Beware the Forestalled Feast

March 7, 2014 at 5:11 pm | Posted in The Fives | 1 Comment
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They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. However, in the days when Esther was queen of Persia, it appears that the way to change a man’s mind was to throw a party.

Then the king said, Cause Haman to make haste, that he may do as Esther hath said. So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared.

Esther 5:5

Esther needed an audience with King Ahasuerus and she needed his trusted lieutenant, Haman, to be there, but she needed this audience to be in private, and she needed it to be well-timed. Both of these needs were met by the providence of God, and Esther was successful in being used to rescue the Jewish people that Haman wanted to exterminate.

From the Jewish and Christian point of view, Esther’s daring and wisdom are heroic. Likewise, the king’s decision to grant the request turns out to have been the right choice (even if it was motivated by the anticipation of attending a “banquet of wine” (v. 6). But what – if anything – can we learn from Haman’s folly? He went forth from this privileged audience with the king swollen with pride and primed to be easily offended by anyone who wouldn’t honor him. May the Lord grant us the grace to do the opposite.

When you experience a delay – even in something to which you are greatly looking forward – take the occasion to reconsider. Seek the face of the Lord and seek out His will in His Word. If what we are anxious to partake of is fraught with sin, a forced delay may be our last chance for repentance and rescue.

Esther: A Panorama of Humanity

August 12, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Posted in Esther | Leave a comment
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The Book of Esther surveys a wide range of human behavior in a few short chapters. We see wantonness, drunkenness, anger, lust, treachery, pride, hatred, and duplicitous scheming being acted out in vivid colors. But we also see courage, wisdom, and perseverance, and the tale ends in a marvelous manifestation of God’s sovereign working of all things together for the ultimate good. May Christians today see ourselves as providentially placed and purposed by God for the accomplishment of His glorious plans. Below are links to a few highlights from the Book of Esther:

1. Excessive Celebration
2. God’s Invisible Hand at Work
3. Motivation for Evil
4. Prep Time
5. The Earthly King and the Heavenly King (*)
6. Beware the Forestalled Feast
7. Pride vs. Providence

* most-read post in series

Pride vs. Providence

July 25, 2013 at 9:58 am | Posted in Esther | 7 Comments
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In his pride Haman rejoiced with his family and friends, unknowingly bragging about the preparation for his own downfall and death.

Nevertheless Haman refrained himself: and when he came home, he sent and called for his friends, and Zeresh his wife. And Haman told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king. Haman said moreover, Yea, Esther the queen did let no man come in with the king unto the banquet that she had prepared but myself; and to morrow am I invited unto her also with the king. Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.

Esther 5:10-13

Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.

Psalm 7:14

Haman was “pregnant” with wickedness and evil plans. Therefore, he gave birth to a “child” which brought evil upon its own “father.”

He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.

Psalm 7:15

Haman had “made his own bed,” and would now have to lie in it.

His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.

Psalm 7:16

On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.

Esther 6:1

Why couldn’t the king sleep that night? Perhaps he was worried, wondering about Esther’s request. Perhaps he was kept awake by the racket caused by the building of the gallows outside. God, in His providence, may intervene supernaturally in obvious ways into the affairs of men, but often He works through what seem to be perfectly natural circumstances. The king could have chosen any manner of entertainment, but he chose to read a book, and not just any old book, but the book of the chronicles. Some historical chronicles are boring enough to put anybody to sleep! The servant picked out which of the chronicles to bring, and God’s providence worked to bring Haman to the king’s gate early that day. Haman’s plan for the day was to see Mordecai hanging all day, but instead he would have to spend all day seeing Mordecai honored!

Could this have been arranged by God to offer Haman a chance to repent? If so, Haman certainly did not seize the opportunity.

And Mordecai came again to the king’s gate. But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered.

Esther 6:12

Despite being celebrated and honored all day, Mordecai did not fall into the trap of pride. When the festivities were over he humbly returned to his place. We must not let pride settle down and make itself at home in our hearts.

Prep Time

June 20, 2013 at 11:25 am | Posted in Esther | 1 Comment
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Lord, help Your people to be dedicated to You, and help us to stand against the attack of the enemy. Give us the wisdom to know when we need to use the methods of confrontation or separation in dealing with our problems, but help us to deal with people always in love. In the Name of the Lord Jesus. Amen.

God often uses people to accomplish His purposes. One example is the gift of the Gospel, which is a great treasure. God could appear to people in person and preach it directly to them, but He has entrusted it to us.

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

II Corinthians 4:6-7

This is possibly the most well-known and often-quoted verse in the Book of Esther:

For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Esther 4:14

It shows the providence of God, but it also shows that we may miss out on the blessing when God accomplishes His purposes anyway without us.

Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house. And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre. Then said the king unto her, What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom. And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him.

Esther 5:1-4

Esther was receiving Godly favor and influence. Why wasn’t she more direct with the king? There are some similarities in the way subjects approach an earthly king and the way God’s people approach the Heavenly King, but there are also many differences.

Esther prepared for her meeting with the king, including putting on her royal apparel. We should be thankful that God hears “emergency prayers” (Nehemiah 2:4), but most of the time we should make some preparation for our prayer time.

Motivation for Evil

May 30, 2013 at 11:05 am | Posted in Esther | 2 Comments
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Esther Chapter 3 introduces us to Haman. He was an Agagite, which probably means he was descended from Agag, king of the Amalekites, the long-time enemy of the Jews (I Samuel 15:8). God had declared war on the Amalekites and wanted their name wiped from the face of the earth because the Amalekites had attacked the weary followers of Moses who marched in the rear of the people (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). Saul had disobeyed God in failing to annihilate the Amalekites, and he lost his crown because of it. The Amalekites were descended from Esau (like the Edomites). Haman is one of the most despicable characters in the Bible. The more you learn about him, the less you like him. At Purim, the Jews have a feast to celebrate the account of Esther, and every time Haman is mentioned they stamp their feet and shout, “May his name be blotted out!”

Mordecai wouldn’t bow to Haman, and Haman devised a plot to kill him and all the Jewish people.

In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar.

Esther 3:7

Pur is the Babylonian word for “lot.” The providence of God gave the Jewish people a year to prepare for this horrifying event.

Perhaps some Haman-apologist out there could try to draw a parallel or revenge scenario with God’s decree against the Amalekites and Haman’s decree against the Jewish exiles.

Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

I Samuel 15:3

And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.

Esther 3:13

However, we can see one big difference is that God’s people were prohibited from taking the spoils. Haman’s followers were commanded to take the spoils. This is an indication that the devil was involved (killing); the “world” was involved (profit); and the flesh was involved (Haman, and King Ahasuerus’s, pride).

And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king’s treasuries. And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy. And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee.

Esther 3:8-11

The posts went out, being hastened by the king’s commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed.

Esther 3:15

Mordecai’s behavior, actions, and appearance showed that he publicly stood for what was right, and that he had an attitude of repentance. We need this attitude today.

When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry;

Esther 4:1

He was able to get a message to Queen Esther. She wanted to send him some new clothes before inquiring as to why his clothes were torn and dirty. We must be careful of this when dealing with the needy. As Christians we should be quick to offer assistance without unrighteous judgment, but many times, failing to inquire about the cause for the need leads to enablement rather than true help.

Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to shew it unto Esther, and to declare it unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people. And Hatach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai.

Esther 4:8-9

God’s Invisible Hand at Work

May 15, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Posted in Esther | 6 Comments
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In Esther Chapter 2 the king deposed Queen Vashti. Then we meet Mordecai. Mordecai was one of the Jewish exiles who probably could have gone back to Jerusalem during the events described in Ezra and Nehemiah, but we see God’s hand of providence at work in keeping him in Persia.

Mordecai’s adopted daughter, Esther, was beautiful, and was taken into the harem for a tryout with the king. “Esther” was her Persian name and it means “star.” Hadassah was her Jewish name, and it means “myrtle.” Apparently, a myrtle tree flower looks like a star.

https://i2.wp.com/www.reportapest.org/pestlist/images/searchimages/rhotom3.jpg

In the narrative of Esther we see God using all sorts of ungodly activities, exiled Jewish citizens, and even unbelievers, to carry out His will. This is the way God works among the nations of the world. Hegai, the keeper of the harem, gave Esther a year-long beauty treatment, including diet.

And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her things for purification, with such things as belonged to her, and seven maidens, which were meet to be given her, out of the king’s house: and he preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the house of the women.

Esther 2:9

Esther had some inexplicable favor with everyone she met, which helps us to see God’s providential hand at work in the story.

And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.

Esther 2:17

It is possible that Ahasuerus had become bored with an endless series of concubines, but that is not how sinful lust usually works. Typically, the man involved in sexual sin craves more and more perversity, so that feeding lust in an attempt to quench it is like throwing logs on a raging fire in an attempt to smother it out. The better explanation for the king choosing Esther is that God’s sovereignty was at work in making him somehow find Esther more favorable.

When the king chose Esther, he threw a big banquet. What else would we expect? This is the fourth one, and we’re only in Chapter 2!

In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king’s gate, two of the king’s chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those which kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. And the thing was known to Mordecai, who told it unto Esther the queen; and Esther certified the king thereof in Mordecai’s name. And when inquisition was made of the matter, it was found out; therefore they were both hanged on a tree: and it was written in the book of the chronicles before the king.

Esther 2:21-23

God allowed Mordecai to find out about the plot to kill the king. Mordecai told Esther, and she gave the credit to Mordecai, but Mordecai didn’t get a reward or recognition at that time. Instead, he got his name written down in the official account – which will be important later, in Chapter 6.

Lord, thank You for making me free from the bondage of sin, and from my old cruel slavemaster, Satan. Thank You that You have taught us to avoid getting caught up in the commercial pressures of this world, and to avoid getting caught up in unholy worldly traditions. Help me to truly rejoice in the freedom from worldly bondage. In the Name of Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.

Excessive Celebration

April 29, 2013 at 11:55 am | Posted in Esther | 3 Comments
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One of the meanings of faith is believing the promises of God even when they don’t seem to be supported by observable evidence. But another definition of faith is obeying God in spite of what seem to be the obvious consequences.

The name of God is not mentioned once in the Book of Esther, yet it is full of His Words. The same is true for Song of Solomon. There are different theories on why God is not named in Esther. It may be to illustrate how little His people thought about Him at that time.

The events in the Book of Esther took place between 483 and 473 B.C. Chronologically, they would fit right between Chapters 6 and 7 of Ezra. During this time, the rebuilding of Jerusalem had halted. Zechariah and Haggai preached and prophesied about the people putting roofs on their own homes while the house of God had no roof.

The king of the Medo-Persian empire at that time was Ahasuerus (Khshayarshan in Persian, Artaxerxes or Xerxes in Greek). Ahasuerus was really into putting on spectacular banquets.

Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:) That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him: When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days. And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace; Where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble. And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king. And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man’s pleasure. Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.

Esther 1:1-9

The particular feasts described here were the result of the failure of Ahasuerus’s father to successfully invade Greece. Ahasuerus was probably excited at the prospect of revenge and greater glory for himself as he prepared to give it a try. As an aside, the defeat of Darius (Ahasuerus’s father) happened at a place called Marathon in 490 B.C. 25,000 Persians were met by 10,000 Greeks. Some of the Persians left to go attack Athens, and a runner ran 26 miles without stopping to warn them – upon which he probably died from a heat stroke or exhaustion. That’s where we get the name of the 26-mile-long race.

On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king,

Esther 1:10

There seems to be a great deal of drinking, partying, and extravagant celebrating going on in the Book of Esther. One of the king’s chamberlains was named “Mehuman,” and I might jokingly suggest that his parents gave him this name so that, no matter how drunk he got with the king, he wouldn’t forget he was still a human and not a wild beast. (You have to imagine him talking like Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan for this to be funny: “Me human, you Jane.”)

To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.

Esther 1:11-12

It is very common for anger to follow drunkenness. Ahasuerus’s heart was merry (after seven days of drinking, we can only imagine!), but look how quickly it swung form merriment to wrath. Drunk driving is a huge problem in our society, but it may surprise you to learn that more drunks are still arrested for fighting than for driving while intoxicated. Ahasurerus mastered his whole kingdom, but he couldn’t even master himself.

Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment:

Esther 1:13 (emphasis added)

This is probably a reference to astrology, but these “wise” men also knew the times in which they lived, and they knew they had a king who was susceptible to flattery. They gave foolish counsel, and the king listened, because they flattered him with words.

He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.

Proverbs 27:14

Flattery should make us cautious.


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