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O Father, You Are Sovereign! (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
March 8, 2023 3:00 am

O Father, You Are Sovereign! (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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March 8, 2023 3:00 am

When Queen Esther said, “If I perish, I perish,” she wasn’t being glib or melodramatic. The risks Mordecai urged her to take were tremendous. What made her approach to the king dangerous but effective? Find out on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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When Queen Esther said, If I perish, I perish, she wasn't merely being melodramatic.

The risks Mordecai was urging her to take were tremendous. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg explains what made Queen Esther's approach to the king so dangerous but also effective. Esther chapter 5 is our Bible reading for today, verse 1 of chapter 5. On the third day, Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king's palace, in front of the king's quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace.

It's not easy for us to work out the architecture of that, but what is pretty clear to us is that the queen is in the sight line of the king, although she is not immediately in the presence of the king. And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter, and the king said to her, What is it, Queen Esther?

What is your request? It shall be given you even to the half of my kingdom. And Esther said, If it please the king, let the king and Haman come today to a feast that I have prepared for the king. Then the king said, Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther has asked.

So the king and Haman came to the feast that Esther had prepared. And as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king said to Esther, What is your wish? It shall be granted you.

And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom it shall be fulfilled. Then Esther answered, My wish and my request is, If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my wish and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come to the feast that I will prepare for them.

And tomorrow I will do as the king has said. And Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate, that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai.

Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home, and he sent and brought his friends and his wife Zerush. And Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king. Then Haman said, Even Queen Esther, let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepare.

And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king. Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate. Then his wife Zerush and all his friends said to him, Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made. And in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it. Then go joyfully with the king to the feast.

This idea pleased Haman, and he had the gallows made. Amen. Our great God, we bow down before you, believing that when your Word is faithfully opened up, that your voice is truly heard. We listen then for your voice.

Illumine to us the printed page. Conduct that divine dialogue by the Holy Spirit, whereby we are taken in our thinking beyond the voice of a mere man and encountering you, the living God. To this end we seek you. In Jesus' name.

Amen. Coincidence, observed C. S. Lewis, is God's way of remaining anonymous. God's way of remaining anonymous. And here in the book of Esther, we have the classic statement story in the Old Testament of the anonymity, as it were, of God.

But we've been discovering—and now we're at chapter 5—that beneath the surface of the story, of the narrative as it unfolds, behind a whole series of events, we're finding that although God's name is never mentioned, that God is at work everywhere and in everything. So, when we came to the end of chapter 4, Esther had determined that the prompting of her cousin Mordecai was sufficient for her to resolve that she would actually go to the king. And there at the end of chapter 4, if your Bible is open, you see her statement, "'Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law.

And if I perish, I perish.'" It was against the law for someone to come into the presence of the king unbidden. But she recognized that she had a higher responsibility to a higher throne, where there was a king that was greater than King Ahasuerus, and it is to this king that she must eventually and ultimately bow her knee. So for her to say, If I perish, I perish," is not simply a statement of bravado, but is actually an acknowledgment on the part of Esther that there is a tremendous risk involved in what she's about to do. And the difficulty for us in having read the story all the way through is that the tension that builds here in chapter 5 may easily be lost on us unless we resolve consistently to stay within the chapter.

We lose the benefit of the unfolding drama if we constantly push beyond it. And so we need to realize that in chapter 4, all the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know, Esther had proclaimed, that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law to be put to death. So, in other words, the king was not going to have his privacy or his security broached. He made sure that that would not happen by surrounding himself with henchmen who bore axes so as to make sure that the head of someone was immediately removed.

They wouldn't be able to do whatever it was they came to do. The only exception which Esther points out there in chapter 4 was if the king determined that this person who makes their appearance should be allowed to enter, then, as an expression of his royal and supreme prerogative, he would hold out a symbol of his power—namely, the royal scepter—and the individual would then be made aware of the fact that the king was prepared to allow him this or her this broach of etiquette. But what we need to know as we go into chapter 5 is that Esther has now resolved that she will face the possibility of death for doing what she's about to do as a result of speaking up for her people and identifying with them, rather than taking the alternative, which is to remain silent and hope that there will be sufficient security provided for her because she's actually in the palace.

So in other words, she has two options, and neither of them are particularly good. She could stay in the palace and die, or she could enter the king's presence and maybe die there. So let's follow the storyline as it's given to us. First of all, noticing what we'll refer to as the subtlety of Esther. The subtlety of Esther. As you read this and as you allow your eye to scan it as I'm addressing you, you will see that her approach to the king is brave, it is appropriate, it's cautious, it's humble, it's skillful.

And I think subtle is the right word. Because she approaches in a fashion that is delicate, it is precise, her approach is cleverly designed, it is carefully planned and executed. After all, wise men say, only fools rush in.

She's not about to appear in the presence of the king like a bull in a china shop. There's a lesson to be learned here by many of us who, once we've resolved something, are tempted to say to ourselves, Well, I can just get at this directly, and it doesn't really matter how I affect or offend anybody else. After all, something needs to be done, and I'm the one that needs to do it.

And we find ourselves stumbling and bumbling around and often acting in a way that is entirely unhelpful, unedifying. And so we might take a leaf from Esther's book. Yes, she has resolved that this is something that she must do. She is going to take the route of obedience even though she die, and that's a good route to walk. But at the same time, she approaches the opportunity subtly.

And her subtlety is revealed in a number of ways. First of all, in her dress. That's how the chapter begins. On the third day, Esther put on her royal robes. The time for fasting and preparation is now over.

The time for action has now come. And as she put on her royal robes—that may make you think, as it made me think of chapter 2 and of the first occasion when she had gone in before the king. Remember when she had in Haggai a fashion consultant, and he was responsible for making sure that she and the other girls were all properly prepared.

And having taken a peculiar liking to Esther, he made sure that on the occasion that she went in to see the king, that she wore and was appropriately conveyed in relationship to the expectations of the king. So I find myself just wondering whether she checked with Haggai or not. It's the way my mind works, but I imagine her saying, Haggai, do you think I wear heels, or shall I wear flats with these robes? And Haggai said, Well, I think heels are always better, especially with those robes being as long as they are. That's not in the Bible. Of course it's not in the Bible. You don't need to worry about it for a moment.

I'm just asking the question. She obviously made preparation. She put on her royal robes. She clothed herself in a particular way.

She thought about what she was going to do. Some of the commentators are very clear about the fact that this is a departure for her now, whereas before she relied on her beauty, perhaps on her powers of seduction. Instead, they say, she now is done with all of that, and she is only standing before the king dressed in the robes of her royal Jewish personae. No, I'm not so sure about that, and I don't think we can say so categorically. We would then have to assume that identifying herself in her royal position meant that that supplanted the place of the beauty that God had given to her, the looks that he has entrusted to her, the personality that he had given to her, her coyness, her accessibility, and so on.

It doesn't need to be one or the other. And if you look at it from the other side, you have to then assume that the reason that she found favor with the king—if we accept the view that she no longer went in a la the old Esther that we know, but the new Esther that we're now meeting—that the king then, when he saw her coming, said to himself, My, my, look at Esther standing there with all the dignity of a royal Jew. Does that fit the king? Does that sound like the king? It doesn't sound like the king any more than the idea is presented in relationship to Esther.

But you're sensible people. You have to work this out. It's not foundational to the story. I think the king—I don't think that was the king. I think the king found her simply irresistible, to quote Robert Palmer. And because it's the exact same phrase that is used in chapter 2, where he looked over all these girls and he found that this girl rang his bell, that this girl stood out beyond all the other girls. So it's highly unlikely that, having not seen her or had access to her for over a month now, that he was favorably disposed to her just because she showed up dressed in the robes of royalty.

But, again, who knows? Her subtlety, though, is conveyed in her approach, in her dress, and also, secondly, in her demeanor. In her demeanor. Because she responds according to protocol. Verse 2, When he held forth this golden scepter that was in his hand, Esther approached and touched the tip of his scepter. That's important too. In other words, she didn't say, Oh, I don't need to do any of that stuff.

I have immediate access to the king. No, she recognized that she was going in here in a peculiarly perilous environment. And so, when he extended his grace, as it were, towards her, she accepted it in the way that it was conveyed. Her clothes and her countenance conveyed something of her disposition. I resist the temptation to launch into a rabbit-trailed discourse on the nature of clothing and what clothing says concerning the disposition of our hearts, and what it says concerning the nature of our approach to one another, to business, and to God. Clothes actually matter. They actually convey something. And her demeanor is conveyed in her clothing and in her countenance.

Thirdly, it is conveyed, the subtlety, not only in this but also in her dinner plans, or in her invitation to the banquet, or to this great feast. Now, the king has issued the first of three requests to do something for his queen. What is it? What is it you want? Ask whatever you want.

He's in the position of dodger in Oliver Twist, at least in the stage play of Oliver Twist, the musical of Oliver Twist, declaring, I'd do anything for you, queen, anything for you, dear, anything for you. Okay? That's what he's saying.

It's hyperbole. I'll give you half my kingdom. You're not gonna give her half his kingdom. What he means is, you know, there's really no limit to what I'm prepared to do for you. You have found favor in my eyes, queen. Come on!

What do you want? Now, he actually has to ask three times, as we'll discover as the narrative unfolds, before he gets the actual answer that she's prepared to convey. In fact, the answer that she now gives appears to be almost anticlimactic, doesn't it?

Because after all, we've had this great setup. Who knows but that you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? That's Mordecai to Esther. It's time for you to step up, Esther. It's time for you to identify with your people.

It's time for you to fulfill your calling under God. Okay, okay, okay. Now go ahead. And so she gets there, and he says, And what is it you want? And she says, Would you like to come to dinner later on today? And would you like to bring Haman with you? It doesn't seem like much, does it?

You got the camera, you got the lights? No action. Just a banquet. You resist the temptation to do it down the banquet trail, which is another trail that you can study to your own benefit. She recognizes that the way to a man's heart is apparently through his stomach. So why don't we eat about it? Why don't we get together and eat? And Haman was pleased. If it pleases the king, and it did please the king. And so he said, Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther has asked. We're going to have a feast. The first chapter was Ahasuerus' feast, but he put that together for himself. It's one thing to put together for yourself as another to be invited to a feast that is prepared in your honor.

And that's what Esther wanted to do, including his prime minister, this rascal Haman. So he sends for him, and they came to the feast that Esther had prepared. And verse 6, And as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king said to Esther, Second time, What is your wish? It will be granted to you.

What's your request? Even to the half of my kingdom it shall be fulfilled. Okay, now she's going to tell him, right?

No. Verse 7, Then Esther answered, My wish and my request is, If I have found favor in the sight of the king and if it please the king to grant my wish and fulfill my request, then how about we do this again tomorrow night? How about we have another meal? What in the world is going on here?

This is a wonderful story. You understand? The way in which this narrative develops. Because it's creating suspense. It's creating tension. And the way the story is told is told in order that we might follow along and be intrigued by this, because we've got no way of knowing what is in the mind of Esther.

Why does she do this? Why feast one, and then why feast two? Is feast two as a result of a loss of nerve? Is she just about to say—and then she says, Well, if you would like to know what my request is, let's have another feast tomorrow evening.

And then, at that feast, I will certainly let you know. Because if curiosity killed the cat, then curiosity in this case caught the king. And that's exactly what she's doing. I don't think it's a loss of nerve on her part.

Some suggest it is. I think she's just hooking him. She recognizes that she's going to put him in a position whereby, on this next occasion, it will be virtually impossible for him to step back from doing anything other than that which she desires. And remember, what she is asking him to do is significant. In doing so, she's identifying herself with her people.

Remember, she's lived in the shadowlands for five or six years. She is asking him to reverse an irreversible law. She is asking him, essentially, to lose face in front of his entire kingdom. That's what she's about to do. She's already identified herself and her allegiance with her people.

She is the mediator of her people. But she holds back on actually lowering the boom, as it were, in relationship to what is essential to the plot. I think she's very subtle.

Very subtle. She's setting him up, and she's also setting Haman up. There may be a thing or two for us to learn from Esther's bold and yet humble approach.

We'll find out more tomorrow. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. I hope you're enjoying this study in the book of Esther as much as I am.

This particular story reads like a plot-twisting, edge-of-your-seat bestseller, but it's so much more than an entertaining adventure. This is a true historical account about God's providential care of his people. Here at Truth for Life, we have complete confidence in the authority and sufficiency of God's Word. That's why it's our pattern each day to teach the Bible verse by verse. We trust that God, by his grace, will move you as a listener from merely having an interest in religious stories to enjoying a personal relationship with Jesus. Part of our mission at Truth for Life is to provide clear, relevant Bible teaching, and as a result, thousands of Alistair's messages are available to be freely accessed on our website at truthforlife.org. You'll even find study guides on several topics to help you deepen your understanding of Scripture.

New to the collection is a study guide on Romans 12. This is a guide that accompanies Alistair's 14-message series titled Shaped by Grace. The study guide is designed for you to work through on your own or together with a group.

Look for the Shaped by Grace study guide on our website or on the mobile app. It's free to download or you can purchase a printed booklet at our cost in our online store at truthforlife.org slash store. Truth for Life is able to offer free or at-cost teaching resources, study guides, and books because of our truth partners.

These are listeners who give to the ministry each month to help cover the cost of these biblically sound resources along with the cost of producing this daily program. So if you've been benefiting from the teaching you hear on Truth for Life, why don't you join us? Take the next step. Become a part of this vital team today. Call us at 888-588-7884 or sign up online at truthforlife.org slash truthpartner and when you sign up be sure to request your copy of the book Darkest Night Brightest Day.

We're making it available as our way of saying thank you for your support. Darkest Night Brightest Day is a family devotional with two weeks of daily readings. Together with your kids you'll study the events that led up to the darkest night in history.

The night Jesus was crucified and entombed. Then your family can explore the brightest day in history when Jesus rose from the grave and opened the door to the kingdom of heaven. Each reading is drawn from the Gospels and will give you and your children a daily opportunity to reflect on God's plan for our salvation. Request your copy of the book Darkest Night Brightest Day when you become a truth partner. Again the link is found at truthforlife.org slash truthpartner. I'm Bob Lapine. Join us tomorrow for the conclusion of today's message when we'll see how self-destructive a prideful spirit can be. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-08 05:22:10 / 2023-03-08 05:30:54 / 9

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