The Forgotten God Who Never Forgets.

King Ahasuerus imposed tax on the land and on the coastlands of the sea. And all the acts of his power and might, and the full account of the high honor of Mordecai, to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia? For Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Ahasuerus, and he was great among the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brothers, for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people. – Esther 10:1-3 ESV

Some things never change. And King Ahasuerus is a case in point. All through this struggle he remained committed to his own kingdom and his own personal pleasure. The book of Esther opened with an opulent feast that lasted for six solid months. This affair was meant to be a calculated display of the king’s wealth and power. The wine flowed. The decorations were sumptuous and the food was of the highest quality and served in great quantity. No expense was spared. Part of the reason behind the opening scene of the book was to establish King Ahasuerus as the sovereign ruler of the kingdom of Persia. He was powerful, influential and in total control of his domain. He could do as he wished, whether with his money or his queen. He could elevate a person to the second highest office in the land, as he did with Haman, or he could decree the elimination of an entire people group with nothing more than his signature. He is set up as no less than a god.

So it should be no surprise to read at the end of all the events recorded in the book of Esther that the king chose to levy a tax on the land of Persia. This was probably motivated by a number of factors, none more obvious than the king’s greed. But it is important to recall that Haman had promised to pay 10,000 talents of silver into the king’s treasury in exchange for an edict to wipe out the Jews. That would have been roughly 375 tons of silver, an exorbitant amount that represented two-thirds of the entire empire’s income. Obviously, with Haman’s death, this financial boon was never realized. So the king resorted to a tax. He was going to fill his royal coffers one way or another.

But what about Mordecai and Esther. How does the story leave them? Esther remains queen. She has been given all the lands and the wealth of Haman. Mordecai has been elevated to the second-highest position in the land. He has a great reputation among the Jews and is even extremely popular among the Persians. In essence, his ship has come in. He, like Esther, is set for life.

But there is a subtle silence in these closing verses, and it is in keeping with the rest of the story. There is no mention of God. The people have been rescued from destruction, but there is not a single word said about God’s role in their miraculous salvation. One of the things we must refrain from doing when reading the book of Esther is making either Mordecai or Esther the heroes of the story. While the book bears her name, Esther is not intended to be the focal point of the story. It is important to remember that Esther and Mordecai were part of the Jewish population in Persia that had determined to remain rather than return to their homeland under the leadership of Zerubbabel.

Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem. – Ezra 1:2-4 ESV

Cyrus had given the Jews the opportunity to return to their land and play a part in the reestablishment of their kingdom and the restoration of their capital and its temple. While tens of thousands returned, some obviously chose to stay in Persia. Mordecai and Esther were part of that group. The Jews who remained in Persia had been unwilling to make the long trek back to Jerusalem and preferred to stay behind. They took the path of least resistance. To a certain degree, they compromised their convictions and chose to remain exiles in a land that was not their home, but that had become quite comfortable and familiar to them. In fact, you see throughout this story a spirit of compromise and convenience. It is only natural to compare what is taking place in the lives of Esther and Mordecai with the stories of Daniel and Joseph. These two men also found themselves living as exiles in unfamiliar lands. Joseph was in Egypt, sold into slavery by his own brothers. Daniel was in Babylon, taken captive by the forces of Nebuchadnezzar when he destroyed Jerusalem. But these two men refused to compromise. They remained committed to their God and determined to live according to His laws. And it was their obedience to Him that resulted in His blessings on their lives. But in the cases of Mordecai and Esther, it seems as if any convictions they may have had took a backseat to their attitudes of compromise and convenience. Unlike Daniel, Esther willingly ate the king’s food and submitted to the beauty treatments designed to prepare her for the king’s bed. At no point in the story do we hear her refuse to eat certain foods that would improper for a Jew to consume. While Daniel refused to obey the king’s edict that banned prayer to any deity but the king, Esther was willing to subjugate herself to King Ahasuerus through sexual intercourse. Daniel’s actions got him thrown into the lions’ den, while Esther was made queen.

It would seem that Mordecai and Esther were more concerned about the people of Judah than the God of Judah. Ultimately, they used their positions of influence and authority to come up with a plan to protect their people from destruction. But their objective seems to have had little to do with the holiness of God’s name. And yet, throughout the story, God is actively moving behind the scenes to orchestrate affairs in such a way that his unfaithful people are the unlikely and undeserving recipients of His faithful mercy and grace. Mordecai and Esther are not icons of virtue. But they are instruments in the Redeemer‘s hands. Oftentimes, God uses us in spite of us. He has used pagan kings, egocentric Amalakites, young Hebrew virgins, common fishermen, misguided zealots, reluctant prophets, adolescent shepherds, and a wide assortment of other unqualified, unlikely individuals to accomplish His divine will. The story of Esther is the story of God working through the lives of the unfaithful in order to display His faithfulness. God didn’t need Mordecai or Esther to accomplish His will, but He used them anyway. He didn’t choose them because of their qualifications or potential contributions to His plan.

I am reminded of the words of Paul, written to the believers in Corinth. He wanted them to remember that their salvation by God had not been a result of their merit. They had not been deserving of salvation. They were not chosen by God because of their wealth, wisdom, power, or positions. It was their lack of merit that resulted in God’s mercy. It was their absence of greatness that resulted in God’s grace.

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NLT

The story of Esther is the story of God’s faithful love and unmerited favor. It is the story of God’s might overcoming the power of kings and the plans of the enemy. While His name is never mentioned in the book, His presence is felt on every page of the story. He is the immortal, invisible, God.

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise. – Walter C. Smith

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A Day Worth Celebrating.

Now the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also gathered to defend their lives, and got relief from their enemies and killed 75,000 of those who hated them, but they laid no hands on the plunder. This was on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth day they rested and made that a day of feasting and gladness. But the Jews who were in Susa gathered on the thirteenth day and on the fourteenth, and rested on the fifteenth day, making that a day of feasting and gladness. Therefore the Jews of the villages, who live in the rural towns, hold the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a day for gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and as a day on which they send gifts of food to one another.

So the Jews accepted what they had started to do, and what Mordecai had written to them. For Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur (that is, cast lots), to crush and to destroy them.  But when it came before the king, he gave orders in writing that his evil plan that he had devised against the Jews should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. Therefore they called these days Purim, after the term Pur. Therefore, because of all that was written in this letter, and of what they had faced in this matter, and of what had happened to them, the Jews firmly obligated themselves and their offspring and all who joined them, that without fail they would keep these two days according to what was written and at the time appointed every year, that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, in every clan, province, and city, and that these days of Purim should never fall into disuse among the Jews, nor should the commemoration of these days cease among their descendants.

Then Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew gave full written authority, confirming this second letter about Purim. Letters were sent to all the Jews, to the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, in words of peace and truth, that these days of Purim should be observed at their appointed seasons, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther obligated them, and as they had obligated themselves and their offspring, with regard to their fasts and their lamenting. The command of Esther confirmed these practices of Purim, and it was recorded in writing. – Esther 9:16-32 ESV

It seems a bit strange that the Jews would set aside the day when they killed 75,000 of their Persian neighbors as an annual day of celebration, feasting and gladness. From that day forward, they would commemorate the thirteenth day of the month of Adar by giving one another gifts of food. It became a holiday. Again, this seems a bit odd to us, but it is important to remember that this letter is an historical document that chronicles the events surrounding the decree of Haman to wipe out the Jews. But it also explains to its Jewish audience how they came to celebrate the feast of Purim, the name by which this day would be called.

“Purim” is the plural form of the Persian word pur, meaning the “lot” (cf. 3:7). The name “Purim” became a symbolic reminder to the Jews of how God used circumstances, specifically casting the lot (cf. 3:7), to deliver them in 473 B.C. – Thomas L. Constable, Notes  on Esther, 2009 Edition

Haman had plotted to wipe out the Jews and had chosen the day to do so by the casting of lots. What would appear to have been a random act of chance turned out to be divinely decreed. Haman was casting lots in a misguided attempt to seek astrological assistance. To him, casting lots was not an act of chance, but was a common practice among the people of the ancient Near East. It was believed that there were outside, unseen forces that acted upon the lots, providing mere mortals with a form of spiritual guidance in making difficult or weighty decisions. Little did Haman realize that the unseen force behind the lots was the God of the very people he was attempting to wipe out. And the date chosen would become a day of celebration, not for Haman and the Persians, but for the people of Israel.

Mordecai and Esther made the feast of Purim an official holiday by sending out yet another edict, in the form of a letter to the Jews living throughout the land of Persia. They were commanded to observe the thirteenth and fourteenth days of Adar throughout the land in perpetuity, from generation to generation. And the people gladly obliged. They had cause for celebration, because they had escaped annihilation. Their God had intervened and the plans of the wicked had been overturned. Even living as exiles in the land of Persia, far from their homeland, they had witnessed the sovereign hand of God rescuing them from the evil intentions of their enemies. While they had forsaken God, He had not forsaken them. These were not people who were known for their faithfulness to God. They were the descendants of those who had been sent into exile by God because of their disobedience and refusal to repent. Now, generations later, they had acclimated themselves to life in Persia, even refusing the opportunity to return to the land of Judah with those who went to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the temple of God. They had chosen to stay. Life in Persia was preferable to the risky proposition of returning to their homeland and trying to rebuild a dilapidated and defenseless city.

Yet, they would discover that life in Persia was not as safe and serene as they had hoped. The enemies of God and His people are everywhere. The forces of evil are ever-present and present everywhere. Haman, a descendant of their ancient foes, the Amalakites, would make their lives a living hell. He would disrupt their peaceful existence with a plan to destroy each and every one of them, down to the last woman and child. But little did they Haman know that the God of the Jews was watching. Little did the Jews know that their God was working behind the scenes. But God knew all that was going on and He also knew what was going to happen. It was God who had arranged the adoption of Esther by her uncle Mordecai.  It was God who had been behind the refusal of Queen Vashti to appear before the king. And her removal from the throne was God’s doing. Just as her replacement as queen by Esther was God’s decision. It was He who had elevated Mordecai and given him access to the king’s palace. It was He who had allowed Mordecai to discover the plot against the king’s life and expose it. It was He who gave Esther the wisdom and insight to overturn the edict of Haman and save her people from destruction. The celebration of Purim was to be a celebration of God’s deliverance. God had protected and preserved His people. Why? Because one day He is going to restore them. His full plan for them is not yet fulfilled. He is far from done with the people of Israel. His faithfulness to them extends well beyond the centuries and far past any boundaries of geography or distance. He knows where each and every one of His children are. And His sovereignty over them is not limited by time or space.

The Almighty Is Never AWOL.

That very day the number of those killed in Susa the citadel was reported to the king. And the king said to Queen Esther, “In Susa the citadel the Jews have killed and destroyed 500 men and also the ten sons of Haman. What then have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces! Now what is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what further is your request? It shall be fulfilled.” And Esther said, “If it please the king, let the Jews who are in Susa be allowed tomorrow also to do according to this day’s edict. And let the ten sons of Haman be hanged on the gallows.” So the king commanded this to be done. A decree was issued in Susa, and the ten sons of Haman were hanged. The Jews who were in Susa gathered also on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and they killed 300 men in Susa, but they laid no hands on the plunder. – Esther 9:11-15 ESV

In reading this particular passage, it would be easy to conclude that Esther was a cruel and vindictive individual. After all, the second edict had been a success and the ten sons of Haman had been executed. But now, when the king asks her if there is anything else she wants, she requests that the edict be extended for a second day in the capital of Susa and for permission to hang the bodies of the tens sons of Haman on spikes for all to see. In other words, she wants to put them on public display. Were the 500 men killed that day not enough? Was the elimination of Haman’s sons as viable threats against the Jews not sufficient payback? Did she really need to publicly humiliate them? Was Esther simply bloodthirsty and out for revenge?

Obviously, there are things going on in the story to which we are not made aware. Esther knows something we don’t know. The first day of the edict it seems that the 500 individuals who died were all in the royal section of the city, known as the citadel (9:6). The majority of the threats the Jews were coming from the powerful and influential. They were the ones who felt the most threatened by Esther, Mordecai and the Jews. But Esther knew that there were still others who had either fled the citadel into other parts of the capital or there were pockets of resistance that needed to be eradicated. So she asked for a second day. The king gave his permission and the second day resulted in an additional 300 individuals losing their lives. But once again, the Jews refused to take their land and goods as plunder. They were not doing this for material reward. This was solely an attempt to prevent Haman’s original intention to eradicate the Jews from taking place. For Esther and the rest of the Jews, it was about self-preservation, not financial remuneration.

The public display of the bodies of Haman’s sons was intended to send a message. The very means by which he had planned to murder Mordecai was used to reveal to the citizens of Susa that his efforts had failed miserably. His hatred for the Jews had resulted in his own death and that of his ten sons. All the way back in chapter five of this story, Haman had returned from the first banquet thrown by Esther, and had been beside himself with joy. He arrived at home, bragging about his unprecedented good fortune.  “And Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king” (Esther 5:11 ESV). But now, Haman was dead. His ten sons were as well. His riches belonged to Esther. His former position and the king’s signet ring, symbol of his power, had been given to Mordecai. Haman, the prideful, arrogant, conniving, ruthless, power-hungry enemy of God’s people was gone. His decree had been an abject failure. And all traces of his ever having existed had been eliminated.

Esther’s actions, while somewhat mysterious to us, were not based on a whim. She knew what she was doing. She recognized that the threat to the Jews was not yet over. Susa was still harboring dangerous individuals who were on a mission to destroy Jews and take their possessions and property. The very fact that an additional 300 individuals were killed the next day reveals that this was true. For Esther, this was a matter of eliminating any threat against the Jews once and for all. She wisely used her position as queen and her influence over the king to arrange for a more-than-satisfactory end to this story. But none of this would have been possible without the sovereign, providential hand of God. This story is not about the cunning of Esther or the wisdom of Mordecai. It is not about the bravery of a young girl facing insurmountable odds and an all-powerful enemy. It is a story of the unseen, imperceptible, yet invincible power of God. It is a reminder to all who read it that God may not always be observable, but that doesn’t mean He’s AWOL. He is always there, whether we see Him or not. He is always in control, whether we believe it or not. He is always working His plan, whether we sense it or not.

Well Worth The Risk.

Then Esther spoke again to the king. She fell at his feet and wept and pleaded with him to avert the evil plan of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews. When the king held out the golden scepter to Esther, Esther rose and stood before the king. And she said, “If it please the king, and if I have found favor in his sight, and if the thing seems right before the king, and I am pleasing in his eyes, let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the provinces of the king. For how can I bear to see the calamity that is coming to my people? Or how can I bear to see the destruction of my kindred?” Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows, because he intended to lay hands on the Jews. But you may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king’s ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s ring cannot be revoked.” – Esther 8:3-8 ESV

Haman was dead, but Esther’s work was not yet done. The enemy had been defeated, but the king’s edict was still in effect. There was still a date set on the calendar when all the Jews in the kingdom would be wiped out. That had been the real motivation behind Esther’s fast and the two feasts she had prepared for the king and Haman. And now she makes her intentions clearly known to the king.

If it please the king, and if I have found favor with him, and if he thinks it is right, and if I am pleasing to him, let there be a decree that reverses the orders of Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, who ordered that Jews throughout all the king’s provinces should be destroyed. For how can I endure to see my people and my family slaughtered and destroyed? – Esther 8:5-6 NLT

Esther prefaces her request with four conditional statements.

If I please the king…

If I have found favor with him…

If he thinks it is right…

If I am pleasing to him…

She is an astute student of her husband. She knows that she is going to have to make every effort to appeal to his pride and feed his obsession for power and control. What she is asking cannot come across as a demand. She may not have fully understood Persian law, as will shortly be revealed, but she did understand her somewhat temperamental husband. Anything that came across as a criticism of his rule or a question of his integrity would backfire. But Esther didn’t pull any punches. She boldly stated what she wanted: The rescinding of Haman’s former edict. But that was going to prove impossible. According to Persian law, an edict of the king was irrevocable. Not even the king could overturn one of his own decrees once it had been issued. But the king did the next best thing. He offered Esther the opportunity to write another edict that could counteract the first decree.

Now go ahead and send a message to the Jews in the king’s name, telling them whatever you want, and seal it with the king’s signet ring. But remember that whatever has already been written in the king’s name and sealed with his signet ring can never be revoked. – Esther 8:8 NLT

Haman’s original decree, which called for the entire Jewish population in Persia to be wiped out, was predicated on a single day on the calendar. It was on that date that the mass execution was to take place. But all was not lost. There was still time. And the king, although a pagan, was giving Esther and Mordecai advice and the power to put a plan into place that would thwart the plans of Haman and preserve the people of God. Once again, we see divine providence moving behind the scenes, orchestrating events and controlling the affairs of men in such a way that the will of God is accomplished. Haman was dead, but the threat against the Jews was still real. His death had not eliminated the edict, but it had elevated Esther and Mordecai in the eyes of the king. He had given the signet ring, once worn by Haman, to Mordecai. And with the ring came power. It was to prove the key to thwarting the plans of Haman and preserving the people of God.

According to the original edict, the date set for the official extermination of the Jews was March 7, 473 B.C. That was a mere eight months away. But it would prove ample time for God to put together a plan to rescue the Jews. Yes, he could have done it in a day. He could have simply wiped out the Persians and miraculously delivered them as He had done so many times before. But as He had with Esther and Mordecai, God was going to use the Jews themselves to accomplish His deliverance. They were going to play a major role in their own rescue. He was the moving force behind all that was going on, but they would not be mere spectators. Mordecai and Esther had been expected to play their parts. They had immersed themselves in the story, taking great risks in allowing themselves to be used by God. When David killed Goliath, he took great risks. He faced a much-larger foe with far-less-impressive weapons, but he succeeded. Moses risked all by standing up against Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt, but he too proved successful. Jesus risked it all by standing up against the religious leaders of His day and the powerful forces of Roman rule. And while He died for His efforts, He was successful in accomplishing the will of His Father. His death brought life. His sacrifice made salvation possible for sinful men. God works through His people. He displays His might through the weak, the powerless, the unimpressive and the unlikely. God used Mordecai, a nondescript Jew. He used Esther, a young orphan recognized for her beauty, but remembered for her faith. And God wants to use you.

 

Seeing The God Who Sees All.

On that day King Ahasuerus gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her. And the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman. – Esther 8:1-2 ESV

Over in the book of Deuteronomy, we read the following description of God:

I will proclaim the name of the Lord; how glorious is our God! He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! – Deuteronomy 32:3-4 NLT

The truly unique attribute about the story of Esther is that God is nowhere mentioned in the book, but His presence can be seen and felt as the narrative unfolds. He is portrayed as the faithful God who does no wrong. He works invisibly, but invincibly behind the scenes, orchestrating His plan and asserting His will on the lives of men, including those who do not believe He exists. God has been actively involved throughout the story of Esther and Mordecai. He is the one who put Esther on the throne of Persia. He was behind the seeming coincidence that allowed Mordecai to discover the plot against the king. He was the cause behind the king’s insomnia and his request to have the royal record read to him in hope that it might lull him to sleep. God had been witnessing the actions of Haman. He knew his heart and was well aware of his hatred for Mordecai and the people of Israel. While it may have appeared that God was out of sight and out of touch with all the events unfolding in Persia, He was actually in complete control. And He had a plan already in place to deal with not only Haman, but the king’s decree.

Later on in the the same chapter in the book of Deuteronomy, we read:

The Lord says, “Am I not storing up these things, sealing them away in my treasury? I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.” – Deuteronomy 32:34-35 NLT

God is always watching. Like a divine accountant, He is documenting every deposit and withdrawal. He knows the heart of every man. He sees their every action and knows the motivation behind all that they do or don’t do. And while it may appear that God is blind to our predicament and unaware of the injustices being heaped upon us, unlike King Ahasuerus, He is fully cognizant of all that goes on in His kingdom. And God has a just outcome in store for every individual who rises up against His rule or raises a hand against His people.

When we find ourselves going through difficulty, it is sometimes easy to assume that God is not there or that He does not care. We react like the psalmist.

O Lord, the God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, let your glorious justice shine forth! Arise, O judge of the earth. Give the proud what they deserve. How long, O Lord? How long will the wicked be allowed to gloat? How long will they speak with arrogance? How long will these evil people boast? They crush your people, Lord, hurting those you claim as your own. They kill widows and foreigners and murder orphans. “The Lord isn’t looking,” they say, “and besides, the God of Israel doesn’t care.” – Psalm 94:1-7 NLT

But our perspective gets skewed. Our circumstances blind us to the ways of God. We get so busy looking at our difficulties, that we lose the ability to see God working in our midst. So the psalmist goes on to remind us of God’s ever-constant presence. And he warns the wicked that God knows all and sees all.

Think again, you fools! When will you finally catch on? Is he deaf—the one who made your ears? Is he blind—the one who formed your eyes? He punishes the nations—won’t he also punish you? He knows everything—doesn’t he also know what you are doing? The Lord knows people’s thoughts; he knows they are worthless! – Psalm 94:8-11 NLT

It is as if the psalmist knew about Haman long before he was even born.

Can unjust leaders claim that God is on their side—leaders whose decrees permit injustice? They gang up against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death. But the Lord is my fortress; my God is the mighty rock where I hide. God will turn the sins of evil people back on them. He will destroy them for their sins. The Lord our God will destroy them. – Psalm 94:20-23 NLT

And God dealt with Haman, a leader whose decrees permit injustice, by turning his sins back on him. He was destroyed for his sins. And, at the same time, Esther and Mordecai were rewarded. Esther was given the property of Haman. Mordecai was given the king’s signet ring, the symbol of his power and authority, which had previously been given to Haman. And Esther put her uncle, Mordecai, in charge of all the Haman’s vast estate and wealth. The tables had turned. The wicked were defeated. The righteous were blessed.

But while the story of Esther has a happy ending, we must be careful not to assume that every situation and circumstance works out with a perfect fairy tale ending. Stephen, while preaching the gospel, was brutally stoned and murdered by an angry mob. Paul spent much of his adult life in prison as a result of his ministry on behalf of Christ. John was exiled to the island of Patmos by the Roman government because of his persistent preaching of the gospel. We would be wrong to assume that things always turn out right. The Christian faith has always had its martyrs. There are countless believers all across the world who are suffering for their faith at this very moment. Many of them will die as a result of their faith in Christ. But that does not change the fact that God is in control. He knows what He is doing. He has a plan and He will bring it about in His perfect timing and according to His perfect will. We may not understand it or even like it, but we can trust that whatever happens is within the just and righteous providence of God. For Esther and Mordecai, the story has a happy ending. But while some may experience pain, suffering, lose and even death, it does not mean that God is not working.

The Lord will not reject his people; he will not abandon his special possession. Judgment will again be founded on justice, and those with virtuous hearts will pursue it. – Psalm 94:14-15 NLT

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From Bad to Worse.

And the king arose in his wrath from the wine-drinking and went into the palace garden, but Haman stayed to beg for his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that harm was determined against him by the king. And the king returned from the palace garden to the place where they were drinking wine, as Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was. And the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?” As the word left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face.  Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Moreover, the gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, is standing at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.” And the king said, “Hang him on that.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the wrath of the king abated. – Esther 7:7-10 ESV

Haman’s entire life seems to have been a series of well-calculated plans intended to elevate himself to highest realms of power, popularity and financial success. And up until recently, he had proven to be successful. It is important to remember that Haman, like Mordecai, was not a native Persian. He was an Amalakite and either he or one of his ancestors was taken captive by the Babylonians during one of their many expeditions into the land of Palestine. As an outsider, Haman had done well for himself. He had risen to become one of the most important and influential dignitaries in the king’s court, with tremendous power and prestige. Haman had a made it a personal mission to become a success and he had achieved his goal. After attending the first banquet held by Esther, he had bragged to his wife and friends: “Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king” (Esther 5:11 ESV). He was the epitome of a self-made man. 

Haman stands in stark contrast to another man who found himself living as an outsider in a foreign land. Daniel was taken captive as a result of the Babylonian conquest of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem. He was taken prisoner and transported to the royal capital where he was forced into service to the king, Nebuchadnessar. Daniel was one of the “youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace” (Daniel 1:4 ESV). He was to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. “The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king” (Daniel 1:5 ESV). And we’re told that God gave Daniel favor and compassion with the eunech who was in charge of his care. Daniel had no personal agenda. He had no plan to worm his way into the good graces of the king and secure for himself a position of power and prominence. In fact, Daniel simply wanted to obey his God. And yet, God would choose to elevate Daniel.

God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. – Daniel 1:17-20 ESV

Haman was a self-made man. Everything he had achieved in life had been the result of his own hard work and carefully calculated schemes. And here he was having dinner with the king and queen. But things were not going well. His plot to wipe out an entire people group has just been exposed by the queen and she has dropped the bombshell of an admission that she was a member of that group. Haman was in shock. And the king was beside himself in anger. He was so upset that he had to leave the room in order to think. And when he returned he found Haman draped all over the couch where Queen Esther was seated. Haman had simply been begging for his life, but to the king, it looked like he was attempting to kill Esther with his own hands.

The king has Haman arrested. And this is where Haman’s carefully crafted world completely falls apart. The king is informed that Haman “has set up a sharpened pole that stands seventy-five feet tall in his own courtyard. He intended to use it to impale Mordecai, the man who saved the king from assassination” (Esther 7:9 NLT). Just when Haman didn’t think it could get any worse, it did. He had originally hoped that this banquet would be the perfect environment to ask the king for permission to execute Mordecai. But that all had been spoiled when he had to parade Mordecai around the streets of Susa in honor of his role in saving the king’s life. None of this had been part of his plan. How was he to have known that Esther was a Jew? How could all his carefully laid plans have fallen apart such epic fashion? The answer is simple: God. He had not included the sovereignty and providence of God in his calculations. He had not considered the handiwork of the Almighty in his plans. But it was becoming painfully clear to Haman that there were greater forces at work here than he could have ever imagined.

Back in the book of Daniel, we have the story of Daniel’s Hebrew friends: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The had refused to bow down before the golden image erected by King Nebuchadnezzar, and their fate was to be thrown into the fiery furnace. When given one last chance to reconsider, they simply said, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18 NLT). What a contrast. They knew God was at work. They had no doubt that the Almighty was mightier than the king of Babylon and the forces of evil surrounding them. And they were willing to die for Him if necessary.

Haman would simply die. Not for a god, but for his own self-centered agenda. “So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai” (Esther 7:10 ESV). He had spent his entire life focused on himself and he would die alone and forgotten. He had unwittingly pitted himself against the God of the universe. He had plotted and planned against the Lord God Almighty and lost. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had placed their faith in God and lived. Daniel would do the same and survive a night in a den full of man-eating lions. He would know what it was like to have God deliver him from the worst-case scenario. Haman would simply discover the pain of watching his world go from bad to worse. No God. No hope. Know God. Know hope.

 

Divine Payback.

And on the second day, as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king again said to Esther, “What is your wish, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king.” Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has dared to do this?” And Esther said, “A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen. – Esther 7:2-6 ESV

Queen Esther has prepared her second feast for the king and Haman. She is ready to reveal the next phase of her plan to seek the rescue of her people. And while God is not mentioned, we know that Esther spent several days fasting and praying in order to seek the will and blessing of God before she did anything. All of her efforts appear to be part of a well-though-out strategy to trap Haman in his underhanded plot to destroy the people of God. When given a second chance by the king to make her request made known, Esther wastes no time. She reveals to the king the nefarious plan of Haman in all its gory details. Based on the way that the king responds to this news, it would appear that he had no idea that Haman intended to have the Jews slaughtered. Either he had not read the decree upon which Haman had set his seal, or he had misunderstood Haman’s intent.

Back in chapter three we have a record of Haman’s initial request to the king:

There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them. If it please the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed – Esther 3:8-9 ESV

Haman conveniently left out the fact that the “certain people” to which he referred were the Jews. And the king had simply given Haman his signet ring and the authority to draft the decree in his own words and to send it throughout the kingdom.

It was written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king’s signet ring. Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. – Esther 3:12-13 ESV

Now that decision was coming back to haunt the king and Haman. Esther drops the bombshell news that her people were the ones who were going to be destroyed as a result of Haman’s decree. “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king” (Esther 7:3-4 ESV). She uses the exact words found in the original decree, describing with precision just what was going to happen in less than a year’s time. It would appear that she never mentions that she and her people are Jews. She leaves that detail out, and for the king, it didn’t seem to matter. All he had to know was that his queen and her people were the objects of Haman’s hatred and a scheme to eliminate them. Haman had had no idea that Esther was a Jew when he issued the decree. This all was coming as a shock to him. And he was slowly watching his life pass before his eyes. What had started out as an ego-boosting feast given in his honor, was quickly turning into a nightmare.

When the king demanded to know who was behind this plot against the queen’s life, she blurted out, “A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!” She left no doubt in the king’s mind as to what kind of man Haman really was. He was an adversary to the king. He was out to kill the king’s chosen queen and to wipe out every trace of her people from the kingdom. And Esther wisely stroked the king’s ego by confessing that had Haman simply plotted to sell her people into slavery, she wouldn’t have bothered the king with such trifling news. But this was genocide. And she insinuates that Haman had been including her in his plot all along.

As you can well imagine, Haman watched all this take place in disbelief and horror. His words and intent were being twisted. He had no idea the queen was a Jew. He had only been seeking revenge on Mordecai and his people. Now he was being accused of personally plotting the queen’s assassination. And we know what happened to the two men who had been plotting to kill the king. They were hung. So Haman is scared out of his sense. And the text matter-of-factly states, “Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen” (Esther 7:6 ESV).

Haman was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. His world was crashing down around his head. All his dreams and visions of grandeur were evaporating before his eyes. He was experiencing a day of accounting. Payment for sins was coming due. His runaway pride was resulting in his own downfall. As the Proverbs so aptly state, “Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished, but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered” (Proverbs 11:21 ESV). In His divine timing, God had chosen to bring Haman’s plans to an abrupt and painful end. And Haman had every reason to be afraid.

The Lord says, “Am I not storing up these things, sealing them away in my treasury? I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.” – Deuteronomy 32:34-35 NLT

Learning to Lean.

Then Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman hurried to his house, mourning and with his head covered. And Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.”

While they were yet talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried to bring Haman to the feast that Esther had prepared. So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. – Esther 6:12-7:1 ESV

It is fascinating to note the reactions of the two men in this story. After having been dressed in the king’s royal robes and paraded through the city streets on a royal steed, Mordecai returned to his place at the king’s gate, continuing his state of mourning over the fate of the Jews. He did not let his temporary flirtation with fame and good fortune distract him from his mission to mourn and fast for the salvation of his people. There were more important things for Mordecai to consider than his own prominence or personal well-being.

As for Haman, he went from bragging about his wealth, power and position to a state of mourning. The man who once held his head high in pride and arrogance made his way home with his head covered in shame. And when he arrived home, rather than receiving comfort and encouragement from his wife and friends, he was told that his case against Mordecai was hopeless. He would be the one to fall. Even Haman’s wife, Zeresh, gave him the bad news that if Mordecai was a Jew, then Haman would be the one to fall.

Even within the realm of King Xerxes, in the nation of Persia, within the capital of Susa, the Hebrew people had a reputation. Their stories were well-known. The tales of their God’s power and miracles were well-known. And while the Jews were in Persia because they had been defeated by the Babylonians, it must be remembered that both Cyrus and Artaxerses, predecessors to King Xerxes, had passed edicts to allow the Jews to return to their land to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and reconstruct the temple. These two kings had even funded the return and the restoration projects out of the royal treasury. For Haman to attempt to stand against Mordecai would be ill-advised and ill-fated. It was as if Zeresh sensed that there were greater forces at work here than Haman or anyone else could see. The events of the last 24 hours were not a case of bad luck. They were the result of the intentional intervention of the Hebrew god.

But Haman would have little time to consider that thoughts of his wife and friends. Before he knew it, the king’s eunuchs arrived to accompany Haman to the second feast being thrown in his honor by Queen Esther. Haman had to uncover his head, hide his sorrow and put on a happy face before he walked into the presence of the king. But his head was spinning. His emotional world was in turmoil. He had just been forced to honor the man he had intended to execute. And when the king caught wind of the fact that the edict he had been coerced to sign by Haman was going to result in the death of Mordecai, the man he had just rewarded, his reaction to Haman would probably be less than ideal.

Haman was probably thinking things couldn’t get any worse. But he was in for a rude surprise. His selfish, pride-filled plan was running headlong into God’s sovereign will. He would prove no match for God. He thought his beef was with Mordecai, a common, nondescript Jew. But he was about to discover that he was doing battle with God Almighty. He would learn the truth behind the statement made by the prophet Balaam hundreds of years before:

No curse can touch Jacob;
    no magic has any power against Israel.
For now it will be said of Jacob,
    “What wonders God has done for Israel!” – Numbers 23:23 NLT

Haman was no match for God. His wisdom was nothing compared to God’s. His wealth paled in comparison to the vast resources at God’s disposal. His influence over the king was insignificant when contrasted with God’s sovereign control over the entire universe, including kings and kingdoms. If he found any comfort in the fact that the king’s edict was irreversible, he was in for a rude surprise.

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. – Proverbs 21:1 ESV

For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. – Psalm 135:5-6 ESV

…his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” – Daniel 4:34-35 ESV

O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. – 2 Chronicles 20:6 ESV

From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done. – Isaiah 43:13 NLT

He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. – Luke 1:51-53 ESV

Back in 1887, Elisha Hoffman penned the words to the great old hymn, Leaning On The Everlasting Arms. They certainly apply to the story found in the book of Esther.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning,
Safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

There comes a time when we must learn to lean on the everlasting, all-powerful arms of God. Just when we think all is lost and the enemy is winning the battle, we must remember that our God is on His throne and His might has not diminished, His will has not weakened, His love has not faded and His sovereign plan has not been derailed or deterred in any way. Even when all looks lost, we must continue to lean on God. What we can see with our eyes is never a reliable barometer of what God is doing behind the scenes. God replaced Mordecai’s sackcloth with royal robes, just a glimpse of what was to come. God took Haman’s pride and arrogance, and replaced it with humiliation. And that would be just the beginning of Haman’s fall from grace. God was not done yet.

His Wonders To Perform.

On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. And it was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. And the king said, “What honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” The king’s young men who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.” And the king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for him. And the king’s young men told him, “Haman is there, standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him come in.” So Haman came in, and the king said to him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” And Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?” And Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set. And let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming 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 robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.” So Haman took the robes and the horse, and he dressed Mordecai and led him through the square of the city, proclaiming before him, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.” – Esther 6:1-11 ESV

On the very same night that Haman is plotting to take the life of Mordecai, it just so happens that the king is struck with a bad case of insomnia. He can’t sleep, so he summons his servants to bring the book of memorable deeds, better known as the chronicles, in order that they might read it out loud to him. As one can well imagine, this official record would have been far from a riveting read, but the king’s intent was to have himself lulled to sleep. It just so happens that the section chosen to be read included the account of Mordecai’s exposure of the plot by Bigthana and Teresh against the king’s life. Curious, the king asks what had been done to reward Mordecai for his efforts, because the record was silent about it. When he is told that nothing had been done for Mordecai, he immediately decides to do something about it. Not one to make decisions like this on his own, the king demands to know who else is in the palace at this time of night.

This is where it gets interesting. It just so happens that Haman has arrived at the palace and we are told the reason behind his late-night visit to see the king. “Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for him” (Esther 6:4 ESV). Haman knew he could not kill Mordecai without the king’s permission, and he was determined to have him hung that very night, so he had to risk all and attempt to see the king as soon as possible. His goal was to have Mordecai hanging on a stake long before Esther held her second feast that day.

And Haman was under the same restriction that Esther had faced. He could not simply walk into the king’s presence. He had to be summoned. And his attempt to see the king was complicated by the lateness of the night. But little did he know that the king was wide awake and looking for someone to talk to. So when Haman heard that the king wanted to see him, he must have been ecstatic and assumed that this was his lucky day. When he came into the king’s presence, the words he heard must have been like music to his ears. The king asks him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” (Esther 6:6 ESV). And in his pride and arrogance, Haman immediately assumes the king was talking about him. In his mind, he had just received a blank check from the king, so he wastes no time in describing an elaborate and over-the-top series of honors that reveal just how conceited and arrogant he really is. Notice that Haman has royal aspirations. He wants to be king. He recommends that the man whom the king wants to honor be given royal robes to wear that have been worn by the king himself. And that he be given a royal steed to ride that has been ridden by the king, and that bears the king’s crown. And to top it all off, Haman recommends that this honored individual be lead through the city by the members of the nobility. The king must have thought that this was a bit much for what Mordecai had done, but he went ahead and agreed to Haman’s recommendation.

Then Haman receives the most humiliating news of his pride-filled life. He is told that all his wild and extravagant recommendations were to be bestowed on none other than his arch-enemy, Mordecai. The king tells Haman, “Hurry; take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned” (Esther 6:10 ESV). What a shock the system this must have been. The very man he had been planning to execute was now going to be exalted, and he was going to have to make it happen. Rather than having the pleasure of watching Mordecai hung on a stake until dead, Haman was going to have to personally lead him through the city at the head of a royal procession, wrapped in royal robes and seated on one of the king’s own horses.

If one were to read this story without a God-centered perspective, it would be easy to write all of this off to bad luck or lousy karma. Haman was just an ill-fated individual who had bad timing and a meager supply of good fortune. But the book of Esther was written for the people of God, the Israelites. They would have read it with a strong sense of God’s presence and power permeating every single second of the narrative. While He is never mentioned in the book, He can be seen on every page of the story. But for the prideful and arrogant, the wicked and ungodly, God remains out of sight. Like Haman, the operate on the premise that there is no god. “In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 10:4 ESV). King David’s assessment was, “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!” (Psalm 14:1 NLT). But even the godly can assume that God is either silent, blind, or oblivious to their situations. They can look at their circumstances and decide that God has abandoned them to their fate. Or they can read the book of Esther and be reminded that God is always there and that He cares. He never sleeps. He never slumbers. He never leaves anything up to fate. From sleepless kings to plotting Amalakites, God is in control. It was William Cowper who wrote the following words in 1774:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain

An Instrument In God’s Hand.

On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace. And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. And the king said to her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.” And Esther said, “If it please the king, let the king and Haman come today to a feast that I have prepared for the king.” Then the king said, “Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther has asked.” So the king and Haman came to the feast that Esther had prepared. And as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king said to Esther, “What is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” Then Esther answered, “My wish and my request is: If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my wish and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come to the feast that I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said.” – Esther 5:1-8 ESV

It is important to remember that Esther has just spent three full days fasting. And, no doubt, she spent those three days seeking direction and protection from God. She was going to have to go before the king and not only confess the fact that she had been hiding the fact that she was a Jews, but beg him to rescind his edict that had doomed them to destruction. This was not going to be easy. And the result for her personally could be deadly. It had been a month since the king had invited her into his presence, and unless you were invited, your presence was forbidden, under penalty of death. The reason the three days of prayer and fasting are so important is that they explain so much of Esther’s behavior in this passage. She has a plan. She does not come into the king’s presence unprepared or “winging it.” She has had three days to call out to God and ask for His help. The result is that she is able to come before the king with confidence and a well-thought-out strategy to achieve her objective: the salvation of her people.

The salvation of God is not always accomplished through a mighty miracle where we simply stand back and watch in awe and wonder. Sometimes God chooses to work through His people, using them to accomplish His will through their apparent weakness. When God chose Moses to lead His people out of captivity in Egypt, Moses argued with Him, claiming to be the wrong person for the job. But God simply responded:

“Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” – Exodus 4:11-12 NLT

Now God was going to do something similar with Esther. She simply needed to go and allow God to give her the words to say. He would be with her, guiding her thoughts and preparing the heart of the king to receive what she had to say. Jesus gave His disciples similar words of encouragement, telling them that they would have all the divine help they would need when the time came.

And when you are brought to trial in the synagogues and before rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how to defend yourself or what to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said. – Luke 12:11-12 NLT

God was going to use Esther to accomplish His will, and it seems clear from the story that He had given Esther very specific instructions as to how she was to approach the king and present her case for the Hebrew people.

But one of the first hurdles that had to be overcome was that of gaining entrance into the king’s presence. She had not been invited. So she chose to dress up in her royal robes and stand outside the court, patiently waiting for him to see her and extend an invitation. And her strategy worked. He did just that. But surprisingly, he asked her a remarkable question: “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom” (Esther 5:3 ESV). With that kind of opportunity, it could have been easy for Esther to blurt out her request right then and there. But she waited. The time was not yet right. This was a complicated and delicate matter that was required great wisdom and patience. But she took advantage of the king’s generous reception and invited he and Haman to a feast. She appealed to his vanity and his extreme love for festivities. The king was never one to turn down a party invitation. And it is interesting to note that Esther had already prepared the feast. She went into this encounter with the king with a certain degree of confidence and faith that God was going to work things out. And the king immediately sent for Haman so they could take advantage of the food and wine that Esther had prepared for them.

After the king and Haman had been satiated on the fine foods prepared for them and satisfied in their own self-important, Esther served them wine. Then the king asked again, “What is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled” (Esther 5:6 ESV). And Esther responded again by inviting the king and Haman to yet another feast on the following day. She was working her plan to perfection. We may not be able to see the strategy behind her efforts. We might even believe she is simply putting off the inevitable. But there is far too much planning and calculation involved to write this off as procrastination. She knows exactly what she is doing. And it would appear that she is doing exactly what God has told her to do. God is accomplishing His will through her. He is implementing His plan by utilizing one of His children. He is using the weak to confound the wise. God is great, but He oftentimes chooses to work through the powerless to shame those who think they are powerful. Esther was an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer. She was a willing tool ready to be used by God to accomplish His plan.