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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:The Antithesis Esther Was In, We Are, Too!
Text:Esther 8:1-17 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Maintaining the Antithesis
 
Preached:2003-02-23
Added:2009-05-26
 

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 8:1-17

(Reading: 1 Peter 2:4-12; Psalm 68:1-20)

 

The Antithesis Esther Was in, We Are, Too!

 

 

Congregation in our Lord Jesus Christ…

 

     One of the fascinating things in doing the study for a series on an Old Testament book, such as Esther, is reading the different views that commentators have on it.

          And the views on Esther range from those who really have a lot of difficulty fitting this story into their scheme, because it isn’t obviously spiritual, to those who see it as quite religious but in a strictly primitive, middle-eastern, pre-Christian evolutionary stage of things.

             

     The views on chapter 8 shows these interpretations quite starkly.

          From the one side you read about how Esther has this tremendous passion to see people converted into the faith, and thus she pleads for the life of her people.

              Then you go right over to the other side which becomes fixated about the women and children the Jews are about to massacre in some barbaric blood-bath.

 

     So many commentators miss the crucial link this is in the bigger picture of the book of Esther.

          Because if they would place this upon the pattern for heroic stories then, and compare it with similar heroic tales, they would see how this has to fit in as the part where things are made right and they are forever kept right.

              You know, it’s the bit at the end where the villain is defeated and the hero get his prize and lives happily forever after.

 

     But this chapter 8 shows us how this story of Esther is even more than that.

          For as part of Scripture it’s part of a much bigger picture still.

              This is His Story - God’s Story.

     It shows us how things have turned out right because of the One who is perfectly right!

          This is where we see no-one less than Christ Himself working out His rule over all the world, so that soon the world that never ends would have His own in it!

 

     Within the book of Esther, chapter 8 is the antithesis – the opposite – to chapter 3.

          For chapter 3 was when Haman’s plot to destroy the Jews was described.

              And how overwhelming and comprehensive that had seemed then!

                   It looked like God’s people would go the way of so many ethnic groups before them, into utter oblivion!

 

     So what happens in our text is so amazing because what’s happening is completely the other way!

          It uses so much of the language of chapter 3 to show how God has worked out the reverse altogether!

              Or it uses the opposite words and phrases to show how it’s referring to something quite different now.

 

     There are two aspects the text has in showing this.

          And the first of these is that... D-DAY HAS COME!

 

     Why do I mean by saying D-DAY HAS COME?

          Well, in World War 2 ‘D-Day’ was the date that the mainland of Europe was invaded by a huge army of allied forces.

              That day meant the end of the war.

     Germany might hold out nearly another year still.

          But her days were always numbered.

             

     Because the Allied forces were greater than her now.

          Even before D-Day there could be no doubt that the war was turning against Germany.

              There was the defeat in North Africa, the invasion of Italy, the surrender of the Italian armies, and so on.

 

     Yet there is one crucial point at which it all hangs together.

          For the Allies to truly win it meant the successful invasion of Europe - regardless of what had happened before.

             

     So how is chapter 8 this victory?

          It is this victory because it’s the decisive defeat of all that Haman set out to maliciously plan and execute against God’s people.

              And this began at the beginning of chapter 3 with the king granting Haman a seat of honour higher than all the other nobles.

                   He was in the position of executive authority.

 

     In verse 10 of that chapter Haman is even given the king’s signet ring showing how powerful his position is.

          It’s like giving someone the privilege of using your cheque account - and this is for a whole empire!

 

     He was a bad ruler, though.

          His only motivation was self-interest.

              The empire he was building was only his own.

                   And so Haman, like so many since, fell into his own trap.

 

     What is drawn out of this book of Esther, however, is just how much Haman, in his selfishness, did actually represent the interests of his master very well.

          Though now his master was not King Xerxes but the prince of this world - none other than the devil himself!

               And Satan’s primary attack in this world is against the plan that God is working out through this world, and especially through His people in this world.

 

     But the interesting thing is that exactly when the devil thinks he’s getting so close he couldn’t be further away!

          He’s so deluded by himself.

              Like Haman he really thought he had it.

     He’s even got the gallows built - the gallows that five hundred years later took the shape of the cross!

          That cross which was just as public a statement and would have been even more devastating on his enemy!

 

     The tables are turned alright!

          And turned in such a way that the God of the Jews is clearly shown working out His will.

              The verses 1 and 2 of our text couldn’t be more clearer and open about that.

 

     You see, when King Xerxes gives Queen Esther the estate of Haman, and gives Mordecai the authority Haman had, the decisive victory is won!

          And when verse 15 records Mordecai leaving the king’s presence wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold, and a purple robe of fine linen, you know things have changed!

 

     D-DAY HAS COME!

          The crucial fight has been done.

 

     And what a difference you notice!

          Under the old regime the inhabitants of Susa were utterly bewildered by what was being done.

              And the Jews were so shocked by it they were in great mourning - fasting, weeping, and wailing.

     But now verse 15 tells us the people of Susa held a joyous celebration.

          And for the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honour.

 

     Weren’t the scenes so much the same throughout Europe as the Allied armies moved on?

          The fear has gone!

              The insecurity, the curfews, the sudden deportations, that not knowing who you could trust - it’s disappeared!

 

     How much, then, congregation, isn’t this a reflection of a far greater D-Day?

          Because if we’re talking about what God did here in Esther for His people, and how that was part of His saving plan for His people, we can’t go past the most crucial campaign of all fought on the cross!

              There God’s Son defeated the forces of sin and death once-and-for-all!

                   That was the victory recognised not by any old king here on earth but God Himself accepted all that Jesus Christ did by giving Him that throne in heaven.

 

     This is why the apostle John wrote in his first letter chapter 5, the verses 4 and 5, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

          “Who is he that overcomes the world?

              “Only he who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

 

     Congregation, this is such a victory that the world can’t ignore it.

          As the people in that land then were struck by what the LORD did for His people there, so today, too, those around us can’t help but see that D-day has come!

              We are free - and free indeed!

 

     In the words of 1st Peter 2, verse 12, we can live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse us of doing wrong - as Haman did against God’s people - they will see our good deeds.

          Then they will glorify God on the day He visits us.

              As indeed verse 17 of Esther 8 shows happening as many people of other nationalities became Jews because the fear of the Jews had seized them.

 

     Now, many have said that this fear which gripped them was a natural fear.

          It is said that they suddenly realised who had the power and so they swung their allegiance behind that power.

              But it’s more than that.

     For the words used here tie in to a spiritual focus.

          The fear here is a reverential awe that strikes them.

              And then you’re not the same anymore!

 

     How could you be?

          D-DAY HAS COME!

              And you know what’s been done!

                   Because you know, in the second aspect to our text, V-DAY IS NOW BEING WON.

           

     Let’s go back to that picture of World War 2.

          D-day has struck.

              The troops have got the foothold.

                   And they’re on their way to finish the war.

 

     That’s clear in the text.

          What’s the first thing Esther does after the crucial struggle has been done?

             

     Why, she doesn’t stop - that’s for sure!

          In verse 3 she’s again pleading with the king.

              And doing it with as much passion as ever before.

     For while she and Mordecai are honoured, what about the rest of her people?

          Haman’s edict still stands.

              And while it’s got nine months to go she can’t leave it for one moment longer!

 

     She had asked this before.

          But it seems in the king’s reaction to Haman’s threatening his queen it could be waylaid.

             

     Esther, though, knows why she’s there.

          Like Isaiah 53 verse 12 speaks of the coming servant of the Lord, so she shows.

              For she intercedes for her own.

                   She lays it on the line for them.

 

     The king extends his sceptre.

          She may speak before him.

              And so she lays the case of her people.

 

     This is very serious.

          The law of the Medes and Persians was known because it could never be broken.

              So the edict previously made had to stand.

                   But another law can turn its effect right around.

 

     Xerxes grants Esther’s plea.

          Mordecai is given the full services of the royal secretaries to write to everyone in the empire, and all in their own languages.

              The best horses are used to bring this edict everywhere.

                   And on top of all that, this time there is also a letter that goes out to Jews in Hebrew.

 

     This letter gives the Jews everywhere the right to assemble together and protect themselves.

          Using the same language Haman had used to order the destruction of the Jews, the Jews were now able to just as much defend themselves.

         

     And that’s all it was - self-defence.

          I say that because some believe that here the tables are turned by the Jews becoming just as ruthless and violent as their enemies would have been.

              One commentator says, “The reversal of the savage royal decree was as irresponsible as its original proclamation had been.

                   “Just as the Jews were to be pitilessly massacred, so now they were free to wreak pitiless vengeance on the Persian and other subjects of the tyrant.”

 

     But when those commentators do this, they seem to be trying to draw a difference between the Old and New Testaments.

          It’s almost as though the ‘eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ principle of Exodus 21 has to be proved to be wrong here.

 

     What they don’t see is how much this wouldn’t make sense.

          First of all, because this would give a free licence to kill to the Jews against anyone they had suspicions about.

              And that the king wouldn’t have.

 

     Secondly, the language in verse 11 of chapter 8 is the same wording as Haman had ordered in chapter 3 verse 13.

          There it had referred to the Jews and their women and children.

              And the plain sense of this text is the same.

                   Because if anyone attacked them and their women and children, the Jews were allowed to defend themselves.

 

     It was an ingenious evasion of the original decree.

          The king gave all the help he could so that Jews could defend themselves.

              And the local authorities noted that.

     They would have changed around any ideas they might have had of enforcing the original decree.

          If the king was now on the side of the Jews, they weren’t going to pick the wrong side!

 

     In this way, congregation, V-DAY IS NOW BEING WON.

          While there is still a struggle up ahead - and right now - you can see an end to it.

              The writing’s on the wall for God’s enemies.

    

     But let’s not forget that there are enemies.

          On that day - the single day - in nine months time, there would be some who would try to annihilate God’s people.

              As today there is an enemy who is still trying to do the same to believers across the face of the earth.

     It can even seem that often he is getting the upper hand.

          The cause of the gospel hasn’t look as grim as it does right now in our land, and in so many other countries around the world.

 

     But D-DAY HAS COME!

          And V-DAY IS NOW BEING WON.

 

     This is the biblical world-and-life view.

          Because then we see all things are needing to be brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

              As Reginald Wallis said, “Remember, the triumphant Christian does not fight for victory; he celebrates a victory already won.

                   “The victorious life is Christ’s business, not yours.”

 

     This was well reflected with what happened to Julian the Apostate, one of the Roman Emperors.

          He tried to light again the fires on the altars of the pagan gods, and so destroy Christianity, even though he had been brought up in the faith.

 

     In the year 363 he and his army was on the march in the campaign against Persia.

          One of the soldiers in that army said to a Christian who was being openly abused for his faith, “Where is your carpenter now?”

              To which the Christian replied, “He is making a coffin for your emperor.”

 

     A few months afterwards Julian received a mortal wound in battle.

          According to the story of Theodoret, Julian, realising that his end was near, dipped his hand in the blood of his wound and threw the blood upwards, crying out as he did so, “You have conquered, O Galilean!”

 

     Congregation, the carpenter of Nazareth, exalted to the right hand of God, is making a coffin for all the kings and kingdoms of this world.

          One by one they spring up and then they’re gone!

              But Christ’s is an everlasting kingdom.

     All that is not obedient to Him, and subject to Him, will be annihilated.

          Only what belongs to Him will last.

 

     That’s what the Persian Empire was shown twenty-five hundred years ago.

          And it’s what the Church lives out today as across the face of the world today the gospel is proclaimed, and people everywhere are confronted with the words of the King of all!

 

     Paul described this with some rich imagery in his second letter to the Corinthians.

          There in chapter 2 the verses 14 till 17, he pictures this as the spreading everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ through believers.

              It’s a smell which to those being saved is the aroma of Christ, while to the perishing it is the smell of death.

 

     You see, V-DAY IS NOW BEING WON!

          It’s not a matter of if but of when.

              For the edict has been issued.

                   His servants, the prophets and the apostles, were especially anointed to declare it.

 

     Friend, the Living Word Himself has come.

          Christ’s doing and dying and rising means we are living and loving.

 

     You know that.

          And the world can’t help but see that.

              So let’s pray that they will be changed by that!

                   Amen.

 

 

PRAYER:

 

Let’s pray...

 

     LORD God, You who in times past have worked out Your mighty and marvellous will, we are again amazed at what you have done.

          You used sinful men and women to work out Your great salvation.

              And even today You are still pleased to work in us what is pleasing to You, the redemption of many souls.

     May we be found faithful.

          And even when things are very, very, grim, help us to be still.

              We’re waiting, Lord.

     Because we know You’re working.

          And soon our Lord Jesus will be returning.

              V-Day is on it’s way!

                  

     Maranatha!   

          Come quickly Jesus!

              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 2003, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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