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Esther and the Great Reversal

LBC Gospel Project  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Esther and the Great Reversal

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Esther and Providence

We’ve been in Esther, which among other things highlights the doctrine of God’s providence. While theologians will differ as to how directly God controls all events, the fact is that he does order them. Rather than battling Egyptian magicians and parting seas, or healing the blind and the physically inform, or even raising the dead, the story of Esther shows God’s activities behind the scenes to guide events to His desired outcome. As one commentator puts it, the secular world might hear a story of one of us bumping into someone, who tells us about a great job opportunity, where we meet our spouse, and say, “Wow, that was lucky!” A key takeaway from Esther is that we should see not luck, but God’s hand ordering that sequence of events.

A quick review of the story so far

OK, as I like to do, and as you’re too polite to argue with, let’s quickly review and lead up to our lesson today.
Xerxes (Ahasuerus) rules the vast Persian empire. This empire really was vast, ranging from Egypt and the border of Greece in the west, all the way to India in the East; importantly, it included Israel. Xerxes, an enormously powerful ruler, has deposed his queen, Vashti. He has replaced her with Esther, who had become part of his extensive harem, and won him over during what I’ll call “her turn”. No one know she’s a Jew, based on Mordecai, her uncle’s, advice. Even on becoming queen, she keeps her ethnicity secret.
Some time later, Hamas achieves high rank (essential prime minister), and Mordecai refuses to bow to him, because he is a Jew. Haman is outraged, and plots genocide. Mordecai alerts Esther to the plot, and she agrees to risk her life by going uninvited to see Xerxes. We’ll pick up the story somewhere along in there.

About Esther

Before we jump in, lets notice a few things about Esther. First, it’s very difficult to support that Esther is keeping the law. To keep her Jewishness secret, she’d likely have to violate the Law’s dietary restrictions (oops #1). She sleeps with Xerxes (see 2:14 - oops #2) then (very probably - it’s debated) marries him, a pagan (2:17 - oops #3), and becomes his queen. Second, the eunuch in charge of the harem appears to like her, and grooms her for her night with the king. Unlike Daniel and his friends, for example, she very likely enjoys the good life in the harem for a year; there’s no evidence she turns down better food and care than the presumably many, many other women, and she has seven attendants of her own. While I’m not going to trot Esther out as a shining example of morality, I’m also not at all butting my way to the front of the stone-casting line! First, she’s a young orphan in a tough position where what scholars call the power distance is 100% not in her favor. Second, I’d also side with commentators who note that sometimes life is a little more complicated than social media posts might make it out to be. (Have you ever been faced with a “choose now” kind of decision in an ambiguous situation, after praying, studying, waiting, fasting, and not getting a clear answer?) Third, and most importantly, I’d side with commentators who point out that God has a pretty solid track record of using very imperfect people to accomplish his plans.
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