Esther 4: Sermon Notes

Esther 4: Sermon Notes

Big Idea: God uses ordinary means and ordinary people living by faith to do his mighty work on earth of establishing his kingdom. 

God intends to save people from all nations. 

Genesis 12:1-3 is the first installment of the Great Commission. God chose Abraham to be the father of those who have faith in Jesus, and yet he has to get Abraham and his people to the appointed time and place for the Eternal Son of God to enter time and space for his redemptive work. 

Haman and the Persian empire are threatening the plan of God. 

God will not and can not be thwarted. He will bring everything under the reign of Jesus. 

How will God get this done in the situation Esther and Mordecai and the Israelites find themselves in this time? 

God will preserve his people through ordinary exiles using the ordinary means of faithful living doing what they know to do that is right and trusting the Lord for the outcome. 

Mordecai’s response to Haman in 3:1-6 sets the stage for what we see happen in Esther 4. 

  1. From a pragmatic perspective, it seems to be a quite foolish move. Why?
    1. Mordecai’s actions of now bowing down to Haman attracts attention to him and who his people are. 
    2. Mordecai’s actions get Haman thinking beyond merely dealing with Mordecai to how he might annihilate all of Mordecai’s people. 
  2. From a theological perspective, it seems Mordecai’s refusal to bow down to Haman could be rooted in obedience to God in that he will not acknowledge Amalek and their king’s descendants as ruling over God’s people. The author knows who Haman is. Doe’s Mordecai? 
  3. Was Mordecai wrong? Was he right? Is there a third option? 
    1. I believe Mordecai was making a principled decision and it is neither wrong nor prescribed by God. Too much seems to be made in commentaries in asserting that Mordecai somehow was wrong in his refusal to bow to Haman. 
      1. I think that is speculation. 
      2. Mordecai saw something that violated his conscience/ethics/theology, and he refused to comply. 
      3. There will be times when you and I come to issues we are going to have to apply our consciences, and we are going to have to be willing to accept the results and trust God for the outcome.  
  4. Regardless, Mordecai made a decision, and the results are that he and all his people are on the Persian Empire’s hitlist. YET completely under the sovereign hand of God.
    1. God has, through the actions of Mordecai, incited a conflict with his people’s enemy in order to destroy their enemy and preserve them and do good to them. 
    2. Is this too big for God? No way!

This helps to set the stage for Esther 4. What can we observe and apply from Esther 4?

What do we see?

Esther, Mordecai, and the people express their faith in the Lord through the Godward communication and the praise of lament. 4:1, 3, 16 (See Lamentations 3:40-66)

We communicate with God and praise him by more than prayer and singing. 

Silence before God is communication. Silence is as much part of prayer as speaking. It communicates that we are ready to listen and positions us to hear. Did you know that?

  1. The lamenting of sackcloth, ashes, weeping, fasting, and taking risks is communication with God through lamenting. 
    1. Dr. Glen Packiam on https://www.ntwrightonline.org/five-things-to-know-about-lament/ shares some truth about biblical lament:
      1. Lament is a form of praise. 
      2. Lament is proof of our relationship with God. 
        1. We learn in TBRI that in some of the world’s orphanages babies don’t cry because they’ve learned there is no one to respond to their needs, so they have adapted by being silent and not communicating need. 
          1. The absence of a relationship that responds to need has silenced the cry for help. 
        2. Children who are confident in the love of their caregivers cry to get their attention, and that is healthy and good. 
        3. Children of God lament because we know we have a Father who hears and will respond to us. 
      3. Lament is a pathway to intimacy with God. 
        1. The Psalms brutal honesty before God gives us a glimpse into a secure relationship with God where they can be honest, and by being honest they are walking a pathway to being even nearer to God. 
      4. Lament is a prayer for God to act.
      5. Lament is participation in the pain of others. 
        1. When you are reading Psalms that don’t apply to you, know they apply to someone, so enter into intercession on that person’s behalf and participate with them in their hurt and help them carry their burdens. 
  2. Sackcloth and ashes expressed grief and the bitterness of hard providences and sometimes it expressed a desire to repent of sin. 
    1. Sackcloth is expressing humility in how one dresses. 
    2. Sitting in ashes expresses the knowledge of death and that we were taken from dust and we will return to dust. It’s humbling oneself. 
  3. Weeping expresses sorrow created in the soul due to hard events, and a trust that God would help them.
  4. Fasting is the capstone. 
    1. 25 mentions in the OT.
    2. Jesus taught that “when” we fast, not “if” we fast. 
      1. Fasting expresses these things according to David Mathis:
        1. An inward look to express repentance. 1 Samuel 7; Nehemiah 9
        2. An outward expression to grieve hard providences. 1 Samuel 31:13
        3. A forward look to seek God’s favor. 2 Chronicles 20:3, 12
        4. An appeal for God to act and deliver. Isaiah 58
  5. Esther being willing to give her life for her people works out of lament for their current situation. 
  6. Esther, Mordecai, and the people are living in a robust faith as they engage in lament. 

Mordecai refuses to be comforted and takes proactive steps to call Esther to action. 4:4

  1. Before Esther knows the full story (and why she didn’t up to this point, we don’t know), she tries to get Mordecai to stop his lamenting because this is drawing attention that she perceives to be unnecessary. 
  2. Mordecai acts proactively to do all that he can do to call Esther to action. 
    1. Being proactive in acting on his clear convictions prompts one of the greatest ascensions to leadership in the Bible, Esther going to mediate for her people. 
  3. Here we can see some preparation for the gospel. 
    1. Mordecai commands Esther to act. 
    2. Esther responds in obedience even if it would cost her life. 
    3. Esther fasts before she enters the place of mediation to appeal for her people. 
      1. Do you see it? 
      2. Father sends the Son. The Son goes. He fasts before he enters his public ministry. And he enters before the King of the universe to mediate for his people by his own sacrifice in laying down his life for them. 

Esther responds in faith to God’s call through Mordecai’s persistent insistence. 4:4-8; 12-14

  1. God is never named, yet his good hand is seen in the persistent call to action for Esther through Mordecai. 
    1. There is tension in the text in the back and forth between Mordecai and Esther. 
      1. Mordecai is lamenting and Esther does not know why. 
      2. Esther sends appropriate clothes to get him to stop drawing this kind of attention and to learn why Mordecai is acting as he is. 
      3. Mordecai sends the reason with proof and a “command” for her to go into the king. V. 8
      4. Esther responds with a good reason why she should not go in to see the king…she could receive a death sentence. In fact, she has not seen the king for 30 days. 
      5. Mordecai responds with a challenging word. Whether he has her executed for coming to him without being called or whether her ethnicity is revealed and she is executed for that, she has been raised up to leadership for this time, and if she does not seize it, God will deliver by another hand. 
        1. Esther responds in faithful obedience to the call by declaring they all fast, and at the end of three days of fasting, she would go see the king and accept whatever providence comes her way. 

Application

  1. Reflection and discussion: (Landon Dowden, Esther, 103)
    1. Describe a time the Lord called you to do something but you were full of fear rather than faith and did not obey. 
    2. In what ways, if any, are you currently hesitating to obey the Lord? How can the gospel and Esther 4 fuel obedience?
    3. In crisis, how far do you get before you give yourself to the praise of lament, prayer, and fasting?
    4. Why do we tend to conceal our grief or struggles rather than share them openly?
    5. Who is someone God has used to encourage you to obedience? 
    6. Why do you believe we need others to help spur obedience? 
    7. How can we encourage one another to be obedient?
    8. What, if anything, are you hoping somebody will do in our church or in our city? Why do you think you are not  the “somebody” to do it?
    9. How might the gospel bring us to the point where we are willing to say, “if I perish, I perish,” but I’m going to obey at all costs?
  2. Learn from this narrative to see events in history and events in our own lives as part of God bringing his reign into our world, country, state, city and family. 
    1. Learn to interpret all things through the lens of his providential working for our good and his glory. 
    2. What is God up to in our city? Church? Family? Myself? 
  3. Learn to hear God’s call through his multifacted means so that you can respond in faith when God calls. 
    1. 1 Samuel 3:1-10
  4. When you see “things” that are not right (foster care in Rome/Floyd County), the kingdom of God demands we proactively and persistently go after seeing that “thing” brought under the rule of Jesus. 
    1. Mordecai displays a “gospel of the kingdom” ethic in his proactive persistence to see the situation brought back to the order of God’s kingdom. 
      1. Colossians 1:15-20 All things, through Jesus, brought back under the orderly reign of God. 
      2. This is the call to our vocational domains, and it is a gospel issue. 
      3. Jesus saves us not merely for heaven, but that we may be ambassadors for bringing the heaven of his kingdom to bear on earth as in heaven. 
  5. Faith has to be more than words spoken or silent convictions. Faith must be expressed in actionable obedience to God’s call. 
    1. “Our obedience is God’s ordinary means for accomplishing his extraordinary plans.” (Landon Dowden, Esther, 91)
    2. James 2:26 (ESV) For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
    3. I love that God’s name is not mentioned at all, and we have to work to see his activity in the “happenstances” of the book. 
    4. I love that their faith is not expressed in nice theological subculture language and categories. Rather, their faith is expressed in God-soaked actions brought on by difficult providences. 
    5. I don’t say this out loud, but Christianese bothers me. 
    6. I have never made a list of the phrases and words we use, but when I hear them I know them and they make me cringe. 
    7. Just want to love on you / doing life / having a fellowship / baby Christian / mature Christian 
      1. https://youtu.be/5MKcFunW2lk
      2. It’s not bad, but what’s better is when we are known by our actions not funny YouTube videos because subculture language is really a thing, and others pick up on it and not us. 
      3. In chapter 4, their faith is expressed in deep lamenting, proactive persuasion to act, and faithful obedience to God’s call.  
        1. It’s perfectly faithful to lament hard events and seasons. 
        2. It’s perfectly faithful to proactively seek solutions to crisis situations and difficulties. 
        3. It’s perfectly faithful to boldly respond in obedience even if some see it as reckless.

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