Esther 7 God's Surprising Sovereignty
“God’s Surprising Sovereignty”
Haman the Agagite and
Mordecai the Jew were enemies
- as were their race of people.
Haman the Agagite has been promoted over all the nobles in the land.
Mordecai the Jew simply worked at the king’s gate
- but refused to bow down to Haman
Haman the Agagite tricked the king into passing into law an edict that cannot be revoked or changed.
The edict stated that on a given day all the citizens of Persia were to ‘destroy, kill and annihilate’ the people in the land who (in Haman the Agagite’s words) did not obey the king.
The king did not care to know that these so-called trouble makes were the Jews.
And he did not know that his own wife, Esther was a Jew.
At Mordecai the Jew’s request,
and after three days of fasting and prayer,
Esther approached the king to make a plea for her life and the lives of all her people.
She invited the king and Haman the Agagite to a banquet that evening.
As the wine was served after the meal the king asked Esther her petition.
In the appropriate custom as to how to approach such a serious matter she invited the king and Haman the Agagite to a second banquet the next day.
Haman the Agagite was swollen with pride to be invited twice to a private banquet with the king and queen.
However once again his pride was mortally wounded by Mordecai’s presence at the palace gate
and his continued refusal to pay Haman the honor he felt belonged to his exalted position.
At his wife’s suggestion, Haman the Agagite had a gallows built 75 feet high.
His plan was to ask the king first thing in the morning to have Mordecai hanged.
However, God had different plans.
That very night the king could not sleep and had his chronicles read to him.
He discovered that Mordecai, the Jew had saved his life by uncovering a plot to assassinate the king.
He decided that Mordecai should be honored and looked for someone to give him advice.
There was Haman, waiting in the early dawn for an audience with the king.
“Haman, what is an appropriate way to honor a man whom the king desires to honor?” The king asked - but he did not tell Haman who this person was.
Haman, certain he was the one the king desired to honor listed off the greatest honor he could imagine.
Then, in a great reversal, the king asked Haman to bestow this honor on Mordecai, the Jew!
Haman returned home completely humiliated and now his wife predicted that Mordecai, the Jew would yet be the cause of Haman’s complete demise.
We pick up the story as a somewhat less enthusiastic Haman is being ushered out of his house and hastened to the palace for the second banquet with the king and queen.
Esther 7:1 – 10 Read
In the end – God wins!
At the right moment, Esther worked her king into anger against the evil she had revealed.
Meeting his anger she then pointed her finger revealing to the king his most trusted advisor, Haman was the evil one.
Haman’s downward spiral continued as he pleaded with the queen for his life.
The king used this scene, which can be interpreted as sexual advances on the queen, as the excuse for the execution of Haman.
In great irony, the instrument of death prepared by Haman is now used by the king to destroy Haman himself.
At the end of this chapter, we, the listener, begin to clap and cheer.
The suspense has been relieved.
Evil has been dealt a literal death blow.
When all is said and done – God triumphs.
When kings have done their utmost,
When evil has had its day,
God remains enthroned as Lord of all.
Yet we are still surprised.
God’s grace surprises us.
The hardened heart of our loved one, whom we have prayed for, suddenly melts before the love of Christ.
And we had just about despaired.
Peter, the leader of the church, is in jail.
The church has gathered for an all-night prayer meeting.
When the servant girl reports that Peter is knocking at the door, we do not believe.
When we finally check for ourselves we are surprised.
When we read of the crucifixion account of Jesus of Nazareth, something is missing in our emotions – for we have read the Sunday, Easter story many times.
We know the ending.
But the first disciples,
living through the darkest days of history
did not know.
When the resurrection dawned upon them, to say they were surprised sounds like an understatement – they were astonished!
Why are we surprised?
God does NOT always act that way!!
Turn to Acts 12.
A number of years ago, before I was a pastor, I preached a sermon on the deliverance of Peter from jail (Acts 12).
I focused on the astonishment of the praying church.
I asked: “why pray if when your prayers are answered you
Is that praying with faith?”
But somehow I am no longer in agreement with that position.
I do not believe that we can make demands upon God.
Here is one of the great paradoxes of the Bible.
God does not always answer prayer with miraculous deliverance as with Peter, nor do we always see justice win.
Read Acts 12:1-4.
In the first verse it would not look like God answered prayer for John. His brother was killed “It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also.”
Why did God not spare James’ life?
Was the church caught off guard so that they did not pray enough for James therefore he died?
The surprising sovereignty of God is that He chose
and in His choosing He allowed James to die
yet He miraculously rescued Peter – at the last moment
from the clutches of Herod’s plan to execute him also.
I love to read the conversion story of Saul whose name changed to Paul and he became the first Christian missionary. But back up a few pages of Scripture and we see:
a great worker of the church,
a great saint,
and a great preacher,
he is on his knees in a pit,
crying out to God
while stones are pummeling the very life out of his body and angry taunts and jeers and insults are being hurled at him.
In God’s surprising sovereignty he chose:
to give Paul – who was an enemy of the church – a successful ministry
and for Stephen’s life to be cut off when it seems he was just at the beginning of a potentially very great ministry.
When I examine the Scriptures further I discover a small word written into the prayers of many saints. It is the word ‘perhaps’.
Perhaps God will choose to intervene.
Perhaps God will choose to supply our need.
Perhaps God will rescue us.
I love the words of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to the king as they are facing probable death in King Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace.
Daniel 3:17 “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods of worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Even if he does not…
And so we see God allowing Hitler and his armies to murder six million Jews in his fiery furnaces while he saves three others from another king’s furnace.
The surprising sovereignty of God is that He chooses to rescue some and not others.
Why is it that in our modern world,
millions of children starve to death
while others are at risk of diabetes and heart related illnesses because of obesity?
Why is it that God seems to be silent as millions of unborn children in the two countries of North America are being murdered before they even get to take their first breath?
Why is it that our city streets can celebrate with a great parade that attracts thousands upon thousands the Gay Pride movement while the church remains silent?
In Romans chapter 1 Paul tells us that: “God gave them over to a depraved mind.”
God has chosen to be silent – to remove His influence from their lives!
In the midst of our celebration of the miraculous intervention of God on behalf of His people,
we must balance our sermon with the paradox of the apparent silences of God.
It takes faith to believe that God is working even in the times of silence.
Philip Yancey, in one of his finest volumes, Disappointment With God, writes:
“No matter how we rationalize, God will sometimes seem unfair from the perspective of a person trapped in time. Only at the end of time, after we have attained God’s level of viewing, after every evil has been punished or forgiven, every illness healed, and the entire universe restored – only then will fairness reign. Then we will understand what role is played by evil, and by the Fall, and by natural law, in an “unfair” event like the death of a child. Until then, we will not know, and we can only trust in a God who does know.
“We remain ignorant of many details, not because God enjoys keeping us in the dark, but because we have not the faculties to absorb so much light. At a single glance God knows what the world is about and how history will end. But we time-bound creatures have only the most primitive manner of understanding; we can let time pass. Not until history has run its course will we understand how “all things work together for good.” Faith means believing in advance what will make sense in reverse.”
I love the story of Esther.
It tells the whole history of mankind in one person’s lifetime.
Behind the scene there is One working events and circumstances to bring about a just and happy resolution to the story.
However, during the story,
the king is hoodwinked,
and a plan is put into motion to destroy the good.
One person is called upon to risk their position in life – even life itself to attempt to stop this evil plan.
Circumstances occur that when it seems that evil will have the upper hand, a great reversal happens and the execution planned for the innocent one is carried out on the one who is evil.
The story teller helps the discerning listener to realize that:
circumstances did not just happen;
they were orchestrated by an unseen power
who intervened after people prayed
and then acted on their petition before God.
Here in one person’s life-time we see the story of the history of mankind.
The struggle between good and evil which began in Genesis 3 at the time of the Fall,
reaches its greatest struggle at the cross where it seemed God was silent or impotent,
victory is announced at the empty tomb
but is not finally realized until the end of his story in Revelation 21.
We live in the middle of that story.
The victory has already been announced.
But the battle between good and evil continues.
We are called to be faithful.
We are surprised at God’s Sovereignty.
Sometimes his hand is obvious as miraculous events unfold that can only be explained by believing prayer.
Other times the ear of the faithful one must be much more finely tuned as God works subtly through circumstances.
Events that some might call ‘luck’ but for the person of faith they know there is no such thing as ‘luck’.
How can we cope with life during the times it appears God is silent and evil is having the upper hand?
Make your life a life of prayer.
Tell God, tell him in anguish if necessary, the horror of waiting.
Express your panic.
Tell Him you’re trapped.
Ask Him to hurry up if that helps. He can handle it.
Ask Him to help you see beyond the pain of the present.
Chuck Swindoll in his character study on Esther writes:
“Prayer supports me when I can’t quite grasp the meaning of something I’m struggling with, like when I’m dealing with big decisions or working with difficult people. Prayer gives me a calming perspective.”
I too can attest to that. Prayer gives me “a calming perspective.”
I am enjoying our study on the life of Esther.
She is a great model to follow.
Her story is certainly one to remember.
But where do we direct our focus?
To the One who is working behind the scenes,
whose name is not even mentioned once in the story, but whom our story-teller helps us to see throughout the narrative.
Our focus is to be on the sovereign God.
How perfectly He works,
how sovereignly He controls,
and how remarkably He changes the face of things,
once He moves in.
A queen who was once passive is now in charge.
A king who was once duped is now informed.
An enemy who was only moments away from exterminating a nation is now an object of scorn.
Even those ghastly gallows, built for a Jew named Mordecai, ends us as the instrument of execution for an evil Agagite enemy named Haman.
The end of our story of Esther is in sight.
But we cannot yet celebrate.
There is still an edict to annihilate the Jews from the land.
This edict cannot be altered or revoked.
We wait to see how God will work His final plan of redemption.
As we wait, we remember the lesson already at hand.
At the precise moment, when it will have its greatest impact, God ceases His silence and sovereignly makes His moves.
And when He does, it’s full of surprises.