Esther 3 – An Old Enemy

Today we pick up in Esther 3. In this chapter we learn more about Haman and his plot to kill the Jews.

 

The Position of Haman

“After all this took place…” (v.1). Esther was now queen and Mordecai had saved the King’s life. It was a time of peace. The war was over and the King gave Haman “a higher position than all the other officials.” Though he had the highest position in the Kingdom, second only to the King, Haman was an evil man. Today, we may not like all those in authority over us, but the Bible teaches that we are to pray for kings and all those who are in authority. We are to respect the position even if we don’t respect the person.

 

The Promotion of Haman

Mordecai protected the King. He stopped the assassination attempt. We are to seek the good of the place where we live (Jer. 29:7).Would you seek the good of a bad king or bad boss? Mordecaideserved the promotion, but he didn’t get it. Haman did. How do you respond when someone else gets the promotion you think you deserve? How do you handle someone else getting a new house, new car, or raise when you don’t think they deserve it? God has enough blessings to go around. Exalt yourself and you will be humbled. Humble yourself and you will be exalted.

 

The Pride of Haman

In verses 2-4, we read that the King commanded everyone to bow down to Haman, but that Mordecai would not. Abraham, Jacob, Joseph’s brothers, and David all bowed before others, so what was Mordecai’s problem? Like a salute in military, bowing was instinctive in this culture, but Mordecai drew the line. He had compromised, blending in with the crowd long enough. He would not bow to Haman the horrible. Civil disobedience is found in the Bible when necessary: Hebrew midwives, Daniel and his friends, and the apostles in Acts 5. This is the exception not the norm. The norm is to show respect and be at peace. Haman is absorbed with himself. His nose is so high in the air he did not even see Mordecai standing. They had to tell him!God hates pride. Pride is what made Lucifer the devil, got Adam and Eve kicked out of the garden, caused Nebuchadnezzar to lose his sanity, and caused Haman to sign his own death sentence. Do you think you are better or above everyone else? Pride can make you go too far.

 

The Prejudice of Haman

Because Mordecai would not bow, Haman decided to destroy all Jews. How could one man not bowing lead to killing an entire race? Haman is nursing an old grudge. We are not born hating people. Prejudice is learned. Haman had been taught to hate all Jews. Arrogance and anger are a bad combination. People are shot in our communities today for the same reasons. Make this story personal. Who would you kill if you could?Jesus said if you hate someone you have committed murder in your heart. We are all alike on the inside. We all bleed the same color blood. God created all people in His image. We are all descendants of Adam and Eve and therefore there is only one race, the human race. Racism is sin.

 

The King gave Haman permission to carry out his plan. He was either lazy and not wanting to do the due diligence, or he was too busy to get all the facts. He did not listen to both sides of the story! When you first hear something, you think you know the facts. You get in trouble when you do not listen to all the facts. We need to listen to multiple sources of information.Don’t jump to conclusions. Letters were sent to the officials telling them to destroy the Jewish people. How many times have you written something or repeated something that killed another person’s reputation?

 

Who do you hate? What are you doing with your grudge? Jesus offers forgiveness. Only Jesus can bring peace to the war within us. Praise God the gospel tears down walls of hostility and brings peace!

Esther 2 – Where is God?

As we continue through the book of Esther, we see that chapter 2 is a chapter about war and defeat, a girl who is orphaned, and Jews who do not return home when they could and should have. It’s about girls being taken by force into a harem, about a beauty pageant, and about an assassination plot. God’s name is never mentioned in the book of Esther so where is He in all of this?I’m glad you asked!

 

God is Greater Than Your Circumstances

Chapter 2 begins, “Some time later….” Four years have passed since King Ahasuerus banished Queen Vashti. Now there’s no queen, and he is lonely and depressed. His lost his wife, lost his war, and he is looking for a woman to meet his needs. No boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife can fill the void in your life. Only God can meet your needs! Verses 5-9 give insight into Esther’s situation. Mordecai was Esther’s guardian. Her parents had died and he adopted her. Mordecai was taken into exile, just like these girls were taken for the King. Both were taken by force, beyond their control. God gave Esther favor in the worst of circumstances. So many of life’s circumstances are beyond our control. Esther had no control over the war, her parents dying, the King’s actions, her looks, or her adoption. But, God had a plan!

 

God is Greater Than Your Compromise

“Esther had not revealed her family background or her ethnicity, as Mordecai had directed” (v. 20). These Jews had a private faith. They are just blending in with the crowd, not keeping the diet or dress of the Old Testament law. In addition, God sent his people back to Jerusalem after 70 years. They could have gone back, and should have gone back, but they didn’t. Many Christians today claim to have a private faith. Maybe no one knows you are a Christian. You don’t want to go public. The Bible is honest in showing God’s people, warts and all. Abraham and David both made big mistakes, but God redeemed them! What is on display in the Bible is the grace of God. God is greater! Grace is greater! God gives grace and favor even when we do not deserve it.

 

God is Greater Than Your Concerns

There is no doubt that Esther was concerned about the wait. She had been preparing an entire year for one night!And, for those not chosen, they would live a lonely life in a harem of women and could never go back to their family or get married. It was like a pageant and the Bachelor combined! Keep reading in the chapter and you’ll see Esther made it to the final rose ceremony and she got the final rose! Like the story of Cinderella, this poor orphan girl became the Queen! Chuck Swindoll said, “God not only moves in mysterious ways, but He also moves in mundane days.” Esther had no clue what would happen that day, but Divine Providence was at work. God is in control! He is sovereign, orchestrating affairs directly and indirectly. Human Responsibility is key as well.God orders our steps and opens doors, but we have to walk through them.  Mordecai and Esther obeyed God and took their God-given opportunities.

 

God is Greater Than Your Conflicts

Look at verses 21-23. This is a story of conflicts! There are conflicts without and within. Perhaps the people hated Esther and were for Vashti. We see that Mordecai was not rewarded immediately for his action to protect the King. Good deeds are often overlooked or unappreciated and sometimes even met with anger and hostility. Sometimes people get mad at you or try to hurt you physically or relationally. People conspire, connive, and scheme. But God has His people everywhere. Like Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon, He has Mordecai and Esther in Persia. We must do what is right knowing God will reward us in His due time. Do what is right and leave the outcome to God.

 

Even though His name is not mentioned, throughout this chapter and this book we see that our God is greater and that He is a God of redemption!

Esther 1 – Beauty and the Feast

I love preaching through books of the Bible. Today we begin a study on the Old Testament book of Esther. Esther is one of only two books of the Bible named after a woman (Ruth is the other). It is also one of only two books in which God’s name is not mentioned (Song of Solomon is the other). God’s name is not mentioned, but His fingerprints are all throughout. The story of Esther is a story about:

 

Power and Pride

King Xerxes was the most powerful man on the earth in his day. His kingdom spanned from India to Ethiopia. He gives a banquet for all his nobles and officials (v. 3) and it was the party of parties! It was a time of peace, but historians say Xerxes was planning for war. He was trying to convince them to go to war against Greece so he gave them a six-month, all-expense paid, all-inclusive vacation! In verse 4 we see the banquet was about more than his power, it was also about his pride and the display of his wealth, splendor, glory, and majesty. We may read these verses and condemn his abuse of power or desire to display his glory, but is it really any different today? We live in a narcissistic society where everyone wants to display or show the world their glory. Look on social media. Social media can be a great tool for the gospel, but can cause us to be consumed with self-centeredness and self-importance if we aren’t careful. Pride is the need to be seen, heard, and to show off.

 

Possessions and Pleasure

The story of Esther is also about possessions and pleasure. Verse 6 describes the banquet venue. It sounds like a lot of celebrity homes today! There was an open bar (v. 7-8). The people were allowed to drink whatever they wanted. Think of the overindulgence, the drunkenness. In the midst of the party, “…when King Xerxes was high in spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him… to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at” (v. 10-11). Queen Vashti was a looker! The Bible says she was beautiful and lovely to look at, which means she certainly was! This is a story of wine and women. We can be just as guilty of overeating and overdrinking, or of wanting everyone to see our glory. Men can be just as guilty of having a harem on the computer or internet. Aharem of hundreds of women, called pornography. Men today can live like they are a god, viewing women solely as objects to look at.

 

Position and Providence

“But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refusedto come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger” (v. 12). No one makes good decisions while drunk and King Xerxes showed an abuse of anger, not righteous indignation. There are a lot of different thoughts as to what exactly Xerxes was asking her to do and as to why she did not come. Is Vashti a woman of character and principle, or a stubborn woman who refuses to submit to her husband? A woman’s beauty is not for all men to see, but for her husband. Queen Vashti was brave! She chose to obey God, rather than man. Because of her decision, the men fear that Vashti’s example would cause all women to ignore their husbands. These guys are control freaks. Image is everything. The sad thing is that woman are still treated like this in many religions and places in the world today. King Xerxes listens to bad advice and issued a decree that Vashti could never again enter his presence. He ruins their relationship. I want to see her. She does not let me see her. I will teach her. I will never see her again.He did not get what he wanted! What ruins relationships? Manipulation, domination, deception, addiction, anger, lack of respect. You want to talk and they don’t. So, what do you do? You don’t speak to your spouse for days. That makes no sense! Pride always hurts the one you love. Pride is selfish. Love is selfless.

 

How are you like Xerxes? Apart from God, and when we are on the throne of our own lives, we would do the same things Xerxes did. Apart from King Jesus, we are King Xerxes! Praise God for His work in us!

Easter

Three Days

What an awesome Easter weekend we had at Liberty celebrating the resurrection! I had the privilege to preach on “three days.” Throughout Scripture we see an emphasis on three days: on the third day Abraham saw where he was to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22:4), Esther asked the people to fast for three days (Esth. 4:16), Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days (Jon. 1:17), and Jesus performed His first miracle on the third day (John 2:1). There are too many examples to list! In Luke 24, we see that the greatest miracle of all took place on the third day (v. 7).

 

Day 1 – Pain

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb” (Lk. 24:1). Why? They saw Jesus suffer and die. The cross was a day of pain. Maybe this Easter season you are going through a painful experience/trial/test. Jesus understands your pain! He understands physical pain, with your body or health. Emotionally, Jesus was a man of sorrows. He was despised and rejected. There is purpose in your pain! God never wastes pain, He is present in it, and He uses the process. Through it all, God works it all together for good. The worst thing that ever happened in history turned out to be the best thing that ever happened in history. What appeared to be the end, was really the beginning. Out of death came life!

 

Day 2 – Perplexity

When the women tried to tell the disciples that Jesus was no longer in the tomb, “their words seemed to them like nonsense” (v. 11). We also read that Jesus appeared to the disciples on the Emmaus road but they didn’t recognize Him. Verse 21 says, “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” Have you ever hoped things would turn out a certain way and they didn’t? If Day 1 is a day of suffering, Day 2 is a day of sorrow, silence, waiting, wondering, questioning, bewilderment, chaos, and confusion. God can handle all our questions, doubts, and fears. These disciples were walking the wrong way when Jesus came to them! They turned their back on Him, walking away from Jerusalem. Some of you have been disappointed in life. You had hope, but things did not turn out the way you planned. Maybe you’ve turned your back on Jesus and walked away. Like He found these men, God will find you when you are going the wrong way! He meets you where you are!

 

Day 3 – Promise

If Day 1 is a day of pain, and Day 2 a day of perplexity, the third day is the day of promise. It is the day of resurrection! Jesus not only offers resurrection, He is the Resurrection. He not only offers life, He is life!  Jesus rose and conquered death so that everything we face could be conquered. Revelation 1:18 says, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” He took the keys of hell and death! The devil does not even have keys to his own house! Jesus unlocked death for everyone. All the promises of the Bible are worthless if Jesus did not rise from the dead. Life is full of pain and perplexities but ultimately the promises of God prevail.

 

Not only did Jesus walk and talk with the disciples, but He also stayed with them (v. 29). He walks with us in our rejection, regret, and pain of yesterday. He talks with us in our doubts, fears, and the perplexities of today. He stays with us forever! He keeps His promises!

 

Verse 33 says, “They got up at once and returned to Jerusalem.” Remember, they had been walking away. Easter is the ultimate comeback story! Jesus came back to life! Some of you need to come to God. Others need to come back to God. Easter is the third day. Don’t worry about your past; you are not going back. Don’t worry about your future; God is already there. Today is the day of salvation! Jesus paid your debt. He gave His life to you fully. The only right response is to give your life to Him fully.

Good Friday

Have you ever wondered what is so good about Good Friday? If Jesus does not die, He cannot rise from the dead. That is what is good about it! This past Friday, I preached on Titus 3:4-7, and we reflected on the cross and all that it means for us. At the cross we are:

 

Overwhelmed by His Love

Verse 4 mentions the kindness and love of God. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world….” We are told in 1 John that we love only because He first loved us. In Matthew 3, God the Father says, “This is my beloved son…” God the Father loves His Son, yet He was willing to sacrifice the Son He loves on the cross because He loves us too! Romans 2:1 says, “The goodness of God leads to repentance.” “Goodness” there is the same word as “kindness” here in Titus. Love is why God did what He did. When you need to be reminded that God loves you, don’t look at your circumstances, but look at the cross.

 

Saved by His Mercy

“…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (v. 5). When we repent of our sin, and call on Jesus in faith, He saves us completely. Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. We are redeemed, transferred out of bondage into freedom, no longer living for self or controlled by the world, the flesh, and the devil, all because of mercy. Mercy is not the same as grace. Mercy is God NOT giving us what we do deserve. In the Bible we read that our heroes of the faith were all sinners. But, they found mercy and were saved by the blood of the lamb!

 

Washed by His Blood

Verse 5 also says, “…through the washing of regeneration.” Jesus’ death brought us life. Regeneration is the new birth. Christianity is not religion but a living relationship with the living God. Jesus did not die to make a bad man good or a good man better. He died to make a dead man live. We are not saved by works of righteousness that we have done, but by His mercy and grace. “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (v. 3). We are washed clean through regeneration. We are washed and redeemed with the blood of Jesus. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.

 

Filled by His Spirit

“…and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (v. 5). The Holy Spirit baptizes, indwells, fills, sanctifies, and seals us all at the point of conversion. Our bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit. His presence in us is evidence of salvation. On the cross, Jesus conquered the flesh with all its passions and desires so we can now walk in the Spirit. Sanctification is a progressive work of the Spirit. I am not what I should be or will be, but praise God I’m not what I used to be! Daily we need the renewing and filling of the Holy Spirit.

 

Justified by His Grace

In verse 7 we read that we are “justified by His grace.” There is amazing grace for every race! God reconciled us to Himself and to one another. Mercy is God NOT giving us what we do deserve. Grace is God giving us what we DON’T deserve. Instead of damnation, God gives us salvation. “Justified” means to make righteous or declare righteous. He took all our sin and He gave us all His righteousness. It is a legal term where God declares our account paid in full by the finished work of Jesus on the cross.  It is an act of God. It is not a process like sanctification. It is finished. The result is peace with God.

 

The way to protect a home from a fire is to burn the area around the home. Flames pose no danger to an area already burned. The cross is the only safe place from the fiery judgment that will someday engulf the world because it is the one place where the judgment of God has already been. There is there now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. At Calvary, “Mercy there was great and grace was free!”