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Author:Rev. Todd Bordow
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Congregation:Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church
 Fort Worth, Texas
 www.opcfw.com
 
Title:Our Invisible God
Text:Esther 4:1-17 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Preached:2003
Added:2004-01-28
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

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


If you were a believer in the 5th century BC, and you were walking through the capital city of Persia, you would wonder. You would wonder at the power and splendor of the mighty kingdom of Xerxes, ruler of the Persian Empire. Xerxes' dominion stretched from India to Ethiopia.

Civilization had reached its highest apex with the dawning of the Persian Empire. Tributes from all over the world daily poured into the capital city. Spices, coins, exotic foods, the finest linens, exquisite artwork and architecture, all filled the streets and especially the palace. This kingdom certainly was glorious, at least to the human eye.

But if you were a believer in 5th century Persia you would wonder at something else. You would wonder about the promises of God in His Word. The Scriptures had promised a glorious kingdom at Jerusalem, not Persia. The Scriptures had promised a righteous Son of David on the throne, not a pagan king like Xerxes.

Jerusalem was to be the city of the great king, yet at this time Jerusalem was a broken down village under the control of Xerxes. It was Persia that seemed blessed by God, not Jerusalem. We may even see in the glorious description of Susa found in chapter I a pseudo heaven, a heaven on earth, with peace and prosperity for all its citizens.

For the faithful remnant in Persia, faith in the God of Scripture was anything but easy. For the Israelite who still clung to the promises of God, there was nothing in sight to suggest that God was fulfilling His promises. Actually, it seemed as if God had completely disappeared from the picture.

Thus we come to the uniqueness of the book of Esther. Esther is the only book in the Bible where God is not even mentioned once. Not only is God not mentioned, but common OT religious words such as "prayer", "the Law," and "covenant" are also absent. This has led some to doubt Esther's inclusion into the canon of Scripture. How can this be part of the Bible if it doesn't even mention God?

But this is no accident. The inspired author is using a brilliant literary device to encourage the people of God. God is not explicitly mentioned in Esther because from all outward appearances God is absent. The absence of God's name underscores what seemed to be the reality of the situation.

But the author knows that the eyes of faith will see God on every page. God is the divine mover of every event in the Book, and everything is moved to fulfill the promises He has made in the Scriptures.

As you know, the story begins inside the palace walls, where Xerxes holds a banquet to show off his glory and his possessions; one of his most prized possessions being his wife beautiful Vashti.

A drunken Xerxes decided to parade his Queen in front of the noblemen, but Vashti refused to be treated like cattle. So much for the mighty power of Xerxes, who cannot even manage his own home!

Embarrassed by this display of weakness, the king's advisors counsel him to fire Vashti as a wife and find another wife. A beauty pageant is held throughout the land to see whom the king will choose for his new queen.

Now all these events seem rather unimportant to the plight of God's people. What do the king's personal affairs have to do with God's promises in the Bible? But as the story unfolds, we see the hand of the invisible God advancing His cause for His people, even as Xerxes advances his own cause. The eyes of faith discern that it is no coincidence that out of all the women in the Persian kingdom, a young beautiful Israelite named Esther is chosen as the new queen.

Esther's older cousin Mordecai, who raised Esther upon her parents' death, had brought her up in the true faith. Mordicai still believed in the promises of God written in the Hebrew Scriptures.

But Esther kept her nationality hidden from the king. This should remind you of another who was raised in a palace but kept his nationality hidden. Of course we are speaking of Moses. There is a purposeful similarity between Moses and Esther. Both would be placed in high positions in foreign palaces, and both would become delivers of the people of God.

Enter into the story one of Xerxes' chief men, Haman the Agagite, an archenemy of the Jews. Agagites were long-time enemies of Israel, going back to the days when Samuel defeated them and put to death King Agag personally.

Haman wanted God's people destroyed, so he devised a plot to make it legal to kill Israelites. He convinced Xerxes that these Jews were a small rebellious lot certain to cause trouble for the empire. And, to hit the king where he felt it the most, these Jews had made themselves some good money in the land. It wouldn't hurt to add their wealth to your treasury.

Obviously human life was very cheap to Xerxes. Seemingly without even a spur of conscience about slaughtering a whole tribe of people, Xerxes grants Haman permission to carry out his plan. What does a king like Xerxes care about a small band of religious zealots anyway?

The only decision left to make was when this slaughter was to take place. Haman cast his Pur to see what date it would fall on. The Pur was the closest thing we have to an Ouiji board, or magic dice. It was a way the people believed the gods communicated to them. The lot was cast, a date was chosen, and the irrevocable edict was made public.

Now where was God in all this? It really did seem as if God had disappeared from the scene. The Law of the Medes and Persians was enacted, making it legal on a certain day to kill Israelites. As you know the Law of the Medes and Persians could not be revoked, even by the king himself.

This brings us to our text in chapter 4. Mordecai and the rest of the Jews in Susa the capital began to publicly wail upon reading the edict. Was this the end of God's promises to Israel? This slaughter would extend to the Jews in the whole empire, including those few who had returned to rebuild Jerusalem. So the question confronting God's people was, "Whose word is truly irrevocable, the law of the Medes and Persians, or the Word of God?" From all outward appearances one would have to say the former.

Now Queen Esther as a member of the royal harem lived in sheltered luxury, she was not even aware of the edict until she heard news of the commotion outside. In v. 5 she inquired through her servants why her people were in such anguish. Mordecai through a messenger informs her of the situation, and then he implores Esther to use her influence to petition the king to stop the coming slaughter.

Esther realized the danger in this. No one was allowed into the king's presence uninvited. Disobeying this command was punishable by death. To add to the danger, the king had not summoned Esther for thirty days. It seemed Esther had fallen out of favor with the king at least for a time.

When it came time to act Esther backed down. In vv. 11 she sends a message to Mordecai that it was just too dangerous to attempt such a thing. Why did Esther shrink back? Why did she ignore Mordecai's plea to intercede for her people?

Esther had begun to love her own life in this world. How could she give up such glorious privileges? Now, we cannot be too hard on young Esther. Can we not sympathize with the tension inside of her? We who are tempted daily; can we judge her so harshly for succumbing to her fear?

You ladies especially might sympathize. Esther was enjoying the best perfumes, clothing, jewelry, spices, and foods known in Western civilization. She had a group of servants and maidens waiting on her hand and foot. She was free to pursue the arts, or any other hobbies her soul delighted in. She was a queen of Persia. She was the envy of every woman in the realm. Would it be so easy to give that all up?

But Mordecai would not accept her fear as an excuse. In v. 13 he warns his younger cousin; do not imagine that you in the king's palace can escape any more than all the other Jews." Esther, if you think you can hide your nationality from the king and escape all this, you are greatly mistaken.

Now underlying Mordecai's warning is the judgment of the Greater King. You may be able to deceive this king for a time, but God is ever present. You will not go unpunished for turning your back on God and on His people.

While Esther's faith was succumbing to fear, Mordecai exhibited great faith, evidenced by his confession in v. 14. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise from another place.In the face of the Law of the Medes and Persians, in the face of the lot already being cast, in the face of a God who seemed out of the picture, Mordecai believed.

With hope unseen Mordecai believed God's Word. Mordecai understood Proverbs 16:33; The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

Deliverance will come to us, Esther, whether God uses you or not. Here is what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. Relief and deliverance was the substance of God's covenant promise to His people. God had promised a kingdom of rest and peace, of relief and deliverance. In the face of overwhelming discouragement, Mordecai believed in that promised kingdom, though he saw it from a distance. This faith is not natural; this faith is given from above.

Mordecai attempts to elicit faith in his younger cousin also; Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this? Esther, do you think it was an accident that you were chosen as a queen? Look what God has done to arrange all this? Can He not take care of you now as you step out in faith? God has placed you here for a reason.

Though Esther had succumbed to fear and selfishness for a moment, she was a true believer. Mordecai's warning and encouragement hit the mark. Her faith comes alive in vv. 15&16. Esther calls for a citywide prayer meeting. Though in the text it says she called for a fast, fasting in Scripture was done for the purpose of prayer. Remember the literary device of not using spiritual words in the book. You pray and my maidens and I will pray. Esther understood that deliverance would not really come from her; it would come from the Lord.

Then Esther utters those famous words that have captured the heart of the church for 2500 years. I will go in to the king, which is not according to law, and if I perish, I perish. Esther loved God more than this world. Esther chose heaven over earth. Esther, as Moses before her, chose to endure ill treatment with the people of God, rather than enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. She considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Persia. As God's people you are called to walk by that same faith, in the same Christ, looking to the same reward.

Well, you know the end of the story, do you not? Esther is allowed into the king's presence, and pleads for her people. Xerxes cannot revoke the law, so he adds a new law to it. On that day when it would be legal for anyone to hunt down Jewish men, women and children, the Jews would be allowed to defend themselves. Most of the people were now afraid of hurting the Jews, for the king had made a favorable statement about them.

Haman is soon hanged on the same gallows he was constructing for Mordecai. When that eventful day arrived, those still foolish enough to try and kill the Jews were themselves killed. The invisible God protected His people. Mordecai and Esther then inaugurate a new holiday called Purim to celebrate God's victory.

But is this how we leave the book of Esther? Do we walk away blessed because we heard a feel-good story? You see the book raises a crucial question. Is this the deliverance and relief promised in the OT? Is this the fulfillment of the promises?

The prophets do speak of a second Exodus for the people of God. This Exodus would be so wonderful that it would cause them to forget the first Exodus.

Is this that deliverance? If so this deliverance did not last very long. Soon another despot would arise and persecute God's people, namely Alexander the Great. And after that would come the Roman Empire. If this is the promised deliverance then was God playing some sort of cruel joke? And where is the Son of David ruling from Jerusalem?

Yes, the Jews love the book of Esther, but they read it with blinders on. They only see a political Messiah freeing us so that we may have a better life. But how can political deliverance free us from our greatest problem, the problem of sin? And what kind of relief only lasts in this lifetime?

Esther was written to cause God's people to long for the greater fulfillment, a greater Exodus, where the Son of David would defeat our true enemies, that being sin and death and hell. This Book causes God's people to long for a permanent deliverance where the Son of David would reign forever over the people of God.

You see, if you do not understand that this book points to Christ, you do not understand this book. Mordecai understood. His faith moved beyond the temporary and earthly. When he gazed upon the earthly splendor of Persia, his faith gazed upon a better kingdom.

Thus Esther stands as a type of Christ. Esther could not truly die for her people; she was not at first even willing to do so. But God would send a greater deliverer who would willingly give up his high position to identify with his people, even to die for them on a shameful cross. His willingness to perish would mean true deliverance for God's people.

Now the resurrected Son of David sits on His throne, ruling His people from the Jerusalem above. The kingdom has come in Christ. The longing of Mordecai has arrived in our Resurrected king.

What did this book say to God's people living under the Greek and Roman dominions? Trust in the Lord to bring your true deliverance. Though it seems from all outward appearances that God is not fulfilling his promises, things are not as they seem to the naked eye.

Now, the motif of the book of Esther is reversal. At the beginning, Esther is an unknown Jewish girl, by the end she is a Queen of Persia. At the beginning Haman casts a lot to destroy God's people. At the end, we see that God decides on the events of history for His people. At the beginning, the Law of the Medes and Persians is irrevocable. At the end, we see that it is God's Word that is irrevocable.

At the beginning, Haman is constructing gallows for Mordecai. At the end, Mordecai is hanging Haman on that very gallows. At the beginning, the pagan king is celebrating a banquet unto his own glory. At the end, the people of God are celebrating a banquet unto God's glory. In Esther everything gores through a reversal.

This theme of reversal was not only true for OT Israel, but for the true faithful Israel, God's own Son. God's Son would experience this reversal. He would first be humbled, then exalted. He would move from shame and suffering to exaltation and celebration.

And as those united to Christ, as those whose sins have been forgiven and who find their righteousness in Christ through faith, this is our history also. Humiliation to glory, suffering to exaltation, weakness to strength. Giving up our rights for our brethren now, to be rewarded later.

We live in an unrighteous world where God seems to be out of the picture. Sometimes you will be tempted to think God has forgotten His church, or that He has forgotten you. When you lie there suffering on a hospital bed, these fears will cross your mind.

Beloved, God is behind the scenes of every event, from the White House to your neighbor's house. And He moves every event for the sake of his church. He has put you in this place at this time for a reason, and that is to further conform you to the image of Christ and to keep you for Himself. You may believe this even as you lay on your deathbed.

Your own weaknesses and sins will at times overwhelm you, and you will be tempted with the thought that Christ has left you. Do not fall for this.

Do not be tempted by the passing pleasures of sin, or honor, or reputation in this life. These temptations almost destroyed Esther. Do not trust your eyes, for they do not tell the whole picture. Your reversal will come as sure as it came for OT Israel, and as sure as it came for Christ.

Jesus said he who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. This is the great reversal for the followers of Christ. Those who deny themselves now for the sake of Christ will celebrate that Purim celebration in heaven.

As with Moses and Mordecai and Esther, we are called to esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, or Persia. We are to endure as seeing Him who is invisible, looking to the reward in heaven. May God grant you the faith of Mordecai and Esther to do so. Amen.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Todd Bordow, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://www.opcfw.com/sermons.shtml

(c) Copyright 2003, Rev. Todd Bordow

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