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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:The Reformed Church of Oamaru
 Oamaru, New Zealand
Preached At:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
Title:The Plan Esther Was In, We Are, Too!
Text:Esther 2:1-23 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Covenant faithfulness

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 2:1-23
(Reading: Genesis 45:1-11; 1 Peter 3:1-6)
The Plan Esther Was In, We Are, Too!
Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ €¦
        Doesn't it seem that we move from one huge pagan festivity onto another?
                  From the party to end all parties in chapter 1 we now have the beauty pageant to top them all in chapter 2!
                          There is again no expense or time or effort spared to have the very best!
        But what was just a peek in chapter 1 becomes a whole picture in chapter 2.

                  The glimpse in chapter 1 verse 17, where it points to the king giving Vashti's royal position to someone better, becomes now a full view in chapter 2.

                          And what a sight it is, too!
                                    For while it seems chapter 1 simply flows into chapter 2, what is actually happening is a distinct change.

        You see, you may have an idea for a new house you would like to build but to have the plans for it laid out there before you is something else!

                  Then you know you're really in it.

                          And while what a lot of what the architect or designer says may seem almost in a different language to you, seeing that plan you know that this is very much about you.

                                    That plan is exactly for you.
        You can imagine the Jewish people when this story was told.
                  These were scenes out of a whole different world.
                          This was a sight so strange to them.
        It is a place quite different from where God wanted His people to be.
                  And it has actually happened because God's people were disobedient to Him.
                          Still, the LORD wants them, and us, to see!
                                    In the words of the title to this sermon... THE PLAN ESTHER WAS IN, WE ARE, TOO!
        We will consider this plan in three distinct ways.
                  Three strands which are found interwoven throughout this second chapter.
                          Three colours which joined together will paint a totally different scene from chapter 1.
                                    As different as chalk and cheese!
        And, so, in the first place... THE LORD GOD PUTS A FACE TO HIS PLAN.
                  The second chapter opens with what had been decided at the end of the first chapter.

                          While it seems to happen quite soon after, the dates in this chapter and history itself tell us that it is three years that have passed.

        Three years during which it is likely Xerxes suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of a much smaller Greek army.
                  Three years during which there have been plenty of other things to take up his attention.
        A time comes, however, when he knows he needs to act on his decision.
                  Some suggest that it was at a time of regret for what he had done.
                          That's quite unlikely, especially given what we see of Xerxes' character elsewhere.
        But there were the public things that needed to be done.
                  Choosing a new official queen was one.
                          And now he felt ready for that.
        So, the decree is issued.
                  Right throughout the empire the search is on.
                          A great beauty contest takes place.
        And there was no choice about this one.
                  There would have been very few of the girls who really wanted to be in this one.
                          Because this one doomed you to be cut off altogether from loved ones.

                                    You could get to do lots of travel; your make-over had no expense spared; you could even get to be queen; but you never got to go back home!

        Then it didn't pay to have a pretty face!
                  Perhaps it's not so different than the exploitative beauty contests of our day?
                          How many young women haven't sold themselves short for a moment of fleeting glory?
                                    So much for being beautiful!
                  And we can have a fair idea of what kind of face Esther had.
                          Esther who certainly had the right name for it.
        Because Esther means 'star'.
                  And that's what she was going to become.
                          A star!
        So, what kind of face did Esther have?
                  Right throughout this chapter it's clear it was a beautiful face.
                          The verses 7, 9, 15, and 17, show how much she struck the experts with her spectacular looks.
        She was 'the face' alright!
                  And that's how they describe the latest popular model, isn't it?
                          She is called 'the face'.
        Recently, research was done on the essential characteristics to such a face.
                  The beautiful faces of today were compared with what was regarded as beautiful in the past.
                          It ended up to be very similar.

        So we can know that there is every probability that Esther had a definite type of symmetry to her face and to her body as a whole.

                  Whether she was looked at from the front, or from the side, all her features would have been in a certain, proportional, balance.

                  And it couldn't have been a more stunning one!

        So it was that through something belonging quite definitely to this world God was working out something to save His people for the next world.

                  That's one reason why His people are there, in that land.
                          In the words of the second strand to this text... THE LORD GOD USES A RACE IN HIS PLAN.
        Congregation, there have been a number of negative things written about Mordecai and Esther.

                  It was been said that they were wrong to still be in the pagan capital when God's people were already right back from exile in Palestine.

                          It has been said that their having Persian names, especially names that were tied to certain pagan gods or goddesses, showed how much they had accommodated themselves to the world around them.

                                    So it is said they were only there, like so many other Jews, to make as much money as they could, and therefore to enjoy as much of that lifestyle as they could.


        It has even been stated that Mordecai entered Esther in this ancient type of a beauty contest to be able to gain a better position for himself.

                  And it seems, in verse 19, that Mordecai has indeed gained a position as a magistrate.
        What we may not realise is the nature of the world God's people were in then.
                  A world quite different than ours.
                          A world where God's people were universally despised, simply because they stood apart as much as they did.
        That was despite whatever name they had.
                  Daniel is proof enough of this.
                          In chapter 6 of Daniel we read of his being cast into the den of lions by reason of his refusal to bow down to another god.

        To help understand this chapter, and, indeed, to open up this whole book of Esther we have to realise... THE LORD GOD USES A RACE IN HIS PLAN.

                  And it's a race not just because of its ethnicity, but especially through what the LORD does spiritually.
                          God has His servants in this place.
                                    And despite their own foibles and failings, they would be used by Him.
        The LORD hasn't put His people there - or here - for nothing!
                  We have to see that, wherever we are, it's first of all to worship and serve Him.
                          If we are not there to do that we have to get out of there!
                                    And it's through His own, who are ready to do His Will, that that the LORD will savingly work.
        The story of Joseph in Genesis 45 is all about such a moment.
                  There Joseph tells his brothers exactly this.

                          In verse 7 he says, "God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. "

        Now, did Joseph realise that at every point in his time before he became the second most powerful person in Egypt?
                  Was he always completely humble to the will of God in his life?
        Of course not.
                  But he was the one to be used of God for good.
                          As is the same for Mordecai and Esther.

        In the words of Luke 6 verse 45, "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.

                  "For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. "
        We will hear a similar word to what Joseph said to his brothers spoken by Mordecai to Esther in chapter 4 verse 14.
                  A word which confirms that chapter 2 shows how... THE LORD GOD USES A RACE IN HIS PLAN.
        But there is still more.
                  We have heard what the name 'Esther' means.
                          But there is also recorded her Jewish name.
        That name we read in verse 7 is 'Hadassah'.
                  This means 'myrtle'.

        In prophetic symbolism the myrtle would replace the briars and thorns of the desert thus depicting the Lord's forgiveness and acceptance of His people.

                As Isaiah pictures it in chapter 55 verse 13, "Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.

                          "This will be for the LORD's renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed. "
        Such a name shows us that Esther was raised up in the way of her people.
                  For quite apart from what we will hear elsewhere, there is the love of Mordecai for her.
                          And what a contrast the relationship of Mordecai and Esther is in this chapter to Xerxes and Vashti in the chapter before!

                                    One commentator wrote, "This is a lovely touch in a chapter which leaves the impression that women were considered objects which might be shoved around to suit their masters.

        Mordecai obeyed the law of Moses to care for the orphan.
                But he did even more than that.

                          He took her as his own daughter, and while circumstances separated them here, he continued, wherever he could, to be concerned for her welfare.

        It's there in verse 7.    
                And verse 15 again makes a point of his having adopted Esther.
        This shows us that the LORD chooses to work through His people.
                  It's when we follow His way that He really does open up the way.
                          Whether that way is for us being used by Him or for others to come to know Him!

        When Ephesians 6 verse 4 says, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord, " it means that it's through His people God is pleased to bring a witness to Himself.

                  And it's when we seem to be simply doing the everyday things involved with being a good parent that we show who is the best parent of them all!

                          The very leadership Mordecai displayed.
        It is this which ties in the third strand of our text.
                  For now we recognise... THE LORD GOD SHOWS A GRACE IN HIS PLAN.
        Congregation, what do you notice when you see all those many contestants in a beauty contest?
                  Isn't it that they are all so beautiful?
        And haven't you played that game where you try to work out which one will be the winner?
                  How many times didn't you get that wrong?
                          And yet you were right!
        Because they all look much the same.
                  As we saw earlier, there are certain aspects to beauty which are shared by them.
        So what wins out in the end?
                  Well, it could be political pressure with some of those contests.
                          It could depend on which country is hosting the contest.
        There may be corruption amongst the judges.
                  Or it was just time for someone from that country to win!
        That's why Esther being chosen from amongst so many girls was itself something quite phenomenal.
                  For commentators have guessed at anything from four hundred to fourteen hundred and sixty beautiful girls being brought in.
                          And it all came down to one appearance before his majesty!
        A whole year of the most extensive beauty treatment came down to this one small period of time.
                  Only one would become queen.
                          So she would have to be someone who stood out for the king.
        In fact, she did so much affect him that he knew this was the one!
                  It is said in verse 17 that the king is "attracted " to her.
                          In other translations it is even stronger with the expression "loved her. "
        The "favour " Esther found in the eyes of Hegai and others in the verses 9 and 15 is replicated here.
        So, what was it that they all saw?
                  How did this girl manage to rise above all the others?
        Well, there is another beauty.
                  There is something which sets believing women apart from every other woman in this world.
                          It's a beauty, indeed, which is quite apart from this world.

        The apostle Peter describes it this way in his first letter chapter 3, the verses 3 and 4, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such a braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes.

                  "Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. "

        Was it this that made Esther of greater worth in Xerxes' sight?
                  Did he notice something different about her, because of what she was on the inside?
                          Could he see her submissive spirit?
        Whichever way... THE LORD GOD SHOWS A GRACE IN HIS PLAN.
                  He works in human history to bring about His saving way.
                          And this is part of the way leading up His ultimate saving intervention in human history.
        We see God's grace acting in choosing Esther then.
                  But we also see God's grace setting up something for later.
                          Because right through chapter something remains hidden, doesn't it?
                                    And at the end of the chapter something happens which is also not publicised.
        The first of these things that remain unspoken is the race that Esther belongs to.
                  And let's not think that she is only keeping quiet about her race because Jews were so unliked.
                          That is to presume that she was afraid of being the LORD's.
                                    And she'll show later that's not the case at all.
        But in God's plan it would be saved for the right time.
                  When it was warranted that would be told.
                          And Mordecai, in his wise leading, knew that there would be a time for that.    
        The second of these things is the conspiracy which Mordecai uncovers, and which saves the king from assassination.
                  He is given credit for that in the official record.
                          Because it was a serious threat.
                                    And if he had not uncovered it the king would most likely have been murdered.
        At that time though, as with Joseph and the Butler in Genesis 40 verse 23, it wasn't remembered.
                  Mordecai wasn't specially honoured then.
                          But like Joseph, that time would come.
                                    That would be the LORD's time!
        Congregation, the scene has been set.
                  Esther - and Mordecai - are well and truly in the picture!
                          And so are you and I!
        For we should never ever think that we aren't here except to play our part in the greatest of all plans.
                  Far more than any mere human design this is about God working out how He's going to build up the whole Church.
                          Because, then, in this text, the foundation was on its way.
        But, now the walls are well on the way!
                  And each one of us is being fitted in.
                          We are right where He wants us to be.
        Can you see that?
                  Right now, right here, do you know the Lord is fitting you into place - His place!
        Dear believer - don't deny that!
                  Instead, like Mordecai and Esther, go with that.
        And don't stop till He comes.
                  Because He's certainly not stopping with you until then.

        Let's pray...

                  O loving Father in Heaven,
                          What a glorious unfolding of Your Plan we have seen in Your Word today.
        The Word that is all about the Living Word, Your Son Jesus Christ.
                  The Word that must be fulfilled, as indeed in Him it did all come together.
                          And the Word that we must see in our lives also.
        Because then it does indeed all come together in Him.
                  In Jesus precious Name, 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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