Sunday, 9 July 2017

Stories of Grace: Esther - The conclusion

The evil Haman despised Mordecai and all the Jews. He got the King to declare a day on which the Jews should be attacked across the whole empire - he wanted them all dead, he wanted ethnic cleansing. Mordecai, Queen Esther and Jews fasted and prayed - would Esther be able to petition the King? The day came and the King agreed to talk. Esther simply asked for a banquet, with Haman as guest. This went ahead, and the King again asked what was required. Esther asks for a second banquet ....

Haman was pleased with himself. He had it all, and was now invited to special private banquets. Yet one thing made his blood boil - he saw again Mordecai and he hated him. "How can I celebrate while he still lives?", he asked. His wife's answer was simple: "Stop sulking, have a gallows built, and hang the man!". Haman wasted no time in having a gallows set up ready.

Yet that night the King could not sleep. He got up and ordered his attendants to read him the stories of his empire. Late into the night they read, and happened to read out the report of Mordecai foiling a plot by two officers to assassinate the King. "What was done for this man who saved my life?", the King asked. "Why nothing, my Lord" came the answer. Just at that moment Haman happened to walk in. The King was pleased and asked Haman what should be done for the one the King would like to honour?

Haman naturally thought the King meant him, and suggested a parade on the best of the King's horses wearing royal robes. The King liked the suggestion, and commanded Haman to honour Mordecai in this way! Haman did this, and of course hated every minute of it. Now fuming his friends gave him wise advice: this Mordecai is of Jewish origin - if you fight him you will find yourself against powers that far exceed you and you will fall.

Interesting that pagan friends somehow knew that God would be on the side of God-fearing Mordecai!

Time for the next banquet came. The King again asked Esther what she really wanted. She replied: "Spare my life, and the lives of my people". The King asked, "but who is against you?". Esther pointed at Haman and told of the royal decree he had set in place. The King was furious and raged at Haman. His attendants grabbed Haman and told the King of the gallows that were set for Mordecai.

"Hang Haman on it" the King shouted. Haman was hung.

Esther asked that a new petition be issued to save her people. The King promoted Mordecai and empowered him to issue a new royal decree. It gave permission for Jews to assemble to defend themselves. This happened, and many attackers were killed on that day.

Now the story continues a little uncomfortably for us: Revenge was taken on Haman's family, and the Queen then asked for an extra day in the capital city for further attackers to be dealt with. This led to another 300 people being killed. Yet there were limits: only one day across the empire, two in the capital, and no possessions were taken from anyone killed.

Mordecai was promoted to be Prime Minister. He decreed an annual day of celebration for the Jewish people, to celebrate the story where God protected them and saw them through. This is still celebrated to this day.

This shared experience by the Jewish people in exile is technically known as "Communitas" - a group coming through a difficult experience together. Remember that for us the Christian life was never promised to be easy, but God will see us through. And as a church, or small group, or prayer triplet, God will see you through difficult situations together. Hence the key question:

Key Qn [IN]: What shared experiences has God brought you through with others?
Challenge: Let God fight for you

If there are enemies, resist the temptation to take the fight into your own hands. It is so easy for us to try and score our own win - whether it be with physical power, intellectual power, emotional power or whatever. This is the human way, but it is not the Christian way. Let God fight for you, and bring you through situations together as His people.

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