Tag Archives: Xerxes

Courage is remembered! — Esther 9:1-5, 18-23, 26-28

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…

READ: Esther 9:1-5, 18-23, 26-32

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!

Conclusion:
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.

Advertisements

Comments Off on Courage is remembered! — Esther 9:1-5, 18-23, 26-28

Filed under Sermon Notes

Courage triumphs when we are delivered! — Esther 8

Courage triumphs when we are delivered! — Esther 8
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 26, 2013 AM

We live in a day and age whereby there are a lot of Christians blandly sitting by waiting for God to “do something.” They have forgotten that God regularly works through His people who are willing to follow Him, no matter what the personal cost, in order for Him to “do something.” If you want your nation and world changed, God desires that you “do something” for Him. Jesus’ last command to His followers, was for all of them to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV) Deliverance of God’s people comes when God’s people have enough courage to “do something” for Him. Esther and Mordecai found this to be true and in the process discovered that courage triumphs when we are delivered!

Although the king had elevated him to a position above “all the other officials”, Haman had felt snubbed by Mordecai. Mordecai was Jewish, whereas Haman was an Agagite. Jews and Agagites had been mortal enemies for nearly a thousand years. Haman then attempted not only to destroy Mordecai but all other Jews as well. He deceitfully manipulated King Xerxes into issuing an edict authorizing the systematic killing of all Jews in the Persian Empire. Unknown to Haman, the queen also was Jewish and the adopted daughter of Mordecai. Esther bravely confronted Xerxes and exposed Haman’s sinister plot. Xerxes immediately had Haman executed. However, the edict remained in effect because of Persian law. How would the Jewish people be delivered?

READ: Esther 8

There are believers who take God’s activity for granted and never expresses gratitude to God. There are also those whose passion for Christ has somewhat cooled because of personal or financial loss. Likewise, there are those who have become so wrapped up in current events they discount everything God has done. They all need to be reminded of how the past helps us to have courage for today. God has not changed. His activity in the past assures us that He is still active. God is at work. We learn through Esther that courage triumphs when we are delivered by…

I. God’s reward at our request! (Vv. 1-7)

1. God had sovereignly worked in various circumstances so that the Jews could be delivered. Now it was the Jews’ turn. They would have to fight to retain what was theirs. They had to actively take part in their own deliverance. The same day Haman was hanged, Esther was given his estate as a gift by the king. Esther knew she had to disclose her true purpose fully, and as “Mordecai came into the presence of the king” it was then Esther who “told how he was related to her.” “The king took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai.” What had been Haman’s prideful prize was now on his hated enemy’s finger! But notice that ” Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping. She begged him to put an end to the evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews.” Her work for the Lord was not finished. Esther had to show her courage one more time in order for her people to be delivered by God. “Then the king extended the gold scepter to Esther and she arose and stood before him.” Since the edict to exterminate the Jews (3:13) was still in effect, something had to be done. She and Mordecai were relatively safe, for no one would now dare touch them. However, Esther did not stop with securing safety for herself and for her relative. She was determined that all of her people be safe. The king had rewarded them, but now they needed him to answer Esther’s request. Esther emphasized the hurt that the edict would cause her if carried out, “For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?” The king understood that as an absolute monarch his laws could not be revoked, even by himself. However, he could grant Esther and Mordecai the power to change the law, “Now write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring—for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.” We learn through Esther that courage triumphs when we are delivered by God’s reward at our request!

EXAMPLE: Today we celebrate Memorial Day. It reminds us of all those who willingly gave their lives for our freedom. That is what Purim is all about as well. It reminds the Jewish nation of how a young girl and a her brave cousin saved their people from total annihilation. As we remember the men and women who willingly gave their lives for our freedom, we need to also remember that God’s laws always nullify human laws. What human authority cannot change, God can. He maintains absolute sovereignty over everything and does revoke human decrees. Often God wants to exercise His sovereignty through His people. They need to allow God to work through them. More genuine believers need to become involved in politics and government. They should do what they can to influence fair, just, and beneficial legislation. What actions can you take in order to influence legislation on a local, state, or national level? Perhaps God is waiting for you to “do something.” We learn through Esther that courage triumphs when we are delivered by God’s reward at our request!

If we are led to expose a problem, we also need to provide a solution. Church members too often conclude their sole responsibility is to identify potential problems. They mistakenly decide responsibility for the solution is the exclusive domain of the pastor and church staff. Identifying problems without offering possible solutions is merely complaining, which according to James 5:9 is simply “grumbling” and wrong! We find that we can either be part of the solution or a major part of the problem. Esther reminds us that…

II. Our deliverance comes from God’s decree! (Vv. 8-11)

1. Though Haman’s decree could not be revoked, a second one could supersede it. Xerxes even gave Mordecai authority to write the decree any way he wished and to stamp it with the king’s authority by using his signet ring. This edict permitted Jews to defend themselves on the day Haman’s edict permitted their enemies to attack them. The language paralleled that of Haman’s decree. The new edict called for exacting retribution against the Jews’ enemies. The Jews could defend themselves with the same measures and weapons brought against them. “The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies.” Interestingly, Jesus gave His disciples the same authority over their enemies as well, “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.´(Matthew 10:1 NIV) It was according to Jesus’ absolute authority. He reminds us that Satan has fallen because of Him (Luke 10:18) and because of His authority given to us we have the power over evil influences in our lives as well, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Luke 10:19 NIV) No evil of man can ultimately harm us when we are safely His. Our deliverance comes from God’s decree! Notice that “At once the royal secretaries were summoned—on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan. They wrote out all Mordecai’s orders to the Jews, and to the satraps, governors and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush.” The king’s authority was carried out by Mordecai whose ruling was carried out by others! Just as ” Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes,” we follow God in the name of Jesus! Just as it occurred in Esther’s day, our deliverance comes from God’s decree!

EXAMPLE: Governments throughout history have issued edicts in order to get rid of segments of society those in power did not like. Haman tried it with the Jews, Hitler did the same thing, mass murdering 14 million people. An attempt by Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot to form a Communist peasant farming society resulted in the deaths of 25 percent of the country’s population from starvation, overwork and executions. The Eugenics Society of America, which became Planned Parenthood, has resulted in the mass murdering of millions of the unwanted, the vast majority being ethnics, by governmental edict. Throughout America’s history, men and women have raised up, joined the military, and fought against such oppression. America faces its greatest enemy that could result in the death of millions of innocent people. Esther’s people could have never been freed if she had not gotten involved, and if the new edict had not been shared in every language of the empire. Our enemy today is the apathy of Christian believers who have hunkered down in their Sunday pews rather than going out and sharing the new edict of God. It is time for God’s Army to rise up and fight the good fight and share the new edict, the new testament, the gospel of God! Never forget that our deliverance comes from God’s decree!

The Persian Empire stretched from India to Greece and into Africa as far as Cush, the region south of Egypt. This immense region was populated with various nationalities and ethnic groups. Numerous tongues and dialects were spoken. The new decree was translated into every one of these languages. Then couriers were dispatched to carry it to the various provinces of the empire. The result was tremendous. We discover from Esther that…

III. When we follow God’s command, a celebration results! (Vv. 12-17)

1. The decree Mordecai wrote was sent out in the third month… Sivan (June-July) 474. Since this was a little over two months after Haman’s decree the Jews had about nine months to prepare themselves for the conflict. Here we find again the providential care that God takes of those He has chosen. Even though they have entirely fallen from all outward relation to Him, are deprived of all the rights of God’s people, and are stripped of the promises, God watches over and takes care of them-a people beloved and blessed in spite of all their unfaithfulness. Does this sound familiar, it should. The drama is fascinating! “A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies. The couriers, riding the royal horses, raced out, spurred on by the king’s command. And the edict was also issued in the citadel of Susa.” Like the Minutemen or Paul Revere of America’s Revolutionary War, the couriers of Persia race throughout the kingdom with the king’s decree, issued by the king’s right-hand man, Mordecai! Notice the change. No longer is Mordecai sitting outside by the king’s gate, now “Mordecai left the king’s presence wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen!” The decree was sent and God’s people are triumphant! “And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration.” God holds the reins by His providence; He watches over the accomplishment of His purposes and over everything necessary to their fulfillment; and He cares for His people, whatever may be their condition or the power of their enemies. “For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor.” And ” In every province and in every city, wherever the edict of the king went, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.” Esther teaches us that when we follow God’s command, a celebration results!

EXAMPLE: In the US Capitol building there stands a statue honoring one of the “Black Regiment.” It is a reference to the brave clergy who left their pulpits to fight for America’s freedom. Pastor Peter Muhlenberg knew he could not stand behind his pulpit while men were dying for his freedom. In 1775 he concluded his sermon with these words, “There is a time for all things — a time to preach and a time to pray; but those times have passed away.” Then raising his voice, which sounded like a trumpet call, he exclaimed, “There is a time to fight, and that time has now come!” He set aside his pastoral garments and pulpit Bible, and stood before his congregation in the full uniform of a Virginia Colonel. He ordered drums to be beaten for recruits to join him and almost the entire male audience did, nearly 300 men enlisted on the spot! Later, he became one of Washington’s primary generals. Massachusetts affirmed the truth of fighting for God’s freedom in by printing, giving every church of every denomination the best way to promote the Declaration of Independence. They issued an order that it be read on Sunday form every pulpit in the State! We owe our freedom to the truths of God’s gospel as declared and fought for by our forefathers. We must never forget those who have died for our freedom. And as believers, we must join the battle. The reason is obvious: Esther teaches us that when we follow God’s command, a celebration results!

Conclusion:

Now is the time to stop waiting for others to “do something” in your church and in your nation. We learned through Esther that courage triumphs when we are delivered by God’s reward at our request; our deliverance comes from God’s decree; and when we follow God’s command, a celebration results!

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.

Comments Off on Courage triumphs when we are delivered! — Esther 8

Filed under Sermon Notes

Courage triumphs with truth and justice! — Esther 7

Courage triumphs with truth and justice! — Esther 7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 19, 2013 AM

Esther had invited King Xerxes to bring Haman and attend a special banquet she had prepared. Haman’s status appeared to be secure. This new development seemed to reinforce his reputation. Haman must have thought only the king rivaled him in power and prestige. Haman’s morale had soared. Then, he encountered Mordecai, who “didn’t rise or tremble in fear at his presence” (v. 9). Mordecai remained seated. When Haman told his wife and friends what occurred, they advised him to build a gallows 75 feet high on which to hang Mordecai. He did so and that night Haman slept soundly, secure in his plans to bring about the demise of Mordecai and in his elevated status.

In contrast, King Xerxes was restless. Seeking reprieve from his insomnia, he requested his servants read to him from his chronicles; and was reminded how Mordecai had exposed a plot to assassinate him. Xerxes sought Haman’s counsel. Ironically, Haman thought he would receive the honor and greedily suggested the honoree be dressed in the king’s garment, placed on the king’s horse, and paraded through the king’s city while a member of the king’s court proclaimed the individual’s praises. Betrayed by his conceit and humiliated, Haman was forced personally to lead Mordecai throughout the city of Susa Haman was summoned to the queen’s second banquet before he could recover. There matters would only grow worse. In what transpires next, we discover that courage triumphs with truth and justice! Let’s discover how…

READ: Esther 7

In the past several days, we have learned of the IRS being used as a means of intimidation; that the American people were lied to about what occurred in Libya and the murder of our Ambassador; and how the Administration tapped the phones and emails of the press without their knowledge. My father used to say, “You can always tell when a politician is lying, when their lips are moving.” Things sure have not changed much since Esther’s time, have they? However, we discover that…

I. The truth will set you free! (Vv. 1-6)

1. The writer noted the king was drinking. While the alcohol content of wine in the ancient world was much less, than in today’s wine, nonetheless intoxication was common. Alcohol causes the portion of the brain that determines appropriate conduct to function improperly. Hence, a self-absorbed and powerful individual like Xerxes might be uninhibited. Whether he wished to impress Esther with his greatness or to please her with his love is irrelevant. At that moment, he was willing to listen to any report she made and give her anything she asked. God had orchestrated the moment. The honor paid Mordecai earlier that day, indicated to Esther this was the right time to speak. So without hesitation Esther spoke, “If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request.” Her request shows the courtesy typical of oriental protocol and it also links the queen’s request to the king’s promise. Esther is tacitly reminding the King that three times in two days Xerxes had promised to give her “even to half the kingdom.” What she said next must have stunned him, “For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.” Haman must have realized the implications of Esther’s response! Esther revealed that she and all her people had been marked for death. She quotes from his edict but is careful in choosing her words. She avoided the origin of the edict, Xerxes’ rash promise to Haman, and focused instead on its consequences. Her words imply betrayal. The king had been deceived. The king is enraged. Any plot that involved killing his wife was a personal affront to the king. And he was angry over being duped. Since Esther had not yet mentioned the Jews, the king did not realize she was referring to Haman. So he asked the obvious question, “Who is he? Where is the man who has dared to do such a thing?” Esther truthfully answers, “The adversary and enemy, is this vile Haman.” Haman was terrified before the king and queen. The truth will set you free!

EXAMPLE: “Just tell the truth,” my father would remind us, “and you will not be in as much trouble as if you lie to me.” Telling the truth was extremely important to my Dad. Henry David Thoreau said, “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” Imagine the difference it would make in our world if that theme were heard as often as those catchy and memorable advertising jingles. Truth is essential to all our interactions, from the halls of government, the classroom, the workplace, or the home. My father understood that truth-telling builds trust. It has been said, “If you tell a lie about one thing, it will be tough to believe you about anything.” God is truth and this is why He told His disciples, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 NIV) Haman could not handle the truth, but Esther and Mordecai would quickly realize the truth will set you free!

David would correctly deduce, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalms 20:7 NIV) Haman learned too late to not trust in his own schemes. In fact, Haman’s scheme would be his death. Esther and Mordecai learn that…

II. Justice comes to those who trust in God! (Vv. 7-10)

1. The king becomes enraged, “left his wine and went out into the palace garden.” However, “Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life.” Haman is true to his character to the end, he begs like the dog he is. His begging comes to no good because “Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining. The king exclaimed, ‘Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?’ As soon as the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.” This means as soon as the king spoke an angry word they covered Haman’s head, as a condemned man, not worthy any more either to see the king or to be seen by him; they marked him for execution. On learning of Haman’s treachery by “Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king”, the king commanded that Haman be hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. While the height of the gallows (75 feet) may seem exaggerated, it was consistent with Haman’s vanity. Or it may imply the gallows were erected on a high hill. Either way, the gallows was certainly intended to show everyone in the community that Haman had destroyed the person who dared to humiliate him. Ironically, Haman would die on the gallows and the community would know the Lord had destroyed the person who dared to try to destroy His people. Xerxes had heard enough. He ordered the immediate execution of Haman. His death was poetic justice, dying on the gallows built for Mordecai’s death. An object Haman erected to show his power and prestige disclosed his absolute lack of both. This decision to put him to death alleviated the king’s personal anger. But it did not grant Esther’s request or desire. The edict to rid the empire of the Jews remained in effect. Yet, it proves that justice comes to those who trust in God!

EXAMPLE: David McCasland writes, “In our life of faith, our resources can become the enemy of trust. God wants us to depend on Him, not our own strength, whether physical, financial, or intellectual.” Haman absolutely trusted in himself, in what he could do, and in his wealth. There are those in our world that believe that their life should be built on trusting in education, in their wealth, or in their fame, but ultimately we need to realize God desires that we depend totally on Him alone. We cannot say we believe in God and trust in other things instead of Him. He calls it idolatry. Haman would learn too late that justice comes to those who trust in God!

Conclusion:

The truth will set you free and justice comes to those who trust in God!

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.

Comments Off on Courage triumphs with truth and justice! — Esther 7

Filed under Sermon Notes

Courage triumphs when we are vindicated by God! – Esther 6

Courage triumphs when we are vindicated by God! – Esther 6
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 12, 2013 AM

Over the years, I have learned to listen more intently to what people say because the words they use reflect what they truly believe about themselves and others. Recently, I listened to a speech given by a national political figure and began to count the number of times he used the terms “I” and “me.” In a 20 to 30 minute speech, he referred to himself over 20 times and for the people and nation he is supposed to serve, he only offhandedly referred to them twice. What do you think this politician’s speech says about himself? We truly live in the “me first” generation. Interestingly today we celebrate mothers who often do not have that kind of luxury.

Haman was a “me first” kind of guy. Again, how he came to power or into the King Xerxes’ circle we are not told, but we can speculate that it was probably due to the fact he was very wealthy. Remember, Haman was not Persian but rather an Agagite. He was more than likely descended from the royal family of the Amalekites, the bitterest enemies of the Jews, as Agag was one of the titles of the Amalekite kings. He or his parents were brought to Persia as captives taken in war like Esther and Mordecai were. Esther and Mordecai display this for us this morning that courage triumphs when we are vindicated by God! Let’s discover how…

READ: Esther 6

The Scottish poet Robert Burns penned the phrase that “the best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry.”Steinbeck later borrowed it for the title of his short story, “Of Mice and Men.” Haman and his plans prove the same concept as does Burn’s poem. However, we discover that courage triumphs when we are vindicated by God. In fact, we find that…

I. Those who live under God’s vindication, realize life is not about “me”! (Vv. 1-9)

1. When Haman told his wife and friends what had transpired, they advised him to build a gallows 75 feet high on which to hang his enemy. He did so without delay. No doubt Haman slept soundly, secure in his plans to bring about the demise of Mordecai and in what he thought was his elevated status. In contrast, Xerxes was restless. Seeking reprieve from his insomnia, he requested his servants read to him from the official court chronicles. They read to him about the occasion Mordecai had exposed a plot to assassinate the king (Esther 2:21-23). “‘What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?’ the king asked. ‘Nothing has been done for him,’ his attendants answered.” Discovering that Mordecai never had received an appropriate reward, Xerxes determined to rectify the oversight the next morning. The King wants to know who was in attendance in the King’s court at the time, and rather deliciously, “Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai on the gallows he had erected for him.” Is God’s timing perfect or what? The King orders Haman be brought before him, and you never refused the Persian King. “When Haman entered, the king asked him, ‘What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?’ Now Haman thought to himself, ‘Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?’” (After all, for Haman, it was all about “me”!) The King seeks Haman’s counsel without identifying who was to be rewarded. Ironically, Haman thought he would receive the honor. There are those who always think life revolves around them, because of education, wealth, prestige, or power. See how men’s pride deceives them. So Haman arrogantly answered the king, “For the man the king delights to honor, have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!’” Haman would soon learn that those who live under God’s vindication realize life is not about “me”!

EXAMPLE: My mom used to remind us, “Life is not about you.” Her life exemplified it. We live in a day and age where many believe that everything in life is supposed to be about them. The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day studied the Old Testament with great diligence. They believed that if one could comprehend the words of the text, he would gain a share in the world to come. God’s word began to be all about them. Similarly, many people today think worship is all about them rather than a means leading to the knowledge of God and godliness. Jesus told them bluntly, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:39-44 NIV) Translation: It’s not all about you. Nor was what was about to occur all about Haman. It was all about God being glorified. In fact, we discover that those who live under God’s vindication realize life is not about “me”!

We live in a microwave theological age. We want deep theology in sixty seconds or less. Yet, the deep truths of God are most often learned over a lifetime of failures and successes. While shows like Revenge cater to our sinful desire to get even, the Bible teaches us something quite different, namely, that vengeance is God’s alone. Curiously, did you know that both Don Corleone of The God Father and Kahn, from Star Trek’s The Wrath of Kahn, have the same phase in common, that, “Revenge is a dish best served cold”? No one is certain where the phrase comes from, but Haman would have liked it. He will soon learn, however, that…

II. God’s people will always be vindicated! (Vv. 10-14)

1. Haman greedily suggested the honoree be dressed in the king’s garment, placed on the king’s horse, and paraded through the king’s city while a member of the king’s court proclaimed the individual’s praises. Haman concludes that he himself is the favorite intended, and therefore prescribes the highest expressions of honor that could, for once, be bestowed upon a subject. His proud heart presently suggested his own tribute. “Go at once,” the King, commanded Haman. “Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.” Betrayed by his conceit, Haman was forced personally to lead Mordecai throughout the city of Susa! Can you imagine how Haman felt? “So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!’” Humiliated by the sudden reversal in his fortune, “Haman rushed home, with his head covered in grief, and told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him.” A deeper mortification he could not have experienced than that of being obliged, by the king’s command, publicly to show the highest honor to the very individual whose execution he was just about to propose to him. The covering of his head is a token of deep confusion and mourning. Haman’s wife and friends offer little consolation and tell him, “Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him—you will surely come to ruin!” Wow! What had started out as a great day for Haman, had now turned into a real bummer of an afternoon! However, before he could ponder on such a pronouncement, “While they were still talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared.” There, at the banquet, matters would only grow worse! Haman would soon learn the truth his wife and his advisers told him, God’s people will always be vindicated!

EXAMPLE: If someone were to judge my mother’s life as one of achievement, they might come away thinking she did not accomplish much. Only a seventh grade education, never earned more than minimum wage, and lived in poverty most of her life. Yet, she worked very hard as a single mother, raise three ornery kids into adulthood, and just turned 92 years old. If we were to judge Jesus’ life at the moment of His death on the cross, we would have to conclude it a failure. However, if we were to wait three days and then view the empty tomb we would come away with a far greater knowledge of who He is! God reminds us that, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV) We can never judge how God is working in our lives when we are in the moment. Esther and Mordecai knew this to be true, remember Mordecai had told Esther, “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 such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) Haman’s arrogance and his eventual downfall teach us that God’s people will always be vindicated!

Conclusion:

Those who live under God’s vindication, realize life is not about “me”! God’s people will always be vindicated!

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.

Comments Off on Courage triumphs when we are vindicated by God! – Esther 6

Filed under Sermon Notes

Courage triumphs when we step out in faith! – Esther 5

Courage triumphs when we step out in faith! – Esther 5
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 5, 2013 AM

My wife is a great cook; she comes from a long line of great cooks. She had to develop her cooking ability and there were a few experiments along the way but for the most part her trials have been great. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everything in life could work out like great cooking? Of course, we know it can’t, but it makes one wish it could, especially if pie was involved! It is during the times of trial that courage triumphs when we step out in faith.

Xerxes had elevated Haman to high office in the Persian court. Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, had not shown Haman the admiration the vile Persian official craved. Haman then used his status with the king to seek revenge against Mordecai. Haman sought payback by wiping out the entire Jewish population. When Esther learned of Haman’s plot, it was not as easy as pie, she eventually decided to intervene for her people. She faced a tremendous decision. Esther’s courage was displayed in her willingness to step out in faith! Let’s discover how…

READ: Esther 5

The stakes were high and the risks were great. Even the queen could be put to death for coming into the king’s presence without being invited, but she had not seen the king in a month! Therefore, Esther prepared herself through fasting and praying. The Jewish people did likewise. After three days, Esther went into the king’s court without being summoned. Esther teaches us that…

I. Courage triumphs when we willingly take a risk for God! (Vv. 1-8)

1. Xerxes recognized Esther’s visit meant she had some request for him. However, when he inquired, she did not immediately reveal what her motivation was. The third day would have been after Esther and the Jews had completed their fasting. This reference emphasizes that whatever Esther did next either was guided by God or was at least what had been promised in His presence. Esther’s attire reminded Xerxes of her status as his wife and his queen. It also drew attention to her natural beauty. Esther’s God-given beauty had first brought her to the king’s attention. Instead, she curiously invited the king and Haman to a banquet. By publicly coming before the king, she was putting her faith in God to the test. Would she receive life or death? The king would decide without deliberation. But Esther’s future was not really in the hands of a Persian king; her fate was in the hands of Almighty God. The king carried a golden scepter as a symbol of his royal authority. The gesture of extending his scepter normally signaled permission for a visitor to approach. The Lord still wants His people to take risks in order to help others. God expects His people to step out in faith when He asks them to do so. Failure to do so reveals a lack of faith in God. God is greater than any danger that obedience might entail. On this occasion, the gesture also indicated King Xerxes would spare Esther’s life. He makes a promise to grant her up to half his kingdom. Half the kingdom was a figure of speech, not a literal offer by the king. Bestowing half his kingdom on Esther would have made her his equal. The phrase conveyed both his comprehension that Esther’s need was not trivial and his willingness to grant her petition whatever it might be. So the king attempted to set his queen at ease and indicated he would do everything possible to grant her request. The idea of a banquet pleased King Xerxes, and there he again offered to grant Queen Esther any petition she might ask. Still she did not mention Haman’s plot. Instead, she invited the king and Haman to another banquet the next day. Courage triumphs when we willingly take a risk for God!

EXAMPLE: Courage is not always popular, especially when it concerns spiritual truth. It makes people uncomfortable. It shows them for what they truly are, sinners. Society has made heroes of anyone who dies before their time, unexpectedly, or who seems innocent in the eyes of others. While it may be sad when someone dies unexpectedly, they are not heroes unless they sacrificed themselves for the greater good or to save another person’s life. In every sense of the word, Esther was not only courageous, she was a heroine! There are very few believers in our day and age who are willing to risk it all for the Lord. We have become comfortable in our church pews, taking our mission vacations of convenience, and serving in camouflaged safety. Esther was courageous. . Courage triumphs when we willingly take a risk for God!

Don’t you just hate the weenies of the world? You know what I mean, those who get angered, hurt, or offended because they were not recognized, exalted, or praised for their ungodly contribution to life. We live in a world whereby many demand recognition of the insignificant. And it seems as if the insignificant are trying to become more and more significant in of themselves! Haman was like that. In fact, from his example we discover that…

II. Cowardice comes when we put ourselves first! (Vv. 9-14)

1. Haman took the two invitations as proof of his exalted importance. When Mordecai still did not honor him, Haman erected a gallows that same night. Not all the best laid plans of mice and men are the best laid plans. While for the moment Haman was secure in his plans for the morrow and likely slept well, the King was restless. However, remember why Haman was so overwrought and angered about Mordecai that he could not enjoy his good position. He was prideful and arrogant. On this occasion, to relieve himself of his personal rage and anxiety about Mordecai, he gathered his family and friends and spent time boasting about the wealth he had amassed and the family he had raised. There are those in our world today that do the very same thing. I have always found it curious that those who are the most vocal about their unbelief are angered and often enraged if you do not believe the way they do. Folks who do not trust in God have to find solace in the things and people of the world. This is why Jesus warned his disciples, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26 NIV) Jesus did not mean that we had to intensely dislike our parents, wife or kids, what He meant was that one had to consider the cost in following Him. One cannot say he loves God and love others more. One’s life must be totally given over to the Lord in order to follow Him. Haman was totally given over to himself, felt he deserved his position and the recognition that came with it. Notice the difference in attitude between Haman and Esther: ” If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request,” and then Haman: ” I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave… But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.” When we are full of ourselves we often fill ourselves with the wrong advice. Haman does. His wife and others suggest, ” Have a gallows built, seventy-five feet high, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai hanged on it. Then go with the king to the dinner and be happy.” Of course, ” This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the gallows built.” Cowardice comes when we put ourselves first!

EXAMPLE: We live in a world whereby those who are ungodly not only want you to agree to their personal perverted proclivity, but they want you to agree with their twisted way of living. Much of what is being proclaimed as tolerance in our day and age has none for those who may disagree on theological, moral, or personal grounds. Isaiah warned us, ” Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” (Isaiah 5:20-21 NIV) Peter wrote, “They mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” (2 Peter 2:18-19 NIV) When the wags of the day were sneering at Jesus’ teaching, He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:15 NIV) Haman teaches us that cowardice comes when we put ourselves first!

Conclusion:
Courage triumphs when we willingly take a risk for God! Cowardice comes when we put ourselves first!

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.

Comments Off on Courage triumphs when we step out in faith! – Esther 5

Filed under Sermon Notes

Following God includes trust, understanding, and risk! — Esther 4:1-17

Following God includes trust, understanding, and risk! — Esther 4:1-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 28, 2013 AM

Tyler felt that after his call from God he should have been given a clear sign. When he sought the advice of others, they cautioned him as to his calling. Most did not see that God was actually calling Tyler to be a pastor. In fact, one of the deacons in the church who taught at the local seminary bluntly told him that he needed to work on his interpersonal skills first. Tyler went ahead, signed up for seminary, and soon was working at a nearby church. Within the year, Tyler had quit seminary and was let go from his church position. Occasionally folks expect God to do everything and then blame Him when things in life do not turn out the way they think they should; this is not only unrealistic, it is unbiblical.

Whatever had been Mordecai’s reasons for not bowing to Haman, he was now in great mourning. His feud with Haman, whether legitimate or not, had caused a great crisis for his whole nation. He feared that God’s Chosen People would be destroyed and God’s program thwarted. He knew the amount of money Haman had agreed to spend on this vast project as he had a copy of the edict, and now he would have to learn that following God includes trust, understanding, and risk. Let’s discover how…

READ: Esther 4:1-17

Julie Ackerman writes, “Spring is the time of year when God reminds us that things are not always as they seem. Over the course of a few short weeks, what appears hopelessly dead comes to life. Bleak woodlands are transformed into colorful landscapes.” She continues, “The faithful arrival of spring every year comforts me when I’m in a situation that seems hopeless. With God, there is no such thing. No matter how bleak the landscape of life may look, God can transform it into a glorious garden of color and fragrance.” Mordecai had reached a winter life experience. He needed to learn that…

I. Following God includes trusting! (Vv. 1-7)

1. Haman had succeeded in passing an irrevocable law authorizing the massacre of all Jews living in the Persian Empire. Because of his favored status with Xerxes, Haman was given great latitude in drafting the legislation. In return, he promised the king an enormous bribe. Haman cast the lot to choose the day for the Jews’ destruction in the first month of the year, which supposedly was the time to find the best day for important events of the coming year. When Mordecai learned of the edict, he immediately mourned the Jews’ fate. Where was God in all of this? Mordecai would learn trust. This mourning involved wearing sackcloth as a public demonstration of grief and pouring ashes on his head. He also went into the center of the city and wept bitterly. Other Jews joined him and expressed their anguish in like manner. Because of his apparel, Mordecai could not enter the royal palace. Anyone wearing sackcloth, according to Persian law, was “prohibited… from entering the King’s Gate” (v. 2). Nevertheless, word spread to the palace concerning Mordecai’s behavior. Esther’s servants and eunuchs told the queen what was happening, and she took steps to learn what was behind it. Esther sent some servants with clothes to replace the sackcloth, wanting Mordecai to stop the public display and to explain the situation. When Mordecai refused, Esther then turned to a trusted servant, a eunuch named Hathach, to secure the desired information. She likely sent him instead of going herself due to the restrictions of Persian law and culture for the wife of a king. Esther soon learned the sensitive nature of this information. Esther had to learn trust as well! She literally had put her life in Hathach’s hands since her identity was still a secret. Both Mordecai and Esther learned that following God means trusting!

EXAMPLE: Bill Crowder wrote that, “Although I try not to be shocked by the things I see these days, I was caught off-balance by the message on the woman’s T-shirt as she walked past me in the mall. The bold letters declared: ‘Hope Is For Suckers.’ Certainly, being naïve or gullible can be foolish and dangerous. Disappointment and heartache can be the tragic offspring of unfounded optimism. But not allowing oneself to have hope is a sad and cynical way to view life.” As those who follow God we must learn to trust Him in every area of our lives. Both Mordecai and Esther learned that following God means trusting!

Why is it we like to hear bad news before we hear good news? There have been TV shows that failed within weeks because they tried to sharing only good news. We not only like getting the dirt on the rich and famous, we like to get the dirt on others in our lives, whether it is relatives, friends, or others. This has infected us within the church as well because before we get all the information we often go on what we think we know instead of what we truly understand. Mordecai and Esther dared not do such a thing. They learned that…

II. Following God includes understanding! (Vv. 8-9)

1. Mordecai fully informed Hathach of Haman’s plot and sent word, through the servant, urging Esther to plead with the king on the Jews’ behalf. The problem seemed impossible to resolve. The Jews could not overturn Haman’s offer. They surely could not outbid what Haman had promised to give the royal treasury (v. 3:9). Mordecai and Esther provide good examples for gaining understanding in order to follow God. When investigating a problem, a wise person restricts the analysis of the problem to facts and does not deal with speculation. Mordecai provided Esther with a copy of the edict. His information was devoid of speculation or hype. When a problem exists, go to the one most in a position to impact the situation. Mordecai sent word to Esther. (As a Jew and condemned to die, he did not want to personally approach the Queen of Persia). Hence, he followed the protocol of Persian society and went to her indirectly. Offering positive, helpful suggestions, Mordecai encouraged Esther to approach Xerxes. The verb “instruct” literally means to command and is used for the instruction of a father to a son. Hathach lacked the authority to command the queen. However, as her former guardian, Mordecai was within his rights to instruct his adopted daughter to take certain actions. Therefore, Hathach’s statement to the queen would convey Mordecai’s command to her. In contrast, the language to be used toward the king was that of an entreaty. Neither Hathach nor Mordecai had the authority to command Xerxes, and neither did Esther. Hathach returned to Esther and told her exactly what he had learned. Living by faith is not living in ignorance. We render to the Lord the most effective service possible by being informed. We need to gain as much information as we can about opportunities of service to which the Lord may be leading us. Following God includes understanding!

EXAMPLE: How many of you read the entire warrantee for some of the things you buy? Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Missy Sullivan noted that many user agreements, warranties, and disclaimers that come with products are nearly unreadable. Intentionally set in very small type, they actually discourage people from understanding them. Because of this, many people don’t read all the terms of contracts before signing them. A university professor of graphic communication pointed to a 32-page user agreement that came with his new smartphone, and said of the company, “They don’t want you to read it.” They do not want to read it because they do not want you to understand it. God desires that we not only try to understand Him, but that we go the extra mile in understanding one another. Following God includes understanding!

There are those in life that are risk takers. These are the folks who start businesses from scratch, work hard, and are not afraid to fail. Often failure teaches us the most in life. God desires that we become risk takers for Him and His kingdom. Mordecai and Esther would learn that there is no such thing as safety in life, especially when is concerns following God. They learned that…

III. Following God includes risk! (Vv. 10-17)

1. Esther continued to employ an intermediary in conversing with Mordecai. Although he was familiar with the danger Esther faced, Mordecai still asked Esther to intervene with the king. As her adoptive father, his instinct was to protect her, but his faith in God led him to place her life at risk for her people. Xerxes possessed life and death authority over his wife. Coming to him without a summons was a serious breach of protocol punishable by death. Since she had not seen the king in 30 days, Esther may have assumed she no longer was in favor at court and she could not understand how her death would improve the situation. When Esther responded fearfully about approaching the king uninvited, Mordecai challenged her by suggesting she perhaps was made queen to save her people. Mordecai warned Esther her status, as queen did not protect her from Haman’s edict. All Jews were to be killed, and she was a Jew. Since she already was sentenced to death, Esther had nothing to lose by approaching the king unbidden. One cannot run away or hide from problems. Not even Esther’s royal status could exempt her from the king’s edict. Her only hope was to approach the king and to risk receiving his wrath. At this moment, the entire purpose of Esther’s life and existence was at stake. Becoming the liberator of her people was more important and significant than being queen, or even than just staying alive. God had made her queen so she could deliver His people. God always places people where they can risk it all for Him. Esther had been more concerned with her safety than with that of her people. Mordecai’s logic had enabled her to make the right choice. Esther decided to risk her life for her people and approach the king. So she requested the Jews in Susa join her in spiritual preparation for her seeing the king. They were dependent on Divine intervention so the preparation involved fasting. The people were to neither eat nor drink for a 72-hour period. Esther promised to do the same, and in doing so, she learned that following God includes risk!

EXAMPLE: Manuel Gonzalez was the first rescue worker to reach the 33 miners trapped for 69 days in a Chilean mine explosion in 2010. At great risk to his own life, he went underground more than 2,000 feet to bring the trapped men back to the surface. The world watched in amazement as one by one each miner was rescued and transported to freedom. We are told of one of the most amazing rescues in history concerning God’s people. It involved great risk for Esther. It teaches us that in following God, it includes risk!

Conclusion:

Following God means trusting! Following God includes understanding! Following God includes risk!

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.

Comments Off on Following God includes trust, understanding, and risk! — Esther 4:1-17

Filed under Sermon Notes

Following God includes loyalty — Esther 3

Following God includes loyalty — Esther 3:2, 5-6
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 21, 2013 AM

Sandra struggled with two seemingly irreconcilable forces in her life. She believed God had called her to be a missionary but she could not believe He would send her to such a dangerous place. Like many Christians Sandra has falsely assumed God’s primary function is to protect, preserve, and prosper His people. They focus on Scriptures that affirm God’s love and care for His own. These believers assume God would not lead them to serve Him where they would be uncomfortable, much less, where there is potential danger. However, God’s objective is to carry out His purposes through His people. Those purposes may require His people to serve Him at great personal risk. The Lord expects His people to exercise faith as they serve Him in the risky situations into which He leads them. Perhaps we forget that following God includes loyalty even when there is risk involved.

The plot of the Book of Esther thickens in chapter 3 with the introduction of the villain. A man named Haman accepted a promotion by King Xerxes to a position of prestige and power. The office to which he was elevated is not stated, but several details about Haman are noted. His father’s name was Hammedatha. He was an Agagaite, which identifies him as a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites during the era of Israel’s early monarchy. Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, teaches us that following God includes loyalty. Let’s discover what occurs…

READ: Esther 3:1-6

One cannot sort-of-kind-of follow God and expect God’s blessings. King Saul failed to learn this lesson and his disobedience affected not only himself but future generations. The Amalekites were a Canaanite tribe who consistently opposed Israel from the exodus out of Egypt to the reign of David. God had ordered Saul to eradicate the Amalekites in a holy war. However, Saul spared Agag until the prophet Samuel voiced the Lord’s displeasure and then executed the Amalekite king. Saul’s failure to completely obey God allowed the Amalekites to survive and to continue to harm Israel. In these verses, we discover that in following God…

I. God alone is worthy of worship and ultimate loyalty! (Vv. 1-3)
1. The writer of Esther portrays King Xerxes as a man easily manipulated by others. The king had ordered his subjects to bow down as recognition of Haman’s status. The Hebrew verb means to fall on one’s knees and bow down. The important aspect was not the posture but the attitude it reflected. The word translated pay homage often is used to denote worship of deity. No doubt Haman’s vanity had influenced Xerxes to order this gesture. The narrative does not state why Mordecai refused to bow. His behavior throughout the story demonstrates his personal loyalty to the Persian king. So his refusal was not a sign of treachery. Nor can it be attributed to some Jewish law against bowing to other humans. The Scripture offers numerous examples of Jews’ bowing to other people: “Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites”, so he could bury his wife Sarah.  (Genesis 23:7 NIV) David honored King Saul after he could have easily killed him, “David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.” (1 Samuel 24:8 NIV) Those who sought audiences with the King of Israel, bowed before him in respect (2 Samuel 14:4). And Bathsheba bowed before David in order to garner his support for Solomon to be king (1 Kings 1:16). However, Mordecai had both religious and political reasons for steadfastly not bowing to Haman. Jewish tradition held that no self-respecting Jew would ever show reverence to an Amalekite. So Mordecai may have seen his refusal as conforming to God’s command to not honor false idols, “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God!” (Exodus 20:5 NIV) Mordecai would have understood that the Persians saw such tribute as an act that bordered on acknowledging the honored individual was a god. In that case, bowing would have been idolatry. I would conclude Mordecai took the risk of offending Haman because he recognized God alone is worthy of worship and ultimate loyalty!

EXAMPLE: What risks have you taken lately for your faith, what risks are you willing to take? Many say they “love” Jesus and we all desire that He love us, but what has our love or His love motivated us to risk for His kingdom purposes. Do your co-workers, classmates, friends, neighbors and family members know you will not bow to the world’s ungodliness? Frank got up from the lunch table and walked out when one of fellow co-workers began telling a crude joke. The jokester snickered, “What a prude Frank is. He thinks he is better than us!” Art looked at him, stood up, and remarked, “No, perhaps he doesn’t appreciate your ungodly crude jokes, and in fact, neither do I.” Art then left the table. Later, as Art was working, the young man who had been telling the joke sought him out and apologized for his poor choice in jokes. He related that his wife did not appreciate his humor either and wondered why. Out of this conversation, this young man and his wife soon were attending Art’s church. Art had shared with him that as a Christian, we show our worship and loyalty to him even by the words we use. Just as Mordecai took the risk of offending Haman because he recognized God alone is worthy of worship and ultimate loyalty, we can as well!

Vowing revenge but scorning to lay hands on a single victim, Haman meditated on the extirpation of the whole Jewish race. He knew they were sworn enemies of his countrymen; and by artfully representing them as a people who were aliens in manners and habits, and enemies to the rest of his subjects, he procured the king’s sanction of the intended massacre. All because “Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor.” Mordecai teaches us that…

II. Identifying one’s loyalty to God can result in hardship!

1. Mordecai’s loyalty to God in not bowing to Haman enraged the Persian. His anger revealed his true character. He was obsessed with his power and prestige and consequently craved constant human praise. His pride left no room for accepting less than unconditional adoration. Therefore, Haman resolved to kill Mordecai for not admiring him as much as he admired himself! The death of just one man would not satisfy Haman’s vanity. So great were his rage and his pride that he resolved in destroying every Jew in the Persian Empire. He believed only this result would be appropriate considering the so-called offense against him. The failed attempt to rid Persia of Jews is the primary plot of the Book of Esther. Identifying one’s loyalty to God can result in hardship. The hardship may affect the individual, God’s people, or both. In the case of Mordecai, it put him and all other Jews in danger. God’s people today sometimes confront hostility when they refuse to give others what God alone deserves. They are to remain steadfast and not allow opposition to lead them to compromise. On the other hand, God’s people must not blame an entire group for the actions of one member as some folks do when they decide to leave a church fellowship over their own personal pride being wounded. When Mordecai failed to show Haman the respect he desired, the Persian determined to eliminate all the Jews from the empire. When Haman cast lots to identify the proper time for his mass murder, it fell in line with God’s purposes. The Amalekites, not the Jews, would be annihilated. Afterwards the Festival of Purim was begun in celebration of the Jews’ deliverance by God from Haman’s evil plans. Haman had persuaded King Xerxes that the Jews threatened the Persian Empire’s national security. To these false accusations, Haman added a bribe and was able to accomplish his aims He obtained a royal decree setting aside a time for slaughtering the Jewish people. Haman’s scheme might have succeeded except for God’s providence. Mordecai’s cousin and adopted daughter was the Queen of Persia. God had placed Esther in a situation where she could make a difference if she trusted Him. When faced with a choice of either remaining complacent or standing for his beliefs, Mordecai learned that identifying one’s loyalty to God can result in hardship!

EXAMPLE: Isn’t it interesting that Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that, your brother has something against you; leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:21-24 NIV) Yet, far too often Christians act like the hated Haman and get easily offended when they are not properly recognized, bowed down to, or respected in the way they think they should be. What a contrast is Mordecai to Haman! Haman wanted and sought after human recognition, Mordecai sought only to honor God. Mordecai learned that identifying one’s loyalty to God can result in hardship!

Conclusion:
God alone is worthy of worship and ultimate loyalty! Identifying one’s loyalty to God can result in hardship!

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.

Comments Off on Following God includes loyalty — Esther 3

Filed under Sermon Notes