In the Book of Esther we read about a remarkable deliverance that God brought to the Israelites from the hands of the Persians. He said, Well, of course he was honored.
No, there's no of course in it. Why was he honored? The reason that he was honored is presumably because of his absolute integrity and his moral consistency. He was so clearly a Jew and lived as a Jew. He wasn't a Persian. He honored another God. He lived in a different way. He kept different traditions. He was an absolute, obvious standout from the Persian community, and yet he was the one that was eventually chosen to fulfill this position.
It's not dissimilar to the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis or to the story of Daniel. Again, these men came to positions of significant influence not on account of their ability to be political animals but on account of their willingness just to tell the truth. I quoted Churchill, so that gives me liberty to quote Margaret Thatcher. Says Thatcher, If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing. If you just set out to be liked—I have to be liked—well, then I'm gonna have to compromise here and compromise there, and you'll achieve nothing.
Mordecai didn't set out to be liked. He set out to do what God had put him in the place to do. He set out to influence his cousin so that she might understand that she came to the kingdom for such a time as this, so that they might go against the absolute run of play. And as a result, he ends up in such a unique position. In fact, you will see that the position that he fills, as second in position to the king himself, is both a dangerous position and an honorable position.
Dangerous insofar as it brings the threat of self-aggrandizement. Honorable in that fulfilling the role of second fiddle is not an easy position to fill. The only way to be a good prime minister is to fulfill the calling that is entrusted to you. He played the position of second fiddle. I guess it's a hard place to play in the orchestra. Frankly, any place would be a hard place to play in the orchestra for me. But if you want to have the principal seat to play the second fiddle, it's gotta be a tough road, especially if you spend your entire orchestral career playing in the second chair.
Not everybody can do it. And he did it fantastically well. We have wonderful illustrations of that right here at Parkside. So his position was not one that incurred the wrath or the jealousy of his friends, but it was a position of popularity as well.
You will see that's the very word that is there in the text. He was great among the Jews and popular with a multitude of his brothers. Popular with a multitude of his brothers. Have you noticed that people in your office become very unpopular when they just move up two floors? It was fine when she was on the sixth floor, when she had the same kind of desk as you. But then she got moved to the ninth floor. And she's changed. Oh, she has? Do you think maybe you're just jealous that you're still on the sixth and she went to the ninth?
No! To be put in such a position of significant influence and to remain popular with your peers is a unique thing. It doesn't happen all the time. And Mordecai is both in position and popular and, thirdly, seeking the prosperity of his people. That's the significance of the phrase he sought the welfare of his people. That's what he was concerned about. And they knew that's what he was concerned about.
He was concerned about them. He didn't say, Well, now that I get to ride in a Daimler with two flags on the front, now that I get to get a cavalcade, as it were, through Susa. If you've been in Washington, D.C., and every so often you see somebody coming flying by, you've got to assume it must be the president of the United States.
But no, it could be just about anybody now. But Mordecai, he'd go flying through with a two-flag chariot. Very easy for him, then, to be regarded as somebody who is isolated from the people, no longer interested in the people, but not Mordecai. His position left him popular, left him concerned for their prosperity, and left him in a position where he spoke peace to all his people. I think this means that he encouraged them to be what they needed to be, even as he was. Because, you see, Mordecai's lasting legacy, as Reid puts it, is that he combined service to the king with service to his people.
And he did so without compromising on either front. He serves both king and people, speaks up for both, desiring for both their good and their peace. So there you have it. That's his epitaph.
We're done. He sought the welfare of his people, and he spoke peace to all. So the king was in his county house, the queen wasn't mentioned, Mordecai was honored, and the people were relieved. The people were relieved.
We saw that last time in chapter 9. They had been under threat of annihilation, and they now found rest. They were now at peace. They were now enjoying this amazing deliverance that had taken place. So having been delivered from the threat of annihilation, they're now gonna have to learn how to live delivered. In the same way that—since we've got a post-Second World War metaphor going now—in the same way that after the Armistice, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, then the people had to say, Okay, now we're delivered. What do we do now? Because we have lived under threat of annihilation for all of this time, someone has interceded on our behalf, we've been set free, but now we're gonna have to figure out, How do you live with a peace? We know how to live with a war, but I don't know if we know how to live with a peace. So is that the end of the story?
Well, it is really, isn't it? Unless we remind ourselves of what we've always said—the importance of reading the Bible backwards. Because remember, Paul tells the Romans when he writes to them that everything that was written in the past, all these Old Testament stories, were written in order that, through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope. In other words, that we might have that which pushes us forward into an understanding of that which is not only recorded for us here but that to which this record then in turn points.
And so what does this point to? Well, it's the story of a great deliverance. Yeah, but it was a deliverance, but the evil empire was only vanquished for a moment or two. The people of God were then to be under threat that would come again and again and again in waves. They were to live their entire lives, longing somehow or another for a deliverance that would be the great deliverance. Now, let me summarize this for you.
And you needn't follow along in terms of turning it up so that we can get through it quickly. But if you get this, then you will be greatly helped. In chapter 9, I pointed out to you that when Mordecai sent out the letters concerning the establishment of the celebration of Purim, that he sent the letters to those who were near and far. I said in passing that that was a significant little phrase. The reason I did so is because it is a recurring phrase, and it is a phrase that is used in the prophecy of Isaiah in chapter 57, where the prophet speaking from God says, I speak peace, peace to the far and to the near, says the Lord, and I will heal him. So he says, I'm speaking peace, peace to the far and to the near. So the story ends, Mordecai was concerned for the welfare of his people, and he spoke peace to his people.
That was a great deliverance, but it wasn't the ultimate deliverance. When Peter preaches on the day of Pentecost, he says the same thing. He says, This message concerning the risen Jesus is for you and for your children, for those of you who are near, and also it is a message for those of you who are far away. In other words, this is the message which is the message for the entire world. This is the message for all the nations of the world.
That's what he's saying. That was a lesson that Peter himself was going to have to learn as he realized just how isolated and Jewish his mentality was. He was going to have to learn it in a dramatic way as the story of Acts unfolds. And Paul makes it absolutely clear when he writes his letters—a lesson that Paul himself discovered, and therefore a lesson that Paul began to convey. Ephesians 2 and in verse 17, Paul reminds his readers that Jesus has come, and he now is the one who has preached peace.
This is what he says. And he came—that's Jesus—and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and the members of the household of God. And so he goes on.
Paul gets it. He says, This message of deliverance is a message of deliverance which is foreshadowed tons of times as the drama of the Old Testament story unfolds, dramatically, in the exodus from Egypt, in a small manner in the crossing of the Jordan, here in the establishing of the Feast of Purim, which two and a half thousand years later is still celebrated, as we said last week, here in the city of Cleveland, so that the people, when they celebrate the Feast of Purim, might say, But are we really delivered? We know our people were delivered. But are we really delivered?
I mean, did that deliverance prevent the Holocaust in the Second World War? No! Has that deliverance been the deliverance?
No! Then they ought to say—we ought to say—then maybe it points to the deliverance, the great deliverance. That's exactly what it does. Because the deliverance here in Esther is a deliverance that is partial and is temporary. The deliverance that Jesus brings is complete, and it is eternal.
Mordecai is the man of the moment. Jesus is the King of the ages. Mordecai was used for a moment by God to deliver the people in that context.
Jesus comes as God into time in order to grant deliverance to all who turn to him in repentance and in faith. The passage that I read from Isaiah 57, where it says that the peace is extended to those who are near and far away, goes on to say in the next verse, The wicked don't know this peace. The wicked, he says, the prophet says, are like the sea which is always churning and throwing up mud and throwing up mire. They are unable to calm their hearts. They're unable to deal with the refuse that is stirred up, the refuse of the wicked, the evil of people's hearts, the taste this, inject this, enjoy this.
It will make your life fabulous. The churning of the wickedness as men and women long for deliverance. Who can set us free? Well, who is it that is able to calm the wickedness of the human heart? Who is it that is able to grant peace? Only Jesus.
Only Jesus. When he calmed the sea, the disciples said, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the waves obey him? It was only a metaphor for the fact that he alone is able to calm the troubled hearts. Because this is how Paul puts it in Colossians 1. In Jesus, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all those, whether on earth or in heaven—here's the phrase—making peace by the blood of the cross. You see, the basis of the reign of Jesus, the establishing of the peace of Jesus, is in the blood shed upon the cross.
And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. Peace. Now, I've lived through at least one peace movement, if not two. I remember when Paul Simon, in his Paul Simon songbooks, you know, picked up the song, Last night I dreamed the strangest dream I ever dreamed before, I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war, I dreamed I saw a mighty room and the room was filled with man, and the papers they were signing said they'd never fight again, and when the papers all were signed and a million copies made, they all bowed hands and bowed their heads, and grateful prayers were prayed, and the people in the streets below were dancing round and round, and guns and swords and uniforms were scattered on the ground. What a forlorn, understandable longing in the heart of the child of the sixties!
Of course we long for this! Jesus said, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God. But first the peace has to come to the storm-torched heart of an individual life. Does Christ reign over your storm-torched heart?
Has he established his reign over your sexuality, over your business practices, over your life, over your home, over your singleness, over your marriage? Have you ever said to him, Lord, I need a great deliverance? I need to be delivered for myself, for my selfish propensities, for my wandering heart? Whatever it may be. You see, that's why Esther is ultimately in the Bible—to record such a significant deliverance that God has done, the unspoken, unseen God delivers, in order that we might then follow through and say, Here, this unspoken, unseen God has stepped down into time, making peace by his blood, shed on the cross.
And what we're supposed to understand is that a day is coming that is foreshadowed in the book of Esther—a day of deliverance, when all that has been accomplished by Jesus for those who turn to him will be seen to be true. Can I encourage you to be diligent in thinking these things out, those of you who profess to believe, to be imaginative, to be creative, to be bold, to be unashamed? You don't know all the answers to the questions. I don't know them either. You don't need to know all the answers to the questions. You just need to read the newspaper. You just need to engage your friends.
You just need to ask them, Hey, how's it going? You know, would you say that your life is filled with peace? Do you have a sense of forgiveness?
Do you? I quoted Paul Simon. I bought another album by Simon the other day. I don't know why I need another Paul Simon album. It's like a disease, buying Paul Simon albums. But having bought it, I had to play it, and then I was playing America in my car, you know, let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together. I've got some real estate here in my bag, and so on.
But remember the lines, Kathy, I'm lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping. I'm empty and aching, and I don't know why, counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike. Now, the gospel is not just for those who discover themselves to be empty and aching. The gospel is for those who say, I'm not empty, and I'm not aching. The gospel is for those who are prepared to face up to the scrutiny of the Bible that says, You may not believe yourselves to be empty, but the Bible actually says that unless you have the solid joys and the lasting treasure about which we were speaking, you are actually empty.
Unless you have that which gives to you not only peace and forgiveness and security and time but the prospect of all that awaits you, then you need to consider these things. It struck me as we were singing the hymn, Jesus Shall Rain, Where'er the Sun, that of all the hymns that might have been sung at Waverly Station in Edinburgh when Eric Liddell left Scotland for China to teach in a missionary school, to teach mathematics in a missionary school, having won Olympic gold in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. Of all the hymns that he might have decided he wanted to sing, he pulled down the window of the train and led the people—not just his church family, but everybody that had come there, because he was the Michael Jordan of that period of athletic fame—and he led them in the singing of the hymn, Jesus Shall Rain, Where'er the Sun. Doth his successive journeys run, his kingdom stretch from shore to shore, till moon shall wax and wane no more. And he stood there on the train, and he sang, People and realms of every tongue, dwell on his word with sweetest song. And I wonder what reverberated in his heart as he sang, And infant voices shall proclaim their early blessings on his name. And he invests his life for this cause among schoolchildren.
And in a way that seems just so all wrong, he contracts a brain tumor and dies as a young man in relative obscurity in a mission school in mainland China. He was here for just a moment doing what he did, because he understood that God is forever. And that's why the moment of your life and mine has significance, because it fits with the unfolding drama of God's purpose for you. Let us learn from Mordecai. To be like Mordecai, don't sit on your hands and pronounce peace. Do something.
How about that? Do something. We want to be living every moment in light of eternity, and as Alistair Begg has just challenged us, we want to do something. You're listening to Truth for Life.
Alistair will be back in just a moment to close today's program. Now, as we just heard, only Jesus can bring us true peace and freedom, and we are called to pass along this message of salvation to everyone. When you give to Truth for Life, that's what your partnership makes possible. The gospel message of salvation in the Lord Jesus is what we proclaim every day on this program, and it's because of your generous giving that people from every walk of life anywhere in the world can hear the good news through Alistair's teaching without cost being a barrier. If this sounds like a mission you embrace, we want to invite you to join your fellow listeners, people we call Truth Partners. They come alongside this ministry, praying for us and giving each month. When you sign up to become a Truth Partner, you become a part of the team that brings Alistair's teaching to listeners all around the world.
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Just click the image in the app or visit our website at truthforlife.org slash donate. Now here's Alistair with a closing prayer. Father, thank you for the Bible. Father, thank you that when Daniel looked ahead, he saw one like unto a Son of Man, whose glory was beyond the ability to frame the dominion extended to the ends of the earth.
When John on the island of Patmos looked forward, he caught a glimpse of the day when the kingdoms of this world would become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ, and that he would reign forever and ever. It's so hard for us to wrap our heads around these things. We are such creatures of time. We're all so concerned about the moment, and understandably so. But help us, Lord, to view all of our moments in light of eternity so that although things may not be as brilliant as we had hoped them to be at this point in time, nevertheless, we believe ourselves to be under your fatherly care and loving jurisdiction, and we can trust you. To this end, we seek you in Jesus' name. Amen.
I'm Bob Lapine. When Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, it sounded like a joyful celebration, but the Bible says the disciples were a star and the disciples were astonished and the followers were afraid. Tomorrow we'll look more closely at Palm Sunday as we begin a new series. Alistair has titled Some Strange Ideas, God's Unexpected Turning Point for Human History. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
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