Esther Episode 4

Beth's Notes

1 Corinthians 3:10-15:   10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (NIV)

Chapters Five through Seven mark the climax of our story.  Here, as in a great book or movie, the tables are turned and the evil is overcome by good.  Woo-Hoo!  We all like the good guy to win, do we not?  While believers in Jesus always win eternally, it is particularly sweet when they win temporally as well!  We need to remember though that sometimes in God’s Sovereignty and perspective, it is better for us - and those around us - for our circumstances not to turn out the way we may so desire.  His “No’s” are always being for a greater “Yes” (think of the Garth Brook’s song “Sometimes I Thank God For Unanswered Prayers” or actually a “No to our prayers as He answers them all) - but when it does line up, oh how sweet it is!  Proverbs tells us:

12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.   Proverbs 13:12 (NIV)

Remember, as well, Paul’s words when we begin to question our circumstances:

12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.   1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV)

And God’s Words regarding His omniscience:

10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.   Isaiah 46:10 (NIV)

God is both loving and good and we can trust Him with our lives. We are no more favored by Him when our circumstances are of our liking than when they are not.  Think Jesus in Gethsemane.  God is the Master at making beauty from our ashes!  I am sure we can all attest to that in our own lives - I know I can!!!  I continually seek to keep from "kicking against the goads" when the circumstances are not of my choosing - although I often fail miserably with my whining and complaining!  I know that my attitude should be one of anticipation rather than frustration of what my loving Father is going to bring about by what He allows.  To be sure, it is one thing to know this but quite another to live it.

Back to Esther…The last news we had heard on Haman, he was riding high on the saddle while Queen Esther and Mordecai were left in tears – fasting and praying.  Yet the tide is getting ready to turn.  Nothing stays the same ladies – we need to keep our emotions from swinging too far down or too far up.  As God would have it, His people were getting ready to be preserved through a very unlikely set of circumstances.  BTW, that’s the way God likes to work.  We continually need to pray and seek His perspective and will on our circumstances and life.  We will never put Him in a box.  It is quite obvious to the readers of Esther, who trust in the Lord, that He was sovereignly at work, accomplishing His purposes – as He always is!  The original readers in postexilic Palestine would also be reminded that God would protect them against anything that might come their way – as it should for us as well.  Even the forgetfulness of a pagan king could be used by God to preserve and protect His people.  

Fueled by three days of prayer, fasting and petition – not to mention fervently seeking a plan, donned in royal robes and more than likely beauty oils and such and wasting no time, Esther was prepared to approach the king.  Though her heart was more than likely in anguish, her countenance was cheerful and amiable.  She was fluffed to the nines and no doubt was hopeful that her beauty would capture his eye – and capture his eye it did.  Let me interject something here ladies.  If you are married, seek and do things to capture the eye of your husband.  Dress for him not simply for yourself or others.  As wives we are to love our husbands and, to be sure, that is one way of pleasing most men.  I am preaching to myself here!  It is all too easy to be in scuffs and PJ’s!  Barnard Everett used to say:  “Even an old red barn looks better with a little paint on it!”  

Empowered by her prayers, Esther boldly goes into the inner court albeit certainly with shaking knees under those royal robes!  Would he be pleased with her?  Would he extend his scepter and spare her life?  Or would he have her done away with in his whimsical manner as he did Vashti?  Seeing her beautifully standing there, Scripture states, King Xerxes was well pleased.  The word translated “pleased” is made up of four Hebrew words meaning:  “To lift up the face or the eyes; to show kindness, mercy, grace used in reference to aesthetic charm or beauty in something; through the appearance and function of the eye.”  To put it plainly, he liked what he saw.  

As God would have it, King Xerxes did not make Esther wait for long and quickly gave her a favorable reception.  Protecting her from the law, and assuring her of safety, he holds out to her the gold scepter in his hand to which she immediately and humbly touched the tip of.  She did not come as Haman did in his pride and arrogance, rather in humility.  And nothing is more beautiful than humility fleshed out.

“The King of Glory enters Jerusalem seated on a donkey's colt. Majesty is never so majestic as when it is clothed with humility. There never was one so majestic as this Jesus, none so humble. Nor shall there ever be.”   Ronnie Collier Stevens 

Sensing that she came into his presence to request something, he encourages her to state her petition offering to give her whatever she wanted up to half the kingdom.  This was apparently an idiom to express the point that she could have whatever she desired.  Like a magic genie – so to speak – her wish would be fulfilled.  Esther made it simple – not wasting any time or giving elaborate details – she asked that He and Haman attend a banquet that she had prepared.  She would please Xerxes by seeking the favor of Haman, the kings then favorite, by inviting him to come as well.  She knew he loved Haman’s company and it also fit perfectly into her plan.  When she eventually would make her complaint or request to Xerxes, she desired to have Haman present.  It was an unusual honor for Haman to be invited to a banquet with the queen for Persian officials were very protective over their wives.  Hence Haman’s glee over the invitations.  They fed into his pompous pride not at all aware that his downfall was looming in the not too distant future.

Interestingly, the word translated “banquet” in Hebrew means a place of drinking – often accompanied with food – but definitely with drinking.  This same word is used to describe both banquets she held.  She would endeavor to bring him into a pleasant humor, softening his spirits that he might with tenderness receive her complaint.  You can catch a fly with honey better than you can with vinegar.  Proverbs tells:

24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.   Proverbs16:24 (NIV)

Esther’s frightening entreaty to King Xerxes stands in stark contrast to the believer’s ability to freely come before the King of kings and the Lord of lords – the Almighty.  While Esther came to a proud and imperious man, we come to the God of love and grace.  She was not called, while we are - the Spirit says “come”.  She had a law against her while we have a promise in favor of our approaching -  “Ask and it shall be given you”.  She had no friend to introduce her, or interceded for her, indeed, he who was the king’s favorite was her enemy but we have an advocate with the Father in Whom God is well pleased.  Hebrews tells us:

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.   Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)

At once King Xerxes summons Haman and they ready themselves to attend the banquet and to do whatever Esther petitions.  At the banquet the king asks a second time what Esther desired, again promising to fulfill her wish.  Waiting for the opportune time, Esther replies that she would tell him the next day at a second banquet, inviting Haman as well, sensing perhaps that it was not the right time to tell him.  Also, putting off the request she knew would be well taken as an expression of the great reverence she had for the king and her unwillingness to be too pressing on him no matter the matter!  From a literary standpoint the delay raises the tension level moving the story to its climax.  A person reading Esther for the first time would be in a high state of apprehension as the tension increased.  Though it is not specifically stated in Scripture, Haman’s latter boasting demonstrated that the king was in obvious agreement with the idea.  

Haman, in whom pride and wrath had consumed, was euphoric – happy and in high spirits about his good fortune with the king and the queen.  Puffed up with honor about being invited to Esther’s second feast, he seemingly and wrongly assumed it was because of his great charm and conversation that kept him on the party list.  He could not have been more wrong!  Prideful people are always assuming that others think so highly of them because they have such a high opinion of themselves.  When they don’t receive the respect they believe they so deserve, it sends them into a rage of fury.  Hence his beef with Mordecai who was determined as ever to neither rise nor show fear in Haman’s presence.  This was beyond Haman’s ability to bear.  Indeed, the higher he is lifted up the more impatient he is of the contempt of Mordecai’s actions.  The word translated “rage” in Hebrew means “to be in heat, anger, rage, indignation, poison and venom.”  Yet, Scripture states that he restrained himself and went home.  The wording actually means he cunningly went home meaning he went home skilled in craftiness and deception.  He had a plan!  He would have gladly run through Mordecai with his sword for insulting him but he hoped shortly thereafter to see him fall with all the other Jews.  To be sure, he did not want to stop with just him.  He was going to get even and get even in a BIG way!  

Haman was so overwrought about Mordecai that he could not even enjoy his good position.  Pride often robs us of the joy we might rightly have.  It seems pride is an insatiable monster.  To relieve himself of his rage and anxiety, he gathers his wife and friends and proceeds to boast about the vast wealth which he had amassed and the family he had raised having ten sons and the myriad of ways the king had honored him.  As a social braggart he capped his conversation off by reminding his hearers of his promotions in rank in the government and telling them that he was even invited to be the guest of honor at a private banquet with only the king and queen present.  He was a BIG dog and he wanted all to know it!  He was obviously ignorant of God’s truth which states:

2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.   Proverbs 11:2 (NIV)                

18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. 19 Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.   Proverbs 16:18-19 (NIV)

12 Before his downfall a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.   Proverbs 18:12 (NIV)

23 A man's pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.   Proverbs 29:23 (NIV)

I am reminded of King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel’s day who also thought of himself highly and his ensuing fall – even after being warned of his prideful heart.  Scripture tells us:

28 All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.”   Daniel 4:28-32 (NIV)

We see later in Daniel that King Neb looks up and is restored and he utters these true words:

34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”   Daniel 4:34-35 (NIV)

Isaiah also tells us:

9 The Lord Almighty planned it, to bring low the pride of all glory and to humble all who are renowned on the earth.   Isaiah 23:9 (NIV)

Because of Haman’s great wrath, his wife Zeresh and all of his friends assisted him in pondering and plotting revenge.  They advise him to build gallows seventy-five feet high before his own door that as soon as he could get the warrant signed there might be no delay in Mordecai’s execution.  He would then ask King Xerxes the next morning to have Mordecai hung on it.  The gallows probably was an impaling stake which was a common method of execution in the ancient world.  The purpose of suggesting such a tall stake was so it would be an object lesson to all who saw it, and a greater disgrace to Mordecai by making him a public spectacle.  He would have been visible from all directions since he would have been higher than the trees.  This spectacle would solemnly emphasize that Haman was in control and that no one should try to stand in his way.  He could then go to the banquet joyfully knowing that Mordecai was no longer around.  This tickled him pink!  I am sure he wondered why he had not thought of the great idea himself.  He quickly had the gallows built. 

As the events unfold, the reader is reminded of a seemingly insignificant or forgotten event that the skillful narrator had previously mentioned but had not highlighted.  As God would have it, previously understated facts now take on a new meaning.  Almost incredible circumstances point to God’s hand guiding the course of events.   God was sovereignly at work behind even such a hateful act as building a gallows.  This is shown in Acts as well regarding the hateful act of Jesus’ crucifixion speaking of God’s foreknowledge and set purpose and man’s culpability:

22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”   Acts 2:22-24 (NIV)

24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.’  27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.   Acts 4:24-31 (NIV)

A very surprising scene opens chapter six of Esther.  And through this, we will see that the entire course of history for the Jewish nation was changed because a pagan king, hundreds of miles from the center of God’s activities in Jerusalem, could not sleep.  God is always working even in the minutest details of life.  The providence of God recommends Mordecai in the middle of the night to the king’s favor.  When Satan put it into the heart of Haman to plan Mordecai’s death, God put it into the heart of the king to plan Mordecai’s honor.  That is so God! 

The night before Esther’s second banquet, King Xerxes was unable to sleep.  God was readying the king to elevate Mordecai and to prepare him to react unfavorably to Haman.   Because of his sleeplessness, the king had the Journals of his reign read to him – that should have been able to put anyone to sleep – but I have a feeling he had them read to him them to boost his pride!  God put it into his heart to request that in lieu of music or songs which would seem to have been much more soothing and more likely to get him to rest.  As God would have it, the servant selected the article which concerned Mordecai.  Of all the texts that could have been selected by the reader – Xerxes’ had ruled 12 years by that time – the one that contained the account of Mordecai’s uncovering the assignation plot was read to the king.  Extra-Biblical sources confirm that the Persian kings maintained elaborate recording systems noting that the kings kept especially clear records of those who served them well.

Once again God’s sovereignty is made evident through all this.  It was simply not by mere chance or happenstance that this particular event was read.  Having been reminded in what was found written, that Mordecai had indeed, among other things, discovered a plot against the life of the king preventing his execution, the king asked if this good service had been rewarded.  Xerxes wanted to know what honor Mordecai had received for this good deed more than likely suspecting that his actions had gone unrewarded.  About five years had passed since the event had transpired.  His attendants respond that nothing had been done for Mordecai’s distinguished service.  In the king’s gate he sat before and there he still sits.  Mordecai is marked by humility, modesty and self-denial which are all great in the sight of God but often shunned in the world’s eyes, commonly hindering a man’s advancement.  Mordecai rises no higher than the king’s gate while proud and ambitious Haman gets the king’s ear and heart.   Indeed, we are told in Micah:

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.   Micah 6:8 (NIV)

Yet, though the ambitious and aspiring rise fast, the humble stand fast.  Psalm One states:

1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. 4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.  Psalms 1:1-6 (NIV) 

Remember ladies, as we have said before, we are to live our lives for an audience of One.

There had most likely been a bureaucratic oversight regarding the honor not given Mordecai and King Xerxes was about to change all that.  I find it interesting as well, that had Mordecai been rewarded for his saving the king, there would have been no need for the elaborate plan which would soon be carried out by the king through the mouth of Haman.   God wanted Mordecai highly honored and honored he was.  It is so much better for God’s children to allow Him in His own timing to bring forth accolades on our behalf.  God works always in the fullness of His time.  All events He is lining up through seemingly insignificant events. These events can come through the mouth or actions of a child or a great leader.  God gives His children exactly what they need when they need it.  The grace sufficient for all.   

Early the next morning, being impatient to get his dirty deed behind him so that he could enjoy the day (prideful people have the “all about me” mentality don’t they?), Haman goes early to the king’s court, before any other business is brought to get a warrant for Mordecai’s execution.  He could tell the king that he was so confident of the justice of his request and the king’s favor to him regarding it that he already had the gallows readied, all that was lacking was a word from the king.  It appears evident that the king is just as impatient to have his deed carried out which was the honoring of Mordecai.  The king asks who is in the court right as Haman is entering in and is told to have him brought in.  Xerxes felt Haman was the fittest man to be made use of both in directing and in dispensing the king’s favor.   Obviously, the tables are now being turned.  Everything that was meant for evil for the Jews was turning out for their good.  What a comfort this must have been to the original Jewish readers in postexilic Palestine as they observed their tenuous position among the nations.  They could rejoice in the fact that God cared about them and that He would continue to preserve them just as He had under Xerxes.  

Again out of pride, when Haman was quickly ushered into the king’s presence, he must have felt honored.  Given the king’s position and the fact that his heart was as full as it was, it was fitting that Xerxes spoke first.  He asks Haman:  “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?”  Of course, in his mind, Haman immediately thinks Xerxes is referring to him concluding that he himself was the favorite intended.  He is beside himself with joy and enthusiasm.  His mind quickly flashing into the mode of making a Santa list, so to speak!  Since he believed he would be the recipient, he waxed on very liberally not missing a single detail he would have desired to have bestowed upon him.  

Haman responds to the king by mentioning several things that should be done for one the king chose to honor.  He recommended that such a man should have the appearance of royalty by wearing a kingly robe and riding a royal steed both that the king had worn and ridden on.  Haman said that the honored man should be served by one of the noblest princes.  This noble would take the man through the city on the horse, clearing the way before him and pointing out to all who watched that this man was being honored by the king.  This is not too dissimilar to what Pharaoh did when he honored Joseph back in Genesis when he made him second in command over all of Egypt:

41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph's finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and men shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.   Genesis 41:41-43 (NIV)                           

Haman did not need money as he was fabulously wealthy and he had more power than anyone outside the royal family.  What he wanted most was respect from the people of the city.  His lust for respect is what got him into this trouble in the first place.  BTW, respect is earned.  We can force people to bend the knee but we cannot force them to respect us from their hearts.  And what good is a forced bent knee?  Even a dog can do that.

I think that it is interesting that the answer to Xerxes question “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?” is a royal robe and a ride on a royal horse.  I meditated on this a bit wondering how The King of kings and the Lord of lords loves to honor His children.  I was reminded that we, as believers, don the royal robe of righteousness “worn” by His Son.  When He looks upon each of us He sees the righteousness of Christ.  And rather than having us ride on a powerful royal horse, He indwells each one of his children with the powerful Holy Spirit.  

Haman’s idea apparently appealed to the king.  He commanded Haman to do just as he suggested for Mordecai the Jew who sat at the king’s gate adding not to neglect any of his recommendations.  Can you even imagine what a powerful blow that was to Haman’s insatiable pride?  Talk about getting a swift kick in the stomach!  It is hard to even imagine how he was able to keep his face from falling downcast in the king’s presence giving way to his disappointment.  What a turn of events!  What irony for Haman!  Mordecai, whom he hated, whom he had demanded respect from, whom he had planned to have hung on the gallows, he now had to honor himself!  It was enough to break a proud man’s heart.  Only God could pull off something so awesome!  

Haman had to carry out the king’s orders even though it certainly had to have embarrassed and angered him greatly as noted that afterwards he ran home like a baby with his head covered in grief to tell  his wife and friends his reversal of good fortune.  All the while, humble Mordecai simply went back to his lowly position at the king’s gate.  He returned to the place of his duty immediately, minding his own business as closely as he had done before – he continued daily doing the next right thing.  And God blessed that.  Earlier Mordecai had publicly grieved over his people; now Haman privately grieved over his own humiliation.

When Haman had left his wife in the morning he had been elated.  Now the bottom had fallen out from under him.  To make matters even worse, his advisors and his wife all saw nothing but trouble for him in the not too distant future noting that Mordecai’s Jewish origin meant certain doom for him.  Esther stands as an argument against a fatalistic world view for believers.  To those who are not believers the world’s events appear to be fatalistic and to happen by mere chance or happenstance.  On the other hand, those who are the people of God’s covenant know that God overrules fate.  He had a plan and He moves events and circumstances according to His good, pleasing and perfect will.  Haman’s pagan advisers and pagan wife unknowingly stated the central thrust of this book:  neither Haman nor any other human can possible thwart God’s plan for His chosen ones.

With his world crashing down on him and seemingly before he could hardly get his composure or even catch his breath, Haman was hurriedly hustled off to Esther’s second banquet which once he desired but now he dreaded.  Certainly he had to wonder what the king would say to him there.  Perhaps, he mused, if the king had heard he had built the gallows, he would also ask for whom they were built.  He may also want to know if he properly followed through with everything to be done for Mordecai.  I don’t believe Haman had an inkling of what was getting ready to occur.

Haman stands as a prototype of all anti-God activists who oppose God’s people.  As the regathered nation read this account, they could have looked back over their history and noted other times when men had tried to set aside God’s promises to their nation and had failed.  They could rest assured that in the future God would do the same.  We can be rest assured likewise. 

These are Beth’s personal notes, due to this fact sources are not often stated.

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