Week Twenty-one Day One


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The Story: Week Twenty-one – Day One

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we begin the story of Esther. God used her position as queen to Xerxes to preserve His people. We will see again how God works through ordinary people and what may appear as coincidence to accomplish His will. This first part is preparation. It sets the stage for God’s saving work.

Xerxes is king of Persia. And he gave a party – for 180 days. At the end of those days, he gave a banquet that lasted seven days. This was obviously a time of peace in the empire because among the guests at this 180 day celebration were the military leaders of Persia and Media.

And we could chalk this all up to opulence and excess of the wealthy. We could dismiss this as just one more example of what the wealthy do when they have time on their hands. We could do all of that and not think of these events again – except – at one point during the banquet, Xerxes summons his queen – Vashti – to come before him so that he could show her off – show off his trophy queen.

And she would not come. We don’t get any reasons for her refusal. We could speculate. From our cultural point of view, we could come up with many reasons why she would refuse – and applaud her for her choice.

But the details don’t matter. She refused. That’s the only detail that is of any consequence. By her refusal, she sets in motion actions that will result in her being replaced as queen. A successor would be chosen. And that successor is Esther.

So out of events that could have easily gone unnoticed by many – what does it matter who the queen is – God is at work in a significant way for the benefit of His people. That story will unfold for us as we continue our journey through The Story.
The Story: Week Twenty-one – Day Two

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we are introduced to Mordecai and Esther. Esther was among the many young women brought before Xerxes. They were brought to him so that he could choose one to take the place of Vashti as queen. There was a process each of the women went through before they could go in to the king. That process took twelve months. At every step in that process, Esther won the favor of those in authority. God was at work to put into place all that was needed for the deliverance of His people. Esther is chosen to be the new queen.

Her uncle Mordecai also plays a role. It begins with him sitting at the city gate and overhearing a conspiracy to assassinate King Xerxes. He tells Esther who in turn tells the king (giving credit to Mordecai – which will come into play later). The conspiracy is stopped and the conspirators are put to death.

These events will play significant roles in God’s plan to preserve His people from threatened destruction. Once again, we see God working through the plans of men to accomplish His will and keep His covenant with Israel in tact.

That raises the question: “What might God be up to in the ordinary and often mundane plans we make?” That’s a question that should begin our every day.
The Story: Week Twenty-one – Day Three
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we are introduced to another important player in God’s work to preserve His people and make Himself known. Haman was the son of Hammedatha the Agagite. According to Jewish tradition, he was a descendant of the Amalekite king Agag who was an enemy of Israel during Saul’s reign. So his anger against the Jews in general and Mordecai in particular may have been no coincidence.

The trouble starts when Haman is elevated to a seat of high honor by Xerxes. All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down to honor him. But Mordecai would not. Being a Jew, he would not bow down to any man. Haman was enraged. When he learned that Mordecai was a Jew, he looked for a way to destroy all the Jews living in the kingdom of Xerxes.

It’s interesting that the pur (the lot) was cast in Haman’s presence to determine the day when Haman would carry out his plan of destruction. The lot fell on the twelfth month. God was at work in the casting of the lot to make time for His plans to save His people to be fulfilled.

Haman goes through all the steps to make his plans a reality. He gains permission from Xerxes by convincing him that the Jews were a threat. Haman tried to seal the deal by promising to give ten thousand talents of silver for the royal treasury. Xerxes wouldn’t take the money, but he gave his permission to Haman to do with the Jews whatever he pleased.

And edict was issued in every province of the empire that on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar (the twelfth month) all the Jews were to be killed – on a single day – young and old, women and children. This all took place still in the first month. It took time in those days to get information to the ends of the empire – no cell phones or internet.

When Mordecai heard the decree, he tore his clothes and went into mourning. He fasted and prayed. When Esther heard of Mordecai’s distress, she sent for him. Mordecai wanted Esther to go into the presence of the king and plead with him for her people.

This was a dangerous request. If Esther goes into the king’s presence without being summoned, she could be put to death. Mordecai knows that. But he also believes that Esther is not queen by coincidence. He says to her, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Esther tells Mordecai to gather all the Jews in Susa so that they might fast for her. She and her attendants will fast as well. Certainly, during this time of fasting many prayers will be lifted up to God for strength and wisdom. This is a time for seeking God’s mercy and protection. She will go before Xerxes and plead for her people. But she will go as a servant – both of her people and of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The Story: Week Twenty-one – Day Four
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

As this part of the story of God’s work through Esther unfolds, we see Him at work to use the details of Haman’s plans against him.

Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace. For the sake of her people, she stood where the king could see her. She went before him without being summoned. Her fate (in this time and space) was in his hands. He could hold out his scepter to her and welcome her into his presence or he could have her killed.

And I added the note “in this time and space” because that was the limit of Xerxes’ authority. This is like Jesus standing before Pilate. Pilate said to Jesus, “Don’t you know that I have the power to hand you over to be crucified or to set you free?” And Jesus told him that he would have no power over Him unless it had been given to him by His Father in heaven – by the One who truly held Jesus’ fate in His hand.

So it is with Esther. She goes before the king risking death at his hands. But she goes trusting in her God to care for her – to walk with her – in the same way that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego trusted God to care for them – even if they died in the furnace.

Xerxes welcomes her into his presence. He asks her what she desires so that he can give it to her – up to half his kingdom. She asks the king to summon Haman to a banquet that she will prepare. Then she will tell the king what her petition is.

Haman feels pretty good about himself and goes home to brag to his wife and his friends. He shares all that has happened, but also shares his dissatisfaction because Mordecai won’t bow to him. His wife and friends counsel him to erect a pole 75 feet high and ask the king to impale Mordecai on it.

Haman goes to the king to speak to him about impaling Mordecai on the pole. The night before, the king couldn’t sleep. He had the record of his reign read to him (I think that’s the equivalent of reading old text books to put yourself to sleep). In the reading, Xerxes was reminded that it was Mordecai who had uncovered an assignation plot against the king and that nothing had been done to reward him for his loyalty.

When Haman was brought into the king, Xerxes asked him, “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?” Haman thought he was talking about him. But the king was talking about Mordecai. When Haman tells the king what he thinks should be done, the king orders it done for Mordecai. And Haman is the one who leads Mordecai on a horse the king has ridden through the whole city proclaiming that this is what is done for the man the king delights in.

And Haman went home with his head covered in grief. The king’s men come and hurry Haman off to another banquet that Esther has prepared. At that time, Esther tells her request to the king. She asks the king to spare her life and the life of her people for she is a Jew. The king is enraged and asks who would dare do such a thing? And Esther replies that it is Haman. And Haman ends up impaled on the pole that he had meant for Mordecai.

God used Haman’s plans to bring life rather than destruction to His people.

The Story: Week Twenty-one – Day Five
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Esther pleads again with the king. This time she intervenes for all the Jews living in the empire – all who were still subject to the plan Haman had put in place that would bring destruction to God’s people. The end result of her intervention is that King Xerxes writes another decree. This one gives the Jews the right to defend themselves against those who would destroy them. And the day that this decree was to go into effect was the same day that Haman had established for the annihilation of all the Jews.

Once again, God works to reverse the fortunes. Rather than the thirteenth day of Adar being a day of death and destruction, it became a day of rescue. In the aftermath of this victory, the Jewish people throughout the empire gathered in celebration.

This became the foundation for the Festival of Purim. It was to be a time of remembrance for the deliverance that they received. They were to remember how their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning over impending destruction became a celebration of joy. It gets its name from the pur that Haman cast to determine the date for carrying out his plan. It is a time to celebrate God’s intervention and deliverance. It is a time to celebrate God’s faithfulness and care even in the midst of fearful times.

We would do well to remember God’s merciful work for us – His faithfulness in keeping His promises – especially when times are hard and filled with fear. The cross and empty tomb is the foundation for our celebrations. Every Sunday should be a celebration of God’s faithfulness and care for all that He has and continues to do to keep us steadfast in the faith as He brings to completion all that He has promised.


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