Esther 9:1-19

The Day of Reckoning

On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the edict commanded by the king was to be carried out. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them. The Jews assembled in their cities in all the provinces of King Xerxes to attack those determined to destroy them. No one could stand against them, because the people of all the other nationalities were afraid of them. And all the nobles of the provinces, the satraps, the governors and the king’s administrators helped the Jews,because fear of Mordecai had seized them. Mordecai was prominent in the palace; his reputation spread throughout the provinces, and he became more and more powerful.

The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased to those who hated them. In the citadel of Susa, the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men. They also killed Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Vaizatha, 10 the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews. But they did not lay their hands on the plunder.

11 The number of those killed in the citadel of Susa was reported to the king that same day. 12 The king said to Queen Esther, “The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men and the ten sons of Haman in the citadel of Susa. What have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? Now what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? It will also be granted.”

13 “If it pleases the king,” Esther answered, “give the Jews in Susa permission to carry out this day’s edict tomorrow also, and let Haman’s ten sons be impaled on poles.”

14 So the king commanded that this be done. An edict was issued in Susa, and they impaled the ten sons of Haman. 15 The Jews in Susa came together on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar, and they put to death in Susa three hundred men, but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.

16 Meanwhile, the remainder of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also assembled to protect themselves and get relief from their enemies. They killed seventy-five thousand of them but did not lay their hands on the plunder.17 This happened on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.

18 The Jews in Susa, however, had assembled on the thirteenth and fourteenth, and then on the fifteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.

19 That is why rural Jews—those living in villages—observe the fourteenth of the month of Adar as a day of joy and feasting, a day for giving presents to each other.
(Esther 9:1-19 NIV)

The dreaded day had finally arrived – the day that Haman’s evil plot to annihilate the Jews was to be carried out.  But it was also the day when, due to God’s Divine Providence, the Jews were able to defend themselves against their enemies.

Verse 1 says that the enemies of the Jews were confident they would win, but the Jews fought back and prevailed.  Note that the Jews did not attack their enemies, but simply defended themselves against their enemies, and God gave them the victory.  Haman’s ten sons were among the attackers, and were all killed.

Note verses 10, 15, and 16… “but did not lay their hands on the plunder.”  The author is careful to point out that the Jewish people were not in this fight for the plunder (money or property), as Haman had planned in his evil schemes (Esther 3:9).  Instead, the author notes that the Jewish people defended themselves and sought relief from their enemies (v. 16).  The word “relief” is the same word as “rest” that Jesus offered:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
(Matthew 11:28 NIV)

When we read about 75,000 people being killed, that sounds like a mighty battle.  Considering for a moment that Persia had 127 provinces (states) at the time, that averages out to about 600 people per province picking a fight with the Jews (and losing, thanks to God’s protection and support of the Jewish people).  From this, we see that Haman’s hatred was shared across the whole Persian empire, even more so in the provinces than in the capital city of Susa (v. 12).

Once again, we see God’s Providence at work to protect and care for His own – a promise He extends to us as followers of Christ as well.  That does not mean an absence of battles, but it does mean that God’s justice prevails in the end.

Blessings,
~kevin

Esther 8:15-17

Mourning Turns to Joy

15 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. 16 For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. 17 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.”
(Esther 8:15-17 NIV)

Just 24 hours earlier, Mordecai was a condemned man, marked for death by the powerful official Haman.  And now, Haman is dead, and Mordecai controls Haman’s estate and has Haman’s job as Prime Minister of Persia.  Truly God is working through His Divine Providence to protect and provide for His own people.  God’s promise made to Abraham and all his Jewish descendants long ago was not forgotten:

I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.
(Genesis 12:3 NIV)

The sight of Mordecai wearing the royal colors of Persia (v. 15), plus the king’s new edict written by Mordecai allowing the Jews to defend themselves (vv. 9-14) were cause for great celebration by Jewish people in Susa (v. 15) and across all of Persia (v. 17).

Haman had proudly breathed out threats against God’s people; Mordecai humbly stood by his promise to serve God and God alone.  Once again, the truth of Scriptures rang true:

When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice;
    when the wicked rule, the people groan.
(Proverbs 29:2 NIV)

The news of the king’s decree allowing the Jews to defend themselves, as well as Haman’s demise and Mordecai’s promotion quickly spread across Persia.  Verses 16 – 17 tells us that the Jewish people rejoiced everywhere the news was proclaimed – it was a time of celebration because the black cloud of death was lifted from over their heads.

The good news also had another effect of spiritual revival across Persia.  Verse 17 tells us that many people became Jewish proselytes, converting from their foreign gods to the God of Israel.  These people saw the power and awe of God, and chose to follow Him.

Becoming a Jewish proselyte meant even though they were not Jewish by race, they could become a follower of the God of the Jews by willingly submitting themselves to all of God’s Word, His practices, and worship, just as the Jews did.

God had already laid out the process for non-Jewish people to follow Him.  All males would have to undergo circumcision (Genesis 17:9-14), and after that, could participate in the Passover (Exodus 12:43-49).  They were expected to follow God’s Laws, such as keeping the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11), not blaspheming God’s name (Leviticus 24:13-22), and presenting offerings to the Lord (Numbers 15:14-16NLT).

Truly God’s hand of Divine Providence was evident to all – He kept His Word and made it clear to all His love for His people and anyone who chose to follow Him.  And God’s love for those who follow Him continues even to this day.

Amen?    Amen!

Blessings,
~kevin

Esther 8:1-14

Haman’s Decree Superceded

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. 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.

Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping. She begged him to put an end to the evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews. Then the king extended the gold scepter to Esther and she arose and stood before him.

“If it pleases the king,” she said, “and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king’s provinces. For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?”

King Xerxes replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Because Haman attacked the Jews, I have given his estate to Esther, and they have impaled him on the pole he set up. 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.”

At once the royal secretaries were summoned—on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan. They wrote out all Mordecai’s orders to the Jews, and to the satraps, governors and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. These orders were written in the script of each province and the language of each people and also to the Jews in their own script and language. 10 Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king’s signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king.

11 The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children,and to plunder the property of their enemies. 12 The day appointed for the Jews to do this in all the provinces of King Xerxes was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar. 13 A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.

14 The couriers, riding the royal horses, went out, spurred on by the king’s command, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa.
(Esther 8:1-14 NIV)

So much has happened on this day!  God has been at work, upholding His promise to protect His own (Genesis 12:3).  The king’s heart was softened toward Esther and hardened toward Haman, quite the reversal from 30 days ago, when Haman had more face time with the king than Esther.  Truly, God changed the king’s heart (Proverbs 21:1).

As was true in ancient Middle Eastern culture, a traitor’s property was seized by the king.  The king exercised this custom, and immediately gave Haman’s property to Queen Esther.  Esther then put Mordecai in charge of Haman’s former property, as the estate was quite large (Esther 5:11).

But the day is not over yet.  The Jewish people were relieved that Haman was gone, but his death sentence still hung ominously over their heads.  The king, thinking that he had set all things right by having Haman put to death, giving Haman’s estate to Queen Esther, and elevating Mordecai to Haman’s former position of top noble, leaves Esther and Mordecai and goes back to his throne.

Verse 3 tells us that Queen Esther goes back to see the king, again uninvited.  This time, she does not wait for the king to invite her in – she humbly places herself, weeping, at the king’s feet, begging for mercy on behalf of all Jewish people in Persia.  The king extends his scepter to her, and hears her plea.

Once again, God is working in His Divine Providence – the king’s heart is softened again toward Esther.  The king addresses Mordecai and tells him to take care of the matter.  The king can’t go back on his word – once a matter is signed and sealed, it stands forever.

So Mordecai gathers the scribes and issues another decree to counteract Haman’s decree.  This decree did not contradict the king’s original order, but instead, gave the Jews across Persia the right to fight back and protect themselves.  Mordecai trusted God’s promises, and wisely found a way to empower the Jewish people in this difficult matter of life and death.

May we be like Esther, and humbly, yet boldly approach God’s throne of grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Blessings,
~kevin

Esther 7

Haman’s End

So the king and Haman went to Queen Esther’s banquet, and as they were drinking wine on the second day, the king again asked, “Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”

Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”

King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who is he? Where is he—the man who has dared to do such a thing?”

Esther said, “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!”

Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen. The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life.

Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining.

The king exclaimed, “Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?”

As soon as the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, “A pole reaching to a height of fifty cubits stands by Haman’s house. He had it set up for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.”

The king said, “Impale him on it!” 10 So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided.
(Esther Chapter 7 NIV)

We pick up the story again with King Ahasuerus and Haman attending Queen Esther’s banquet the following evening.  What a turn of events God has been working in the background in the past 24 hours, with His Divine Providence constantly in motion.

Verse 2 (“drinking wine”) indicates the Queen had prepared another lavish feast, no doubt with all the king’s and Haman’s favorite foods – the very best of Persia on the table.  The king was in a very happy and generous mood again, and he asked Esther a third time about her request.

Notice that Esther was very careful with her words.  She started by letting the king know that her life was in danger, as well as the lives of her people.  She did not immediately implicate anyone one person – she drew upon the king’s protective instincts for her safety and the safety of those that Esther held dear to her.  She also was very careful not to tie the reason for this plea back to the king or his approval to allow Haman to hatch such a plot.

Notice also that Esther was careful not to over-exaggerate the situation, but repeated the very words from Haman’s decree (“sold to be destroyed, killed, and annihilated” – v. 4, as repeated from Esther 3:9,13 and 4:7).  Again, Esther was very careful not to accuse or implicate the king in his unknowing part in approving this decree.

The king is very alarmed at this request, and immediately assumes that there is someone behind this plot – and asks Esther who would dare do such a terrible thing?

Her reply – Haman!

At this time, the king still does not know that Esther is Jewish, but Haman immediately knows, and is horrified that he has made such a fatal mistake.  The king is so upset that he leaves the banquet hall and goes outside to cool off and figure out what to do next.

Verse 7b shows Haman going from proud bully to wimpering coward.  Persian social protocol was for the gentlemen guests to stay with the king when he left the room, and not stay behind with the ladies, especially the king’s wife or the king’s concubines.  But Haman breaks protocol and stays behind and begs the queen for his life.

Verse 8 shows that timing is everything.  When the king returns, he sees Haman in a compromising position with his wife, and immediately assumes that Haman is brazenly trying to sexually assault or even rape his wife, even though Haman is just begging for his life and physically touching the queen while doing so.  The king’s guards cover Haman’s head, which was a standard way of indicating that someone was condemned for execution.

One of the king’s eunuchs reveals to the king that Haman had set up a pole 75 feet tall to hang Mordecai.  The king immediately orders Haman to be hanged there instead.  Haman’s wife’s prediction had come true – his end was near.

God’s promises ring true over and over in this story – how He protects His own, and executes justice and judgment on those who raise their hand against His children.

Solomon understood God’s protection of His own:

The righteous is delivered from trouble,
But the wicked takes his place.
(Proverbs 11:8 NASB)

May we always look to the Lord as our Protector and Provider, not for our own comfort and convenience, but for our trust in Him and relationship to Him regardless of our circumstances.

Blessings,
~kevin

Esther 6

Mordecai Honored

That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles,the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes.

“What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?” the king asked.

“Nothing has been done for him,” his attendants answered.

The king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about impaling Mordecai on the pole he had set up for him.

His attendants answered, “Haman is standing in the court.”

“Bring him in,” the king ordered.

When Haman entered, the king asked him, “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?”

Now Haman thought to himself, “Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?” So he answered the king, “For the man the king delights to honor,have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!’”

10 “Go at once,” the king commanded Haman. “Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.”

11 So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!”

12 Afterward Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman rushed home, with his head covered in grief, 13 and told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him.

His advisers and his wife Zeresh said to him, “Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him—you will surely come to ruin!” 14 While they were still talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared.
(Esther chapter 6 NIV)

Haman’s life was all about Haman – his pride and self-centeredness were everything to him.  Even his desire to murder Mordecai was out of a selfish desire to harm the one person who did not publicly honor him.

Mordecai, on the other hand, was the same before and after the king’s honor – he took care of his duties before the king’s proclamation, as went back to his place of business at the king’s gate after the ceremony was over.

God, in His Divine Providence, was once again working behind the scenes, orchestrating the salvation and protection of His people, and preparing to execute justice against Haman, who desired to annihilate the Jews from Persia.  Even Haman’s wife and friends recognized God’s hand at work to protect the children of Israel (v. 13).

May we be like Mordecai, and keep our focus on the Lord through both good times and bad, when our very life is being threatened, and when being praised by the king, and everything in between.

Blessings,
~kevin

Esther 5:9-14

Haman’s Rage

Haman went out that day happy and in high spirits. But when he saw Mordecai at the king’s gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai. 10 Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home.

Calling together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, 11 Haman boasted to them 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. 12 “And that’s not all,” Haman added. “I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. 13 But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.”

14 His wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Have a pole set up, reaching to a height of fifty cubits, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai impaled on it. Then go with the king to the banquet and enjoy yourself.” This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the pole set up.
(Esther 5:9-14 NIV)

Queen Esther gathered her courage, and approached the king unannounced.  The king was pleased and invited her, and asked her what she wanted.  She invited the king and Haman to a banquet.  At the banquet, the king asked Esther what she wanted a second time.  The king was in a generous mood, and was ready to hear her request.  Queen Esther invited the king and Haman back for a second banquet the following evening.

So why did Esther pass up two opportunities to speak to the king about her wish?  Did she lose her courage?  Was she scared to bring up the subject?  Or was she following the Lord’s leading, waiting for the right time to make her request known?

Having fasted and prayed for three days, Esther was more than likely following the Lord’s direction and waiting for the right time to make her request known to the king.  While the king appeared unbelievably generous, offering Esther up to half his kingdom, his offer was not to be taken literally, but rather directionally, showing his intent be kind to her request.

Esther knew the huge impact that her request would have on the king and Haman, and the ramifications on her life if the king disagreed or refused to grant her petition.  So she waited for the right time before making her request known.

Esther knew the king was a proud man, and what she was about to ask him to do would make him take back his decree (actually over-rule himself) to repeal the order to annihilate all the Jews in Persia.  This would be seen as a sign of weakness to the king, his enemies, and the people in his kingdom.

Esther also knew that the king would feel betrayed or lied to when Esther told him of her Jewish heritage.  She likely put off the question or charmed her way through any previous attempts the king made to find out her background.

Esther also knew that this would have a huge financial impact on the king’s wealth and fortunes.  Haman had promised a minimum of 2/3rd of a year’s income to the king as a result of the plunder of the Jewish people.

Finally, Esther knew that she was taking on the second most powerful person (Haman) in Persia, and the king would not be easily swayed to take action  against his trusted noble.

So, Esther waited patiently for the Lord to let her know when to finally ask the king her request.  And as it turns out, God, in His Divine Providence, had a couple more items to finish before He was ready to have Esther reveal her ask.

As we wind down chapter 5, we see Haman’s ego in full bloom, and the smallness of his character revealed.  Haman is on cloud nine, having been invited  to dinner with the king and queen.  But when Haman sees Mordecai refusing to bow down to him, instead of focusing on all the positives of his life, he pours all his energy into the one negative of his day – Mordecai.  Haman goes home and complains to his wife and friends.  They suggest Haman build a gallows 75 feet high and hang Mordecai on it, for all to see.  Haman loves the idea, and orders it built that very night.

What is our focus on each day?  The goodness of God, and His love for us, or a negative circumstance that comes our way?  May we always focus on God’s goodness and the joy He gives as we follow Him.

Blessings,
~kevin

Esther 5:1-8

Queen Esther’s Invitation

On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.

Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.”

“If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.”

“Bring Haman at once,” the king said, “so that we may do what Esther asks.”

So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared. As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, “Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”

Esther replied, “My petition and my request is this: If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question.”
(Esther 5:1-8 NIV)

As we finished chapter 4 yesterday, we saw Queen Esther and Mordecai working as a team to save the Jewish people from the evil genocide plot of Haman.  God used both of them to carry out His plan to save the Jewish people from annihilation.

Mordecai reminded Esther that God had likely raised her up for “such a time as this”.  Esther had to overcome her fear and take a chance to enter the king’s presence when she did not know her current standing with the king.  Both had to trust the Lord, and trust each other to do their respective parts.

Queen Esther’s last statement, “if I perish, I perish”, was accurate in so many ways.  As Mordecai told Queen Esther, she would not be exempt from the king’s decree when it came time to be carried out.  As Esther related to Mordecai, the king has not asked to see her in over 30 days – she had no idea if the king would be interested in seeing her or not.  To go into the king’s presence uninvited was the sentence of death unless the king intervened.  Either way, Queen Esther had to see herself as dead in order to overcome her fears and speak to the king.

Queen Esther’s fear of death also included dying to her selfish wants and her reputation.  She chose the fate of the Jewish people over saving her own life.  What are we willing to sacrifice, what are we willing to die for, or die to, in order to share God’s love with others around us?  Our fears?  Our pride?  Our reputation?  Our association with Jesus?  Our life?

So Queen Esther (along with Mordecai and the Jewish community in the capital city of Susa) fast (and presumably pray) for three days and nights before she goes to see the king.  Esther likely remembered Solomon’s wise words as she prayed:

In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water
    that he channels toward all who please him.”
(Proverbs 21:1 NIV)

Esther then invites the king and Haman to a banquet.  The king is pleased, and asks Esther about her request.  She invites the king and Haman back the next day for another banquet, where she will answer the king’s question.

The king must have been thinking, “Wow – Queen Esther came to see me uninvited – this must be important.  And then she invited me to a banquet – this is really important.  And now she invites me back again tomorrow for another banquet – this must be REALLY, REALLY important!”  Esther now has the king’s full attention and interest.

God is at work behind the scenes, changing the king’s heart, honoring Esther and Mordecai and the Jewish community in Susa as they poured out their hearts before God and asked for His deliverance during the three days of prayer and fasting.

When trouble confronts us, where do we turn for help?  To our family and friends?  To our bank account, to pay our way out of the situation?  To legislative protection or privilege?  To legal means, through lawyers or the courts?  Or do we come to the foot of the cross first, and place our troubles there at the feet of Jesus?

And what is our expectation when we do bring our troubles to the Lord?  That he “owes” us a blessing?  That we “don’t deserve” to go through such suffering or hardship?  Or do we come with no expectations, only acknowledging His holiness, His goodness and love toward us, seeking only to draw near to Him and know Him more deeply?

Blessings,
~kevin