Esther 2 | Life’s Unexpected Turns
Esther 2 | Life’s Unexpected Turns
May 5, 2024 |
Sunday Morning
Esther 2 | Life's Unexpected Turns
John C. Majors |
Esther 2
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Well. Good morning, Valley View. It’s great to be with you while we continue our study in the book of Esther. And this chapter reminded me of an experience I had. I’ve shared this before, but when we were living in Little Rock, I was serving with a marriage and family ministry, and one morning in particular, I had a meeting to go to, and it was an important meeting we’d been building up to. I was going to make a big proposal for a new ministry resource we were going to launch. So I was cleaned up, had on a tie even, I was ready for this meeting. I go out on the carport to the house we were living in at the time, and then I just had this strange feeling something didn’t feel right and I looked around. I was trying to figure out what is off here. Well, the problem was the truck I was going to drive to the office wasn’t there. This big empty spot in the middle of the carport. And so I immediately racking my brain, wondering, where did I leave it? What, did I leave it somewhere else? Did a family member or friend borrow it? Did Julie have somewhere to go this morning? An early morning mulch run or something? Who knows? But then I saw some broken plastic on the ground, door handle busted or something, and I knew, oh no, no, someone else I didn’t know decided to borrow it today. They had a need for it, didn’t share with me. And in that moment, everything kind of shifted. My whole day, my whole plan, everything changed. In fact, I would call this an unexpected turn iIn the day. I had my plans, I had what I was going to do. I had everything sorted out, and then all of a sudden, all that’s out the window, we’ve got to develop a new plan. What do you do in life when you’re faced with an unexpected turn? You’ve all had this happen. You’ve had some. Some are small, some are huge. An unexpected turn. How do you handle those? How do you deal with those? How do you move forward? In Esther chapter two, which is what we’re looking at today, we’re going to see a number of unexpected turns, and we’re going to see how people react to those. And so if you have a Bible, turn to Esther chapter two. If you have a church Bible, that’ll be on page 382. We’re working through the book of Esther leading up to the summer. We’re going to see specifically six unexpected turns in life that happened in Esther chapter two. So let’s start by reading the first few verses in Esther chapter two. Get our bearings for the story today. Esther chapter two, verse one. After these things, when the anger of King Ahaseurus had abated, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her. Then the king’s young men who attended him said, let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king, and let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem and Susa the citadel under custody of Haggai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women, let their cosmetics be given them. Let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti. This pleased the king, and he did so. If you remember last week in chapter one, Queen Vashti would not come out to make an appearance at the pinnacle of 187 days of feasting, all building up to her royal appearance. She wouldn’t come out, and that infuriated, he burned with anger. The king Ahaseurus burned with anger in that moment. He consulted some of the wise men, the men who knew the times. And they said, according to the law she needs to be replaced. This could be devastating to your reign. And so here we have the situation unfolding. Now that they’ve decided this is what needs to happen, how do we go about it? And I love this just opening few words here where it says when the anger of the king had abated or subsided, his anger, his rage had come down a bit. And then there’s one key word he remembered Vashti. To me, there’s just a hint of regret there, just a hint of– Actually, I kind of liked her, but I’ve already decided she’s out. We’ve already put this in place. We’ve. We’ve told the whole world. And so he’s backed in a corner. I mean, his pride’s in the way. There’s no getting out of this. He remembered her, but yet now this plan, it has to move forward. I don’t have a choice. Now, notice who he consults in this moment. In chapter one and verse 13, he consulted the wise men, those who were versed in the law is what it says. Men who understood the times. And here it says the king’s young men come to give him advice. Now there’s a pattern in Scripture, one in particular instance where when the advice of the older, wiser sage men was ignored and the advice of the young men was taken, we saw that with Jeroboam, Rehoboam, right after Solomon’s reign, Rehoboam was put in place. Jeroboam, representing a number of the tribes of Israel, come to him and say, hey, look! Solomon laid a heavy yoke upon us, and it’s time to lighten that up a bit. If you lighten that up, we will gladly follow along with your reign. And so Rehoboam says, let me consider that, he consults the old men. They say, yes, that’s true. You should be serving them. The leader should be the one who best serves his people, not places a heavy yoke upon them. He takes their advice, turns to his friends, his peers, the young men, and they say, oh, you thought Solomon was hard. You thought his yoke was heavy. You haven’t seen anything yet. We’re going to add to what he did. And that led to a split. Jeroboam said, we’re out of here. So there is this imagery of taking the young man’s advice only separate from the wise, the experienced, the sage leads to maybe not the best choices. And so here the emphasis is from the young men. Hey, look, you didn’t like Vashti. Now is the time to live it up. Now is the time to fulfill every dream and desire you might have. Go throughout every region, places you’ve never even been or seen. Find the most beautiful women and bring them all back here just for you. That’s the advice of the young men. In chapter one, the old men was let’s seek out the law. What does the law say? How do we go about it? Let’s use wisdom here. Let’s use care. That’s why as a church, our church is governed by a group of elders, seven elders, seven men who have been tested, have shown themselves faithful, and they take counsel from the whole church. We don’t ignore what young men or even children might say. We want wisdom from all realms, but at the end of the day, we want those who are in charge of running the church, even the staff, we serve at the behest of the elders, they set the direction. Overall vision for the church. We work together to do that, but these are people we’ve seen God be faithful through them over time. We don’t want to be reactionary. We don’t want to be those who are just serving ourselves while we lead. In fact, a leader should be a giver, not a taker. You know this king in this moment, he’s taking. Serve me, all these provinces. Give me your best for me. It’s kind of feels a little bit like The Hunger Games. If you’ve read or seen that, you give me your best. I’ll use them how I want some faraway kingdom. But no, the the leader should be the giver, not the taker. And so the young men are giving him advice. He’s running with it. Of course he loves it. In the moment. And now we encounter what I consider to be the first unexpected turn in the story. Look down at verse five. Now there was a Jew in Susa, the citadel, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite, who had been carried away from Jerusalem. Among the captives carried away with Jeconiah, the king of Judah, who Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had carried away. He– Mordecai –was bringing up Hadassah, who is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure, and was lovely to look at, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter. Here we’re introduced to Mordecai, and we’re introduced to an interesting political dynamic that was true at this time. In fact, the first unexpected turn in the story is an unexpected exile. The Jewish people had been exiled. They had been taken out of their land and taken by the Babylonians and the Persians and taken to a foreign land. And this was unexpected for them, even though God warned and warned and warned, obey me, follow me, or this is going to happen, I promise. I’m warning you. Don’t keep going down the road you’re going down. But eventually there was no turning back. And so the Jewish people were exiled. They were taken out of their homeland, taken into other lands. However, at this point in the story, many had already returned. They had been allowed to return to Israel. They had been allowed to return to their homeland. But as you can imagine, and you could kind of guess some didn’t go back. And part of you goes, why not? That‚Äôs your homeland. Why wouldn’t you return? We lived– I’ve mentioned before — overseas doing missions. We lived in the South Pacific. We were specifically in Fiji. And what was interesting there is probably a third to a half of the population, depending on where you live, were not native Fijians, but had come from India and they clearly looked like they were from India. There’s a clear difference. But what was interesting is the British rule had ended. So the British brought people from India to help run the sugar plantations late 1800s. But British rule, it ended probably 1970. In that range. They didn’t all go back to India. They’d been there 100 years at that point, this is all they knew. This is their home at this point. In fact, their language had even changed a little. Some of their customs had changed. Yeah, they’re Indian, but if they went back to India, it wouldn’t be the same as if they grew up there. And so here we have a number of Jews that say, you know what, we can go back, but this is our home. In fact, in Jeremiah, when they’re exiled, I think the temptation would be, is that if you’re taken out of your country, put somewhere else, it’s to be actively rebellious, to wish for the worst of where you’ve been taken. But in Jeremiah he said, no, no, no, take wives– you’re going to be here a while. Take wives. In fact, it says something like, do your best to invest in the cities when you’re there. Make this place better than it would have been without you. So they’ve been there investing, giving, caring. You’re going to have a connection to where you are. And so Mordecai the Jew, even though he’s a foreigner in a foreign land, even though the foreign land is really against his religion, even though this was an unexpected turn in the life of the people to end up in this foreign land, here they are. Now that they’re planted in this place and their life begins to grow and flourish. There was another unexpected event, though, that happened in the life of Esther in particular. It said that when her father and her mother had died. What we have here is an unexpected tragedy. I mean, that happens in life, unexpected exile. I’m sure there was much tragedy connected with that ripped out of your homeland, but an unexpected personal tragedy for Esther. And one thing that’s important to remember here in the midst of the challenge she faced, was that even in the midst of the loss of her mother and father, God was working through that to position her to be used by him to rescue the whole nation. This is important to note in our lives. And look, this isn’t to minimize the pain of any tragedy you’ve faced at all. It’s still going to be really hard. It’s still going to leave you with a lot of questions. You’re still wondering, what is God? What is God doing through this? And sometimes it won’t be clear for a really long time. I shared a story this week in the midweek update, and this wasn’t a tragedy, but it was one instance of God working behind the scenes in a way that I couldn’t see at the time, couldn’t even begin to anticipate or understand. I worked in between college and going into ministry. I wasn’t exactly sure what ministry setting I was going to go into, but I knew I wasn’t going to go into the field. I had studied in college, so I went to work with a friend at the Louisville Orchestra selling concert tickets. He was a friend of mine had gone to school with. I really liked him. I thought this would be at the bare minimum we’d have a fun time hanging out at work. I’d make a little money. I’d figure out what I’m going to do in ministry, and my main job was to take calls from people who did, season subscriptions. They got season tickets to the concert, and you would be shocked at how emotional people can be about classical music. I remember the time this lady was yelling at me about how much she hated the director of the orchestra, how awful he was. And it’s just, I mean, I’m holding the phone out here and it still hurts is just top volume yelling. I just let her scream for a while and finally I said, ma’am, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I don’t think I can do anything about the director, though. Would you like me to help you pick some great seats? And she said, yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry. I know you can’t do anything. Yes, I still want seats. I still hate him, but I still want seats. And I remember thinking, what in the world am I doing here? This seems like the biggest waste of life. Know? I mean, I liked classical music, but I’m like, really? Is this the best use of my life? Well, fast forward to when I started working with Campus Crusade for Christ. Went through the initial training, preparing to work on campus, college campuses, ministering to college students, leading them to Christ. The first step, though, was to raise all the funds. We were completely self-supported in donations. Some of you got some of those phone calls from me asking, Will you partner with us in ministry? And I remember all the folks I went through training with. One of our first task was to you tonight, go call three people tonight. Call three people. Tell them what you’re doing, ask them to partner in with you. And I thought, great, no big deal. I’ve had ladies yelling at me about concert tickets. This is a delight and a privilege to call someone to ask them to partner with me. We came back that next day, and you could just see the sheer terror on everybody’s face of how horrifying that was to make those phone calls, and it just clicked. Man, God used that time being yelled at by little old ladies about classical music to make this no big deal. He was preparing me. And here’s here’s the key phrase to know what seems like a distraction to you. Maybe God preparing you for what he has. What seems like a diversion to you? What seems like wasted time to you? God, maybe and probably is using that to prepare you in some way for what he has for you, whether that’s a silly challenge like I mentioned, or a true tragedy. In some way, he is preparing you for what he has for you, even in an unexpected tragedy, which is what Esther faces here. Now let’s look at how the story continues. Unexpected tragedy. But next she has another unexpected event. Look at verse eight. So when the king’s order and his edict were proclaimed, and when many young women were gathered in Susa, the citadel in custody of Haggai, Esther also was taken into the king’s palace and put in custody of Haggai, who had charge of the women, and the young woman pleased him and won his favor, and he quickly provided her with cosmetics and her portion of food and with seven chosen young women from the king’s palace, and advanced her and her young women to the best place in the harem. Esther had not made known her people or kindred, for Mordecai had commanded her not to make it known, and every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her. In the midst of exile, in the midst of tragedy, in the midst of the decree of the King. Here’s what happens to Esther in this moment. She has an unexpected choice. Now I say choice. That may not be the best word for what happened to her. It may have been she was unexpectedly taken. We don’t know if this was something she willingly went along with to be taken into this process of possibly being chosen as Queen. Was she recruited, was she persuaded? Was it something she put her hand up for, or was she just… the word is taken. We can’t be 100% sure. Either way, it was unexpected. This is an unexpected turn, an unexpected choice in her life. Now, how does she handle that? How does she navigate that in the midst of this unexpected choice? One thing we see in verse nine, part of her reaction was, it says the young woman pleased him and won his favor. In the midst of this unexpected choice, she has, whatever she’s doing, she’s working behind the scenes to win favor. She’s working behind the scenes to do the best that she can in this moment, to make the most of the situation. One of the ways she does does that here. It’s really interesting how she reacts if you note what it says that Mordecai said to her. Look down here in verse ten, Esther had not made known her people or kindred, for Mordecai had commanded her not to make it known. Part of the way that she wins favor is by hiding who she really is, by hiding her heritage, by following the direction of Mordecai. Now why does he tell her to do that? Again, we don’t know specifically. We’ll see later in the story enough to hint that there was likely a significant amount of tension between Jews and Persians, and Mordecai seems to be the kind of guy who is wise to the world. We’ll see him at the gate with his ear, listening for what is going on. He’s standing outside the harem making sure everything is okay with Esther. He seems to be working in the background. He seems to be in the know and she listens to him. Now this brings up a challenging tension, I think, that we see in Scripture and that we see for us. The first question is when do you hide your faith and when do you make it known? And maybe hiding isn’t the right word. When do you not make it forefront? When do you not make a big deal out of it? And when do you make it known? There’s a tension across scripture where you see this balance of things that are described versus what is prescribed. So things that are just described as they are and not necessarily meant to be an example for you to follow versus things that are prescribed. This is what you should do. And so some stories are meant to be, do this. This is how you should live. Follow this example. Some are do not do this and do not live this way. And sometimes those are really clear. Other times it’s not so clear. You see a mix, you see some righteous behavior, you see some unrighteous behavior. In fact, with almost every major biblical character, you see this mix, you see the highs, you see the lows. In fact, with Esther in particular, all throughout the book, you see comparison to two major biblical figures, Daniel and Joseph. You see comparison. You see contrast all throughout. Just for instance, Esther is the only character in the book of Esther with two names Esther, Hadassah. That’s because one is her Jewish name. One is her Persian name. Now, if you remember the Book of Daniel, this is what happened with them when they were taken. They are immediately given new names, which was partly to say, you have a new identity. You’re no longer who you were. Now you are here. You’re no longer back in Israel. Now you’re here. And she’s represented that way too. Now you have these dual identities, these two things at play within. Which kingdom do I serve in the midst of that? You see parallels with Joseph. Joseph, in a sense, was orphaned, taken into prisoner as a slave, taken to a foreign land. He was pursued by someone in power for intimate purposes. And yet he gained favor all along the way. You see these parallels between their stories. But you also see contrast. Take Daniel, for instance. Daniel would not compromise on the food laws that he felt were core to his faith, core to his identity. Daniel would not compromise on times of prayer. He was willing to go to his death to maintain his Jewish identity. And yet, with Esther, we see this. We don’t see that. We don’t even see God mentioned. We don’t see or talk about the law. We don’t see any mention of any kind of Sabbath keeping or prayer or food laws or rituals to keep. We don‚Äôt see any of that. There’s a big contrast between the two of them. What do we do with that? I mean, is Esther the example? The model for us to follow? is Daniel? What I’ll say here is two things. One, it takes wisdom to know. And you see Paul, you see him in some cities. He stays. He lets them beat him near to death and drag him out. No matter what, he stays. In other cities, you see he flees. Which is it? Which do I do? It takes wisdom to know. It’s not always crystal clear. That’s where we lean on the wisdom of others. We seek out counsel from others. We listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There’s not just one clear formula every time, for every situation. I think– I think though, the other really encouraging thing here is just the reminder that God uses imperfect people in imperfect settings, in messy cultures where His word and His law have maybe been forgotten. I mean, don’t forget they’ve been in exile. The whole painted picture is a people distant from God. People who aren’t following his law. People who aren’t actively seeking what is God’s will in all things. And yet God uses her. Anybody else encouraged by that? I’m so grateful he uses imperfect people. Anybody else imperfect? I saw a few hands not go up. I’m a little concerned. Pray for that marriage. Look, God uses imperfect people in imperfect situations, in messy circumstances. People who maybe even make the wrong choice. He still uses them. And so we have an unexpected choice for Esther. But now look at the next unexpected situation. Look at verse 12. Now, when the turn came for each young woman to go into King Ahaseurus after being 12 months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of beautifying: six months with the oil of myrrh, six months with spices and ointments for women, when the young women went into the king in this way, she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace. In the evening she would go in, and in the morning she would return to the second harem in custody of Shaashgaz the king’s eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines. She would not go into the king again unless the king delighted in her, and she was summoned by name. This little block of text here explains some of the customs they had at the time. Some of the beautifying, some of the purifying customs to prepare the women to enter into the king, to possibly be the Queen. And you could read this and say this was just only the King, expecting utter perfection and beauty from every woman he ever met. You will be perfect or you will not be mine. And that’s, I think, partly what’s going on. Clearly it’s set up that way. But also they’re giving these women every chance to be in the best situation possible to become Queen. You want your queen to exemplify the country. You want your queen to be in the best situation possible. And if you remember in the Song of Solomon, the woman she was embarrassed for being swarthy, meaning her skin was darkened by the sun, meaning it was dry, brittle, cracked, sunburned. And so much of this treatment would have been skin restoration for months and months. And that takes time. But it’s possible, especially if you’re young, to restore that skin. Months and months and months. Let us set you up to be ready to go into the King and put your best foot forward. But we do have to acknowledge that more than likely, the King is someone, and we see this in our culture too, who is just only focused on outward appearances. Now, the maddening part of that in this story, he didn’t get rid of Vashti because she was ugly. He didn’t say, you’re no longer my queen because you turned ugly. You got old and wrinkly. No longer queen. I need a new queen. That’s not why he got rid of her. Why did he get rid of her? In fact, she was more beautiful than anyone. Why did he get rid of her? Because of her heart. There was a distance between them. There was a break where she said, I can no longer follow you. I can no longer love you. So he wasn’t looking for beauty in a new wife, first and foremost. And he wanted someone who was there with him, who would support, serve alongside him. At the end of the day, he was looking for character over beauty. And we live in a culture where that is the fascination. The temptation is to be focused on appearances. There’s a connection here with what’s occurring in the story. Now, Esther is going to enter into this situation. Now what happens with her? Look at the next set of verses, verse 15, when the turn came for Esther, the daughter of Abihail, the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his own daughter to go into the king, she she asked for nothing, except what Haggai, the king’s eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her. And when Esther was taken to King Ahaseurus into his royal palace in the 10th month, which is the month of Tebeth in the seventh year of his reign, the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. Then the king gave a great feast for all his officials and servants. It was Esther’s feast. He also granted a remission of taxes to the provinces, and gave gifts with royal generosity. Esther comes into this situation and what she had already done, and what she begins to do here is to win favor. In fact, she gets some unexpected favor. But notice. And that’s one of the six unexpected elements of this story. When it happened earlier, I think we would be tempted to say that unexpected favor just came out of nowhere. But no. In fact, the word used here is that she had won grace and favor. She was working. She was active to get that unexpected favor. In fact, I think what we see modeled here is the thing that stands out to the King. She shows that she was teachable. She shows Mordecai what you say I’ll do. Hide my faith? Yes, I trust you. She shows that she wanted to gain wisdom from the head. The head guy., Haggai. What should I take with me? Would you direct me? Would you guide me? She shows character. She shows teachability. And I think when she goes into the King and look, we don’t know exactly what happened there, okay? I think we can all take a lot of guesses that probably may be somewhat accurate, but we don’t know. We don’t know what happened when she went in there. But we know this. That he saw in her what he had been looking for. I’ve got beautiful woman, best in the land after beautiful woman after beautiful woman coming through. And now she stands out. And I think it’s her character. Here is someone, that hole that I needed to fill, that I saw in Vashti, the woman who, that was missing. It was, in fact, the unexpected crown came through her character. She had an unexpected favor, and that led to an unexpected crown. And look, make no mistake, you can put that up on the screen. That unexpected crown. It was her beauty that opened the door. It clearly did. But it was her character that won her the crown. Unexpected favor. Unexpected crown. There’s one more layer to the story. One more unexpected event. Look at verse 19. Now, when the virgins were gathered together the second time Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Esther had not made known her kindred or her people, as Mordecai had asked, as he commanded her. For Esther obeyed Mordecai, just as when she was brought up by him. In those days, as Mordecai was sitting at the gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the threshold, became angry, sought to lay hands on King Ahaseurus, and this came to the knowledge of Mordecai, and he told it to Queen Esther. And Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai. When the affair was investigated and found to be so, the men were both hanged on the gallows, and it was recorded in the book of the Chronicles in the presence of the king. Mordecai– I mentioned he seems to be a guy that is staying in the know, that is working behind the scenes to navigate situations, and you notice in this moment he’s staying near the gate, he’s listening and he hears. And here we have in this moment, another unexpected event. He becomes an unexpected rescuer. And look, God is clearly working behind the scenes to allow this to happen. That’s part of the theme of Esther, his providential hand working behind the scenes in ways no one could anticipate. But in this moment, he was nearby. He was ready, and God uses him to rescue the king. And by the way, that sets up the theme of what’s going to happen in the book of Esther. And notice the contrast between Esther and Vashti. Esther protects the king. Vashti shames the king. Already here you see her character playing out. Okay, ancient story, six unexpected situations. What does this mean for us today? Bear with me. I’ve got six quick application points for us today. When you hear these unexpected events that happen to them, what do we do with that now? How do we handle that now? I’m not a queen in a foreign land, exiled, having lived in a harem. What do I do with all that? How do I apply that to my life today? Well, here’s six quick action points. Number one, when faced with unexpected turns, be the first to repent. Okay, if you. If you noticed with the King, he backed himself into a situation where there was no way out of it. He remembered Vashti, but it was too late. Don’t put yourself in those kind of irreversible decisions. Take pause. Seek advice. Don’t use. Don’t threaten with the d-word when you’re having a little tiff in your marriage. No no no, don’t threaten. Don’t don’t lay down statements that you you can’t take back in the moment. Be the first to repent. Take the lead. I’m sorry I didn’t do that right. Will you forgive me? I want to see us move forward. Now, I know you have something to say too. Don’t do it that way. Don’t do that. Don’t add that. I’m sorry. Can we make this right? What can we do? Be the first to repent. Number two, be a giver, not a taker. In this situation, the king is led along by all those around him who have a great plan for his life. But man, be a giver, not a taker. Don’t go along with the pressures of this world when they say this is the thing to do. Be a giver not to take. Number three engage the culture with wisdom and grace. Engage the culture with wisdom and grace. This comes back to that tension of when do I keep my faith hidden? When do I speak it publicly? Engage with wisdom and grace. I remember serving at that same orchestra, and there was a guy going around to everyone, and people knew that I was considering going into ministry, and most of the folks who worked there were either openly atheist or not church friendly and living different lifestyles than mine in a number of different ways. And one guy was going around, he was seeking donations to help with Aids recovery, and I thought, what am I going to do when he comes to me? I don’t know, he didn’t make it to me that day. I wasn’t sure. I don’t want to support their lifestyle. I’m not sure what to do. I came home and I talked to my one of my campus ministry friends, one of the guys I really respect, and he said, John, you can still show compassion to them in the midst of disagreeing. And so I didn’t have to come in with my faith on my sleeve the next day. But I was able to come in and say, hey, how can I help? I’d love to help out. I’d love to do what I can to help those who are hurting in your community. Now, I wasn’t supporting that whole lifestyle, but let me tell you, that opened the door for us to have a lot more conversations, to the point where we were even talking about faith later down the road. That guy’s face lit up. You could see in him you– he didn’t say it, but I saw– you want to help? You want to help us? And it just opened the door. How do we engage with wisdom and grace? Some of that includes what we post online. Sometimes there are times to take firm statements, take firm stands. Be real clear. Other times is a great time to be quiet. We don’t have to comment on everything. There’s plenty of things you can just let go. Number three engage with wisdom and grace. Number four, avoid the allure of appearances. And I’ll just make one comment on that here at church. We don’t care how you look when you show up, we really don’t. Come as you are. All we care is that you wear something. Please wear something. But we don’t care what it is. If you want to dress up like it’s the Derby every Sunday, great, I love that. I love that, and if you’re like, I just mowed the yard, this is all I got. Come on, come on. We don’t care. We really don’t care. Listen. Appearances– man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart and appearances say something about you, but they don’t say everything. And what we care about is are you connecting with God? We want you here. But be careful. Oh, it’s so easy to be tempted to focus on appearances, to judge people by appearances solely. But I hope that doesn’t happen here. I hope when it happens, we repent quickly. And then number six, believe that God can still use you. You’ve got to listen to that. You’ve got to listen. Believe he can still use you. Esther seems to have abandoned her faith in some ways. I’m not supposed to be married to a pagan, and I’m also not supposed to have intimate encounters before marriage and all that seems to be out the door. And of course, we don’t know what happened. But you look at this and you go, what is she doing? Even if you’ve made choices and mistakes and things that have set you in a direction you didn’t think you should be in, and were clearly against God’s Word, I promise you, God still has a plan to use you. He does. He does. Look at how he uses Esther. Look at how he uses Peter, a man who denied Jesus over and over again. God can still use you. God will still use you. He still wants to use you no matter what you’ve done. It may look different than you thought. It will look different than you thought. It may be unexpected in a good way. And here’s the thing that sets the gospel apart from the kingdom in Esther and the kingdom of this world: there its power, its beauty, its strength. That’s what’s praised. But God chose what is weak in this world. He chose a Jewish woman, orphan, to shame the strong. God chose what is foolish in this world. To shame the wise, God chose. Look in Isaiah 53. We cannot even look upon him. God chose what is ugly in this world to shame those who praise beauty above all else. And God chooses you not because of how cleaned up you are, how pretty you are. Your 12 months of beauty treatment. Not because of any of that. Look how much I’ve read the Bible. Look at it. This ministry I serve in. Look how… no, God chose you because you were weak. He chose you in your weakness. My prayer for each of us today is that we would just come to him repentant, sorrowful for our sin, and depending on his strength, not our own, to follow him. Let’s pray.