Esther 5: Sermon Notes

Introduction

One of the challenges of our study through Esther is that there is just so much, and the truth of the matter is that narratives like Esther are to be read and studied as a whole not necessarily in chunks that are isolated from each other. 

The reason is that each “chapter” (which is not present in the original writings) does not stand independently from the others. 

Another challenge is time. We could string it out more, and that might help. But we believe each one of us in Christ is a priest of God. 

Together when we gather in our small groups, if we’ll lean into the Scriptures and lean into each other, we can glean all that God wants for us from the text together. 

As we study through Esther today, and we take time to observe the content of chapter 5 and at some point gather in your family or as a RL group, I want you to remember something I read from Pete Scazzero recently on Twitter. He’s the author of “Emotionally Healthy Discipleship”, and I suggest you give it a read. 

“We must change the scorecard in our churches for success from great services & large gatherings, to a deep transformational discipleship for every single person in our church.

It is God’s time for the church to redo her scorecard for success.” 

We can do just this if we’ll practice our priesthood with our families and each other as we are on mission together. 

See a pattern of the gospel. V. 1

  1. On the third day, Esther presents herself from the three days of fasting (withholding life in nutrition). 
    1. She presents herself to the king who makes a judgment on her worthiness and whether or not he will receive her on behalf of the people she is mediating for. 
    2. The king receives her because she is worthy, and in so doing, he will receive all those she is representing. 
    3. Can you see it?
  2. Jesus dies in our place for our sin, and on the third day, he rises, having presented himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin to the Father on our behalf. 
    1. Jesus rises having defeated death by being deprived of life and he, being the royal Son of God, mediates on behalf of his people who God the Father will receive as they come under the mediating and sacrificial work of Jesus, the Son of God. 

Esther 5 is the providential result of the fasting done in Esther 4.

  1. God providentially employs ordinary means and ordinary people as they act in faith to do extraordinary work. 
  2. Fasting is one of God’s ordinary means to get supernatural work accomplished. 
  3. (NOTE: FASTING IS TYPICALLY PAIRED WITH PRAYER)
    1. Mordecai had already been fasting. 
    2. Esther then coordinates a 3 day fast in which all are seeking the Lord for the same thing before she goes in to see the king. 
      1. Excursion: Let’s take a quick excursion into some of the theological reasons they chose to fast, and it’s the same reason we should choose to participate as well. 
  4. Isaiah 58
    1. V. 3 – Why have you not seen our fasts? 
      1. They do as they please.
      2. They oppress their workers. 
      3. They maintain contention and strife.
      4. Their fast is merely a day of denial and humility, and it’s simply not acceptable. 
      5. Real fasting is accompanied by denial of wickedness v. 6, getting rid of yokes of oppression v. 6, sharing resources with those who need what we may have v. 7, not ignoring your own family v. 7. 
      6. The result? V. 8-14
  5. Jesus’ instruction on fasting in Matthew 6:16-18 deals with motives. 
    1. If we are not careful, our fasting can become about us appearing spiritual and not about God and his purposes for us and the world. 
    2. This is why Jesus encourages the person fasting to not sound the horn of attention when they are fasting. 
      1. Esther and her people don’t have the luxury of fasting to appear spiritual.
        1. Esther fasted because she and her people didn’t have another option but to seek the Lord as diligently as they could. 
        2. That is where true fasting and its God-supplied power reside. 
  6. Esther’s fast produced planning and execution that would have a great effect because it came from a people whose heart was set to seek God. 

Esther has a wise and strategic plan to present their case to the king. This wise and strategic plan is faith in action, and it comes as a precious gift of fasting. V. 1-8

  1. In one of the providential twists of Esther, It just so happens that after the fast, Esther has a plan. 
    1. We should not miss that Esther’s plan is not merely her plan. 
    2. Esther’s plan is a good gift of God supplying good means through human effort when his people engage in disciplines he establishes for our good. 
      1. Jesus told us that God feeds the birds of the air (Mt. 6:26), yet he does not throw the bird’s food into the nest. 
        1. The bird leaves the nest, forages, gathers, and flourishes. 
        2. God has established means as his primary way of doing his work and supplying for us. 
    3. Esther’s plan is God’s gift through the means of seeking him in fasting, and this plan is strategic in every way, and yet Esther had to put the plan together. 
      1. God works mysteriously in his providential power as we come after his kingdom first, make wise plans, and act in faith. 
      2. God Can do supernatural things with no input on our part. However, he often does his supernatural work through good holy human means. 
    4. How is this plan strategic, wise and consistent with acting in faith?
      1. Esther knows and employs protocol
      2. The Bible has some things to say about protocol.
        1. Proverbs 25:6-7 (ESV) Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, 7 for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.
        2. Luke 14:8-11 (ESV) When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
        3. Proverbs 23:1-2 (ESV) When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, 2 and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite.
        4. Esther exercises good protocol and dresses appropriately. She knows what a person in her place should do in a situation like this. 
          1. The language is literally that she put on her royalty. 
            1. Esther does not dare approach without appealing to her position. 
            2. There is no casualness in what she is doing. 
              1. As a result, Esther gained favor through God’s blessing of her work and the king’s honoring her use of protocol. 
                1. The grammar implies that it was a hearty approval. 
                2. Ahasuerus even pledges in hyperbole that he will grant her request whatever it is. 
      3. Esther exercises patience. She does not rush to her request. 
        1. She does not present herself as desperate or pushing an agenda. She is working a plan in a calm and strategic way.
        2. Why does Esther prepare two banquets?
        3. We simply don’t know. 
          1. Somehow in her fasting, Esther “discerned” that two banquets would be better than one. 
          2. So she exercises patience in allowing God through passing time to work some things out she may not be able to work out through taking matters fully into her own hands. 
      4. Esther invites Ahasuerus and Haman to a banquet in faith
        1. Esther prepared the banquet ahead of time, which means she expected to gain favor and has a plan. 
        2. Esther prepared for receiving favor. 
          1. This is an act of faith. 
          2. She does not know how, yet she believes that the rescue of God’s people is going to come from somewhere, so she prepares for God to speed her efforts along. 
      5. Esther prudently invites Haman to the banquet with she and the king. 
        1. Matthew 10:16 (ESV) Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
          1. “Wise” is also translated as “shrewd” and “prudent” in some translations. 
          2. “Prudent” communicates the idea of showing care and thought for the future. 
        2. Perhaps Esther wants to make sure Haman can’t escape. 
        3. Perhaps it’s the opportunity for a direct confrontation of the one responsible for their endangerment. 
          1. Either way, Esther wants the one who has endangered them to be present so he can be dealt with if the king grants her request. 
          2. She does not leave an out for Haman. 
  1. Why all this strategy? Why might such “strategification” be necessary?
    1. Esther is asking for the impossible to have an edict revoked. There needs to be some manner of continuing to win favor and time that can soften a heart.
    2. Giving Esther what she is going to ask could be costly in that the 10k talents invested by Haman for this on the front end could be lost or reallocated or returned. (this is a huge portion. According to some, close to half of the empire’s yearly tax revenue.) 
      1. The case needs to be made before bargaining and demanding anything. 
    3. Esther knows the king likes his own glory (He likes to show it off, remember?) and realizes for the king to issue an edict that cancels this disastrous edict could be embarrassing, and by taking her time and waiting for a private setting the next day, Esther makes a way for this issue to be handled initially in private which will save face for Ahasuerus, which we know will go a long way with him.

Note the contrasts between Haman and Esther. V. 9-14

  1. When Haman is distressed by Mordecai’s refusal to rise or tremble for him, he loses his glad heart, sulks, and goes home to comfort himself by recounting all his own glory and exalting himself. 
  2. Haman’s most treasured possession, his family, is worthless to him while Mordecai does not honor him as he believes he should be honored. 
  3. Haman’s wife and friends suggest a plot to kill Mordecai with the king’s approval so it’s not murder, just state-sponsored genocide. 
    1. Haman loves the idea, and has the plot enacted to kill Mordecai. 
  1. Esther, on the other hand, when learning of the terrible situation they face, sets her heart to seek God and humbles herself. 
  2. Esther’s most treasured possession, her people, and their identity as the people of God, are worth more to her than her own life. 
  3. Esther plans to rescue her people by exposing the evil plot of Haman not simply seeking the elimination of Haman. 
    1. What do we see in these contrasts?
      1. We see the difference between a Christ-centered ethic and a me-centered ethic.
        1. Christ-centered lays down one’s own good for the sake of the whole. 
        2. Me-centered sacrifices the whole for the sake of me. 
      2. We see in this difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. 
      3. We see the difference between life and death. 

Application

  1. Think about a time you fasted, and God saw what was done in secret and rewarded you openly, just like Jesus said. 
    1. Give God praise when we respond in worship. 
  2. If fasting is not one of the tools in your discipleship tool belt, consider adding it. 
    1. Start slowly. Leave off one meal per day. Move to two. Then to a full fast. 
    2. Go only as long as you feel comfortable. 
    3. Use meal times to pray and read more Scripture. 
    4. When you break your fast, add food back slowly. Don’t gorge yourself. 
    5. Journal your experience with God as you fast. 
  3. Do you see planning and executing a plan as faith in action or do you see flying by the seat of your pants as faith? Why? In what ways can each one be equally faithful? 
  4. When is responding off plan to changing circumstances acting in faith versus staying the course of solid plans? 
    1. This is a hard question, and yet it’s real life. 
  5. How do you most exercise your faith? How do you live by faith and not sight?
  6. If called upon, are you culturally aware and observant enough to exercise protocol so as to provide a Christian witness in the public square? 
    1. Do you see this as biblically strategic? Why?
  7. In what ways do you struggle being me-centered? 
  8. How can you begin to think less of yourself and more for the benefit of others?

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