Esther 7 & 8 - The Lord Overruling for His Compromised People
Read Esther 7 and 8
The Jews have their backs to the wall. How are they going to get out of this fix, that there is coming a day in which they face extermination. The people of God can feel that way in any age. Perhaps we feel a bit like that today, as a Church and part of a wider Church presence in society. The people there in Shushan are certainly compromised in that pagan society. You never know how the autocratic rulers might act. You are required to be bold for the Lord, and yet you must act wisely too. Esther has the task of extricating her people from the fix. Providentially she is in a position to do something with the King. She finds favour with him and he asks what her request is (5:3): A banquet to which Haman must be invited. Haman is proud of that, but still irritated by Mordecai and prepared to hang him on a high gallows (5:14).
Haman’s intentions come to nought, however, by what we can only describe as divine intervention. He expects to be honoured by the king, but has to be the means of honouring Mordecai (6:10-11). He is mortified. How the mighty are fallen! God can so easily bring low those who are puffed up (in the Church or in the world). Beware, that you come low and humble yourself under the mighty hand of God! Then you will be ‘lifted up’ and not brought low. This takes us in to the Banquet and its aftermath. These are described in chapters 7 and 8. “So the king and Haman went to dine with Queen Esther.” The King repeats his offer to Esther of a wish (7:2). How do we understand and learn from what follows?
1. There is a need for believers to come out into the open (7:3-4)
You see, up to this point the King had no idea that Esther was a Jewess. He had no inkling of any religious feelings on her part. She looked and acted just like all the other women of his palace. He had no idea he had made a law which could lead to her death. Whose fault was that? Not his. These Jews were very quiet about their religion and were now in deep trouble. Perhaps they would have been in deep trouble if they had been ‘up front.’ However, they could have returned ‘home.’ And they could have been far less quiet and compromised. As Peter puts it in his first letter (see 1 Peter 4:12-19). That, you see, is the Christian principle. But are we not too like these Jews in Shushan? We keep so quiet, even with our own families and those among whom we live. And they don’t notice anything. They can be indifferent to our Church connection because it doesn’t seem to involve too much conviction or visibility! The call? To come out into the open.
What about the principle: “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18)? Esther was ‘forced’ to do it here, belatedly and almost deviously (7:5ff). Listen, you can trust in the Lord. Things may seem black and uncertain. Just be clear in making your position known and you will be brought through, albeit it may be by the skin of our teeth. Only be open with your faith. If you suffer, so be it. But be open and clear!
2. There is a day of reckoning for the wicked
The king is horrified by the implications of his law to exterminate the Jews (7:7). Haman tries to plead with Esther, but even then his actions are misinterpreted to his doom (7:8). His doom is sealed. He will be raised on the gallows he built for Mordecai (7:9-10). It is a lesson, a solemn lesson, for the wicked (respectable or otherwise): “be sure your sins will find you out” (Numbers 32:23)! God is not mocked. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Galatians 6:7-8). You must not touch the Lord’s anointed or you may suffer the wrath and anger of the Lord in judgement (1 Samuel 24:6; 2 Samuel 1:14).
Whoever is not a believer, it has to be said, is in serious trouble in taking a position against the Lord and his people. It is a serious thing for men or governments to take a position over against the Lord and His Christ, and His people. The day of doom may be delayed – and there is common restraining grace in that a space is given to repent – but it will come to those who deny or oppose the Lord and His people, His Son and His gospel. But listen, Haman (in this case) had been warned by his wife about the un-wisdom of taking such a position over against Mordecai – you can’t say he hadn’t been warned (read 6:13).
You may say: ‘Oh, well, Haman was just one man, and he was specially wicked against Mordecai and the Jews.’ It is dangerous, however, for anyone to be an unbeliever. Sooner or later they must face their Maker and will be judged for opposing or denying or being indifferent to the Lord and His gospel. And that will be a fearful judgement. The fate of Haman, in other words, can be said to have a gospel implication for all unbelievers, for they to a greater or to a lesser extent take a stance against the truth of the gospel. There is a price to pay for persistent impenitence. Not hanging on a gallows, but experiencing the eternal judgement of God. We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ to give account of all deeds of the body, whether they be godly, or whether they are unrighteous (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
3. There is a danger of extreme vengeance
Mordecai is raised to Haman’s position (8:1-2). Esther again speaks to the King (8:3ff). We understand that the law of the Medes and Persians could not change (even when shown to be plain foolish and unjust). What are the Jews to do? Esther cuts a deal with the King that the Jews be allowed to defend themselves (8:11-12). This brought “light and gladness, joy and honour” to the Jews (8:16) A holiday atmosphere prevailed (8:17).
What do we make of this? I would say, this was absolutely awful. It was an awful retaliation and one is not surprised that the Feast of Purim is not mentioned anywhere else in the Old Testament or the New Testament. The decree for the Jews to defend themselves was one thing; the way it would be carried out is another – “destroy, kill, and annihilate.”
One appreciates that in the Old Testament times the people of God were told to destroy whole communities in the conquest of Canaan. Such things should always be awful to us, though we appreciate that they were carried out according to the divine command. This, however, was different. As one writer fairly put it: “Mordecai becomes second in command, but there is no mention of him being a blessing to the nation which he helps to govern. Of all the gory stories of the Old Testament, this is one of the worst, especially since it shows so little of the glory of God and the coming of the Messiah.”
Yet, God overrules. He brings good out of evil. And after all, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. There is no trace of injustice with the Lord, though in the end there will be a great destruction of all the workers of iniquity. We have to be careful, though, in wishing ill on the wicked that we do not have a vengeful spirit. We must be happy to leave judgement to the Lord. Only let us remember that His judgements are perfectly just and fearful. Therefore it is the wisdom of the unbeliever to come and submit to the Lord Jesus lest they finally be cast away into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Certainly we should be thinking of praying that any crisis in our Church or social life be turned by the Lord into an evangelistic opportunity.
We ought to wish the good of men, and for the Lord to intervene for us to overturn the intentions and unrighteous laws of our human governments, to bring them down and to set up Christ-honouring governments. Yet let us not be scared of resisting the ungodly laws of unrighteous governments, seeking to defend ourselves, not with carnal weapons but spiritual, to the pulling down of the strongholds of Satan. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:4-6). That, at least is the New Testament pattern, under which it is the joy of God’s people to live. It is a matter of conquering by grace, something that could not be said of the actions described in Esther.