Esther 1-10 - The Bible from 30,000 Feet - Skip Heitzig - Flight EST01
The Bible from 30,000 Feet, soaring through the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Father, we thank You tonight. We have so much fun worshipping You and these great truths that we sang. They are life-transforming truths. They wouldn't be if we were just singing positive things into the air. Were there not a God behind those truths answering prayers, intervening in lives, it would be senseless and powerless.
But because You are the same yesterday, today, and forever and because You're the God of the Word and we're studying the Word of God written by You, we believe, inspired by Your spirit, we pray, Lord, that You would break the bread of life to us. Even though we're doing an overview of a book, I pray that You would bring out the lessons that we need to learn and that our lives would grow because of it. In Jesus' name, we ask. Amen.
One of my favorite Spanish words-- not that I'm great at Spanish, though I do love the language. But one of my favorite words in Spanish is the word [SPANISH]. And it's "star." And I love it because, first of all, it just sounds good. It's got this sweet sound. It rolls off the tongue-- [SPANISH]. I love that.
That is the name of the book that we are studying. It is the Book of [SPANISH]. Esther means star. Her Hebrew name was the name Hadassah, which means myrtle, myrtle tree. And you go, I don't get it-- star, myrtle?
Well, her Jewish name, Hadassah, is the myrtle tree, and the myrtle tree that was native to Babylonians that is now transplanted in the land of Israel, that species puts out a flower that is like a starburst. So some think that there is a relation between those two names. But she really is the star of this book.
Her name is mentioned right off the bat at the top of the page. Like the Book of Ruth, she is the star of the story. She is the main character. And one of the refreshing things we have seen-- and we'll see as we go on-- is that at critical, crucial times in history, God raises up unique women who relentlessly hear God's voice and pursue His will.
People like Ruth, people like Esther, people like Deborah, who was one of the judges in Israel during the Judges. A woman by the name of Yael or Jael, you may know her as, very bold warrior in the book of Judges. A prophetess named Huldah. And in the New Testament, a gal by the name of Priscilla, who, as you know, is the wife of--
--Aquila. So they'd never forget their names because they rhymed. So these were very unique women who followed God's will. Esther is the star of this book. Now, you might say, no, she's not. God is the star of this book. Well, of course God is the star of every book in Scripture. But interestingly, the name of God does not appear in this book even once.
And because of that, you might think God is absent from the book because the covenant names, the typical names, the variety of ways God is described in name in the Old Testament is not found in this book. Also, what's not in this book is there's no reference to prayer, no reference to faith, no reference to the law of Moses. No New Testament writer ever quoted this book.
It is not found among the biblical scrolls of the Dead Sea Scrolls that were uncovered in Israel. Martin Luther wished this book had never been written, he said. Now don't take Martin Luther too seriously. He said that about a few books in the Scripture. He didn't like James either, didn't care much for the Book of Revelation as well.
To me, this is the beauty of the book. God is in the book. He's just not overtly in the book. He's not apparently in the book. Oh, but He is in the book. Not in a miraculous way. Not in an audible way. Not in a part the Red Sea kind of a way or manna come from heaven kind of a way. But God, like John Nelson Darby-- my favorite quote of his, he said, God's ways are behind the scenes, but He is-- "God's ways are behind the scenes, but He moves all the scenes that He is behind."
So God is in the book, but you won't find His name. But you will find a characteristic of God in this book, the characteristic of providence, providence, a very important thing. God's providence is different than His miraculous, where you definitely see God intervening in human affairs. It's a miracle. It doesn't happen, but it happened.
The water parted. Manna came from heaven, et cetera, et cetera. A miracle-- God overrides, overturns the laws of nature and does something miraculous. In providence, God takes the natural and uses it supernaturally. God is moving supernaturally naturally. That's providence.
He takes the affairs of normal everyday human life, decisions that people make, laws that politicians pass, accidents that seem to happen, and He moves in those things so that all things work together for good-- Romans 8:28-- to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.
So Matthew Henry said about this book, God's name is not in it, but God's hand is certainly in it. You see His fingers all over the narrative, all over the story. And here's the truth, baby Ruth.
God does not owe you an explanation. Or He doesn't have to report to you when He does things a certain way, when He operates a certain way. He can work through something that seems even ungodly and unholy. But God can work His magic through it, so to speak. Ephesians 4-- Paul said, "God works all things according to the counsel of His will."
Now I see value in the Book of Esther. For those of you who might think of your life as a mundane life, an average ordinary life, and you look at your life and you go, I'm in the workplace. I don't know if my life has real purpose or much significance. I'm a plumber. I'm an engineer. I'm a lawyer. I work in a medical office. I just have a regular job. It's not all that dramatic. It's not all that wow of an occupation.
This is the story of a girl, a Jewish girl who gets elevated to princess and queen in a pagan court, but God has her there for a very specific season and for a very particular reason. She doesn't know it until the story unfolds. But she will discover in the normal occurrences of life what God wanted her to do.
Now, Esther, though it is found where it is found in your Old Testament, in the Hebrew Scriptures, it is in a little section toward the end of their Bible called the Ketuvim. The Ketuvim are the writings. And a portion of the writings in the Jewish Bible, the Hebrew Bible, is known as the Megilloth.
I'll spell it for you if you're taking notes. I only see a few of you taking notes. So for those of you who are, Megilloth, M-E-G-I-L-O-T-H. Megilloth means the Five Scrolls. And the Five Scrolls in the Hebrew Bible comprised of the Song of Solomon, the Book of Ruth, the Book of Lamentations, the Book of Ecclesiastes, and the Book of Esther.
All of these little books, all of these scrolls in the Megilloth, the Five Scrolls, are recited at different celebrations or commemorations in the Jewish calendar. So for example, the Song of Solomon is read every Passover. The Book of Ruth is read every Pentecost, the Feast of Pentecost.
The Book of Lamentations, which describes the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, is read in a special commemoration called Tisha B'Av or the ninth of Av. That's a date in the Jewish calendar when the temple fell. It is read every Tisha B'Av.
The Book of Ecclesiastes read during the Feast of Tabernacles. And the Book of Esther is read during a Jewish feast known as the Feast of Purim. Now, if you just know the first five books of Moses, if you know your Old Testament up to that place, you're thinking, what is the Feast of Purim? I never read that in the Law of Moses. And you're correct.
But you will read about that feast starting here. It is a Jewish feast. It is not one of the Levitical feasts in the Law of Moses. But it was initiated and inaugurated in Persia, and it has been kept ever since. Without the Book of Esther, we would not know what life was like for the Jews who were left behind in Babylon.
Remember I told you Israel was-- or Judah was taken captive by the Babylonians. And then the Babylonians were overtaken by the Medes and the Persians. And then the decree went back for the Jews to return to their homeland, and a very few went back. Only 50,000 or so went back from Persia to Jerusalem to rebuild.
So 50,000 returned. Over one million stayed. So we know what life was like for those who came back to rebuild under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. We've read already about that. But we might be wondering, well, what was life like back in Persia? Though I can't tell you all of what life was like, although they probably had it pretty good, the Jews did because a million of them wanted to stay, didn't want to go back. So life is pretty good.
We get insight into a crisis and how the crisis is met, the overriding of this crisis. So we're going to be introduced quickly to a crisis by the time we get to chapter 2, and the plot thickens in chapter 3, et cetera. But what we're going to discover is that God is the God of the crisis as well as the God of the calm.
When things are calm, we go, oh, this is so peaceful, man. This is the Lord. But when we get a crisis, where's God? He didn't leave. He's right here. You may feel distressed. God doesn't panic. He's good. He's the God of the calm as well as the God of the crisis. So whether you have peace or you're in a predicament, God is present.
The Book of Esther divides up into three sections. Chapters 1 and 2, the first section is supernatural providence. This is where God moves behind the scenes to set things up. Chapter 3 through 5, the plot thickens, and so it's satanic plottings. And the last part of the book, chapter 6 through 10, sovereign protection. Let's consider the first as we get into Esther chapter 1 verse 1.
Let's look at the Providence of God. Now the book opens with a party. "It came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus-- this was the Ahasuerus who reigned over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia." Ahasuerus is better known in history by his Greek name Xerxes spelled with an X. Xerxes' dad was Artaxerxes, who let Nehemiah, his cupbearer, go back to Jerusalem.
So the book of Esther is a book that transpires between the Book of Ezra chapter 6 and Ezra chapter 7. Artaxerxes becomes the king in the Book of Nehemiah. This is now his son, Xerxes, or we call it here Ahasuerus.
"In those days"-- verse 2-- "when King Ahasuerus"-- now Ahasuerus means mighty or mighty man or even lion in the Akkadian language. So his name means lion. He's king. So this is the first lion king. He's not Simba, though. This is Ahasuerus.
So the lion king sat on the throne of his kingdom, which is in Susa or, translated in my translation, Shushan the citadel, one of those four kingdoms, cities in the Persian Empire, the spring residence. It says "that in the third year of his reign, he made a feast for all of his officials and his servants-- the powers of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the princes of the provinces being before him-- when he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty for many days, 180 days in all."
This is one long party. This is a six-month party paid for by the government. Talk about government wasting your taxes.
A six-month party. Now, the year that this is happening is 483 BC. What is happening? Out west, there's a king that is on the rise named Philip of Macedon. And it is the rise of the Grecian Empire, which will soon take over the world. So this six-month feast bringing in these different governors of city-states that are under his control.
But he still has to manage them, and he has to do it delicately. It is believed by scholars the reason for a long feast was to sell them a war plan. They need to go to war. He needs to get an army. He has to fight this incursion of the Greeks. Now eventually, he's going to lose because the Greeks are going to overthrow the world, right?
Philip of Macedon will have a son named Alexander, who thought he was really great. And he was. He was Alexander the Great. And he takes over the world, takes over the Persian Empire so that the first world-governing empire was Babylon, the second Medo-Persia. The third was Greece.
Alexander will quickly take over the world. He will put pockets of Greek culture all around the world. He will build a road system that will later on be expanded on by the Romans so that by the time of the New Testament, the world speaks a common language and the Gospel can travel on this network of roads built by the Romans, started by the Greeks. And the Gospel can travel in the most precise language ever, the Greek language.
So we're starting to see behind the scenes God setting up just the perfect events for the New Testament to happen. Galatians chapter 4, verse 4-- "In the fullness of the time, God sent forth his Son, born of a virgin, born under the law." When? In the fullness of the time. When the time was ripe, plump, just right.
So six-month feast followed by-- verses 5 through 7-- another feast. This is a seven-day feast. And it seems that the king is thanking all of his palace officials for helping him put on the first feast. That's the background. Verse 9-- "Queen Vashti"-- that's his wife-- "Queen Vashti also made a feast for the women in the royal palace, which belonged to King Ahasuerus."
Now social custom is that men and women didn't eat together. It is still that custom in the East in many places. I remember the first time I went to Thailand for a pastors conference, and it was time for dinner. And we were served by a group of women who prepared the food, and they served the men. And then they went to another place to eat themselves or to eat the food for themselves.
And I remember when the women came by with the food, I got up out of my seat and offered it to one of the gals. And I was reprimanded by one of the leaders. You do not do that in our culture. The men eat alone. The women eat separately. Such was the policy in the kingdom of Persia. So they had their own meal times. They had their own festivities.
And so the King, Ahasuerus, commands his wife, Vashti, to be brought in to his feast with all of those provincial rulers coming. I think he wanted to showcase his wife. She was probably a trophy wife. And it's like, hey, check out my woman, and parade her before the men. We don't know if it was lewd. It probably was rated PG, not R. I think it was probably OK.
But here's a note. She refuses to come. But history tells us that Vashti the queen was the granddaughter of somebody very famous, King Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian emperor who had preceded the Persian Empire. This was the granddaughter now married to King Ahasuerus. So she's probably a bit spoiled. And Hasi, her husband-- she probably called him that, Ahasuerus. Hasi wants me to come in. I'm not going. She puts up a fight.
Verse 12-- "But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command brought by his eunuchs. Therefore, the king was furious." Now it doesn't end there. It says, "He was furious, and his anger burned within him." The author wants you to know this guy went on a tirade. He wasn't just miffed. He was angry, and the anger boiled within him.
I think the author did this because King Ahasuerus was known, had a reputation for his fierce anger. Example-- at one point in history, King Ahasuerus had a bridge built over the Hellespont, a river out in the Western Empire in Greece. The bridge was built by 300 men.
The bridge was destroyed by a huge storm that came from the sea, wiped out the bridge, and destroyed several of his ships. He was so angry that he waded out from the shore into the sea and started striking, beating, hitting the ocean.
Like that would do a whole lot of good, right? But this is the kind of temper that he had. He started beating the waves, beating-- you bad ocean. I'm going to get you back.
But then he took the 300 men that built the bridge and had them all beheaded. So maybe he thought they didn't do a great job. That's why it got destroyed. So this is the kind of temper that he had. So he gets angry, and his anger boils within him. Why? Because his wife just said no. This king had never faced feminism before.
He didn't know what to do with the wife who said no to his command from the king. So he consults with his staff. One of his chiefs of staff by the name of Memucan mentioned in the text advises that the king depose her from her throne and send out a decree that all the women in the Persian Empire, you better obey your husbands.
So he does that. Now, between chapter 1 and 2-- and we'll speed up. Trust me. Between chapter 1 and 2, a very important thing takes place in history, not mentioned in the Bible. But historically, we know what takes place. There is a battle out west called the Battle of Thermopylae.
Some of you don't know about that battle. But some of you do know of the movie called the 300. And the movie was based upon the historical Battle of Thermopylae when the Spartan leader Leonidas takes his 300 Spartan men along with a cohort of other armies from Greece, and they fight the Persians.
It was a fierce battle. King Ahasuerus, though eventually he's going to outflank them and technically win the battle, he retreats from the battle, goes back home in very low spirits. They underestimated the Greeks. Now, the Greeks are going to take over the world soon. They're going to be in charge of the world.
And what the Persians discovered, though they came at the Greeks with a massive army and the Greeks had a few men in comparison to the large army, they started realizing that though they had many men in the Persian army, the Greeks emphasized the individual man, the individual soldier. They trained each soldier well, equipped him well strategically.
So there was a saying that one Greek soldier was worth 10 Persian soldiers. And eventually, the Greeks, though much smaller, they're more rapid. They're fleet of foot. They can travel great distances. They will take over the world. So Ahasuerus comes home. He's in low spirits. He turns to his harem for comfort. Remember his wife is gone. And all the while, God is lurking in the shadows.
Chapter 2, verse 1-- "After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her. Then the king's servants who attended him"-- they saw this king in low spirits. He's going, I miss my woman. I know I've got a harem of all these women, but I miss my wife, the queen.
"So the king's servants who attended him said, 'Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king.'" So this is the first beauty contest. Why? So the king could pick a new queen, a replacement for Vashti. There's a man in the court named Mordecai who hears about this. Mordecai is the cousin of Esther, Hadassah. He hears of it.
Verse 7-- "And Mordecai had brought up Hadassah"-- her name means Myrtle-- "that is Esther,"-- name means star-- "his uncle's daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman was lovely and beautiful. When her father and mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter."
Now, the name Mordecai is not a Hebrew name, even though a lot of Jewish people today will go by the name of Mordecai or call their sons Mordecai. It's a Persian name, an Akkadian name. And it is related to the false god Marduk. Think of it-- Mardukai. That's Mordecai. Just like Esther is related to the Babylonian goddess of love Ishtar, also represented by the star or Venus, so is Mordecai.
Now, something's going on here. Mordecai hears of this, and he goes oh, I'm going to take my cousin Esther and put her in this beauty contest. Now, first of all, he's Jewish. She's Jewish. The Law of Moses, that is not mentioned here.
But if they knew it, it all forbids marrying pagans. So this is against the Law of Moses. And if she loses the contest, he knows, Mordecai knows that she will end up just in the harem as a sex slave, a sexual slave for the pleasure of King Ahasuerus. So this is a great risk he is taking.
And here's a little bit of insight into the Jews who are left back in the kingdom of Persia, that they are far enough away from God that I think we could say they're in a backslidden state. He's not doing what God commanded them to do. He's putting her at great risk. And yet, and yet here's where providence comes in. God is still in control. God is still going to move behind the scenes.
If you know the book, you know the outcome. According to Josephus, the historian, the Jewish historian who wrote during the time of Christ for the Romans, he said, "Esther surpassed all women in beauty in the entire habitable world." That's a direct quote from Josephus.
Now, we don't know if that's true or not. That's sort of hearsay. Josephus didn't lived during that time. It could have just been passed on as folklore. But nonetheless, she was a girl, I think we can presume, who was quite a looker. She was beautiful.
Verse 12-- "Each young woman's turn came to go in to King Ahasuerus after she had completed 12 months' preparation"-- Think of it, gals. 12 months of beauty treatments. "--according to the regulations for women, for thus were the days of their preparation apportioned-- six months with oil of myrrh, six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women." Men--
--can I just speak to you frankly?
Don't get upset if your wife spends a few hours at a beauty salon. Come on. This is 12 months. Or if she spends a little longer than you'd like in the beauty supplies of the department store. Now, women, think of what this means. Think of what it would be like to be in her spot.
No job. No cooking. No cleaning. No laundry. No errands. No budget to worry about. You can have whatever you want. You can have whatever beauty supplies you want. Unlimited, 12 months, they just keep pouring in. Talk about being pampered.
Something you need to know-- the Bible does allow for physical beauty, certainly acknowledges physical beauty, is not down on physical beauty. But don't get so hung up on physical beauty that you neglect spiritual beauty. It's OK to be beautiful. It's OK to do the best with whatever you got, right? Men and women, right?
But not to the neglect of the inner man, the inner person, the spiritual person. Peter writes, "Do not let adornment be merely outward-- arranging of the hair and wearing of gold, putting on fine apparel. Let it be of the inner hidden person of the heart."
I have discovered just a trait that is, I think, human nature. Most humans don't like their appearance. Most people don't like their appearance. Some of us do. We don't care. But most people don't. And some people don't care because they just think, why bother?
But of all the polls I've ever read and discussions I've read about this in articles, most people want to change their appearance. I've had the same guy who cut my hair for years. And I said, let me ask you just a question. A lot of people come. What do you notice-- what is the one thing-- of all the people you've ever cut their hair or colored their hair, what have you noticed?
He goes, bottom line, nobody's happy. People with straight hair want wavy hair. People with curly hair want straight hair. People with blond hair want dark hair. People with dark hair want blond hair or red hair or purple, whatever. Everybody wants a different color or a different look. And it's like they want the opposite of what God gave them. That's just human nature, it seems. But in Babylon, come on, 12 months, all expense paid.
So verse 16-- "Ester was taken to King Ahasuerus into his royal palace"-- I'm reading verse 16-- "in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth in the seventh year of his reign." And it says, "The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins. So he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti."
She is Jewish. She has not told the king of her Jewish background, nor did uncle or cousin Mordecai reveal that he is Jewish. Now, that will come up soon enough. It seems that she uses her position as the new queen of the empire to get Mordecai, her cousin, a raise, a position in the courtroom a little bit closer.
Because at the end of this chapter, verses 21 to 23-- actually, verse 19 down-- he is in the gate. He is sitting in the gate. So he is probably a judge in the royal court. While he is there in the royal court, he hears of a coup to kill King Ahasuerus. He hears of it.
He uncovers it. He gives the names of the guys who are trying to kill the king. That plan is thwarted. But Mordecai is not recognized for it. He's not rewarded yet. That's the operative word, yet. This is where providence will come in. He will be rewarded but not yet.
I hope that word comforts you in this sense. Whenever you seek to do good or live justly or live selflessly, you won't get rewarded immediately. You won't be noticed yet. You might not ever be noticed on this Earth. But you will have a reward in heaven. And Jesus said, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth cannot destroy, rust cannot corrupt."
So he uncovers it. Nobody notices. He doesn't get rewarded yet. But as we said in previous books, big doors swing on small hinges. So this patriotic act, though not rewarded, is written down. It is recorded. It is placed into the historical chronicles of the kingdom of Persia. We'll see it.
Chapter 3, we get to phase two of the Book of Esther. And that is after the supernatural providence comes this satanic plotting. Verse 1 of chapter 3-- "After these things, King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite." That's a hard word to say. I hate to have to tell people. Well, what's your nationality? I'm an Agagite.
I gag just saying Agagite.
But it says it right here. Not only was he the son of Hammedatha, which is a hard name, but he's an Agagite. "--and advanced him and set his seat above all the princes who were with him. And all the king's servants who were within the king's gate bowed and paid homage to Haman, for the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai would not bow or pay homage."
I have an odd question. Who cares if he's an Agagite? Why does the Holy Spirit bother to place that in the text so that I have to read it and say that weird name? Agagite. Why does the Holy Spirit think it important to give you the information of his background?
I believe for this reason. The Holy Spirit wants the reader, you and I, to know how far reaching is the cost of disobedience. You say, Skip, I don't understand. What you mean? Well, way back in 1 Samuel chapter 15, King Saul was given a command to fight the Amalekite army and destroy the Amalekites because of what they had done to almost completely annihilate the Jews at a previous episode. Annihilate them. Kill them.
And King Saul thought, oh, yeah, I don't know if he means that literally or if I should just like kill a few bad guys. But he brings some of the animals for himself, and he spares King Agag. Agag was the King of the Amalekite. He spares the king.
He comes back, and he says to Samuel, I've done all that God wanted me to do. And Saul goes, really? Why do I hear sheep bleating and cows mooing? And who is Agag? Why do you have Agag here?
He goes, well, I've done this to sacrifice to the Lord. He goes, the Lord didn't need your sacrifices. To obey is better than sacrifice. To heed is better than the fat of rams. Then Samuel the prophet took out a sword, and it says he hacked Agag in pieces. Don't mess with Sam.
Sam, Samuel the prophet. So some of the Agagites, some of the Amalekites escaped. And you might think, well, God is sure harsh to command the annihilation of all the Amalekites. Had the Amalekites been destroyed, this threat to annihilate the entire Jewish population in Persia would not have come up.
It did. That disobedience was far reaching. And probably Haman remembered that from his history. And maybe he wanted revenge. So he decides to act, and he acts in the worst possible way. Verse 6-- "But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him of the people of Mordecai.
Instead, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, the people of Mordecai." That's a million people, a complete genocide of the Jewish nation.
Verse 9-- Haman said, "If it pleases the king, let a decree be written that they be destroyed, and I will pay 10,000 talents of silver." Now 10,000 talents of silver was about a third of the entire revenue of the Persian Empire. Where is he going to get that kind of money?
Well, if you kill a million Jews and you take all of their plunder, you'll have that. So he thought, I'll kill them and take the money and put it back into the treasuries of this nation. I'll show you why that's important in a minute. "--to bring it all into the king's treasuries."
Now the Persians had just suffered militarily by all these battles in fighting the Greeks, right? The Greeks were threatening them, Philip of Macedon. Alexander the Great will eventually take over. So they're having this problem on the western front of the empire.
So they are low financially. Their morale is down. They have been defeated in war. If you can eliminate this group of people and use their resources, you can build up the kingdom again. So Haman sends letters with the king's signet ring put on it or his authority to the 127 provinces that on a certain date, all the Jews will be eliminated.
This sounds suspiciously like what happened in the early 1940s in Germany when Hitler and his henchmen decided, we have to solve the-- they called it the Jewish problem. Let's eliminate the race altogether. Let's demonize them. Let's say that they are subhuman.
Let's give them a derogatory name, [GERMAN] in German. And let's make them wear a Star of David and mock them and tear their businesses away from them and their families and put them in concentration camps. Let's solve the Jewish problem.
Haman thought, I don't like the Jewish people. There was an ongoing anti-Semitism at that time. Let's just destroy the Jewish people. So now you have anti-Semitism legalized. Now, remember the premise that I gave you in weeks past and in years past if you've been a part of this church. Think of the satanic strategy.
If God promised that through the seed of a woman, one is going to be born who is going to crush the head of the serpent that is Satan, now you have to determine, who is that seed of the woman? Where's that seed coming from? How can I destroy the people so I can destroy the promise of God in sending the deliverer?
So here's the premise. If God's plan of redemption requires the existence of a nation and the continuance of that nation, if you can destroy that nation, you can thwart God's purpose. That's why you see all the anti-Semitic attacks through history, including biblical history and post-biblical history. It's part of Satan's attempt to overturn the promises of God.
Chapter 4, verse 1-- "When Mordecai learned of all that had happened, he tore his clothes, put sackcloth and ashes on his head, went out into the midst of the city. He cried out with a loud and bitter cry." He is reactive emotionally. But he is proactive strategically.
He goes and tells the plan to his cousin Esther, informs her of the decree through a group of translators, a group of people who worked for her as servants in the court. Verse 13, chapter 4-- "And Mordecai told them"-- that is, the servants of the queen-- "to answer Esther, 'Do not think in your heart that you will escape the king's palace any more than all the other Jews.
For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place." That's a significant statement. "But you and your father's house will perish." Best verse, best phrase in the whole book is right here. "Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
Now God is not mentioned in this book. But I believe in this verse, He is certainly implied. How is He implied? Well, Queen Esther, if you don't do anything, just know this. You're going to die, but there will come deliverance from somewhere. How could he say that?
I believe those are words of faith of a Jewish man, backslidden though he may be, who understood the covenant that God gave to Abraham. Genesis, chapter 12-- "I will bless those who bless you. I will curse those who curse you." Genesis 15-- "I will make your descendants like the stars of heaven, like the sand of the earth."
He knew that God made a covenant with these people, and he was convinced by faith that God somewhere from some place would send deliverance. But I love this. "Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Maybe the whole reason you're the queen of this kingdom is to be an instrument to save the Jews.
So number one, the plan of God is not thwarted. He believed that. Deliverance will come from another place. And number two, he is saying, I don't believe that your appointment as queen is accidental but providential. It's by God. Though He's not mentioned, He is certainly implied. God is behind the scene. He's saying, cousin, this could be your finest hour.
Now, the response to Mordecai, verse 16-- she says, "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me." Notice she didn't say pray and fast, but prayer and fasting often went together. And we might imply that when you fast, you are probably praying to your God.
So she's saying, let the Jews do this? Why not just get all your friends to do it? Because she probably realized that the Jews were the covenant people and had a special connection with the covenant God. And so fasting could imply prayer and fasting.
"Gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan. Fast for me. Neither either eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law." And I love this phrase, too. "And if I perish, I perish."
Now, why does she say it's against the law? The Greek historian Herodotus said that Persian kings, Persian and Median kings, Medo-Persian kings isolated themselves and would not allow anybody to enter their courts for a couple of reasons-- number one, for protection.
I don't know if you know this or not. But in the days of Abraham Lincoln, anybody could walk in the White House unannounced. They had people sleeping in the halls of the White House just off the street. So there was no protection.
But back in antiquity, because of the threats that were very prevalent in those cultures, kings would isolate themselves. Nobody was allowed admittance unannounced. So to protect themselves. And also, they thought it would enhance the dignity of the king to not allow anybody in except by invitation. That was the law of the Medes and the Persians.
If you came in and the king did not like it, you would die. Probably be beheaded. She thinks logically, right? She goes, what do I have to lose? I'm a Jew. If I say nothing, I'm going to die. The decree has gone out. It's eventually going to be discovered that I'm Jewish. I'm dead.
If I go in to the king and say, hey, king, I may die. But I might not. So if I die, I die. But if I do nothing, I'm going to die. So I'm going to go for it. Very logical. She's going to die either way, but she might not if the king is favorable.
Now this is where providence is kicked in. This is a normal set of circumstances. This is real history. It really happened. God is not mentioned, but providentially, He's working things out. And when there is a problem, God answers the problem with providence.
Example-- how do you get a Jewish couple living in Nazareth to go to Bethlehem? Because the prophecy said that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem-- Micah chapter 5, verse 2. Well, for God, no problem. Providence.
God will move the heart of the king to make people go back to their ancestral tribal towns and get registered, which forces Joseph and Mary to leave Nazareth and go to Bethlehem. The problem is answered by Providence.
Or another problem-- how do you get a preacher to the heart of the Roman Empire to spread the Gospel from Rome outward to the rest of the world and speak to the ruler? Easy.
Have him born a Jew but also born a Roman citizen, having the ability to appeal to Caesar, which he does. Put him on a Roman grains ship. Get him sent to Rome as a prisoner, and he stands before Nero. God answers the problem with providence.
Here's another problem. How do you get Jews protected during a time of famine and kept alive so they can thrive and grow and eventually inherit their own land? Answer-- get a boy named Joseph sold as a slave to Potiphar.
Let him interpret dreams for the king, which will make him prime minister of Egypt. And your answer will be-- or your problem will be solved by God's providence, the overruling hand of God. So that's providence. God moves naturally supernaturally, supernaturally naturally.
Chapter 5, Ester goes in. Verse 2-- it says she found favor in his sight. He holds out his golden scepter. That was his little gesture of I'm not going to cut your head off, sweetie. It's OK.
Verse 3-- "The king said to her, 'What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you, up to half the kingdom." Well, that's pretty generous, right? Not only is she not getting her head cut off, but she can kind of have anything she wants.
"So Esther answered, 'If it pleases the king, let the king and Haman come today to the banquet that I have prepared for him.' What can I do for you, sweetheart? I want to have a party. OK. Who do you want to invite? You and Haman. Why? I'll tell you later.
Haman hears this, feels very special. Persian kings were typically protective of their wives, didn't bring them out except the time he was drunk and wanted Vashti to come out. So it was an honor, nonetheless, to be invited to a banquet with the queen.
So he leaves. He's all stoked. Man, I'm going to a party with Esther the queen and the king. As he's leaving, though, he sees Mordecai, his hated enemy who will not bowed before him at the king's gate. Verse 9-- "So Haman went out that day joyful with a glad heart.
But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate and that he did not stand or tremble before him, he was filled with indignation against Mordecai." He goes home fuming. Everything is good, but Mordecai, hate him. Tells his wife. His wife says, this is an easy fix. You make a gallows 75 feet high. You hang him on it. And then you go party.
And he's thinking, why didn't I think of that? Verse 14-- "Then his wife Zeresh and all of his friends said to him, 'Let a gallows be made 50 cubits high." By the way, the Acropolis where the palace was built was 75 feet higher than the rest of the lower city on the outside. So it's not like you have to have a gallows or a pole 75 feet high. You just have to stick anything at all on top of the wall.
"'Let a gallows be made 50 cubits high and in the morning suggest to the king that Mordecai be hanged on it. Then go merrily with the king to the banquet.' And the thing pleased Haman. So he had the gallows made."
The word gallows is translated in a more modern translation a pole. That is the literal translation of the word gallows, a pole. Don't think of a hangman's noose necessarily. The Persians would often impale people on vertical poles.
Now, remember, it was the Persians who will later on invent crucifixion. Or actually, in their history, they have invented crucifixion, raising a person on a pole. But sometimes they would impale them or parade them after they die atop of a building or on a pole.
So the plan is in place. Mordecai goes to the king to announce his plan. He's going to go to be honored at the feast. But there's a plot twist. Chapter 6, verse 1 initiates the third phase of the book. This is sovereign protection. And I love it. God uses insomnia for His glory.
The king can't sleep. Verse 1-- "That night, the king could not sleep. So one was commanded to bring the book of the records of the chronicles, and they were read before the king." If you want to cure your insomnia, you read books like this. You read legal briefs or records of Congress, these thick voluminous pages of the accounts of the kingdom, the board minutes.
And verse 2-- "It was found written that Mordecai had told Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs, the doorkeepers who had sought to lay hands on Ahasuerus." So they read, and the king discovers that Mordecai uncovered this plot, but he had never been rewarded for it.
So he wonders, how can I reward this guy? This guy Mordecai's a great guy. How can I reward him? And he's thinking, how can I reward him? And he thinks, I know. The first guy that walks into my palace in the morning, I'm going to ask him how I should reward him.
Well, the first guy that walks in is Haman. And Haman is about to say, I want to kill Mordecai. I built this 75-foot high gallows. Can I just kill him? And before he can get the words out, "Haman came in"-- verse 6-- "and the king asked him, 'What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?' Now Haman thought in his heart, whom would the king delight to honor more than me?"
He's totally unaware that he's referring to-- the king is referring to Mordecai. And so Haman says, "Let the royal robe be brought on which the king has worn and a horse on which the king has ridden, which has a royal crest placed on its head.
And let this robe and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the King's most noble princes, that he may array the man whom the king delights to honor. Then parade him on horseback through the city square and proclaim before him, 'Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.'
Then the king said to Haman, 'Hurry. Take the robe and the horse, as you have suggested, and do that for Mordecai the Jew who sits in the king's gate.'" Gulp.
"Leave nothing undone of all that you have spoken." He goes, great idea. I want you to parade him around town.
Now it's time for the feast. Esther has not told the king what she wants yet. In chapter 2-- or 7, verse 2, he says, ask anything you want. The king does not know that she is Jewish yet. Haman does not know that she is Jewish yet. So now she drops the bomb.
Chapter 7, verse 3-- "Then Queen Esther answered and said, 'If I've found favor in your sight, O king, if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition. Let my people at my request-- and my people at my request.
For we have been sold, my people and I, to be destroyed, to be killed, to be annihilated. Had we been sold as male and female slaves, I would have held my tongue, although the enemy could never compensate for the king's loss.'
So King Ahasuerus answered and said to Queen Esther, 'Who is he, and where is he who would dare presume in his heart to do such a thing?' And Esther said, 'The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.' Now, again, double gulp.
"So Haman was terrified before the king and queen." This is like a real live game of chess. It's like God and Satan are playing chess with real live kings and queens. And so Satan moves the king to make an edict to kill the Jews, and Satan goes, check. And God moves the queen to reveal to the king that it's the Jews, and she's is one of them. And God says, checkmate. It's like a real live game of chess.
Well, the king hears this. He goes out of the room for a minute, goes into the garden to process all this. He comes back. And Haman, when he comes back, is collapsed on the couch, like on Esther or leaning toward Esther. And he's thinking, is this dude, like, making a pass at my woman?
So has him arrested. Verse 10-- "So they"-- after they arrested him-- "hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. And the King's wrath was subsided." So they hanged him or they hung him or they impaled him, right? He was a pain in the neck, anyway. So they got rid of him, gave him a pain in the neck.
They still have a major problem. And that is fixed in chapters 8, 9, and the three verses. You can see-- did you just see chapter 10 only as three verses? So it is solved in this last set of chapters. Here's the problem.
The king has made an edict to kill the Jews. The problem with that is that when Persian kings made edicts, for some reason, their law said it's irrevocable. The law of the Medes and the Persians is irrevocable. So this is like the first time he revokes an edict, but he does it by allowing the Jews to defend themselves before the anti-Semitic peoples who want to destroy them under Haman's law would do it.
So the second decree is so that the Jews can defend themselves. Chapter 8, verse 17-- "And in every province and city, wherever the king's command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews."
So there's a conversion of sorts from Gentiles to Judaism, that they can't change their nationality. They can only change their religion. If they're becoming Jews, they have to proselyte into Judaism. It's changing their religion. So I might argue God is in this book. Because to convert to Judaism, you have to acknowledge the God of Israel.
Let's skip to chapter 9, verse 20. "Mordecai wrote these things--" this is the letter to Jewish people everywhere-- "to establish"-- verse 21-- "to establish among them that they should celebrate yearly the 14th and 15th day of the month of Adar and the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, from morning to a holiday, that they should make days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor."
Verse 26-- "So they called these days Purim after the name Pur," which means a lot in the Persian language. "Therefore, because of all the words of this letter, what they had seen concerning this matter and what had happened to them from-- happened to them."
Chapter 10, verse 3-- "For Mordecai the Jew was second to King Ahasuerus." He is promoted like Joseph. He's promoted like Daniel. He was second to King Ahasuerus "and was great among the Jews and well received by the multitude of his brethren, seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his countrymen."
The first time I ever went to Israel was 1978. Israel was 30 years old as a nation. Now it's 70 years old as a nation. When I hit the ground and went to the kibbutz, I happened to be there on the day after Purim.
And I walked into the dining hall. And there were kind of these ugly pictures of Haman that people would poke fun of and throw darts at. There were gifts that had been given to one another. There was tinsel and all these decorations sort of like our Christmas.
And there's this great cookie, this amazing dessert that comes out. Now the Jews just celebrated Purim not long ago. So you may be able to still find these in bakeries. They're called hamantaschen. And hamantaschen means Haman's ears.
So they're kind of triangular shaped, sort of like an ear. And it's like a cookie dough. And inside is this kind of jelly paste with crushed up dates and poppy seeds and nuts. Just amazing. Sort of like a Fig Newton. So anyway, go look for the hamantaschen.
So we have in this book the providence of God. But I think we also have a picture of God. What do I mean a picture of God? You could not enter the king's palace unless he raised the scepter to you. You and I are separated from a holy God. You can't just run into the throne room of God as a human being anytime you want.
But true Christ, because of the cross, because of the bloodline, God has raised his scepter and said, what would you like? You're royalty. You have access. So we have the providence of God. But I think even in this king, in Christ, we have a picture of God.
Father, we thank You that the cross has become for us the golden scepter that gives us admittance into the very place of royalty, the very throne of the king so, that as the writer of Hebrew, said we can come boldly before the throne of grace to receive help in time of need.
I pray, Lord, in this last song as we close if we have some great need, some worrisome problem, we would just entrust them to Your providential care. Solve our problem by Your providence. In Jesus' name, Amen.
We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. For more resources, visit CalvaryNM.church. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from The Bible from 30,000 Feet.