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Esther

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 17, 2021 12:01 am

Esther

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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April 17, 2021 12:01 am

In His providence, God raised up Esther to be the queen of Persia when the survival of her people depended on someone who could plead with the king. Today, R.C. Sproul reflects on Esther's bravery and self-sacrifice.

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When the crunch comes of more anguish that requires more courage, Esther arises for the task, and she said, I'm going to do it, and if I perish, I perish.

We all admire that kind of courage, don't we? Welcome to the Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind, and our ongoing look at great men and women of the Bible. We're going to discover what motivated this woman, who even has a book named for her in the Old Testament, to boldly proclaim, if I perish, I perish.

I want to turn your attention to a profile of one of the most remarkable women, I believe, not only in biblical history, but in world history, and her name, of course, is Esther. It seems like Xerxes, in about the third year of his reign, was interested in displaying his power, his wealth, and his kingdom to all who were willing to look at it, and he sort of put on a kind of world's fair, and this world's fair lasted, we read in verse 4, for a full 180 days. For six months, he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom, the splendor and glory of his majesty, and when this six-months-long world's fair was over, he decided to cap it with a lavish banquet party, kind of a party to end all parties. The banquet lasted seven days in the enclosed garden of the king's palace for all of the people, from the least to the greatest, who were in the citadel of Susa. And then it describes the lavish accouterments of this banquet feast. Then we read, at the end of the party, after seven days, the king had had a little bit too much to drink. It says, on the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, okay?

This is a biblical euphemism for saying that the king was three sheets to the wind. He commanded the seven eunuchs who served him to bring before him his queen, who was Queen Vashti. Now, why is Vashti's name famous in Ligonier Valley studies? Because my wife's name is Vesta, and everywhere we go, people can't remember Vashti, so they call her Vashti. So, I feel like King Xerxes on the seventh night of the feast. Anyway, King Vashti was summoned to wear her royal crown and to come into the banquet in order to display her beauty to the people and the nobles, for it says she was lovely to look at. And so he sent his attendants to call Vashti to the feast. And when the attendants came to her and delivered the king's command, she refused to come. Can you see it?

You can read between the lines here. That drunken bum is over there, wants me to come out and dance for everybody. I'm not going. Let everybody else bow and scrape to the king of the Medes and the Persians, but not me. I'm the queen, and I'm not going to be demeaned by being made a spectacle at this drunken party.

That's basically her response. The king wasn't happy. The king became furious, it says, and he burned with anger. But he doesn't know quite what to do. I mean, there's a sense in which Xerxes is intimidated by his wife's refusal to do his bidding. Everybody else bows and scrapes before the king, but Vashti will not do it. So he goes and he consults his counselors and his nobles and all, and what do they say? Hey, king, you better do something about this.

You better put your foot down. This would be like Princess Diana, that she's a pacesetter. She's a model for everybody in the country. Nobody's household is safe anymore. If you let Vashti get away with this, no wife in all of the kingdom will obey her husband. There's going to be a women's liberation movement in Persia like there's never been before if you let your wife get away with this.

So this is the counsel that these guys, they're terrified of their wives, and so they call the king, and you've got to nip this in the bud and stop it right now before we're all in trouble. The king listened to them, and he issued a royal decree in which this traditional laws of the Medes and the Persians were upheld, and the edict was to be proclaimed throughout all of his domain, quote, that the women will respect their husbands from the least to the greatest. And the nobles were pleased.

We don't know, we don't have a report from how wives felt about all of this. So Queen Vashti was deposed from her throne and banished from the home of the king. Now the position of queen in the Persian Empire is vacant, and what follows in this biblical narrative is an ancient account of something that is a combination between Cinderella and the Miss America pageant, because now the king embarks upon a massive search throughout the kingdom to find a woman qualified to reign as his queen. And so really what happens is they have a beauty contest, and we read, let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king, and let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all of these beautiful girls into the harem at the Citadel of Susa. Now, in the process of this, all of the ambassadors for the king went out, and they scarred the countryside looking for the most beautiful virgins that they could find.

And the head of the delegation to find them's name was Bert Parks. And he would find these ladies, and he would sing to them, There she is, Miss Persia, okay. And then they bring all of these women into Susa, and then after the girls' turn has come to go and visit King Xerxes, the women then had to complete 12 months training in beauty.

Here's what it says. She had to complete 12 months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh, and six with perfumes and cosmetics. So after this selection process has gone through, they not only qualified the finalists in this beauty pageant to go 12 months to finishing school to see if they may qualify to be with the queen.

Now, one of those girls that was selected in this search was a jurist. Her name was Esther, and her parents had been killed, and she was being raised by her uncle whose name was what? Mordecai. And Mordecai was taking care of Esther, and he allows Esther to go, but it's very, very carefully guarded secret that Esther is of the Jews who were brought there in the captivity. Well, as it turns out, Esther is the one who pleases the eye of the king, and Esther is the one who is elevated to the role of queen of the Medes and the Persians. In the meantime, the plot thickens.

Politics come to play. One of the most powerful men in what would amount to the king's cabinet was a man by the name of Haman, and he was a man who was fiercely proud and very much concerned about protocol and that he receive the respect due to his office. And one day, as he's coming into the royal chambers, he passes by those people who are standing outside, and everybody bows to him.

And he notices that one man does not bow down. And even when the man is ordered to bow down, the man steadfastly refuses to give obeisance to Haman, who was the man. Mordecai, I've asked you two questions, and he answers the same to both questions. Mordecai will not bow down.

Why not? He's a Jew, and Jews do not bow down to human beings. Do you remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Do you remember Daniel's refusal to give obeisance to the king?

And so on. And so here, this Mordecai refuses to bow before Haman, and when he does this, Haman is enraged. And so he begins to work behind the scenes with the king and to tell the king that there is a conspiracy among the Jews, and Haman persuades Xerxes to issue an edict that calls for a holocaust. It's like Haman is the Adolf Eichmann of ancient Persia.

He has come up with a final solution. He is so annoyed and irritated by this slight that he receives by Mordecai that he not only wants to bring vengeance upon Mordecai, but on all of Mordecai's people. All the Jewish people are to be destroyed.

Problem is, remember, the king doesn't know that his wife is Jewish. Now, in this story, we have to keep in mind what the nature of an imperial edict was in Persia. Remember, when laws are passed in this country, you might say, well, laws are made to be broken, or we can repeal a law. And when we say that a law is capable of being repealed, we say, after all, it is not a law of the Medes and the Persians. We use that expression in English because in antiquity, when a law was passed among the Medes and the Persians, that was it. It could not be rescinded. Even the king couldn't rescind it. And Haman persuades the king to issue such an edict against the Jews. But they have, the Jews now have two chances to escape, slim and numb. And it really boils down to this. They have a person in high places who may be able to help.

The queen is one of them. And so the drama of the book, as far as I'm concerned, is when Mordecai, in behalf of the Jewish people, comes to Esther, meets with her secretly, and begs Esther to intercede with the king. Let's look at this, which is in the fourth chapter. We read, When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and ran out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. But he went only as far as the king's gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. And in every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing.

Many lay on sackcloth and ashes. Now when Esther's maids in eunuchs came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. And then Esther summoned one of the king's eunuchs and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why. And so this servant goes out to the square, and Mordecai tells him everything that's happened, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay to the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews.

There was a kickback in this. And he gave him a text of the edict, which indicated the annihilation of the Jews, and told the servant to show that text to Esther and explain it to her. And he told him to urge her to go into the king's presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for his people. And so through this messenger, Esther is alerted to the plight of her people, and the urgent plea is brought to her to intercede in their behalf. And so when the servant comes with this message asking for a favor, the queen says, Tell Mordecai he doesn't understand that even though I'm the queen, I don't have access at my own whim to the royal chambers. Even I cannot come to the king unless he summons me.

And keep in mind the unspoken statement that's going on here. Remember Vashti. Look, I just won the Miss America contest. I just am Cinderella, and no sooner do I get the glass slipper than you people want me to risk everything that I've achieved, all of the glamour that I've won, by walking uninvited into the king's chamber, a king who is so whimsical and capricious that he is known for deposing queens at the slightest irritation. The only exception, she tells the servant, to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life.

But 30 days have passed since I have been called to go to the king. So Esther is terrified, and she tries to get out of it. And she tells Mordecai, Hey, come up with a better plan, okay? Because I can't pull this off. When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer.

Now this is hardball. This is like a father speaking to his daughter. Do not think that because you are in the king's house, you alone, of all of the Jews, will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this. Mordecai is saying, Look, I'm not God, but I want to say this to you. Don't think that you can get away with enjoying the luxury of being the king's wife, hiding your identity, and that you're going to escape. And I don't know the mind of God, Mordecai says, but think of it, Esther.

It may be that in the providence of God, the only reason why you were selected, out of all of these beautiful women, was so that you could be God's person for such a time as this. The issue, dear friends, is whether or not she is going to be silent for her own convenience, for her own self-preservation in a time of an impending holocaust. I read a book the other day that said, Who will speak for the silent ones, for the unborn children in the United States who are being systematically slaughtered?

And the reason why 1,300,000 unborn children are killed in the United States every year is because the vast majority of this country's people are silent when they should be screaming. Because if you open your mouth in a time like this, you risk something. You risk your security. You risk your popularity.

You may risk your job. But when has a Christian ever been called to make his personal security the top priority of his life? When that happens, I want – the thing I like about the biblical story here is that there's nothing phony or pietistic about it. Esther feels the full weight of moral anguish that's going on. She obviously does not want to risk her position, to risk her life, to be the one who has to speak up. Because she's risking everything. She's risking her title, her throne, her very life if she does what Mordecai says.

And how much easier it would be to say, I'm not going to get involved. I'm going to keep my mouth shut and let somebody else bail them out. Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai. Go, gather together all of the Jews who are in Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, nights, or days. And I and my maids will fast for you.

Now notice, it doesn't end there. It's not like saying, well, I'll tell you what I will do. I won't talk to the king, but I'll talk to God. I'll pray for you. I'll fast for you, and you pray for me.

I mean, how would you like to have that? I'll pray for you. I don't want you to pray for me. I want you to talk to the king.

But she doesn't stop there. She said, here, here's why I want you to pray for me. I need you to pray for me because when this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. It's against the law of the Medes and the Persians. The laws of the Medes and the Persians forbid my entering without a summons into the royal chamber, but the moral law of God requires that I go. And here's the line, no more heroic line ever uttered by any human being in the Old Testament, and if I perish, I perish. But that is the right thing for me to do. That, dear friends, is biblical heroism.

When the crunch comes of more anguish that requires more courage, Esther arises for the task. And she said, I'll go. I don't care about the king.

I don't care about the law of the Medes and the Persians. I'm going to do it, and if I perish, I perish. Can you imagine how she felt when she walked in the door? And the king looks at her and sees her coming, knowing that this is a violation of protocol. Then what kind of a mood he's in, the people have been praying for three days. And when Xerxes saw his bride, he smiled and he raised his scepter. And he heard her pleas for her people.

You know how the story turned out? Haman builds a gallows 75 feet high for Mordecai, and Haman himself is hung by the neck. And the king says, what am I going to do? I've passed the law.

The law can't be changed. And so he passes another law which entitles the Jews to arm themselves to the teeth in such a way that if anybody tries to harm them, they're going to get wiped to smithereens. And so the people of Israel were saved, and a Holocaust was averted because one woman had the courage to say, If I perish, I perish.

We need a Queen Esther right now in our land. Are we willing to take that bold of a stand to risk our livelihoods and reputations to stand up for the things of God? Well, I've been challenged today here on Renewing Your Mind, and I hope you have been as well. Thank you for joining us today. You know, when we read about these amazing people in the Bible, we gain perspective on what it means to live a life that honors God.

There are scores of men and women in the Bible whose lives we can emulate. That's why I'd like to recommend our resource offer today. When you contact us with a donation of any amount, we will send you Dr. R.C. Sproul's series, Dust to Glory. In it, he explains how God's redemptive thread runs through every book of the Bible. It's a 57-message series, and we'll also include a disc containing the study guides for each message. So request Dust to Glory when you go to renewingyourmind.org. You can also call us with your gift at 800-435-4343. We'll continue this series next week, and I do hope you'll join us as Dr. Sproul focuses on Jeremiah. We know more about the personal life of this man who is known as the weeping prophet than we do about any other Old Testament prophet. That's next Saturday here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-30 23:06:29 / 2023-11-30 23:14:51 / 8

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