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Sermon Series: For a Time Such as This
by Mark Horne

The Book of Remembrance
Esther 5.1-7.6

copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.

Our Sermon passage this morning begins in Esther 5.1 and will continue on all the way to chapter 7, verse 6. We all long for God to act on our behalf as He has promised. See if you can tell when in our text God finally acts to save His people, and how He does it.

Esther 5.1-7.6

5:1 NOW it came about on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace in front of the king’s rooms, and the king was sitting on his royal throne in the throne room, opposite the entrance to the palace. 2 And it happened when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favor in his sight; and the king extended to Esther the golden scepter which was in his hand. So Esther came near and touched the top of the scepter. 3 Then the king said to her, “What is troubling you, Queen Esther? And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it will be given to you.” 4 And Esther said, “If it please the king, may the king and Haman come this day to the banquet that I have prepared for him.”

5 Then the king said, “Bring Haman quickly that we may do as Esther desires.” So the king and Haman came to the banquet which Esther had prepared. 6 And, as they drank their wine at the banquet, the king said to Esther, “What is your petition, for it shall be granted to you. And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be done.” 7 So Esther answered and said, “My petition and my request is: 8 if I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition and do what I request, may the king and Haman come to the banquet which I shall prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king says.”

9 Then Haman went out that day glad and pleased of heart; but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, and that he did not stand up or tremble before him, Haman was filled with anger against Mordecai. 10 Haman controlled himself, however, went to his house, and sent for his friends and his wife Zeresh. 11 Then Haman recounted to them the glory of his riches, and the number of his sons, and every instance where the king had magnified him, and how he had promoted him above the princes and servants of the king. 12 Haman also said, “Even Esther the queen let no one but me come with the king to the banquet which she had prepared; and tomorrow also I am invited by her with the king. 13 “Yet all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” 14 Then Zeresh his wife and all his friends said to him, “Have a gallows fifty cubits high made and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it, then go joyfully with the king to the banquet.” And the advice pleased Haman, so he had the gallows made.

6:1 DURING that night the king could not sleep so he gave an order to bring the book of records, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. 2 And it was found written what Mordecai had reported concerning Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who were doorkeepers, that they had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. 3 And the king said, “What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” Then the king’s servants who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.” 4 So the king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace in order to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai on the gallows which he had prepared for him. 5 And the king’s servants said to him, “Behold, Haman is standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him come in.” 6 So Haman came in and the king said to him, “What is to be done for the man whom the king desires to honor?” And Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king desire to honor more than me?” 7 Then Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king desires to honor, 8 let them bring a royal robe which the king has worn, and the horse on which the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown has been placed; 9 and let the robe and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble princes and let them array the man whom the king desires to honor and lead him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him, ‘Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.'”

10 Then the king said to Haman, “Take quickly the robes and the horse as you have said, and do so for Mordecai the Jew, who is sitting at the king’s gate; do not fall short in anything of all that you have said.” 11 So Haman took the robe and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city square, and proclaimed before him, “Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.” 12 Then Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman hurried home, mourning, with his head covered. 13 And Haman recounted to Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and Zeresh his wife said to him, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish origin, you will not overcome him, but will surely fall before him.” 14 While they were still talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hastily brought Haman to the banquet which Esther had prepared.

7:1 NOW the king and Haman came to drink wine with Esther the queen. 2 And the king said to Esther on the second day also as they drank their wine at the banquet, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be done.” 3 Then Queen Esther answered and said, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request; 4 for we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed and to be annihilated. Now if we had only been sold as slaves, men and women, I would have remained silent, for the trouble would not be commensurate with the annoyance to the king.” 5 Then King Ahasuerus asked Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who would presume to do thus?” 6 And Esther said, “A foe and an enemy, is this wicked Haman!” Then Haman became terrified before the king and queen.

When God acts everything changes. If God doesn’t act, nothing we do makes any difference.

In the past three sermons we have things go from bad to worse. Mordecai misleads Esther into hiding her identity, and ends up seeing King Ahasuerus forget his work to save his life. Then Mordecai rebels against the king’s command by refusing to bow to Haman. As a result, all the people of God are sentenced to destruction. Finally, we see Mordecai telling Esther to reveal her identity and intercede for her people. She dares to draw near to the King’s throne, risking her life.

But still nothing has changed. Even when the King offers to give her up to half his kingdom, nothing really is done to rectify the problem. Esther merely invites the King and Haman to a meal. The death sentence still hangs over her and her people.

(By the way, what is going on with the two feasts to which Esther invites the King and Haman? I highly doubt that Ahasuerus thought that Esther risked her life just to have dinner with him and his chief counselor. But notice that, in chapter 5, verse 4 that Esther responds to the King’s incredible offer simply by inviting him and Haman to a feast. In 5.6, it is the King who takes the initiative to ask Esther what she really wanted. The king takes the same initiative again at the next feast in chapter 7, verse 2. What we see here is Esther giving the king a subtle warning that she has a huge favor to ask. Somehow, she knew both in the king’s throneroom, and at the first feast, that the time was not yet right to make her real request.)

But what made the time right at her second feast. What changed the situation so that King Ahasuerus was made favorable to her request?

It wasn’t anything Esther did. Mordecai was not involved in it. They were not even fasting anymore. It was the middle of the night when everyone was sleeping. Suddenly the situation was entirely reversed.

During that night the king could not sleep so he gave an order to bring the book of records, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. It was found written what Mordecai had reported concerning Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who were doorkeepers, that they had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus.

The King remembers Mordecai. And from this point on in the story everything is reversed. In fact, that is not only true of the event, but also in the literary structure that records those events.

Look at our passage this morning. It begins with a feast in which Haman is an honored guest. Then we see Mordecai in the king’s gate doing nothing while Haman goes to his house and is exalted among his wife his friends. There they plot Mordecai’s immediate death. But after the king remembers, everything changes. Haman and Mordecai are in the King’s gate, but Mordecai is exalted. Haman goes to his house in mourning and there his wife and friends predict Mordecai’s victory and his own downfall. Finally, our passage ends with a feast in which Haman is accused.

Remember that in the ancient world they didn’t have newspapers.

How do you read a newspaper? How do you know what’s important and what’s not? Well, you look at the headline. Then you read the first paragraph. You see, journalists are taught to stack all the important details of a news story. They really don’t even expect most of their readers to read all the way to the end. So we know what the writer thinks is most important by what he puts at the beginning of his story. That’s how writing and reading works in a culture of throw-away literature.

But in ancient times, when writing materials were very expensive, and all publishing was done by painstakingly copying everything by hand, there was no such thing as throw-away literature. You didn’t wrap fish in a scroll you had read only once. No, you read it and re-read it and if you were done perhaps you sold it for a hefty sum. If you had the skill perhaps you copied it down, line by line, word by word, letter by letter–and sold the copy. Every word counted. Writers knew their readers would probably read their work several times

So we find ancient authors, both in the Bible and elsewhere communicating through the use of literary patterns. And one of the most popular ways this was done in the Bible is called a chiasm. “Chiasm” comes from the Greek letter chi, which is shaped like our letter X. What happens in a chiasm is that one notices repetitions within repetitions of words and events. There seems to be cycles of events which resemble one another. Basically, you’ll find a pattern that goes A, B, C, and then after something happens, everything will reverse: C, B, A.

I mentioned in a previous sermon that, in the book of Judges, we have two stories of a woman killing a man by crushing his head. We also have two wars with the sons of Lot and two messages to the enemy kings with two slayings at the fords of the Jordan. We also have two cities burned to the ground. We have two judges on whom the Spirit falls. And all these events seem to share similar features. They follow a specific order: ABCDEFG; then a transition followed by GFEDCBA. The entire book of Judges is covered by a huge chiasm.

Why is Judges written that way? Well, the turning point that reverses the entire pattern is in Judges chapter 8, where Gideon builds a golden idol which causes the downfall of his people. Furthermore, even though he refuses to be made king, he multiplies wives and takes a concubine, as if he is trying to start a dynasty. The whole structure of Judges reinforces it’s main themes: The fall into idolatry, and the rejection of the LORD as the king of Israel. Gideon’s sin is the turning point of the entire book.

Now Esther is written with the same underlying structure, a chiasm. In fact, there are two chiasms and in both cases the pivot point, the center of the X ,is that the king remembers.

The king remembers and everything changes.

Vashti lost her crown. The king remembered and Esther gained the crown. Mordecai is disgraced and about to be killed. The king remembers and Mordecai is exalted and Haman’s downfall becomes imminent. The whole book is structured around the king remembering.

God remembers.

We’ve been seeing, from time to time, that what is going on in the book of Esther is in the actions of King Ahasuerus, is a reflection of how God acts. And this makes sense because King Ahasuerus was one of the Gentile world emperors whom God had appointed in this covenantal administration. He was a type of Christ just like David or Solomon was. That doesn’t mean everything he did is necessarily right. But neither David’s sins nor Solomon’s sins keep us from recognizing that they in their office prefigured Christ and represented God. Ahasuerus also represents God.

And in remembering, he is showing us how God acts to vindicate his people.

I’ve been talking about chiasms, so I’ll briefly mention one more. The story of Noah in the ark is a rather large chiasm. And the pivot is in Genesis 8, verse 1. In chapter 7 the rains are falling, the waters from the deep are bursting, and the water is rising. In chapter 8, the rains stop, the deeps close up, and the water is receding.

So what is the transitional even that is recorded in Genesis 8.1?

God remembered Noah and all the beast and all the cattle that were with him in the ark

God remembered. Noah and his family were stuck inside that houseboat having no way of saving themselves from the flood, but God remembered and caused the flood to subside.

When the children of Israel were enslaved in Egypt-enslaved, as Ezekiel informs us because of their own idolatry-God remembered and acted on their behalf by sending Moses back to them. Nothing they could do could save them from Pharaoh, but God remembered them and acted to save them.

And just like the Israelites enslaved in Egypt because of their sin, Mordecai and Esther and all their people are under sentence of death in Susa and the rest of the Persian Empire. It’s true that Esther takes action, but don’t be fooled into making Esther the hero of this story. She didn’t have any way of being sure that the King would allow her into his presence. That was up to God. It is God who takes action to save his people. He remembers them and causes the king to remember Mordecai.

Remember, Mordecai has already taken action. He saved the king’s life. But that didn’t bring him any reward, and Haman got exalted over him. But when the King remembers Mordecai, Haman’s actions backfire upon him.

Look at what happens in chapter 6. Haman acts to bring honor and glory to himself, and it ends up all going to the man he hates, Mordecai. Haman states what he wants for himself, and Mordecai gets all of it.

The same thing happens in chapter 5, as we will see next week. Haman builds a huge wooden pole on which to hang Mordecai (which means impalement, by the way). Yet he himself will ended up being impaled there for all to see what happens to the enemies of the Jews.

Once the king remembers, the blessings which Haman seeks for himself go to his enemy and the destruction he seeks for his enemy comes down on his own head. Psalm 9.16 is fulfilled before our very eyes in Esther:

The nations have sunk down in the pit which they have made;
In the net which they hid their own foot has been caught.

You see, if God does not remember us, then nothing we do will have any success, no matter how noble our motives. Without God’s blessing nothing we do can matter. We can witness to our neighbors, but without God remembering us, they will not listen. We can vote for righteous candidates, but without God remembering us, we will be outvoted and our candidates will cave. We can start a business, but it will not survive.

But if God remembers us, then we will be blessed. Pagans will actually vote with us. Our neighbors will be receptive. We will prosper.

That’s the theology of Esther. Mordecai and Esther take action. They devise a plan to ensure Esther is chosen as queen. Mordecai uses his relationship to Esther to save the king’s life. And yet nothing works. Mordecai takes further action by rebelling against the king’s command, and that works but only to put them in deep deep trouble.

Those actions are not examples for us. They bring nothing but trouble. But then what happens? Mordecai humbles himself in sackcloth and ashes. Esther fasts and orders all the Jews in Susa to fast. She bears witness, with absolutely no confidence that she will escape execution unless God remembers her.

God remembers and everything changes.

And if everything depends on God remembering, then what should we do? We should remind God. That’s what Psalm 74 does. We responsively asked God to remember us. We read earlier how God heard the groans of His people in Egypt and remembered them. He remembered his covenant.

In Genesis 18 Abraham begged God to spare Lot, and according to Genesis 19.29 God brought lot out of the burning city because he remembered Abraham.

Hannah prayed with a broken heart for just one son to end her barrenness, and 1 Samuel 1.19 tells us that God remembered her and she conceived. In fact, God gave her several children.

Prayer, intercession, worship. If we really believe that everything depends on God remembering us, and remembering what Jesus Christ did for us, then we will make worship and prayer central to our lives. Both publicly and privately, we will beg God to bless us and to bless those we love. We will remind God of the incredible promises he has made to us and point out the discrepancy between what has been promised and what we are now experiencing. It’s not ungrateful to talk that way to God; it’s trusting. The whole point in God giving us promises is so that we know what to ask Him for. It shows that we take His promises seriously when we groan before Him and ask Him to remember us.

That’s why any view of the victory of God’s kingdom on earth, which makes social activism, or family government, or some form of education, central to it’s vision, is very very doomed.

We all believe that God’s kingdom will triumph and utterly destroy all idol’s before the resurrection of the dead. That’s right. But I’ve witnessed people who, having been convinced of that doctrine, use it to promote Christian voter registration. The reason Christians don’t vote is because they’re not post-millennial. If they were optimistic in their eschatology, then they would all vote and we’d throw the rascals out of office.

I’m not against voting. But the doctrine of the triumph of God’s kingdom is too important and profound to be made a pillar in a political slogan. If we think we’re going to vote in the Kingdom, then we have not understood our own doctrine. The Bible teaches that God will cause His Kingdom to triumph. The most fundamental thing we can do is ask God why we’re not seeing it yet. We need to remind him that seeing America and the world slide into paganism does not bring Him glory. We need to pray. Pray that we might see the kingdom grow in the world and especially here in Auburn and the surrounding regions.

When Mordecai found out about the decree to exterminate the Jews, he did not rush to see Esther. No, he put on clothing that prevented him from giving her the news and caused a delay by having to pass messages from outside the king’s gate.

And when Esther heard what had happened, she didn’t go see the king right away. She waited three whole days. And she fasted. If I was a woman who wanted to appear acceptable before a man, especially if my very life was at stake, I don’t think going without food for three days would really be a good strategy for risk management. But she fasted anyway.

The relationship with God was primary for them, finally. They could have rushed and taken action, but they put a premium on repentance and prayer. God saw Mordecai’s humiliation. He saw Esther fast.

And He remembered them.

If we believe in God, we will realize that He controls the world and determines the outcome of all our endeavors. Approaching the throne of grace and asking for His blessing, will be our primary strategy for seeing success in any area of life. We put prayer and worship first in our lives.

For some reason, I’ve been thinking about Church growth lately. And I’ve even tried to track down a technique or two that might help. Now, I’ve always been real skeptical, if not sometimes hostile, to the church growth industry. But I have to say that I’m somewhat humbled in the few things I’ve looked at.

You see, the strange thing is, the techniques I’ve found on the web, look an awful lot like simply trying to be sympathetic to how someone else might feel. Someone coming into a strange new Church which he or she knows almost nothing about, is not likely to make it through the door if they don’t see a parking place. If you want to see them come back the next week, you might need to give up one of your family’s nights and have them over to dinner and simply get to know them–perhaps without sharing some of your theological insights with which they are not yet familiar.

In other words, these techniques aren’t techniques at all. There just a list of things that sensitive caring people do, which a blockhead like me needs to read about in a book because he, sadly, isn’t yet as sensitive or caring for strangers as he needs to be.

If we simply look at techniques for church growth as ways of manipulating people into the church, we are going to fail. God is not going to bless manipulation. If perhaps he sees in our hearts we will care for the people He has in this area, perhaps he will remember us and send them our way. Otherwise, he’ll give them to the Baptists or the Charismatics or the Roman Catholics.

And likewise, if I think my first job when I put on my “evangelist” hat is to come up with techniques for growing the Church, then I am missing the whole point. I should first take off my hat and pray to God that he will raise up this tree he has planted so that it will bear much fruit. If I think I can cause growth by utilizing techniques, then I am an atheist. If God does not remember us and His covenant with us, then we are not going to experience the growth of the Kingdom. If I believe that God is and that he rewards those that seek Him, I will seek him first

Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the LORD guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.

It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.

When God remembered Israel groaning in Egypt, he saved them in the dark of the night. In the middle of the night he changed Pharaoh’s attitude toward them and He sent them out of Egypt.

Here we see another Passover-type deliverance, which is really appropriate for a book that records the establishment of a feast to celebrate God’s salvation. While everyone is sleeping, God causes the king to remember and change his attitude. The King has the book of records read to him, in which earlier Mordecai’s name had been inscribed in His presence. I would like to close this sermon by reading Malachi 3.13-18. Think about who the king is imitating when he has the chronicles read to him.

“Your words have been arrogant against Me,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the LORD of hosts? So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up, but they also test God and escape.'”

Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name.

“And they will be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “on the day that I prepare my special treasure, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”

God has our names in His book. He will remember us. So let’s remind Him to keep His covenant promises right now.

copyright © 2000



2 Comments »

  1. A sermon to be remembered ….TQso much!

    Comment by phang weei min — December 11, 2010 @ 7:44 am

  2. What a wonderful sermon; May the Almighty Father remember every one of us IJN. And may He overwhelm you with more of His anointing IJN (Amen).

    Comment by Dcn. Abu John — March 7, 2017 @ 9:35 am

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