To this day the Jewish people celebrate a feast around March. To celebrate the
events that occurred in the book of Esther. It’s a celebration of the people’s
deliverance from destruction. That’s what Esther’s about. It’s about
DELIVERANCE. The feast is called the feast of purim. And the purim, is the rolling
of the dice. In the story of Esther. The power of a despotic king, together with the
evil intent of an old enemy of the Jews, combined with the rolling of the dice.
Those things together set the course for the destruction of every Jew in the
Persian empire in the month of Adar. The king thoughtlessly allows Haman to set
a day where the enemies of the Jews get a free swing. Sanctioned by the Law of
the Medes and the Persians. They get a free hit to kill every man woman and child
Jew in a state sanctioned slaughter. That’s the plan. But it doesn’t happen. Not
only are the Jews spared destruction. But the tables are turned, and their enemies
So every year, at the time appointed for their destruction. They get together to
eat and drink, to whoop it up in celebration. Because they were delivered from
evil. And not only that, they became victorious over their enemies. In a really
Now christians don’t celebrate Purim. But there’s strong links between the story
of Esther and the experience of christians. We may not be Jews. We may not
have been carted off into captivity. But we certainly celebrate deliverance.
Deliverance from Sin and death. Through Jesus our deliverer. Deliverance from
satan who would destroy us. Because of Jesus. Even deliverance from our own
power seeking despotic self rule. Our own foolish self reliance. And pride.
There’s lots of parallels between their deliverance and ours.
And I reckon as they celebrate. They’re reminding themselves of two aspects of
the deliverance. On one hand. The power of the deliverer. The way he delivers.
His power to deliver. His power worked in their favour. Those sorts of things. And
I want to focus on that next week. But on the other hand. There’s the reminder to
think rightly about the power which threatened to destroy them.
See you can think wrongly about that, in two ways.
One. You can shrug it off and think too lightly about it. You say – evil’s not a
problem. Evil’s not even real. You think too lightly about it. So you don’t live with
it as a reality. fight it. And really. You don’t need a deliverer…
On the other hand. You can be so consumed by the fear of the power of evil. That
You ever find yourself finishing your sentences with the words “these days”.
People just don’t have any manners. These days.
Kids don’t have any respect…these days.
People don’t go to church….these days.
See if that’s the way you hear yourself talking. That may well be a sign that you’ve
given up. And you think the powers are too strong.
Jesus taught us to pray about being delivered. In the Lord’s prayer.
Give us today our daily bread. And deliver us from evil.
And I reckon one of the things the story of Esther helps us to do. Is to think rightly
about evil. So one one hand we don’t just shrug it off. So we see it in all it’s
ugliness and horror. But so we’re not paralysed by it either.
So on the way through. If you’re not shocked by evil. Then you’re missing
something. But look out for something else. Look out for some poking fun. Look
out for some gaping holes. Some laughable fragility….In the power of evil.
Especially in light of the God who’s working things from behind the scenes.
Now one thing’s clear. This is a powerful and wealthy king. Xerxes is his name. He
rules over 127 provinces. And he wants that to be known.
And in the third year of his rule he decides to have a banquet for the nobles to
show off his power and his wealth. This is a guy who’s intoxicated with his own
4 For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor
and glory of his majesty. Sounds a bit like Expo.
There’s no more detail about how it all worked. Did he organize military displays?
Did he have parades? How did he go about displaying the splendor and glory of
his majesty. Regardless, this is a six month exercise in look at me.
Xerxes spends six months showing off the stuff in his shed.
Then after that. There’s another banquet which lasts for seven days. For
everyone in the city of Susa. Men that is. This is in the enclosed garden of the
king’s palace. Which is as opulent as you can get. If you’ve been to the Hyatt in
the city. This is the atrium at the Hyatt on steroids. The floor and the pillars are
marble. The seats are gold. There’s fine purple linen hanging down inlaid with
jewels. The wine’s served in gold goblets. As much as you want.
But on day seven when he’s high in spirit we’re told. Xerxes wants the boys to see
one more thing. And he commands his seven eunuchs to go get queen Vashti so
he can show her off as well. Why? Well you can read in there in verse 11.
Funny isn’t it. How rich and powerful men are so often accompanied by young
beautiful women. Vashti was lovely to look at.
But then…. so is a hood ornament. And that’s pretty much how she’s being
treated. So Vashti says no. I will not come and parade about in front of a bunch of
And in a fit of rage. The most powerful man in the known world bravely declines
to confront his wife, but hides behind the law of the land, and the advice of his
well paid yes men. Who raise her misconduct to the level of national threat. And
advise to have her banished. Which is what happens.
To add insult to injury. A plan is hatched to quote verse 19 “give her royal
position to someone else who is better than she” And here’s the plan - find every
beautiful virgin in the country. Take said beautiful virgins. Not only so they can be
paraded before the king. But so that one by one…he can spend a night with them
to see if they please him. Verse 2 of chapter 2.
…"Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. 3 Let the king
appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful
girls into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of
Hegai, the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty
treatments be given to them. 4 Then let the girl who pleases the king be queen
instead of Vashti." This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it (you bet he
That’s the context the Jews find themselves in. In exile, under the rule of a
vainglorious intemperate, pleasure seeking king whose whim is law. And that law.
The law of the Medes and Persians… is irreversible.
Now maybe that’s bearable if you can keep your head down and keep out of
trouble. But one of the girls picked up for the beauty contest. Is a Jew. Her Jewish
name’s Hadassah. She’s an orphan. She’s been brought up by her relative
Mordecai, who’s taken her under his wing.
Important bit of information. Mordecai we’re told. Is a descendant of Kish.
Which means he’s related to King Saul.
Another important bit of information. Hadassah. Esther as she’s known. Has got
something special going for her. Esther is drop dead gorgeous. She’s Jennifer
Hawkins, and Megan Gale and Cathy Atkinson…all rolled into one. Esther is
There’s something special about Esther. And straight away she gets special
treatment. Hegai the head eunuch gives her special treatement. She’s moved
almost straight away to the best room. For the best treatment. She’s given maids
But at the request of Mordecai, Esther keeps her Jewishness a secret.
The girls are prepared for their visit to the king with twelve months of beauty
treatments. Oils and perfumes and cosmetics. Then you get to take anything you
want with you when you go. When it’s Esther’s turn, she takes Hegai’s suggestion
on what to bring. Which goes in her favour.
17 …… king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she
won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins.
Now while all this is going on. As you’d expect. Uncle Mordecai’s pacing up and
down worried sick. He plonks himself outside the king’s gate. And while he’s
there. He happens to overhear two of the guards hatching a plot to kill the king.
He gets word to Esther who gets word to the king. The plot’s discovered and the
men are hanged. And Mordecai gets the credit in the record books.
So just keep that bit of information tucked away.
Now shortly after that. King Xerxes gives special treatment to a man named
Haman. And Haman rose to be virtually Xerxes prime minister.
Now Haman is an Agagite. Which means he and Mordecai are mortal enemies.
So when Haman would pass by. All the other officials would bow down to him, but
Mordecai refused. Day after day. And when Haman finds out about it.
He has a fit of rage. He’s so spitting chips. He decides that killing just Mordecai
Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai's people, the Jews, throughout
That’s when Haman throws the dice. I guess to let fate decide the date the Jews
And with the blessing of the King Haman writes a decree with the seal of the king.
destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews-- young and old, women and little children-
- on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and
The chilling summary at the end of chapter 3 says. Esther 3:15 - 4:1 The king and
Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.
The fate of the Jews is literally sealed. By a law that can’t be repealed. And the
way to the king is barred. By a king that can’t be approached.
It’s a dreadful evil. They need delivering.
Mordecai’s the first to find out about it and he says to Esther. You’re our only
hope. You’re the queen. You’re have to go to the king.
But Esther knows the law. Anyone. Even the queen who lobs up to the king
without being summoned – unless the kings extends his scepter to you…you the
chop. And she hasn’t been summonsed for 30 days.
Listen to Mordecai’s words to Esther. Chapter 4 verse 13 and 14.
Esther 4:13-14 "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of
all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and
deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's
family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for
So Esther agrees to give it a go. She says If I perish, I perish. She tells Mordecai and
all the Jews to fast for three days. And she fasts. And then she puts on her robes
More than that. Listen to what the king says to Esther.
Esther 5:3 Then the king asked, "What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request?
Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you."
Almost sounds too easy. But Esther doesn’t blurt out what she wants straight
away. Instead she invites him, and Haman to a banquet. He seems pretty keen on
So off they go. But even then she doesn’t say what she wants. She invites them
Haman goes home feeling pretty pleased with himself. He goes home and tells
everyone how important he must be because it was only he and the king at
Things couldn’t be better except for one thing. On the way home. He saw
Mordecai. And he still wouldn’t bow. So on the advice of his wife he has a 75ft
gallows built for Mordecai the Jew. Now he’s delighted.
But that night. The king can’t sleep. He says “I know.” Someone read me the
But what he hears is the record of the plot Mordecai uncovered. He discovers that
Mordecai never got any recognition for saving his life.
Just then. There’s someone outside. It’s Haman who’s come to talk about hanging
The king says. What should be done for the man the king delights to honour.
Haman says to himself. Who else would the king delight to honour than me.
And he says. What I’d do, if it was me. I’d give him one of the king’s robes. I’d put
him on one of the king’s horses. I’d plonk a crown on his head. Then I’d get one of
the nobles to parade him around the streets for everyone to see.
What a great idea says Xerxes. Go do that for Mordecai the Jew. Do not neglect
What a rip. So that’s what he does. And in great shame he covers his head and
His wife says. Esther 6:13 "Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has
started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him-- you will surely come to
Thanks dear. Not sure that’s what he wanted to hear. But she’s right.
Just then the cab arrives to take Haman to Esther’s banquet.
Xerxes again what is it you want? Esther says. Just that you’ll spare my life. You
Me and my people have been set for annihilation and destruction.
Who dares do this says the king? ‘And here comes the bomb.
Esther 7:6 6 Esther said, "The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman."
The king stomps out in a rage. Haman falls at Esther’s feet and pleads with her to
The king walks back in to see Haman all over Esther.
And Haman’s hanged on his own gallows. That he built for Mordecai.
The Jews get the right to defend themselves in response to Haman’s edict. And
Now as I said. We’ll pick up on the amazing way God works through what looks
Let’s acknowledge some of those real evils that we still need to be delivered from.
Where the selfishness of some. Means the injustice and mistreatment of others.
Lord, deliver us from things like enforced prostitution. From all sorts of
mistreatment of the weak. From child pornography. From ruthless dictators.
From schoolyard bullying and workplace bullying. From husbands who mistreat
Lord, deliver us from those who are particularly hostile to Christians. Who go out
Lord deliver us from the New Atheists who are bamboozling so many with their
Let’s hate those things the way God does. Let’s not downplay them.
In John Lennox’ book Gunning for God. He tells a couple of amusing stories. One
about the atheists in Germany who hired a bus and drove it around everywhere
with the words God probably doesn’t exist written on it. The Christians hired their
own bus and followed them around everwhere. Their bus had the words. But
One of their contentions is that Christian parents are basically child abusers who
indoctrinate their children with their beliefs. So they put up a picture on billboards
everywhere with a couple of smiling happy kids and the message. Let’s stop the
spread of religion, and be happy. They didn’t realize the kids they’d chosen to be
the bastions of happiness without religion. Were Christian kids.
In a way…. Xerxes and his kingdom represent the kind of powers that are always
around the place. Scary in a way. And powerful. But fickle and foolish as well.
We need to remember that all power is derivative from God’s power. Has a shelf
Remember what Jesus says to Pilate at his trial – you would have no power over
me if it were not given to you from above. See that’s the right perspective isn’t it.
Evil regimes come toppling down we’ve seen that in the last few days.
If it weren’t for Mordecai even Xerxes might have woken up one night to find a
By contrast. Jesus who has all power at his disposal holds it lightly. Lays it down
for the benefit of others. That’s real power.
We’re reminded in Colossians 2 that at the cross Jesus disarmed the powers and
authorities, Paul’s says he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them
1 Corinthians 1:25 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and
the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
As I said before. The gospel’s the wake up call to recognize the fickle nature of our
own selfish grab for power. The foolishness of our own self sufficiency. That we
So let’s think rightly about these things.
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