Esther Episode 5

Beth's Notes

“We have heard the modern expression, ‘Don’t fight it – it’s bigger than both of us.’  Those who submit to the will of God do not fight back at life.  They learn the secret of surrender, of yielding to God.  Then He fights for us!”   Billy Graham

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians (and I am certain Esther would “Amen” this as well!):8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.   2 Corinthians 1:8-11 (NIV)

Have any of you ever experienced this same sort of pressure or at the very least, circumstances that were far beyond our abilities to endure?  (In all actuality everything is beyond our ability to endure in a Christlike manner apart from the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit!).  I know I have and am still in the midst of trying times.  Perhaps, as Paul said, these things are happening for me to rely on God and His strength and His perfect and pleasing will rather than my own!  Hell-o!!!  I seem to be such a slow learner!  I know for certain, anything I have placed my hopes on apart from Christ and His power will be found wanting in the end.  Remember:

“God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”  Hudson Taylor

Alistair Begg writes:

“I think it is fair to think of there being seasons in our souls.  There are times when we find ourselves enjoying a spiritual summer.  From sunrise to sunset we sense that we are living under God’s smile and we wish that these days may never end.  These times may not prove to be the most beneficial to our spiritual welfare.  One of the Puritan writers commented on how the believers may fall asleep in the sunshine but not in the storm.”       

“Behold, this river of God is full for thy supply; what canst thou desire beside?  Go forth, my soul, in this thy might.  The Eternal God is thine helper!”  C. H. Spurgeon 

“You will never need more than God can supply.”   J. I. Packer 

“God hath in Himself all power to defend you, all wisdom to direct you, all mercy to pardon you, all grace to enrich you, all righteousness to clothe you, all goodness to supply you, and all happiness to crown you.”   Thomas Brooks

“God has promised to supply all our needs. What we don’t have now, we don’t need now.”  Elisabeth Elliot

At the beginning of Chapter Seven, after much fasting and praying, Esther is ready to follow through with God’s plan.  It was a “Go” so to speak!  Eventually, we all must choose to act.  To take that first step of obedient faith - which will be the beginning of many.  It is most often one obedient step of faith at a time which eventually equates to a life well lived.  We do not see the end from the beginning as our Father does rather He desires for us to trust Him in all things – knowing that He always loves us, He always has our best interest at heart and He always bestows the power and grace sufficient to meet the need to do what His will desires.  Bonhoeffer’s words rang true for Esther and they do for us as well:

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil….Not to speak is to speak; not to act is to act.”   Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Fear is nothing more than false evidence that appears real. One of your enemy’s greatest deceptions is that I am not in control. In truth, I am with you always, so you never have to fear. I am your heavenly Father, and I will prepare the way and protect you wherever I take you. Would you be willing to take a chance and trust Me, the God who loves you, to lead you through this life? If you accept my invitation to live without fear and totally surrendered to me, you will experience real life transformation, which only I can work inside of you. You will find the courage to step out and do something so much bigger and better than you could ever have imagined. Your soul will soar, and your faith will be energized and exercised. In the end, you will leave a legacy of faith for all who have watched you live for Me.”   Sheri Rose Shepherd  

When we left Chapter Six, Haman had been humiliated by having to honor Mordecai, albeit his humiliation being unbeknownst to the King.  He had rushed home and grieved to his wife and friends who had no good news for him either telling him he was surely going to come to ruin!  Barely getting his breath, Haman was then whisked off to Esther’s second banquet with apparently no idea what was about to take place.  Indeed, if he had known of the connection between Mordecai and Esther he would have been terrified at the prospect of attending.  The climax of our story is about to take place.

We find King Xerxes in a very good mood at Esther’s table and Haman in a not so good mood (to say the least!).  On the second day of the banquet, while they were eating and drinking, God gave Esther her opportunity and she proves herself faithful.  The king asks her what her request was again promising that he would grant it to her – up to half his kingdom.  Getting right to the point Esther requests from the King for the life of herself and for her people who had been sold into extinction through destruction, slaughter and annihilation (referring to the words of the decree). This had to have had a startling effect on Xerxes for his wife to have had such a petition.  In great humility, she further stated that she would not have bothered him had they merely been sold as slaves rather than slaughter.  She would have kept silent because that would not have justified disturbing him.  But as it stood, it was not their liberty at stake rather their lives which were sold to gratify the pride and the revenge of one evil man.  It was now clear to Xerxes what Esther’s nationality was.  

Certainly, Esther must have been apprehensive after spilling the beans (so to speak) not knowing if the king would grant her request or fly off the handle into a rage as he had done with Vashti.  Seemingly, with no pregnant pause, yet with much amazement at the audacity of the actions of the one she is referring to, Xerxes asks Esther who was this man who had dared to do such a thing.  Xerxes seems to be shocked at the wickedness that he himself is guilty of for remember he too had consented to that bloody edict against the Jews.  

Esther plainly charges Haman with the deed before his face.  It was this vile Haman who plotted their murder.  I love that she was not going behind closed doors rather, like King David with Goliath, she goes face to face with her adversary.  Undoubtedly, a look of terror was on Haman’s face as he was exposed before the most powerful man on the face of the earth at that time.  Bully’s, more often than not, when confronted with their evil are sans courage.  Indeed, if at all possible, they are like roaches that scatter when the lights go on.  The Queen was his prosecutor, the King his judge and his own conscience bearing witness against him.  Truth will stand when all else fails.

Now the King is filled with rage.  Interestingly, “rage” is the exact same word used to describe Haman’s feelings in Chapter 5 against Mordecai not bowing down to him – what goes around comes around:

9 Haman went out that day happy and in high spirits. But when he saw Mordecai at the king's gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai.  Esther 5:9 (NIV)

The wording actually meaning:  “To be in heat, anger, wrath, rage, indignation, poison and venom.”

In his anger, Xerxes gets up and goes outside to his palace garden leaving company and wine behind.  Scripture does not say why.  Perhaps he was seeking to get his anger under control or thinking of a way to execute Haman or seeking to think through a way to spare Esther and her nation.  More than likely it was to calm himself and consider what needed to be done.  Certainly he could have been blaming himself over being such a fool as to capriciously doom a guiltless nation to destruction, and his own Queen among them, on a wicked self-seeking man’s suggestion without even examining any truths of his allegations.  When will he learn to quit being so rash?

Realizing that the King had already determined his fate, Haman stays behind and seeks to become a humble petitioner before the Queen to spare his life.  This was indeed an unusual phenomenon as Haman was so full of arrogance and pride.  How insignificant Haman now looks when he falls at Esther’s feet to beg for his life and how great Esther now appears who had previously been grieving and doomed!  Nothing stays the same does it ladies?  Their roles changed in a matter of mere moments.  The day is coming when those who hate and persecute God’s chosen ones would gladly be indebted to them.  I am reminded of Joseph who went from the prison to the second highest in command of all of Egypt on a single day.  God can do anything.  We find in Genesis:

15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” 17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, 18 when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. 19 After them, seven other cows came up--scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. 20 The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. 21 But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up. 22 In my dreams I also saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. 23 After them, seven other heads sprouted--withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. 24 The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none could explain it to me.” 25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. 27 The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine. 28 "It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, 30 but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. 31 The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. 32 The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon. 33 "And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. 35 They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. 36 This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.” 37 The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. 38 So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”   Genesis 41:15-40 (NIV)

God’s way and God’s timing – always.  This is what we should all want as believers in Jesus even though it can oftentimes seem tediously SLOW!  We can feel forgotten as I am sure Joseph did in prison yet we must remember that His ways and timing are always so perfect nevertheless!  I am reminded of Jeremiah – the weeping prophet’s words in Lamentations when he was forlorn over the circumstances of his people:

17 I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. 18 So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.” 19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.   Lamentations 3:17-26 (NIV) 

Next, we see Xerxes entering back on the scene only to discover Haman falling on the couch of which Esther was reclining becoming even more exasperated and furious with him!  Persians (and later Greeks, Romans, and Jews) reclined on couches when they ate – how very Cleopatra like!!!  At just that moment (another so called “happenstance” rather than stating it was the absolute Sovereignty of God) the King returns and accuses Haman of assaulting the Queen.  However, Haman was not assaulting her but was merely falling on her couch for mercy.  It is also unlikely that Haman and Esther were alone in the banquet hall.  No doubt there were people there who were serving the meal as well as the guards who would also have been present.  The word “they” in Esther 7:8 suggests that several people were on the scene.  

As soon as the words leave Xerxes’ mouth against Haman the guards around him were ready to be the instruments of his wrath.  Those in the King’s court who lauded Haman when he was the rising sun set themselves as much against him now that he was a falling star.  His friends being as fickle as he.  As soon as the King spoke an angry word they covered Haman’s face, as a condemned man marked for execution.  Those who are hanged commonly have their faces covered.  Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the King had recently been to Haman’s house to get him to bring him to the banquet.  He informed the King about the gallows Haman had previously built for Mordecai the Jew.  It is quite possible that Haman was hated by many people in the city of Susa, especially in government circles given his prideful heart and proud actions.  The King swiftly gave orders that Haman should be hanged on his own gallows and it was promptly carried out.                            

The tables had now been turned, but the Jews were still left with a major problem.  The King’s edict to eradicate them was still in effect and by law could not be revoked.  Per a Persian decree there would still be a great slaughter of many innocent people all because of the wicked actions of a now dead man.  We will soon discover that while God had sovereignly worked in various circumstances so that the Jews could be delivered, it was now their turn to take part.  Remember they were not just given the Promised Land they had to take it through battle – led by the Lord and through His power – but they participated.  These Jews would have to fight as well – through His achieving power - to retain what was rightfully theirs.  They would have to take an active part in their own deliverance.  God still does this.  We are not to simply sit around expecting Him to plow the fields and plant the seeds – so to speak.  The Bible never teaches that.  We all have a job to do as well and it may be scary like Esther’s, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and a myriad of others in Scripture.  Oftentimes we need great faith to accomplish great tasks.

It’s called the Law of the Harvest.  I love the Proverbs which states:

9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest-- 11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.   Proverbs 6:9-11 (NIV) 

Paul also tells us:

19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans 6:19-23 (NIV)   

7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.   Galatians 6:7-10 (NIV)                 

Chapter Eight begins with King Xerxes giving Queen Esther Haman’s property.  Apparently Haman was considered a criminal, for his property was confiscated as well as the King’s signet ring.  Ironically, not only was Haman’s plot revenge, it was also to raise a large estate for himself through the confiscation of the Jewish property and now his property was confiscated and given to Esther a Jewess.  So like God!  Mordecai was brought into the presence of the King for Esther had told him of their relation.  Xerxes now gives his ring to Mordecai – the tables continuing to turn against Haman even after his death.  All the trust and all the power Xerxes had had for Haman was now transferred to Mordecai, Haman’s mortal enemy, and Xerxes now makes this trusty humble man his confident.   

Esther appoints Mordecai over the management of Haman’s estate as well.  Mordecai’s prior procession or mourning through the city street was suddenly turned into a blaze of honor.  What a difference there was between Haman and Mordecai.  Haman being boastful, prideful, and egocentrically evil was replaced by Mordecai who was humble, modest and had a genuine concern for his people.  Remember, Esther had been Queen for four years by that time yet the King remained ignorant of their relation.  He was so far from being ambitious at court that he concealed his relation to Queen Esther.  I am reminded of Peter’s words:

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.   1 Peter 5:5-7 (NIV)       

“A holy life will produce the deepest impression.  Lighthouses blow no horns; they only shine.”  D.L. Moody 

When God lifts you up, He lifts you up indeed!  

Since the edict to exterminate the Jews was still in effect, something had to be done.  Again Esther humbly appears before the King a second time without an invitation and was again encouraged to present her petition by his extending the golden scepter.  Interestingly, it appears she had earned the right to be heard again as her first petition was anything but frivolous.   She begged the King to put an end to the evil plan which Haman had put in place against the Jews.  She presents it with much emotion, pleading and falling at his feet weeping – every tear as precious as any of the pearls with which she was adorned.  Her request was if her petition seemed right and reasonable before the king, and if he is pleased with her, let the edict be reversed.  She places the cherry on top of her request by stating that she could not bear to see the destruction of her people thereby again being willing to be known as a Jewess (my people, my family).  

The King then noted that Queen Esther and Mordecai had the power and resources that had previously belonged to Haman and therefore they should use that power to their advantage.  Though Haman’s decree could not be revoked, a second one could supersede it.  Let the harm be put away as effectively as it may be without reversing the order.  The King also gave Mordecai authority to write the decree any way he wished and to stamp it with the King’s authority by using his signet ring.  This decree would authorize the Jews to stand in their defense – to oppose force to force and destroy the assailant.  This would be their effective security as well as saving the order of the Persian constitution.

The decree Mordecai wrote was sent out in the third month – Sivan – (June-July) 474.  Since this was a little over two months after Haman’s decree the Jews had about nine months to prepare themselves for the conflict.  As was the case with the previous decree, and sensing the urgency - as Scripture states “at once”- this edict was also dispatched by horsemen throughout the whole empire from India to Cush and was written in the appropriate languages for each province.  The edict gave the Jews the right to protect themselves and the right to annihilate and plunder any group that fought against them.  The Jews could take away the property of their enemies as Mordecai tad “taken away” the property of Haman.  This showed the kindness to the Jews and sufficiently provided for their safety for the latter decree would be looked on as a tacit revocation of the former.  It provided for the Jews to avenge themselves on their enemies.  The second edict also showed the absurdity of their constitution that none of the king’s edicts could be repealed; for it laid the king under the necessity of enacting a civil war in his own dominion between the Jews and their enemies so that both sides took up arms under his authority.   Man-made rules!  

Next we discover in Scripture the Cinderella part of our story.  Oh happy day, happy day!!!  In place of his sackcloth, we discover Mordecai now donning royal garments of blue and white (Persian royal colors), a large crown of gold, and a purple robe of fine linen.  His robes were rich and so was his crown.  He was looking good!  This is a blessed change indeed!  All these things were marks of the King’s favor and the fruit of God’s favor to His people.  He now held the position and status Haman once held. 

In lieu of its citizens being bewildered as they once were over the first edict, there is joyous celebration in the city of Susa!  While once they were under a dark cloud, dejected and disgraced now there was much happiness and joy, gladness and honor.  The Jewish people were elated over their rise to power and not only that, many Gentiles became Jewish proselytes over the happenings that had transpired, renouncing their idolatry and worshipping the One True God.  God’s good hand was then becoming obvious to the world at large.  Do it again Lord!  No longer were these events being viewed as chance or happenstance, now people were beginning to realize that the God of the Jews was protecting and guiding them.  This is reminiscent of Moses’ words in Deuteronomy:

29 Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will trample down their high places.  Deuteronomy 33:29 (NIV)

19 Once more the humble will rejoice in the Lord; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.   Isaiah 29:19 (NIV)

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

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