ESTHER – His Love Can Never Fail (9)
A sad story, the end of a bookstore’s history. It’s the end with the closing all 399 Border’s bookstore locations of the national chain; and it will happen in just two short months.
In a letter to the more than 10,000 employees that will be soon unemployed, Border’s bookstore management chalked up the bankruptcy to pressure from “outside sources.” There’s the economy that’s hurting, there are fewer people buying books in stores, and fewer people reading books. The story of this 40 year-old company comes to a sad close. But today we turn to the end of another story; one with a bit of a happier ending. Welcome to HT, I’m CM sharing the GS that’s all about Jesus as finish a week talking about the life of Esther and a series “For Such a Time As This”. We’re calling this program “His Love Can Never Fail”. For the past two weeks we’ve enjoyed the music of Graham Kendrick – the father of praise and worship music in England – from his recent two CD project, “The Very Best of Graham Kendrick”. And if you want a blessing to start your weekend, why don’t you visit haventoday.org. watch the video shot at Coventry Cathedral in England with Graham singing his song “For This I have Jesus”. Just go to haventoday.org under the Going Deeper section. There’s where after the program you can get a copy of this new two CD set as our thanks for helping us through the summer. Or call us after the program at 1-800-654-2836. That’s 1-800-654-2836.
OPEN – For This I Have Jesus
Before we read chapter 9, let’s remember where we’ve been. I’m going to make this very abridged. Through a series of remarkable events and remarkable turnarounds, Esther and her cousin Mordecai who raised her, have become the queen and the prime minister, respectively, of the Persian Empire. The previous prime minister under Xerxes, Haman, an evil man, who had wanted to kill Mordecai, has been executed. But his genocide decree, that ordered the massacre of all of the Jews in the Persian Empire, is still in force; a decree that would be carried on in the future. In response to Haman’s decree against the Jews, Mordecai issues a decree permitting the Jews to assemble and defend themselves against attack.
That was really the situation at the end of 8. Would the Jewish response to Mordecai’s order be sufficient to counter the effect of Haman’s order? Would they be able to save themselves from extinction? Or would the forces obeying Haman’s decree overwhelm the Jews? That was the question left hanging at the end of 8. Now we get the answer in Esther 9.
1 On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the edict commanded by the king was to be carried out. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them. 2 The Jews assembled in their cities in all the provinces of King Xerxes to attack those seeking their destruction. No one could stand against them, because the people of all the other nationalities were afraid of them. 3 And all the nobles of the provinces, the satraps, the governors and the king's administrators helped the Jews, because fear of Mordecai had seized them. 4 Mordecai was prominent in the palace; his reputation spread throughout the provinces, and he became more and more powerful.
(Now we pick up in verses 16 to the end of chapter 9)
16 Meanwhile, the remainder of the Jews who were in the king's provinces also assembled to protect themselves and get relief from their enemies. They killed seventy-five thousand of them but did not lay their hands on the plunder. 17 This happened on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.
18 The Jews in Susa, however, had assembled on the thirteenth and fourteenth, and then on the fifteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.
19 That is why rural Jews—those living in villages—observe the fourteenth of the month of Adar as a day of joy and feasting, a day for giving presents to each other.
20 Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, 21 to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar 22 as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.
23 So the Jews agreed to continue the celebration they had begun, doing what Mordecai had written to them. 24 For Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them and had cast the pur (that is, the lot) for their ruin and destruction. 25 But when the plot came to the king's attention, [a] he issued written orders that the evil scheme Haman had devised against the Jews should come back onto his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. 26 (Therefore these days were called Purim, from the word pur .) Because of everything written in this letter and because of what they had seen and what had happened to them, 27 the Jews took it upon themselves to establish the custom that they and their descendants and all who join them should without fail observe these two days every year, in the way prescribed and at the time appointed. 28 These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory of them die out among their descendants.
29 So Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, along with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter concerning Purim. 30 And Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews in the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Xerxes—words of goodwill and assurance- 31 to establish these days of Purim at their designated times, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had decreed for them, and as they had established for themselves and their descendants in regard to their times of fasting and lamentation. 32 Esther's decree confirmed these regulations about Purim, and it was written down in the records.
From that reading you know one of the reasons why Esther was written. It was to document why the Jews celebrate Purim, as they do to this day. Whenever Purim is celebrated, the book of Esther is read in its entirety in the synagogues. The children have noisemakers, so whenever Haman is mentioned, the children clack loudly to make harsh noises and when Mordecai is mentioned, there’s cheering. It’s wonderful. It’s sort of like the old melodramas where you hiss the enemy and cheer the hero.
I want to show you this morning just one foundational truth from this closing of the story of Esther. This foundational truth was true then and is true still today and impacts your life today.
Foundational truth number one: God does what He promises. The only thing between what God promises and what He fulfills is time; the amount of time it takes for His promises to be fulfilled.
I don’t know how you reacted when you heard this being read. I know how I reacted when I read it. The whole reading felt anti-climactic to me. Did it to you? These closing chapters are written in a different style and they don’t have the dramatic tension that the previous chapters had. The author dispels tension by telling us, right up front, verse one, that the tables are turned and the Jews win here. There’s no buildup. We know exactly what happened on the 13th of Adar. “On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them.”
I believe this anti-climactic feel to chapter 9 is actually intentional and I also think it’s theologically significant. Here’s why. As you know, as we’ve emphasized all the way through Esther’s story, even though God isn’t mentioned in this book – something unique about Esther – we’re to see God everywhere. God is on every page. He’s the unseen actor working behind the scenes in all of these events in Esther. So when Mordecai issues his decree to save the Jewish people, God’s chosen people, we are to see it and understand it fundamentally as God’s decree. It’s God using Mordecai as His agent. It’s God announcing the salvation of His people.
Here’s the point. I like the way one commentator put it. “The author is showing it is God’s decree – His word – that assures the survival of His people. The rest is just detail.” I think that’s very insightful. We’ve got God’s decree coming through Mordecai, that word that saves the Jews. As we read Esther, as Christians, we ought to see in the word of Mordecai, the prefiguring of God’s best and last word. That, of course, is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Remember how the book of Hebrews opens? In former days, God spoke at various times and in various ways, through the prophets, but in these last days, He has spoken to us by His son. And the rest is, as I’ve described it before, just mop-up. It’s just finishing what was started earlier in the book. As a believer in Jesus Christ, if that describes you, your destiny was assured before time. But the way that destiny was fulfilled was at the cross. Nothing, or no one, can now take Jesus’ life, that is in you, away from you. As Paul said in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” He will. All those other things are just the details. He’s already given us His son. Don’t sweat the rest. It’s the detail, it’s mopping up. The victory, your victory, is inevitable. There’s no drama. No uncertainty. No tension about it, no matter how unlikely it seems right now. No matter what condition your life is in right now. No matter how messed up and dark and mysterious your life seems right now. You think you’re backed into a corner; a place you can’t escape. If you’re in Jesus Christ’s hands, victory is inevitable. It’s assured. It’s done. The rest is just detail.
I think that’s what Esther 9 is showing us. It’s just the detail. It’s just mopping up because once God spoke through Mordecai, victory was assured.
One quick side bar: One of the best things about this book has been the very realistic picture of how God works in our lives today. Absent from Esther are any real miracles. It’s God behind the scenes, invisibly, quietly but certainly, bringing about His purposes; affecting His promises. The remarkable thing is, He’s not hindered by our mistakes or our failures or our doubts or our compromises. God, in fact, somehow mysteriously, decreed even our mistakes and weaves them together into His plan so that His promises are always perfectly fulfilled. He’s the ultimate actor. What I want you to see is, even though God is the invisible, ultimate actor, the Jews in the Persian Empire still had to plan, they still had to prepare. They still had to assemble and fight in order to bring about the salvation that God had decreed.
There’s an important reminder here. If you’re a Christian, if you claim the name of Jesus, you are not a Christian because of anything you’ve done. You’re not a Christian because of your good works. You’re a Christian because of Jesus’ good works. Even the most devout follower of Christ has no grounds to boast that he’s a better Christian, somehow, because of what he has done. No. We only boast in what Jesus, the One we follow, has done. But that doesn’t mean, even though we stand on the sufficiency of what God has done in Jesus, it doesn’t mean we can sit around and do nothing. The Jews in Persia didn’t sit around and do nothing, even though they were trusting in God to save them.
Ephesians 2:8-10, “8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” What’s Paul saying? He’s saying you’re not saved by your good works. But, as a Christ-follower, you’re saved for good works and God has prepared those good works for you to do. And the other reminder is that God uses ordinary people to do those good works, to bring about His kingdom, to put into effect His promises.
Mordecai and Esther were ordinary people. They rose to become prominent: the queen and the prime minister. Mordecai was just a civil servant in Xerxes’ empire when the book opened up. Esther was just a Jewish girl, a Jewish orphan in the Persian Empire. We know nothing of all of the Jews that were used that day, the thirteenth day of Adar, to ultimately save the lives of all God’s people in Persia. The point is He uses ordinary people. He uses you. God is in control of every detail of your life, all of the events, all of the details are under His sovereign providential control. When you read Esther, we may think, “There are no miracles.” But then, as we reflect, we start to see: providence is the biggest miracle of all. How does God pull that off? It’s so huge and it’s happening around us all the time so we might miss it. But God, in His providence, has you right where you are because that’s what He has decreed for you. You’re working for what God has lovingly planned for you and He’s going to use all your labors to bring about His kingdom, to bring about His purposes.
CLOSE – You Are God Alone – Steve Green – Love Will Find A Way 2010
A special to thanks to a listener whose name is Lane. You know who you are and where you live. Thank you. Lane wrote yesterday to say, “Thank you for the lessons from Esther about god's faithfulness. I pray you will see God's hand manifest in your call for help.” It is summer and most years the gifts we receive fall off this time of year. It’s kind of like a church, when people leave on vacation. Attendance goes down, but so does the giving. I would just like to say thank you for you all you can do to help us share the GS of Jesus. And just as I’m asking for your generosity, I want HAVEN to minister to you. So when you call 1-800-654-2836, that’s 1-800-65-HAVEN or go online to haventoday.org. that’s haventoday.org, please make the best gift you can to HT, but also please ask for a copy of the two CD set by Graham Kendrick, The Very Best of Graham Kendrick. If you don’t know whether you want the CD set, just go online and watch the video I mentioned earlier with the song “For This I Have Jesus” which is featured on the very best of Graham Kendrick.
My prayer you’ve been encouraged by this series from the book of Esther called, “For Such a Time As This.”
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