DELIVERANCE WILL ARISE
Esther 3:1-4:17, Key Verse 4:14
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Through studying the book of Esther, we learn that God is the sovereign Lord of history, raising kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers of all nations. Yet God uses people who are prepared for it. From chapters 1-2, we learned that Esther was chosen to be the queen of Persia in place of Queen Vashti. It was mainly because she had ears to hear. Mordecai was a man of compassion who took his uncle’s orphan as his daughter and took care of her as his own. May God raise 1200 Bible teachers who are like Esther and Mordecai for this nation to be a shepherd nation. Amen!
Today’s passage, chapters 3-4, also provides a contrast between ungodly people, Haman and King Xerxes, and godly people, Mordecai and Esther. There are two kinds of ungodly people: Haman who has an evil plan, and King Xerxes who follows an evil plan. We also find two godly people’s responses to the evil plan; Mordecai’s faith and encouragement, and Esther’s decision of faith. Through this passage, let’s learn how we should respond to the evil people of the world. Amen.
I. Two Ungodly People, Haman and King Xerxes (3:1-15)
Look at 3:1-6. For some reason King Xerxes honored Haman, so much so that he issued an edict that everyone should bow down and pay homage to him as if he was the second in command after the king in the Empire. But Mordecai did not bow down to Haman. Even though the king’s officials told him to do so day after day, he refused again and again. He was defying the king’s edict. Didn’t he know that he could get in trouble? Did he think that he could get away with the possible punishment because he was the father of the queen? Why did he do that? In verse 4b, he gave the officials the reason why he would not bow down, saying, “I am a Jew.”
His answer seems too simple for us to understand his reasons. But in fact, it was very serious to him that he had to reveal his identity though he told Esther to hide it before she became the queen. Here are two reasons I can think of. As a Jew, he would keep the Ten Commandments, saying, “You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” But it seems too rigid. Bowing down and paying homage to another person is not really worshiping that person, right? Yet, there is another historical animosity between their ancestors; the Jews and the Amalekites, the ancestor of Haman. Based on Dt 25:17-19: God told the people of Israel to destroy the Amalekites because they attacked the people of Israel while they were on the way to the Promised Land, which happened in Exodus 17. The Amalekites killed even women and children, though the people of Israel did not have any intention to attack them. God said that they did not have the fear of God. According to the prophecy, Samuel the prophet told Saul to destroy the Amalekites totally. Even though King Saul left the king of Amalekites, Agag, alive, Samuel killed him. Haman was an Agagite, the descendant of King Agag.
Yet, a Jew in the exile was really a minority, especially in the capital city of Persia. The king of Persia issued an edict to honor Haman. Mordecai is a hard-headed Jew who kept the law and the prophesies of God rigidly. As a human being, I can understand him a little bit. There is an animosity between Korean and Japanese people because of the 70 years of Japanese occupation of Korea. During the time of Japanese occupation, many Korean men and women refused to bow down to the Japanese Emperor and some of them were killed. Mordecai kept his identity as a Jew and his faith in God’s word as a matter of life and death.
What would you do if you were in the shoes of Mordecai? If I were him, I would do differently. When I saw Haman from far away, I would go around, avoiding facing him, so that I would not have to bow down or pay homage to him. In that way, I would live in peace. But there are situations we cannot avoid facing the evil of this world. What would you do at that time? When M. Paul spoke in front of many soldiers that the source of the national problems in South Korea was the lack of faith in Christ, he became a laughing stock. By the law of US, gay and lesbian lifestyles should be praised in public schools. If you are a teacher and tell your students that the alternate lifestyle is wrong, you can be fired. I heard that there is a teacher who is boldly speaking against the alternative lifestyle in one of the high schools in IL. He is hated by many teachers but loved by students as one of the most favorite teachers. What if you are asked to give you opinion whether the alternative lifestyle is sin/wrong or not? What would you answer? Are you going to try to beat around the bushes so that you would not give your definite answer? The Bible declares that it is sin as stealing is sin. Sin is sin even if my family and friends are living in that way. It does not mean that we should hate them; rather, we should love them as Christ loves sinners, yet we should help them to turn away from it because love does not delight in evil. May God grant us faith and courage to stand up for Christ.
But Mordecai was going into trouble because of his stubborn faith. When Haman heard about Mordecai, who would not bow down to him, he was furiously mad. When he found that Mordecai was a Jew, he refused to kill Mordecai alone but determined to wipe out all the Jews. Maybe he also knew about the animosity between the Jews and his ancestors. As God said about the Amalekites, he did not have the fear of God and was full of wickedness, planning to kill all the Jews. In addition, he got the power to carry it out.
Look at verses 7-11. Haman was very sneaky, talking to King Xerxes and knowing what the king would agree to. He knew that the king would agree with him if he told him that there were people who had different customs, which would make them not obey the king’s law. In addition, he offered his own money, 375 tons of silver, to eliminate such people. His plan pleased the king. The king’s action shows another kind of ungodly people’s behavior, who follow along with evil people when the plan serves their selfishness. As the king of the vast empire, he should take care of all people, young and old, rich and poor, of all nationalities. But he would not mind killing one entire nation. If there were people who disobeyed his laws due to their custom, he thought that they should be killed. So he gave Haman his signet ring to issue a decree with his seal. Haman summoned the royal secretaries to write the decree in different languages to send to all the provinces of the kingdom: kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, and plunder their goods.
While investigating, Haman came to know that the Jews were different. Most likely, Haman found that many people of Israel worship God only and bow down to no one, including him and the king. In fact, it was not Mordecai alone but also other Jews who kept their identity as Jews and their faith in God and His promise. In 4:3, many Jews from other provinces responded as Mordecai did.
This reminds me of 2 Kings 17:19-20, saying “So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left, 19 and even Judah did not keep the commands of the Lord their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced. 20 Therefore the Lord rejected all the people of Israel; he afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until he thrust them from his presence.” The people of Israel were exiled because of their sins and they knew that it was God’s punishment for their sins. But they did not give up on God and live like the Gentiles; rather, they began to live a different way of life, keeping the law of God. Maybe Mordecai also heard about Daniel’s three friends who were thrown into a furnace because they would not bow down to the statue of the Babylonian king, but God sent an angel to rescue them. Daniel also was thrown into the lion’s den because he prayed to God during the reign of King Darius, the father of King Xerxes, but God shut the mouth of the lions. Most likely Mordecai heard about these stories, which could encourage him to stand firm.
The longer I live a life of faith, the more I realize that we Christians are living in this world where there is no fear of God, just as the exiled people of Israel. In this generation, how should we live? Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good and pleasing and perfect will.” We should not conform the pattern of this world; rather, we should overcome it through renewing our minds. It does not mean that we should not respect people; rather, we should not follow the value system of this world but renew our minds through meditating on the word of God, repenting of our sins and purifying our hearts through the blood of Jesus, growing in the holiness of God. Though we may not be smart, we may come to know God’s good and perfect will. Though we may be weak, we may be able to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ. In fact, we also have such a great crowd of witnesses who have lived lives of faith, overcoming the world. May God bless our Thanksgiving Feast to hear such wonderful examples and edify each other through our testimonies. Amen!
II. Godly People’s Response to the Evil People (4:1-17)
Through Mordecai and Esther, we learn how we can overcome the world, though ungodly people plan evil against Christians. Let’s learn from Mordecai in a few ways. First, he sought God earnestly in prayer, in humility and in repentance most of all. When Mordecai heard Haman’s evil plan to kill all the Jews, he did not try to hide his nationality deeper or plan to get rid of Haman by any means. Rather, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly, which was the ultimate expression of repentance as a Jew. It was not only him, but also many other exiled Jews who were in the provinces of the kingdom were doing the same as Mordecai. He remained true to his identity a Jew. He was not acting according to his emotions and becoming a slave of hatred against Haman but lived according to the promise of God.
Esther did not know why Mordecai was doing such a thing. She just wanted to comfort him by sending him nice clothes from the royal palace. But Mordecai refused to be comforted. It was the time of trouble, not just for him but also for all the Jews. He could think that he brought this trouble to all the Jews because he refused to bow down to Haman. It was the time of repentance, turning back to God. In God’s providence, it was the time for the people of Israel to humbly pray in repentance and cry out to God for his mercy. His response reminds me of 1 Kings 8:46-51, “When they sin against you….give them over to their enemies, who take them captive to their own lands…and if they have a change of heart in the land…and repent and please with you in the land of their captors and say, “We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly’…and forgive your people, who have sinned again you….for they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace.” Through his repentance and humility, he pleaded with God, asking God’s forgiveness and mercy upon the people of God.
Secondly, Mordecai encouraged Esther to participate in the salvation of her people. Esther came to know that something truly serious happened to Mordecai and sent his personal attendant to ask him the reason why. Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation. Moreover, he instructed Esther to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people. This was a bold request. Mordecai reminded her identity and encouraged her to participate in the salvation of the Jews.
When Esther heard Mordecai’s request, she explained the law and her situation. The law was that when anyone approaches the king without being summoned, they can either be saved if the king extends his gold scepter to the person, or be killed if he does not. Esther had not been called by the king for thirty days, so she did not know when she could see the king and plead with him. Simply speaking, her answer was that she would, but it was not realistically possible due to the law and her situation.
Thirdly, Mordecai challenged her to see herself in God’s sovereignty. How? Mordecai challenged her in three ways: 1) Reminded her of her identity and its implication. Look at verse 13. “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.” Esther is not safe either when all the Jews are killed. Since Mordecai’s identity was revealed, the king will come to know her identity as a Jew. When a person wants to save oneself in a war, he or she loses their identity and becomes a double agent. This is the reason why Jesus did not save himself. When he was asked, “Are you the king of the Jews,” he answered, “Yes, I am,” though his answer got him in trouble. When we remember our identity as a Christian, we know what we should do in our situation. This is the reason why so many Christians hide their identity in their work places and become a double agent in a miserable state of a person. How could they stand up for Christ when they hide their identity?
2) Mordecai planted faith in God’s promise. Look at verse 14a. “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.” Relief and deliverance will arise from another place through another person. Mordecai believed in the promise of God for the salvation of the Jews. God’s promise cannot be broken. Even if Esther would not participate in the salvation of the Jews, God would raise someone else to fulfill his sovereign plan. Now it was up to Esther’s choice to either participate in God’s plan and be blessed or not participate in it and perish. It seems harsh but that is the life of faith in the promise of God. In the same way, God also calls people to participate in Jesus’ world mission command, “Go and make disciples of all nation, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you!” Many are called but a few respond and are chosen. May God bless each one of us to participate in God’s salvation plan. Amen!
3) Mordecai helped Esther see her situation from God’s perspective. Look at verse 14b. “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Mordecai saw everything from God’s perspective and encouraged Esther to be the part of God’s salvation. He encouraged her to see herself in God’s providence, that she became the queen for such a time as this. She became the queen not for her pleasure but for God’s salvation plan. Therefore, we must see ourselves from God’s perspective. If God raised us to be somebody, there must be God’s greater plan. It is not for our selfish pleasure but for God’s salvation plan. This requires our soul searching like Esther.
How hard it was for Esther to make a choice? She was on the top of the world, the queen of the most powerful nation on earth at that time. If she keeps her mouth shut, she may keep her position. How easy for her to make a plan for herself. Even if Mordecai revealed himself as a Jew, she could deny it, saying that she was adopted. Who wants to risk their own safety for others? Now, her identity and faith are being tested. Probably, Esther prayed all night, struggling between her selfishness and her identity, her natural desire and her mission.
What was Esther’s final response? Look at verse 16. “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” Through her answer, we also learn three things. 1) she depended on God by asking for prayer and fasting. In the history of Israelites, God answered people as they prayed with fasting. She believed in the power of fasting prayer. She knew that it was not a physical battle but spiritual, and the victory comes from God. 2) She restored her identity. When she identified herself as a Jew, she knew that her life was at stake as well. Now she is working to save herself, her family and her people. 3) Finally, she made a decision of faith to fulfill God’s calling. When she made a decision, she said, “If I perish, I perish.” Now she is willing to give her life to save her people. In this selfish world, where each is for themselves, Esther’s communal faith is so refreshing; she is willing to give her life for her people. In fact, saving all the Jews was saving herself and her family as well. Jesus did not save himself in order to save all sinners. Jesus did not come to save only the Jews but also all people on earth, starting from Judea and Samaria and from there to the ends of the world. Let us make decision of faith to participate in Jesus’ world salvation plan beginning from participating in the work of God in DuPage UBF and in America to the ends of the world. Amen!
Through today’s passage, we learned how we Christians should respond to evil plans of the world. Our battle is not physical but spiritual; therefore, we must come to God in prayer, renewing our minds through meditating on the word of God, repenting our sins, and grow in the holiness of God. Then, we may be able to see our lives from God’s perspective and participate in Jesus world salvation work, like Mordecai and Esther. This passage reminds me of Ephesians 6:13-17. “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Mordecai and Esther are living these words of God in action. May God bless each one of us to fight the spiritual battle and overcome the world!