Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on September 9, 1979
The hand of our God is upon all them that seek him . . .
Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom
for such a time as this?
EZRA, NEHEMIAH AND ESTHER ARE chronologically the last three historical books of the Old Testament. The last three prophetic books are Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. The men who assembled and canonized the Bible did not arrange the books in chronological order. That is why one of the worst ways to read the Bible is to read it straight through, because you would be reading books that have no connection to what came before and what comes after.
The prophets Haggai and Zechariah preached to strengthen the hands of the people who had given up under government pressure during the events recorded in the book of Ezra. These books deal with events that took place in both Babylon and in the land surrounding Jerusalem. It is difficult to understand these books without studying the background of the prophetic books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, and the historical books of Chronicles and Kings that tell of the carrying away of the people into bondage.
Three successive waves of people were carried away into bondage under the reign of Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, also known as Jehoiakim around 607 BC, the second under Jeconiah around 599 BC, and the third under Zedekiah in 588 BC. Ezekiel prophesied during the time when Nebuchadnezzar took Zedekiah into bondage and blinded him. Zedekiah was the last king to fall, and the 70 years of bondage that Jeremiah had prophesied began at that time.
Isaiah also prophesied of the bondage, and he named Cyrus as the king who would issue the decree that the people could return to their homeland. Daniel saw in the books that the captivity would last only 70 years. We read in the book of Ezra that God stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, who issued the decree. But out of 650,000 people in bondage, only 50,000 responded and returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple in God’s city. Later, after the temple was built, another 9,000 led by Ezra came to strengthen their hands. That means only about 60,000 people, which is less than 10 percent of the 650,000 children of God in Babylon, responded to God’s call.
We are preaching through these books because we are entitled to reach into God’s shelf of promises, remembering “that God is no respecter of persons” in His promises to His children, and that no promise of God is denied to us if we will pick it up in faith. We are building for God’s honor what God has established but has fallen into disrepair. It does not matter why it fell and who caused it to fall; what matters is that God’s work is tumbled down, and we are God’s children who are aware of it. We have been given the strength and the facilities that can be used by God to rebuild it. Our task is to jump at the chance to be God’s instrument.
In Ezra 8, we paused on the phrase “the hand of our God.” The immediate application was the hand of God on the 9,000 as they marched across a terrible wilderness. But it also speaks of God’s care for all His people, and His control and attention to every minute detail of their lives, because they are in His hand. It is time for us to take a side road in our journey through these books to talk about those people in Babylon who were the recipients of the decree to go home and build. What right did God have to uproot those 650,000 people and disturb their work, their plans, their careers, their comfort, their homes and their families? They were in His hand. That leads us to the book of Esther.
The events recorded in the book of Esther took place among those who chose to remain in captivity during the time between the first wave of 50,000 captives who returned under Zerubbabel and Jeshua, and the second wave of 9,000 who returned under Ezra.
Mordecai is the hero of the book. And Esther, who was raised by Mordecai, is the heroine. Mordecai had been carried into bondage during Jeconiah’s reign. Mordecai and the Jews in that land, coming from each of the three periods of captivity, were the ones to whom God sent His appeal when the 70 years of bondage ended.
The book of Esther opens, “Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus . . . which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces . . .” What a vast domain! Verse 5 says that Ahasuerus made a feast for all the people in his palace for seven days. Everyone had more than enough to drink, and with typical male ego, Ahasuerus decided he was going to show off his wife, Vashti the queen. Vashti the queen had also made a feast for the women in the royal house. And “on the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine,” which is a nice way of saying he was drunk, the king sent word to bring Vashti “to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment.” That sure enraged the king. “Therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him. Then the king said to the wise men . . . What shall we do unto the queen?” Imagine these insecure men sitting around saying, “if you let her get away with this, then all the women in the land will despise their husbands. Show her who’s the boss and get rid of her!” So the king got rid of her.
“After these things, when the wrath of king Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered Vashti, and what she had done.” He decided that he wanted another woman to be his queen. So he sent a decree to search the whole land to find a replacement. “Now in Shusan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite; who had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away. And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful,” and Mordecai had raised her as his own child.
When “Esther was brought also unto the king’s house . . . the maiden pleased him.” Mordecai had warned her not to let anyone know about her kinsmen and that she was a Jew. “And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight . . . so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti. Then the king made a great feast.”
Around that time, there were a couple of scoundrels guarding the king’s gate. Take notice of the following verses. Here we see the substance of Mordecai’s loyalty. “In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king’s gate, two of the king’s chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those which kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus,” which means they wanted to assassinate him. “And the thing was known to Mordecai.” He found out about these traitors, and he “told it unto Esther the queen; and Esther certified the king thereof in Mordecai’s name. And when inquisition was made of the matter, it was found out; therefore they were both hanged on a tree: and it was written in the book of the chronicles before the king.” Mordecai’s loyal action to expose these two scoundrels was recorded into the king’s chronicles, and there it rested. Remember that little detail about those chronicles which recorded the truth about Mordecai.
Time goes on. “After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman.” He gave this Haman a “seat above all the princes that were with him. And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence.” Imagine that whole crowd at the king’s gate. Every time Haman passed by they all groveled and bowed down, but not stiff-necked Mordecai. He would not bow!
“Then the king’s servants, which were in the king’s gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king’s commandment?” They would not let up on him. They spoke daily to him, “Why are you so hardheaded? Don’t you know you are going to cause trouble for all of us? It isn’t very much trouble to just nod your head a little bit.” Finally Mordecai had enough, and I can just imagine him saying, “Hundreds of years ago God laid down a commandment: Thou shalt not bow thy knee to anyone other than Me!” The Scripture says that “he hearkened not unto them,” so they told Haman, “for he had told them that he was a Jew. And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath. And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews.”
So in the month of Nisan, “they cast Pur . . . before Haman,” that is, they cast lots. They used this method to decide on a day to execute their plot to destroy the Jews. Then Haman went to the king to persuade him to issue an edict against them. Haman falsely accused God’s people of wrongdoing, saying, “There is a certain people scattered abroad . . . their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver” into the king’s treasury for the people who will destroy the Jews and take all their goods.
“The king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman” and said, “Get on with it.” Letters were sent out by couriers to all the king’s provinces, naming the day that it was going to happen, and the king and Haman sat down to drink some more. “But the city Shushan,” where the Jews lived, “was perplexed. When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and bitter cry.” He even went up to the king’s gate, though it was illegal to go into the gate wearing sackcloth.
“So Esther’s maids and her chamberlains came and told it her.” They took the word to Esther. She wanted to know why Mordecai was doing this, because she was afraid for his life. She sent him a nice set of clothes to wear in place of his sackcloth, but Mordecai would not receive it. He sent a message informing her of what was going to happen to her people, and asked her to make an appeal before the king. She replied, “Don’t you know the law? If I go into the court of the king without him bidding me to come, the penalty is death. If he is displeased and he does not point the golden scepter at me, I shall be slain.” Mordecai sent his reply to Esther: “Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house . . . and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
That is the choice we all must confront. Nobody likes danger, that action that exposes you in a battle. Our natural tendency says, “I can lay low and let the ax fall on somebody else.” Esther was in the very court of the king. The message to her was, “Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.”
Do you know what is the matter with most of the church world today? They do not really believe in the Second Coming of Christ. They do not really believe that the spirit of Antichrist is working in the land, and that every day marches toward that unveiling of the personification of Satan’s seat here on earth, in an earthly government. They do not really believe that history is marching toward the Day of Judgment, and that the only force to hold back Antichrist is the church. They believe that a marriage between earthly government and the church of Jesus Christ can just continue forever. As a result, they are blind to the fact that they, whether consciously or not, are helping to set the stage for, and are vehicles of, the spirit of the false prophet who one day will deliberately help usher in Antichrist.
Some are foolish enough to imagine that even if all of the other children in God’s family fall, they somehow will be spared. Unless the devil is resisted by the prophetic word of truth and obedience, earthly governments will succumb to the devil’s power and to the carnality of this world’s view of things. To those who think that peace can be maintained with government at the price of God’s word and the freedom to serve God, the message is still the same: render to God the things that are God’s.
“Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place,” because God has them in His hand. If Esther, the one who has the first chance to act, does not act, God will bring forth deliverance through some other vessel, “but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed.” When God gives you the chance to participate in His work, you will never be the same again. God’s call is without recall. So when the truth of God’s word comes across your life and you have the opportunity to act and you do not act, you are not going to share in the victory that somebody else brings about.
“Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” God places His man or His woman in the king’s house that His work might be preserved awhile longer. Do you see the ramifications? Had Haman won, there would have been no finishing of the temple. There would have been no building of the walls. There would have been no John the Baptist. There would have been no birth at Bethlehem. There would have been no Savior of the world. Everything was on one woman’s shoulders who was placed in the king’s house for that moment! May God give us the grander view of things. I believe that God’s master plan for the world depends upon us doing what God sent us here to do at this moment. And if you do not believe that, may God open your eyes of understanding.
“Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days.” I want you to notice how God weaves the fabric. That is why I cannot stand today’s so-called Christianity that tries to make everybody fit the same mold. Mordecai could no more have done what Esther was about to do than he could have flapped his arms and flown to the moon. Mordecai was good at unbendingness. He was the man who needed to be at the gate to settle the issue. Esther was in the king’s house. She got there with beauty and with grace. It was now Esther’s time to fulfill God’s purpose.
Esther did not have to wear the armor of Mordecai. See how differently she approaches her responsibility, but the substructure of commitment is the same. I can imagine her saying, “Pray! I’m going to do what I have to do in my place my way, but I want you to fast for three days.” She said, “I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.” May God find one person with that kind of character to hear this word today. “So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.”
Now watch Esther go to work. She fixed herself up pretty, and she came in to the king’s presence. One look was all it took! He not only waved the golden scepter, he said, “Whatever you want, ask me. I’ll give you up to half of my kingdom.” “And Esther answered, if it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him.” So the king gave the order to bring Haman quickly, and they went to the banquet that Esther had prepared. Again the king asked her for her petition, but she only asked that the king and Haman attend another banquet to be held the very next day. Haman was so joyful, he ran home to tell his wife. Her name was Zeresh, which comes from a word that means “gold.” I call her the first “gold digger” in history. Now imagine Haman going home to tell Zeresh, and as he passes by, everybody bows down except Mordecai, and that ruined Haman’s whole day.
“Then went Haman forth that day joyful and with a glad heart: but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he stood not up, nor moved for him, he was full of indignation against Mordecai. Nevertheless Haman refrained himself: and when he came home, he sent and called for his friends, and Zeresh his wife,” and cried on her shoulder. “And Haman told them of the glory of his riches,” and the fact that he was the only one invited to this banquet with the king and the king’s wife. But Haman said, “Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate. Then said Zeresh his wife and all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high.” Isn’t that human pride? Mordecai would have been just as dead hanging from six feet. Why did they have to build a gallows seventy-five feet high? The gold digger said, “You build the gallows, and tomorrow you tell the king that Mordecai must be hanged on it. Then go merrily with the king to the banquet. And the thing pleased Haman; and he caused the gallows to be made.”
Now I want you to see God’s timing. Is it accidental that Ahasuerus could not sleep that night? Think of it: of all the nights, that was the night he could not sleep. And he could not think of anything that would make him sleepier than having official documents read to him. So “he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king. And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus.” Remember back when Mordecai had faithfully reported this incident? Do you suppose that, with all the chronicles to read, the king just happened upon that one passage? It was God’s hand! “And king said, What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this?”
Nobody will do as much real good for the substance and fiber of the people in this land as the preachers who preach God’s word. We are not the enemy. The very character that makes us not bow our heads when God is being intruded upon by Caesar is the same character that will make us obey God when we have to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” Mordecai was not the enemy, and the king saw this. And the king asked, “Now what have they done to reward Mordecai?” Nothing!
Ahasuerus said, “Who is in the court? Find somebody in the house!” Haman had just arrived in the king’s court to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai. So the servants said, “Haman just walked in.” Isn’t that another interesting coincidence? The king said, “Well, bring him to me.” The king said to him, “Haman, what would you suggest that the king do to someone the king wants to honor above all others in his kingdom?” Haman thought to himself, “I got here just in time! The king must certainly want to honor me!” So he told the king, “Give him a royal robe, let him borrow your crown, let him ride the royal animal and have somebody lead him through the streets of the city, saying, “This is what is done to the man whom the king wishes to honor.’”
Haman was thinking, “Any minute now, I am going to get the crown, the robe and the royal animal.” The king said, “That’s the best idea I could ever think of! Go get the animal and the robe. Here is the crown. Now go put it on Mordecai and lead him through the streets!” Then Haman did all that the king commanded. After having done this, Haman went home and told Zeresh his wife, and like all gold diggers, when she saw that another man was riding higher than Haman, she changed sides and said, “You’re going to lose!” The “came the king’s chamberlains, and hasted to bring Haman unto the banquet that Esther had prepared. So the king and Haman came to banquet with Esther the queen.”
The king asked Esther, “What do you want?” Esther said, if I have found favor in your sight, and if it please the king, spare my life, and my people at my request: for we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed.” Notice how subtle she was. She said, “I wouldn’t ask you, if we were just going to be sold as slaves. I wouldn’t be bothering you. I would just go and be a slave. But we are going to be slain. I know you don’t want that.” The king became enraged and said, “Who is going to do this to you?” And Esther said, “The enemy is that wicked Haman!” The king stood up and was so angry that he stormed out!
Then Haman tried to plead with Esther for his life while the king was outside in the palace garden. The king came back in and there was Haman on is wife’s bed with his wife, trying to talk her into interceding for him. The king said, “You dirty, low-down snake! Would you try to molest my wife in my own house.” One of the chamberlains said to the king, “There just happens to be a gallows down at his house, 75 feet high.” The king said, “Hang him on it!”
On that same day the king gave Haman’s house to Esther, and Esther set Mordecai over the house. The king put his ring on Mordecai’s hand. “And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple.”
We have seen these colors in the symbolism of the tabernacle in the wilderness: blue typifying God’s eternal nature, white symbolizing the perfect Man and His righteousness, gold symbolizing His divinity, and purple His kingship. I remember listening to a lady missionary preaching on these verses in the jungle heat of Binalonan in the Philippines. She said, “What do you want? Do you want a little comfort and ease here and now that comes from bowing your head, or do you want the ring of the King, a crown of gold, and a robe of blue, white and purple in eternity?”
The king asked Esther, “What more can make you happy?” Esther said, “There is still the edict that on a certain day, people are going to go out like bounty hunters to kill my people and take their goods.” The king said, “Let Mordecai write another edict, and send horsemen to every part of the land. Let the Jews slay the ones who come to slay them, and let them take their spoil.” Everywhere in the land the edict went, the Jews slew the bounty hunters. But like Abram, they did not take any of their spoil because God was their supply. Esther 8:16 says, “The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour.” And all the kings, and all the local governments, and all the local satraps, when they saw what was happening, helped the Jews out of fear, and many people became Jews, “for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.”
The Feast of Purim was instituted at the order of Mordecai. Ever after, they were to remember this day for two days with great joy and gladness, because one woman in the place where God had put her said, “If I perish, I perish, but I will do what is right,” and because Mordecai had refused to bow his head.
God is in control. Those 600,000 people had refused to raise themselves up from Babylon when God’s house needed their help. But they all would have been slain if God had not spared them. God could have let them be wiped out, but in His grace He did not.
We are in God’s hands. If God could use Mordecai and Esther to save His people and help set the stage for His Son to come, God is also going to use us. He will write the last chapter, and we will have our Feast of Purim one great day.
Reprinted with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott
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