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Order Of Worship (Liturgy)
The Direction Esther Was In, We Are, Too!
Congregation in our Lord Jesus Christ...
Imagine someone in the church comes up to you with this concern.
Quite a disturbing worry!
For he says to you that he’s losing his faith.
And he’s asking you what you can do about that!
Something’s wrong here, isn’t it?
To lose faith is to lose what holds our whole lives together.
Because faith is that living, daring confidence in God’s grace.
In Martin Luther’s words, “It is so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.”
It is faith which sets the Christian apart.
Because the one who has faith is joined to Jesus Christ - He’s the reason why they’re set apart.
You cannot live without Him.
And you cannot die without Him either.
In the words of C.M. Ward, “No Christian has ever been known to recant on his death bed.”
What we have before us in Esther chapter 5 is a clear picture of this.
For Esther steps apart from this world and all that it holds dear.
She lays her life on the line for the LORD her God.
She risks herself for His people.
But, did you notice how she does that?
Yes, you respond, she dresses herself up in royal finery and goes to where she would be noticed by the king, hoping that she would receive his mercy and not his judgment.
She uses her privileged status, and those precious and beautiful robes that go with her position, to enhance, as much as possible, her appearance before Xerxes.
There is still something else before that, though.
Something which tells us how much Esther is putting her faith into practice.
For notice, the text begins, “on the third day.”
The third day of what?
That’s what chapter 4 can answer.
Because that is where we read about how Esther has all her maids, and all the Jews in
God’s people open themselves up to the Lord’s leading.
And, then, in the Old Testament, that meant their representative being found in the way of the Lord.
For it was she who had told them to do so.
Congregation, in the words of the first aspect to this text... ESTHER’S HUMILITY SHOWS HOW YOU LIVE.
Because she waits upon the LORD.
And until He guides her, she’s cannot do anything!
That sense of assurance is not how everyone sees Esther here, however.
A number of commentators say that she procrastinates.
So, because of her nervousness, she delays bringing up what she knows she has to with the king.
They say we can see that by the way she puts it off by inviting the king and Haman to a banquet that afternoon.
And then they say she does that a second time, by inviting them, during that banquet, to another one the following day.
This actually does an injustice to Esther, because it shows our western influence when we look at what is an oriental scene.
Carl Armerding explained it this way: “I remember one occasion in Palestine when I wanted to make certain purchases before leaving for England.
“Not knowing the Arabic language, I accepted the kind services of a Christian woman in Jerusalem who knew the language and customs of the people.
“Together we went to the business section of the old city of Jerusalem.
“There we found exactly what was wanted.
“I thought it would only take a few minutes to complete the purchase and be on our way.
“But I soon discovered that it would not have been the proper thing to do.
“So we sat down and leisurely talked about our business.
“When we inquired about the price, it seemed quite exorbitant.
“After more talk, the price was reduced to a point where I was ready to close the deal.
“But my friend urged more patience.
“After more bargaining, all concerned seemed satisfied.
“When we prepared to leave, we were showered with words of thanks by the proprietor who enjoyed the occasion more than we had.”
That’s what Xerxes also showed, wasn’t it?
He says twice, “even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”
And while that might be more a popular expression than an actual promise, at the very least it indicates his enjoyment.
We can see this also elsewhere in scripture.
In Genesis 23 we find a similar situation when Abraham bought the cave of Machpelah for the burial place of Sarah.
Now you would think, with that kind of circumstance, people would try to rush things through for you.
That’s what we would do.
But even in that grief following death, things had to be done according to the customs.
Some things must be done in a quiet and deliberate way if we’re to gain the greatest possible blessing from them.
Indeed, if Esther had rushed into this, she wouldn’t have achieved what she knew she had to do.
And so we come to the first of two qualities which particularly show Esther’s humility in this chapter.
Because here we see that Esther is prepared.
This is a quality we’ve touched upon already.
For three days she had been fasting with her maids.
And then upon the last day of that fast she appeared suitably dressed before the king.
All things showing she’s prepared.
But there are also the banquets.
The one she invited the king and Haman to that afternoon would have already been in the process of being made.
She was prepared alright.
Then, the second quality especially showing Esther’s humility is her patience.
But it’s a patience, which like her preparation, isn’t really hers.
For this is the same young woman who had said to Mordecai three days before, “if I perish, I perish.”
What contrast we have to that now!
So what is happening?
The LORD is making it happen, through His child.
Esther comes out of her prayerful fasting, dependent upon the leading of the Lord.
There is a plan He has obviously etched upon her mind.
Perhaps it is a leading step by step, so that each time she met with the king the Spirit prompted her then.
It could even be that she knew what she was to say at the banquet the following day.
Whichever possibility, she would not have known how the Lord was going to work in-between that time.
She simply knew that He was definitely going to do something in that time!
Congregation, Esther is prepared and patient.
Because that is God’s Spirit working out through her.
ESTHER’S HUMILITY SHOWS HOW YOU LIVE.
So what a contrast the rest of this chapter is.
Because there we see, in the words of the second aspect to this text... HAMAN’S PRIDE SHOWS HOW YOU DIE.
Well, Proverbs 16 verse 18 did say pride comes before a fall.
And with such pride in himself as this Haman’s just got to have a terrible fall.
As C.S. Lewis so succinctly described pride, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you.”
We have here the most vivid contrast within the same chapter.
It ranges all the way from godly humility to human pride.
From the girl who so much depends on someone else, to the man who has it all himself!
And as we saw what characterised the girl who so much depends on someone else, let’s see now what stands out about this man who has it all himself.
And let’s note how these two things are the complete opposite to what we have seen in Esther.
For as soon as the focus turns on Haman, in verse 9, we cannot help but notice how impulsive he is.
That’s the first thing which stands out about this - his impulsiveness.
He goes away from that banquet absolutely rapt!
He’s on a real high.
Because the whole way Esther is bringing about her plan is what the people of importance loved at that time.
Make the moment last.
Stretch out the moment.
Convey the impression that it could wait.
But not only is that waiting a part of the ceremony they loved.
It is also being used by the Lord to bring into a more clearer focus the opposite forces at work here.
Which is why Haman can so quickly turn from being happy and in high spirits to being filled with rage against Mordecai.
Because Mordecai gets under his skin.
A man who would have had a comparatively minor position in government, especially when compared with Haman, really gets to him.
But that’s what Christians do.
They just somehow bring out the worst in nasty unbelievers.
We see that across the world today.
There are some particularly malicious individuals and groups about.
And while we were rightly angry about the bombings in Bali, that’s nothing compared with what they’ve been doing to Christians in Islamic and Communist countries every day for years!
They interpret their religious writings, and they deliberately misinterpret the actions of Christians, to blow their own horn.
They impulsively react against God’s people, and in a way which is the most blatant excess.
Why else are there all those Christians facing the death penalty in Pakistan because of alleged blasphemy against Allah and the Islamic religion?
Those believers have no real power in government.
They are simply there.
And isn’t that exactly it, congregation?
We are here.
And that witness itself rails against all that this world stands for.
In fact, in that moment, we, like Mordecai, represent what this world has tried its uttermost to destroy.
We shouldn’t be surprised.
Not for that.
Because then we bear the name of Jesus Christ.
We are His representatives in this world.
In the words of the apostle Peter in his first letter chapter 4, we are those living for the will of God.
And that brings it all on!
There is still more to this impulsiveness, however.
Verse 11 tells us about Haman openly boasting of his wealth.
He really is full of himself.
And isn’t this sort of character just like this?
They’re tell you all day about what they have done, and who they know, and what they have.
In the words of Proverbs 12 verse 23, “a prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly.”
He’s a fool alright.
For the ‘fool’ of Proverbs is the man who doesn’t believe in God - only in himself!
James 4 verse 17 is quite clear that such boasting is evil, and is far from the will of the Lord.
And still Mordecai eats away at him.
In verse 13 his witness is right in his face, “But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.”
You see, evil can’t wait.
It is impulsive.
Haman is every bit the rich fool Jesus pictured in Luke 12, the verses 16 till 21.
He can’t wait.
And that brings out the second characteristic which is the exact opposite to what we’ve seen in Esther.
For if she was very patient, Haman is completely impatient.
Now, he knows Mordecai and all the Jews are to be annihilated upon the king’s decree.
But his pride won’t let him wait until then.
And neither will his wife.
This evil is not alone.
Its vices live in many hearts.
And it is constantly taking over more and more lives all the time.
The ancient Greeks had a name for this.
They called it ‘hybris’.
This stood for that overweening arrogance and self-esteem which go before a fall.
Because this corrupts a man’s judgment.
He becomes so full of himself there’s no room for any wisdom.
Jealousy and arrogance together twists reason.
Jesus brought out this same thing in John 5 verse 44.
Speaking to those Jewish leaders who were so full of themselves He said, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?”
He was saying that faith is inhibited by pride.
Because if you are seeking God you abandon yourself and you become humble.
Just like Esther.
But if you are full of yourself then you will always have baggage.
Because you cannot get away from yourself.
So if Haman thought he could get rid of all his hassles by getting rid of Mordecai, he was quite wrong.
Just like those who thought they could rid their nation of a big obstacle by crucifying Jesus Christ have got it all terribly wrong.
And one day they’ll see that.
The Lord says to them in Romans 2 the verses 5 and 6, “you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgement will be revealed.
“God ‘will give to each person according to what he has done.’”
But when will that judgement be?
Because this chapter ends with those high gallows being built.
The gallows which meant a terrible death.
For they then didn’t execute their criminals by hanging them - they impaled their rebels and traitors upon a pole!
That’s where the chapter ends.
And in good oriental fashion that’s where we’re left now, congregation.
You’ll have to come back to hear the next episode!
But, then, we know the Lord will get His own back, don’t we?
His line through history which won’t stop until Christ comes, certainly won’t stop until He comes back!
The One this world tries to disgrace cannot do anything except shine out His Father’s grace.
Neither can all His brothers and sisters either!
And that’s us, congregation!
You see, if you can lose God then you were never found of Him.
And then, like Haman, you’re lost for all eternity!
However, if you are found in Him He is in you.
Then you will truly know.
And it’s Him you cannot help but show!
O LORD God, Your Word has pictured so clearly for us the antithesis we are in.
Because this world doesn’t want to know You.
And so it fights against us, Your people, when we are faithful to You.
Please help us, by Your Spirit, to humbly submit ourselves to You, like Esther.
And so, through preparation and patience, do work Your saving and sanctifying will through us.
Through Christ our Lord, we pray, 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
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