A Stream of Water in the Hand of the Lord
My sermon title comes from Proverbs 21:1, which reads:
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
Throughout the book of Esther, we do not find the name of God, but we see His hidden hand everywhere. This verse in Proverbs speaks of the hand of God directing the hearts of kings in the direction He intends. We certainly see this in the book of Esther. Many are puzzled by the relationship between divine sovereignty and human freedom. How can God be sovereign, yet humanity be free? As I was studying Esther 5 this week, it occured to me that in this chapter we have a beautiful example of how God works with, not against the desires of our heart to accomplish His purpose. As I read this morning’s text, note how God is using the desires and dispositions of each person’s heart.
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.” And Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai. Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home, and he sent and brought his friends and his wife Zeresh. 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. Then Haman said, “Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king. Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it. Then go joyfully with the king to the feast.” This idea pleased Haman, and he had the gallows made.
We begin with...
Esther’s Submissive Heart
Esther’s Submissive Heart
We have already seen that Esther was submissive to her cousin Mordecai (Esther 2:10) and the king’s eunuch Hegai (Esther 2:15). Her submissive spirit, along with her beauty, may very well have been what set her apart from her competitors to become queen. As we shall see, king Ahasuerus very much wanted to be “master of his own household” (Esther 1:22). This very unmanly, insecure man felt safe in the presence of Esther. The final example of Esther’s submissive heart is seen in her hesitancy at first to set up and act as an intercessor for her people the Jews.
Many people are like Esther, they would rather be in the background than the limelight. They rather be a follower, than a leader. They are cautious and careful. They don’t like to rock the boat.
Our culture tends to view a submissive, cautious spirit as a weakness. Given the urgency of the situation, human wisdom would judge Esther as the worst possible candidate for God’s plan to save the Jews from the hand of Haman, but as chapter five unfolds we see how Esther’s submissive spirit made her the perfect candidate for God’s plan!
Why is this? Because king Ahasuerus was a man with an indecisive heart.
Ahasuerus’ Indecisive Heart
Ahasuerus’ Indecisive Heart
By all external measurements king Ahasuerus was the most powerful man on earth, yet in his heart he was a weakling. The author of the book of Esther portrays Ahasuerus as a man unsure of himself. Normally, it is a great virtue for a king to surround himself with wise counselors, however, when a king or advisor allows his advisors to make his decisions for him, their counsel becomes his downfall. Interestingly enough, the Greek historian portray Xerxes (the Greek name for Ahasuerus) as a weak ruler, dependent on the advice of others.
Such people tend to be bullies to those who are weaker. Their insecurity tends to make them overreact to those who stand up to them. This was most certainly the case with Vashti. His anger was all out of proportions to the offense. His manipulative advisers picked up on this and consoled his wounded ego with the report all across the empire women were following Vashti’s example and rising up in rebellion (Esther 1:18)! They then proposed to the king that if Vashti was deposed and replaced, “every man” once again would “be master of his own house.” (Esther 1:22)
Esther’s deference in not giving voice to her request right away, but rather after two feasts, was just the assurance Ahasuerus’ indecisive heart needed. He thought he was “master of his own household,” but Esther had skillfully maneuvered him to the place that even the unchangeable law of the Medes and Persians could not stand in the way!
A lot of people confuse caution (as in the case of Esther) with indecisiveness, but nothing could be further from the truth. In our text Esther move decisively and with skill, once she was sure of what was needed to be done. I hope this encourages those of you whose personality type are like Esther, in the hands of God, your submissive spirit is a great strength.
Finally, we come to...
Haman’s Vain Heart
Haman’s Vain Heart
Haman, by his own confession had it all:
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. Then Haman said, “Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king.
Yet the actions of one man, Mordecai, robbed him of all pleasure:
Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.”
Think about this for a moment. [Pause]
Mordecai’s failure to give Haman honor did not take anything away from Haman. Haman was still second only to the king in wealth and power.
It has been said you can tell what a person’s idol is by what can take away their happiness. By this standard, Haman’s idol was public recognition.
What a cruel taskmaster this idol is. Many in the entertainment industry worship the idol of public recognition. This is why substance abuse, depression and even suicide is so prevalent among them. The stars of Hollywood quickly fade!
As the story of Esther unfolds, Haman’s vain heart is his downfall.
This is why it is so important that we make sure God is the great delight of our heart.
The more I study Scripture the more I appreciate Psalm 37:4:
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Jesus identifies the heart and its desires as the rudder that sets the course of our whole life.
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Last week I said that Esther came to a fork in the road, she had to choose to delight in God or delight in her own idols—she choose God and the course of her life and the Jewish people changed forever!
In our text this morning we see God’s hidden hand moving the fate of individuals, nations and all of human history by the desires of peoples’ hearts. God moves us not by coercion, but by our own desires and free will. This is why we need to look to the desires of our heart.
Is the delight of the Lord the desire of your heart? Has this sermon created in you the desire for a new heart? If so, know this: It is not my sermon, but the hidden hand of God as work in your heart.
Today, some of you are at that fork in the road. Will you, like Esther and Mordecai, make the Lord the delight of your heart? Who knows where God’s hidden hand is leading you?
Let us pray.