Esther 1:1-22 Sermon Notes

Esther 1:1-22

God Providentially Makes the Way for Esther Through a Drunken National Celebration and a Rebellious Queen. 

God rules over every detail. Nothing will prevent God from fully establishing his kingdom on earth as in heaven. 

All nations and kings and individuals, in spite of their efforts, plot in vain as they fall under the sovereign hand of God. They must all serve God’s eternal ends either willingly or under God’s compulsion. 

Psalms 2 is most applicable as we study through Esther. 

Introduction to Esther

  1. The book of Esther never one time mentions God’s name, and it does not even allude to God the least bit.
  1. I would argue that Esther is perhaps the most effective book of the Bible in putting on display the sovereign work of God to preserve, bless and advance his kingdom through his people wherever they find themselves sovereignly placed by God’s good hand. 
    1. Mark Dever says it this way, “(Esther) is one of the longest sustained meditations on the sovereignty and providence of God in the whole Bible. It is really just one long narrative illustration of Romans 8:28”. (Mark Dever, The Message of the Old Testament, p. 454)
  1. Esther will also give us some beautiful gospel indicators. The Lord himself taught us that all of the Scriptures point us to the redemptive work of the gospel. (See Luke 24)
    1. All Scripture will either predict, prepare for, reflect or result from Jesus’ person and work. 
      1. We will see contrasts to the gospel that highlight the goodness of the gospel. 
      2. We will see comparisons. 
      3. We will see some types (people who prefigure Jesus) of Jesus in the text. 
      4. We will see some character traits of kingdom people. 
  1. The book of Esther is going to teach us how to spot the activity of God by making us aware of storylines, ironies, surprise twists, and seemingly irrelevant “happenings” that point us to God’s activity over every detail for our good, his enemy’s destruction, and his glory. 
    1. I was told a story one time about how one particular Jewish Rabbi taught the kids in their synagogue about YHWH in Esther. 
      1. The Rabbi would recount the story, and at every place where the Lord’s hand was turning events for them, he would “wink” at the kids and say, “it just so happened that…”
  1. We are going to learn about the establishment of Purim which is not prescribed in the Law of Moses but is nonetheless celebrated by Jewish folks, and we will learn why. 
    1. Haman cast Pur or “lots” to determine how to dispose of the Jews, and thus the feast is a celebration of what Proverbs 16:33 teaches. 
      1. Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap but it’s every decision is from the LORD.
  1. Esther is put together literarily as a “chiastic”, with the pivotal point being Xerxes’ sleepless night in chapter 6:1-3. 
    1. Opening and background (1)
      1. The king’s first decree (2-3)
        1. The clash between Haman and Mordecai (4-5)
          1. Xerxes can’t sleep (6:1)
        2. Mordecai’s triumph over Haman (6-7)
      2. The king’s second decree (8-9)
    2. Epilogue: Purim and Mordcai exalted (10)
      1. Even in the literary design, the inspired author wants us to see the meticulous way God weaves all circumstances into our good and his glory. 

Background

  1. It’s been somewhere around 100 years since the initial returns of Jewish folks from Babylonian captivity that Esther takes place. 
  2. The people we will learn about are living in the Persian capital of Susa. 
    1. There is still a significant Jewish population who settled and did not return to Israel under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, and they have prospered. 
  3. Ahasuerus (known mostly as Xerxes 1) is king. He is the son of Darius who allowed the resettling of Jerusalem. 
    1. Xerxes reigned from 486-465 BC. 
    2. This locates the events of Esther between the completion of the temple under Zerubbabel in 516 BC and the arrival of more returnees to Jerusalem under Ezra in 458 BC. 
    3. Xerxes, soon after taking the throne over his older brother, goes on his Greek campaign. 
      1. You might know of Ahasuerus or Xerxes from his leading the army of his kingdom against the Spartans in the battle of Thermopylae. 
    4. Xerxes will be roughly 41 years old when he marries Esther around the date of 478 BC. 

Big Idea (the whole of Esther)

“Through his providence and in keeping with his promises, God places Esther and Mordcai in positions of power to preserve his people and punish his enemies.” (Landon Dowden, Christ-Centered Exposition: Esther, p. 6)

Esther 1:1-22

Big Idea of Esther 1: No kingdom or king in all of their opulence, drunken national celebration, and demeaning of their women can stop the providential hand of God. In fact, God will use Vashti’s defiance against the drunken demands of the king to open the door for Esther’s exaltation to rescue God’s people. 

  1. Ahasuerus does not realize he sits over a petty little kingdom in a petty capital.V. 1-2
    1. Ahasuerus simply does not know who he actually serves. 
    2. He believes he is the king, and he is a temporary servant of the one true God even though he is not a believer. 
      1. Jeremiah 27:5-6 “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me. [6] Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him.
      2. Isaiah 40
      3. What the reader of the Bible is supposed to see here is the contrast between Ahasuerus, Persia and God who rules the universe, men and women’s hearts, and whose capital city defies a geographical location.
  1. Ahasuerus and his people celebrate in pride over their worldly kingdom with vain opulence and in great sin. V. 3-9
    1. We see a contrast in God’s establishing of feasts for his people to remember him rather than national drinking parties to celebrate the king.
      1. All of this irony to help us see what is manifested in humankind’s sinful behavior points us to the reality of the kingdom of God. 
  1. Vashti is excluded and demeaned and rebels for her own reasons, yet does so willingly under the sovereign hand of God who has designs to save his people. V. 10-12
    1. We don’t need to get sidetracked on the obvious mistreatment of women. 
      1. It is not the main point. 
      2. It is, however, to be contrasted with how God elevates and honors women back to the place of honor and good and right in the garden, beside Adam, not over, under or behind. Beside. 
      3. This is a gospel of the kingdom contrast we need to see. 
      4. The kingdoms of the world will misplace people, and God’s kingdom always puts people in their designed good. 
  1. Ahasuerus and his willing, foolish, and demeaning counselors, enact a plan they believe will keep their women under their thumbs, and yet God has designs to replace Vashti with a queen who will rescue his people through their folly and Vashti’s rebellion. V. 13-22

Application

  1. Gospel Application: Ahasuerus is rich, and he spends it on himself and his subjects’ worldly desires. 
    1. Ahasuerus and this party prepare us to see Jesus in contrast to what a real king will look like. 
    2. Jesus: 
      1. 2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
      2. Jesus has a banquet feast for us on the day of the Lord, but he lays that aside temporarily to make sure he saves all who will come to him by faith. 
  2. Mankind and a nation’s accumulation of resources and opulent use of those resources fail to measure up in any way to the grandeur and glory of God. We see that it is in vain apart from God’s service. 
    1. How? This kingdom will fall ultimately, and there will be another king after Ahasuerus is assassinated to end his reign. 
    2. The arrogance of mankind to believe we are anything apart from God is an intoxicating lure. 
      1. Yet God reminds his people who he is and we should see ourselves in light of him.
        1. John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
  3. God’s name does not have to be mentioned nor explicit miracles done in order for us to see his providential handiwork. 
    1. God works in every detail of every day. 
    2. It is one of my most difficult tasks to daily see the gracious hand of God in all things. 
    3. The maturing Christian does not look for the dream, vision, or loud exclamation of Jesus.
      1. Rather the maturing Christian looks for the still and powerful sovereign work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness to Jesus in fatherly and effective ways as well as the mighty movement of people and nations around his purposes that are always good. 
        1. This ability is a result of saturating ourselves with Scripture, living on mission, suffering, abiding, persevering, and observing. 
  4. Mankind, Christian and non-Christian alike, willingly lives and acts, and yet does so in cooperation with God’s designs for his glory and his people’s good. 
    1. We have to make decisions and act trusting that at our worst and best, God is acting to accomplish all his good for us. 
      1. We make real decisions from our own wills, yet we are never in any way able to stop God’s work. 
        1. This juxtaposed reality is just how the Bible presents it to us.
    2. Illustration: Back of a cab in Pakistan with a persecuted pastor as a driver. 
  1. The providence of God does not cancel life’s hurts or the necessary godly processes of healing, but it does give us a theological framework on which we can see hard seasons full of purpose. 
    1. Without this precious bible truth, we can begin to believe we are just floating along with randomness and randomly being assaulted by evil along the way for no good reason. 
    2. With the Bible’s framework, we can know where we are, who we belong to, and that there is purpose in difficult times. 
      1. God’s people have been living in captivity and had to make new lives, and yet they were never out from under God’s guiding hand, so they could live, work, seek good, seek to be righteous, fail, and know God was working for their good.
  2. The providence of God to be good to his people and save them is reason to worship, even when we struggle to see his hand. 
    1. We worship by faith not by sight. 

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