Courage is remembered! — Esther 9:1-5, 18-23, 26-28
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 2, 2013 AM
God frequently operates within the sphere of the human situation. In performing supernatural deeds, God often uses such forces as nature (the wind in the parting of the Red Sea). Likewise, He commonly works through imperfect servants (David) or even evil human beings (Nebuchadnezzar). In Esther God limited His work to an edict that used a unique feature of Persian law. This does not lessen the miraculous nature of His activity. Rather, it ought to cause God’s people to recognize His presence and power in everything that happens. If I were to ask you this morning, “In what ways is God working in your life today?” could you give me an answer?
How God works through those He loves demonstrates His devotion. We should respond in courage. Paul encouraged others to “Fight the good fight of the faith.” (1 Timothy 6:12 NIV) And he wrote about himself, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7 NIV) In our “fighting the good fight” of faith, we are often asked to demonstrate courage in the face of overwhelming odds. This was true of Esther as well and because of this, her courage is remembered. Let’s see how…
When we have received mercies from God, we should be quick to return our thanks to Him while the impressions are fresh. If the favor has extended to the whole people, steps should be taken to perpetuate the remembrance of it for the honor of God and the encouragement of others to trust in Him. Esther’s courage is remembered because we discover that…
I. God uses His time and His people for His vengeance! (Vv. 1-5)
1. Adar was in late February and early March. Nine months had passed since the king honored Mordecai. No doubt during this period Mordecai’s reputation increased as he solidified his political power. The Jews spent the interval in preparation for the thirteenth day of Adar. This was the date Haman had set for the destruction of the Jews. Instead, when the date came, he was dead; the Jews had royal authority to arm and defend themselves. “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.” To bring fear on the enemies of His people, God employed circumstances, a shift in political power, and royal authority. The Jews’ methodical activity against those who intended to harm them was officially sanctioned by the king’s decree. “The Jews assembled in their cities in all the provinces of King Xerxes to attack those seeking their destruction. No one could stand against them, because the people of all the other nationalities were afraid of them.” Authorities in every province had received the second decree, and they no doubt were aware of the implications of Mordecai’s political influence. “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.” They also feared the political fallout of acting against Jews, so chances are the kingdom’s military and law-enforcement authorities did not act on the first decree. “Mordecai was prominent in the palace; his reputation spread throughout the provinces, and he became more and more powerful.” On Haman’s planned day of Jewish annihilation, the Jews fought for their lives and families and won out over their enemies. They “struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased to those who hated them.” The Jews assembled for the inevitable battle, but they did not wait to be attacked. Instead, they acted preemptively and struck their enemies first. In the new political reality created by Mordecai’s powerful status, resistance to the Jews was futile. Everywhere in the vast Persian Empire, the Jews were victorious. Incidentally, “In the citadel of Susa, the Jews (also) killed and destroyed five hundred men!” God uses His time and His people for His vengeance!
EXAMPLE: Far too often, we desire that our vengeance take precedence over God’s will. Paul reminds us that we should, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” And that we are not to “repay anyone evil for evil.” But rather we are to “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” In fact Paul writes, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19 NIV) Vernon Grounds wrote, “The world was horrified when Chechen rebels massacred hundreds of people held hostage in a school in Beslan, Russia. Many of the victims were children, including six belonging to the two Totiev brothers, who are active in Christian ministry. One of the brothers reacted in a way that most of us would have a hard time choosing. He said, “Yes, we have an irreplaceable loss, but we cannot take revenge.” He believes what the Lord says, as recorded in Romans 12:19, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” Some of us have difficulty getting rid of bitterness about small slights, to say nothing of major offenses like this family faced.” Wow! There would be a wonderful difference in the world today if our attitude was to give to God the injustices done to us. Esther and Mordecai did. Why not pause right now and search your heart. If there is any bitterness toward another or a desire for revenge, ask the Holy Spirit to help you not to be “overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” God uses His time and His people for His vengeance!
In Susa, the Jews killed 500 of their enemies, including surviving members of Haman’s family. Esther also requested an additional day’s time and she obtained an imperial edict to have Haman’s 10 son’s corpses displayed publicly. This sign of disgrace sent a strong signal to anyone who might question the day’s events. On the following day, their victory was complete. In what occurred, we learn that…
II. God should be remembered for His times of deliverance! (Vv. 18-19, 26-32)
1. The feast was called Purim because of Haman’s use of the “pur”, the lot to determine the time of the execution for the Jews and Mordecai. The “pur” became a symbol of God’s using circumstances to deliver His own. These activities reflected the great reversal in Jewish fortune. Fasting and mourning had given way to eating and celebration! The exchanging of food reinforced a sense of community. Giving to the poor was common throughout the Old Testament as an indication of a right relationship to the Lord. Here it emphasized the poor were an integral part of the covenant community. Those without the financial means to participate were equally as important as those who enjoyed material prosperity. Since wealth can be a blessing from God, those who were affluent had a responsibility to share God’s blessings with others by honoring Him. Notice it was not by government mandate. We discover that “the Jews took it upon themselves to establish the custom that they and their descendants and all who join them should without fail observe these two days every year, in the way prescribed and at the time appointed.” This was so important that they saw the need that these “days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory of them die out among their descendants.” It was almost as important as their deliverance from Pharaoh by Moses! When God’s people have received special mercies from the Lord, shouldn’t they remember the occasion? If His favor has extended to an entire people, steps should be taken to perpetuate the remembrance of it for the honor of God and the encouragement of others to trust in Him. Esther and Mordecai could not allow their people to forget what God had done, so they “wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter concerning Purim.” They “sent letters to all the Jews in the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Xerxes.” Mordecai and Esther included “words of goodwill and assurance to establish these days of Purim at their designated times.” So, as they “had decreed for them, and as they had established for themselves and their descendants in regard to their times of fasting and lamentation.” God should be remembered for His times of deliverance!
EXAMPLE: Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter have their origins in real events in history. They remind us of occasions when God intervened in human history to deliver His people from an end worse than death, the penalty of sin. These days need to be celebrated in ways that express the joy of God’s people and the value of every believer. What are other days you need to remember and celebrate what God has done in your life or in the life of your church? How often do you give remembrance to the rescue He delivered for you through Jesus? How often have you paused to remember the time His mercies were more than sufficient for you during a troubled time, you needed deliverance, and He gave it freely? In our lives, in the life of His church, God should be remembered for His times of deliverance!
If there is any bitterness toward another or a desire for revenge, ask the Holy Spirit to help you not to be “overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” God uses His time and His people for His vengeance! In our lives, in the life of His church, God should be remembered for His times of deliverance!
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.