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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
 send email...
 
Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:The Celebration Esther Was In, We Are, Too!
Text:Esther 9:20-10:3 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Covenant faithfulness
 
Preached:2003-03-16
Added:2009-06-08
 

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 9:20-10:3

(Reading: Psalm 78:1-8; Galatians 3:26-4:7)

 

The Celebration Esther Was In, We Are, Too!

 

 

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ...

 

     The book of Esther began with a party and it ends with one.

          Two celebrations, and big ones, too.

 

     They were two feasts, however, which couldn’t have been more different!

          For one was all about a very inadequate and selfish man, and the other was all about the most perfect and loving God!

             

     One was for the moment, and would soon be swallowed up in the sands of time.

          The other was going to be remembered and celebrated for the rest of human history.

              It’s all the difference in the world!

 

     But before our text goes on to make the one celebration the annual commemoration for God’s people - and to do that twice too! - there’s a distinct change in the flow of this book.

          You see, verse 20 begins, “Mordecai recorded these events.”

              And that makes it seem as if another writer has stepped in here, a kind of editor.

 

     Whoever that person is, though, whether Mordecai or someone else, it’s clear what his purpose is.

          For since a new festival is about to be incorporated into the Old Testament Church Calendar, there must be a definite proof that it should be so.

              To borrow a phrase used to advertise the true origin of Christmas, there has to be “a reason for the season.”

 

     Otherwise it shouldn’t be there.

          Otherwise it would just be a tradition that would end up distracting the people away from the Lord rather than reminding them of His great deeds.

              Otherwise it could well become an excuse for that kind of party we met at the beginning of Esther!

 

     But, congregation, that couldn’t be.

          For, in the words of a first point to this text, THERE WAS NO WAY THIS WOULD BE FORGOTTEN LATER.

 

     And why this event above so many other great events in the life and history of Israel?

          Which reason made this divine deed one to be remembered every year - a status which placed it on the same level as the Passover?

 

     Well, think about the Passover.

          What was that exodus out of Egypt all about?

              Wasn’t it the deliverance of the whole nation?

 

     And while great things had been done by the Lord since then, whether under Moses, Joshua, the Judges, the Kings, and the leaders of the return of exile, no where else do we see such a salvation of all the people!

          That’s why we have the conclusion we have to this book of Esther.

              Because here is the reason why there is the Purim season in their calendar.

     It’s about the difference between life and death - for the whole covenant community!

          In the words of verse 22, this is “the time the Jews got relief.”

 

     It’s a relief which is a rest from the enemy.

          An enemy whose attack would have wiped the Jews off the face of the earth!

 

     Phew!

          That’s some relief, alright!

              For this was some burden they had been under.

                   It had looked like the bitter end.

 

     So from a state of being harassed and insecure, they’ve come into peace and comfort.

          And while that didn’t mean the enemy behind the enemy, Satan, wouldn’t be back - in fact he had never gone! - it showed conclusively the LORD God who would win and who did win!

              For those festivals of the Old Testament Church not only looked back, they just as much looked forward - to the greatest deliverance of all in the Messiah Himself!

                   As Paul said in relation to one of those festivals in 1st Corinthians 5 verse 7, “For Christ, our passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

 

     In the same way the Christian Church today must always remember what Christ did, so the festivals then were always looking ahead.

          They couldn’t do anything else!

              The faithful saints utterly depended upon God’s promise.

     As Hebrews 11 concludes about the Old Testament believers, in the verses 39 and 40, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.

          “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

 

     So, congregation, what a festival this was!

          Which is why the verses 29 till 32 make the point again.

              With the language of an official pronouncement, God’s people are left in no doubt as to the legitimacy of this deliverance as qualifying for the Jewish Calendar.

 

     And this needs a little explanation.

          Because this was not a festival found in the Law of Moses.

              So it’s inclusion had to have the highest possible authority.

 

     That’s why the story has been clearly outlined in the verses 24 and 25.

          The salient points in the case are being made.

              This is what it’s all about!

 

     The way Esther and Mordecai are described in verse 29 supports this.

          For, notice, she is “Queen Esther”.

              Her royal title is important.

                  

     While the decree is described here as being declared together with Mordecai, nevertheless, it is she who does this.

          Her decree confirms the regulations published about ‘Purim’.

              And it’s the one time in this book that we read she does this!

 

     But verse 29 also adds about Esther that she was the “daughter of Abihail.”

          Now that’s a rare thing also.

              Because it’s only when she was first discovered as a possible candidate to take the place of the deposed Vashti, in Esther 2 verse 15, that she was referred as the daughter of Abihail.

 

     Yet all along her racial origin has been vitally important.

          Just as Mordecai is openly described as “the Jew.”

 

     On other occasions that this title is used of Mordecai it has been derogatory.

          But here it appears as the greatest distinction he could claim.

              As indeed it was.

     Because he is one of God’s people.

          And here he is a leader in Israel.

              A spiritual leader.

 

     How can we know that?

          Well, think of what such a festival did for the Old Testament Church.

              For here was a time they had to set aside to specially remember what the LORD had done at this time.

 

     And what a thing to remember!

          Imagine what feelings this would engender!

              Because they would have to be thankful.

                   And they’d come away from celebrating it encouraged - built up in the faith.

 

     They remembered it was the LORD God who had acted before to save His people.

          The God who keeps His promises.

              He would do it again.

     And what a difference that makes!

          Even if you’ve heard it many times before.

              Because each of those times brings God to the fore.

 

     Someone once said, “There are three kinds of giving: grudge giving, duty giving, and thanksgiving.”

          And it’s certainly thanksgiving here.

              That’s why there’s the giving of food to each other and gifts to the poor in verse 22.

     Because a thankful heart doesn’t count the cost.

          It realises the cost!

              And that person knows he owes a debt which cannot be repaid.

 

     And it doesn’t have to be repaid!

          That’s exactly it!

              And that’s why a thankful heart is really what matters most of all.

 

     Can’t you imagine God’s people then singing songs like Psalm 78?

          That song which goes through so much of Israel’s history, remembering the great things He had done.

              And all that despite their sinfulness!

                   THERE WAS NO WAY THIS WOULD BE FORGOTTEN LATER.

 

     And there’s yet another proof to the endorsement of this festival.

          Because in verse 31, when Esther and Mordecai are spoken of as setting the time in the year for Purim, it refers to times that the people had already “established for themselves and their descendants in regard to their times of fasting and lamentation.”

      

     There’s a healthy biblical balance here.

          “The times of fasting and lamentation” remind us of those dark days when the threat of death hung over their heads.

              In the joy of their deliverance they could not forget what they had been delivered from.

 

     This is like the bitter herbs that had to be eaten with the passover lamb.

          Exodus 12 verse 8 describes that.

         

     You see, on their own those herbs were an awful taste, but cooked in with the lamb they really brought out its flavour.                

          In the same way, there has to be a deep conviction of sin and true repentance before you’re really thankful.

 

     Congregation, THERE WAS NO WAY THIS WOULD BE FORGOTTEN LATER.

          Because now, in our text, we move on to see that HERE WAS THE WAY THE LORD MADE IT LAST FOREVER.

 

     This is where we turn to a very short chapter - chapter 10.

          And we may well wonder why this chapter is so short.

 

     Well, it’s not actually short.

          You see, when this book of Esther was originally written there were no chapters and verses in it whatsoever.

              In fact there were no chapters and verses used in the Bible until about a thousand years after Christ.

 

     Well, that explains why we often hear the Lord Jesus or the apostles in the New Testament say phrases like, “Somewhere the prophet has written,”

          They couldn’t quote chapter and verse, because there was none!

 

     For this book of Esther it meant that these last three verses are very much a part of everything else.

          Yet as the last words in the book they do bear a special significance.

             

     Mind you, you wouldn’t think so from the way it’s written.

          It appears as a bit of an anti-climax.

         

     I mean, isn’t this the book of Esther?

          And wouldn’t it be much more fitting to end with the spiritual festival of Purim?

              Especially as a contrast to the beginning.

 

     But, then, it is quite a difference to what we see at this book’s beginning.

          For why is Mordecai pre-eminent among the Jews and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews?

              It’s because of what the last words to this book say - “he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.”

 

     Here we see the man who rules over this vast empire not as another over-inflated megalomaniac.

          Here is no power-hungry despot seeking to advance his own selfish interests.

              Here is a man whose actually dedicated to the prosperity of his people.

     He’s working for their health, security, material plenty, and good relationships.

          He’s committed to all of which that marvellous Hebrew work “shalom” is so richly filled with.

              He’s the ruler who would be truly and openly loved.

     There would be no compulsory show of support for him on the streets, where people fear for their lives if they don’t.

          There would be no one hundred per cent vote for him in an election where there was no other candidate.

              For, in the words of the apostle John in his first letter chapter 4 verse 18, “There is no fear in love.

                   “But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”

 

     It almost sounds a little like Paradise!

          And in a small way it is.

              Because Mordecai as a mediator for his people points us to what God’s ultimate Mediator, Jesus Christ, would do for His own.

    

     This reminds us of Joseph in Egypt.

          In Genesis chapter 50, the verses 15 till 21, he is assuring his brothers that they have nothing to fear now that their father Jacob is dead.

              For while they had planned evil against him, like Haman and his sons, God used it in his own special way.

                   As Joseph said there in verse 20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

 

     It was for the salvation of His people that the Lord ordained Joseph to become vice-regent over the Empire of Egypt.

          And now He has placed Mordecai in such a place over the Empire of the Persians and Medes.

 

     Congregation, the man who then acted for the common good of the people, even to pleading their cause constantly with the king, pictures so well for us what Christ Jesus would do.

          And He wouldn’t do it for only the limited years that Mordecai was second in rank to the King, but He is doing it for all eternity as the King of kings!

 

     A certain word used here shows how Christ-like Mordecai is.

          For when verse 2 of Esther 10 speaks of the full account of the greatness of Mordecai, it uses the word which in Esther 4:7 describes the sum of the money Haman promised to pay the king to destroy the Jews.

              How much hasn’t that now been turned on its head!

     In the most ironical way the Lord has His say!

          Because He’s turned everything around to go His way!

 

     What a wonderfully clear picture that is to what His own Son would, within a few hundred years, do for His people?

          Through the way that mankind and even the devil thought was the sure way to be utterly defeated, He has won the most comprehensive victory!

 

     It’s this Mediator Esther and the whole of the Old Testament are waiting for.

          That nation was being prepared for the honour of receiving God’s own Son.

    

     We must see that, congregation.

          For Jews and Arabs will disagree - and violently so!

              And there are many Christians going around today who are teaching something else about Israel.     

 

     So the truth of Galatians 3 the verses 28 and 29 must be made known.

          For the apostle says there, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

              “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

 

     Only in Christ will God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 verse 3 be fulfilled.

          In Him all the families of the earth are blessed.

              And without Him they are cursed.

 

     That might sound harsh, congregation.

          But that’s the reason there was ‘Purim.’

              It was nothing less than a matter of life and death.

             

     God saved His people then so that His own Son would save all His people of every place and time.

          Has Jesus also died for you?

              Amen.

 

 

PRAYER:

Let’s pray...

     LORD God, what an incredible story Esther is.

          It goes from the depths of despair to the heights of joyful rejoicing.

              And through it all You are there.

     And You are here today, too.

          In Jesus Christ You will never leave us or forsake us.

              For in Him we have our Mediator in heaven itself, the One Israel of old looked for.

                   He is the child Simeon and Anna welcomed as the promised Messiah, the fulfilment of all that was prophesied.

 

     Help us, by Your Spirit, to look to Him.

          And make us follow Him.

              For His name’s sake, we pray, Amen.

 

         

ESTHER 9:20-10:3

(Reading: Psalm 78:1-8; Galatians 3:26-4:7)

 

The Celebration Esther Was In, We Are, Too!

 

 

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ...

 

     The book of Esther began with a party and it ends with one.

          Two celebrations, and big ones, too.

 

     They were two feasts, however, which couldn’t have been more different!

          For one was all about a very inadequate and selfish man, and the other was all about the most perfect and loving God!

             

     One was for the moment, and would soon be swallowed up in the sands of time.

          The other was going to be remembered and celebrated for the rest of human history.

              It’s all the difference in the world!

 

     But before our text goes on to make the one celebration the annual commemoration for God’s people - and to do that twice too! - there’s a distinct change in the flow of this book.

          You see, verse 20 begins, “Mordecai recorded these events.”

              And that makes it seem as if another writer has stepped in here, a kind of editor.

 

     Whoever that person is, though, whether Mordecai or someone else, it’s clear what his purpose is.

          For since a new festival is about to be incorporated into the Old Testament Church Calendar, there must be a definite proof that it should be so.

              To borrow a phrase used to advertise the true origin of Christmas, there has to be “a reason for the season.”

 

     Otherwise it shouldn’t be there.

          Otherwise it would just be a tradition that would end up distracting the people away from the Lord rather than reminding them of His great deeds.

              Otherwise it could well become an excuse for that kind of party we met at the beginning of Esther!

 

     But, congregation, that couldn’t be.

          For, in the words of a first point to this text, THERE WAS NO WAY THIS WOULD BE FORGOTTEN LATER.

 

     And why this event above so many other great events in the life and history of Israel?

          Which reason made this divine deed one to be remembered every year - a status which placed it on the same level as the Passover?

 

     Well, think about the Passover.

          What was that exodus out of Egypt all about?

              Wasn’t it the deliverance of the whole nation?

 

     And while great things had been done by the Lord since then, whether under Moses, Joshua, the Judges, the Kings, and the leaders of the return of exile, no where else do we see such a salvation of all the people!

          That’s why we have the conclusion we have to this book of Esther.

              Because here is the reason why there is the Purim season in their calendar.

     It’s about the difference between life and death - for the whole covenant community!

          In the words of verse 22, this is “the time the Jews got relief.”

 

     It’s a relief which is a rest from the enemy.

          An enemy whose attack would have wiped the Jews off the face of the earth!

 

     Phew!

          That’s some relief, alright!

              For this was some burden they had been under.

                   It had looked like the bitter end.

 

     So from a state of being harassed and insecure, they’ve come into peace and comfort.

          And while that didn’t mean the enemy behind the enemy, Satan, wouldn’t be back - in fact he had never gone! - it showed conclusively the LORD God who would win and who did win!

              For those festivals of the Old Testament Church not only looked back, they just as much looked forward - to the greatest deliverance of all in the Messiah Himself!

                   As Paul said in relation to one of those festivals in 1st Corinthians 5 verse 7, “For Christ, our passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

 

     In the same way the Christian Church today must always remember what Christ did, so the festivals then were always looking ahead.

          They couldn’t do anything else!

              The faithful saints utterly depended upon God’s promise.

     As Hebrews 11 concludes about the Old Testament believers, in the verses 39 and 40, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.

          “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

 

     So, congregation, what a festival this was!

          Which is why the verses 29 till 32 make the point again.

              With the language of an official pronouncement, God’s people are left in no doubt as to the legitimacy of this deliverance as qualifying for the Jewish Calendar.

 

     And this needs a little explanation.

          Because this was not a festival found in the Law of Moses.

              So it’s inclusion had to have the highest possible authority.

 

     That’s why the story has been clearly outlined in the verses 24 and 25.

          The salient points in the case are being made.

              This is what it’s all about!

 

     The way Esther and Mordecai are described in verse 29 supports this.

          For, notice, she is “Queen Esther”.

              Her royal title is important.

                  

     While the decree is described here as being declared together with Mordecai, nevertheless, it is she who does this.

          Her decree confirms the regulations published about ‘Purim’.

              And it’s the one time in this book that we read she does this!

 

     But verse 29 also adds about Esther that she was the “daughter of Abihail.”

          Now that’s a rare thing also.

              Because it’s only when she was first discovered as a possible candidate to take the place of the deposed Vashti, in Esther 2 verse 15, that she was referred as the daughter of Abihail.

 

     Yet all along her racial origin has been vitally important.

          Just as Mordecai is openly described as “the Jew.”

 

     On other occasions that this title is used of Mordecai it has been derogatory.

          But here it appears as the greatest distinction he could claim.

              As indeed it was.

     Because he is one of God’s people.

          And here he is a leader in Israel.

              A spiritual leader.

 

     How can we know that?

          Well, think of what such a festival did for the Old Testament Church.

              For here was a time they had to set aside to specially remember what the LORD had done at this time.

 

     And what a thing to remember!

          Imagine what feelings this would engender!

              Because they would have to be thankful.

                   And they’d come away from celebrating it encouraged - built up in the faith.

 

     They remembered it was the LORD God who had acted before to save His people.

          The God who keeps His promises.

              He would do it again.

     And what a difference that makes!

          Even if you’ve heard it many times before.

              Because each of those times brings God to the fore.

 

     Someone once said, “There are three kinds of giving: grudge giving, duty giving, and thanksgiving.”

          And it’s certainly thanksgiving here.

              That’s why there’s the giving of food to each other and gifts to the poor in verse 22.

     Because a thankful heart doesn’t count the cost.

          It realises the cost!

              And that person knows he owes a debt which cannot be repaid.

 

     And it doesn’t have to be repaid!

          That’s exactly it!

              And that’s why a thankful heart is really what matters most of all.

 

     Can’t you imagine God’s people then singing songs like Psalm 78?

          That song which goes through so much of Israel’s history, remembering the great things He had done.

              And all that despite their sinfulness!

                   THERE WAS NO WAY THIS WOULD BE FORGOTTEN LATER.

 

     And there’s yet another proof to the endorsement of this festival.

          Because in verse 31, when Esther and Mordecai are spoken of as setting the time in the year for Purim, it refers to times that the people had already “established for themselves and their descendants in regard to their times of fasting and lamentation.”

      

     There’s a healthy biblical balance here.

          “The times of fasting and lamentation” remind us of those dark days when the threat of death hung over their heads.

              In the joy of their deliverance they could not forget what they had been delivered from.

 

     This is like the bitter herbs that had to be eaten with the passover lamb.

          Exodus 12 verse 8 describes that.

         

     You see, on their own those herbs were an awful taste, but cooked in with the lamb they really brought out its flavour.                

          In the same way, there has to be a deep conviction of sin and true repentance before you’re really thankful.

 

     Congregation, THERE WAS NO WAY THIS WOULD BE FORGOTTEN LATER.

          Because now, in our text, we move on to see that HERE WAS THE WAY THE LORD MADE IT LAST FOREVER.

 

     This is where we turn to a very short chapter - chapter 10.

          And we may well wonder why this chapter is so short.

 

     Well, it’s not actually short.

          You see, when this book of Esther was originally written there were no chapters and verses in it whatsoever.

              In fact there were no chapters and verses used in the Bible until about a thousand years after Christ.

 

     Well, that explains why we often hear the Lord Jesus or the apostles in the New Testament say phrases like, “Somewhere the prophet has written,”

          They couldn’t quote chapter and verse, because there was none!

 

     For this book of Esther it meant that these last three verses are very much a part of everything else.

          Yet as the last words in the book they do bear a special significance.

             

     Mind you, you wouldn’t think so from the way it’s written.

          It appears as a bit of an anti-climax.

         

     I mean, isn’t this the book of Esther?

          And wouldn’t it be much more fitting to end with the spiritual festival of Purim?

              Especially as a contrast to the beginning.

 

     But, then, it is quite a difference to what we see at this book’s beginning.

          For why is Mordecai pre-eminent among the Jews and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews?

              It’s because of what the last words to this book say - “he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.”

 

     Here we see the man who rules over this vast empire not as another over-inflated megalomaniac.

          Here is no power-hungry despot seeking to advance his own selfish interests.

              Here is a man whose actually dedicated to the prosperity of his people.

     He’s working for their health, security, material plenty, and good relationships.

          He’s committed to all of which that marvellous Hebrew work “shalom” is so richly filled with.

              He’s the ruler who would be truly and openly loved.

     There would be no compulsory show of support for him on the streets, where people fear for their lives if they don’t.

          There would be no one hundred per cent vote for him in an election where there was no other candidate.

              For, in the words of the apostle John in his first letter chapter 4 verse 18, “There is no fear in love.

                   “But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”

 

     It almost sounds a little like Paradise!

          And in a small way it is.

              Because Mordecai as a mediator for his people points us to what God’s ultimate Mediator, Jesus Christ, would do for His own.

    

     This reminds us of Joseph in Egypt.

          In Genesis chapter 50, the verses 15 till 21, he is assuring his brothers that they have nothing to fear now that their father Jacob is dead.

              For while they had planned evil against him, like Haman and his sons, God used it in his own special way.

                   As Joseph said there in verse 20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

 

     It was for the salvation of His people that the Lord ordained Joseph to become vice-regent over the Empire of Egypt.

          And now He has placed Mordecai in such a place over the Empire of the Persians and Medes.

 

     Congregation, the man who then acted for the common good of the people, even to pleading their cause constantly with the king, pictures so well for us what Christ Jesus would do.

          And He wouldn’t do it for only the limited years that Mordecai was second in rank to the King, but He is doing it for all eternity as the King of kings!

 

     A certain word used here shows how Christ-like Mordecai is.

          For when verse 2 of Esther 10 speaks of the full account of the greatness of Mordecai, it uses the word which in Esther 4:7 describes the sum of the money Haman promised to pay the king to destroy the Jews.

              How much hasn’t that now been turned on its head!

     In the most ironical way the Lord has His say!

          Because He’s turned everything around to go His way!

 

     What a wonderfully clear picture that is to what His own Son would, within a few hundred years, do for His people?

          Through the way that mankind and even the devil thought was the sure way to be utterly defeated, He has won the most comprehensive victory!

 

     It’s this Mediator Esther and the whole of the Old Testament are waiting for.

          That nation was being prepared for the honour of receiving God’s own Son.

    

     We must see that, congregation.

          For Jews and Arabs will disagree - and violently so!

              And there are many Christians going around today who are teaching something else about Israel.     

 

     So the truth of Galatians 3 the verses 28 and 29 must be made known.

          For the apostle says there, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

              “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

 

     Only in Christ will God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 verse 3 be fulfilled.

          In Him all the families of the earth are blessed.

              And without Him they are cursed.

 

     That might sound harsh, congregation.

          But that’s the reason there was ‘Purim.’

              It was nothing less than a matter of life and death.

             

     God saved His people then so that His own Son would save all His people of every place and time.

          Has Jesus also died for you?

              Amen.

 

 

PRAYER:

Let’s pray...

     LORD God, what an incredible story Esther is.

          It goes from the depths of despair to the heights of joyful rejoicing.

              And through it all You are there.

     And You are here today, too.

          In Jesus Christ You will never leave us or forsake us.

              For in Him we have our Mediator in heaven itself, the One Israel of old looked for.

                   He is the child Simeon and Anna welcomed as the promised Messiah, the fulfilment of all that was prophesied.

 

     Help us, by Your Spirit, to look to Him.

          And make us follow Him.

              For His name’s sake, 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 2003, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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