TEXT: Esther Chapter 4
TITLE: ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
In an overpopulated world, it’s easy to underestimate the significance of one. There are so many people who have so many gifts and skills who are already doing so many things that are so important, who needs me? What can I as one individual contribute to the overwhelming needs of our world, our church, etc.?
But the truth is, you are you—the only you in all the world. Nobody can do the things that God has called and gifted you to do. Edward Everett Hale puts it this way:
I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything;
but still I can do something;
and because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
There is only one you. You’re the only person with your exact heritage, your precise series of events in the pilgrimage and sufferings of life that have brought you to this hour. You’re the only one with your personal convictions, your makeup, your skills, your appearance, your touch, your voice, your style, your surroundings, your sphere of influence—you’re the only one.
History is full of accounts of single individuals who have made a difference. Think of the military battles that have turned on the axis of one heroic person. Think of the artists and the contribution of their individual lives, from Michelangelo and da Vinci to Brahms and Beethoven. Think of the scientists, the inventors, the explorers, and the technological experts who have literally changed the course of history. Think of the courageous preachers down through time who have stood alone in the gap and made a difference. The face of the church was changed by significant individuals—men like Augustine, Tyndale, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Spurgeon, Moody, and Graham, to name only a few.
Or look at it from another angle, think of the difference one vote can make. Come voting time, many neglect to exercise one of the greatest privileges of democracy, thinking that their vote makes no difference.
•In 1654, one vote gave Oliver Cromwell control of England;
•In 1649, one vote caused Charles I of England to be executed;
•In 1776, one vote gave America the English language instead of German;
•In 1839, one vote elected Marcus Morton governor of Massachusetts;
•In 1845, one vote brought Texas into the union;
•In 1868, one vote saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment.
•In 1875, one vote changed France form a monarchy to a republic;
•In 1876, one vote gave Rutherford B. Hayes the united States presidency;
•In 1923, one vote gave Adolph Hitler control of the nazi party;
•In 1941, one vote saved the Selective Service System just 12 weeks before Pearl Harbor!
When I read God’s Word, I don’t find that many stories about great crusades and city-wide revivals and mass meetings where God’s attention rested on an entire country or a whole community. More often, I find individual men and women who made a difference. From Genesis to Revelation, we see God’s hand on the lives of individuals who thought and said and did what was right—regardless—and as a result, history was made.
Only one statesman stands for right and a country is saved. Only one strong-willed and determined citizen says, “I stand against this evil,” & a community ramps up morally and changes its direction. And, as we shall see, only one woman decided it was worth the risk to break with protocol and speak her mind, and a nation was preserved.
The Jews have been threatened with extermination. Wicked Haman has influenced King Ahasuerus, with his promises. “Because of this plan I have set up, it is possible for me to pour this money into your treasuries and for us to rid the land of these people who will not bow down and worship you as the king.”
What terror this struck in their hearts, what fear in their minds! “How can we continue?” “How can we fight this?” This is the law of the Medes and the Persians. When an edict was set forth in that era, it was final. Nobody could change this plan, certainly no Jew. It seemed like a hopeless situation.
Yet in the midst of all this, God was not sleeping. In His sovereign plan, He determined one person would make the difference. Again, one individual would stand in the gap. On this occasion, her name is Esther.
Refer to verse 1. When in bankruptcy or living with a dread disease or having buried a family member or having gone through some terrible disaster in one’s city, people in Esther’s day would commonly wear loose-fitting, dark-colored coarse garments made of goat’s hair, which hung on them like a large gunnysack. On top of that, they would take ashes from the remains of a fire and throw them on themselves so they would be covered with them and appear ghastly and unclean. Sometimes they would even sit in the midst of a cold ash heap and throw the ashes on themselves as a vivid expression of their grief.
Mordecai holds nothing back. His grief knows no bounds. In sackcloth and ashes he stumbles toward the gate of the palace. Refer to verse 2.
But Susa, the capital, was not the only place where such demonstrations of mourning were taking place (verse 3). It’s a picture of widespread sorrow and loud mourning.
Have you noticed how suffering brings people together? Have you watched how people respond to disasters? Suffering pushes us out of our homes. It puts us in touch with our neighbors. Hardship forces us to grab hands with one another and pull up closer together.
(Verse 4) Now that she is a part of the king’s household restrained from contact with those outside the palace, Esther cannot speak to Mordecai directly, so she sends him clothing to replace his sackcloth, as a way of offering comfort to him for whatever has happened. But Mordecai refused the clothing. Esther then sends one of the king’s servants to find out the truth from Mordecai.
(Verses 5-8) Mordecai not only informs Esther, through her servant, of all that has happened, even down to the specifics regarding the exact amount of money in the deal; he also sends along official evidence—a copy of the text of the edict.
Mordecai has asked her “to go in to the king to make supplication to him and plead before him for her people” (v. 8). He knows if she acts on this it could be “curtains” for her. At present, no one in the palace knows she is Jewish. If she believes this information and acts on it, as Mordecai is requesting, she is risking everything, so this is no time for rumor. Let me say something here; doing what God wants you to do will usually involve taking a risk. You may have to loose or give something up to do God’s will, or at least be willing to loose it or give it up.
If Esther obeyed Mordecai, she stood to risk of loosing everything, including her life. Although the king was her husband, she couldn’t just scroll into his office and casually unload what was on her mind. Things didn’t work like that in ancient Persia. He had to send for her. And at that time, he hadn’t sent for her for a month. If she went to him without being summoned, he could have her put to death. On top of all that, she was Jewish. Who knows how that Gentile monarch would respond when he found that out?
It was a huge dilemma. But Mordecai knew Esther. He had reared her. He had trained her. He knew how far he could push. Most of all, he knew her character. He knew the stuff of which she was made.
Read verses 13 & 14. This goes down in history as one of those “turning point speeches.” Mordecai says, “First of all, if you do nothing, don’t think you will escape death. Being a Jew, you will die like the rest of us. And second, even if we die, God is not limited to you or me, nor will He allow His people to perish. He will use someone to save our nation. And then, third, how great it would be if He soverignly chose to use you. Could it be that this explains why you were chosen to be queen, my dear Esther—for such a time as this—for this very moment?”
Mordecai is saying to Esther, “this is your hour. Stand. Speak! Die! But whatever you do, Don’t be silent.” Her words reveal enormous faith mixed with courage: read verse 16.
Is that a great answer or what? Is this a great woman? She’s had only a few moments to consider what Mordecai had told her, a brief slice of time to weigh his counsel. It was all she needed. She is determined to make a difference, no matter what the consequences to her personally: “If I perish, I perish. If a guard drives a sword through my body, I die doing the right thing.” She has changed form fear to abandonment and faith, from concern for her own safety to concern for her people’s survival. She has reached her own personal hour of decision and has not been found wanting.
Do you recall when young David was asked by his father to leave the sheep and take some food and supplies to his brothers who were fighting the Philistines at the valley of Elah? When he got there, he found the giant Goliath roaming the battlefield, taunting and blaspheming the God of Israel. When he learns what is going on, he says, if effect, “Let’s do something about it.” And his older brother, Eliab, laughs and says sarcastic stuff like, “Oh, so you’re going to be the big-time hero, huh? How are all those little woollies doing while you’re out here on the battlefield with us?” Remember young David’s answer? “Is there not a cause” (1 Samuel 17:29)? Shortly thereafter he whips out his slingshot and downs Goliath with one smooth stone.
Of course there is a cause! David implies, if not in words at least in his actions, “What are you doing sitting around in your tents with your knees knocking? There is a giant out there who hates the cause of the living God! What are you men doing standing here? Our God will fight for me. And if I perish, I perish.”
Esther realized the same thing. She realized there was an enemy out there, not only of her people, but more importantly, of the living God. And as soon as that realization seized her awareness, the softness of the palace became uncomfortable.
In our overpopulated world, it is easy to underestimate the significance of one. It is easy to underestimate the value of you: your vote, your convictions, your determination to say, “I stand against this.”
What does it matter if I get involved or not? It matters greatly—it matters to your character! Yes, it’s true that God has other ways to accomplish His objectives. He has other people He can use. He isn’t frustrated or restrained because you and I may be indifferent. But when that happens, we are the losers. When we have been called “for such a time as this,” how tragic if we are not there to stand in that hour.
Numerous needs and issues surround us. They summon us to stand up and be counted. Numerous jobs around us need to be done. Numerous ministries need to be started. While we will not be able to respond to all of them, the solution is not to respond to any of them! So let me ask you: What are you doing to stand up, to stand alone, to answer the call of God in this hour? Consider the following in closing:
First: Not until we believe one person can make a difference will we be willing to risk. Quit being so careful about protecting your own backside. Stop worrying about what others will think. You don’t answer to them. You answer to Him. He will help. He will give you wisdom and courage. You may be only one, but you are one. So, risk!
Second: Only when we move from the safe harbor of theory to the risky world of reality do we actually make a difference.
We are great on theory. We have a theory on how the church can grow, how we can have a better youth ministry, how we can see souls saved etc. But we are not rewarded for our theories. It’s the deed? The deed! We’re rewarded for the deed.
Does one person make a difference? Let me ask you, did Christ? God so loved the world that He did something. He didn’t select a committee. He didn’t theorize how great it would be for someone to come to our rescue. He didn’t simply grieve over our waywardness and wring His hands in sorrow. He did something! And, in turn, the Son of God said to God the Father, “I will go.” He did something about it.
The question is not simply, what do you think of Christ? The question is, what have you done about what you think? The issue is not so much, how do you feel about the message of the gospel? The issue is, what have you done about the gospel?