Sermon audio here.
Esther was queen in an unusual place. You wouldn’t expect to find a Jewish woman reigning in Persia. It would be sort of like an Egyptian becoming president of the United States. Plus, some Persians once convinced King Darius to throw Daniel to the lions. While good things happened to the Jewish people under the reign of the Persians, it was nevertheless an unlikely place for a Jewish woman to be queen.
Not only was Esther queen in an unusual place, her rise to power was equally unusual. It all began at a party with lots alcohol. King Ahasuerus had just spent 180 days showing off, as Esther 1 says, “the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness,” (v. 4). So then the King throws this wild party, and by the seventh day, his heart is “merry with wine” (v. 10). Then he gets the bright idea to parade around his wife, Queen Vashti, in front of his princes like some sort of a trophy.
Queen Vashti didn’t like this very much and refused to come. This made the king furious and he decreed that Vashti was never to come before him again. Now the search for a new queen was on, reality-TV style. The king gathered together all of the most beautiful virgins in his kingdom and they were given a whole year to prepare themselves to meet the king. They were supposed to spend six months beautifying themselves with oil and myrrh, and another six months with spices and ointments. The king would then choose the winner, and season one of “Persia’s Most Eligible Bachelor” would come to an end.
Esther won the beauty pageant, and it’s a good thing she did. Haman, the prime minister of Persia, was sort of an ancient version of Hitler. He wanted to kill all of the Jews because Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, refused to bow down and pay homage to him. To this day when the book of Esther is read on the feast of Purim, the Jews hiss when Haman’s name is mentioned.
Little did Haman know that the Queen was Jewish (he certainly didn’t expect to find a Jewish queen in Persia), or that Esther and Mordecai were related. This puts Esther in a position to save her people, but not without great risk. Esther finally reveals Haman’s plot to the king, but she’s speaking against the prime minister to a king who sent his first wife away for much less. By the grace of God, the king listens and Haman is hanged on the very same gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.
God’s name never mentioned even once in Esther, a fact which has caused more than one person to wonder what the book of Esther is doing in the Bible at all. On the surface, it’s an interesting story about the rise of an unlikely girl to power who prevents the genocide of her people. Yet, God is at work the whole time to defend His people.
In fact, this is how God typically works. Rarely does He intervene with a parting of the seas or fire and brimstone from heaven. Most of the time He works through the ordinary, mundane circumstances of daily life. God usually provides for the needs of children by the hand of their parents. Your daily bread comes from God Himself, who gives it to you through the labor of farmers and those who work at the grocery store.
It’s easy to forget that God provides you with clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land animals and all you have, but He does. He richly and daily provides you with all that you need to support this body and life. He defends you against all danger and guards and protects you against all evil. You can’t see Jesus and His holy angels, but they are with you and watching over you always. As we sing:
I walk with angels all the way,
They shield me and befriend me;
All Satan’s pow’r is held at bay
When heav’nly hosts attend me;
They are my sure defense,
All fear and sorrow, hence!
Unharmed by foes, do what they may,
I walk with angels all the way.
I walk with Jesus all the way,
His guidance never fails me;
Within His wounds I find a stay
When Satan’s pow’r assails me;
And by His footsteps led,
My path I safely tread.
No evil leads my soul astray;
I walk with Jesus all the way.
(LSB, 716; st. 4–5)
Today we remember and give thanks to God for Esther, because through her courage, God protected her people from certain death. Esther could have easily suffered a worse fate than Vashti and been executed for treason, but she was willing to take that risk because Esther was a Christian. She was merely a branch who, in this case, continued to abide the True Vine, our Lord Jesus. Esther reminds us that abiding in Christ is to put the good of others before your own good, just like our Lord did. To keep His commandment is to look not only to our your own interests, but also to the interests of others. To abide in Christ is to abide in His self-giving love.
But you haven’t, which is why Jesus not only risked His life for you, but gave it up. Esther had Haman killed for his treachery. What Jesus did for you would have been like if Esther willingly took the fall for Haman. Who would be crazy enough to die for their enemies? Jesus is.
For while you were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6–11).
And so we pray:
O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but Thy pure love alone;
Oh, may Thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown!
All coldness from my heart remove;
My ev’ry act, word, thought be love.
(LSB, 683; st. 2)
Soli Deo Gloria
+Rev. Eric Andersen
Esther 7:1–10; Romans 5:1–11; St. John 15:1–13
The Commemoration of Esther, 2015: Crazy Enough to Die for His Enemies
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