Anytime we fail to obey God, there are consequences.
Sometimes those ramifications affect others that can even extend to future generations. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg helps us connect the dots between a hostile relationship in Esther's story and blatant disobedience that occurred several generations before. Esther chapter 3 and verse 1. After these things King Ahazuerus promoted Haman the Agagite, the son of Hamadatha, and advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him. And all the king's servants who were at the king's gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage. Then the king's servants who were at the king's gate said to Mordecai, Why do you transgress the king's command? And when they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman in order to see whether Mordecai's words would stand, for he had told them that he was a Jew. And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was filled with fury.
But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahazuerus. In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahazuerus, they cast Pur, that is, they cast lots, before Haman day after day, and they cast it month after month, till the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. Then Haman said to King Ahazuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king's laws, so that it is not to the king's profit to tolerate them. If it please the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed. And I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king's business, that they may put it into the king's treasuries. So the king took a signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman the Agagite, the son of Hamadatha, the enemy of the Jews. And the king said to Haman, The money is given to you, the people also, to do with them, as it seems good to you. Then the king's scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and an edict, according to all that Haman commanded, was written to the king's satrabs and to the governors over all the provinces and to the officials of all the peoples, to every province in its own script and every people in its own language. It was written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king's signet ring. Letters were sent by couriers to all the king's provinces, with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province by proclamation to all the peoples to be ready for that day. The couriers went out hurriedly by order of the king, and the decree was issued in Susa the citadel, and the king and Haman sat down to drink.
But the city of Susa was thrown into confusion. Thanks be to God for his Word. Brief prayer together. Gracious God, we desperately need your help as we study this chapter of the Bible so that we might understand what it says, that we might say nothing that it doesn't say, and that we might be brought to the kind of faith and obedience which gives indication of your transforming work within our lives. For we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
Well, I hope you've kept your Bible open in front of you and that you can look at the tenth verse, because it's there I want to begin. So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman the Agagite. That was not simply a symbolic gesture.
I think it was an abdication of responsibility. Ahasuerus is an interesting character, as we're getting to know him. He seems to operate far more on the basis of his glands than he does on the strength of conviction or in terms of principle. And as a result of that, we see him here as something of a vacillator, somebody who is expansive in terms of his understanding of his greatness and yet at the same time is unwilling to make the decisions that are necessary. And when we read the chapter, we're left with the question, Who is actually in charge here, if we think in terms of power and of authority, as we read through this third chapter? Well, clearly it isn't Ahasuerus, despite all of his proud boasts.
And Mordecai, as we'll see in a moment, appears to have been overlooked in the king's honor list, as it were. Esther doesn't even appear in this chapter, so she has nothing to say. The Jewish population is under the sentence of death. And the citizens of Susa are brought justifiably into such an experience of perplexity that the whole place is described as being confused. So are we then to assume that the people of God, upon whom he has set his affection, are now subject to the whims of a king who's increasingly out of touch, as he sits down to share a drink with his buddy Haman the Horrible? Let's notice, as we try and find a way through the chapter, first of all, what we're told concerning the promotion of Haman himself, the promotion of Haman.
It is very obvious that the king has made this decision. We're not sure just why or how, on the basis of what, whether he has operated arbitrarily and advanced Haman to this position. But nevertheless, Haman is now advanced to have a throne of his own that is above all the officials who were with him, so that all the king's servants and all those who are still within the framework of government circles are themselves subservient to him. Now, this actually follows on from the way in which Mordecai, at the end of chapter 2, has received no promotion and no exaltation. Whether he himself anticipated that he might is a matter of conjecture. We the readers, having noted what he did, might have occasioned to wonder just why it was that he didn't do better than simply receive a few lines at the bottom of the Book of the Chronicles. Because that's what we're told at the end of chapter 2.
We're not told that he was now advanced to a particular position of authority in the kingdom, but simply, despite the fact that he had done the job of blowing the whistle on a couple of characters who were planning on assassinating the king, despite the fact that he has provided a very worthy service to the Persian Empire, all he gets are a few lines at the bottom of the Book of the Chronicles. I wonder, was he disappointed? I don't know.
We can find out one day, I hope. Disappointed at being passed over. Have you ever been passed over for a promotion?
What did you say when you came home to your wife or to your husband? Did you say, Hey, what a great day I've had! I was passed over for a promotion.
Probably not. You probably said, I can't believe it. After I'd done so well, after my figures had come in so strong, after I'd gone on that business trip, after I had made my boss look so good, and all he did was he wrote a couple of sentences about me to be added to my resume.
I thought I at least would have got a different office if nothing else. Well, maybe Mordecai felt a little bit that way. Disappointed that all he got was a couple of lines at the bottom of the page. But if only he knew how significant the two lines at the bottom of the page were going to prove not only in his life but in the lives of the entire population of Jews who were there, about to be on the receiving end of the brutality of this horrible Haman. I mention it again simply that I might reinforce for myself and for you a principle that we're trying to see throughout these studies—namely, that the providences of God are seldom self-interpreting, and it's usually wrong for us to try and understand what's going on in the immediacy of the moment. You can figure that out for yourselves.
Now I thought that I was going to live to be a hundred and twelve, and I've just been diagnosed with multiple myeloma. What in the world is God doing now? It's a justifiable question, but you're probably not going to get the right answer by trying to analyze it within the timeframe of the now and the here. Because what God is doing with us and in us and through us and for us is something far more significant. That's why it's not really a good idea to be peculiarly disgruntled when you're overlooked for a promotion. It's usually not a good idea when you're exalted to a position of usefulness to suggest to yourself that you have done all these things, because God is sovereign in all of those details, and most of our understanding will be seen by looking in the rearview mirror rather than looking through the windscreen. Certainly, that would be true, I think, for Mordecai. Well, back to Haman, because it's with the promotion of Haman that we're concerned. He's introduced to us here in verse 1 as the Agagite, the son of Hamadatha, and in verse 10 that is reinforced. He's described in that way again.
So when you have repetition, you know that the writer wants us to understand these things. And in verse 10, if you allow your eye to scan it, you will see that there's a little phrase that is added to the designation, Haman the Agagite, the son of Hamadatha, and here we go, the enemy of the Jews. Now, that is very significant. There's nothing in the Bible that is just extraneous. And that little piece of information is important, as I want to show you.
Let me give you a little bit of background. If you turn in your Bible all the way to Exodus for just a moment, let me point out to you, and in chapter 17, you have the people of God advancing toward Sinai. And in verse 8 of 17, we're told, Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. And so Moses said to Joshua, You'd better get some men and go out and fight with Amalek. In verse 10, so Joshua did as Moses had told him, and fought with Amalek. And then you have that wonderful scene where Aaron and her hold up the hands of Moses. That's that scene when they hold up his hands, symbolic of his cry upon God in prayer. Then the battle goes well for them down in the valley.
When they let the hands go down, then the battle doesn't go so well. And in verse 13, we're told that Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. And then the Lord said to Moses, Write this as a memorial in a book. God likes to write things in books. He likes memorials, he likes diaries, he likes us to keep records of things.
That's why minutes are important, actually. Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua. What? That I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Okay. And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD is my banner, saying, A hand upon the throne of the LORD. The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.
Okay? So here you've got, right at the very outset of things, this battle that ensues. We turn forward to 1 Samuel and to chapter 15. Saul has now been made king. Having been made king, he's given a charge by God, and the charge is to destroy the Amalekites. 1 Samuel 15 verse 2, Thus says the LORD of hosts, I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. That's Exodus chapter 17. God says, I didn't escape my notice. I understand what's going on here.
Now, this is what I want you to do. Go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. And God's command is absolutely clear. And you go down to verse 9, and you read, But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep. So they heard what God had said. God gave a very clear, comprehensive command—destroy the whole shooting match.
They get into the process, and they say, No, it's not such a good idea. Let's keep Agag. He's the king. And let's keep some of the best stuff. The junk will destroy the junk, but we'll keep the good stuff. You see, the wisdom of God is vaster than the wisdom of man. God is not arbitrarily giving this directive.
It is purposeful. And failure to pay attention to it will have ramifications. Failure to obey God always has ramifications. When we listen to the suggestions of others rather than to the directions of God, then we will live with the implications of that.
And that's exactly what happens here. And in verse 24, after Saul is made aware of the fact that he isn't going to be the king anymore, he says—this is 1 Samuel 15 and 24—he says to Samuel, I have sinned. Notice, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words.
So he's not trying to cover for himself. Earlier in the chapter he does. He says, Well, I really did obey. And he's trying to suggest that partial obedience is okay. And the servant of the Lord said, No, partial obedience is not okay. When God asks for complete obedience, he means complete obedience. And he says, Well, I have transgressed, and I have disobeyed the commandment of the Lord and your words. And then he tells us why. Because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.
I feared the people and obeyed their voice. And as a result of him fearing the people and obeying their voice, here we have an old conflict, simmering, simmering, bubbling up, boiling over, reproducing itself again and again and again. The power now resides, from a human perspective, in the hands of Haman. He's promoted to a place of significant usefulness. And the writer wants us to understand who he is.
He is the agagite. Now, if we don't know our Bibles, we just pass over that. It's like saying, He's from Columbus, or, you know, he's from Wisconsin.
You know, move on. It doesn't really matter. No, it really, really matters. And it really matters when you realize in verse 5 of chapter 2 the lineage of Mordecai, because Mordecai has been introduced not only as a Jew—now, there was a Jew in Susa the Citadel whose name was Mordecai—but we've been given his background. The son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjaminite. Now, if you know your Bible, you know who Kish was. If you don't, you're gonna find out. And there'll be an aha moment. Kish was Saul's dad.
All right? So here is Mordecai, a Jew whose lineage goes back to Saul. Saul, who is the king, is told, Destroy the Amalekites. Saul, his forefather, says, No, I'm not gonna destroy the Amalekites. It doesn't really matter.
God says, Yes, it matters. And here we are now in fifth-century Persia, and this little Jewish man is confronted by the evil of an Agagite who shouldn't even exist, but exists because of the disobedience of Saul. Now, I say to you again, disobedience has implications. Don't try and explain your disobedience in the immediacy either. Don't think for a moment that your disobedience on a straightforward command of God is something that is an existential encounter. It has ramifications. It will have for you, it will have for those who love you, it will have for those who live under your influence.
God is not mocked when he gives his commands, when he executes his warnings, when he says what he wants done. That's what makes it so profoundly significant. The promotion of Haman. Secondly, the reaction of Mordecai. The reaction of Mordecai. In a phrase, Mordecai did not bow.
There's nothing hard about that, is there? Verse 5, when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow. Now, he didn't actually see this in the beginning.
It was the rest of the company that noticed it. In verse 3, they are inquiring, "'Why is it that you don't bow down?' the king's servants asked." In verse 4, they're apparently quite exercised about this, because they speak to him day after day. He pretty well puts his fingers in his ears.
He won't listen to them. And presumably, that triggers their design to go to Haman, to tell Haman, basically to see whether this position, this stand that is taken by Mordecai, is going to be able to prevail. And his stand is directly related to the fact that he was a Jew. Now, commentators spend a fair amount of time trying to explain to us all why it was that Mordecai did not bow down. And it's all conjecture, because we're not told anything other in the passage that would allow us to, by inference, draw a conclusion other than the fact that he was a Jew.
That's all we need to know. Now, there was a Jew in the citadel of Susa whose name was Mordecai. His lineage is from Saul.
Haman is now elevated to the position of usefulness. His lineage is from Amalek. Now we've got a huge conflict.
A huge conflict that goes back down through a long period of time. So you don't need to spend a lot of time in your home Bible study trying to work out why it is that he didn't bow down. We can infer all kinds of things, but it ultimately is not irrelevant, but it's unimportant, because in the balance of the story, all that we need to know is that his refusal to bow became the catalyst for the unbelievable fury of Haman, which was his response. You see, Mordecai was dealing with a question that we've already noted, namely, how could he be a good Jew and a good citizen in Persia? He obviously was committed to being a good Jew. If he was an insurrectionist, then when two fellows had decided to assassinate the king, if he was an insurrectionist, a revolutionary, then he would have said, This is fantastic. Nothing I like better than a good assassination.
Let me help you. And he could have covered up for them or perhaps made it even easier for them. But no, he's a citizen of Persia. He's not gonna allow the king to be threatened and imposed upon in that way. So there's no sense in which we can cast Mordecai in those sort of revolutionary terms.
No, it's far more difficult than that. How can he be a loyal citizen and a loyal Jew? How can he do these things and not compromise his own core convictions?
Because he did have core convictions, and presumably this was one of them. It's a constant question, isn't it? It's a question for you and me today. How are we to live as Christian believers, as aliens, strangers, in a world where our citizenship is ultimately of heavenly origin? But then it marks us out from every tribe, nation, people, language, and tongue, color, and intellect, size and status, is the fact that we all share the same lineage, we all share the same heritage, that we all have a heavenly citizenship. We've been born again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We belong to a family that breaks down the barriers of race, that breaks down the barriers of gender relationships, and so on. We understand that.
And we live in a society that increasingly refutes that. You're listening to Truth for Life, that is Alistair Begg explaining how we can live in the world without compromising our convictions. We have a book we'd like to recommend to you today, a book that will help you trust God when you feel conflicted and confused. The book is titled 12 Things God Can't Do.
You may have heard me mention this before. This book unpacks things God can't do and explains why these inabilities are as reassuring as the things God can do. Today is the last day for you to request your copy of this book, so reach out to us, ask for 12 Things God Can't Do when you donate to Truth for Life at truthforlife.org slash donate or you can call us at 888-588-7884.
And if you'd rather mail your donation along with your request for the book, write to Truth for Life at post office box 39 8000 Cleveland, Ohio 44139. Now you should know that cabins are filling up fast for the deeper faith 2023 Mediterranean cruise, so if you think you'd enjoy a vacation that is meaningful as well as fun, join Alistair aboard Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship. He'll be the guest speaker on a trip that runs from August 26th through September 4th 2023. The voyage begins in Rome, Italy. You'll enjoy a time of fellowship with other believers while sailing to historical and cultural Mediterranean ports including Naples, Croatia and Venice. Each day's adventure will be topped off by an evening shared with Alistair as he teaches from God's Word. To find out more or to book your cabin, go to deeperfaithcruise.com. I think most of you understand our mission here at Truth for Life and whether you're joining Alistair on a cruise or listening to this program online or on the radio, we always invite you to open your Bible because our mission is to teach God's Word without adding to it or taking away from it. It is teaching grounded in Scripture that you can trust to be true. I'm Bob Lapine, thanks for listening. Tomorrow we're going to find out how an evil plan of destruction was used as a means of deliverance instead. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
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