Hello, and welcome to Lechem Panim. We have reached an exciting turning point in the book of Esther. Up until our passage last week, evil has seemed to have been prevailing. Mordecai had uncovered a murder plot against the king’s life, but instead of him being rewarded, the following chapter (chapter 3) sees the rise of an evil man named Haman, who (because of Mordecai’s refusal to bow down to him) tricks the king into signing an edict to annihilate all the Jewish people in the Persian empire. Mordecai pleads with Esther to go to the king unannounced on behalf of her people, an act that could cost her her life; because it broke Persian protocol and might be seen by others as the same kind of rebellion the first Queen (Vashti) had committed all the way back in chapter 1. But Esther chooses to do this, and finds that the king receives her with favor, and agrees to come to a banquet she has prepared in order to hear her request. And she asks for Haman to be there too, to which the king agrees. So the king comes (with Haman) to Esther’s first banquet to hear her request, but Esther senses God telling her to remain silent and to not share her request at that time, which is kind of frustrating for her because there is some urgency to her request. But she chooses to follow God’s leading and to instead invite the king and Haman to a second banquet, during which she will then share her request. After that Haman has a pole erected for Mordecai on which to have him impaled as soon as he can get the king’s permission. But of course that night the king can’t sleep and so the royal records are read to him and he comes across the account of how Mordecai had saved his life from that assassination plot 5 years earlier. And so he decides to reward Mordecai, so he asks who is in the court; and of course it is Haman; Haman has come to issue his own request (to have Mordecai impaled); but the king speaks first and asks what ought to be done for the man the king delights to honor. And Haman, thinking it is him, gives him a long list of things that ought to be done for him (including exalting him publicly). And so the king tells him to go and do all these things (leaving nothing out) for Mordecai the Jew. And Haman (horrified) finds himself compelled to obey the king and ends up exalting the very man he had sought to destroy. And the text says that afterwards he went home with his face covered in grief. And so (in the midst of a lot of grief and pain) we see that God is working in an amazing; and we have already begun to see how God’s plans are unfolding and the tables are beginning to turn on the enemies of His people. Last week I read to you Deuteronomy 7:9, which reads:
Deuteronomy 7:9 (NIV)-- 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
But I intentionally left the following verse for today, because of how it sets the tone for our discussion. It says in verse 10…
Deuteronomy 7:10 (NIV)-- 10 But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him.
The Hidden Face-- Now notice that twice it says in this verse that God will repay to their face; because there is a lot of Old Testament imagery and meaning behind that phrase. You will remember that in breathing life into Adam, God gave life to Adam from His very face. When man sinned, he was cut off from the face of God. When Cain committed murder in killing his brother Abel, he says Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. When we sin, (in the Hebrew mind) our face is always affected; we are cut off from God’s face. Yet later in the Tabernacle (and even later the temple) there was kept there the bread of the presence of God. In Hebrew it was known as the Lechem Panim, which literally meant “bread of the faces”; signifying that bread for life was found as man looked into the face/faces of God. It was a promise; because in Jesus (the bread of life), who was born in a bakery (that’s what Bet-Lechem means; “house of bread”), man got to look once again into the face of God in Jesus. Now I say all this because of how Haman in our story today has just covered his face because of his having to exalt Mordecai. He races home with his face covered. There is a spiritual overtone to all of this. And his friends and family tell him he’s doomed because Mordecai is a Jew (interesting how they seem to understand that God stands with His people). And it says…
Esther 6:14-7:1-- 14 While they were still talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared. 7:1 So the king and Haman went to Queen Esther’s banquet,
So Haman is ushered to Esther’s second banquet. And his heart is still racing and he’s trying to regain his composure the best he can. And so he comes in and sits down, only to experience another horrifying surprise. It says…
Esther 7:2-4 (NIV)— 2 and as they were drinking wine [there's that theme of wine again] on the second day, the king again asked, “Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”
3 Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. 4 For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”
Now the king suddenly becomes wild with fury. Who would dare set themselves against His queen (the woman he loved) and her people? And Haman’s eyes are growing wide as well. He begins to feel the drumbeat of his own heart. And he thinks to himself, “Surely Esther is not a Jew!” But it says…
Esther 7:5-6 (NIV)— 5 King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who is he? Where is he—the man who has dared to do such a thing?”
6 Esther said, “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!”
And Haman’s jaw drops to the floor. And the king’s eyes lock onto Haman like a bulldog’s on lamb chops. And all the blood drains from Haman’s face. It says Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen. And the King is beside himself with rage. He gets up and storms out. And look what it says...
Esther 7:7-8a (NIV)— 7 The king got up in a rage, left his wine [there’s that wine mentioned again; something bad is about to happen] and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life. 8 Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining.
And for some reason this looks to Xerxes like an assault upon the queen; probably because of how aggressively Haman is pleading for his life; I mean HE IS TERRIFIED!!!
Esther 7:8b-10 (NIV)-- The king exclaimed, “Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?”
As soon as the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. 9 Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, “A pole reaching to a height of fifty cubits stands by Haman’s house. He had it set up for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.”
The king said, “Impale him on it!” 10 So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided.
God Lifting Us Up— Now I’m sure most of you have gone through times of persecution and oppression; and maybe you have wondered when and how God would deliver you. And especially we Christians in the United States have a skewed understanding of what it means to be in favor with God. We think it means prosperity and feeling close and connected with God all the time. Prosperity gospel prophets will tell us that if we are suffering in some way, then something is wrong with our relationship with God and we need to have a deeper kind of faith; because obviously our faith is not strong enough. I’m not sure why we tend to gravitate towards that heresy so easily, especially when Jesus speaks so clearly about our taking up our crosses (our emblems of suffering and shame) and following Him in His suffering. In the early church there were precious few Christians who expected anything less than pain and suffering on behalf of the Gospel. And looking back through the Old Testament, we discover that God’s faithful ones lived lives that were characterized by suffering. Think of Abraham’s and Sarah’s childlessness; think of Joseph’s imprisonment; Moses’ flight from Egypt and living in isolated seclusion for decades because of his having killed an Egyptian; or just look at the Psalms. Incredible works of poetry? Yes. But they were written (many of them) out of circumstance of intense persecution and pain. David had to deal with enemies who set themselves against him all of his life (from Goliath of Gath to Saul to even members of his own family). Those on whom God’s favor rested in a special way were those who (facing hardship) chose to rely on God in a special way. And in so doing, they found deliverance. Abraham’s wife Sarah conceived and gave birth. Joseph was freed from prison and God made him second in command over all of Egypt; God called Moses out of hiding and (in his senior years) made him His chosen leader for His people; God helped David defeat Goliath, to supersede Saul as king, and delivered him from his enemies time and time again. And so in all these accounts, we discover that the dark times were not God’s vacation days or God somehow backing off for a while. No, it was often during those times that God was working the most. And the same is true of us; if we can rely on God in the hard times, we will find ourselves joining in some of His greatest work. That is one of the key truths we discover in Scripture and is something we see demonstrated so clearly here in the book of Esther. And so I want to encourage you today (in whatever you are facing). Trust in God. If you are anchored to Him (in Christ Jesus) He will not always keep you from the dark times, but He will bring you through those dark times; and He will use those times to do mighty works both in you and through you. So let us trust in Him today. 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.