We continue our discussion on The Book of Esther, focusing on how to apply the lessons learned from the narrative. We look at God’s providence, His promises, and His judgments. And examine the paradoxes of living this out. We are not God. God is God. We must always ask how we are to manage the role God has given us, not seeking control for ourselves, But trusting in him.
What are the applications of this story? Let’s look at three things: One is God’s providence. A second is God’s promises. And a third is God’s judgments, God’s righteousness.
Application one, God’s providence
The providence is fairly apparent. But I think it’s important to recognize the paradox in God’s promises.
As always is the case, there’s a great paradox as between God’s providence and our choices. And it’s not something that we can explain in our Greek, linear, cause-effect, we-have-to-comprehend-everything thinking.
But from the Jewish mindset, it’s no problem at all because the Jewish mindset begins with the paradox and then explains things.
The ultimate paradox is in the beginning God. We actually can’t explain that with our Greek logic because God is very paradoxical, and the very phrase in the beginning God doesn’t have an explanation because if God exists forever, how can there be a beginning? It’s paradoxical, even the statement. And God is paradoxical himself.
But if you accept that paradox, everything else makes sense. And God had promised to Abraham that, I’m going to bless all nations in you. And you’re going to have somebody sit on the throne forever.
And people’s choices make things happen. You know, it’s cause-effect. You reap what you sow.
How do these two things go together? Well, it’s a paradox. But you see them both happening here.
And Mordecai does a pretty good job of expressing this paradox. Where he says, “If you don’t do something, then relief will come from somewhere else.”
Jesus said something similar to that. He’s coming in on the donkey on Palm Sunday, and the people are shouting. And they said something like, “Tell the people to stop shouting. They’re saying something they shouldn’t say!”
And Jesus says, what? What does he say? “If they’re silent, the rocks will cry out,” which tells you God can always use a rock. He can always use a rock. I never thought of this like this. Would that make us rock stars if we do what God asks us to do? Maybe. That’s something—you might put that on your prayer list. Different kind of rock.
He can always use a rock to get things done, but his preference is to use us. And so in large part, when we obey God, it’s a privilege that we’re getting in on something that’s happening, that’s one of the ways we ought to look at this.
It’s presented to Esther that way; and she’s memorialized for all time as having done something great. If she hadn’t done it, then maybe somebody else would have gotten the opportunity.
I think principle number one is God’s in control. We don’t have to worry about stuff. But there may be great things that you’re asked to do that don’t seem great at the time. But every time you walk in obedience to God, you’re doing something great.
Now, on the other hand, if you don’t do it, he can always use a rock, right? So it’s kind of paradoxical. Don’t get too self-important. But when we get in on God’s work, it’s great. It’s amazing. It changes the world. So that’s God’s providence.
Application two, God’s promises
The second application is God’s promises. He says deliverance will come from somewhere else. Let’s look at Romans 11:28.
We talked about the Abrahamic covenant. Let’s look at a couple other places.
Romans 11:28. This is talking about Jews here; and it’s Paul speaking to a bunch of Gentiles, Romans. And part of what he’s talking to them about is, so I’m resisting what these Jews are telling you, but does that mean I’m resisting Israel? And his answer is no. I’m not. Even though they’re resisting the gospel, I’m not resisting them.
And here’s part of what he says:
Concerning the gospel they—these Jewish people who are opposing Paul’s version of the gospel with their own version— they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. This is Abrahamic covenant and other things.
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. When God promises something he never takes it back.
For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy.
There’s this mysterious thing happening between Jew and Gentile where they’re going to end up blessing each other through disobedience. Don’t get uppity about it is the paraphrase.
So, God keeps his promises, and don’t you get too upset when other people are being chastised.
Let’s also look at—well, I’ll just tell you. You might remember this. When Moses was putting up with the people in Numbers when they were disobeying and stuff, God kind of loses his temper. You remember this? And he says, “Why don’t I just wipe all them out? I’ll start over with you and make a nation of you.”
And Moses says, “It would look bad.”
And God says, “Yeah, you’re right. I’ll just work with these guys.”
Remember that? But still, he doesn’t just say wipe them out; he says wipe them out and start over because he’s got to fulfill his promise, right? He’s got multiple avenues to do that. He’s got to fulfill his promise.
So, first, the providence of God. It’s always there. He can use a rock. He prefers to use us. It’s an amazing opportunity for us to get that privilege. Let’s don’t mess that up.
Second thing is his promises. He’ll always keep his promises. He’s got multiple avenues to do that, but don’t get discouraged when things look ugly. He always keeps his promises.
Application three, God’s judgment
The third thing is his judgment. And I want to propose to you that there are four different things that God does, typically, in judging people. And I’m sure there are more; but there are four different kinds of judgment.
Judgment one, getting what you wished on other people
The first kind of judgment is getting what you wished on other people. It’s really important not to wish ill on other people for your own self-interest. You may wish that justice is done to someone else. That’s okay. You see that in Psalms all the time.
But when you actually wish harm on other people, it’s a really bad idea. Think about what happened to Haman. What happened to Haman? He built the gallows. Who got hung on it? He did. Keep that in mind.
Jesus says love other people and do kindness to them when they’re evil to you because it dumps, what? Burning coals on their head. I think this is what he’s talking about. It tends to come right back to you.
If you go through and think about it, lots of movies are this way, where the antagonist ends up getting dumped on him whatever he wanted to dump on other people. It’s kind of built into us to like this, when somebody gets what they deserve.
And you see this in other places. Obadiah 1:10 is a place you can look at if you want to. In Obadiah, you’ve got Edom, and he says I’m going to really mash you because you were glad when Israel had trouble instead of trying to help them. I’m going to visit on you what you wished on them.
So that’s one: getting what you wished on others.
Judgment two, getting what you want
A second kind of judgment is getting what you want for yourself. And this is Romans 1. Let’s just look at it real quick.
Romans 1:24. And we’re going to look at the phrase “gave them over”. And these people that suppress the truth in unrighteousness. They know the truth but, “No, I don’t want to look at the truth. I want to look at something else.”
Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts—
The first thing that God will say is, “No, I don’t want to give you up to that lust! Man, no, that’s terrible! You don’t want to be a slave of that! Don’t—okay. You can have it.”
That’s the first wave of this judgment. You can have your appetites.
And then the second thing, verse 26, — God gave them up to vile passions—
So now, the appetites turn into vile passions. I think we would call this addictions.
God will give you over to your appetites. And then God will give you over to your addictions.
And then verse 28, he gave them over to a debased mind. And once you get addicted to something, you can’t even think right. Have you ever seen this happen before?
Well, this is getting what you wanted. And that’s another form of judgment.
Judgment three, reaping what you sowed
A third form of judgment is getting the fruit of what you planted because you reap what you sow. This is a Galatians 6. We reap what we sow.
If we sow to the flesh, what do we reap? Destruction. If we sow the Spirit, we reap life and righteousness.
This is the way that God set up the world. It’s a righteous world. It’s a just world. He’s intervened with mercy.
And, by the way, being born again is just too. There’s a reaping and sowing there too. Who sowed? Jesus. But he let us reap, right? The righteousness is still satisfied in that.
Judgment four, God’s chastening
And the last one is the one we usually think about, but I don’t really think it’s the norm. I think it’s the exception. And that’s God’s direct chastening, which he does do from time to time.
In 1 Corinthians 11, it says some of you have fallen asleep because you’re not doing the Lord’s Supper the right way. By which he means, I took some of you out because you’re not honoring the Lord’s Supper the right way. That’s chastening. You got pulled out of the game. You’re loafing; you’re not pressing. I told you to press. You’re just standing out there. You sit on the bench, is what that is.
And that’s to believers.
And that same thing happens to unbelievers. We can look at Sodom and Gomorrah. You can look at the interchange between Abraham and God. And he says, “I’m taking these guys out. Their wickedness is just—it’s cancer! It’s spreading everywhere. I’ve got to take the cancer out.”
Abraham says, “Well, how about if there’s 50 righteous guys there?”
“Well, if there are 50, I would give them another chance.”
“How about 40?”
It goes all the way down to ten. There are not ten. So, he removes the cancer. That’s chastening, direct intervention.
We want justice
In this case, we see Haman getting back on his head what he wanted for Mordecai, so we want to learn from that.
But let’s also bear in mind that this is a just world; justice will be had. In the new earth, there will be justice.
There’s this real fascinating passage in Revelation where the martyrs under the altar turn around to God and say, “How long are you going to wait until you avenge our deaths?”
What do they want? Justice!
Where are they? Heaven! And they’re getting impatient which means that they’re aware of time!
So it’s not exactly how it’s painted for us. We’re still going to want justice.
And just like when you see a movie and the bad guy gets shot, and you go, “Yeah!” We should say, “You wanted somebody to be killed? Really? Are you some kind of bloodthirsty animal?”
Well, no, I like justice.
And that’s the way things are going to be; they’re all going to be brought to justice.
Here’s the key thing: We’re not God. So let’s be careful about our role in this justice. Things will be brought to justice, but his time, his way. Our job is to take the place of rocks and do what God asks us to do when he asks us to do it, how he asks us to do it.
And what he asked Esther to do is, “I put you in this place,” and, you know, it’s not really an attractive thing. Compared to the one night and then you never see him again, maybe it is. But, obviously being the queen has its difficulties. But what she did is she took her position as she had it, and she gave it up to serve. And when she did that, she was elevated. And Haman was trying to control and boost his own ego, and he got mashed. And this is ultimately what’s going to happen to us all. So let’s bear that in mind.