Summary: After spending time in fasting and prayer, Esther acted courageously. Because God is in control, we can live courageously.
Tonight I would like for us to look at the book of Esther. This is a strange book in the Bible due to the fact that God is not really mentioned. This has led some to cast it out, or think that it should not be part of the Bible.
Esther in Church History
1. Not one commentary was written on the book of Esther in the first seven centuries of the Church
2. John Calvin never preached from the book and did not write a commentary on the book
3. Martin Luther renounced the book, along with other apocryphal books saying, “I am so great an enemy to the second book of the Maccabees, and to Esther, that I wish they had not come to us at all, for they have too many heathen unnaturalities.
But while it never explicitly references God, the omission of such distinctive religious concepts or vocabulary is actually a rhetorical device that is used to show that it is indeed God who is active throughout the whole narrative.
I believe this book is to contrast with other events in the Bible. Esther is all about God delivering His people providentially, showing that He is not limited to a certain way of doing things. God can deliver however He chooses. He can deliver miraculously, such as through the Exodus; however, He can deliver His people in a more subtle way, such as we see in this book.
It reminds me of Elijah. Remember, Elijah was looking for God over in 1 Kings 19. That passage shows us that Elijah was looking for God in a big way. He had just seen God work in a mighty way on top of Mount Carmel, when we saw the huge showdown between Elijah/God and Baal and his worshipers. If you remember the story of Elijah, he had had this showdown with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, but then he was afraid of Jezebel, and this was when he was seeking God. Elijah was expecting God to show Himself in a great, mighty way. He looked for Him in the great and mighty wind, but God wasn’t in the wind. He looked for God in the earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. He looked for Him in the fire, but He was not in the fire. After the fire, Elijah heard a voice speaking in a soft whisper. It was the soft whisper that was where God was found, not in the mighty elements, but the still, small voice.
I believe God was using this instance to show Elijah he could work in great ways, but He could also work in small ways. I think this is what Esther is all about, seeing that God can work in small ways to achieve His purposes.
The Jews had stopped following God’s leadership and wanted a king, so God had allowed them to do what they desired, and so a monarchy was established and lasted through three kings, Saul, David, and Solomon. After Solomon, Israel was divided into two separate kingdoms, with the northern part being called Israel and the southern being called Judah. In 722 BC, Israel was conquered by the Assyrians and were taken into slavery, also called exile due to the fact that the Israelites had broken their covenant with God and He allowed them to be conquered. Judah was also conquered in 586 BC, but by Babylon. The Persian Empire, led by Cyrus, conquered the Assyrians and Babylonians. It is during this time of exile under the Persians that the events of the book of Esther take place.
King Xerxes [Greek name] (also called Ahasuerus) had a banquet and commanded his queen Vashti to come so he could show her off because she was beautiful, but she refused to come, so he divorced her.
Esther 1:19 “If it meets the king’s approval, he should personally issue a royal decree. Let it be recorded in the laws of Persia and Media, so that it cannot be revoked: Vashti is not to enter King Ahasuerus’s presence, and her royal position is to be given to another woman who is more worthy than she.
Therefore, Xerxes held a beauty contest in order to find a new bride, and it just so happens (when I say that, I am not saying that it was coincidence, but rather to show that God worked in one of these small ways) that a Jewish woman named Esther was picked, although she kept the fact that she was a Jew secret.
I. DEATH TO THE JEWS! (ESTHER 3:1-15)
Xerxes had promoted this guy named Haman to the highest position available. He was second in command only to King Xerxes. Haman let this power go to his head a little. He reminds me of Kings Nebuchadnezzar and Darius, from Babylon in the book of Daniel. Remember Nebuchadnezzar had a golden statue made and commanded all to bow down to it, but the three Jewish guys by the names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to it and so Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into the fire. Darius also issued an edict that got Daniel into trouble and tossed into the lions’ den.