Esther: Seeking Security Through PeopleRev. Philip Miller | February 19, 2023
Selected highlights from this sermon
Esther was a courageous woman. After all, she saved her people from destruction. But she too had an identity trap: She sought security through people. She hadn’t told anyone she was Jewish, which allowed her to get into the king’s court.
Pastor Miller looks at Esther from three different angles: from the secret she kept, the peril she put herself in, and the courage she displayed. And in finding that courage, she found her true identity as a child of God.
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Well, welcome back to Identity Traps. We’re looking at nine ways we lose ourselves and how Jesus makes us whole. We all build an identity around our deep identity needs for significance, security, and satisfaction, and we’ve been looking...The first three messages we were looking at the significance cluster here. Right? We can fall into the trap of looking for significance for our identity in people like Joseph did, or through power like Jacob did, or through possessions like Zacchaeus did. But we ultimately hopefully will learn what each of these individuals learned, and that is that the significance that our souls long for is found ultimately in being an adopted child of our heavenly Father. And in Jesus, that’s exactly who we are. We are children of the King. There’s no greater significance than that.
Now today we’re going to turn the corner. We’re going to start looking at the security cluster now. We’re going to go back twenty-five hundred years, two thousand five hundred years to the Medo-Persian Empire, and we’re going to discover Esther’s identity trap, which is seeking security through people, security through people, and we’re going to see today how God loves Esther out of her orphan-hearted instincts and into the true security that can only come as a child of God.
So we’re going to look at the entire book of Esther today. Why do I do this to myself? That begins on page 410 in the pew Bible there if you want to grab it – 410. We’re going to look at the entire book of Esther, ten chapters. Whew! Here we go.
We’re going to see Esther’s secret, Esther’s peril, and Esther’s courage this morning.
Esther’s secret, peril and courage. There’s your outline. Would you bow your heads? Let’s pray as we dive in.
Father, teach us where our true security lies this morning. We all want to be safe. We all want to be okay. Teach us how to live as your children, for Jesus’ sake, Amen. Amen.
All right! First of all, Esther’s secret. Go to Esther, chapter 1. We’re going to look at the first four verses quickly here. This is how it begins. “Now in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces, in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa, the citadel, in the third year of his reign he gave a feast for all his officials and servants. The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were before him, while he showed them the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness for many days, 180 days.”
Okay, just pause for a moment. We’re obviously in a very ancient setting here. Just to get our bearings, this is toward the end of what we call The Exile. So the Jewish people were exiled through a series of events. The first one was the northern kingdom of Israel was defeated by Assyria in 722 B.C. They were carried off. Then the southern kingdom of Israel was defeated in 586 by the Babylonians. There were three waves of deportations as people were taken out of the land. And then, and this is what the book of Daniel tells us about, the Medo-Persian Empire rose in 538 B.C. under the leadership of a guy named Cyrus the Great. You may know his name.
And then beginning with Cyrus, the leader of the Medo-Persian Empire, he decides to be Mr. Nice Guy. So the Assyrians, the Babylonians ruled through fear; he’s going to try to ingratiate himself to his captive people, and he starts allowing the Jewish people to return to the land. And they return in three waves. In 538 B.C. a guy named Zerubbabel...This is a great name. Say Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel goes back with fifty thousand Jewish people to rebuild some of the houses and to begin reconstruction of the temple that had been destroyed.
In around 458 (This is a guess. We’re not exactly sure.) Ezra heads back to the land of Israel to do a spiritual rebuilding. So he’s going to teach the Law of God, and he’s going to reestablish spiritual community. Then in 445 B.C. Nehemiah goes back and his task is to rebuild the wall and bring protection to the city.
Now the events of Esther take place between 478 and 473 B.C., which is after Zerubbabel, but before Ezra and Nehemiah, okay? So Zerubbabel has gone back. He’s beginning construction on the temple, rebuilding the houses, but Ezra has not gone back to reestablish spiritual worship and all of this in the community. Nehemiah has not gone back to build the wall. Right in the middle we get the events of Esther.
Now, this is important. We’re going to see why this is important later, but Mordecai and Esther, the lead characters we’re going to meet later in the story, their families have the chance to go back to the land with Zerubbabel, and they chose to stay in Persia. It’s an important detail. We’ll get there. The events of Esther take place under the fourth Persian king down from Cyrus the Great. The fourth Persian King is Ahasuerus. He’s also known in history as Xerxes I, if you know that name, he ruled from 486 to 465. You can actually go see his tomb in an acropolis in Iran to this day. It’s amazing.
So our story begins here as Ahasuerus, Xerxes I, throws a lavish feast, six months in length. It would have had approximately 15,000 guests at this feast. And then he chases it in verses we didn’t read with a special seven-day feast just for the men of Susa the citadel. Susa the citadel was the inner city within the city built up higher. The palace is there, and so it was a walled city within the city. It’s where all the elites lived. It’s where all the power brokers were, the who’s who of government and military officials, the social elite, the inner circle. Those are the people at the seven-day feast. And then his wife, Queen Vashti, throws a separate feast for the women. Okay? That’s the set-up.
Now jump down to verse 10. Esther 1:10-12, “On the seventh day of the feast, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus...” By the way, some of you might be looking for baby names. (laughter) I’ll give you twenty bucks if you choose one of these for your child. Okay? That’s a standing offer, a standing offer. All right! Especially Carkas. That’s awesome. (laughter)
So these are the seven eunuchs who serve in the presence of King Ahasuerus “to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at. But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command delivered by the eunuchs. At this the king become enraged, and his anger burned within him.”
So here you have a drunken emperor, full of vanity. He summons Vashti to parade around for his drunken friends to gawk at. “Now, come and wear your crown, just your crown.” And she refuses, and the king is outraged. “Don’t you know who I am? I’m the greatest king in the world.”
Verse 16: “Then Memukan said in the presence of the king and his officials, ‘Not only against the king has Queen Vashti done wrong, but also against all the officials and all the peoples who are in the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen’s behavior will be made known to all women, causing them to look at their husbands with contempt, and they will say, “King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.” This very day the noble women of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will say the same to all the king’s officials, and there will be contempt and wrath in plenty.’”
(Laughs) This is funny. I mean it’s terrible, but this “Good Old Boys Club” wants to stamp out this women’s liberation movement (Right?) before it gets out of hand. So this is their plan.
Verse 19: “‘If it please the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be repealed, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus. And let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, for it is vast (Look at them buttering him up.), all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.’ This advice pleased the king and the princes, and the king did as Memukan proposed.”
So that’s how King Ahasuerus becomes queenless. Okay? It’s all a set up to the main story.
Now, between chapters 1 and 2, there’s a time gap of four years. During this time, Ahasuerus, Xerxes I, launches a campaign against Ancient Greece which is thwarted. It’s recorded for us in Herodotus’ History of Persian Wars. The Spartans, if you know the story...The 300 Spartans under Leonidis repel him. They hold their ground and Ahasuerus or Xerxes, however you want to call him, is sent back to Persia, lonely, insecure, devastated. Okay? And his staff see him moping about, and they’re like, “We’ve got to find a way to get his head off of this defeat.” Okay?
Chapter 2:2: “Then the king’s young men who attended him said, ‘Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king. And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in Susa the citadel under the custody of Hegai, and the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women. Let their cosmetics be given them. And let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.’ This pleased the king, and he did so.”
So in Susa the citadel, again the city within the city where all the social elites lived, they would have rounded up at least dozens of young women, probably of teenage age. And they were rounded up and brought into the king’s harem. Only one of them is going to be queen. So this is sort of like the “Bachelor: Medo-Persian Edition.” Okay? Only one big difference and that is these girls are not volunteering. They are conscripted.
And this isn’t all that romantic because, remember, the king is not a very good guy. He’s egotistical, he’s angry, he’s impulsive, he’s lustful, he’s dehumanizing. He just discarded Vashti for almost no reason, right? Now he’s using his power to exploit and use these women for his own selfish gain. I mean, this is not a good situation. Okay? It’s kind of messed up.
Esther 2:5, 7-10: “Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai....He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at, and when her father and mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter. So when the king’s order and his edict were proclaimed, and when many young women were gathered in Susa the citadel in custody of Hegai, Esther also was taken into the king’s palace and put in the custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women. And the young woman pleased him and won his favor. And he quickly provided her with cosmetics and her portion of food, and with seven chosen young women from the king’s palace, and advanced her and her young women to the best place in the harem. Esther had not yet made known her people or kindred (She’s not explaining that she’s a Jew.), for Mordecai had commanded her not to make it known.”
So here we have Hadassah, which in Hebrew means myrtle. Her Persian name is Esther, which means star. You can hear it in Es-star. Right? Esther! She’s an orphan. Her father and mother have passed away, and so now her cousin, Mordecai, is raising her.
Mordecai lives in Susa the citadel. This is not an insignificant detail. This is, again, where all the upward mobile people lived. It’s very expensive, but it’s where the affluent and the in crowd were. This is important because not only did Mordecai and his family choose to stay in Persia when they had the chance to go back with Zerubbabel and rebuild the city, and trust in the work of God in rebuilding the people, but now he has moved into the very heart of Persian society. He’s ambitious, you see. He’s well-connected. He’s in with the right circles. He’s blending in to Persian life, and he’s slowly selling out. I think that’s why he tells Esther to keep her Jewish identity secret. He’s like “Don’t let your Jewishness get in the way of being the queen of Persia. Don’t let it get in the way of climbing the social ladder. The king doesn’t want a Jew for a wife. Keep that quiet. Keep that little fact to yourself.”
Now, I admit I’m pretty disappointed with Mordecai right here because his job as the surrogate father was to protect Esther. Yes? That’s his whole job, but nowhere does he try to get her out of this awful situation. He doesn’t move out of the citadel, he doesn’t protest once against what’s happening. He doesn’t advise Esther to resist in any way. Any dad worth their salt would coach their daughter to find a way to disqualify herself from this situation. “Be loud and obnoxious. Chew with your mouth open. Whatever it takes, don’t become a finalist. Do what Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did. They found a way. They said, ‘We’re not going to eat the meat sacrificed to idols.’ Find some moral line, Esther, and hold your ground. Stay true to the Lord. He’ll be with you. I don’t want my relative’s little girl to get used up and discarded, or to sleep her way to the top in order to marry some pagan playboy known for drunkenness, narcissism, and rage. No amount of riches and opulence is worth it. None of that can make up for a bad marriage.”
But Mordecai doesn’t say any of that, does he? He doesn’t do what a good father should have done. He doesn’t step up and protect Esther. Now, why? I think it’s because Mordecai thought this was a good deal. This was their big break. I mean Esther could be queen of Persia. This is their ticket to the inner sanctuary of Persian society. All of Mordecai’s strategic efforts are starting to pay off. He was right to stay in Persia. He was right to relocate to the citadel. And now Esther has a shot to be queen, and live in the palace? All his dreams are coming true.
Friends, don’t you see Mordecai is not trusting in God here. He’s not behaving like a faithful Israelite. Choice after choice he’s selling out and he’s using Esther now to get ahead in Persian society. It’s really quite sad actually.
And Esther, I think...Esther just wants to be safe. You know her own parents aren’t there to protect her. Mordecai isn’t stepping up to protect her. Maybe if she just does whatever it takes to please the king, maybe his protection will be enough.
Esther 2:12: “Now when the turn came for each young woman to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women (Twelve months of beauty pampering! How about that?), since this was the regular period of their beautifying, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women—when the young woman went in to the king in this way, she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the harem to the king's palace. In the evening she would go in, and in the morning she would return to the second harem in custody of Shaashgaz (What another good name! Fifty dollars if you name your kid Shaashgaz, okay?) the king's eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines. She would not go in to the king again, unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name.”
So here’s the deal. You get one night with the king. Whatever clothing, whatever supplies, whatever you want to make the night memorable, it’s yours. And in the morning you’re just a concubine unless the king remembers your name, and then you get a second interview. Okay?
So the name of the game is to make an unforgettable first impression. And so these ladies are all trying to outdo the others, trying to be more beautiful, more alluring, more seductive. They’re using every trick in the book.
Verse 15: ‘When the turn came for Esther...to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king's eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. (He knows what the king likes. He gives her the inside scoop.) Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her. And when Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign, the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”
And thus, Esther, the nobody, the Jew, becomes the queen of Persia. And Esther finds herself coming under the protection of the most powerful person on the planet. And so don’t you see, friends, Esther’s identity is formed around finding security through people, finding security through people. Esther will be whomever she needs to be to make the king happy, and to know the security of his protection.
And it’s easy, friends, to fall into this kind of a trap, of looking to people for security, when we need a romantic partner to know that we’re okay, or we need to fit in with a certain group in order to feel safe, or we need to virtue signal that we’re on the trending side of the latest cultural moment to be secure.
Whenever we decide that we will be whomever we need to be to fit in, we’re looking for security through people, and like Esther, we live like orphans in the universe.
That’s Esther’s secret. Okay?
Now, Esther’s peril. At the end of chapter 2, which we won’t read, Mordecai overhears a couple of disgruntled palace employees, named Bigthan and Teresh, planning to assassinate the king. And he turns them in. And both end up executed. The king is safe, and Mordecai ends up on the king’s radar. But the king still doesn’t know the connection between Esther and Mordecai.
Chapter 3:1: “After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, and advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him. And all the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage.”
So now we have a new character. This is Haman, the Agagite. He’s promoted to be the viceroy, the righthand man of the king. All the servants are bowing down, paying homage, except for one, and that’s Mordecai who won’t bow. Why? Well, it may be moral conviction, God’s people were to bow down and worship God alone, and this is more than just reverence. This is homage. This is worship, and maybe Mordecai is refusing on principal. But there also appears to be something deeper than that, and that’s ancestral hostility.
Haman is not of Persian ethnicity. He’s an Agagite, a descendent of Agag, the Amalekite king, the sworn enemy of Israel, that King Saul refused to kill as God ordered him to do. This is in First Samuel 15. And ever since Saul let Agag live, there have been animosity and constant conflict between the Jews and the Amalekites. And so as Haman walks by, Mordecai no doubt is thinking, “I’m not bowing down to that Agagite. No way. And if he comes after me to retaliate, he doesn’t know it but I just saved the king’s life. I’ve got that pretty little ace up the sleeve if things get out of hand.”
Now Haman notices that here’s a Jew refusing to bow down. It’s very ethnic. It irks him. Haman decides this dishonor is the perfect excuse, to go after not just Mordecai, but every single one of the Jewish people. He decides to finish what great, great, great, great grandfather, Agag, started. He’s going to wipe out the Jewish people once and for all. That’s his plan.
Esther 3:8, “Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, ‘There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them. If it please the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay 10,000 talents of silver (This is over a hundred million dollars, okay? It’s lot of money. Ten thousand talents of silver.) into the hands of those who have charge of the king’s business, and they put it into the king’s treasuries. So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews.”
The signet ring was used to sign documents, to press it into wax as a signature. This giving the ring is a blank check. “Whatever you need to do, Haman, you’ve got it.”
Verse 13: “Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with instructions 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.” So in eleven months’ time from this proclamation, the Jews are to be destroyed, killed and annihilated, all of them, men, women, children—everyone. This is state-sanctioned genocide, and when the Jews heard the news they wept for the doom that had befallen them.
But Mordecai sent a message to Esther, pleading with her to intervene on behalf of her people, and this is how she replied.
Esther 4:11: “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know 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. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”
“If I approach the Persian king without his summons, and he’s in a bad mood, I’m a goner. And besides that, I don’t even know where I stand with him now. I mean it’s been a month since he wanted me around. He’s much more interested in his harem than me these days. It’s a risk,” to which Mordecai responds.
Verse 13: “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
“Esther, you won’t be able to escape this one. Sure, nobody knows you are a Jew yet, but it’ll come out, and when it does, they’re going to come for you too. There will be nowhere to run, no place to hide, and no one to protect you.”
And in this moment, friends, Esther’s security is shattered. The very king whom she had looked to for protection, it is his ring that is on the decree that has sealed her peril. Right? Esther’s orphan-hearted identity strategy in the end leaves her insecure and vulnerable. Esther’s orphan-hearted identity strategy leaves her insecure and vulnerable.
Think about it. She’s lost the protection of her parents. Mordecai has failed to keep her safe, and now her own husband is neglecting her, and her life is hanging by a thread. She’s insecure, she’s scared, she’s vulnerable. Where can she possibly turn?
That’s Esther’s peril.
Now, Esther’s courage, Esther’s courage.
Chapter 4, verse 16: This is Esther’s reply. “Go and gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”
So Esther calls a fast. She knows she can’t face this moment alone. She needs the solidarity of her own people, but more than that, she needs the protection of her God, because what is the word that goes with fasting that is missing here? What word always goes with fasting? Prayer and fasting, right? But it’s not here. It doesn’t say anything about prayer. It’s conspicuously absent, right? You want to fill it in, don’t you?
Do you know what else is conspicuously absent in the book of Esther? The name of God! He is never mentioned by name in the book, and yet, God is so obviously moving in the shadows. His fingerprints are everywhere. And ironically, the absence of the name of God actually helps you see Him more clearly, can’t you? And so as a reader you’re supposed to autofill God’s name, His sovereignty, into the story. And I think, in the same way, we are meant to autofill prayer into this fast, because of course they prayed. Why do you fast if you’re not going to pray? The whole point of fasting is to pray and fast. It’s an intensification of prayer, and ironically the absence of the word prayer draws our attention. We actually can see it more clearly.
So in this moment what I think is going on is that Esther realizes she needs protection beyond anything the king will be able to provide. And so she calls a fast because she’s beginning to look for protection somewhere else. Okay?
Esther, chapter 5! Let’s keep going. “On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, where the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace.”
So here we are. Right? Heart pounding, palms sweating, throat thickening.
“And when the king saw Queen Esther, standing there in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. And Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. And the king said to her, ‘What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you, even half of my kingdom.’ And Esther said, ‘If it please the king, let the king and Haman come today to a feast that I have prepared for the king.’ Then the king said, ‘Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther has asked.’ So the king and Haman came to the feast that Esther had prepared.”
This is so savvy. She doesn’t come right out with her heart’s request. She’s building up to it, and she knows her man. She knows how he loves a good feast, and she wants to remind him of what he’s been missing this whole month without her being around. She knows the way to his heart. And then she includes Haman in the invitation because you keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Yes! Godfather reference in Chicago! Nailed it! Okay. (laughter)
“And as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king said to Esther, ‘What is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.’ Then Esther answered, ‘My wish and my request is: If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my wish and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come to the feast that I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said.’”
This is amazing. She is so coy. She knows what she’s doing. She’s letting the suspense ripen. She knows him. She knows how her mystique intrigued him, and now she’s got him curious, and he’s like a dog with a bone, and he can’t let it go, right?
So then the king and Haman, they head out and they have very different evenings. Haman, whose hate for the unbowing Mordecai is rising to a fever pitch, builds a pike gallows, a giant wooden spike, 50 cubits, 75 feet high, to impale him on one day. He’s dreaming of murder. The king, on the other hand, can’t dream at all. He has trouble sleeping. He orders the royal archives to be read, and it just so happens that the guy picks the section where Mordecai found out the assassination plot and turned him in. And the king goes, “Did we ever do anything for that guy?” They said, “No.” He said, “Well, let’s solve that tomorrow.” And so the king orders Haman to go through the streets and give Mordecai a parade, which incenses Haman even more.
So here we are. Fast forward. We’re now in the evening of the second feast that Esther threw, and this is her finest hour. This is Esther, chapter 7: “So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. And on the second day, as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king again said to Esther, ‘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.’”
(Takes a big breath.) Okay this is it, the point of no return.
“Then Queen Esther answered, ‘If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king.’”
In this moment Esther finally owns her Jewish heritage, and in doing so she steps into the crosshairs to be annihilated along with everyone else in the Jewish people. This is bold and gutsy. And notice her diplomacy. “Had this just been slavery I wouldn’t have said anything because it’s not compared to the inconvenience, the loss to you the king.”
What are the losses that he’s going to face? Well, he’s going to lose his viceroy, Haman. It’s Esther or Haman, right?
He's going to lose the ten thousand talents of silver that were going to go into the treasury. The king is going to lose credibility in the eyes of all of the people because it’s his signet ring that’s on the decree. But the king isn’t aware of any of that yet.
Verse 5: “Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, ‘Who is he, and where is he, who has dared to do this?’ And Esther said, ‘A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!’ Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.”
This dramatic, biting, forceful staccato in the Hebrew is hard to convey. This foe, this enemy, this wicked Haman! This is so courageous. This is so brave. Where did it come from? Where did all this come from? Friends, Esther’s courage reveals that she has found a greater security through a better protector. Don’t you see that?
Esther’s courage reveals that she has found a greater security through a better protector. Esther’s willingness to put herself at risk before the king shows that...His protection is not the one that she’s trusting in anymore. She’s not taking refuge in his protection. She’s looking elsewhere for security. She’s finding protection under the shadow of another. Don’t you see? She’s begun to take refuge in God. She’s throwing herself on his protection. She’s resting her soul on His goodness to her. She’s identifying herself as a child of the covenant keeping God.
This is an identity transformation. Now the question is will God come through for her? Will He come through for her, or will God do what every other human being has done all along and betray her trust? This is a gutsy move.
Esther 7:7: “And when the king arose in his wrath from the wine-drinking and went into the palace garden…” First of all, why doesn’t he immediately jump to Esther’s defense? Why doesn’t he just go boom, “You’re out of here, Haman”? It’s because he’s conflicted. He does not know what to do. Esther...Wives in the ancient world were political tools in many ways. They helped you create stability in your kingdom. It wasn’t the romantic culture that we have today, and so he’s not sure, does he want his wife or does he want his right-hand man? Haman’s well-connected. He’s rich. I mean he’s an asset. Okay, so he’s conflicted; the king leaves.
“But Haman stayed to beg for his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that harm was determined against him by the king. (So he sees where this might be going.) And the king returned from the palace garden to the place where they were drinking wine, as Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was.”
Now this is opaque to us, but according to Persian law, no man was to come within seven feet of one of the members of the king’s harem. Standards were even higher for the queen. To invade their personal space was to violate them in people’s minds. So when Haman falls on the queen’s couch he’s massively out of line.
“And the king said, ‘Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?’ And as the word left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman's face (put a bag over his head). Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, ‘Moreover, the gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, is standing at Haman's house, fifty cubits high.’ And the king said, ‘Hang him on that.’ So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the wrath of the king abated.”
So God, friends, comes through for Esther and for all His people. And Haman is impaled on the pike gallows that he built for Mordecai. Mordecai is promoted. He gets Haman’s job. He gets to be viceroy. And then the law that had been written, that was irrevocable, the law of the Medes and Persians could not be revoked, Esther and Mordecai talked the king into a strategy to issue a new decree to allow the Jewish people to defend themselves against attack, to arm themselves and defend.
And on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, when the genocidal onslaught occurred, the Jewish people defended themselves and some 75,000 Persians actually died attacking them, which was a tragic loss of life. Right?
Just a quick aside here. If only Saul had obeyed God! Have you ever thought of that? All of this could have been avoided. God knew there was a genocidal maniac in his lineage, and God would have to rise up and protect His people, and 75,000 Persians would be senselessly lost because of Haman’s plot.
See, Saul thought he was being more merciful than God when he spared Agag’s life, but he wasn’t. He wasn’t. He was badly wrong. Friends, never underestimate the danger of your disobedience. Never underestimate the danger of your disobedience. But through it all, God protects His people. That’s the main point. God is faithful when His people have been faithless. And through the courage of Queen Esther God saved the day. And Esther discovers that to be a child of the covenant keeping God is the safest possible place on Earth. To be a child of the living God beats being the Queen of Persia every day. Every day, because the security our souls seek is found in the protection of our Father. The security our souls seek is found in the protection of our Father.
Friends, that’s better than being in the “in crowd.” It’s better than being popular. It’s better than being on the right side of this cultural moment, being in the inner circle. It’s the safest place to be, a child of the Most High God.
And I think there’s something beautifully ironic here because the way we become children of God is because of what Jesus did for us. Right? He saved us.
At the end of the book of Esther, the wicked man is hung on the tree, and the righteous man wears the crown and the robes. But in Jesus’ story the righteous man is hung on the tree, and you and I get to wear the robe and the crown, because salvation came differently the second time around, and that’s why we are children of God. It’s because of Him.
As the apostle Paul writes in Romans, chapter 8, “What then shall we say against these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No! In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, not things present nor things to come, now powers, nor height, nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Friends, on the cross, Jesus lost security to secure you forever as a child of God, and no matter what happens, we’re going to be okay because Jesus is with us always. He said, “Behold, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” You can’t beat security like that. Amen? Amen.
Father, forgive us for looking to the wrong things to make us safe. Help us to rest as your beloved children under your good and watchful care. You’re a good Father, and we give ourselves to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.