer or call 800-922-1888. Okay, we're in Esther chapter four today as we get into the teaching with Skip Heitzig. Benjamin Franklin once humorously noted that a man wrapped up in himself makes a very small package. Self, self can be a tyrant, self can be a servant, self can be a villain, self can be a hero. I venture to say that through all of the struggles of life that we have, one of the biggest struggles we all have is our struggle with ourselves and the struggle within ourselves. D.L. Moody, the evangelist from Chicago a century ago, said, I have more trouble with D.L.
Moody than with any other man I have ever met. Well, the Bible has a special word for unperfected human nature or the self, self life. In the New Testament, it's the word flesh, the flesh.
You see it often in contrast to the spirit. The spirit wars against the flesh. The flesh is a life lived for yourself. If you took the word flesh and dropped the last letter, the H, so you have flesh, if you spell that backwards, you have self.
That really is a good description of the flesh. It is the self life. It is you left up to your own devices. You will degenerate.
I will degenerate to that level of living for myself. Esther is the story of a woman who conquered the giant of self. She went from beauty queen to national hero because of the choices that she made. She closed the door on pampering herself, focusing on herself, and she opened the door to selflessness, self sacrifice.
She changed her world and history is filled with such people. Individuals who make a stand, one soldier, one artist, one explorer, one preacher, one inventor, one missionary who goes to a culture and a whole tribe is changed, or one statesman who stands up and an entire country is changed, or one citizen that steps forward and the community is different afterwards, or one student that makes a stand at his or her school and school policy is changed. Then there's the power of one vote.
Never underestimate that. One vote. John Salisbury reminds us of that power. With these words in 1645, one vote gave Oliver Cromwell control of England. In 1776, one vote gave America the English language instead of German.
Boy, I'm glad. In 1845, one vote brought Texas into the union. In 1876, one vote gave Rutherford B. Hayes, the US presidency, and in 1923, one vote gave Adolf Hitler control of the Nazi party.
One person, one life, one vote, so powerful. This one woman named Esther, prompted by her cousin by the name of Mordecai, saved the Jews. Now, I don't think it's a coincidence that we are reading the story of Esther on the weekend that is the commemorative weekend for September 11th.
We sort of put these series together and just kind of mapped them out, but we didn't plan that it would fall on this day, but I think the Holy Spirit is behind it because here is a weekend where we remember not just people who lost their lives, we are commemorating people who gave their lives, who stood in harm's way, who rushed into buildings, who saved other people, and that is the story of Esther. Esther was Jewish. She was a Jewess. She was part of the captivity that got taken to Babylon, and now that same group is in Persia. She is not only Jewish, she is part of a harem, a group of girls serving a king by the name of a Hajuaros, the king of Persia. The first queen was Queen Vashti.
We don't have time to read the whole story. Queen Vashti was the original wife of a Hajuaros, but he didn't like her because he called for her. She didn't show up, so he conveniently had her dethroned, and he was lonely, and somebody said, you got to get a new queen. So he picked, of all the people in the kingdom, this young Jewish girl by the name of Esther. Now we're about to find out why she became queen. By the way, she's about to find out why she becomes queen in our story. So what I want to do is take you through the story chronologically by the stages that are presented.
First with the tragedy, followed by anxiety, followed by an opportunity, followed by bravery. We begin in chapter three. Again, I'm just going to be summing these things up and reading a few key verses, but I'm going to show you a national tragedy that is going on.
When we open up chapter three, something has been signed, a legal document, something signed into law. It was an edict of extermination for the Jewish people. So look at chapter three, verse 13, and the letters were sent by couriers into all the king's provinces to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day on the 13th day of the 12th month, which is the month of Adar, to plunder their possessions.
A copy of the document was to be issued as law in every province being published for all people that they should be ready for that day. The couriers went out, hastened by the king's command, and the decree was proclaimed in Shushan, the citadel. Shushan is the capital city of Persia, the citadel is the palace.
So the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Shushan was perplexed. The Jews had been in Babylon. Babylon was taken over by Persia, so now they're in Persia. The Persians allowed the Jews to go back to Israel to rebuild their civilization, their temple. Only 50,000 of them went back, most of them stayed, I don't know, they had good jobs, they met people, they had bases of friendship, wives, children. So while 50,000 went back to rebuild Jerusalem, it is estimated that there were 15 million Jews still living in Persia. So most of them did not. There are 127 provinces, or there were in Persia at that time. One of the members of the royal court was a man by the name of Haman.
We just read his name. Haman had an idea, because he hated Jewish people, and the reason he hated Jewish people is he had a run-in with a guy in the story named Mordecai. Mordecai is the cousin of Esther, Mordecai is Jewish, so is Esther. He doesn't like Mordecai, because Mordecai doesn't bow down to him, but stands up to him, and so he says, I really hate this guy, I want to kill him, but better yet, I want to deal with the Jewish problem.
That's what the Nazis called that in World War II. There were Jews in their country, how do we deal with the Jewish problem? So Haman comes up with an idea to exterminate every Jew in the empire. Had he been successful, he would have made the Holocaust of World War II look like a puppet show, because Hitler killed six million Jews if Haman would have had his way, 15 million Jews would have been slaughtered in the Persian Empire. So now, anti-Semitism is legalized.
The edict is signed. Mordecai, the Jew also working in the king's palace, knows nothing about this, and that's because he wasn't there when Haman approached the king and had him sign on the dotted line. Esther the Jewess, she doesn't know anything about it, she's tucked away in the palace, her own little palace as queen, so both of them are completely unaware, but they will learn of it, and when they learn of it, they're shocked. They're shocked, as they should be. And as I read through the story this week, I couldn't help but think back 20 years to September 11th, 2001, because on that day, when all the dust was settling, we came to a sudden but very new awareness, something that we never knew before, that we were hated, that there were people around the world who wanted to exterminate us, who would want to end our civilization. Some of us knew some of that, but we didn't know the extent of it.
We didn't know that there were swaths of people that referred to the U.S. as the Great Satan and Israel as the Little Satan. And so we came into a new awareness, and I look at chapter 3, the very last verse, verse 15, in the very last sentence. So, the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Shushan was perplexed. They were confused.
They were bewildered by the seated. Now, I just want to give you a contemporary note before we move on to the next stage. The setting of this book of Esther is ancient.
Go ahead and shout it out. It's ancient Persia. So, it's ancient Persia, because I'm glad you're paying attention. It's Persia. This is the kingdom of Persia. Ancient Persia, and again, you can shout this out if you know it, is modern day what? Iran.
So, you know how Solomon said there's nothing new under the sun? And history has a way of repeating itself. I think we see that today because today, Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism on earth. They do more terrorist attacks than any country on earth. So says the United States State Department and many other countries. And that's not just Iran.
That's just not their mentality, but they have fostered different groups, proxy groups around the region, and they supply money and arms to groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon to attack Israel, Hamas in the Palestinian territories to attack Israel, the Houthis in Yemen to attack that region as well. And Iran's newest leader, this just happened a few months back, was elected by the name of Ibrahim Raisi, a hardline cleric. His nickname is the Butcher of Tehran. And I didn't know this, but I thought the previous guy was hardline.
He's considered a moderate compared to the new guy. The new guy, Raisi, vows to liberate the Middle East from the scourge that is the nation of Israel. Repeatedly, we're just going to get rid of the Jews. We want to destroy Israel.
They shouldn't exist. And if you think, well, that's just rhetoric, man. These people in the Middle East, they just talk smack all the time. So what?
Well, it's more than talk. Just this week, Iran announced it has quadrupled its nuclear stockpile of 60% enriched uranium. You know what? 60% enriched uranium is for? Nuclear weapons. They have stated we are building nuclear weapons.
We mean business. And that is why this week as well, Israel's foreign minister, Yair Lapid, of all places in Moscow when he was visiting, made this announcement. Iran's march toward a nuclear weapon is not only an Israeli problem, it is a problem for the rest of the world.
And he urged the governments of the world to stop them from this stockpile. And then he said this, if the world doesn't do it, Israel reserves the right to act. And if you know Israel, they will. So what you have going on in the Middle East and now with the destabilized Afghanistan on top of Iran and its proxies and what's happening this week is a very volatile situation. And the target, there's two targets, Israel, the little Satan, but the big Satan is us. So history is repeating itself. It may be another Esther moment that the nation of Israel finds itself in.
But let's go to the rest of this story. So it begins with a tragedy, a national tragedy, annihilate every Jew in the empire, followed by what is an expected anxiety. Chapter four, verse one, when Mordecai learned all that had happened, hey, there's been an edict signed to exterminate us. When he learned all that had happened, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes and went out into the midst of the city. He cried out with a loud and bitter cry. He went as far as the front of the king's gate for no one might enter the king's gate clothed with sackcloth.
You can't show up for work in the palace dress like that. And in every province where the king's command and decree arrived, there was great mourning among the Jews with fasting, weeping, wailing, and many lay in sackcloth and ashes. In other words, there was a very public, a very vocal, a very visible display of grief. Now we in the West, we don't really get that. You know, we have sort of been taught culturally that when we grieve, you know, we should have it all together and that public displays of wailing and grief are uncalled for.
Listen to the language at funerals. You hear it. There's the widow in the front row and somebody goes, oh, she's so strong.
Why do you say that? She's not weeping. Really, that's strength to you. Understand that in the Middle East, that thinking doesn't exist.
It's exactly the opposite. If you love somebody, the more you love them, the louder you wail. And if you've ever seen Middle Eastern funerals where you have the casket being taken to the streets, you have people throwing dirt in the air and wailing and mobs of crowds and people clawing after the casket. That's sort of the idea for public grief.
So that's Mordecai. Notice he puts on sackcloth. Sackcloth is like loose-fitting, very coarse goat's hair garment.
Think of gunny sack, a potato sack. It's meant to feel uncomfortable. It's meant to look disheveled.
And then there are ashes that he put on that added to the look. You'd appear ghastly, unclean, grimy, purposely distressed. Because that's how Jews typically would grieve.
The tearing of the clothes, the throwing of dust, or the putting of ashes on the head, etc. And this deep sorrow spread, verse 3, to all the land, all the provinces where the news was making its way. Jews everywhere were in grief. By the way, ever notice how tragedy brings people together? 20 years after 9-11, some of us who were a little bit older remember that day very well. And what we remember is how it brought people together. Because all of us collectively have been put on the same level suddenly. We're all attacked as a country. So we remember the news reporters and the shaky voices and the tears in their eyes as they were saying, oh my goodness, we're being attacked. They just couldn't hold in the emotion. And we remember people out in the streets hugging each other and Democrats and Republicans and independents standing on the steps of the Capitol singing, God bless America, holding hands.
We don't care about partisan politics. We're Americans today. We remember churches packed full of people for weeks because tragedy does that. I can't read verse 1 of chapter 4 without thinking of New York City where it says, Mordecai went out into the midst of the city.
I had the privilege of going to ground zero for three weeks following the Towers Falls and doing work there. Every day I walked out into the midst of the city. Every day in the midst of the city I encountered New Yorkers who were desperate. I encountered in the midst of the city professionals who were at their wit's end and didn't know what to make of this. They were struggling.
They were weeping. And I heard in the midst of the city the vow of every New Yorker and then every American to never forget what has just happened. Never forget. It's like my parents vowed never to forget Pearl Harbor. And we say we'll never forget 9-11.
By the way, a side note actually fits right in. Do you know that the Jews to this day have never gotten over what Haman plotted with King Ahasuerus? Every year every Jewish person celebrates to some degree the festival of Purim. It happens in the fall, the march of every year. And they read the book of Esther and for 24 hours, it's standard protocol in Jewish communities, every time the word Haman is mentioned for people to boo and hiss. Every time it's mentioned.
Every time the word comes out, boo, all sorts of bad noises. You want to give it a shot? Yeah, let's do that. So look at verse chapter 3 verse 15. So the king and Haman, come on, you can do better than that. Haman, yeah, yeah, yeah, you got there. That's what they do.
You'd do good. Sat down to drink. The city of Shushan was perplexed. Also, in the synagogues, every year the book of Esther is read and the name of Haman appears 51 times. 51 times in the synagogues as the story is read and they mention Haman, boo, that's what you hear.
Pretty fun service, huh? And in the synagogue, they will often shout out at the name of Haman, boo, the Hebrew words yimach shimoh, which are translated, may his name be blotted out forever. The same exact Hebrew phrase is when mentioning the name Adolf Hitler. So they never forget. They haven't gotten over this.
They resurrect this story every single year. So Mordecai wasn't there, but he hears of it. He gets wind of it. He's an officer in the court, but he has no direct contact with Queen Esther, even though she is his cousin.
He couldn't just pop in and go, hey, cuz, let's hang out together. So he had to use a liaison, somebody to speak to her, and he chooses a guy by the name of Hathatch. I can't vouch for these names.
That's just his name. So he gets Hathatch and puts in Hathatch's hands a little copy of the edict that was signed. So she has proof positive and says, you go to Queen Esther and you tell her what has been done by Haman.
Okay. You tell her what that guy did and what they're up to and tell her she has to approach the king and do something. That's Skip Hiting with a message from the series, Hunting Giants. Now here's Skip to share how you can keep these teachings coming to you while connecting others to God's word. It's easy to become wrapped up in ourselves or caught up with the world's ways, but we're called to a higher purpose and we strive to encourage you in whatever the Lord may be calling you to.
That's why we share these affirming Bible teachings to push you on in your pursuit of the Lord and you can help encourage many others in living out God's calling on their lives. Your gift today means more people can connect with God's truth. Visit connectwithskip.com slash donate to give your gift today. That's connectwithskip.com slash donate or call 800-922-1888.
Again, that's 800-922-1888. Coming up tomorrow, Skip Hiting shares how God can make a big impact on the world through your bravery. You could be at a very important moment where God is going to call on you soon to make some very important decisions that will benefit a lot of people. God never wastes a life and so often big doors swing on very small hinges. Connect with Skip Hiting is a presentation of connection communications connecting you to God's never-changing truth in ever-changing times.
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