Esther 7 | Pleading for Your Life
Esther 7 | Pleading for Your Life
June 9, 2024 |
Sunday Morning
Esther 7 | Pleading for Your Life
John C. Majors |
Esther 7
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Well. Good morning, Valley View. Great to be with you this morning. As you can see, we are preparing ahead. We’ve decorated our stage for the new senior adults event we’re doing this week. No for VBS, trying to get ahead of the game a little bit because you know how it goes. If you if you wait till the last minute, run into problems, run into challenges. So this lets us get ahead a little bit. We’re also prepared for this in another way. How many of our men were here yesterday for our men’s event, our men’s gathering out at the ball field? Yeah, we had a great turnout. And, if you came, you got a free pair of sunglasses. How many of you were able to grab– if you had known that I bet some of the men are like, I would have come if you’d have told me that. Let me tell you. Let me show you the beauty that I picked up when I was there. These are. Now I’m really ready for VBS. What do you think? Now I can’t see anything. Know I won’t be able to read my Bible this way, but I’m ready. But look, we’re trying to get ahead of the game for VBS this week. If you have kids in that age VBS, it’s the biggest event we do as a church for the year, and it’s a great outreach to the community. It’s such a great time. You’ll want to come check it out. Now, as I said, we preparing ahead because sometimes you encounter challenges in life. In fact, sometimes it feels like all of life is stacking up against you. I thought of that this week when I ran across this image. We’ll put this up on screen. Dryer, Dishwasher, Air conditioner secretly conspire in the dead of night to all break down at the same time. Does it ever seem that way? All your appliances are having secret meetings to arrange when they’ll all quit. I had a friend send me a message this week. A guy here, he said. You know, we’ve been feeling the burden as a family to increase our giving. We’ve been praying about it. And last week I talked about that. I gave a mid-year budget update for the church, and at the end of the service, I gave time for people to respond and I’ll share the updates on that at the end of the service today. But he said, we’ve been feeling the burden to do that. And because of your prompting, we decided, yes, now’s the time for us to go ahead and increase our giving. And we get home and our microwave has quit working, and I’ve got multiple nails in the tires of my car, and it kind of felt that way as well, that the world is stacking up against me. The world is working behind the scenes against me. And I think as we’ve read through the Book of Esther, which is the passage we’ve been working through, the book of the Bible we’ve been working through, and this week we’ll be in Esther chapter seven, probably the Jews and Esther in that story felt that way. It seems like everything is at work, behind the scenes, stacking up against us. When how is this going to work out? When will it ever turn in our favor? We seem to be following God. And yet there’s this one thing after another. Whether it’s an appliance. I don’t think they had appliances, but whatever was working against them at that time. What we’re going to see today, though, is the tide begins to turn. The whole story has been building to this moment when Esther comes to the king and she has worked carefully to present, to set the situation. I’m going to ask you about this. I’m going to have a feast. I’m going to have another feast. I’ve come in my queenly robes, I’ve come in official business, and today is the day where she finally presents her request. Here is the issue we’re facing. And when she does this, we’re going to see four outcomes here four outcomes of her request. So let’s look here in Esther chapter seven and look at this first one. In fact this first outcome will be her patience rewarded, all the patience, all the waiting. And if you’re not familiar with the whole story of Esther, she’s a queen in ancient Persia. She gets put in this amazing situation. But her people are persecuted. In fact, likely will be killed, and she is called to act and put her own self, take her own life at risk, put her own self in danger on behalf of her people and here we are. Let’s look at Esther chapter seven. And if you have a church Bible, it’s on whatever page was on the screen a second ago. Page 385. We have some of these Bibles laying around. Unfortunately, we’ve run out, they’re on backorder. But if you have a church Bible its on page 385, Esther chapter seven, verse one. So the king and Haman went into the feast with Queen Esther, and on the second day, as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king again said to Esther, what is your wish Queen Esther? It shall be granted to you. What is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom it shall be fulfilled. Now, that phrase we’ve already seen a couple of times, even to the half of my kingdom. He said that a couple of times previously in a couple of previous chapters. He said to her, you ask anything of me up to half of my kingdom you can have it. But we also talked about how Esther knows he doesn’t fully mean it. I mean, don’t take advantage of his seeming generosity. I ran across the story this week about this particular king, and it was put in the context of his Greek name. His Greek name, Ahaseurus, is his name. Here it’s his Hebrew name or Persian name. His Greek name was Xerxes. And so you often hear him brought up that way. There was an ancient historian, Herodotus, and he wrote a ton about this time period, about this king, other Persian kings, about the Greek empires. If you’ve seen or heard of the movie 300 and the Battle of Thermopylae, he recorded that. That’s part of how we know a lot of ancient history. And he wrote a story about this particular king that I’m sure Esther, maybe if she wasn’t aware of, she would have known that this is part of who he was. So he was on his way to battle the Greeks. He was taking in his army. He passed through an area and he runs across this guy named Pytheas. And Pytheas was the richest man he encountered apart from himself. Pytheas says, listen, I know you’re going into battle. I want to support what you’re doing. You can have all my money. Take it all. I don’t need it. You take it. Go into battle. Flourish, prosper. I’m behind you 100%. Well, Xerxes or Ahaseurus, is so moved by this, he actually gives Pytheas money. Look, I know you’re on board with me now. You’re kind of under my rule and reign. Here’s some money to help you flourish where you are. And Xerxes goes on his way. He continues on. In fact, five of his sons. Five of Pytheas’s sons sign up for battle with Xerxes. They all take off. Now. What happens over time, though? Xerxes is traveling around visiting different cities, preparing to go into Greece in battle. He ends up back around Pytheas, his hometown. Pytheas has been thinking about this whole situation, and he’s been thinking about the reality that I’m getting older. All my sons have gone off with their resources into battle. He’s been thinking, I really could use one son back here to take care of me. And so he comes to Xerxes and he says, I have one request. And here’s what he says. He says it this way. He says, tell me whatever you ask, it’s yours. Now, we’ve already seen some of that promising before. You know what it is coming from him. We saw it with Herod. That doesn’t usually work out well. Whatever you want, it’s yours. Pytheas asked him, Would you just remove one of my sons from battle, the oldest son, so that he could care for me in my age? I’ll be able to pass on my legacy. It seems like a reasonable request right? And this infuriates him. It enrages him. He says. How dare you? He calls him, you are my slave. And here I am going into battle. I’m taking my own sons. And you’re worried about your son? I’ll grant your request. Sure. I’ll remove your son from battle. He removes him from battle and he cuts him in half. And he puts one half on one side of the road and the other half on the other side of the road. And the whole army passes through as a reminder of how powerful he is. And so Esther is entering into bringing her request to the King, knowing, I don’t know that I can fully trust this guy who knows how he’ll react. This is who we’re dealing with. But look at this moment. It doesn’t matter. This is the moment for Esther to act. There’s no longer. You can wait. She’s been building. Building tension, building interest. The king is wondering. What can this be? This must be a really big deal. She comes in her royal robes. She has a feast. Has another feast. All to prepare for the moment. To her to ask me. She can’t put it off any longer. Now is the time to act. Even if you think it may not be received, there are times where you have to act. In fact, D-Day, the anniversary of D-Day was this last week, June 6th, 80th anniversary of the invasion of Nazi occupied Europe. Were any of you there for that? Probably not here. I’m guessing there’s only. I think I heard 42 veterans left from that specific day. Maybe somebody fact check me on that. Not many. How many ever it is. But what happened on that D-Day part of the challenge was many people thought, we’re not sure if on the invasion we’ll make it or not. We’re not sure if Hitler will be able to arrange his forces against us. And many believe part of the reason why we were able to succeed is because his own army commanders were afraid of waking him up at night when the invasion started, no one wanted to stir him, rightfully so, and get his advice and say, we think this may be the invasion. We think we should step up. But look, there comes a time when you go, even if my life is at risk, now is the time. Now is the time to ask. And here’s Esther and he says, what is it? Listen, your patience now is being rewarded. What is it? Please tell me. And here’s what she says. Look back at verse three. Finally she’s going to give him an answer. Then Queen Esther answered, if I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be granted me for my wish. This is how she starts. This is the first thing she says. My life is at stake here and my people, for my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, to be annihilated. If we’d been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent. For our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the King. So here’s the moment where she’s finally able to present her request, finally able to lay it out. This is the issue I’ve been building up towards, and look at some of the layers of wisdom she applies here. The first thing she says is my life is at stake here. She hasn’t named Haman. She hasn’t said anything about the plot against the Jews. She starts with my life’s at stake, which is so wise because that’s a problem for the king. If you think your Queen’s life is at stake, you’re your kingdom is threatened. That’s as close as it can get to you. You’re going to have deep interest in that. It’s only after saying that that she mentions also my people are in danger. And notice she doesn’t name them yet. She hasn’t yet said, oh, and by the way, my people are the Jews, the ones who are likely to be killed very soon. She didn’t say any of that yet. She’s not getting ahead of it. It’s also interesting, if you look back at chapter three, just flip back a page. Haman didn’t either, by the way. He never said, oh, all this is about the Jews. Look at verse eight. Then Haman said to King Ahaseurus, this is when he was first asking the king for permission to persecute the Jews. Verse eight. Haman said to King Ahaseurus, there is a certain people scattered abroad. In fact, it literally says there, there. These one people, there’s this one group of people that are giving you problem, never names them to him. She doesn’t name them either, even though we know that he’s favorable towards Mordecai, who he calls a Jew doesn’t name them yet she’s continuing to set the stage. This issue’s about me, my safety. We’ve been sold. Now it’s important to look here at these words she uses. She’s very intentional with what she says when she describes the situation. So my life’s at risk. Let me tell you how it’s at risk. The words she uses here. We have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. Each of those words are used very purposely, very particularly. Each has a detailed purpose here. And we’re going to get a little deep in the weeds for a minute here. I’ll just have to say this on the front end, this is going to get detailed into some of the language, but I think it’s important because it helps us understand some of the confusing parts of this, helps us understand what’s happening here in chapter seven, will help us understand what was happening back in chapter three. Provide some clarity around that. A lot of it comes back to this word sold for we have been sold. Why would she point that out to him? We have been sold. The issue is not that they’ve been sold. The issue is they’re about to be killed. But there’s an interesting play on words here that is happening. And I found this dissertation from the 70s, a lady, Sandra Beth Berg, wrote. In fact, I have my chief librarian here, Mike Hampshire. He found it for me, located it, brought it to me. He works at the seminary, brought it. She pointed out a really interesting thing here. That word sold sounds the same as the word destroy in the original language. I mean, if you go back to chapter three, look, look at what he says in chapter three, verse eight. Sorry. Verse nine. If it pleased the King, let it be decreed that they be destroyed. And I will pay 10,000 pounds that word destroy their sounds the same in the original language as the word sold. Now this plays out in English all the time, right? We call those homonyms. They sound the same, but they mean different things. You hear them and when you hear them, they can sound exactly the same, even if they’re spelled different and have different meaning. Here’s an example. Last year was Eddie Lee’s last year overseeingVBS. This year, Lauren, our new children’s minister, is overseeing it now. I’m sure Eddie Lee would have loved to had a blowout year as her last year, right? Imagine if I came to her and said, I know this is your last year, what do you need? Eddie Lee, knowing that she likes to be as good of a steward of the church finances as she can, she would have said just a bare minimum. I just a bare minimum. Now, I’d be concerned because we don’t want cut corners on our kids. This is a huge event. We want to do it well. You sure? Bare minimum. Yes. That’s all I need. A bare minimum. But on opening day of VBS, I would be quite shocked if on stage she came leading a grizzly bear behind her and I’d say, what are you talking about? You said a bare minimum. No, you said a bear is okay. I said, I want a bear, a minimum of a bear. No, no, no, we’re talking about two different words here. They’ll sound the same, but they mean very different things. Now, we know Eddie Lee would never do that. She would not put our kids in that kind of risk or danger. But this is a little bit of what may be happening here. Yes, we need to destroy, I say destroy you here. Sold. In fact, this makes sense of the context back in chapter three, because look at what happens right before this. The way verse eight ends. He says this: their laws are different. He points out all the problems with this. Certain people, their laws are different, they’re dispersed across, they do not keep the king’s laws. And then he says this so that it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them. You can see some of what the King is hearing here in the context. This isn’t profiting you the way they’re acting. In fact, the word there tolerated literally means to rest. It’s not profiting you to let them rest. Let’s put them to work. Let’s sell them into slavery. Let’s get some profit out of them. And even though he means actually I want to murder, destroy, annihilate them, the King could be hearing in that moment in the context of everything he’s saying as he’s offering money, he’s just talking about selling off another group of people. This helps make sense. Go back to chapter seven of Esther’s response. I told you, we’re going to get a little deep in the weeds here, but we’re about to do it, and it’s going to set up an important point. This makes sense of how she responds in verse four. We have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. And here’s what she says. If we had been sold merely as slaves. If what you thought was happening was what was happening, If we were just only sold as slaves, no big deal. That happens all the time in your kingdom. You’re selling people left and right as slaves. Great. I wouldn’t have even bothered you. I wouldn’t have taken the time to even bother you about it. But that’s not what’s happening. We have been sold because we’ve been sold to be destroyed, killed, annihilated. Those three words were chosen very specifically because go back to chapter three, verse 13. These are the words that Haman used in the written decree. Ahaseurus said, sure, go ahead. That’s fine. Handle these people however you want. But the written decree was very specific. Yeah, they will be destroyed, killed, annihilated. Now, what’s the point of all this? The speculation about whether the word sold destroy sound the same, and how that would have misled the king. Suddenly what she’s saying is what you thought was happening hasn’t been happening. And the person who has been plotting has really been deceiving you. The person you thought you could trust has been working behind the scenes to carry out their own deeds, not concerned about you, only about themselves. And this has put my life at risk. You see how she set the stage here for the King to be extra invested in the issue? Now what happens? How does he respond to this? Look at verse five. Then King Ahaseurus said to Queen Esther, who is he? Where is he who has dared to do this? I want to know who this is. In fact, the footnote there, if you have a ESV Bible, says something like, who has filled his heart with this plan? We already talked about how Haman had been listening to his heart rather than listening to truth, who has been plotting in his heart? Who has been plotting this way against you? Against me? I need to know. This reminded me his his temperament at this moment reminded me of the whole story of David and Nathan. Do you remember that where Nathan comes to David and hey, there’s this guy who has hundreds of sheep, and he goes and steals the one sheep from the poor guy. And David goes who would do that, whoever that is, they must be punished. Nathan had him. He had his heart fully engaged. Nathan says, it’s you. That was you. David wouldn’t want to hear it before then, but his heart was engaged. The king’s heart is engaged. Who is it? She hasn’t said who it is yet. I don’t care who it is. He’s not biased. I know I’ve got to deal with this. Whoever it is, it doesn’t matter. I got to deal with this. Now here’s where she finally delivers the news. Building, building, building. She is finally going to tell him. In fact, I think as we look at the four outcomes today of her approaching the King, the first was that her patience was rewarded. He did receive her. But second, we’re going to see here evil is exposed. This is the second outcome. Evil is exposed. And here’s what she says. Esther said when he asked, who has dared to do this? Esther said, A foe and an enemy, this wicked Haman. Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen. A foe, an enemy, this wicked Haman. And here we have. When the moment comes to expose evil, which is what she does, she doesn’t hold back. And there’s something powerful here for us to take from that. I think sometimes we’re tempted when we’re encountering evil to soften it a bit. It comes the moment when you need to expose it, and for whatever reason, the temptation is to go. Maybe it wasn’t really that bad. Maybe this doesn’t have to be addressed. Maybe it can wait a little longer. But look, as Christians, it’s important to acknowledge that evil does exist and we don’t go up against evil lightly when we approach it. We use wisdom. We use patience, we use care. Notice that Esther went into this fasting, praying, gathering people around her. We don’t approach evil lightly, but yet we don’t ignore the reality that evil exists. And part of the call as Christians is to stand up against it. That could look a lot of different ways that may take patience. But if we don’t stand up against it, who will? Who will? I mean, the world is they don’t even know what is evil or good. They call good evil and evil good. Who will stand up against evil if we won’t? Again, we do it winsomely, we do it with patience, we do it unified. We do it trusting on Christ, not ourselves. But look with a word. Jesus cast out evil. His word. His name is power. And part of our call is to take a stand against evil. Now let me give a caveat to that. Just because someone opposes you doesn’t mean they are inherently evil. You know what I’m talking about. Just because your spouse or your child disagrees with you doesn’t mean that you call them Satan in the flesh. They may just disagree. You might even be wrong. But yet that doesn’t discount the reality that there is evil. There is evil in this world. We trust Christ to guide us how to engage with it and how to stand against evil. Esther exposes evil. She does it bravely. She does it directly. But also she doesn’t tell the king what to do. She didn’t tell him what to do. Haman is evil. And here’s exactly how you should deal with him. Now here’s the facts I’ve laid the facts out before you. Now how is the king going to respond to this? It’s a pretty big deal that’s been put in front of him. How is the King going to respond to this? Let’s look at verse seven. And the king arose in his wrath from the wine drinking. And he went into the palace garden. But Haman stayed to beg for his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that harm was determined against him by the king. The king does something here. I think he shows some wisdom, even as short tempered as he seems, even as rash as he seems at times. We’ve also seen him seek advice, seek counsel from others, and in this moment he steps out. I need some space to think about this. This is a big deal and part of it to us. In hindsight, reading this many thousands of years later, it seems obvious what to do. But put yourself in his shoes for a second. You’re the king and your number two guy now has been working behind you, seemingly, but you gave him approval to do it. Any action I take against him now, how’s that going to make me look? It’s a lot to juggle. It’s a lot to think through. And of course, somebody in his position is always thinking about power and perception and others see it and how it’s going to play out. And he just says, let me take a breather. Let me just take a pause and think about this. In fact, I think the third response we see in this passage, what he needs in this moment is clarity. Clarity is needed and it will be provided. But look, when you’re confused, clarity is king. That’s what you’re striving for. Give me clarity in this moment. I try to never move forward on big, difficult issues until I have clarity. Now, you don’t always have the luxury of being able to get full clarity. I’ve mentioned before, our oldest son, two years ago, he had a pretty serious mountain biking accident and we were at the hospital and we really had to make a decision pretty much right away. They gave us 24 hours to decide about a surgeon surgery to start to reconstruct his face, and we had to decide, and we prayed as much as we could. We sought as much counsel as we could, but we we wanted a lot more time than 24 hours to decide about a major surgery. But you don’t always get that luxury. Sometimes you got to decide. We took our best guess. We felt like we we did it with all the wisdom we could in that moment. But as much as you can pursue clarity, don’t rush into big decisions showing that you’re a bold decision maker. I’m the kind of person that just makes decisions. Well, okay. Seek clarity. Lean on the Holy Spirit. Gather people around you to pray and fast like Esther did. And as the King is seeking clarity, God’s providential hand is working all the time, behind the scenes all along the way. In fact, our song this morning, even when I don’t see it, he’s working. Even when I don’t feel it, he’s working. He never stops. He never stops working. And here we see where clarity is provided. Look at the next verse. Look at verse nine and the verse eight, and the king returned from the palace garden to the place where they were drinking wine, as Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was. And the king said, Will he even assault the Queen in my presence, in my own house? As the word left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face. We saw the timing all along the way of the story. Haman just so happened to be in the courtyard. The King just so happened to be awake at night, just so happens to be reading the book of the accounts of what others have done, and he just so happens to then want to honor Mordecai. It’s just one seeming coincidence after another. And here we have, as he’s entering back in, wondering what to do. Here’s Haman seeming to attack his wife, and the very words used here fulfill the prophecy that Haman’s own wife said to him. She said, this doesn’t look good. In fact, more than likely you’re going to fall before your foe. And here he is, falling before her. And in this moment the king says, now is the time I have clarity. I’ve got to act. And look at what he does. Look at verse nine. Then Harbonah, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, moreover, the gallows that Haman had prepared for Mordecai. And by the word, that word, by the way, that word gallows really just means a stake or a pole or even a tree. It could be used usually when they hung people. It’s not the kind of hanging we think of. A better word would be impale. Yeah. Haman has prepared for Mordecai the gallows whose word, Mordecai’s word saved the king, is standing at Haman’s house, 50 cubits high, and the king said, hang him on that. The very gallows that Haman, the very pole, the very stake that Haman had prepared for Mordecai, now is saved for him. And the king said, hang him on that. So they hanged. They impaled Haman on that gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai. Then the wrath of the king was abated. And I think that phrase sums up the final response here in Queen. The Queen Esther, taking the step of faith to go and confront the King. The king. The response was his wrath is satisfied. There’s a big fancy word for that in Scripture. It’s in first John 2:2. It says propitiation. God’s wrath is satisfied by a sacrifice. Big fancy word, propitiation. That’s all it means. When the wrath of God is satisfied by a sacrifice. Of course, you see that pattern all throughout the Old Testament sacrifices that satisfy God’s wrath. One of the things I love about the Book of Esther, and this is where I think this whole story is pointing towards today. All throughout the book of Esther, we just get glimpses, pointing forward to the gospel. We get glimpses of how things work, but they point forward to how they will be with Christ. And so the king’s wrath is satisfied in this story a wicked king, an unrighteous king. Maybe he’s not fully wicked, but he’s definitely not trying to follow God’s law. This king wrath is satisfied by impaling the guilty, hanging the guilty to satisfy that wrath, that anger. But all this points forward to a day when what we have done, the wrath that God has against us because of our sin against him, that needs to be satisfied too. But it’s not us that will pay for that. In fact, you can’t pay for it. You can’t do enough to overcome your sin against God. You can’t do that on your own. You need someone else to do that on your behalf. And when we look at this, we see that’s great that his wrath was momentarily satisfied in the moment by someone who sinned against him. But what do we do with that? Who do we look to? There will be a day, and there was a day that came when someone else who was perfect was impaled, was hung on a cross on our behalf. You see how the book of Esther points forward to that? It’s not what we do to satisfy God’s wrath. It’s what he did to satisfy his own wrath on our behalf. A perfect king. I was talking with a guy this week about that in particular, about coming to know Christ, and he was sharing his spiritual journey. And he said, you know, I was going to church and I really wanted to get baptized, but I wasn’t sure if God would accept me or not. I just wasn’t sure yet. And I was praying about it, and I was longing to have clarity. I was hungry to know him. And one night I had a dream and he said, in that dream I was standing just outside of heaven wondering, Will God let me? And what can I do to be brought in? And here comes in the dream. Here comes Jesus walking toward him. And he says to Jesus, he says, have I done enough? And Jesus says to him, again, this is his dream. No. No, you haven’t. And he reaches out his hand, and this guy in the dream puts his hand in Jesus’s hand, and Jesus leads him into heaven. And as they come in, he says, but I have a place here for you. You can’t do enough on your own. And like a child grabbing the hand of a trusted parent being let in not because of what he has done or not done, you can’t do enough to overcome the debt of sin that is stacked against us. We trust in him alone. It is his grace, his love for us that satisfies that wrath. Let’s pray.