Esther 6 | Not Forgotten
Esther 6 | Not Forgotten
June 2, 2024 |
Sunday Morning
Esther 6 | Not Forgotten
John C. Majors |
Esther 6
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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. We’re going to be in Esther chapter six today. And I’ve been praying that today would be a little less eventful than last week. I don’t know about you, but with all the power outages and storms and craziness, just praying it’d be a little less crazy this week. Speaking of craziness, as I was preparing for this, I was reminded of an experience when I was four years old, 4 or 5 years old. This was a winter day. I was staying with some friends. My parents were at work and the dad and mom decided they needed to go out somewhere. I don’t know why because it was snowy, icy cold and here I am in my, you know, puffy jacket can barely move slick pants, trying to open the door to the car and it won’t open because it’s frozen shut. The dad gets the other side open. So I go over there and get in. And you may remember in the 70s, those long bench leather seats in the back of the car that were a mile long and like a slip and slide if you got on them, and especially when everything was cold. So I get in there, we leave the house and we ran. The first road out of the house was the sharp corner, and I think the dad thought he was a NASCAR. He hit that corner and I go slinging across the seat on that slip and slide into the door. It flings open and I’m out on the road. Yeah, I wasn’t laughing. In fact, I was tumbling. It felt like I tumbled into Indiana from there. It was like going forever. And I finally come to a stop and I look up and the car just keeps going with the door swinging open. And I thought, they’ve left me! Like, the fall hurt, but I start crying hard at that moment because I feel like I’m being abandoned and left behind and forgotten is the phrase. In fact, as I thought of our story today, I think probably the Jews at that time felt like they had been forgotten. And by the way, they stopped probably almost immediately and got me. But it seemed like eternity to me. Laying there on the road. But have you been in those moments in life where you feel like you’ve been forgotten? God, where are you? Have you forgotten your people? Have you forgotten me? Where are you in this moment? What we’re going to see today, and we’ve seen glimpses of it all throughout Esther, but we’re going to see it today, is that God has not forgotten his people. In fact, we’re going to see four ways, in particular in this passage where he remembers his people in Esther chapter six. So if you have a Bible, turn to Esther chapter six, and if you have a church Bible, it’s on page 385 in that Bible. We’re just going to read the first verse to get our setting here, and you can follow along. As I read in Esther chapter six, verse one, on that night the king could not sleep, and he gave orders to bring the books of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. Many times people have asked me, who’s your favorite Bible character? And often I’ve answered John, understandably so. But now I have a new one. Ahaseurus likes to read late at night when he can’t sleep. He is now my new favorite Bible character, and what I appreciate is that he has specific books read to him in this moment, so he’s not able to sleep. He has books read to him. And what in particular it says is that the books of memorable deeds, you know, at this time they would have captured important things that happened in the culture in order to remember them, which is, I think, really important to do. It’s part of the reason why I journal regularly try to write down in the morning, here’s the things God has done in my life, because I’m hard wired to forget. It’s not. If I’m not intentional to remember, I naturally forget. And in this story he’s reading likely things that occurred 4 to 5 years prior, and I was reminded even recently. It’s crazy how you can forget some amazing ways God works in your life out of the blue. I was talking with my oldest son recently and just remembered an event that I had completely forgotten about when we were in seminary together, my wife and I starting out in seminary. We lived in Phoenix. This was in 2006, and we came with a plan, and it was going to cost a fair amount of money. And about halfway through we ran out and this was there was a week left to sign up for classes I had signed up. There was a week left to pay, and we didn’t have the means, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I thought, we’re just going to have to move back to Arkansas. I was in Phoenix doing ministry in Arkansas. I don’t know what else to do. I’ve tried every means possible. I didn’t feel like it’d be proper to borrow money to do ministry degree, or you’re just going to lose money, likely, but I so I didn’t know what else to do. I mentioned it as a prayer request with the pastor friend of mine to the church we go to. And no joke, a few days later I just mentioned it. Off the cuff, was a prayer request. I don’t know what to do. Would you pray? A few days later he comes back to me. It was actually the day before the money was due. just so you know, a guy at church said he’s going to cover it all. Not just this bill, but everything to come. We’re talking thousands and thousands of dollars. And he– I say he– I don’t know who it was, he didn’t tell me. I have a suspicion who it might be. Covered it all. How easy we forget God’s provision. We need to be intentional. I need to be intentional to remember. And so the king in this moment, he’s tired. It’s late at night. Come read to me of the great things that have happened in our nation. Now, the question we need to start with, though, is why can’t he sleep? We’ve all had nights where you’ve struggled to sleep, and we know from last week that he’s struggling to sleep because of the conversation he had with Esther. Esther comes to him in her royal capacity, and I’ve got an issue I need to bring up with you. It’s so important. I can’t do it now. We need to have a feast and talk about it. Actually, we need another feast for me to be able to bring it up. It’s that critical now. The last time she brought something to him, it was a threat on his life. And the last time the Queen wanted to have a feast. Queen Vashti, she rejected him. So you kind of wonder here he’s going, what is the significance? This must be very weighty. Things like that. Or the kind of things that keep you up at night. And so here he is, late at night, wondering what’s going to happen. Why can’t I sleep? The other fascinating thing about this verse, though, is that phrase the king could not sleep. The actual Hebrew behind it is more like sleep fled from him, and the same wording is used in Daniel chapter six. In fact, I mentioned last week and pointed out many of the parallels between the Book of Esther and the story of Joseph and there’s quite a few parallels as well, between Esther and Daniel. Just the overarching story of God has one of his people in a foreign land in a significant role, who’s also facing persecution, and God rescues. But Daniel chapter six, it says this sleep fled from the King. He was up all night wondering what would happen to Daniel in the lion’s den, hoping he would survive. Wondering, not able to sleep. And so here we have Ahaseurus. Also unable to sleep. Wondering. Sleep has fled from him, wondering what is going to happen with Esther. What are you doing through this? Why is Haman coming to this? Why is she inviting him? How is he involved in all of this? What is going on? Sleep has fled. He comes to remember. And here through this, we see. And actually we’ll see in the next couple of verses this first way we’re reminded that God has not forgotten. In fact, let’s look at the next set of verses here. Look at verse two. And it was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the threshold, and who had sought to lay hands on King Ahaseurus. And the king said, what honor or distinction has been bestowed upon Mordecai for this? The king’s young men who attended him said, nothing has been done for him. And the king said, who is in the court now? Haman had just entered the outer court of the King’s palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows, the gallows that he had prepared for him, and the king’s young men told him Haman is there standing in the court, and the king said, let him come in. We’ve pointed out that in the book of Esther, God’s name isn’t mentioned. It’s one of two books in the Old Testament where his name isn’t mentioned, but everything about the book is pointing out the reality that he’s at work behind the scenes. Just this story here. There are these seeming coincidences occurring one after another. The king just so happens he can’t sleep that night. He just happens to call for these specific books to be read to him that just so happen to recover events from 4 or 5 years ago, where Mordecai had been the one to report to Esther about the threat on his life. And it just so happens that as he’s reading that, Haman enters in to the room, the seeming coincidence is on top of one another. You see this and you go, these aren’t coincidences. Something else is working. Someone else is working behind the scenes to allow these things to occur. Now we also see here the beginning of this great reversal occurring in the story, because we have Haman showing up and there’s a significant contrast here. So we have the coincidences, but the contrast between Haman and Esther really stands out because here you have Haman coming to see the King uninvited, but he is coming to see Mordecai condemned, whereas Esther approached the king uninvited, coming to spare her people coming on behalf of her people, coming to rescue her people. You see this gigantic contrast between different intentions here, and this really is the first place where we see how God shows up. He hasn’t forgotten. In fact, we see justice. Remember, this is the first point in the outline. Justice remembered the first of four ways God shows that he has not forgotten his people. He remembers justice that is due to Mordecai. Now what happens? How is the King responding to Haman’s presence and the news that nothing great has been done for Mordecai? Let’s look at the next few verses here. Verse five. So Haman came in and the king said to him, what should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor? And Haman said to himself, whom would the king delight to honor more than me? And Haman said to the king, well, for the man who the king delights to honor, let royal robes be brought, ones which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set, and let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming before him, thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor. So here we have the king consulting Haman. I’ve not. He doesn’t tell who it is. I’ve not honored someone. What would you do to honor someone? It’s interesting how Haman responds. He doesn’t even hesitate. This shows that he’s been thinking about it for a while. If I could be greatly honored, here is what I would have done for me and it. It’s also interesting to note that he assumes it’s him. This is the one place so far in the book of Esther, where we actually get insight into what someone is thinking, not just what they do or say, but what they’re thinking. If you look back at that phrase in verse six, he said to himself, actually the phrase there is he said in his heart. And the problem with Haman in this moment was that he was listening first and foremost to his heart. That phrase said in his heart shows up all over the place in Scripture, and there’s a collection of ancient Jewish writings that actually went through this would have been contemporaries of Christ around that time who captured different thoughts of different rabbis, who said, there are two different ways to look at this view of saying in your heart. In fact, I’ve got a quote from one of the writings I’m going to put up on the screen that says this: the wicked are under the control of their hearts, but the righteous, their hearts are subject to them. Now here’s what that means for us. You’ve heard the phrase all the time, follow your heart. We’ve talked about this a number of times here. Follow your heart. But no, actually the point they’re making in this quote. You don’t follow your heart. You lead your heart. Don’t be led by your heart. Lead your heart to honor Christ in all things. This is the difference. Haman was listening to his heart to evil intentions rather than telling his heart, no, no, no, that is not the right way to think. Don’t think first of yourself, but let another praise you and not your own lips. But the righteous says, I’m going to deny myself. Luke 9:23- deny myself. Take up his cross. Follow him. That is how I lead my heart, not be led along by whatever whim comes along. So he listened to his own heart. Now he, God uses him here. Though, it’s interesting how God uses the unrighteous to honor the righteous. In fact, we saw first one of the ways we know he had not forgotten was that justice was remembered. But second, here praise is proposed. And this is the second way we know that he has not forgotten his people. God uses Haman to propose the right way or a way to honor his own people and look at what he says. Look at what he proposes to the King. Back in verse eight he says, let royal robes be brought, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set. There was a view at the time that a royal robe, the robe itself held the powers of the king. So for him to say we should take your very robe, one you’ve worn and put it on someone else. He’s basically saying, we need to appoint someone else as king, and he’s thinking it’s going to be him. It’s not the robe though, that makes someone- royalty is not some special super suit that you put on. It was the position of the King himself. He was the one that made the robe royal, not the robe itself. The king though, hears his suggestion and loves it. And this is where this huge reversal is set in motion. In fact, if you look back, he says, yes, go now and look at verse ten. The king said to him, hurry, take the robes and the horse as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew who sits at the king’s gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned. So Haman took the robes and the horse, and he dressed Mordecai and led him through the square of the city, proclaiming before him, thus it shall be done to the man whom the king delights to honor. So it’s interesting, he says to him, and don’t leave out anything. But what did Haman leave out? If you look at it, he left out the crown. Let’s let’s put the crown on him too when he was thinking of himself. Let’s make sure people might even think that this guy’s the king. But when Haman has to execute the very thing that he wants, he leaves out the crown in that moment. But here we get. The whole thrust of the Book of Esther start to be put in place. In fact, one of the ways we know God has not forgotten his people is reversal is served by. This is when reversal begins, when the great reversal of the Book of Esther things are set in place. In fact, that whole phrase at the beginning of chapter one, he could not sleep. That is the pivot point of the whole book. Before that, everything was going poorly for the Jews. After that, everything goes well. Everything points to everything going in their favor and reversal is begun here. This is where it starts. And so Haman carries out the order. Look at verse 12 and what happens then? Mordecai returned to the King’s Gate after he carried out the order. After he had done these things, Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman hurried to his house mourning, and with his head covered. You know, as I read that, I thought this should be the moment. This should be the moment when Haman repents. This should be the moment when he goes to the king and says, listen, King, I see that you have honored Mordecai greatly. One of the Jews. By the way, this plan I put in place was to destroy his very people. And I see now that that would not honor you, that you exalt Mordecai, the one that I have ridiculed for not standing up to me now has been put over me, and I repent. I have been wrong. Don’t you think a king would likely respond to that? I mean, who knows? It’s hard to put yourself in that time, but this should be the moment where he goes, this is not working. I need to change my ways. But he doesn’t. In fact, that word for mourning, it’s the same word used earlier when the Jews went into mourning, when their whole nation was going to be persecuted. But his mourning is a different kind of mourning. And you know what I’m talking about. And he’s, he’s not sorry that the Jews are being persecuted. No, he’s sorry that he got caught. He’s sorry that he got dishonored. You’ve seen public officials do this, right? They get on TV and apologize and no one’s buying it. I don’t need to name any names. We can all pick out someone you’ve seen. They’re sorry they got caught. They’re not really sorry for what happened. You’ve seen it. It seems so insincere. And we can’t know someone’s heart. Of course, but you’ve seen that pattern over and over again. But he’s not. He’s sorry that things aren’t going his way. And we see another contrast. Look at what it says. And with his head covered. Verse 13, Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him. The contrast here earlier, the last thing he told him, all that had happened to him. It was all the good stuff. And now the contrast. I’m back telling you everything has gone wrong and they’re perceptive enough to see what’s really happening. In fact, the fourth way we see in this passage that God has not forgotten his people is that reality has been exposed. They’re perceptive enough to see something has changed. Look at how they respond. Then his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, if Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him, but will surely fall before him. And while they were talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried to bring him into the feast that Esther had prepared. Even they, those around him, those outside the situation, were able to see. Everything has changed. Reality has been exposed here. It’s been exposed of your heart. It’s been exposed that this situation, your evil intentions now, they’re not going to go well. And a key word through this whole passage is the word hurry. You see it show up over and over again. The king said to him, hurry to honor Mordecai. Now he was in a hurry to get back to his house. And then, of course, the eunuchs arrived and hurried him along. And as I thought about that, I thought, there’s a lesson for us to take out of this, that if you find yourself, in fact, from last week. Haman hurried to come to the King. His wife said, take the night. Sleep on it. Tomorrow morning, go to the king about Mordecai. He rushed that night, hurried. If you find yourself in a hurry. Reacting to something that’s really difficult. Maybe overreacting, maybe reacting in the moment, rushing towards what you feel is judgment. Sometimes we just need to pump the brakes a bit, you know what I’m saying? You got to wait a little bit. You end up rushing into it, making things worse. Abraham Lincoln was famous for having a difficult conversation to have. Writing a letter. Maybe there was someone he needed to get rid of or reprimand him. Just writing it all out and then sticking that letter in his desk. Just let it sit. Just let it marinate. Let me think about it. Let me not just rush. How many times have you hit send on that text message or that email? And then you went, oh boy, what have I done? If I could get that back, I just just let it go ahead and write it out. Get those words out on paper. But but maybe just let it marinate. Hurry. Often times puts us in a tough situation and the story is being hurried along one event after another. The reversal has begun, and now Haman is being hurried along to the feast. And we know how things are moving along and it’s not going to be positive to him. Reality has been exposed, and I think probably the main lesson for this whole passage for us to take away from this, when we think that God has forgotten us, when it seems that he is not anywhere, you never know how he is working behind the scenes. You never know how he is working in even small, seemingly imperceptible ways. Even things like a king being up all night. You never know what he’s doing. Walk by faith and trust that he is moving. Had a situation a few years ago. This was before I came here as pastor, where I was asked to speak at a men’s event and I was honored. I really want to do it, it‚Äôs our church. It was at our church in little Rock. I said yes, but for whatever reason, about a month out leading up to it, I was feeling overwhelmed by a bunch of other stuff in life, and I just felt like, I can’t do this. I don’t want to do it. I don’t have time. I was dreading it at that point. So I called a friend of mine. He actually works as a counselor. He was a good friend before he became a counselor. But a lot of times he’ll give me good insight and advice. I called him, I said, man, here’s the situation feeling overwhelmed. I don’t want to do this. What do I do? And he said, well, can you can you call the guy who heads it up? Can you tell him, hey, I don’t think I can do this. You know, maybe he’ll understand. I can’t do that. I committed to this. I don’t know that I would feel right about doing that. And so he said, well, John, put on your big boy pants and figure out how to get your head in the space to do the thing you committed to do. And that was the last time I called him right? No, that was exactly what I needed to hear. I didn’t like hearing it, but he was right. And what’s interesting, when it came time to, I was talking with the search team here at the church, probably a year later after that event, it went great. It was a great experience. They said, we’d really like to have a video of you speaking. I only had audio clips, and the only video clip I had of me speaking anywhere was at that men’s event, you know? Now, that wasn’t the only piece in the puzzle of us having a conversation about coming here or not. But I thought, man, if I hadn’t gone through that, I wouldn’t even have a single video to share with him. And of course, I would want to see a video of someone speaking. If I were trying to hire someone to be a pastor. I also made a key connection there with the pastor, who became an important mentor to me in the transition to coming here. So you never know what God’s doing behind the scenes, and even ways that you may not feel like in the moment. And you wonder where he is and you’re feeling overwhelmed. You. You never know. Our call is to walk by faith and to trust him. I think that’s at the heart of what we see in Esther chapter six today.