Sleepless in Susa
In China a couple lays sleepless wondering if they or one of those they love will contract the coronavirus.
In the United States a woman lays sleepless worrying about the health and future of the nation she loves in the midst of the political turmoil of the past week.
In a village in India, a congregation spend a sleepless night praying for their pastor who was abducted by Hindu extremists the day before.
In a large city in Germany, a child lays awake as he hears his parents fight yet again.
A factory worker in Brazil can’t sleep because just that afternoon it was announced that the factory, he works at will be closing at the end of the week.
In Africa, a young woman endures a sleepless night as she is gang raped by Islamic militia.
All across this globe thousands, if not millions, of people spent a sleepless night this past week. Perhaps one of them was you.
In our text this morning we are going to meet two sleepless men and a God who “neither slumbers nor sleeps.”
I have entitled my sermon this morning, “Sleepless in Susa.” Turn with me now to Esther 6:1-14:
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.” 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.
We begin with a...
After the banquet that Esther had prepared, king Ahasuerus had trouble sleeping. We are not told why he had trouble sleeping that evening, perhaps there was no discernible reason, he just could not sleep! We have all had nights like that and the standard advice we receive is to drink a glass of warm milk and count sheep.
In many ways the ancients were more advanced than we, rather than counting sheep, the king asked for his official royal chronicle to be read. I remember reading exerts from one of these ancient royal chronicles as an undergraduate student. They are so monotonous; they make counting sheep seem like an action movie in comparison!
It so happened that on this night, the section the king had read to him recounted how Mordecai had saved his life from two assassins. The king suddenly remembers he had done nothing to reward Mordecai. This was not just a breach of royal edict; it was a life or death oversight. You see, this was not the first time king Ahasuerus had an assassination attempt made against him and it would not be the last. (In fact, history tells us that king Ahasuerus would be assassinated in a few years!) Ancient mid-eastern kings depended on people reporting to the king assassination attempts and they encouraged these reports by rewarding the informants lavishly. This explains the urgency upon which the king sought council as to how he would rectify the situation.
This brings us to the second sleepless man.
A Sleepless Villain
A Sleepless Villain
In the wee hours of the morning, the king bursts out of his champers and asks, “Who is in the court?” His servants must have thought him mad; no one would be in the court this early, but some of the young men who served the king said, “Haman is there, standing in the court.”
What brought Haman to the king’s palace this early hour of the day?
He wanted to be first in line! Like a Black Friday shopper, Haman foregoes the comforts of a warm bed to make sure he is the first to bring his petition to the king.
What made it so urgent that Haman be first to speak to the king? It was his request to execute Mordecai.
Have you ever been so excited that you couldn’t sleep? This was Haman.
This brings us to the third sleepless character in our story—God!
A Sleepless God
A Sleepless God
Have you ever considered what a paradox sleep is? On one hand, it seems to be a great waste of time. Just think about it, the average person needs 8 hours of sleep a day, that is one third of our lives spent unconscious! On the other hand, without proper sleep, our waking hours can be rendered unproductive. It is estimated that billions of dollars are lost each year by lower worker productivity caused by sleep deprivation.
Sleep is also highly theological. Perhaps nothing highlights the difference between God and ourselves more than sleep.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
God is sleepless, not because He is worried or excited. He is not sleepless because he ate spicy food or drank too much coffee. God is sleepless because He does not need sleep! His power is without limit and He exists outside of time and space. Although He created night and day, He is not bound to night and day as we are.
Psalm 121 was composed to instill confidence in the hearts of those who were making pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship. We don’t know how Esther and Modecai spent that night after the first banquet. It is not too hard to image that their night might have been sleepless as well. Surely Mordecai had learned why the workmen were working through the night, erecting a seventy-five-foot gallows to impale him upon. Esther for her part, must have found sleep hard to come by as she considered the fact that the fate of the entire Jewish people would hang upon how well the second banquet was received. Perhaps they sang themselves to sleep by reciting Psalm 121.
Whether or not they recited Psalm 121, the God of Psalm 121 was active. As the events of that evening unfolded, the Hidden Hand of God is unmistakable. Haman came to the king with the intention of executing Mordecai, he left the kings palace having to honor Mordecai in the most exalting fashion his mind could imagine!
When he returned home, his wife and advisers could not miss the significance of what had just happened.
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.”
I want to close by looking at one more city..
Sleepless in Carmichaels
Sleepless in Carmichaels
What is keeping you up at night?
Is it worries? Is it a heavy heart? Is it something you can’t even identify?
Whatever it is there is someone is awake with you—God!
If you are a Christian, His Hidden Hand is actively at work for your good. In the eight chapter of Romans we read this promise:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Dear friends, close your eyes in peace tonight, the Hidden Hand of God has everything in control.
Let us pray.