v1, That same day
When we talk about the patience of God, we understand that in God’s timing, we are often far too impatient. Frequently, our frustration comes not because God’s not willing to act, but because He is patient and doesn’t answer our prayers in our time. It is important to understand that often God isn’t refusing our prayers, He’s waiting until we’re ready for His solution. The process of waiting doesn’t change God, it changes US.
Here we see the action of God in Esther and Mordecai’s situation that same day. Although we have to have an understanding of the patience of God, we must also realise and be ready for the fact that, often, when He does finally act, it can all come together so VERY quickly and we must be ready.
So very frequently, we think God delays in the things He does.
In fact, the Psalmist says, how long O Lord? … on more then one occasion (a simple search fro that phrase on my bible app shows 6:3, 13:1, 35:17, 74:9, 79:5, 89:46, 90:13, 94:3). Our experience is that we wait and wait and wait, but when the time eventually does come, God moves very quickly.
So, testimony time … we were called to ministry on 14 October 1987, I was ready to leave right then and there. God had other ideas. I waited, working as a surveyor in BCC until early 1993 when the leadership of our church decided it was time for us to go to train. in June that year, having been offered a place to train, setting aside the circumstances of leaving work which is a story in itself, finding somewhere to live, moving house to Bournemouth happened very quickly indeed. In fact so fast, our heads were quite literally spinning with the speed that our circumstances changed. We had found a tenant for our home in Yate, found a new home in Bournemouth, and moved within a matter of days. There have also been other occasions and circumstances in our life where God has moved very quickly.
People seem to think that everything will go on ad infinitum (into infinity – or “on forever”). In other words, nothing is likely to change very quickly. James writes Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” (James 4:13) he is describing actions which reveal a belief that we are in charge of our own destiny and that things will continue as always. I sometimes wonder if it is this belief which underlies the resistance to change we find in many churches. However, in the very next verse, James tells us that is not the case, there will come a time when God moves, and it will be sudden, and it will be final.
Paul says when God does eventually act in history it will be unexpected and sudden like a thief in the night, For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:2–3 esv). If nothing else, a proper understanding of this should be a caution against our tendency to second guess when Jesus is going to come again, and be willing to wait, be ready and trust in His timing.
But it is not in the “that same day” or the “suddenly” of God that our faith is tested, it is in the waiting. It is in the watching God move in the lives of people around us and wondering why He’s silent in OUR lives and why He hasn’t answered OUR prayers. When is OUR moment going to come? When are WE going to see His hand in our lives.
And I want you to know that even as someone who has seen God move on a number of occasions over the years, both in our own lives and in the lives of people around us, that doesn’t get any easier. It is as hard now waiting for God to act as it was when I was a new Christian and when Wendy and I were first embarking on our adventure in marriage and ministry. We have learned to wait on His timing, but waiting is no easier now than it was then!
Part of the point of this morning’s message is to speak to that very thing, when we are in the midst of troubles, we need the reassurance that they will not last forever.
In the midst of troubles, the Psalmist declares,
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
He concludes …
Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD! (Psalm 27:13–14 nkjv)
This narrative shows us something very very clear. It can be summed up in the words of the saying, This too, shall pass. It seems like it is a quote from the Bible, but actually it’s not. However, the concept of “this to, shall pass” would very easily slip into the Scripture and would be very at home in Proverbs, or Ecclesiastes, though it is believed it has come from a translation of 2 Corinthians 4:17–18, For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
My basic point is this, whatever the world throws at us, we can rely on God and trust Him in through the bad times, and that the good times in many cases are just around the corner, So, if you are in the midst of something, then hang in there and know that when God does move, you will be surprised that when the time is right, the turnaround may be very quick indeed.
recognising that for some, the fulfilment of the promise of God’s protection doesn’t come in this life — it gets fulfilled in the next.
v3, Esther pleads again with the King.
Ch7 has ended with Haman being hanged and Esther being saved, but here we can see that the king’s edict made by Haman is still in force. Esther may be safe, but the Jews are still in extreme peril. Esther’s plea falls on ears which hear, and a heart which responds to, her request.
We have Esther asking the king that very question, “If it pleases the king,” she said, “and if he regards me with favour and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king’s provinces.” (Esther 8:5).
Note Xerxes’ response is no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked (Esther 8:8).
In fact Xerxes suggests that just as Haman has suffered the fate he had planned for Mordecai and the Jews, that a new edict is made, and he gives Mordecai the authority to make whatever edict he wants to.
Note that the king doesn’t say what to do, he merely gives Mordecai and Esther the power to make any decree as seems best to them.
The original edict of the king cannot be revoked (v8). The best that the king can do is give Mordecai the authority to allow the Jews defend themselves.
A new edict is written and sealed with the signet ring Haman used.
“At once the royal secretaries were summoned—on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan. They wrote out all Mordecai’s orders to the Jews, and to the satraps, governors and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. These orders were written in the script of each province and the language of each people and also to the Jews in their own script and language. Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king’s signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king.
The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies.” (Esther 8:9–11)
What can we learn from this?
Same ring, same day
The very ring which was used to create the law which sealed the edict to kill the Jews, is used to give them the authority to assemble, to protect themselves and even to pre-emptively kill their enemies. Add to this that the very pole Haman had erected to kill Mordecai is the one he was impaled on.
The day appointed for this edict to become law we are told in 8:12 is the thirteenth day of twelfth month, the month of Adar. You may not remember the significance of this day. Haman’s edict to annihilate the Jews in Esther 3 says Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. (Esther 3:13 niv). In other words, on the VERY SAME DAY they Jews were supposed to be annihilated, they were given the right to defend themselves by the king!
Often, we find that the very things which are intended to harm us, can be used by God to defend us.
For the most part, we are called to live in peace and be obedient to the authorities that rule the country we live in. Paul says as much, he says we are to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work (Titus 3:1 esv), and Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Romans 13:1–2 (esv)
Peter writes … Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honour everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the emperor. 1 Peter 2:13–17 (esv)
So, if we are to live in obedience to our laws today, we must be wise about what to do when we are under threat. There is some evidence in the bible – Daniel, the three friends in the furnace for example that simply refusing an ungodly law is an appropriate thing to do, but here in Esther, we find that she is able to invoke the law itself.
I would suggest that as far as we are able, we comply with the law of the land UNLESS it is a direct attack on our faith (bearing in mind what I said a couple of weeks ago about laws which are created which we cannot comply with because of our faith). However, the first thing we must do is try to use our existing legal system to defend ourselves, and civil disobedience should be our last resort not our first go to.
So, for example, the tactics of the enemy is currently to use human rights, or hate law legislation to force Christians to accept and live by anti-Christian ideology.
Perhaps, just perhaps, that same hate law legislation could be used to defend our Christian faith and practice.
In the ancient Near East, it is well attested that the law of the Medes and the Persians was irrevocable. Once a law had been sealed, that was that. It could not be repealed.
This is not a concept we understand nowadays. The Medo-Persian culture that any law enacted cannot be revoked is virtually unknown in the modern world. So, as an example, we have watched presidents literally sitting down and revoking laws made by the previous incumbent one after another after another. (I think Joe Biden revoked no less than 15 of Donald Trump’s executive orders within 24 hours of being sworn in as president). American laws being repealed just like that.
In the UK, there is no process whereby one person can unilaterally simply create or revoke a law. However parliament is a legislative body, it creates and repeals laws regularly. No law is deemed to be irrevocable. Even laws surrounding the killing of people are changed, so for example, before Lord Steel’s bill in 1967, abortion was treated as a form of murder, now abortion is not only legal – it is protected under law.
Is this true with God? Are there some laws of God which no longer apply? When we read about some of the laws in the Old Testament which we no longer comply with or abide by, does that mean God has changed?
What about laws which are completely irrational to our modern 21st century ears?
for example …
- prohibitions on wearing cloth blended from two different fibres? (Leviticus 19:19, Deuteronomy 22:11)
- or only eating fish with fins and scales? (Leviticus 11:9–12, Deuteronomy 14:9,10)
These are fairly innocuous examples, but how we deal with this aspect of the Old Testament is something which significantly impacts some really “hot topics” in today’s culture. For example, the Old Testament law forbids homosexual activity and wearing clothes which are identified with the opposite sex. How we deal with these will significantly impact us. Taking the Old Testament stance about those issues will almost certainly result in us being hated and criticised as intolerant and hateful and it may result in us losing our jobs and possibly even our freedom.
Many Christians believe that most if not all of the Old Testament laws can be disregarded, that they only applied to that culture at that time and we cannot, in fact we should not apply them today. But if the purpose of OT law is to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24 nasb the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith), and given our belief that God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6 esv I the Lord, do not change), surely we cannot simply arbitrarily dismiss the OT law. In fact, HOW we deal with it, and how we apply it into our own lives is significantly important.
Jesus summarised the law by two measures – how we love God and how we love one another (Matthew 22:34–40 niv Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”). These emphases can be easily seen in the Ten Commandments: the first four commands focus on our relation to God, and the remainder focus on how we treat one another.
But, WHAT do we as Christians believe about the laws in the Old Testament? ? Should we obey them or not? Are we being at best inconsistent or at worst hypocritical if we adopt some and discard others laws? For example, we insist that the law forbidding homosexual behaviour must be obeyed, but we discard the law about eating shellfish as merely for the culture at the time?
Jesus himself says, do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. Matthew 5:17 esv. So what does He mean when He says that He came to fulfil the law and the prophets?
On the cross, Jesus proclaims “it is finished!” just before He breathes His last breath. It is generally accepted that He means that the price, the punishment required under the law for our disobedience has been satisfied.
Found only in the Gospel of John, the Greek word translated it is finished is an accounting term that means “paid in full.” When Jesus uttered those words, He was declaring the debt owed to His Father was wiped away completely and forever. Not that Jesus wiped away any debt that He owed to the Father; rather, Jesus eliminated the debt owed by us all — the debt of sin, of disobedience under the law.
When we break God’s law today, when you or I do something which is clearly a breaking of His law, a price has to be paid. Even now.
It is not true that there is no longer a payment, no longer a consequence of that disobedience. There is. The Gospel, the good news is that for those who have accepted and believed the message of Jesus, the price has already been paid. by Jesus. This is the essence of Isaiah 53:5 which says, he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
The implications in how we are to live out our lives is something Paul talks about at length in his letters, but in a nutshell, Paul is very clear that Christ’s fulfilment of the law does not give us permission to live however we like. Instead we have a greater responsibility not only to keep the law in our actions, but as Jesus taught, we are supposed to keep the law in our hearts and attitudes as well.
if we live out our lives with today’s truths foremost, it will totally transform us.
If we understand …
- that (as Peter says) God is not slow, but is patient towards us,
- that He doesn’t change, that He doesn’t withdraw his promises to us,
Then we will have more patience in the ebb and flow of the troubles of daily life.