The Pieces Take Shape

It is fun to put a puzzle together and see the picture on the box begin to unfold before your eyes.  This concept applies to anything as we plan: a vacation, a new job, a remodel project, or any other endeavor.  Anytime we see our plans come together and see the finished product, a sense of fulfillment or completion with how these things came together is very self-satisfying.

Esther chapter seven is a short chapter with the pieces of the previous six chapters being woven together.  The main characters all come together in one scene and the hand of God is seen as the purpose of the dinner is revealed.  The King is curious to know what the Queen wants or needs so desperately that she has a dinner two days in a row for the King and Haman.  His curiosity is peaked so he asked the queen, “What is your wish, Queen Esther?  It shall be granted you.  And what is your request?  Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” (Esther 7:3).  Esther lays out the plot against her and her people that has developed slowly over the last year.  She lays out the scenario in such a humble way that the story of the mistreated and misrepresented people makes our hearts sympathize over this sad account.  How could a person sell out an entire group of people to be destroyed, killed, and annihilated?  Who would dare to do such a thing?

Recalling the events from Esther 3, the interaction between Haman and the King was presented in quite a different light than Queen Esther is presenting.  Haman presents the Jews as people that have different laws and do not keep the king’s laws, “so it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them.” (Esther 3:8).  The King trusted Haman so much that he was willing to allow him write the edict concerning the destruction of the Jews based on this little bit of information.  The King is so ill-informed, so easily swayed, and so foolish that he is willing to send a people to the slaughter based on a few words from Haman.  The King did not do his research or consult any other wise officials that were in his kingdom regarding this matter.  He merely took Haman at his word.  The King gives Haman his ring and tells him to “do as it seems good to you.” (Esther 3:11).

Now the King is faced with the reality of the situation and hopefully a valuable lesson is learned through this situation:  seek wise counsel about all matters, especially one that involves an entire race of people. After hearing the report from Esther that it was the wicked Haman who plotted this evil plan, the king gets up from the table and goes to the garden to evaluate the situation.  During the King’s absence Haman begs Queen Esther for his life.  When the King returns it does not appear to be Haman begging for his life, but rather it looks like Haman is assaulting the Queen.  No sooner had the King made this observation, the Eunuchs and guards in attendance came and took Haman away and hung him on the same gallows that he had built for Mordecai.

“…Be sure your sins will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23).  Haman’s deception of the King did not lead to the satisfaction of Haman’s wrath, but rather it led to Haman’s destruction.  Deception may satisfy for a time, but in the end when the truth is revealed right must be done.  As hard as it is at times to watch and wait for a scenario to play out, it is often better to seek the Lord’s counsel and act in accordance with patience and wisdom rather than rash decisions.  If Esther had rashly gone into the King’s court after she heard the edict rather than spend time with her people fasting and praying, the outcome may have turned out differently.  Instead she patiently followed God’s leading and acted in a controlled manner presenting the facts to the King.  As we continue to follow the story of Esther, there are still many lessons to be learned

Questions:

  1. Read Esther 3:13 and compare it with Esther 7:4. Do you notice any similarities?
  1. What might have happened if Esther had not spent time fasting and praying before she first approached the King? What if she had rushed into the King distraught over the news?
  1. Why would God want us to wait rather to act impetuously?
  1. What do you notice about the presentation Esther made to the king with the information about the destruction of the Jews?
  1. When Haman presented the information about “a certain people who do not keep the king’s laws” what vital information did he conveniently leave out? What vital questions did the King forget to ask?
  1. If you recall from Esther 6:10 the King knew Mordecai was a Jew and Mordecai’s “word saved the king,” as the eunuch reminded the King in Esther 7:9. How important is it for a King and for the rest of us to have people of wisdom around us that give us godly, Biblical counsel during times of need?
  1. When do we not want to listen or ask for advice and wise council from our wise friends?
  1. Read Proverbs 12:15 and compare this verse with the story of Esther, the King, and Haman.
  1. Did the King “redeem” himself?
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Humility and Honor, or Pride and Destruction

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Esther 6

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18).  Haman has built himself up in his own eyes and is preparing for the demise of the only one who will not honor him as he feels he deserves.  Honor should not be forced, but should be given to whomever is worthy to receive it.  There are times that people do not deserve honor based on their character but receive honor based on their position such as David with King Saul.  Haman being in such a high position in the kingdom of Persia felt he was owed this honor by all at all times.

God in His infinite wisdom brings about a change in the direction of Haman’s plans by causing King Ahasuerus to not be able to sleep.  Having just finished a lovely meal with the Queen and Haman, he could not go to sleep.  So while Haman had his gallows constructed for Mordecai, the King had “the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, read before the king.” (Esther 6:1).  This book recorded the events that had taken place in the kingdom that were notable and praiseworthy.  In essence, it was the kingdom’s journal.

As the chronicle was read, the story of Mordecai saving the life of the King by overhearing the plot against his life was recited.  The king stopped the reader and asked if Mordecai had been honored for this act of faithfulness, and following the hand of God the act was not rewarded since God had plans for the reward to happen on this day.  Haman shows up in the outer court at just the right moment and the King desires him to enter so he can ask him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?”  (Esther 6:6).  Again God’s timing is perfect.  Haman can imagine no one more deserving of the King’s honor than himself so he thinks about how he would want to be honored and shares this with the King.  The King thought it was a marvelous idea so he tells Haman, “Hurry, take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the King’s gate.  Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.”

Haman had gone to the King to ask permission to hang Mordecai on his 75 foot gallows but instead he must parade Mordecai through the streets on the King’s horse with the king’s robe as he shouts, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.”  If Haman knew this honor was not for him he might have suggested something a little less ostentatious.  He had to lead the man he wants to kill through the streets honoring him.  What a change of events, yet God has His hand in all situations.

Mordecai did not go back to the palace after this mini parade, but rather went home and told his wife and his friends all that had happened.  As he sits in the shadow of the gallows he has built for Mordecai, his wife and friends inform him that his future is not as bright as it once was.  “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.” (Esther 6:13).  Though God’s name is not mentioned in the book of Esther, the hand of God is seen not just by those of us that can read the story in its entirety but also by those that are a part of the story as it unfolds.  It seems Zeresh and Haman’s wise men see the finger of God moving the pieces of this story before their eyes.  God works in wonderful ways.  Sometimes it is obvious and sometimes it is little steps at a time until the big picture is revealed.  As we submit to God in our lives and willingly follow His leading in our lives, the picture becomes clearer.

As Haman was hanging his head in defeat listening to his wife and friends, the King’s eunuch comes to get Haman for the feast with the King and the Queen.  Haman must have been late, maybe he forgot about his feast with the King and the Queen, or maybe he did not want to go now that his honor had been stripped by Mordecai the Jew.  Whatever happened, the eunuchs hurried him along to the feast.

Questions:

  1. What did the King say about Mordecai in Esther 6:10?
  1. The King obviously knew where Mordecai worked and his nationality. Go back to Esther 3:8-11 and reread what Haman presented to the King.  What are your observations about the passage?
  1. Haman pushed his political agenda and his deep seated prejudice with the King. Since the King had no other wise people he consulted, the entire Jewish race would be wiped out without the King even realizing who was being annihilated.  What does this scenario teach about having wise counselors, mentors, and friends to help guide our decisions?
  1. How do these verses apply to this situation with the King, Haman, and the edict against the Jews? Proverbs 3:35, Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 14:16.
  1. Once the mini parade was over where did Haman go? Where did Mordecai go? (Esther 6:12)
  1. What does this show about Mordecai’s character?

Favor Found

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Esther 5

After three days of fasting, the moment arrived for Queen Esther to approach the King. According to most scholars, even though prayer is not mentioned with fasting in Esther, prayer is assumed as prayer and fasting go hand in hand elsewhere in Scripture.  The Jews in Susa fasted along with Queen Esther so that when she approached the King her petition would be granted, and she would be permitted to have an audience with the King.  Fasting seems empty and pointless to religious people without prayer being involved.  The name of God is also not mentioned throughout the whole book of Esther, yet the hand of God can be seen time and again.  God does not come into a situation with pomp and ceremony, but rather He moves the hearts of people and works through people to accomplish His plans.

Queen Esther appears before the King, and she waited for the golden scepter to be held out from the king to show she was permitted to see the King.  The Scripture says, “She won favor in his sight.” (Esther 5:2).  Esther had not been in the King’s presence for 33 days, so the decision could have gone either way.  She could have been received since it had been so long, or she could have been killed on the spot because it had been so long and she had fallen out of favor.  We have looked in a previous lesson at those that “have found favor” and the impact they had on high ranking officials especially Kings and Pharaohs.  This favor does not come haphazardly, rather it happens through proper and respectable behavior on the part of those who have found favor.

Proper living results in favor.  Drunkards, drug addicts, prostitutes, thieves, adulterers, and liars do not find favor with those in authority.  In our society today, many selfishly think in the name of personal freedom they should be permitted to perform whatever act that will satisfy their personal desires.  Many want no restrictions to the pleasure they are seeking.  Those that have no self-control show their inability to be put in charge of even a small task.  Since Esther faithfully served the Lord in her position as Queen she easily found favor with the King when she entered his presence.  If the above negative behaviors had characterized Esther during the 33 days she had not seen the King, it would have been easy for him to withhold the golden scepter and the King would have been looking for a new Queen.  A moment of selfish satisfaction can turn into a lifetime of pain or death.

Once the Queen won favor with the King, she requested he and Haman come to dinner that night with her.  Haman could not have been more pleased with himself, and once the dinner was over he thought even more highly of himself since he would go back for round two the following night.   Two nights in a row of dinner with the King and the Queen from Haman’s perspective, life was as good as it gets.  From Esther’s perspective, these days were full of anguish.  She did not know the end of the story, and her life depended on how this story unfolded.

Haman goes home and calls all of his friends and family together and boasts of his fortune and good standing with the King and the Queen, except for the one little thorn in his side:  Mordecai.  Mordecai’s lack of homage to Haman causes his blood to boil.  Haman wanted a greater sense of satisfaction when Mordecai was hung so at the suggestion of Zeresh, his wife, he built 50 cubit (75 feet) high gallows.  That would provide him with a deep sense of satisfaction.  Could we put premeditated murder on our list of things that do not find favor with our superiors?

Questions:

  1. How did Esther prepare for her meeting with the King? (Esther 5:1)

2.     What was the King’s response? (Esther 5:2, 3)

3.    What is the King’s response at the feast? (Esther 5:5, 6)

  1. What does Esther’s response in Esther 5:7 show about Esther’s character?
  1. Now contrast Esther’s character from the last question to Haman’s character in Esther 5:6-14.
  1. Will the hanging of Mordecai bring complete satisfaction to Haman? Why or why not?
  1. Pride vs. humility, giving vs. taking, love vs. hate. Is it hard at times to have the positive qualities?  Which takes more work?  Can we do it in our own strength?  How have you depended on the Lord to help you cultivate the positive qualities in your life?

Carpe Diem

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History is littered with battles, wars, genocide, race discrimination, and meaningless deaths.  Torture, abuse, slavery, and death based on race are not new under the sun.  This abuse of the races has been happening for centuries.  A people group is conquered and they are taken captive and led into slavery or are murdered.  Today is no different with the militant group ISIS beheading children and Christians.  It is shocking that people think so highly of themselves that they have the nerve to feel their life is more superior than another’s and take it in a most barbaric way.

The part of the story we come to in Esther 4 shows the response of the Jews based on the edict sent forth to all the provinces of the Persian Empire.  “Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.” (Esther 3:13)  Mordecai “tore his clothes, and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry.” (Esther 4:1).The Jews in every province when they heard the edict “there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.” (Esther 4:3).

When Esther heard that Mordecai was sitting in the midst of the city in sackcloth and ashes she was “greatly distressed.”  She sent a messenger, Hathach, to Mordecai to find out what was causing him to be so upset.  Mordecai sent Esther news of the edict along with a copy of the edict and asked Esther “to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people.” (Esther 4:8).  Now, Mordecai wants Esther to reveal her heritage to the King, but in the past he had told her to keep it a secret.  By this time it would not have been a secret to all.  Many knew the relationship between Mordecai and Esther and all knew that Mordecai would not bow down to Haman, because Mordecai was a Jew.  For a year, Mordecai had refused to bow down to Haman because he was a Jew, so those in the palace had a year to come to the conclusion that Esther was also a Jew.

Mordecai’s request to Esther to go into the King and “beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people” (Esther 4:8) was not an unusual request since the entire Jewish population was at risk for being completely annihilated.   Esther, also a Jew, was destined to die based on this edict.  A law in the land that “all the king’s servant’s and the people of the king’s provinces knew that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law–to be put to death, except the one ‘to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live.’” (Esther 4:11).  Esther had not been called by the king for 30 days so she was worried about her favor with the king.

Mordecai reminded Esther that if she kept silent deliverance for the Jews would come from another source and all of Esther’s family would perish.  “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).  Esther requested all the Jews to fast night and day for three days before she entered the King’s presence.

This is a pivotal moment in the book of Esther, and Esther accepts the challenge.  God has ordained each of us with a purpose, and this purpose whether great or small has an impact on people.  The impact could be monumental or the impact could be small.  It seems a small matter to us to go to our husband, as Esther was to do, and make a request.  Yet, for us the day and times we live in are different.  We do have important moments in the destiny of others that God has brought to us.  These small important moments have a ripple effect far and wide that must not be squandered or taken for granted.  Carpe Diem…Seize the Day.

Questions:

1.As a Christian, do you seize the day and take every opportunity that God gives to      impact another’s life?

  1. How could you improve in your service to God by serving others?
  1. God gives us 24 hours in each day. It is our choice how we spend that time.  Is the time spent building your relationship with God and with others or is it spent strictly on meeting your own selfish desires?
  1. The name of God is mentioned nowhere in the book of Esther, yet the hand of God and the dedication of the Jews to God is unmistakably clear. With fasting comes prayer, and with the prayer of the many Jews that were fasting and praying shows a change in the Jews worship.  These Jews were in exile because of the decisions their ancestors had made to follow other gods.  Now they had an opportunity to go to God to protect them and show Him they depended entirely on Him for deliverance.  Have you experienced a trial because of the sins of another and depending on God for deliverance was your only hope?
  1. Just because there is no mention of God in the book of Esther does not mean He is not acting and moving in the lives of people. Whatever your answer to the previous question, have you seen God work in situations in your life that have increased your faith.  Write your story below or even write a prayer of thanksgiving to God in how He worked even if the end of the story is not written, praise Him for carrying you this far.