The Tale of Two Kings
There is a well-known saying that “silence is deafening.” That is certainly true of the book of Esther, for in this book the name of God is never once mentioned, but His hidden hand is seen everywhere.
One of the things this silence forces us to think about is the character of God, especially in comparison to king Ahasuerus.
King Ahasuerus was the most powerful king on the earth at that time. His majesty and might is on full display in this story, but as impressive his might and majesty is, the might and majesty of God shines even brighter. The book of Esther is The Tale of Two Kings.
Our text today is from Esther chapter seven and in this chapter, we will see how these two kings, Ahasuerus and God, differ in their Righteousness, Honor and Love.
Let us now hear God’s Word to us this morning:
So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. 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. 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.
The first contrast we see is between...
Two Types of Righteousness
Two Types of Righteousness
After a series of not only bad, but unrighteous actions, king Ahasuerus finally does the right thing, he punishes Haman and saves the Jews, but consider how he came to make this choice. He was manipulated and cajoled into doing the right thing by Esther. Esther’s wisdom and skill is truly impressive. Many have preached sermons on her wisdom and skill, but this is not the main point of the text. Even though the book of Esther bears her name, the main character of the story is God and it is God’s righteousness the author wants us to see, not Esther’s wisdom and skill.
I own a series of commentaries entitled, The Story of God. I like that title because it reminds me that although the Bible contains many stories of amazing people, the main character of all these stories is God!
Consider how God conducts Himself in this story and in all the other stories found in the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation God always does the right thing and He does the right thing, not because he is manipulated and cajoled into doing it, but because He is righteous to His very core. He is incapable of doing the wrong thing.
How different this is from the false gods of this world. Most people relate to their false image of God in the way Esther related to her husband. She had to placate her husband, because if he became angry, she could be deposed or even executed!
Scripture teaches us to fear God, but this fear is not because God is cruel and capricious, it is because God is holy and righteous!
The amazing thing about the book of Esther is this: God is doing the right thing, without Mordecai, Esther and the other Jews even acknowledging His presence! Their silence is deafening. They never once in this story utter the Name of God!
What an encouraging thing this is. Our world is in a mess and without question, the people of God should be doing more. Too many of us are like Mordecai and Esther were at the beginning of the story—compromised by the world; but thank God, our hope is not founded on the faithfulness and righteousness of the people of God, rather it is founded upon the faithfulness and righteousness of God!
The second contrast builds on this. The contrast is between...
Two Types of Honor
Two Types of Honor
As I said earlier in this series, the ancient Near East was a honor culture. In fact, it still is. The worst possible social disgrace is to lose face—to have one’s honor violated. In our text, king Ahasuerus is a man who will do anything to preserve his honor, even if it means sacrificing others. The king went out into his garden, not because he needed time to think about what he would do to Haman. He already knew what he was doing to do. Our text says that Haman knew the king was determined to harm him! The reason King Ahasuerus went out onto the garden was because he need to think about how he could reverse the edict to annihilate the Jews without losing face. The law of the Medes and Persians could not be revoked. The order to annihilate all the Jews had his name on it!
By God’s providence, when king Ahasuerus came back in from the garden he had a ready-made excuse—he could accuse Haman of making advances towards the queen. Haman thought he was something special because he was second only to the king, but in the king’s eyes Haman was just another pawn to be sacrificed!
At this point, I want us to stop and consider how different God is. Just like king Ahasuerus, God is jealous to preserve the honor of His Name, but the way God preserves the honor of His Name is totally different—God does not sacrifice others, He sacrifices Himself! Christ’s death on the cross is the best example of this. Paul writes:
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
All have sinned and God’s righteousness demands that the penalty for sin be paid, but God is also loving and God desires to save for Himself a people. So how can the demands of justice and love both be met?
The cross is the answer. Upon the cross, Jesus took upon Himself the guilt of our sins and on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. In this way, God could be both just and loving!
Now do you see how different God and king Ahasuerus are? Ahasuerus sacrificed Haman to preserve his honor, God the Son sacrificed Himself to preserve the honor of His Father! As the great hymn writer Charles Wesley asks:
And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love, how can it be that thou my God should die for me?
This amazing love, brings us to the final comparison and contrast:
Two Types of Love
Two Types of Love
Throughout the story of Esther, king Ahasuerus is a man who is motivated by self-love and self-interest. In contrast, throughout this story and throughout the whole storyline of Scripture, God reveals Himself as a God who is motivated by His love for others.
Listen again to how Esther had to appeal to Ahasuerus’ self-interest, “if I have found favor in your sight.” Christian romance novelists want to make the story of Esther into romance, but it is nothing more than a story of lust and human trafficking. There is more to Esther’s words than most modern readers realize:
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 had been a virtual slave since the day she was taken into king’s harem. There is nothing romantic about the story of Esther. It is brutal and ugly!
Compare this to the story of God. Perhaps best illustrated by the story of the prophet Hosea. As an object lesson to Israel, God commanded Hosea to marry a prostitute to illustrate how He loves His people. In a total reversal of the storyline of king Ahasuerus, we are the lustful and unfaithful ones and God is the one who has been victimized, yet He still loves us. Again, as Wesley asks, “Died He for me, who caused His pain?” Are you amazed that God could ever love you? You should be but die He did!
As a consequence, how differently we approach our Heavenly King, rather than saying, “if I have found favor in your sight,” we can say, “if Christ has found favor in your sight.” In the book of Hebrews, we find these words:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,
Rather than raising a scepter, God raises the Cross of Christ, we but need to walk in and touch it!
Have you touched that cross turned scepter?
Esther is a book about God. A book about His Hidden Hand, but most of all a book about His faithful, covenant keeping love.
Perhaps the most well-known verse of the Bible is the most under-appreciated:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
I hope this series has helped you to appreciate these words more. Let us pray.