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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 Position Esther Was In, We Are, Too!
Text:Esther 4:1-17 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faith Tested

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 4:1-17

(Reading: Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 13:1-13)


The Position Esther Was In, We Are, Too!



Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ…


     There has been, in the history of mankind, a few times when what was said by a particular person, though seeming to be almost impossible when weighed up against the odds, yet inspired people to go and do that impossible.

          Who could ever forget a defiant Winston Churchill, in the face of the overwhelming and all-conquering Nazi military machine?

              After the evacuation of Dunkirk, he uttered those immortal words, "...we shall not flag nor fail.

     “We shall go on to the end...whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

          “And even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and liberation of the Old...

              “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will say, ‘This was their finest hour.’”


     It was a defining moment in English history.

          Just as, indeed, the text before us speaks of such a time in Jewish history.

              As Winston Churchill struck the heart of every Englishman with his supreme physical challenge, so also Mordecai with the words of verse 14, "...for such a time as this...", exhorted Esther to risk her very life for the future of her people.


     They were words that could not be ignored; in fact, they're fighting words, words that brought together all of Esther's religious and cultural upbringing into only one possible response.

          In the words of a first aspect to this fourth chapter of Esther... WHEN YOU CAN’T KEEP QUIET.


     Congregation, chapter 3 ended with the words, “the city of Susa was bewildered.”

          And no wonder!

              They had heard the decree the king had sent which meant nothing less than the complete annihilation of a whole race of people - the Jews!


     But if they were bewildered - they who had known of massacres and other pogroms in the past, and knew this was far worse - imagine how it would have been for the Jews?

          They were absolutely shattered!

              And none more so than Mordecai, a man who is obviously a leader within that community.


     His, and their response, was utter heartbreak!

          They tore off their clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and wailed loudly and bitterly.

              They expressed their grief in the most openly anguishing way.


     Just as we would have days of mourning, flags flying half-mast, and prayers said everywhere, expressing our sorrow, so they showed it their way.


              And they simply couldn’t!

                   Emotionally, they let it all hang out!


     So open was Mordecai about his feelings for the impending disaster that even Esther heard about it in the Harem.

          Because it seems that life could be very cloistered there.

              The harem was deliberately secluded and cut off.

                   But some news got through, though.


     Only some news, though.

          The bit that Mordecai was deeply unhappy.

              And so Esther responds accordingly.

                   She sends him some clothes to wear.


     But when Mordecai refuses them she knows how serious it is.

          She sends her own eunuch to him, and he tells her everything.

              And Mordecai tells Esther what she has to do.


     Even though Esther is now the Queen, he clearly directs her.

          He was still her Uncle.

              He had brought her up as his own daughter.

                   And he had done that in the Lord.


     Esther hesitates.

          Some commentators say she even refused to do it.

              And that’s because of who she’s looking to.

     Because notice how she replies.

          She tells Mordecai of how things are politically.

              She says that it wasn’t an appropriate time to approach the king.


     You see, it was the most daring act to approach him about this.

          That meant taking your life in your hands, literally!


     And, besides, she hadn’t been to him for thirty days!

          She seemed to be right out of favour.


     Then there is what is unspoken.

          Because it had been the king who had underwritten this.

              It had been his “profit” and not Haman’s hatred of Mordecai which is made the excuse for this murderous plot.

     No wonder Esther was so hesitant.

          She looked no further than the king.


     And, yet, don’t think that she didn’t realise what this was all about.

          Nor that she didn’t understand her role in all that.

              For just like most of England and the Empire knew before Churchill uttered those immortal words what was beginning to unfold, so Esther would have known before Mordecai cut her to the heart.

     That’s why the immortal words of Mordecai had to be said.



     It was just as well.

          Because Esther could have kept quiet.

              And what would that have achieved?


     Well one thing it would have meant is that that there would have been no book of Esther.

          There would have been a book named after someone, though.

              Because the Lord would certainly save His people.

     And through preserving His people the Messiah will come.

          Nothing could stop God’s Word.


     But now that Word came straight to Esther.

          She was put in the same position as Jesus placed His disciples in, in Matthew 16.

              There, in the verses 24 till 26, He told them, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

     “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

          “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”


     It was hard alright.

          It all depended where her priorities were.


     Congregation, allow me to illustrate this.

          One day, an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students.

              To drive a particular point home, he used an illustration those students will never forget.


     As he stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers, he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.”

          He then pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar, and set it on the table in front of him.

              Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks, and carefully placed them, one by one, into the jar.


     When the jar was filled to the top, and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

          Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”


     Then he said, “Really?”

          He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel.

              He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar, causing pieces of the gravel to work themselves down into the space between the big rocks.


     Then he asked the group once more.

          “Is this jar full?”


     By this time the class was on to him.

          “Probably not,” one of them answered.


     “Good!” he replied.

          He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand.

              He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel.


     Once more he asked the question.

          “Is this jar full?”

              “No!” the class shouted.


     Once again he said, “Good!”

          And he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it into the jar until the jar was filled up to the brim.


     Then the expert in time-management looked at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

          One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you really try hard you can always fit some more things into it.”


     “No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point.

          “The truth this illustration teaches us is this.

              “If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.


     So, what was Esther filling up the jar of her life with?

          How was she placing her priorities?


     You know, it’s easy for us thousands of years later to say this.

          Yet it would have been terrible for her.

              She who had for so longer been told to keep her racial origins secret.

     She who knew well enough the way of the LORD from her Uncle.

          And now she who was quite aware of the kind of monster King Xerxes could be.

              I mean, what kind of a person gets taken in by such an evil sleaze as Haman?

                   Only someone who’s pretty well focussed on himself!


     This was scary alright!

          And who could blame her if she wasn’t up to it?


     How would you reply to someone who spoke to you in the same way as Mordecai, when you were busy enough worrying about your employment future?

          Or when you were bogged down by those other things?

              You know, the gravel and the sand.


     So much do they fill up our life’s jar we haven’t got enough room for the rocks then.

          And that includes what should be the biggest rock of them all - the Rock of all ages Himself!


     Did you feel at such a time that anyone could blame you for not being up to it?

          So who could blame Esther if she wasn’t up to it?


     And that’s exactly what she realised.

          She wasn’t up to it.

              And then she knew she could do it!



          Our second aspect to the text.



     And He had spoken already, hadn’t He?

          Esther knew it.

              For how was it that she was a Queen of this great Empire but for the hand of the LORD?

     God, in His providence, had arranged this.

          Mordecai certainly alerted Esther to this in verse 14 with pointing to why she would have been there.


     But there is something else he appeals to, also.

          And that is her faith.

              In fact, what happens is really a kind of profession of faith for Esther.

     She takes a public stand for her faith.

          She shows who the LORD is to her.


     The LORD who is a far greater king than Xerxes.

          In the words of Solomon in Proverbs 21 verse 1, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.”


     That is what Esther does alright!

          She turns to the only one she can turn to in such desperate straits.

              The only one any one of us can turn to then - or any time in fact!

     As King David found, when he was in big trouble because he had trusted in himself.

          He said then, as we read in 1st Chronicles 21 verse 13, “Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.”


     The fact that the edict of King Xerxes could mean the death of all the Jews in the world shows how everything is so closely connected to the Lord.

          In this case it's because of the forces of evil against Him.

              And so we're shown that all the powers that be are either for God or against Him.


     So this is a decision that comes right down to each one of us.

          For just as Esther could choose to ignore Mordecai's plea, and so go Satan's way, and eventually be punished accordingly, so we too can choose in our lives not to make that hard decision for God.

              But when we do - when we declare ourselves for the LORD and His people - then we know it wasn't us anyway.

     Then we will see that it was the Holy Spirit who brought us "to royal position for such a time as this."

          Because as Esther wasn't herself born a royal, so we too have become part of God's family, only by His own sovereign choice.

              In the apostle Peter’s words in his first letter, chapter 2 verse 9, “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God…”.


     And it was by way of the One who was naturally royalty, Jesus Christ, that we may rule in His Name now, and be as Him now!

          In the words of Paul in Ephesians 2 verse 10, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."


     That was different for Esther, though.

          She lived before Jesus came to earth; and yet in her laying down her life for her people, she showed the kind of sacrifice that had to be offered, to ever make things right again.

              The response of Esther to fast for three days shows such a response of faith.

     She will do what she has to do!

          She has to pray.



     And let’s notice here the difference in fasting in verse 16 from verse 3.

          For verse 3 is the spontaneous reaction of the Jews throughout the Persian empire to deeply sorrow the king’s decree.


     But Esther’s fast has more.

          Hers is a determined prayer - three days and three nights.

              It shows her dependence on divine help.

     While she was in a state as to what to do she would seek out the Lord on what to do.

          And she knew that He would tell her what to do.



     But - will you?

          How does this reminder of what you ought to do strike a cord in you?

              Have you got that overwhelming sense that there is only one thing that you can do?


     Or does Mordecai's warning to Esther especially apply to you?

          "Don't think that because you're in the king's house you'll escape.

              “If you don't do anything, God will still do His will - He'll save and keep safe those whom He has chosen - though it might not include you.

     That's how serious it is!

          And then no amount of being in religious family, or those years of going to church and to Christian School, is going to help you one tiny bit!

              Do you let God speak?


     You see, when Mordecai says to Esther that being in the king's house won't save her, he's not saying she's being apathetic about her fellow Jews; actually, he's telling her that her own life itself is in danger.

          There's no neutrality in the Christian faith.

              Thinking that you could compromise with evil had led the British Prime Minister before Churchill into a terrible trap.

                   Well might Neville Chamberlain wave that piece of paper in the air and claim "peace in our time", but the war had already begun, and his failure to face it was the end of him politically.


     Dear friend, don't let this false spirit be the end of you spiritually!

          Young adults, don't think that the language and lifestyle of this world will help you get far with God.

              If anything, trying to be "cool" like them will only put you in the hot seat with the LORD.


     And older people, are you showing that with your commitment to the Lord and to His people.

          Can those around you see someone who is prayerfully fasting?

              Do they know you wait on God?


     There is a clear lesson for us all in these words to Esther.

          God has a purpose for your life.

              That is a purpose which is for His glory.

                   Otherwise He wouldn't be God.


     If we realise this, if we see that where we are - right now! - is the best possible place to promote His glory, we know this is our time.

          To decide for Christ in all the different parts of our lives, especially when it costs us personally so much, brings us that sense of His Will much more strongly into our hearts.

              When we can write ourselves off for the Lord's service to the extent that with Esther we say, "If I perish, I perish," it's not because we’re spiritually suicidal, but because we couldn't be more alive in Jesus Christ!


     That is what we see in the time this is for us - today.

          And it's also what we have to see in our own lives - everyday!





     Let’s pray...

          O Mighty & Marvellous Monarch of all,

              We bow before You in humble adoration.

     For You are the supreme being, the One who is in all and through all, and above all.

          The One before whom we must fall in prayer.


     And we do O God!

          We plead before You right now!

              And we pray that Your Spirit will always stir us to seek Your face and so live the life of Christ in this place.

     As Esther responded by faith so may we.

          Through Christ our Lord, 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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