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What’s Going On? (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
March 6, 2023 3:00 am

What’s Going On? (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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March 6, 2023 3:00 am

When we’re safe and secure, most of us are reluctant to rock the boat. Find out how Queen Esther responded when confronted by a potentially life-threatening dilemma. Did she sink or swim? Hear the answer on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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Music playing Today on Truth for Life, we'll find out how Queen Esther responded when she was confronted by a potentially life-threatening dilemma.

She had the option to hide in the safety of the palace, or she could risk her life to save her people. Alistair Begg is teaching from the book of Esther, a message titled, What's Going On? I invite you to turn with me to the Old Testament, to the book of Esther, to chapter 4, and we'll read from verse 12, and they told Mordecai what Esther had said. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish."

Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him. Thanks be to God for his Word. Father, illumine the page to us by the Holy Spirit, we pray, so that our study may not simply instruct our minds but stir our hearts, challenge our wills, and change our lives. Only the Holy Spirit can do this. To him we look. In Christ's name we pray.

Amen. Paul writes to the Romans in chapter 15, and he tells them, Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. It would be fairly understandable if someone were to say, I haven't really been interested in church very much, I haven't come around much, but I don't know why it is that we would spend time studying an ancient book. Isn't there something that is far more up-to-date, more readable, more applicable?

Why would you actually do this? Well, the answer is there in that fourth verse of Romans 15. When we read the Old Testament, Genesis through Malachi, we have the record which God has provided for us as a means of both instruction and of encouragement. And that is our perspective in our study of the Bible. We believe that God has given to us the Bible, that he has orchestrated its beginning and its ending, he has preserved it through all the years, and that when the Bible is truly taught, then that the voice of God is truly heard. Without that conviction, it seems a strange exercise to study the Bible even at all. Then it would be a matter of literature or whatever it might be.

But that is not our view. The view that is given to us from the Bible itself is that we might expect to hear from God. But it is safe to say that together we've been discovering that this story, set in Persia in the fifth century before Jesus, has been helping us to understand who God is and how God is at work in his world. In this particular book, The Name of God is Never Mentioned, we've been intrigued by that, and we've also been discovering that although his name is never mentioned, that it becomes increasingly clear to us that God is everywhere in this book, where he appears, in part, to be nowhere.

Nothing happens except through him and by his will. And indeed, that the God-shaped holes in the narrative—a phrase we borrowed from Alec Mattea when we were last together—the God-shaped holes in the narrative—in other words, the places where you would expect the name of God will appear. It doesn't appear, and it doesn't appear purposefully, so that the very fact of its absence may intrigue us and lead us on and may cause us, in reading this story, to ask, What's going on in what's going on? Before we have the record of what's going on, but what is going on in what is going on?

Now, three words this morning to help us navigate. The first word is decree. The decree. The decree that is contrived in chapter 3.

We need to go back a little to go forward, but I trust not in an unhelpful way. Some of you will be familiar with Simon Winchester's wonderful book—actually, wonderful books—but the one I have in mind is the one that he wrote in the description of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, and it is called The Professor and the Madman. If you haven't read it, I commend it to you.

It's a terrific read. And I was thinking about it this week, because as I thought about chapter 3, I said, This is not The Professor and the Madman. This is the story of the king and the bad man. And Haman is the bad man. He has a supersized ego, and he cannot handle the fact, we're told, that Mordecai the Jew chose not to bow down to him or to pay homage to him.

As we studied, we realized that there were all kinds of family and religious background pieces to that, which, again, we won't take time to review. Nevertheless, Mordecai raised the wrath of this man Haman, so much so that his reaction was one that we might refer to as being of satanic proportions. I mean, it would be one thing if he was annoyed that this particular Jewish fellow did not doff his hat at him when he saw him in the morning, so much so that he would make life hard for him, but he actually goes way beyond that. He plans the annihilation of the entire Jewish community. And he goes to the king, and he enveigles a way for Ahasuerus to write a decree to that end so that on a particular day, this pogrom, this holocaust, will take place. And from this point on, to quote Barry Maguire, the nation of Israel, the Jewish population, finds itself on the eve of destruction. Chapter 3 ends with the king and the bad man sharing a drink.

If you were making a movie at this, you would find them either in a hotel bar or somewhere like that, or perhaps just in a very nice part of the palace. And as they yuck it up together in relationship to what's going on, the city of Susa is thrown into confusion. Now, it is out of that that Mordecai, who is the cousin, the older cousin and kind of the father figure to the queen Esther, that Mordecai, made aware of what is taking place, needs somehow or another to get that information to Esther. Because Esther is isolated from what's going on in the street. She is physically isolated from it and probably, to a great degree, emotionally isolated from it. He's not able to phone her. He can't text her.

There's no way he could tweet her. It's absolutely impossible for him to do any of the things that are routine today, so he does what he can do. He takes to the streets in what was surely a genuine display of his own gut-wrenching grief in response to the decree.

Because after all, if you think about it, from a human perspective, he's responsible for it. He's the one who didn't bow, he's the one who incurred the wrath of Haman, and he's the one at whose door, if you like, this dreadful decree of destruction may legitimately be placed. So he is in the streets, in sackcloth and in ashes. He is mourning, he is weeping, he is crying aloud, and his life has a knock-on impact as others join him. Well, the news reaches Esther. She would have people who would do her bidding and be out in the community. She wouldn't necessarily need to be there and see it for herself.

It would be reported in a kind of upstairs-downstairs thing, a kind of Downton Abbey, that what was going on upstairs would not necessarily be known until some of the folks from down in the kitchen let the news out. So the news is out, and she discovers. And we're told that she was distressed that her cousin was in this predicament, that Mordecai was doing what he was doing.

That's verse 4 of chapter 4, when Esther's young women and her eunuchs came and told her the queen was deeply distressed. Well, that's nice she was distressed, but she was also completely oblivious to the predicament that Mordecai faced. She thought that if she just sent him a set of clothes, he would be able then to dress himself in a way that would make it easier for him to hang around the king's gate, because you do not want to hang around the king's gate making a fuss like that. You might not be fussing for very long.

It's a sort of superficial response that makes it clear that she doesn't really get what's going on. I sent him a new set of clothes. Maybe that'll cheer him up. Maybe it'll stop all that crying in the street.

We understand that, don't we? I've heard of people that go to the mall to buy themselves something to cheer themselves up. New set of clothes. I think I'll go get a pair of shoes. I think I'll go get a purse today.

I think I might go buy something today. Apparently, people use those kind of externals in order to try and transform the internal angst of a life. It can't be done. It wasn't done in Mordecai's case, that's for sure.

He couldn't be fixed by a new set of clothes. The fact that he refuses the outfit gets back to Esther. She then realizes something else is going on.

She's alert to it. She dispatches Haytech, Haytech goes out into the community, engages Mordecai, gets the whole bill of goods, Mordecai gives him the information, and sends him back to Esther. He tells him exactly what has transpired. He provides for him a copy of the decree, which is our word, and with that decree, he has a command which he wants Haytech to pass on to Esther. And in chapter 4, he wants Haytech to ask Esther to go to the king to beg his favor and to plead with him on behalf of her people. Mordecai figures that if anybody is able to get to the king, it has to be the queen. And since he still has leverage with the queen, because he's essentially her erstwhile dad, he uses the influence that he has, conveying it by means of this man, to ask her to do something on behalf of her people.

Fascinatingly, he had, from a pragmatic perspective, already suggested to her that she did not let it be known that she was part of that people. And now, that is no longer going to be applicable. So, the decree. Second word also begins with D, the dilemma. The dilemma.

The dilemma is actually on multiple fronts. First of all, as we saw last time, she needs to make sure that Mordecai understands that it's easy for him to ask her to do that, because if you go into the king's presence uninvited, you could get yourself killed. And at the end of chapter 2, Bigthan and Teresh had ended up on the gallows, and Esther, frankly, isn't interested in doing the same thing. She identifies the fact that the only exception to that rule is when the king is prepared to indicate his approval if someone is intruded, and he does so by holding out the golden scepter. But she's not hopeful on that front either, because she's honest enough to admit that she has recently slipped down the list of the king's desirables.

The king has a number of women with whom he can spend the night. He obviously really fancied her for a while, but she hasn't been around for over a month. So she doesn't really feel that she has some particular access or leverage to be able to go in there, certainly not uninvited. And that's the way she responds. Well, is Mordecai going to be contented with a response along those lines? Essentially, I'm sorry, there's really nothing I can do at this point. I see that you've got a major problem. She doesn't yet see that we have a major problem.

I'm sorry that there's nothing that can really be done. Well, Mordecai's not going to settle for that. Not for a New York minute he's not. And you will notice he comes right back at it, and he's blunt and he's to the point. It's important also to notice that Mordecai could have said, Oh well, at least I tried. That's what some of us do. One shot at it, I tried to phone, end of story. I tried to call, I made my attempt. It doesn't matter. Someone else will do it.

In the face of such evil, in the face of such injustice, one telephone call, one meager attempt to do something? Surely not. There's really nothing I can do. Oh well.

No. Mordecai comes right back at it, straight to the point. And his response is representative of the fact that, as my Scottish friend Dogood says, his response is everywhere—everywhere—grounded in the reality and in the necessity of God's intervention.

Although the name of God is not mentioned, it is absolutely clear that the overarching notion of there being meaning in this process, of there being a historical cycle that is engaging, of the fact that there is an oughtness and a purpose to everything, speaks to the reality and the necessity of God's intervention. And so he confronts her with what the real dilemma is by pointing out, number one, the palace will provide for you no ultimate place of security. That's verse 13. Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.

Your father's house and yourself—you won't be able to run into the palace and decide that that's your security. God will take care of that. Secondly, you need to know that relief and deliverance is certain whether you step up or not. That's verse 14. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place. In other words, the purposes of God are much greater than the obedience or the disobedience of one person.

That's an important principle. The purposes of God are much greater than the obedience or the disobedience of one person. The purpose of God was to take the people into the promised land. The people would have looked and said, Moses is the key to the promised land. He brought us over the Red Sea.

Moses himself never went into the promised land, on account of the decisions and determinations that he made. But the purposes of God were fulfilled. You see what Mordecai is saying here? It seems to me that you're the person in the place for now, and I'm urging you to do something. But don't think for a minute that God will not keep his promise to his people, to his covenant people that runs through the entire Old Testament.

You need to understand that. And then, thirdly, who knows whether you've not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? And I like the fact that he says, Who knows?

And I hope you do too. Why does he say, Who knows? Because we can't know such things in advance. We only know them, looking back.

And the reason that the question is posed as it is posed is in part to teach us that lesson. It really is too bad when some of us think that by using grandiose language about the will of God and our knowledge of the purpose of God and what God has told us to do and where God has told us to go, as if somehow or another this is an exemplification of a peculiar engagement that we enjoy with God when it may be nothing more than conjecture on our part. If you had asked Joseph, for example, when he was stripped naked standing in the middle of the public square waiting for somebody to buy him, eventually purchased by Potiphar, if you had gone to him and said to him, Hey, Joseph, what's going on in what's going on? What is God doing in your life? What do you think, Joseph would have said?

Who knows? I never bargained for this. I got a beautiful coat for my dad, but I ain't got no coat now.

Or if they'd interviewed him in the prison. What's going on in here? Did you do something bad? No, I did something good. You mean you're in the prison because you did something good? Do you mean something bad has happened because you did something good?

Like you said, No, I won't sleep with you, and you get put in here because you lied about it? That's right! What's going on?

Who knows? You see, it's only at the end, through the rearview mirror, when he finally discloses to his brothers, when he's able to look back down through the corridor of time and to say, All the way God has led me! All of these things—the good, the bad, and the ugly—the bad choices, the wise choices. You intended this, he says to his brothers, for evil, but God intended it for good.

It's the same principle. That is what is being addressed, and that is what creates the dilemma for Esther herself. She can sit tight and hope for the best in the palace, but according to Mordecai, she'll die, and so will her family. Or she can do what Mordecai is asking her to do, and that is go into the king unannounced, and the chances are she'll die for doing that.

That's the dilemma, whatever way you want to spell it. What is happening is that she is confronted with a situation that is going to call for her to come clean about who she is, what she believes, to whom she belongs, so that she is being called, if you like, out of the shadowlands, out of the blurred shadow, in which she lives between two worlds. Because she's living in a private world where she knows she's Jewish, she knows she's part of the covenant family of God, but she's living in a public world where there is no disclosure of that at all. So privately she has an identity, publicly she has an identity, and now she's going to have to determine, am I here or am I here? That's something all of us have to think about, isn't it?

Does our private identity match our public identity? You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. We're going to hear the conclusion of this message tomorrow. Now I don't know if you've looked at your calendar recently, but Easter is just around the corner. Christians from all around the world will be celebrating this holiday a little over a month from now.

So how does your family prepare to celebrate Easter? I want to recommend to you a book that is perfect as a family devotion leading up to Resurrection Sunday and the week following. The book is called Darkest Night Brightest Day, and it's a book that records the events from Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem all the way through the events of Pentecost. It's a great devotion to read with your family, especially your elementary school aged children through the fifth or the sixth grade.

The book Darkest Night Brightest Day includes 14 readings. Each day your family will enjoy short stories taken directly from Scripture, followed by a few questions to help your children think through the implications of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Be sure to request your copy of the book Darkest Night Brightest Day today when you give a donation to support the teaching you hear on Truth for Life.

Go to slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. And as you begin thinking about Easter, if you're looking for additional books to share with friends or family members who may not fully understand what the resurrection means for them personally, check out a list of books that our team is recommending. You'll find the selected titles online at slash Easter. Here at Truth for Life, we want everyone to hear the gospel to understand the significance of Easter.

That's why our mission is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance so that unbelievers will be converted, believers will be firmly established in their faith, and local churches will be strengthened. This is the mission you support every time you pray for this ministry or give a donation to Truth for Life. So on behalf of the many who have grown through their faith as a result of this daily program, a sincere thank you. I'm Bob Lapine. We're so glad you joined us today. Tomorrow we're gonna find out why you can only truly live if you're ready to die. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-06 06:58:14 / 2023-03-06 07:06:55 / 9

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