Esther (Ch 1-10).
The story of a young Jewish woman who saved a nation.
This Evening I would like to talk about a young Jewish woman called Esther, a woman who saved a nation.
The story takes place during the reign of King Ahasuerus, a Persian king, who reigned about 480yrs before the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ahasuerus’ vast empire stretched from India in the East across to Greece in the west and included countries known today as Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, a total of 127 provinces.
In the third year of the reign of King Ahasuerus all the governors, military leaders and Nobles in the vast empire were invited to a feast lasting 180 days to celebrate the king’s wealth and his royal splendour. After the main feast, a second feast was held for the people of Sousa in the Palace gardens.
On the seventh day, the King summoned Queen Vashti to parade her great beauty before the people of Sousa. The Queen refused to obey, the king was furious, and issued a decree forbidding Vashti to enter his presence again.
After some week’s the king decided to take another wife and many beautiful young women, from all the provinces in the empire, were selected to be presented to the king. After 12 months of preparation, Esther, a young Jewish virgin from Sousa, was brought before the king and the king chose her, above all the women, to be the new queen. Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, now enters the story and warns Esther not to reveal her family history or Jewish heritage.
Shortly after Esther’s appointment, Mordecai, Queen Esther’s uncle, heard of a plot to assassinate the king and Esther was able to warn the king of the plot. The would-be assassins were arrested and hanged on special gallows and the stage was set for what lay ahead.
After Mordecai reported the planned assassination, Haman, a palace official, was appointed as the highest official in the whole land, and all the people were ordered to bow down to him as he was the king’s representative. Mordecai, being a Jew, refused to bow down to Haman and this infuriated Haman, who informed the king, and a decree was passed authorising the execution of all Jews.
On hearing of the decree, Mordecai, tore his clothes, and covered his body in sackcloth and ashes, and there was great morning among the Jews. When Queen Esther heard of the decree, and the mourning of the Jews, she instructed all the Jews in Sousa to fast for three days and three nights. After the three days, Esther, taking a great risk, approached the king without being summoned.
King Ahasuerus favoured Esther, and he asked her why she was troubled. Esther did not answer the king directly, instead, she invited the king and Haman to a banquet which she had prepared. The king accepted, and that night after eating and drinking, Esther invited the king and Haman to a second banquet, and promised that she would tell the king what was troubling her, after they had eaten.
Meanwhile, Haman, boasted before his family and friends, telling them how he had eaten with the king and Queen. At the same time, Haman’s fury towards Mordecai increased, and he ordered gallows, 50ft high, to be built to hang Mordecai.
That same night, the king was troubled in spirit, and had a dream reminding him of how Mordecai had saved him from being assassinated. The following morning, whilst thinking about the dream, Haman entered the royal court, and the king asked him how he should honour a person who had gained the king’s favour. Thinking that the king was referring to him, Haman suggests, dressing the person in the king’s royal robes and mounting him on the king’s horse. The king agrees, and instructs Haman, to do this for man Mordecai. Haman is furious, and humiliated but obeys the king’s command.
At the second banquet and after feasting and drinking wine, Queen Esther begs the king to save her life, and the lives of her people. The king is puzzled, and asks, “who has given such a command?”. Ester points to Haman, and says, “it is he”. The king is furious, the royal signet ring is taken from Haman, and Haman is hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai.
On the king’s instruction, Mordecai is promoted to Haman’s position. An edict is passed, and the Jews are enabled to defend themselves. The tables have turned, and all the officials, afraid of Mordecai, defend the Jews. The Jews conquer their enemies and feast is ordered on the 14th and 15th days of Adar. This feast is known as the feast of Purim, and to this day, is celebrated by all Jews, to remember the day, a Young Jewish woman saved their nation.
Well, this is a much-shortened version of the Book of Esther and I strongly suggest that you read the whole story in your Bible. But for now, let us look at some of what the book of Esther teaches.
Did you notice that God was not mentioned in this story?
In fact, in all ten chapters of the Book of Esther, there is no direct mention of God, prayer, or any other religious activity.
Even the feast of Purim is still the most secular of all the Jewish festivals.
Yet, in spite of this, Esther contains many powerful messages for us today.
Implications for Christians
Although God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, the hand of God is clearly visible.
God is not contained by time and space as we are, God knows of all things, even before they happen.
Right from the beginning God had our salvation in mind (Gen3:15) and this is why the nation of Israel was formed.
If Haman had succeeded, the Jewish Nation would have been wiped out.
It is from this perspective that we see the hand of God so clearly in the book of Esther.
The downfall of Vashti (Ch1:10-22).
It was unheard of for someone to disobey a Persian king in the way Vashti did.
This would have almost certainly resulted in execution. Yet Vashti does this.
And opportunity is created for Esther to enter the royal courts.
The appointment of Esther (Ch2:1-18).
Out of all the beautiful young women in the vast empire, Esther, a Jew, was chosen.
Surely this is more than coincidence?
Esther not revealing her Jewish heritage (Ch2:1-18).
Mordecai was not aware of the plan to exterminate the Jews at the time.
Yet he gave instructions for Esther not to reveal her religion, or mention that Mordecai was her guardian.
Mordecai overhearing a plot to kill the king (Ch2:19-23).
Mordecai happened to be sitting at the king’s gate.
He happened to overhear a plot to assassinate the king.
This enabled Esther to warn the king and for both Esther and Mordecai to gain favour with the king.
Esther and Mordecai moved into positions of power (Ch3:1-3).
Because of Esther and Mordecai’s involvement in stopping the assassination of the king.
They gain the kings favour.
And are moved into positions of power in the kingdom.
The king’s disturbed sleep (Ch6:1-3).
The king was reminded in a dream.
And was disturbed in spirit.
For not rewarding Mordecai for saving his life.
Haman’s convenient presence (Ch6:6).
Out of all the hundreds of royal officials.
At the very time the king was wondering about what to do for Mordecai.
Haman happened to be the first person the king came across.
Esther’s calling for a banquet (Ch4:16).
This was an ideal way to expose Haman’s evil plan.
At exactly the right time, Esther was able to reveal her Jewish heritage.
This took both Haman and the king by surprise.
Even though the story of Esther illustrates how God was working in order to achieve his purpose.
Both Esther and Mordecai showed great initiative and courage.
Their actions were significant to the outcome of the story.
Mordecai’s action after discovering a plot to assassinate the king (Ch2:19-23).
It took great courage, and risk, for both Mordecai and Esther to reveal this plot.
They could have simply remained quiet, but they did what was right, even at great risk to themselves.
God’s plan is often worked out through human action which requires courage, perseverance, and self-sacrifice.
This is why we are called, and equipped, by God, to do His will.
Esther’s careful planning and her willingness to risk her life (Ch4:16).
Esther did not immediately run to the king.
Or take the matter into her own hands.
She was patient and waited for the right opportunity to act.
Esther shows not only courage, but patience and wisdom before acting.
As Christians, we are led by the Word of God and by the Holy Spirit.
Often however, our plans fail because we have run ahead of God.
These examples illustrate that although God has a plan, it does not release us from our responsibility to work with God and to act with courage and with wisdom.
Implications for Christians
Esther is only part of a much larger story which runs from Abraham to Christ and through Christ to the Church,
There are countless examples in history of attacks against God’s people and how God’s purpose has been preserved.
If Haman had succeeded.
There would have been no Jewish nation.
No fulfillment in Christ,
No Gospel and no Christian Church.
The story of Esther reminds as to be alert and to act with wisdom and courage.
There is an enemy out there who never stops trying to avert God’s plan, and to attack God’s people.
The attacks continue, but in Christ we are assured of God’s protection.
ESV Study Bible 2016. Illinois: Crossroads Publishing.