ESTHER - GOD’S PROVIDENCE
One of the best anchors for faith in the ups and downs of life is Romans 8:28: 'We know that God works all things together for good for those who are loving God, those who are the called according to His purpose.' If we are the called (believers) we have come into the purpose of God for our lives and if we love and trust God, He is able to take all things, good and bad, and work them for our good, weaving them together into a glorious tapestry (end result) bringing forth His purpose for our lives. This is called His Providence = pro-vision, foresight. God doesn’t control man’s free-will but He sees ahead what people will do and overrules all situation.
One of the great examples of this is the Book of Esther. It is the only Book that does not mention the name of God. However we see His imprint throughout, working and overrruling behind the scenes to bless and deliver His people. Thus it is designed to reveal His Providence. Unbelievers would call it luck but believers know it is God working all things together to fulfil His loving purpose for our lives. In Esther we see many ‘coincidences’ (God’s anonymous miracles). God does not just work in spectacular ways, but more often supernaturally in and through all the ordinary events of life.
Chapter 1 introduces King Ahasuerus or Xerxes (485BC) - the Persian King, unstable, dangerous, with a hot-temper. Once a general, Pythius, offered to pay 4 million for a military campaign. Xerxes rewarded him for this but when Pythius asked if his son could be excused, Xerxes hacked the boy in two and marched the army between the pieces. Once he lost 300 ships in a storm, so he grabbed a strap, went to seashore and beat the sea 300 times to punish it! I am sure everyone tip-toed around Xerxes - one wrong move and you are history! His queen Vashti (thinking she was safe) refused to turn up at one of his feasts for him to show her off - so he was angry! His advisors said he should cut her off from being Queen or else her bad example will spread and wives will stop obeying their husbands. So it was done.
PROVIDENCE: God was ready to use Vashti’s fall for Esther’s rise.
Chapter 2: 'After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus subsided, he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what had been decreed against her. Then the king's servants who attended him said: 'Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king. and let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather all the beautiful young virgins to Shushan the citadel, into the women's quarters, under the custody of Hegai the king's eunuch, custodian of the women. And let beauty preparations be given them. Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.' This thing pleased the king, and he did so' (v1-4). Xerxes was beginning to feel guilt and regret about Vashti, and those around knew he was fixing to blame his servants and advisors, so they tried to turn his attention with a plan - A BEAUTY CONTEST!
PROVIDENCE: God used their scheming to save their skins for His higher purpose! How else could a humble Jewish orphan-girl become Queen over the largest empire? Coincidence or Providence?
MORDECAI (a Jew in Court) and ESTHER whom he had raised are now introduced:
'Mordecai had brought up Hadassah (Myrtle), that is, Esther (her Persian name, ‘star’ - like the beautiful flower of the Myrtle), his uncle's daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman was lovely (in form) and beautiful (of face). When her father and mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter' (2:7).
The Jews were still scattered in exile (only some had returned to Jerusalem). God had seen ahead and raised up Mordecai, a man of faith, wisdom and destiny, placing him in the court. Esther’s beauty was not just outward but inward. She is marked by her humility, obedience, wisdom and sacrificial love for her people. She was entered for the beauty contest which began with one year of cosmetics! (v8-16).
She won: 'The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti' (v17).
In obedience to Modecai, she kept her Jewish identity secret, maintaining humility even after becoming Queen (v10,20). This proves to be important.
PROVIDENCE: Mordecai overhears and foils a plot against the King’s life.
He let Esther tell the King to strengthen her position and the whole story ‘was written in the Book of the Chronicles in the presence of the king’ (v21-23). This incident proves vital to later events.
Chapter 3, introduces the enemy. wicked Haman (an antichrist who plans genocide, an ancestor of the Amelakites, the worst enemies of Israel). He is promoted to 2nd after the King (v1) so that all bowed to him except Mordecai (v2). When asked ‘why?’ he told them that he was a Jew, and would only bow to God. So they told Haman who became angry and planned to kill all the Jews in the Kingdom! (v3-6).
'In the first month... they cast Pur (that is, the lot), before Haman to determine the day and the month, until it fell on the 12th month.'
PROVIDENCE: God controlled the lots for they gave Israel maximum time. Had they fallen much earlier it would have meant disaster. Coincidence or Providence? Purim, the 12th month feast of Israel celebrating their deliverance is named after Pur showing that Israel saw the hand of God in the outcome of the lots (9:20-32).
Haman manipulated the king to make a decree to destroy the Jews. He misled him by talking of a rebellious group of people but did not name them. The King trusted him so just rubber-stamped it. He was helped by Haman’s offer to pay for it himself, which gave the decree more credability in his sight (v8-14). He knew the King wisely expected anyone with a bright idea to be ready to do this (it’s easy to think of good things for others to do but are you willing to roll up your sleeves?).
Chapter 4. Mordecai gets word to Esther (v1-10), who points out that to approach the king uninvited means death unless he holds out the golden scepter. She had not been called for 30 days (v11-12). He reminded her that as a Jew she would die too (v13) and that silence was not an option:
'For if you remain completely silent at this time, will relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place? and you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you
have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?' (v14).
He recognises the Hand of Providence upon her rise to power, was for this crisis. Esther called a 3-day fast showing her faith-dependance on God to turn the heart of the king (whose mood was unstable) and to bring deliverance. Then she would put her life on the line by going to the king ‘and if I perish, I perish!’ (v15,16).
Chapter 5 - Esther’s Intercession. On the 3rd day we see these prayers answered. She put on her royal robes and stood in sight of the king. When he saw her, she found favour in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter and she went near (v1,2). He offered to give her anything she wanted! It seemed the perfect time to ask but in prayer Esther got God’s plan and timing. So instead she invited the king and Haman to a banquet that day (v3,4). So at the banquet the king again asked what she wanted (v5,6). Esther then invited them to another banquet the next day (v7-9). Her obedience in the timing of this was essential for other providential events had to happen first. First overconfident Haman plans to kill Mordecai and so has some gallows made overnight(v9-14).
Chapter 6 - Mordecai delivered and exalted. Then the King has a sleepless night and so has a book read to him telling how Mordecai had saved his life (PROVIDENCE!) and that he had not rewarded him (v1-3). Now here comes a great example ofhow God overrules things for our good and against His enemies! Haman had just entered the court court early-morning to get the king’s permission to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had built. God now turns this around.
The king asked him, ‘What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honour?’ Haman thought ‘he must mean me’ so suggests: 'let a royal robe be brought which the king has worn, and a horse on which the king has ridden, which has a royal crest placed on its head. Then let this robe and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king's most noble princes, that he may array the man whom the king delights to honour. Then parade him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him: `Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honour!’ (v4-9). Then the king tells Haman to do this all for Mordecai! Afterward Haman hurried to his house mourning (v10-12). Even Haman’s wife sees the hand of God in this and predicts his doom! (v13).
Chapter 7 - The Banquet. Now the stage is set. At the 2nd Banquet, the king again asks Esther for her petition (v1,2). She shocked the king by asking for her life and her people’s life for they were set to be destroyed. Her hidden Jewishness is what Haman did not reckon on! (v3,4) When the King asked who was responsible she said, 'The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman!' So Haman was terrified before the king and queen' (v5,6). The king, angry at Haman for misleading him, went into the garden to think; and Haman begged Esther for his life, but when the king returned, Haman had tripped and fallen upon Esther lying on her couch! This was too much, and gave the king a convenient charge (of assault) for Haman (for the king was involved in the original sin). Haman's face was covered as he was taken to his execution upon the very gallows he had made for Mordecai (v7-10). 'Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him' (Prov26:27).
In Chapters 8-10, a Counter-Decree was made, enabling the Jews to fight and defeat their enemies, and Purim was established to honour God who had saved them. For God through PROVIDENCE turns what is planned
for evil to good, returning evil on the initiator. God is always overruling events for His people. If not for a sleepless night, Mordecai would have been killed but instead he was honoured and Haman was killed.