Hello, and welcome to Lechem Panim. It is good to have you with us today as we continue our study of the book of Esther.
Esther Stands for God’s People— In our passage last week we saw how Haman has begun to implement his plot against the Jews. He has gotten the king to sign a royal decree that all Jews in the empire are to be exterminated. And the decree has been sent out throughout all the empire. And news of this has reached Mordecai, who implores Esther to go before the king and plead their case. And Esther’s obviously scared, knowing that Persian law dictated that she could be executed for appearing before the king un-summoned. But rather than letting her fear master her, she chooses to align herself with God’s purpose and places the needs of her people over her own and chooses to go in to see the king. And as she enters that inner court (4:11), she knows she is placing her very life at the king’s mercy. Yet Proverbs 21:1 may have given her hope. It says…
Proverbs 21:1 (ESV)— 21 The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
And that’s what we see here. Because Esther has placed herself in the hands of God and found favor in His eyes, she finds that those same divine hands are at work in the heart of the king. And when the king sees her, it says she won favor in his sight (5:2), and he extends to her his scepter, sparing her life. And he says “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.” (5:3)
What Esther Requests-- Now Esther has come before the king; not to seek anything for herself (as Haman, by contrast, will in just a little while), but in order that the lives of her and her people might be spared. But what is interesting is that she doesn’t at this time make her request before the king. Instead, it says…
Esther 5:4-5 (NIV)— 4 “If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.”
5 “Bring Haman at once,” the king said, “so that we may do what Esther asks.”
So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared.
Sensitivity & Timing-- Now Esther chooses the banquet as the place to make her plea. As we talked about last week, she does this to protect the king; so that he might not be placed in a situation where he could publicly lose face; because remember it was he who had authorized this edict to begin with, so it would have made him look bad. But even more importantly, Esther is moving on God’s timetable. Probably because she took that time to fast and pray, she seems to have this sense of the Lord’s timing; and she is moving in accordance with that timing.
Led by the Spirit, not our sense of our needs-- And you know, that is something you and I can really learn from. Are we led by our fears or our own sense or perception of what our needs are? Or are we led by the Spirit of God? The truth is, when we focus on God and on living in obedience and in accordance with His timing, our needs are met; but we have to take our eyes off our needs and set them on Him. It is when we try to grasp too soon what may not be for us (or at least not yet) that we fall into trouble.
A Banquet “Prepared”-- Now this banquet was not something Esther decided to do on the spur of the moment. No, she prepared this banquet before even going before the king, which in itself is a beautiful picture of faith, as it shows she was actively trusting that God would move on her behalf. The banquet is already made. And so the king orders Haman to be brought and they leave immediately for the banquet. It says …
Esther 5:5b-6 (NIV)— So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared. 6 As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, “Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”
Wine & Darkness— You know, it’s interesting how much wine appears in the book of Esther. Wine is sometimes presented in the Old Testament as a symbol of God’s favor and blessing. But not always; and certainly not so far in this book. In the very first chapter you have wine; and that drunkenness it produced that led to the merciless exile of Queen Vashti; not much favor there. Then you have Haman’s deceiving the King into signing the edict that would have led to the extermination; the genocide of an entire race of people (including Esther); and the text says right after the edict was issued, the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was thrown into confusion. (3:15) And the very next time alcohol is mentioned is here in this verse; at this banquet where this wicked man Haman; this schemer of evil is brought in the midst of his planning to annihilate the Jews. So wine is more of a symbol of foreboding in this book. It is explicitly mentioned at every plot turn. And so the author’s pointing us to the wine is meant to foreshadow something grim; a dark event associated with wickedness. Proverbs 4:17 says of wicked people...
Proverbs 4:14-17 (NIV)— 16 For they cannot rest until they do evil; they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble.17 They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.
Everywhere you have wine in this book; you have violence showing up in some way, shape, or form. So they are there at the banquet and the king says to Esther…
Esther 5:6b-8 (NIV)-- “Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”
7 Esther replied, “My petition and my request is this: 8 If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question.”
The Time Wasn’t Right-- Now why the wait? For some reason Esther doesn’t feel like the timing is right; it seems that God is impressing upon her to wait. And she probably has no idea why. In fact it may even bother her because there is quite a bit of urgency to her making this request. Her people are about to be annihilated. But she chooses to wait. And this may be because she has a sense of the Lord’s timing. She chooses to obey the leading of the Lord and wait; she chooses to possibly even allow herself to be made to look foolish in order to act in accordance with the timing of the Lord. Now we in hindsight know why the Lord wanted her to wait; it was because He wanted to not only bring about the salvation of the Jews; He wanted to also humble Haman and exalt Mordecai. And this is one of the things God does quite often. He humbles the proud.
Proverbs 3:34 (NIV)-- 34 He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.
Proverbs 29:23 (NIV)-- 23 Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.
Matthew 23:11-12 (NIV)-- 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
1 Peter 5:5b-6 (NIV)-- …All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
Pride Sickness— I recently watched some of a special on the Corona Virus. And they were talking about how they believe the virus originated with bats. And they said bats are fascinating creatures because although they can carry Corona Virus and other diseases, they are (interestingly) not affected by them. And you know. Pride is similar. It’s as Buddy Robinson once said, “Pride is the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the person who has it.” And he’s right.
Pharaoh Humbled-- And before God’s will can be perfected in your life and in my life, God must first pull us out of the quicksand of pride. In Egypt it was not enough for God to deliver Israel. He could have stretched out his hand and immediately brought death to Pharaoh and all the Egyptians. But no; He takes the longer path and (through Moses and Aaron) brings humility to Israel’s captors to the point where they give of their own possessions to the Israelites; He humbles them. And ultimately the reason Pharaoh’s army is annihilated by the waters coming upon them was not God; it was Pharaoh’s own pride that led to the destruction of his army and his land. It was because of his heart, hardened by pride, that caused the plagues of Egypt that left it in ruin.
Nebuchadnezzar Humbled-- Later, just before the story of Esther; during the time of Daniel, reigned the proud King Nebuchadnezzar. Now God could have killed Nebuchadnezzar for his arrogance and sins. But God takes the longer path. He chooses to humble Nebuchadnezzar; remember, after praising himself and failing to give glory to God, God makes him like an animal; he loses his mind, his nails grow long, and he eats the grass of the field until he lifts up his eyes to heaven and lets go of His pride and gives worship to God. Then (and only then) does God restore him.
Haman Must Be Humbled-- And here we see the same thing. God has determined not only to save Israel (which could have been done at Esther’s first banquet). No; once again God takes the longer path; the one that will humble the enemy of God’s people before Him.
Mordecai Must Be Exalted-- And if Esther had made her request at this time, then Haman may have still been executed, but not humbled; and Mordecai would never have been exalted. And God saw both as necessary because He had plans to make Mordecai King Ahasuerus’ righthand man. And we will see in the closing chapters of this book that Mordecai himself plays a very key role in God’s plan. The proud must fall and the humble must be exalted.
We may miss out if we don’t wait on God’s timing-- You know, you and I can act on things before God’s timing; and things may turn out ok; but we may miss out on a huge part of the blessing God has in store for us or for someone we are connected with if we fail to move in accordance with His timing. We must learn to be patient and wait; even when it is frustrating or we may not understand why. You may be in a time of waiting right now; and those times of waiting can be very fearful; very scary. And we often want God to grant us what we think we need right away. Although we will never say it, we often think that God ought to act on our timetable. But if we can trust ourselves to God’s timing, pieces that are in play for our benefit God can use to bring us the greatest possible good. And that is ultimately what God was doing for Esther and her people; and it is what He wants to do for you and for me as well. And so I want to encourage you today (and myself as well); let us commit ourselves to following God’s timing in a deeper way. Let’s do so. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.