June 9, 2010 David Balzer

Esther 4-6: … For Such A Time As This!

Corrie Ten Boom lived behind a small jewelry store in the heart of the Jewish section of Amsterdam. The year was 1940. She and all her family were devoted members of the Dutch Reformed Church. Many of their friends and neighbours were Jewish.

Then Holland surrendered to the s. And before long, these same Jewish families were being arrested and driven out of their homes. And Corrie had a DECISION to make. And it was a decision that would REFLECT HER TRUST THAT GOD WAS IN CONTROL.

For Corrie, the decision was an easy one. Before long, the ten Boom family were risking their lives to help their Jewish neighbours. She gave them temporary shelter. She found places for them to stay in the Dutch countryside. Soon the word , and more and more people came to her home for shelter. As quickly as she could find places for them, more would arrive. She even had a false wall built in her bedroom, so people could hide behind it.

After a year and a half, her home had developed into the center of an underground ring that reached throughout Holland. Every day, dozens of reports, requests, and people came in and out of their watch shop. Corrie found herself dealing with hundreds of stolen ration cards each month to feed the Jews that were hiding in underground homes all over Holland.

On February 28, 1944, they were betrayed by a informant. Her home was raided, and Corrie and her family were arrested. Corrie and her older sister Betsie remained in a series of prisons and concentration camps, first in Holland and later in Germany.

Once again, Corrie had a tough decision to make. And once again, her DECISION WOULD REFLECT HER TRUST IN GOD’S CONTROL.

The concentration camp was a place of misery and . Of suffering and depression. For many people, it would have been the end of their work –But not for Corrie and Betsie. They refer to the months they spent in Ravensbruck as “their finest hour.” Corrie describes a typical evening church service.

“At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder. Before long, so many wanted to join us that we held a second service after evening roll call…

(These) were services like no others, these times in Barracks 28. A single meeting night might include a recital of the Magnificat in Latin by a group of Roman Catholics, a whispered hymn by some Lutherans, and a chant by Easter Orthodox women.

With each moment, the crowd around us would swell, packing the nearby platforms, hanging over the edges, until the high structures groaned and swayed.”

“At last either Betsie or I would open the Bible. Since only the Hollanders could understand the Dutch text we would translate aloud into German. And then we would hear the life-giving words passed back along the aisles in French, Polish, Russian, Czech, and back into Dutch. They were little previews of heaven, these evenings beneath the light bulb” (Ten Boom 1971, p. 201)

Betsie, who’d never been terribly healthy, grew steadily weaker and died on December 16, 1944. Some of her last words to Corrie were, “…(we) must tell them what we’ve learned here. We must tell them that THERE IS NO PIT SO DEEP THAT HE IS NOT DEEPER STILL.

That’s a declaration of TRUST. A statement which says a lot about the sort of faith that Betsie and Corrie had to make the decisions they did.

(Some time later, Corrie was released from Ravensbruck. She made her way back to Haarlem, and eventually began traveling around the world, telling her story).

(pause) What sort of faith does it take to make decisions like that? What sort of a God do you need to believe in/ to show courage and grace like that?

It’s the same faith Esther and Mordecai showed. And it’s the same GOD who works through that courage. To bring about his purposes. Purposes of saving his people.

And it’s the same faith YOU can show in the decisions YOU make.. It’s pretty unlikely they’ll ever be as tough as the ones Corrie ten Boom had to make. But it’s the same GOD. And he STILL works out his purposes to SAVE people/ through ordinary faithful people like YOU and me, and Esther and Mordecai, and Corrie ten Boom.

For such a time as this

You can see the heart of that lesson on the lips of Mordecai. Ch 4 v13. Follow it with me. The decree to exterminate the Jews has gone out. And the whole Jewish nation’s in mourning. Mordecai does his homework, and finds out that Haman’s the one behind it.

And Mordecai tells Esther to PLEAD with the King, – to beg for her life, and the life of her people.

But Esther’s overwhelmed by the danger. And doubting whether she could see it through. She’s not sure God’s got a plan worked out. She’s at the cross-roads, and doesn’t know which path to take.

And look at what Mordecai says to her. Ch 4 v13.

“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 for if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the JEWS WILL ARISE FROM ANOTHER PLACE, but YOU AND YOUR FATHER’S FAMILY WILL PERISH. And WHO KNOWS BUT THAT YOU HAVE COME TO ROYAL POSITION FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS?”

In other words, God WILL SAVE his PEOPLE. Mordecai’s SURE of THAT.

And you’ve arrived at this point in time. And the choice is laid out before you, he says. You can CHOOSE to TRUST – make the hard decision. Speak up. And be USED by God to bring about his purposes, and save his people.

Or/ you can keep silent. Miss the chance to be part of God’s salvation plan. And the opportunity will pass you by. And YOU’LL be the one who misses out! The choice is yours.

(pause) My parents spent two years in Vanuatu – at the Bible college Andy and Rosemary Williamson are returning to. And while DAD really wanted to go, Mum DIDN’T. Her health wasn’t great, and she D the heat and humidity.

But she KNEW Vanuatu was where God wanted her. And she said, whenever someone asked her why she was going, “BECAUSE GOD NEVER BLESSES DISOBEDIENCE.” God never blesses disobedience.

She could have decided NOT to go. And held onto an easier life. She could quite possibly have had a more healthy and relaxing of years. I don’t think anyone would have thought any less of her. She was into her 60’s.

But, even though she didn’t know the future, Mum trusted God. And she knew that MORE GOOD would come TO her, and THROUGH her, by being OBEDIENT/ than DISobedient. Not necessarily more health or wealth or comfort or success. Just GOOD.

God never blesses disobedience. That’s a position of FAITH.

Jesus put it like this (John 12:25-26)

25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who s his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will HONOR the one who serves me.

Will you TRUST that promise? How will that trust affect the decisions you make?

Back to Mordecai. Look again at his view on God’s plans. That last sentence in v14. “Who knows? Perhaps YOU’ve COME TO ROYAL POSITION FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS?”

In other words, perhaps God’s guided YOUR WHOLE LIFE up to this point for you to make this decision.

Notice what he’s saying about GOD BEING IN CONTROL on ONE HAND. And us having CHOICES THAT MATTER/ on the OTHER hand.

God has his plans which involve us. He’s in control. And everything he plans, happens. Yet, we’re truly free to choose to not be involved.

On the one hand, he’s NOT saying that it’s all about FATE. That God’s a giant watchmaker, who’s wound up the world, and is just watching it unwind. That everything works out a certain way WHATEVER choices you make.

And he’s NOT saying that it’s all about CHANCE or LUCK. That everything’s up to us. That there IS no plan or order.

You see, God HAS planned history, and he’s in control. But he USES the choices we make. to bring about his purposes. Our free will, somehow, operates WITHIN THE SPHERE of God’s sovereignty.

And so/ the upshot of all that/ is that OUR CHOICES MATTER. You’re not a worthless pawn in some cosmic game of chess. Your choices are part of God’s PERFECT and GOOD PLANS.

And the choices you make, reflect the trust you have that God is working out his purposes THROUGH you, and FOR you.

And so, that’s the challenge Mordecai leaves with Esther;

And who knows, BUT THAT YOU HAVE COME TO ROYAL POSITION FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS?”

Perhaps you need to be making a tough decision just like that.

  • There’s a new opportunity. But it seems RISKY. You’ll have to give something up to do it. It’s scary, and you’re not sure you can do it. Is it worth it?
  • You’ve got a friend, or a parent, who you need to tell about Jesus. It could cost you your friendship. Is it worth it?
  • There’s a decision about giving money to a ministry. You can do it, but it will be at a cost. Is it worth it?
  • There’s a sin you can’t seem to shake. Radical surgery is called for. But it’s going to mean people will find out. Is it worth it.

And for Esther, the question’s the same. The stakes are HUGE. She could lose her life. Is it worth it?

It’s a decision Esther can’t make lightly. So she asks Mordecai to organize everyone to FAST with her. To plead with God for his favour on the plan. His GUIDANCE and HELP and COURAGE.

And she finishes the chapter with a steely resolve. V16.

“When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

Is it worth it? Yes, it’s worth it! Even if I DIE.

2. The plan (5:1-8)

And so, after three days of fasting (and prayer) Esther summons up her courage and visits the King. God’s at work, and the king’s pleased to see her.

But rather than come right out with her request, she has A PLAN instead. A plan that’s not just about DELIVERANCE, but about JUSTICE. About bringing HAMAN down. And you can see it there in v4.

4 “If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to A BANQUET I have prepared for him.”

Another banquet. A private party, hosted by Esther, with just Haman and Xerxes. Well, it’s no surprise – Xerxes being the party-animal that he is – that he LOVES the idea. So he summons Haman AT ONCE.

But once the party’s going, and Xerxes pushes the point. STILL Esther won’t come out with it.. Instead they’re to come to ANOTHER party TOMORROW. And THAT’S when she’ll answer the king’s question.

3. Twists and turns.

But between the first and second parties we’ve got a few TWISTS AND TURNS in the plot.

Everything’s been fairly straightforward until now. But now things start to get interesting. On the surface they might all look like COINCIDENCE, but for US, who can see with the eyes of FAITH, it’s God’s hand behind it all.

Where God’s concerned, there’s no such thing as coincidence or luck!

The first twist is to do with Haman. He’s feeling pretty pleased with himself as he makes his way home after the party. After all, he’s the ONLY ONE Queen Esther invited along to her special banquet with the king.

Little does he know it’s because she’s out to get him. He’s got the target painted on his back – and he DOESN’T EVEN KNOW IT!

There he is, walking along with a contented smirk on his face. Until he passes the king’s gate. And sees Mordecai there. Who STILL won’t bow down to him.

And it drives Haman WILD. “Doesn’t he know WHO I AM? Who ELSE gets to have a feast with the king and queen?” And he decides that he can’t WAIT to destroy Mordecai – he’s got to do it FIRST THING TOMORROW.

So he spends his night organizing Mordecai’s destruction. A 25m tall gallows is built. Just waiting for Mordecai. And then Haman will lob up to the King before breakfast, and make sure it happens straight away.

But THE TWIST/ is that at just the same time/ King Xerxes is ALSO making some plans for Mordecai. (Look at it there from the start of Ch 6).

It JUST SO HAPPENED that the King couldn’t get to sleep that night. And so he got his servant to read out the palace minutes.

(Not sure whether he wanted to catch up on some paperwork, or just wanted to get put to sleep). But whatever his intentions, he discovers Mordecai was never rewarded for his loyalty. His part in the arrest and of the traitors.

And so the king decides something should be done.

One man plotting Mordecai’s DOWNFALL. The OTHER plotting his EXALTATION.

And because this king can’t make up his own mind about ANYTHING, who looks for an advisor. V4.

“Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai on the gallows he had erected for him.

5 His attendants answered, “Haman is standing in the court.”

“Bring him in,” the king ordered.

What a coincidence! Haman’s arrived nice and early to get Haman’s ORDER. But Xerxes has something ELSE in mind.

But that’s not the end of the twists and turns. Because the king’s going to ask HIS ADVICE. V6

“Haman. What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?”

Now WE know he’s talking about Mordecai. But Haman assumes he’s talking about HIMSELF. AFTER ALL – he’s the one invited to the Queen’s private party!

Now Haman thought to himself, “Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?” 7 So he answered the king, “For the man the king delights to honor, 8 have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. 9 Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!'”

The king reckons that sound GREAT! So he says

10 “Go at once, Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for ….. Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect ANYTHING you have recommended.”

And after Haman picks his jaw up off the ground. He goes and DOES it. Imagine the HUMILIATION. Haman HIMSELF leading Mordecai through the streets proclaiming “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honour.”

It’s THE ULTIMATE REVERSAL. Haman’s arrived at the palace hoping to lead Mordecai through the streets IN CHAINS. To his . But instead he leads him thorough the streets wearing the king’s robe, seating on the king’s horse.

And Haman can hardly BEAR it. While Mordecai happily goes back to his place at the king’s gate, Haman covers his head in shame, and collapses before his wife and friends.

And when THEY hear what’s happened, they recognize what WE’VE know all along. That the God of Israel’s behind it all. These events aren’t just coincidence. They bear the unmistakable fingerprint of Israel’s God – the one who’s powerful, and who controls history, and saves his people. Who rescues them from their enemies. Look at what they say. V13.

“Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of JEWISH ORIGIN, you cannot stand against him-you will SURELY COME TO RUIN!”

You haven’t got a hope! And it’s with THAT cheery message ringing in his ears that Haman heads off to his banquet. At least he’s got THAT to look forward to. Or so he thinks.

But that’s where we finish it until next week.

Some delightful twists and turns. For those who choose to see it/ God’s hand is OBVIOUS. Everything has worked out just as God planned it. There ARE no coincidences.

And God WILL save his people. But that’s next week.

BUT OUR LIVES ARE NO DIFFERENT. Despite the twists and turns in OUR LIVES. There are no coincidences there EITHER.

Do you believe that? Do your decisions REFLECT that trust? God has a purpose in EVERY DECISION YOU MAKE.

WHO KNOWS BUT THAT YOU HAVE COME TO ROYAL POSITION FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS?”

Your decision might make a BIG DIFFERENCE. Or it might only make a SMALL difference. But God will bless your obedience anyway.

Your obedience may not affect anyone else other than YOU. Perhaps it’s just about trusting God in ONE DECISION. About ONE PERSON. Or ONE ATTITUDE.

But God will never bless disobedience. And he WILL bless OBEDIENCE AND TRUST IN HIM.

Let me share one last story about Corrie ten Boom that shows what I mean. It was a few years after the end of the war. Corrie had ANOTHER of her tough decisions to make. Perhaps not one that was about PERSONAL DANGER. Or about saving lives. But was probably even HARDER to MAKE. She tells the story in one of her books;

“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavy-set man in a gray overcoat, walking towards me. People were filing out of the room where I’d just spoken. It was 1947 and I’d come from Holland to defeated Germany WITH THE MESSAGE THAT GOD FORGIVES. …

One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue guard’s uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.

It came back with a rush: the huge prison room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking past this man.

He said “You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk, I was a guard in there.” “But since that time, I’ve become a Christian. I know that God’s forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well.

Fraulein, …” his hand came out, … “will you forgive me?”

And I stood there — I, whose sins had every day to be forgiven — and COULD NOT. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible simply for the asking?

It couldn’t have been MANY seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed HOURS as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I’d ever had to do.

For I HAD to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has A PRIOR CONDITION/: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” …

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”

For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former GUARD and the former PRISONER. I’d never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.

God blessed Corrie’s obedience. And he’s waiting to bless YOURS. Will you TRUST him?

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