Summary: I cover the part of the story where Esther approaches the king and asks for the king and Haman to join her for a banquet. I talk about waiting on the Lord before taking important stands.
A. The story is told of a man who went to church one Sunday and was very tired from his late night activities the night before.
1. Finding the sermon to be long and boring, the sleepy man finally nodded off to sleep.
2. The preacher, who had been noticing the man nodding off, decided to make an example of him.
3. He said to the congregation, “All those wishing to have a place in heaven, please stand.”
4. The whole congregation stood up, except for the sleeping man, who remained seated and asleep. The preacher asked everyone to quietly sit back down.
5. Then the preacher said even more loudly, “And anyone who would like to find a place in hell please STAND UP!”
6. The sleepy man, catching only the last part groggily stood up, only to find that he was the only one standing in the audience.
7. Confused and embarrassed, the sleepy man said, “I don't know what we're voting on here, but it seems like me and the preacher are the only ones standing for it!”
B. What are you willing to take a stand for?
1. There have been many great people in history who have taken a stand on important issues.
2. I’m reminded of the great stand that the theologian Martin Luther took on April 18, 1521.
a. Luther had nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Catholic church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517.
b. Four years later at the Diet of Worms ("diet" is a formal deliberative assembly of the Catholic church), Luther was put on trial for his radical ideas and his independent spirit.
c. At that assembly in 1521, Luther said, “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”
d. Luther was excommunicated and the Protestant Reformation was begun.
3. In the Old Testament Book of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, took a similar stand.
a. When ordered to bow down and worship the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had erected, they said: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Dan. 3:16-18).
b. They were thrown into the furnace and God came to their rescue, but when they took their stand, that were not assured that that would be the outcome.
C. Today, as we return to our story of Esther, we will see her take a similar stand in the face of great personal consequences.
1. Let’s review Esther’s situation.
2. You will recall that she had won the Miss Persia contest and became King Xerxes’ new queen.
3. Then eight years later, the evil man Haman was given the powerful position of second in command.
4. He had a long-standing prejudice and hatred for the Jews, and when Mordecai refused to bow down to him, Haman decided to not only get rid of Mordecai, but get rid of all the Jews.
5. The King approved Haman’s plan and the edict for the elimination of the Jews was announced.
6. Mordecai sent word to Esther that she had to do something and that she had been put there for such a time as this.
7. Esther sent back word that for the last 30 days she had not been summoned by the king, and that it was against the law for her to appear before the king uninvited, but if the Jews would fast and pray for her for three days she would approach the king, and if she perished, then she perished.
I. The Story
A. So this is where we pick up our story for today.
1. Between chapters 4 and 5 there is a dramatic pause.
2. We are left in suspense as we are not told anything that happened during the three day fast.
3. This pause represents a silent, yet powerful interlude during which Esther drew on the source of her strength.
4. Even though God was silent during those three days, we can trust that He was at work, nonetheless.
5. During a waiting period, God is not only working in our hearts, He is working in others’ hearts.
6. I’m reminded of Isaiah’s words: “But those who wait upon the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Is. 40:31).
7. When we find ourselves in one of those interlude periods of our lives, when we need to wait upon the Lord for wisdom, strength and direction, we should ask for others to fast and pray with us, and then we should give it over to God, and wait with a listening ear and a watchful eye.