For Such a Time as This (Esther 4:9-17)

I always find it interesting when people use a Bible phrase without realizing that what they said was originally a part of Scripture before it became an English language idiom, like: “Nothing new under the sun … the four corners of the earth … out of the mouth of babes … the root of the matter.”

And today’s passage contains another of these: “For such a time as this.”  It really is the key verse of the whole book of Esther.

And even though the book never mentions God, there is such a strong emphasis on the idea of divine providence. And with the Jewish people in peril of extinction — surely to include Esther herself – Mordecai suggests that she may have providentially gained her position as the queen for just this occasion.

4:9 Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”

12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 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 your royal position for such a time as this?”

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.

Providence sometimes is very dramatic, like the time when you are perfectly at the right place at the right time. Such events are the occasional, even rare, incredible moments of life … perhaps even when something appears to be going terribly wrong; but it all turns around.

I suggested on Sunday that perhaps many of you have a providential story about how you met your spouse. I then went on to tell how I first met Diana in college (beyond a casual introduction earlier)… relating how I had a date with another girl. A guy friend of mine was in a very bad place emotionally, and so I brought him along to get him out of the dorm and around people. I told my date to go back up the elevator in the girl’s dorm and bring back the first girl she ran into. It was Diana. Late that night, back in the guy’s dorm, I told my friend (who had a fun evening with our foursome) that I really, really liked that Diana girl and that I was going to marry her. He told me I was crazy to think that. Hah! I knew it that night, though it took A LONG TIME to get Diana to think the same way! But the point here is that it was a providential moment when that elevator door opened.

But more often we see providence in the multitude of small things that come together over a long period of time. Circumstances and events that did not look like much at the time (and in fact appeared to be misfortunes) ultimate eventuate as threads of life woven by God into a garment of beauty over time. Those threads did not look like much at the time, analyzing just a few of them up close even gave an appearance of randomness and clashing colors. But in the end, when it is complete and the final product is visible, it is a thing of beauty.

So often, in the midst of life, things can look very bleak. But looking back gives us a great view from Mt. Perspective, teaching us once again that God was good. And that remembrance gives us confidence going forward.

I have often shared pieces of my own story, of being an illegitimate child that had to be adopted. Everything about it was odd and out of sync. I grew up with my grandparents as an only child (since their three daughters — one of them my actual mother — were all married and gone by the time I could remember much). So that was bad; but no, it was good — because I had a very stable home life and encouragement in all the things that have marked my life.

But when I was age 10, our church splintered into two factions. So that was bad; but no, it was good — because it put me into a church with a great youth program and with the pastor’s sons as my best friends and influences.

So I went to college to study music for a music career, but was more interested in Bible and theology instead. So that was bad; but no, it was good — because music was my foot in the door for a couple of internships and part-time positions.

When in Dallas and an impoverished seminarian, I applied for a significant church music position. The other candidate was (no joking) a total jerk who fooled the church into hiring him. So that was bad; but no, it was good — because two months later I stumbled into a position at twice the pay in twice the church in every way. It was one of the great experiences of my life during those years to serve at Grace Bible Church of Dallas as Minister of Music.

And so on, and so on … the garment of my life has now been woven for a while, and I can look back and see God’s providential hand in every twist of the threads.

So what is the worst or most confusing thing going on in your life right now? Don’t despair. God may have that there to use in some way that you cannot imagine — a way that will result in great good, your pleasure, and God’s glory.

9/28/15 – Living in Dark and Perilous Times (Esther 4:1-8)

We really are fortunate as God’s people in America to live in an extraordinary era. Though we are troubled by the dark clouds of anti-religious, anti-Christian hostility and derision that are gathering on the horizon, still, by all comparisons to most ages in which God’s people have lived, we have it very good.

Persecution and opposition to our faith is par for the course. It is expected. The world’s natural order is in opposition and rebellion against God and truth. Being aligned with God and the Word Incarnate — Jesus Christ — is going to bring down upon us a certain measure of public and personal difficulty.

Jesus said this to the disciples in Matthew 10 — “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues.”  Now isn’t that encouraging? What’s all this sheep stuff about? Shouldn’t we be at the top of the feeding chain by being aligned with Christ?

There are Christians today, somewhere in the world, who are giving their lives for believing in Jesus and boldly refusing to deny him in their culture and in the face of their persecutors. Here is a story from this past week (from Voice of the Martyrs):

Two Churches Bombed in Nepal — Two bombs exploded in churches in eastern Nepal last week, while bombs left at a third church failed to detonate. The attackers left anti-Christian pamphlets at each site. Flyers by the Hindu Morcha Nepal, a Hindu radical group were left at each location. The flyers said that all Christian leaders must reconvert to Hinduism and that the Christianization of Nepal is happening with the support of foreign nations.

It was recently reported that close to 100,000 Christians are being killed every year because of their faith, according to statistics from a Pew Research Survey and the International Society for Human Rights, a non-religious organization. These figures mean that about 273 Christians are killed daily, or 11 every hour.

In the story of Esther, as the news spreads of the plans to eradicate the Jews, Mordecai perhaps has a large response to it out of a sense of personal responsibility in causing the situation …

4:1 – When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.2 But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. 3 In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.

4 When Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther summoned Hathak, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.

6 So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. 7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.

Extreme times call for extreme measures, and as we will see in coming days, for Esther to go before the king as an advocate for the Jewish people was an extreme measure. Up until this point, it was not revealed to King Xerxes that Esther was Jewish. I guess he presumed her to be just another pretty Persian girl from his empire with its amalgamation of people groups.

We are going to talk about the idea of advocacy this week, both in the story and as well of the greater advocate we have in Christ. But today, when thinking of the persecuted church around the world, take a moment to pray for our brothers and sisters who face this reality, even while you read these words and advocate for them before the Father.

Hebrews 13:3 — “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”