Esther Episode 6

Beth's Notes

The thirteenth day of the twelfth month arrived and in lieu of Haman’s decree being carried out against defenseless Jews - though still in effect - the tables were now turned on the enemies of the Jews.   While Haman’s decree could not be reversed due to Persian Law, Mordecai had the King sign a new law which gave the Jews the right to fight back and fight back they did.  The Jew’s cause was to be tried by battle and the day was fixed by authority – the time was at hand.  Neither side could call the other rebels for they were both supported by the King’s own edicts.  Through his foolish rashness, Xerxes had caused a civil war in his own land. Talk about bringing trouble on yourself!  

The Jews assembled in the various cities to face their attackers.  Scripture states that no one could stand against them because the people of all the other nationalities were afraid of them.  Indeed, the governmental authorities and the King’s administrators even helped the Jews because fear of Mordecai had seized them.  Mordecai had become more and more prominent in the palace.  His powerful reputation had spread throughout the provinces.  He now had the King’s ear and it was well known.  The Jews became the conquerors.  Instead of the enemy’s day, it proved to be God’s day.  Surprise, surprise! 

I think it interesting to note that throughout Scripture to this present day, the Jewish people have always had enemies.  Satan knows they are God’s chosen people and to touch them (and, btw, to touch Christians as well) is to touch the apple of His eye.  From having to fight their way into obtaining the Promised Land – given to them by God – one battle at a time they had pursued all the “ites” to the Assyrians, Babylonians and Romans to the life and death of Jesus to the persecution of Hitler to the Muslims and on and on I could go, God’s chosen people have always had enemies and they still do.  Even in our modern day times, it appears that Jews and Christians are the only ones acceptable to slander and persecute!  To be sure, light and darkness do not mix.     

After Moses’ death, God’s chosen people - under the leadership of Joshua – had to battle enemy after enemy until they possessed what was rightfully theirs.  Indeed, God Himself encouraged Joshua prior to the first conquest to not fear that He would be with them to bring about their sure success:

3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates--all the Hittite country--to the Great Sea on the west. 5 No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:3-9 (NIV)

These Jews were to cling to God and go forth in His achieving power.  The same is true for us today.  As we walk with Him, abiding in His good, pleasing and perfect will, going forth in His power we will be successful.  Yet “success” has many looks and some of them are not too Cinderella like to be sure.  Sometimes we feel like a failure when in reality it is sure “success”.  Also, btw, God’s goal for us is always Christlikeness.  

“My hope is not in a cure today. My hope is not the absence of suffering and comfort returned. My hope is in the presence of the One who promises never to leave or forsake, the One who declares nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God.” (Romans 8:39). Nothing. Your story is a good story. In the grief, pain and hard, the Author has a plan. It may feel like a desperate breaking of your very heart, but suffering is not the absence of God or good.”  Kara Tippetts

Back to having enemies in the world, Jesus told us:

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”   John 15:18-20 (NIV)

Friendship with God results in enduring the world's hatred. Conversely, being friends with the world is to be God's enemy.  James tells us:

4 You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?  James 4:4-5 (NIV)

Jesus desired to alert His disciples to the fact of the world’s hatred. This warning goes for us as well.  The world in John's Gospel describes the system of organized society hostile to God, which is under Satan's power. Believers might be surprised by this hostility, but they should remember that Jesus was hated from His birth (when Herod the Great sought to kill Him) to His death on the cross.

A fundamental reason for the world's hatred of a Christian lies in their differences. A believer, having left the kingdom of darkness and having been transferred into the kingdom of God's Son, has a different joy, purpose, hope, and love.  Colossians states:

13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Colossians 1:13-14 (NIV)

Believers now have certainty, truth, and a standard for life. Christians are no longer of the world as they belong to Christ.  Since they do not belong to the world... the world hates them.  Light shines on the darkness and they do not like it because it is convicting even without words.  Jesus tells us:

19 “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”  John 3:19-21 (NIV)

I find it interesting that in some form or another the enemies of the Jews is mentioned eight times in Chapter 9 – reiterating that these were those who hated the Jews vehemently and sought their destruction.  Let’s consider for a brief minute our enemies.  Strangely, we could be one of our greatest!  We battle Satan, sin and self and, more often than not, self gives us the biggest trouble.  It is just so easy to give into our flesh, amen?  We want what we want when we want it.  I am not one to think that Satan is lurking around every corner to take me down – I’m just not that important!  I do, however, give great credence to the words Peter penned for us to be aware:

8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.   1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV)

Scripture also told us to flee sin and we are given the promise as well that God Himself will provide a means for our escape when we do.  This begins with a made up mindset:

12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.   1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NIV)  

Paul gave Timothy – his spiritual son – the following wonderful counsel that we should adhere to as well:

22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.   2 Timothy 2:22-26 (NIV)

Indeed, the surest way to stand is to kneel at His feet, to immerse ourselves in His Word and His ways and not just leaving them in our head but applying them to our lives as well, keep our accounts short with the Lord and be accountable to others and not forsake the assembling together with the saints.  We need each other.  It is hard for a lone soldier to stand in battle.  God gives us a list of our proper armor so that we may be prepared and not get caught in our skivvies:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.   Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV)

Lastly, in our struggles against our enemies, it is foremost that we know God’s Word and hide its truth’s in our hearts.  The psalmist 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)

9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. 10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. 12 Praise be to you, O Lord; teach me your decrees. 13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. 14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. 15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. 16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.   Psalms 119:9-16 (NIV)

13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.   1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV)

Now back to our story (at long last!).  In a miraculous turn of events we discover the Jews strengthened and encouraged and their enemies weakened and dispirited that none of those who had marked themselves to destroy the Jews escaped.  Five hundred men fell in the city of Susa alone on that day as well as the ten sons of Haman.  Three hundred more were slain in Susa the following day as well and all ten sons of Haman were impaled though already dead.  Not to mention the seventy-five thousand who were killed in the King’s provinces.  I would say it was a serious routing!  Remember ladies, it is God’s to avenge and His wrath is always thorough in accomplishing what He has set forth for it to accomplish.  Scripture tells us:

19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.   Romans 12:19 (NIV)

I think it interesting as well, that the Jews could have reaped the bounty in laying hands on their enemies’ plunder yet they chose not to touch it.  Three times Scripture tells us they did not lay their hands on the plunder.  Perhaps this is reminiscent of their father Abraham who had gone to war against those who had captured Sodom and Gomorrah when his nephew Lot lived there who was also taken captive.  Abraham (Abram at the time) took 318 trained men born in his household and attacked and routed the enemy recovering all the goods and brought back his relative Lot along with his possessions together with the women and the other people.  The King of Sodom came out to meet him and told Abram to keep the goods (plunder) for himself.  The following was Abram’s reply:

22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath 23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ 24 I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me--to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”  Genesis 14:22-24 (NIV)

Faith looks beyond the riches of this world to the grander prospects God has in store.  Abram knew that he would become more prosperous, and he knew Who was blessing him. He intended to receive everything from God and not even a thread from Sodom. Obedient believers frame their lives so that for all success, joy, comfort, and prosperity they depend on God.  They scorned enriching themselves with the “spoils of Sodom” so to speak.  Their faith is like Abram's, deeply rooted and growing stronger rather than brief and weak.  Indeed, most seek God’s hand rather than seek God. 

Matthew Henry states of the Jews in Esther:  “Their commission also empowered them to destroy the families of their enemies – even the women and children yet their humanity forbade them to do that.  They slew none but those they found in arms; and therefore they did not take the spoil perhaps in an endeavor to leave it for the women and little ones.  If so, they acted with a consideration and compassion well worthy of imitation.”

Next we discover the celebratory plans coming into being through the actions of wise Mordecai and Queen Esther.  God loves His children to celebrate His goodness!  Being thankful for all He has done for us makes Him smile indeed!  “Thou greatest pleasure that Thou art my joy.”  I am reminded of Psalms 126:

1 When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. 2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” 3 The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. 4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev. 5 Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. 6 He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.   Psalms 126:1-6 (NIV)

Mordecai and Esther desired to perpetuate the remembrance of such a miraculous happening which pointed to the loving and great God they served.  When God moves His hand it behooves us to place a standing stone (so to speak) so that we will not forget.  Memorialize it as we are so prone to amnesia in this area!  This is for our benefit as it helps us to remember that if God was faithful in the past we can be assured of Him being faithful in the future as well.  Our remembrance is taught by God throughout Scripture both for our good and His glory because we are ever so prone to forget, amen?  When we forget we all too soon begin to wallow!   Not only are we prone to wander, we are prone to forget as well!  The words in Deuteronomy come to light:

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. 10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you--a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant--then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.   Deuteronomy 6:4-12 (NIV)

The two day feast would serve in remembrance of the goodness of God working through a number of circumstances on behalf of the Jews to protect His people from extinction.  Mordecai’s proclamation stated the Jews were to celebrate the event annually with eating, rejoicing, giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.  The feast was to be called Purim because of Haman’s use of the “pur” - the lot to determine the time of the execution.  The “pur” became a symbol of God’s using circumstances to deliver His own.  God loves to be remembered and appreciated.  Indeed, Scripture calls God’s people to be thankful – in all things, btw!

16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.   1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.   Ephesians 5:18-20 (NIV)

“Gratitude is not an option for believers who want to splash in waves of grace...God commands His followers to be thankful.  Some spend a lot of time wondering about God's will for their lives. We can be absolutely certain of at least one aspect of His divine will: we are to be thankful! We are to give thanks! In all things!”  Ellen Vaughn

“It is so easy to give thanks for what one naturally chooses, but that does not cover the ‘everything’ of the text...One morning lately, in speaking of some small trouble, I quoted ‘In everything give thanks,’ and at once someone answered ‘But I cannot give thanks for everything.’ Now if our God tells us to do a thing and we say cannot, there is something wrong somewhere, for we all know the words ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me’ - that is, all things commanded. It is treason to say 'I cannot.’ But first we should make sure that we are commanded to do this.  The text says give thanks IN everything, not FOR everything. All God's biddings are enablings. We can do that. We will do that.”   Amy Carmichael 

“Whenever you react with praise and thanksgiving for an opportunity to grow more like Jesus in your way of reacting to things, instead of grumbling or feeling self-pity, you will find that that whole situation will be changed into a great blessing.”    Hannah Hurnard 

The letters Mordecai sent forth to all the provinces of Xerxes were thorough establishing the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the twelfth month (the month of Adar) as days of great celebration in remembrance of all God did for the Jews.  When their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into celebration!  They would be days of cheerfulness and generosity.  Furthermore, these days were to be remembered and observed in every generation by every family and they should never cease to be celebrated by the Jews nor should the memory of them die out among their descendants.  Isaiah’s words ring true:

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. 5 Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. 6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”  Isaiah 12:4-6 (NIV)

“The one who gives the power gets the glory.”   John Piper

Interestingly, Piper also quips:

“God is always doing 10,000 things in our lives, and we may be aware of 3 of them.”   John Piper

Queen Esther also joined with Mordecai in writing a second letter for the Jews, one of goodwill and assurance again to establish The Feast of Purim both for themselves and their descendants.  A copy of her letter was also included in the royal archives.  They wrote with full authority regarding the feast.  The celebration would be thanksgiving days filled with the joy of the Lord.

Always at the Feast the whole story of Esther is read in the synagogue each day and they lift up three prayers to God.  The first for which they praise God for counting them worthy to attend the divine service; in the second they thank him for the miraculous preservation of their ancestors; in the third they praise Him that they have lived to observe another festival in memory of it.

The Book of Esther closes by first speaking of King Xerxes’ power; but more importantly than that the closing verses extoled Mordecai the once hated Jew in the Persian Empire.  We now find him promoted by Xerxes and revered by the Jews.  God elevated this humble man to a position where he could use his giftings with the proper use of authority unlike his predecessor Haman who used his position for pride and power.  He was the Jews great patriot because he worked hard for them and spoke up on their behalf to Xerxes and God honored that.  While wicked Haman was puffed with pride, Mordecai remained humble.  Scripture states:

5 The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.  Proverbs 16:5 (NIV)

And indeed that was the case for Haman whereas wise and humble Mordecai was lifted up by God as he did good for the Jews - having their best interest at heart:

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.  1 Peter 5:5-6 (NIV)

35 The wise inherit honor, but fools he holds up to shame.   Proverbs 3:35 (NIV)

When the original Jewish readers read this account they would have been struck by the way God was sovereignly protecting them, often when they did not even know it.  That is true for us as well.  Many things in the Book of Esther happened that were beyond anyone’s control except that of God, who oversees history and Whose plans cannot be thwarted.  The Book of Esther is filled with irony, with many ways in which events turned out unexpectedly and in favor of God’s people.  Queen Vashti, a Persian, was deposed so that Esther, a Jewess, could become Queen and save her people.  Haman once exalted, was brought low, and Mordecai and the Jews, once hated, were exalted and honored.  A decree which would have wiped out the Jews was overruled by one which led to the destruction of nearly 76,000 enemies of the Jews.  It is no wonder that Purim is celebrated yearly with such rejoicing – to help the Jews (and us) remember that God is in control and that people should faithfully worship and serve our great God.        

17 Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back. 18 For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness. 19 The living, the living--they praise you, as I am doing today; fathers tell their children about your faithfulness.   Isaiah 38:17-19 (NIV)

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

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