God puts each of us in the right place at the right time for His purposes. The events of Esther take place after the exile when most of the Jews returned to Jerusalem under the leadership of Nehemiah and Ezra. Babylon has been defeated and Persia is the world power - extending from northern Africa all the way to India.
Esther: The Right Place at the Right Time
The Book of Esther reminds us that God never forgets His people because He has made promises to them. He is not just present in Jerusalem but in pagan palaces. Interestingly, God’s name is never used in the book but His fingerprints are everywhere. He may be invisible but He is never indifferent.
5 primary characters - 3 of them are fairly positive models that we can follow and 2 of them are negative examples to avoid. Let’s start with the bad guys -
• King Ahasuerus (Xerxes): Ruler of the world. Focused on money, sex and power.
• Haman: The villain.
• Queen Vashti: Woman of conviction who refused to cooperate with her husband’s drunken demands.
• Queen Esther: Shows both inner and outer beauty; goes through an identity crisis.
• Mordecai: Foster father of Esther; a man of integrity and faith.
The Miss Persia Pageant Ch. 2
King Ahasuerus throws the “mother of all parties” that lasts 6 months! Persian parties were known to have up to 15000 guests. When this party was over, he hosted another one that lasted 7 days. On the last day of the party, the King commanded his gorgeous wife to come out and parade in front of all his drunken men. She told him to go and jump because she didn’t want to be stared at by a bunch of crude men. The king was angry and embarrassed so he ordered her banished from the kingdom and we don’t hear from Queen Vashti again.
A couple years later, the King decides it’s time to find another Queen. His attendants tell him to hold a Miss Persia Pageant. Mordecai, who heard about the upcoming contest, told Esther all about it. When the king saw her, he ended the pageant immediately, gave Esther a rose and took her as his wife.
But no one knew she was Jewish. It’s at this point that we begin to see the invisible finger of God at work behind the scenes. One day when Mordecai was sitting outside the king’s gate, he overheard 2 disgruntled employees talk about assassinating the king. Mordecai alerted Esther and she warned her husband. The King had the 2 conspirators killed. This incident was recorded in the official royal records but Mordecai was not rewarded.
Haman’s Arrogance Ch. 3
Fearing for his life, the King had a massive shakeup in his government and promoted a power-hungry politician named Haman to be his right hand man. Haman is a slimy character and is an Agagite - descendants of Esau and enemies of God’s people.
Haman was a proud person who demanded that everyone bow before him. Everyone did - except Mordecai – v. 2. Mordecai’s refusal really got under Haman’s skin – v. 5. When Haman found out that Mordecai was a Jew, he looked for a way to destroy all the Jews in the empire. Haman’s anti-Semitic feelings dominate him as he puts together a plan for an ancient holocaust. Haman bribed the king in order to get him to issue a decree to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews on a set day in the spring. This amount of silver weighed over 300 tons! He was basically funding the extermination of the Jewish race from the face of the earth. This day of slaughter was determined by the rolling of dice - Hebrew pur - Feast of Purim - still celebrated today.
Esther’s Courage Ch. 4
When Mordecai hears about this, he stops eating and begins to weep and wail loudly – v. 1. Queen Esther hears about her foster father’s mourning and sends a servant to get more information.
Mordecai pleads with Esther to use her position to protect the Jews – v. 8. Esther’s initial response shows her fear because no one knew she was Jewish. When Mordecai hears Esther’s hesitancy, he turns up the heat and makes a very convincing closing argument – v. 13, 14 - The pivot point in the book -
1. Uncomfortable choice - Don’t think you’ll escape the holocaust when it happens. You’ll be wiped out just like everyone else when it becomes clear that you are one of God’s chosen people. It’s time for you to choose to live out your identity.
2. Unshakable hope - If you don’t do something, God will send someone else. God can just as easily use another person to accomplish His purposes. God will accomplish all He intends, regardless of our involvement. Esther is important but she’s not indispensable.
3. Unavoidable duty - God has positioned you exactly where He wants you for His purposes. Esther, this is your purpose in life! This is what God has made you to do!
Esther’s faith and courage then begin to kick in. She instructs all the Jews in Susa to spend 3 days fasting. By calling people to fast, she acknowledges that she needs the help only God can provide. After she replenishes her spiritual tank, she tells Mordecai that she will go into the king. She decides to risk her life and says courageously – v. 16. She is willing to take a stand and put her life on the line in order to benefit others.
Esther’s Request Ch. 5
You can almost hear Esther’s heart pounding as she walks down the long corridor to the king’s chamber. When the King sees Esther he smiles – v. 3. Esther told the King that she would like him to bring Haman to a special banquet. After dessert is served, the King once again asks Esther what she wants. You can feel the suspense building as she tells him to bring Haman to another feast the next day and then she’ll tell him.
Haman is now feeling pretty confident because he is the only one invited to eat with the king and queen 2 days in a row! v. 9 - But, as he was leaving he spotted his nemesis Mordecai at the front gate. Maybe now Mordecai would give him the honour he deserved. But Mordecai didn’t even acknowledge him when he walked by. He was filled with rage but controlled himself because he knew that Mordecai and his people would soon be eradicated by the king’s edict.
When Haman got home he called all his friends together and told them about his rise to the top – v. 12, 13. His wife and his friends come up with a great idea. They encourage Haman to erect some scaffolding and ask the King to hang Mordecai from it. Haman is thrilled and has some workers construct it right away. He could hardly sleep that night knowing that in the morning he would finally be rid of Mordecai the Jew.
Mordecai Honoured Ch. 6
But here’s where the plot thickens. There’s one other person who can’t sleep that night. The King ate too much at the Queen’s banquet and was up getting some Rennies - a case of holy heartburn. Because he was restless, he asked one of his servants to read from the official records. This would surely put him to sleep! As he started to doze off, he sat up when he heard about what Mordecai had done several months earlier to save his life and was embarrassed that he had forgotten to do anything special for him.
This is another example of God’s providence because the librarian had 12 years worth of records to read from and he “just happened to” pick the one about Mordecai! At that precise moment, Haman “just happened” to arrive at the court so that he could be first in line to talk to the King about hanging Mordecai. The King decides to ask Haman a simple question – v. 6. Haman was certain the King was talking about him so he stuck his chest out and said – v. 8, 9.
The King liked that idea and then told Haman to do as he suggested for Mordecai the Jew! Haman had to honour the one he hated! He obeyed the king but probably didn’t have a very good attitude about it. His only comfort was knowing that all the Jews would be killed shortly.
Haman Hanged Ch. 7
That night Haman showed up for Queen Esther’s banquet. While he once desired her delicacies, my guess is that he now dreaded what might happen. Once again the King asked Esther what she wanted and this time she was ready – v. 3, 4.
Notice how she identifies herself as a Jew - “my people…we have been sold, I and my people…” The King didn’t understand until now that his queen was one of God’s covenant people and that he had unknowingly signed her own death warrant! He then asked –v. 5. Esther calmly replied – v. 6.
A look of horror falls on Haman’s face as he fell out of his chair. The king flew into a rage and went out for some fresh air to clear his thoughts. Haman then begged Esther for his life but just as the King came back he “just so happened” to see Haman leaning on the Queen. Persian protocol forbade anyone from coming within 7 paces of the queen and now Haman is trying to hit on his wife! The King exclaimed – v. 8.
Haman was then led out of the palace and hung on the death machine he had constructed for Mordecai! The King then supplied weapons and soldiers so the Jews could defend themselves. Because of Esther’s stand, her people are now saved!
Lessons to Learn
1. Vashti: Take a Moral Stand.
Queen Vashti knew that her morals would have been compromised had she walked into that room full of drunken men. She would not cross the line because she valued her dignity. She did not tolerate being abused by her husband. Real men do not objectify or abuse women. If you’re in an abusive relationship, can I encourage you to get some help?
Do you need to take a moral stand in your relationships? Is someone trying to get you to compromise your sexual morals? Hold your ground. If you’ve already crossed the line, ask God for forgiveness and make a fresh commitment to have some moral courage. It’s never too late.
Though Queen Vashti did the right thing, she lost her position of royalty and was banished from the kingdom. You may take a moral stand and say “no” to sex outside of marriage and be made fun of. Or, you may even be dumped for someone else. Is this easy? No, it requires some courage. Is it worth it? You bet it is. It’s much better to be virtuous like Vashti than to be sensual like Samson.
2. Mordecai: Take a Spiritual Stand.
Mordecai was unwilling to worship anything, or anyone other than God. Are you man enough or woman enough to take a spiritual stand today? Do you have enough courage to believe that Jesus died for your sins and that He rose again? Do you have enough courage to stand up and be counted as a Christ-follower? Do people around you even know that you’re a Christian?
Let’s speak up for what we believe. If you’re a born again believer and have not been baptized yet, take the plunge as soon as possible.
3. Esther: Take a Positional Stand.
When the book opens, Esther is passive, but then she becomes proactive, realizing that God had put her in a position to make a difference. She demonstrated extreme courage by doing something that could have caused her own death. Don’t ever think that you are insignificant. God has put you where you are to make a difference.
Esther eventually realized that she was on the same team with all the other Jews in the kingdom. God has put you in your family for a specific reason. He has placed you in your neighborhood to be salt and light. He has enrolled you in the school you’re in to influence lives. You have your job so that you can communicate Christ to your co-workers. God has placed you exactly where you are for a reason. Esther had to settle her identity and recognize that God wanted to use her position for His purposes to help His people.
Who we are and where we are carries a heavy responsibility. Each of us has a God-given niche only we can fill. He created you on purpose for a purpose. I wonder if we miss opportunities simply because we’re whining about our work, or complaining about our classmates, or knocking our neighbors.
4. God: Recognize His Sovereignty.
A “coincidence” is simply a time where God has chosen to act anonymously. He may be invisible, but He’s invincible. His will, will be done.
Expect to see God in the ordinary and you will be overwhelmed by how many times you find Him. God is always at work as He shifts, directs and guides everything for His glory and our good! Even when He seems to be most hidden He is still present and working to protect and deliver His chosen people.
Life is filled with appointments, not accidents. When we are unfaithful, God remains faithful to His Word and to His covenant promises. God places His people in particular places at particular times to accomplish His particular plans.
I’m going to ask you to stand if you’re willing to maximize your ministry potential. • Have been moved to make a moral stand?
• Are you ready to stand spiritually for the Saviour? • Will you commit to use your position as a platform for the kingdom of God?