Statistics
1486 sermons as of December 10, 2017.
Site Search powered by FreeFind

bottom corner

   
Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
 send email...
 
Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:The Struggle Esther Was In, We Are, Too!
Text:Esther 3:1-15 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Persecution
 
Preached:2002-09-29
Added:2009-04-28
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


ESTHER 3:1-15

(Reading: 1 Pet.4:1-19; Dan.3:1-12)

 

The Struggle Esther Was In, We Are, Too!

 

 

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ…

 

     There is no doubting that Haman is a very evil man.

          Chapter 3 leaves us in no doubt that he is a terribly depraved megalomaniac - a man whose great thirst for power means a completely destructive obsession against any who oppose him.

              And also any who could possibly be associated with them as well!

 

     The end of this chapter, where in verse 15 the people of Susa are bewildered by what Haman is doing, represents so many other times in human history where it seems mad men have taken control.

          Isn’t this so much like what Europe saw in the early 1930’s with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler?

              Could you forget his National Socialist take-over of Europe, the holocaust against the Jews and the Gypsies, his extermination of evangelical Christians, and his wiping out any one else who dared to have an opposing viewpoint?

                   We also see it in our day now through the way Kim Jong-il and Robert Mugabe and a number of other despots wield absolute authority in their own countries - destroying anyone who would beg to disagree there.

 

     There is a difficulty when we do this, however.

          To personalise evil, and to even picture what is happening in history as a them and us - them being really rotten and us being the goodies - is to make a serious mistake.

              Because where does it come from?

                   And in whom is it found?

 

     A recent film has brought out how this mistaken view of history colours many people.

          This movie shows Hitler before he became the goose-stepping, ranting, insane monster who destroyed half of Europe.

              It shows him as a human being having human feelings and human fallibility’s much like the rest of us.

                   It reflects Hitler becoming what he did as the result of his flawed humanity.

 

     Well, doesn’t that change things?

          A bit too much for the Jewish Defence League, the Anti-Defamation League, and many other pro-Israeli groups.

              Because then you can’t put a name to the face.

 

     Indeed, then this is what faces us all.

          Because it is in us all!

              For sin is what is in us all.

                   Congregation, this is why for the first part of our considering chapter 3 this morning, let’s see that... HAMAN IS THE DEFLECTION WHICH FACES US ALL.

 

     Now, this point may appear to go against what we might initially think is happening here.

          For Haman by being named as an Agagite is most likely a descendant of the Amalekites of earlier Israelite history.

              They were that nation which acted treacherously against the Hebrews during their travels in the wilderness.

     Deuteronomy 25, the verses 17 till 19, tells us how they butchered any Israelite lagging behind the main caravan.

          And so Israel was told not to forget that and to totally obliterate them.

 

     This was what King Saul was meant to have done in 1st Samuel chapter 15.

          And it appears there that they were all put to the sword bar King Agag, whom Samuel himself killed.

 

     But it seems some survived.

          They have come back, and come back with a vengeance.

              Just like sects and cults today arise to haunt the Christian church as a reminder of what she has failed to do in the past, so Haman’s rise to power in Persia shows us ourselves.

 

     In fact, it is not only the name of Agagite which brings back the scene of 1st Samuel 15.

          For there was also a son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, in this picture also.

              Only this time he wasn’t called Saul but Mordecai, and his response was going to be quite different.

 

     We have to see, congregation, that what is happening in the book of Esther is nothing new.

          One reason why it isn’t new is because what has happened in the past always comes back to haunt us.

              And rightly so.

     Because we didn’t learn from it then.

          HAMAN IS THE DEFLECTION WHICH FACES US ALL.

 

     So, while we may go on about Haman’s background, about his being raised in an anti-Jewish environment, about his manipulation of the political structures, and so on, that’s not really the point here.

          Because there will always be Hamans in this world.

              For as long as sinful mankind continue upon this earth these monsters will arise to show us what we’re really like!

 

     The pivotal sin of Adam that exiled us from a living world with God and doomed us to a dying world without Him, was the sin of thinking he could change places with God.

          Adam’s descendants have been falling for the same trick of Satan ever since.

 

     That’s what Haman shows us.

          Instead of using his great power and authority to glorify and serve God he selfishly used them for his own wealth and influence.

              And he is that selfish his opposition to God particularly shows itself against God’s people.

                   I mean, don’t we so often get that today with the media attacks against anyone who takes the Bible seriously?

 

     Then, as now, there are those who aid and abet these people.

          Haman wouldn’t get his way unless it happened to tie in with the king’s way.

              They’ve all got shares in this.

     Joyce Baldwin suggests that when Xerxes says in verse 11 for Haman to do what seems pleasing to him, or “good” as other translations put it, that he is anticipating getting the bribe that Haman has offered in verse 9.

          Which does make some sense considering the type of tyrant we have seen Xerxes to be!

              A tyranny which had already left him millions of dollars out of pocket after his defeat at the hands of the Greeks.

                   And Xerxes actually receiving that money would make more sense than those who say Xerxes was simply expressing oriental courtesy by not taking the money!

 

     But whether their motives in doing this are a greed for more, or for refinancing, or returning political favours, or seeking some kind of revenge, they are all to blame.

          Including, we must add, those in verse 15 who found the whole thing quite bewildering.

              For surely they must have wondered whether their own particular ethnic group might not be next?

 

     But while the author here is courageous to mention the popular view, it doesn’t mean anything will change.

          If anything, it only confirms how much things stay the same!

              HAMAN IS THE DEFLECTION WHICH FACES US ALL.

 

     As an example, an historian from this time, Herodotus, also records a similar event from a time just fifty years before.

          In 522 BC, at the time of King Cambyses’ death, Simon the Magus usurped the throne.

              When he was put to death in a conspiracy every Persian in the capital took up his weapons and killed every Magus he could find.

                   If darkness hadn’t put an end to the slaughter, the whole caste would have been exterminated!

 

     And then there is another factor which is in us all.

          Because notice what Haman does in verse 7.

              In what can only be regarded as a religious act, the lot is thrown in his presence.

 

     Here the lot is known by its Persian name, the ‘pur’.

          From this we get the word Purim, which is that festival the Jews celebrate to this very day.

              And they celebrate it on the day that this divination produces for Haman.

 

     The lot, from what we can gather from history was a type of dice.

          So you threw it to see what it would turn up.

              And depending on what it turned up, your future plans would be determined.

                  

     Now, the lot as it was used by Israel, according to God’s Word, revealed to them the will of the LORD.

          It was one of the ways that God guided His people before the coming of Christ’s Spirit upon His Church at Pentecost.

              This is what Proverbs 16 verse 33 confirms.

                   And it was shown in its legitimate usage with the allocation of Canaan to the various tribes, as Joshua 15 tells.

 

     But when the lot wasn’t used the LORD’s way it was used very superstitiously.

          So Haman, with his wife and close family and friends literally cast the future into the lap of the gods of his time.

         

     And that reminds us of a very interesting thing.

          Because this world’s most cruellest tyrants also happen to be quite superstitious.

              Their inherent ability to trust those around them leads them naturally to seek another, apparently higher way, to seek out their future plans.

     And those gods, as with the false gods of any age, can only reflect the desires of those who worship them.

          So it was what Haman wanted to do, after all.

 

     This is what leads Haman to plan for the annihilation of the Jewish race in just under a year’s time.

          That was to be his ‘lucky’ day.

             

     Of course, Haman wasn’t following the God who makes every day a ‘lucky’ day.

          Because being one with this God means a blessing every day and in every way.

              It means a security and peace in your life which Haman definitely doesn’t have.

 

     And that brings us now to God’s way.

          For, congregation, while HAMAN IS THE DEFLECTION WHICH FACES US ALL, we must also see in this text that it’s also true... MORDECAI IS THE REFLECTION WHICH INSPIRES US ALL.

 

     It is soon after we meet Haman and his elevation to the second most powerful position in the empire that we also meet Mordecai again.

          This time, though, it is Mordecai in quite a different situation.

              For while he was a hero at the end of chapter 2 now it seems he’s being a bit of a rebel at the beginning of chapter 3.

     E.M. Blaiklock says that “there was an element of independence in Mordecai, or perhaps he merely presumed upon his connection with the new queen.

          “His motive for his dangerous act of defiance is difficult to understand on any supposition.

              “It imperilled the Jews unnecessarily, and having gone so far as to seek small service in the palace, and to introduce his ward to the royal harem, it might be supposed that Mordecai had accepted all subservience.

                   “But, from whatever motive it was, Mordecai clung to this shred of dignity or obstinacy.”

 

     If Blaiklock were right, this would make Mordecai at the very least unwise and most likely quite stupid.

          And from what we’ve seen of him so far, this is quite unlikely.

 

     So what was it that made Mordecai take a stand like he did in verse 2?

          Especially a stand which went right against the powers that be?

              Because wasn’t he the same man that had told Esther in chapter 2 verse 10 not to tell about her background?

         

     Well, it was a time in which he himself could no longer keep silence.

          Somehow what he was required to do in verse 2 meant acknowledging in a special way the position of Haman.

              An act which he could not do, since he was a Jew, as verse 4 indicates.

     So we would quite rightly see this as being a type of bowing down in worship to another god.

          Which says even more about how high the king had made Haman - and of course he knew that himself!

    

     There is another occasion in the Old Testament which is quite similar.

          That was the time of Daniel earlier on when Babylon was the great power.

              And then the king ordered all his officials to bow down to bow down to man like he was a god, through an image he had made.

     In that story in Daniel chapter 3 it was Jews also who failed to bow down.

          Three Jews - Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego - who knew that this meant being thrown into the blazing furnace.

              They acted by principle then also.

 

     Congregation, this is a particularly harsh persecution which has often confronted those who have made a stand for the Lord.

          They reached a point where they could not obey the civil authorities.

              And while sometimes Christians can be too overzealous in opposing governments, these are times when the issue is quite clear.

 

     As happened, for example, to the confessing church in Germany before the 2nd World War, in the late 1930’s.

          There a number of ministers who because they refused to acknowledge the supremacy of the state over the church, which involved having to teach the politically correct message, were thrown into prisons.

              And some of them died in concentration camps.

 

     There is an incident from this time when a prison chaplain asked one of those men, Pastor Martin Niemoller, “Brother, why are you in prison?”

          To this Niemoller replied, “Brother, why are you out of prison?”

 

     It’s here where we see even more that MORDECAI IS THE REFLECTION WHICH INSPIRES US ALL.

          For it is in the character of Mordecai that we have a sign of how the LORD God would one day save His people in the most comprehensive way.

              As S.G. De Graaf says, because Mordecai is focused on all he does being for the sake of His people, he is a type of Christ.

 

     You see, the Jews were then, in the time before Christ, God’s special people.

          It was to be through them that the Messiah one day would come.

              And so in the line through those people leading to Jesus, there were those who showed in a special way what was to come.

                   People like Moses, Joshua, David, and Mordecai.

 

     How can we know for sure?

          Congregation, look at who raises his ugly head!

              Yes - for while Haman is only yet another of this world’s megalomaniacs, look at who chooses to use him to attack and try to obliterate God’s chosen race!

                   It’s the devil, no less!

 

     Satan is always on the prowl, craftily looking for how he can tempt and trip up the Lord’s people.

          And usually you wouldn’t pick him out at all.

              But there are times in church history when he makes an overt attack – a clear, brutal, and open offensive.

     This is what he did, of course, when Jesus Christ was on this earth.

          There has never been that much demonic activity before or since.

              And that was because the devil saw an opportunity to deal with his hated enemy once and for all time.

 

     We can see how serious this attack was on the Church by how Haman had the supreme power to do it.

          He had the king’s own signet ring - he gave the orders.

              He involved the whole Persian bureaucracy in the promulgation of evil ambition.

 

     So deliberate and vicious it was it shocked the people of the capital.

          And they were the ones who would know!

              Also of other times such things had happened before.

     But this one was worse.

          Much, much worse!

 

     People of God, this is serious.

          In fact, nothing could matter more in this whole world.

              Because the preaching of the Gospel is at stake.

     And when God’s grace in Jesus Christ is threatened then we must all be very worried!

          But then we must also be most prayerful!

              Because that’s throwing ourselves completely upon the LORD.

                   He’s the only One who can save His own then.

 

     Whatever type of persecution that might mean, are you looking to Him?

          Tell me, would there be enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian?

              In the words of 1st Peter 4 verse 16, do you praise God that you bear the name of Christ?

                   Are you committing yourself to your faithful Creator and continuing to do good?

 

     Think about it.

          For, dear friend, the struggle Esther was in, we must be in, too!

              Amen.

 

 

PRAYER:

Let’s pray...

     O LORD God,

          You placed Your people there then, and now here also, to be a witness to You.

              For You are the One whom we alone can trust.

                   Help us to do that.

 

     Especially we pray this for when everyone, and everything else, might seem to be against us.

          Then it seems like there’s no hope at all.

              Because You will bring us through.

     The glory has to come to You!

          Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

 

 

    




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2002, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

Please direct any comments to the Webmaster


bottom corner