In the book of Esther, when Haman was hanged on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai, it might have seemed like a happy ending to Queen Esther's story.
And although things were getting sorted out, today on Truth for Life we'll find out why God's people remained in peril. Alistair Begg is continuing our study in the book of Esther. Esther 8. On that day, King Ahasuerus gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her. And the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman. Then Esther spoke again to the king. She fell at his feet and wept and pleaded with him to avert the evil plan of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews.
When the king held out the golden scepter to Esther, Esther rose and stood before the king. And she said, If it please the king, and if I have found favor in his sight, and if the thing seems right before the king, and I am pleasing in his eyes, let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman the Agagite, the son of Hamadatha, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the provinces of the king. For how can I bear to see the calamity that is coming to my people?
Or how can I bear to see the destruction of my kindred? Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows, because he intended to lay hands on the Jews. But you may write as you please with regard to the Jews in the name of the king, and seal it with the king's ring. For an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king's ring cannot be revoked.
The king's scribes were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan on the twenty-third day. And an edict was written according to all that Mordecai commanded concerning the Jews, to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia. One hundred and twenty-seven provinces, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language. And he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed it with the king's signet ring. Then he sent the letters by mounted couriers riding on swift horses that were used in the king's service, bred from the royal studs, saying that the king allowed the Jews, who were in every city, to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods. And this on one day threw out all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Edor. A copy of what was written was to be issued as a decree in every province, being publicly displayed to all peoples, and the Jews were to be ready on that day to take vengeance on their enemies. So the couriers, mounted on their swift horses that were used in the king's service, rode out hurriedly, urged by the king's command. And the decree was issued in Susa the citadel.
Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown, and a robe of fine linen and purple. And the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. The Jews had light and gladness, and joy and honor. And in every province and in every city, wherever the king's command and his edict reached, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday.
And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them. Thanks be to God for his Word. Now, gracious God, with our Bibles open before us, we pray again for the help of the Holy Spirit to be able to understand and to believe and obey and to have your Word applied to our lives. For we ask it in Christ's name.
Amen. When you click on your computer, especially if you launch a new computer, you have to decide which language you want your computer to use, and you are able to choose between American English and, I guess they would call it, British English. And there are some significant distinctions, I know, and so do you. For example, in American English, the verb to sort is used, we might say, properly. It's used as the verb which describes the arranging of things in groups or the separation of things from one another, put together in a particular order, on the basis of time or on the basis of size or on the basis of color. So, for example, we might talk about sorting our sock drawer.
And what we mean by that is that we're finally going to make sure that they're supposed to meet one another and live together happily—at least the ones that are supposed to be together. In British English, while that usage is there, the verb is most often used in a far more informal manner. And if you've traveled there much, you will have encountered this, so that when people use the verb to sort over there, they're often talking, and not about separating things by color or size, but actually solving a problem or dealing with someone or dealing with something successfully. So they'll talk about getting something sorted, and what they mean is getting it resolved, getting it dealt with, getting it fixed.
So, for example, they might say to you, Don't worry about the bill. I'll sort it. And if you're not familiar with that informal usage, you'd say, Well, there's only one piece. How are you going to sort it? Are you going to cut it up in pieces and then we'll separate it?
No. What they mean is, I'll take care of it. It's sorted.
In the same way, they might ask you, Did you get your flights sorted? And what they mean is fixed. Now, that verb is actually quite a helpful verb when it's used in that informal way, and I have been excited about the fact that as we have come to the end of chapter 7 and now into chapter 8, things are getting sorted.
Right? Things are being resolved, they're getting fixed. There was a great sigh of relief at the end of chapter 7 when finally Haman was hanged, because we had all determined that he deserved to be hanged. And only a few of us felt embarrassed about the fact that we felt that he deserved it. And that's largely because of the way our culture thinks about retribution. Those of you who take a particular newspaper will perhaps have seen in the Arts and Entertainment section a brief article about the final episodes of TV series.
It was referencing things that I actually haven't seen, but the article was understandable without that. And what I was talking about, things in TV series need to come to some kind of denouement. They need to come to resolution. They need to finally get sorted. That's why, for example, if you watch the end of Lost, you were just as lost as when you had watched the very first part of the series, because it never really got sorted.
And interestingly, the writer of the piece, John Jurgensen, quotes Selah Colleton, who is an executive producer with the series Dexter, and this was her comment. Whether you want to call it retribution, which is slightly too biblical for my taste, there is some need for moral judgment that accumulates with these characters which they cannot escape. I'm not prepared to call it retribution, she says, but she recognizes that when you watch the unfolding drama of these things, if justice is to be served, if things are to get sorted, then punishment must take place. And the great frustration that is often represented at the end of these things is largely due to a view of the world which is often embraced by the writers, which refuses—refuses—to actually see justice done.
The fact that we know that it needs to be done is an indication of the fact that we were created by God as moral beings, and we exist with an internal awareness of oughtness, no matter how much we might try and deny it. And so, when we view this chapter, the eighth chapter, we realize that things are being wonderfully sorted out. Haman had the gallows prepared for Mordecai. He swings on the gallows. Chapter 8 opens, and his property, which he had amassed for himself, is now handed over to Esther, in keeping with the rules of Persia. A condemned criminal, a convicted criminal, had all of his property taken into the crown and then was at the disposal of the crown, and so the king decides to give it to his queen. He also took the signet ring—the king, that is—from the hand of Haman and put it on the hand of Mordecai, thus radically altering the circumstances of Mordecai the Jew. He is now able to come before the king because the queen has told the king what he was to her. The lovely little phrase there at the end of verse 1, and Mordecai came before the king, comma, explanation, for Esther had told what he was to her.
This was an amazing thirty-six hours for this king. He suddenly realizes, I have been living with a Jew for all this time. She'd done a masterful job of covering it up. And now I find out that Mordecai the Jew, who has featured so much in this story, is none other than her older cousin, her kind of adoptive dad. And so he recognizes that there is a hand that is higher than his hand at work in this. And Mordecai himself, his circumstances are so vastly different. Because at one point, he had really been the benefactor to his cousin. So he looked after her, he gave her wisdom, gave her direction, gave her protection, and so on. She was on the receiving end from Mordecai. Now we're told that Mordecai is on the receiving end of Esther.
And verse 2 ends, "...and Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman." It's all getting sorted, isn't it? But if it was completely sorted, it would be the end of the book. But it isn't. And it can't be.
Why? Because the big issue is unresolved. And the big issue is that the edict for the destruction of the Jewish people still stands. And the reason it still stands is because of the law of the Medes and the Persians.
It can't be revoked. It's not as if you can just say, Oh, forget that one, it doesn't really matter. No, he is bound—the king is bound—by the decision that he had allowed to be made. And if Esther was only interested in making sure that Haman got his just desserts and that her older cousin was elevated to a position of usefulness, then the whole story would be complete. But she wasn't. Her life did not revolve around the destruction of Haman and the elevation of Mordecai, but rather around the salvation of the Jews. That was her concern. Salvation for herself was not enough as long as her people faced annihilation. There's a lesson in there.
I'll leave you to pick it up. Verses 3–6 describe the way in which Esther pleads. Esther pleads, verses 3–6. And she pleads because the Jewish population were still under the domain of an edict that was fast moving towards its expression. And here in verse 3, her approach to the king is very different from her previous approach. Remember, last time we said that the way in which she had invited the king to a banquet and then to a second banquet and had worked in such a way as to cause him to, on three separate occasions in a public manner, express his willingness to do for her what she desired, was masterful—it was shrewd, that's the word that we used. She dealt with him like as if she was a chess champion, moving pieces around on the board with cool, cool, consummate cool. But now, look at her, she's a blubbering mess here in verse 3.
Now the floodgates of emotion have opened up. She fell at his feet, and she wept, and she pleaded with him to avert the evil plan of Haman the Agagite. Now she recognizes that the king signed it into law, but it's not in her best interest to say, to avert the plan that you signed into law.
Let's just stick with Haman for the time being, the evil man who was an opponent of the Jews. And she falls at his feet. It's only a matter of hours since Haman had fell at her feet. He fell before the queen, concerned only for himself. She fell before the king, concerned only for her people. She's asking the king to do the impossible.
She's asking him to revoke the irrevocable. And from verse 3 to verse 4, she collects herself, the king gives to her an audience, perhaps some time lag between verse 3 and 4 that isn't identified for us there. Or maybe she just gets a hold of herself, the way some ladies do, but that probably violates some contemporary principle of distinguishing between the sexes and so on.
But I'm not really bothered about that. But she was—in verse 3, she was just a spluttering mess, and in verse 4, she's got a hold of herself. And she's back on her game again.
If, if, if, if. If this, if this, if this, if this, then… And she plays upon her relationship with the king. That's really what she does.
She relies upon both his self-interest and the relationship she enjoys with him. And the rhetoric in her questions, her twofold question, is absolutely crucial. She says, Listen, verse 6, how can I bear to see the calamity that is coming to my people, or how can I bear to see the destruction of my kindred? Well, that's the real question, isn't it? That's the question that another Jew, when his life was radically grabbed a hold of by God, that's the question that he asked.
It's an understandable question, isn't it? Paul, in Romans 9, I'm speaking the truth in Christ. I'm not lying. My conscience bears witness in the Holy Spirit. Why? That I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. I wish that I myself were accursed. Why?
And cut off from Christ. Why? For the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen, according to the flesh.
Why? Because they are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs. And from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, the Messiah, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. Paul doesn't say, You know, I met Jesus on the Damascus Road, and he turned me the right way up, and frankly, that's all that really matters to me now. As long as I'm okay, it doesn't really matter beyond this.
No, when a man or a woman is converted, not only are they set in a right relationship with God, but it then becomes apparent to them that those who are unconverted are in a wrong relationship with God, and that they then must be set right. That's what she's saying. King, I can't just sit here in the palace in light of the calamity that is before my people. My kindred are about to be destroyed. Don't be surprised that I'm weeping and crying before you.
I got myself together here in order that I might state my case. Paul says, I long that this would be true. I spoke with one of my messianic Jewish friends just in the last two or three days, as his mother passed into eternity. And he asked me again, pray for her in the dying embers of her life, that she might turn to Yeshua, that she might embrace him as the only Messiah available to her. And she wouldn't, and she didn't!
And she resisted him firm to the end. Listen, loved ones, we're in the same boat. If it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that comes judgment. And if the way to escape the judgment is only solely, finally, in the cross of Jesus Christ, then only those who come to the cross of Jesus Christ in belief and repentance and faith will escape the judgment. So could we just gather here on the Lord's Day morning and sing songs so that we could feel good about each other? What about the calamity? What about the destruction? Where's our pleading before the King who holds the lives of men and women in his hands?
It's challenging, isn't it? Verses 3–6, Esther pleads. Verses 7 and 8, the king responds. He responds to Mordecai and Esther as a single entity. And essentially, what he says is, Look, I've done my part.
That's verse 7. Behold, I have given Esther the house of Ammon, and I had him hanged for you. I got rid of your enemy, and I gave you his estate, and as far as I'm concerned, everything is pretty well sorted. Now, if you imagine him saying that, you know, Listen, you know, what else are you looking for from me? I hanged him on the gallows. He intended to lay hands on the Jews.
That was the big concern. I've now taken from his resources, and I've given them to you. Esther, you've now given them to Mordecai.
But he must have sensed in their eyes that this was not sufficient for them. And so he operates as he's done before. He said, But, you know, if you want, you could do something. You could, I guess, write another edict. You could write it, verse 8, in the name of the king. You could seal it with the king's ring, because I've given it to you, Mordecai. And once you do, it cannot be revoked.
You know, old habits die hard, don't they? This is quite a character. You would think that after the mayhem that ensued when he took the fifth the first time, where Haman came and inveigled himself and said, You know, I could write an edict. And he said, Yeah, whatever. Go on, write an edict. And then he suddenly realized that he's trapped by the edict, that he took his hands off the steering wheel and allowed the man to write, and yet here he is. He's going to do it again. He apparently really doesn't care about his kingdom.
I think that's the fact. He cares about himself. He cares about his power and prestige, his authority and his significance. He knows that he's unable to revoke the previous edict—that goes back to verse 19 of chapter 1—but he is prepared to back the writing of a contradictory edict, so that it's going to be edict versus edict. And may the best edict win.
That's exactly what happens. Another exciting plot twist in the unfolding saga of Queen Esther. That's Alistair Begg on Truth for Life, explaining why, like Esther, Christians can't be content with self-preservation while others are facing destruction.
We'll hear more tomorrow. If you're a Christian who would like to tell others about the saving power of Jesus, but you're not sure where to begin, Alistair has additional sermons that can help you get started. So if you're not listening online today, visit our website at truthforlife.org. Once you're there, you can search for sermons by topic. For example, under the topic of evangelism, you'll find a helpful message called the Great Commission, or one called Let the Lion Out. Or under the topic of the Gospel, you'll find messages like God's Power for Salvation or Why We Need the Gospel. You can watch these messages or download them. Share as many of these messages as you'd like with others for free.
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You can download it for free in the mobile app or on our website. Again, look for Shaped by Grace, the study guide. If you'd prefer a printed booklet, you can purchase copies in our online store at truthforlife.org slash store. Now next month, we're celebrating the day that changed everything, the day that Jesus rose from the dead. And we want to recommend a book to you today that focuses on this history altering event. It's called With a Mighty Triumph, Christ's Resurrection and Ours. This is a book that unpacks why Jesus' resurrection gives us reason to have hope more than 2000 years later. The book With a Mighty Triumph explains why the resurrection is so vital to our Christian faith and why Jesus' victory over death is the promise of our own coming resurrection. Request your copy of the book With a Mighty Triumph, Christ's Resurrection and Ours today. When you give a donation to support the teaching ministry of Truth for Life, it's easy to give online at truthforlife.org slash donate, or you can call us at 888-588-7884. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. Be sure to join us tomorrow for the Battle of the Edicts. Find out how God makes the impossible possible. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-16 04:55:34 / 2023-03-16 05:04:48 / 9