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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:When God Turns the Tables
Text:Esther 8:1-17 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Providence

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Selections from the Psalter Hymnal, 1976:

322 - When Morning Gilds the Skies

137 - In Doubt and Temptation

463 - He Leadeth Me

408 - Great Is Thy Faithfulness

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

Pastor Ted Gray
“When God Turns the Tables”
Esther 8:1-17
In the year 1778 the famous French atheist, Voltaire, died. But before he died he made this prediction: “One hundred years from now the Bible and the Christian faith will no longer be believed.” Yet one hundred years to the date of that statement the Geneva Bible Society bought Voltaire’s house and printing press and began printing and distributing Bibles from there! God had turned the tables on the French atheist, just as God is able to “turn the tables” on anyone, and on any situation He desires to.
In chapter 7 we read how God turned the tables on Haman, as he was hanged on the very gallows he had made for Mordecai. Now in chapter 8 we see where God continued to “turn the tables” in a number of remarkable ways. First, Haman’s estate was given to Esther. Verse 1, That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews.
It was common in the Old Testament era for the property of criminals to be referred to the state – that is, the king – when the criminal had died. That is why King Ahab, on advice of the wicked Queen Jezebel, hired two false witnesses to accuse Naboth of cursing both God and the king. Naboth was falsely accused, executed, and guess who got the property that Naboth had carefully cared for? It was King Ahab. (1 Kings 21). That same principle is at work here. As soon as Haman was executed his estate became the property of the king, not of Haman’s sons and widow.
This was also a large estate. Do you remember how in Esther 5:11 we read about Haman boasting to his wife and friends? He boasted about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. And who should inherit this “vast wealth?” An orphan named Esther, a Jew who had been brought into captivity.
Not only was Esther the recipient of Haman’s estate, but look who she put in charge of the management of the estate. Verse 2: The king took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed him over Haman’s estate. We have an expression that if a deceased person knew what happened after they died, “They would turn over in their grave.” That expression would certainly apply to Haman! God turned the tables completely on all his plans.
Another way that God “turned the tables” is recorded in verse 2 where we read how the king’s signet ring was given to Mordecai. The king’s signet ring represented his power. Once that power had been given to Haman, but now it was given to the one Haman had detested, to Mordecai.
And did you notice the change of attire for Mordecai?  Mordecai had been described in chapter 4:1 this way: When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. Yet now Mordecai is clothed in royal robes. Verse 15 says, When Mordecai left the king’s presence, he was wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen. And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration.
In verse 8 we see a third way that God turned the tables against the enemies of His people. We read of how a decree was made to counteract Haman’s decree. The decrees of the Medes and Persians were binding; they could not be broken. That is why Daniel ended up in the lions’ den. King Darius did not want to put him there, but his administrators had set him up and encouraged him to write a decree that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any God or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, O King, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered – in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians which cannot be repealed. (Daniel 6:7-8).
­You children know how the story goes because you sing that song, Dare to Be a Daniel. Daniel refused to obey the edict. Instead, he prayed to the one true God of Scripture with his windows open toward Jerusalem. The administrators who wanted to get rid of Daniel went to the king and reported that Daniel had disobeyed the edict. Although the king liked Daniel and did not want him thrown into the lions’ den, he had no choice.
It was a similar situation here with King Xerxes. He did not want to see the edict to annihilate the Jewish people enforced, but the decree was binding. However, a new decree could be made to counteract the original decree which called for the annihilation of the enemies of the Jews. 
Since the king could not revoke the edict, he had allowed Haman to make to destroy the Jews, he gave Esther and Mordecai an opportunity to write another edict which would counteract Haman’s. In verse 8 King Xerxes says, “Now write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring—for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.”
No wonder God’s people were joyful! Instead of being annihilated, their numbers increased. Verse 17 says, In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them. Over and over throughout this chapter we see where God “turned the tables” on the wicked and protected His people from the schemes of evil.
The Heart of the King is in the Lord’s Hand
While the book of Esther describes a very clear and obvious “turning of the tables” by the Lord, we should not be surprised, for God is able to turn circumstances around in our lives, just as He did for Esther and for Mordecai. The changes that were brought about in their lives were a result of God’s work behind the scenes as He changed the heart of King Xerxes.
If anyone seemed to have a heart of stone, a heart that would never change, it was King Xerxes. When the book of Esther opens in chapter one it describes a wild, drunken party held by the king. When his beautiful wife, Queen Vashti, refused to parade her beauty before the king’s drunken friends, what did he do with Vashti, his wife, the Queen?  He got rid of her, expelled her from the palace, and held a nationwide beauty contest to find the most beautiful virgin in the kingdom of the Medes and Persians to replace Vashti. In other words, he was not someone that you would expect to have a soft heart. But time and again we have seen that he looked upon Esther with favor, that he had a soft spot in his heart for her.
Was it just because of her beauty? Did she have such a way with men that she could simply compel him to do her will?  While the Lord blessed Esther with beauty and with persuasiveness, the real reason the king was changed is recorded in Proverbs 21:1: The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases.
In this book of history, we see that the Lord used an orphan like Esther, a prisoner of war like Mordecai, and a king as hard-hearted as Xerxes to write “history” into “His story,” to write God’s story of how He works out all things for the good of His chosen people.
God Frustrates the Plans of the Peoples
God also worked “behind the scenes” as He used Esther to counteract an irrevocable edict. In the last part of verse 8 we read, “No document written with the king’s name and sealed with his signet ring can be revoked.” And yet, because God works all things for the good of His people, all the edicts of Haman to do away with the Jews, even done with the blessing of the king, were doomed to fail. As Psalm 33:10-11 says: The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations.
Having called us out of the world to Himself, God will make sure that the gates of hell will never prevail against His true church, His people. Working behind the scenes, just as He did thousands of years ago in Esther’s day, God still foils the plans of the peoples so that His plans stand firm forever.
As the chapter closes, we see the Lord turning the gloom of His people to thankfulness. Verse 16 sums it up: For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. And here again, this is nothing unusual with our Lord. He takes the darkest, bleakest, saddest situation and puts His silver lining on the clouds. He may not always take someone like Haman out of the picture, but He will always encourage His people with His faithfulness.
Consider the weeping prophet Jeremiah. He had good reason to weep. All his warnings to the people Judah were scoffed at. King Jehoiakim had Jeremiah’s scroll burned section by section. He was put in stocks, dropped into a cistern; he had many attempts on his life – all because he was a faithful prophet of God warning the people of Judah that unless they repented the Lord would punish them by bringing them into captivity.
The people refused to listen. God was true to all the warnings Jeremiah had given. The Babylonians came and destroyed Jerusalem, desecrated the Temple, and took the people into captivity in Babylon.
No wonder Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet. And it is no wonder that he wrote the book entitled, Lamentations. Yet, as he looked at the destruction of Jerusalem, he wrote words of encouragement that are well known by almost each one of us. In Lamentations 3:19-24 he wrote:
     I remember my affliction and my wanderings,
                 the wormwood and the gall!
     My soul continually remembers it
                 and is bowed down within me.
     But this I call to mind,
                 and therefore I have hope:
     The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
                 His mercies never come to an end;
     they are new every morning;
                 great is Your faithfulness.
     “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
                 “therefore I will hope in Him.”
The Ultimate “Turning of the Tables”
In every age, God’s people have been able to look with the eye of faith to our faithful God who is able do that which seems impossible. Certainly, it seemed impossible at one time to Mordecai and Esther that God would turn the tables so completely against Haman. It seemed impossible to Jeremiah as he looked at the destruction of Jerusalem to think it could ever be rebuilt and resettled.
And to the disciples, it seemed impossible that anyone could be saved. A rich young ruler had come to Jesus, and Jesus had told His disciples that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
       Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
       Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Luke 18:25-28).
Maybe you face something that seems impossible in your life. Yet with God all things are possible. In Jeremiah 32:27 we read: Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?”
God is able to do above what we can ask or imagine. The only thing God cannot do is sin. But He can turn the tables in your life and mine and bring blessing out of the greatest of hardships and troubles.
And even when it is not His will to intervene in His providence and “turn the tables” as you might wish, He will still give the grace to deal with circumstances that seem impossible. He says to us as He said so long ago to the Apostle Paul, struggling with a thorn in his flesh that would not be removed, “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Nowhere is God’s all sufficient grace and power to turn the tables more clearly seen than at Mount Calvary and the empty tomb beyond. The background is the garden at Gethsemane. Jesus poured his heart out to his heavenly Father in prayer saying, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will but Yours be done.”
He had implored His disciples to pray with Him and for Him, but they were exhausted and lay sleeping, rather than kneeling in prayer. An angel from heaven appeared to Jesus and strengthened Him. And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:42,43)
He knew His Father’s will entailed the cross. He knew the Old Testament teaching that cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. He knew the purpose of His birth in Bethlehem, some 33 years before, that He had come to save His people from their sins. He knew that to save sinners like you and me He needed to bear the curse for sin that you and I deserve. He knew that although He was innocent He needed to be judged guilty. He knew that in order to propitiate – that is to cover our sins – He had to shed his blood.
He certainly knew these realities, and had known them from all eternity, as the divine eternal Son of God who is also described as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. But in Gethsemane, as a truly human person, with all the feelings and thoughts that you and I also experience, He understandably prayed, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me.”
But that was not the Father's will. Nevertheless, God the Father answered the prayer of Jesus the Son. God the Father gave Him the grace to go ahead with cross. God the Father sent the angel from heaven to strengthen Him to do the will of the Father, to offer Himself as an atoning sacrifice for everyone who repents of their sin and believes in Him.
God the Father, in answer to the Son’s prayer, gave Him grace even though the greatest thorn the world has ever known, the cross of Calvary, could not be removed. But then also, when Jesus bore your sin and mine on the cross, being forsaken by the Father, so that we will never be, He totally turned the tables on the devil. What we see in Esther chapter 8 is truly a remarkable turning of the tables by the Lord for the protection and deliverance of his people of that era. But it points ahead, as does all the Old Testament Scripture, to a far greater deliverance: The deliverance from sin that Jesus gained for us on the cross and by His resurrection from the dead three days later.
The ultimate example of the Lord “turning the tables” on the wicked would be seen over 500 years after Haman was hanged and Mordecai received the signet ring from King Xerxes. On a gloomy day when the sun was hidden from the earth, it seemed as though evil had conquered, as though Satan was victorious.
To the crowd below, to Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, along with the disciples it must have seemed as though evil had won out. But in actuality, as Jesus cried out, “It is finished” there was a note of victory in that agonized cry. For through His death and glorious resurrection God turned the tables completely on the evil one. As Revelation 12:10-11 point out, the evil one was defeated by the shed blood of the Lamb of God. For everyone who believes upon the Lord Jesus Christ with a saving faith, there is a complete turning of the tables, a complete reversal of fortunes, so to speak.
Whenever we take the Lord’s Supper together, we remember that. The communion form describes so beautifully how through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has turned the tables for us, giving us everlasting life instead of eternal damnation. The form points out that:
He took upon Himself our flesh and blood, and He bore the wrath of God on the cross for us. We also confess that He came to earth to bring us to heaven, that He was condemned to die that we might be pardoned, that He endured the suffering and death of the cross that we might live through Him, and that He was once forsaken by God that we might forever be accepted by Him. (1976 Psalter Hymnal, page 157).
Is your faith and my faith truly placed in Him alone for salvation from sin? If so, you can be sure that He will give you not only the gift of eternal life in the glory of heaven with Him, but also grace for every thorn. How does Romans 8:32 put it?  He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?
* * *
In the year 1778 it certainly looked as though the French atheist, Voltaire, had the upper hand. He had the printing press, the house that was so well equipped for its time. And even though he lay on his death bed he could make that boast, “In one hundred years no one will believe the Bible.” Yet one hundred years later the Geneva Bible Society began printing Bibles from Voltaire's old house, using his printing press.
The same God who turned the tables on the devil at Mount Calvary, the same God who turned the tables on Haman, the same God who turned the tables on Voltaire is able to turn the tables in your life as well.
And if it is not His will to turn the tables in the way you might desire, you can be sure that He withholds His action for your good. And you can be assured that He will give you grace for every situation and circumstance that you face. Amen!
Bulletin outline:
That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews.
And Mordecai came into the presence of the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her. 
                                                                                                                                         Esther 8:1
                                        “When God Turns the Tables”
                                                       Esther 8:1-17
I.  God “turned the tables” in ancient Persia to save His people:
       1) Haman’s estate was given to Esther (1, 7)
       2) The king’s signet ring, representing his power, was given to Mordecai (2). Mordecai was
            clothed in royalty (15)
       3) A decree was made to counteract Haman’s decree (8)
II. These changes were a result of God’s work “behind the scenes” as He:
      1) Changed the heart of King Xerxes (1-2; Proverbs 21:1)
      2) Used Esther to counteract an “irrevocable” edict (8; Psalm 33:10-11)
      3) Turned the gloom of His people to thankfulness (16; Lamentations 3:19-24)
III. Applications:
      1) The events of the chapter remind us that nothing is impossible for God (Jeremiah 32:27;
           Luke 18:27), who gives grace for every trial (2 Corinthians 12:9)
      2) The ultimate turning of the tables happened at Calvary and the empty tomb
           (John 19:28-30; Revelation 12:10-12)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

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