When we read the Bible we see that human leadership is ordained by God. So what does God do when those who are in authority abuse their power or threaten his people? Well today on Truth for Life we'll find out what happened when a king's top official plotted to destroy the entire Jewish population.
Alistair Begg is teaching today from chapter 3 in the book of Esther. Namely, how could he be a good Jew and a good citizen in Persia? 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 have 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? How do I, then, as a citizen of the land of the brave and the home of the free—or the other way around, I can never remember—but of this great nation, how do I uphold my Christian principles in an environment that has a structure of government that, although it guarantees my religious freedom, at the same time it approves of practices that violate not only the natural law but violate the law of God, which actually is the foundation for natural law?
And that's the question, isn't it? How do we live, then, recognizing that all human power is ultimately limited? That all human power is actually ordained by God? Romans 13 makes that clear.
We can't step back from that. But we also recognize that the power that is instituted by God is exercised by flawed and sinful human beings. And when that power is executed in violation of the authority of God, in the truth of his Word, then it almost inevitably leads to the abuse of the power. So it is surely a dramatic irony that the Supreme Court of the United States, if I understand properly their chambers, execute their decisions in a room around which the entire Ten Commandments are engraved into the structure of the room. Who are these people that believe that man's ability to renegotiate the terms of engagement established by God, the Creator of the universe, may exercise their jurisdiction in this way? So here we are. We've got to uphold the context in which we live within the framework and jurisdiction of what God has provided. And yet, for Mordecai, there came a tipping point.
He said, I'm not gonna do that. Right now, the issue is what the state may determine to be allowable with the freedom to live outside of it. If the day comes when that moves from merely being allowed to being demanded, then we for sure have entered into an X4 moment, whereby we will have to obey God rather than obey man. We're not there.
But we may be there. And that's why it's good to allow the reaction of Mordecai to the promotion of Haman to at least get our minds working along these lines. Don't let's miss the point either that when these things prevail as they do, that low standards of morality provide a wonderful opportunity for the Christian church—provided the Christian church is not going to do a sol on the commandments of God. In other words, the Christian church has no legitimate strength with which to pronounce on homosexuality as long as the Christian church is riddled with premarital and extramarital heterosexual sex. The young person has no legitimate grounds to speak to the prevailing drift while they themselves have determined that God's straightforward, mandatory expression of the nature of sexuality may be violated at will to fit their own pleasure. Can't do it.
Can't have it both ways. These are exciting days. Jesus said, In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, because I have overcome the world. So the reaction of Mordecai leads to the decision for the destruction of the Jews, the promotion of Haman, the reaction of Mordecai, thirdly, the destruction of the Jews. Now, I'm going to leave you to do most of this study on your own, but you will notice that it says very straightforwardly there, in verse 6, that the fury of Haman was such… Actually, his fury is described at the end of verse 5. He was filled with fury. He was so furious that the death of Mordecai would not be enough for him. He decided that he was going to have to take out the entire people of Mordecai. One of the passages I read this week made the observation, No proud man ever received the respect and regard which he thought was due him. It wasn't sufficient for Haman to have all of the servants of the king, everyone in the government structure, paying obeisance to him and treating him in an obsequious fashion.
And with homages he went around, because there was a Jew named Mordecai in Susa the citadel. And his fury was unleashed in a way that is so obviously over the top. I mean, you may have somebody that you don't like or who has offended you—let's say, at a very trivial level, that somebody did something dreadful to you, and you decided that instead of seeking to pay them back or remove them, you would just remove the entire community.
You know, you fell out with someone in Solon, so you decided you would obliterate the population of Solon. Now, your wife would say, Well, that's a little bit of an overreaction, isn't it? I mean, I know you're ticked off, but, I mean, what's the deal here? And when you read this, you say, What is the deal here?
What is this? How do you account for the fact that one Jew saying no results in the prospect of the destruction of the entire Jewish community? Let me tell you what the answer is. The answer is the evil one. The answer is Satan. Satan understands that the Deliverer, that the Messiah, will come from the line of the Jew. Therefore, he is committed to the destruction of the Jew so that no Deliverer may come.
That's the explanation for Herod. Isn't that another overreaction? Let's kill every male child to and under in the entire place.
What, I know you're upset, but isn't that a bit much? What is he trying to do? He's trying to make sure that he obliterates the Messiah. This all goes back to Genesis chapter 3 and verse 15, which I've said to you is important. The promised Deliverer will come down this line, and the evil one opposes it all the way. And so, when you read this, you see that Haman uses all of his powers.
He's a conniving person, he's malicious, he's untruthful, he's callous. He just represents the activities of his father. You remember Jesus, who said to the Jews on one occasion—I think it's in John 8 or so—you know, they said, Hey, don't be telling us these things, Jesus. We have Abraham as our father. You remember what Jesus said? He said, You have Abraham as your father? If you had Abraham as your father, you would do what Abraham did. But as it is, you actually are doing what your father likes. Because your father is the devil, and he's the father of lies, and you tell lies too. And the reason you tell lies is because of the one to whom you belong. Well, that's a dramatic statement out of the most loving person that ever lived, isn't it?
Oh, we can't get around this. And so, in the twelfth year, we're told—that is, five years after Esther had become queen—they cast lots. They are trying to find the lucky day—lucky day, lucky day—and if they can get the right day, then they'll be able to execute this horrible decree. What they don't realize is that the casting of the lot is in the lap of God, that God actually even overrules this strange procedure.
And so, as they engage in this, he then goes to the king. He says, you know, there's a certain people scattered abroad. They're not just here. They're everywhere. They're dispersed among the peoples.
He's building his case. He doesn't have a problem with the people. He's got a problem with Mordecai. Their laws are different from those of every other people. They don't keep the king's laws. That's not fair.
It's only Mordecai that has done this to him. So that it is not to the king's profit to tolerate them. Now, remember, we've already seen that the recurring phrase, and what was said, pleased the king. And the king liked to be pleased. So he was displeased by Vashti—out. He was pleased by Esther—in. He is displeased with this—out. He likes the idea of Haman—in. He's not an impressive character, this king, I suggest to you.
This one's not good. And so Haman is able to play upon that. So he's able to manipulate him. And he says it's not to the profit of the king. And by the way, he says, while we're mentioning money, I realize there'll be a loss of revenue if we obliterate all the Jews, but don't worry about that, because I'm gonna chip in myself. I'm gonna put my money where my mouth is.
I'll make sure that you're covered, king. He probably had lost quite a bit of money in his unsuccessful campaign against Greece—three years and a lot of loss of life and a lot of loss of revenue. So Haman plays all his cards. I don't think it would be profitable. They're a distrustful group of people. They're all over the place. They don't obey the laws. They have their own laws.
It's really just, let's get rid of them. And so the king says, yeah, that's fair enough. In fact, he says, you can take the money—I don't care about the money—you can take the money, and you can take the people, verse 11, and do with them as it seems good to you. What kind of leadership is that? Just do what you want.
No. And you'll notice in verse 12 that 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 kings, and so on and so on. And then they've got an elaborate procedure whereby they get it out to the kingdom. Just one thing for you to notice and to chew on as we go to our last point. Interestingly, significantly, this day, the thirteenth day of the first month, is the day before the celebration of the Passover, which you will note from Leviticus chapter 23 verse 5, when you go and look for it.
So they cast a lot. They decide that it's on this day. This is the day to establish the edict. And so the people of God, now becoming aware of the horrible pogrom that is about to descend upon them, the annihilation of their entire population, and as that edict now begins to gain strength and influence and be distributed on the very next day, the people of God gather to celebrate the Passover. So now they've got a real issue on their hands, don't they?
Because the reason they gather to celebrate the Passover is to remember in their history that when they were in an impossible situation in the bondage of Egypt that God miraculously intervened and set them free. So now the edict of Haman, established by the king, pronounces that their destruction is inevitable, so they are now left with the celebration of God's dramatic intervention and the prospect of no dramatic intervention here. Is it going to be the basis of mistrust? Or is it going to be the basis of fear?
Or is it going to be the basis of faith? Of course, what we're going to discover—and you almost can't wait to keep moving on—but the very means planned for their destruction was the means that God was going to use for their deliverance. The very means planned for destruction was the means for deliverance. If that doesn't ring a big bell for you and send you to the cross of Jesus Christ, then you have actually fallen asleep. The very means that the evil one sought to bring about the very destruction of the purposes of God was the means of God for the very victory that Christ achieved.
It's magnificent, isn't it? Finally, the confusion in the city. Confusion in the city. So we have the promotion of Haman, the reaction of Mordecai, the destruction of the Jews, and we're told that the city was just filled with confusion. Actually, I think that the king was filled with confusion as well.
He's not playing to any kind of strength here at all. He's an embodiment of Edmund Burke's statement, All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. And here he just does nothing. I don't know whether he was awake or what was going on with the fellow, because there is an irony in the fact that his queen was a Jew. There's an irony in the fact that the person who had saved him from assassination was a Jew. And he has now taken his signet ring off, and he's given it to Haman, and he says, No, go ahead, take care of these people, whoever they are. Do you realize what you're doing?
You think you're in control? You're out of touch. Some of you will remember that terminology from the Iran-Contra scandal, as it relates to one of my heroes, namely Ronald Reagan. And Ronald Reagan is now in his second term.
We have the Iran-Contra scandal, and he's on the front of the cameras on all the microphones. And there's a humorous interchange where the journalist says to him, he says, Mr. Reagan, for five years you have been saying to us, I'm in charge. And we've been saying to you, you're out of touch. And now here we are this morning saying to you, you're in charge. And your response is, I'm out of touch. Did you get that?
No? The question was, did Reagan know what Ollie North was doing? Had he simply signed off on something he didn't realize the implications of it?
See, the best of men are men at best. And this king had signed off. And so the people of God are there held in the grip of the expectation that in twelve months' time, because it was going to take twelve months to put it into action, they were all going to be obliterated. And so the city was confused.
Perplexed. The word on the street would be, if they can do it to the Jews, they can do it to anybody. Have you heard that language before? It runs as a vein throughout the entire history of the Western world. If they can do it here, they can do it there. Pol Pot can do it. Someone else can do it. It can happen in the early centuries, the early decade of the twentieth century in the Soviet Empire.
It can happen in the forties in Hitler's Germany. Little did Haman know that God was in charge, and that Haman the villain was going to become the victim of his own evil plan. The folly of Haman's conduct is actually viewed from the perspective of the wisdom of God, which actually overrules even Haman's vileness to achieve his own purpose. That the terror that was faced by the people of God was an occasion for them to look to him who had promised that he would keep them to the end. We begin by noticing that Ahasuerus abdicates his responsibility.
Haman's treachery fills the vacuum. And when leadership, in any place, at any time, vacillates between those two things—the abdication of responsibility and the invasion of treachery—then the people of God who are committed to justice, politically, economically, socially, ecclesiastically, spiritually, have a responsibility to speak out of a life transformed by the gospel in order to say to people, Listen, the leadership that Jesus speaks about is not this kind of leadership. It's not a leadership that takes the fifth. It's not a leadership that seeks to absolve itself of any responsibility.
It is not a leadership that is marked either by treachery. That is the leadership of the kings of the Gentiles that Jesus had to speak to his people about. You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them. Their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you, because whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first must be the slave of all. Because remember, he said, The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. So in other words, it brings us always back to the nature of the gospel. And it's only as we live the gospel, it's only as we then, on the strength of the gospel, critique the abuses of power, that we learn to rest in the confidence that comes about from knowing that while heaven and earth may pass away, that God's Word will never pass away, and that whatever the generations yet to come will experience in this fair land—a land that has been blessed, arguably, beyond any other place—what generations yet to come will experience is in part to be measured by our response to the abuses of power executed upon a people by those who have decided that God's law is no longer his law, and it certainly is no longer relevant for our society. I haven't thought all of this out.
I'm in the process of doing so. I think you are too. But here's the thing. Our fortress is God. Our confidence is God. And in this we rest. The purposes of God will not be thwarted, and we can take great comfort in knowing that.
Alistair will return shortly to close today's program. In addition to teaching each day from the Bible, here at Truth for Life we carefully select books to encourage you to grow in your faith, and we want to recommend to you today a book called Darkest Night, Brightest Day. This is a family devotional for the Easter season. It's a book you can read with your whole family to help prepare you for Easter, and together you will learn from 14 daily readings, seven of them describing the events that lead up to the crucifixion, and another seven describing the events from the resurrection to the day of Pentecost. This is a great way to guide your family in discussion about Jesus' plan of salvation. And the book has a fun design.
It separates the two parts. Under the title Darkest Night are readings that describe Jesus' arrest, his trial, his death on the cross, and then you flip the book over, and the other half is under the title Brightest Day. This is the portion with the seven readings about Jesus' resurrection, his ascension, and the day of Pentecost. The visual reversal of this book is a clever way to help your children see how the world was turned upside down when Jesus rose from the dead.
Request your copy of Darkest Night, Brightest Day when you give a donation today online at truthforlife.org slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. Now here is Alistair with a closing prayer. Father, thank you that when we try and process all of this stuff that we eventually come back to the fact that the name of the Lord is a strong tower, that the righteous run into it and it is safe. These are complex issues.
They were complex in Mordecai's day. All of the elements of his refusal that are so hard to fiddle around with, Lord, and help us, too, that we don't go off wrong, but help us as well, not simply to be cowed, to be beaten, to fail to stand up for the truth of your word. For we pray in the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen. I'm Bob Lapeen. We are glad you joined us today. Throughout the Bible, we read story after story about God's providential care for his people. So why do we still wrestle with feelings of anxiety or sadness? We'll find out why from Alistair tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-01 05:14:03 / 2023-03-01 05:22:43 / 9