Sunday, April 10, 2011
Esther Chapter 4
Esther Chapter 4
- Mordecai has learned of all that Haman has put into motion.
- In his sorrow, he tore his clothes and put on burlap and ashes.
- This was a typical response to deep grief. As you look through the bible, any time news was brought of a sudden death or just really bad news in general, clothes were rent and burlap or sackcloth and ashes were put on. It was an outward expression of the inward feeling. (This was the normal response in Persian culture as well as the Jewish one.)
- When it says that Mordecai went out into the city, crying with a loud voice... This was the way that they alerted others to their grief. They would walk through the city wailing at the top of their voice... so that people would come and ask them what had happened... So they too could join in their wailing in grief. It says that Mordecai went through the city except for the palace.
- Can you imagine the sound? Weeping and wailing in agony... across the nation. This wasn't just in Susa. “As the news of the king's decree reached all the provinces, there was great mourning among the Jews. They fasted, wept, and wailed, and many people lay in burlap and ashes.”
- Knowing you were condemned to die... knowing your entire race, your way of life... is about to come to a horrible end... The despair that had to be expressed in those wails and cries. I think were I not a Jew or not connected to this in any way... I would have still been... unnerving. I don't think I could have gone about my day unaffected by what I was hearing.
- Job 1:13-22; 2:6-10
- Jeremiah 6:22-30
- Jonah 3:1-10
- As I was thinking about Mordecai and his wailing... I was thinking about an outcry against injustice or wrongdoing.
- In our lives, what is our response to injustice or wrong happenings to others?
- My roommate in college for a while anyway, (maybe still) was on this thing about stopping the injustice of sweat shops in other countries. So she boycotted all kinds of clothing products.
- Now my question was, how is one person going to make a difference in the overall market?
- Well... be a Mordecai. Don't just do it on your own, but make an outcry loud enough that other people will ask questions and join in your cry.
- I don't know if he still does it or if he's even still around... but a few years ago, we kept getting these letters from a guy who was fighting these companies who were supporting things that he felt were non-Christian. (I can't even remember his name... that's so horrible...)
- Like... Proctor and Gamble, the makers of things like Crest toothpaste... they were supporting some kind of homosexual activist group for a while, so this guy sent out letters to ask consumers to boycott those products.
- There were a lot of companies with a lot of stands on things. Like abortion, or homosexuality. And you know what? He ended up with enough of a following and enough people who boycotted and signed the petitions... that he did indeed make a difference. A lot of those companies no longer support the groups or factions that they had been.
- We have a tendency to think that we're not big enough in this big world to make a difference. We don't have enough pull or we don't have enough exposure. But you know, if we make some noise, others will hear it. They might even join in... and eventually... even those in the palace are gonna hear about it.
- Matthew 27:1-26
- Luke 10:30-37, 19:28-40
- Mark 9:33-37
- So when Esther's maid's and eunuchs came to tell her what was going on... I doubt it was because Mordecai was her cousin... it was probably just... “hey... this guy keeps walking through the city wailing... I think maybe it was the guy that told you about that assassination plot a while ago?...”
- Esther was very upset. This is family. Her father figure is walking around Susa in extreme mourning... what in the world happened... Maybe it was just mourning along with somebody else for something... so Esther sent out clothes to replace the burlap... but he refused.
- Okay... so now she knows something is definitely wrong and it's definitely personal. So she sends out one of the king's eunuchs, Hathach, to figure out what's going on.
- Mordecai is sitting in the square in front of the palace. He's as close as he can possibly get without breaking any laws. Trying to make his cry heard by those in power...
- He tells Hathach everything. Including the amount of money that Haman is gonna give Xerxes in return for the destruction of the Jews. He gives Hathach a copy of the decree to show Esther and he asks Hathach to tell Esther to go to the king and beg for mercy for her people.
- Oh boy... well that's all well and good. Yes she's the queen... but “all the king's officials and even the people in the provinces know that anyone who appears before the king in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die unless the king holds out his gold scepter... and the king has not called for me to come to him for thirty days.”
- So IF Esther walks in to talk to the king unannounced... if he happens to be in a bad mood... she will be killed for setting foot in the presence of the king.
- And the king hasn't called for Esther to come to him in a month... perhaps he's already forgotten her... or pushed her aside for wives he likes better...
- There is no guarantee that Esther will survive this encounter. I can see why she would want to maintain silence. She's sitting in the most comfortable place ever. She's in the palace. She's safe. Nobody's going to harm the queen right? She has everything she could ever want placed at her disposal. Why ruin it?
- But Mordecai replies... “Don't think for a moment that because you're in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”
FOR SUCH A TIME
- Sometimes God places us into situations because He knows He's gonna need somebody to do something soon. It's still up to us whether or not we do indeed follow through with what He needs us to do.
- Esther found herself in one of those places. She had to make a decision on which to put first... herself and her comfort or her people and their future.
- It's easy to make selfish decisions in the moment. We get scared and we think about the here and now... we don't think about the future. We just think about “what's going to happen to me personally right now.”
- If we don't take the time to consider the long term consequences, it's easy to get caught up in ourselves.
- I remember reading a story about a guy who felt like God was calling him to move from Texas and build a church in... like Virginia or Kentucky... somewhere east. And so he went. It was hard... they started with like 5 people... but a few years later, the church had grown to hundreds... HUGE church...
- This old guy used to come in and sit and cry all the time... through every service... and finally he went up and talked to one of the assistant pastors... he said that a few years before, God had asked him to build this church... and given him the floor plan. So he came. And he started off the same way... just a few people... but it was too hard... attacks at every turn... so he gave up... He quit and he left.
- And he said “this is the church I was supposed to build. And here's the floor plan that I had the architect draw up for me... it is this church exactly...”
- Mordecai told Esther... if you don't do this, God will raise someone else up to do it... it will happen... but you, if you are not faithful right now, in this place, you and your family will die.
- There are consequences for not following through with what God needs us to do. There are others at stake... it's not just about us. It's never just about us...
- If God asks you to do something, yes it takes much prayer and thought. As we will see in a minute... but it also takes willingness, determination, and a whole lot of God to go through with it.
- So “for such a time as this” God has placed you where you are... for a specific reason and purpose. Are you fulfilling it? Or running because of fear?
- Are you stepping up to the plate? Or is somebody else gonna have to step up to do what you were supposed to do?
- Colossians 1:24-29
- Romans 8:31-39
- Hebrews 10:32-39
- Mathew 5:3-16; 25:14-30
- II Thessalonians 1:3-12; 3:1-5
- I Samuel 2:27-36
- So Esther tells Mordecai to gather all the Jews of Susa together and fast for three days for her. Night and day, they were to fast. Esther and her maids did the same... then on the third day... even though it was against the law... she would go in to see the king. “If I must die, I must die.”
- Esther is willing to face whatever may come... but she's going to be faithful. Prepared... and faithful.
- When we come up against a battle, our greatest defense is prayer and preparation. If we have read and studied and have battled against the enemy before in small ways... the big battles won't be as hard to win.
- Still hard? Oh yes. Harder than anything you've ever faced? Oh yeah... but it will be much harder to find yourself at a breaking point. Because even if you feel like you can't take anymore, you have spent time with God and you know that if you just cry out.... He's right there to help you. You do not fight any battle on your own...
- But if you walk into a spiritual battle without having prayed, or sought guidance from God... you are bound to fall...
- There was a story about the Israelites in Joshua 7 and 8 about them going up against the enemy without praying... they had been winning all these battles, and so when the spies came back and said “oh they're so small... we can defeat them... no problem. We don't even all have to go up. It'll be a piece of cake...” Joshua said “oh okay! Great!” And they went up to fight Ai... without seeking God.
- Little did they know... that there was sin in the camp. A man named Achan had stolen some things from the last city they had defeated after they were told not to take anything... And God wasn't happy about it. Had they prayed about what they were supposed to do before they went up, God would've been able to say, hey, you're not where you need to be. There's something you need to fix at home before you go to battle.
- But they went up... and they were defeated.
- And when the soldiers got back, they were like “what happened!? Why did we lose!?” And the answer was... because you didn't first seek God... there's sin you have to get rid of first.
- So THEN they prayed and sought God. God showed them what had happened and who was responsible... and so Joshua and the Israelites took Achan and his family to a valley... and they stoned them and burned their bodies.
- Then when they went up to fight Ai again, they won.
- We can't assume that any battle is a small one... or that it doesn't need the same attention that the big ones did. Because losing those little battles is just as big a problem as losing the big ones.
- So prepare yourself. Put on God's armor, pray, and get ready for the battle to come.
- Ephesians 6:10-18
- Romans 13:9-14; 8:18-30
- I Thessalonians 5:4-11
- Philippians 4:6-9
- Colossians 4:2-6