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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:The Victory Esther Was In, We Are, Too!
Text:Esther 9:1-19 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Covenant faithfulness
 
Preached:2003-03-09
Added:2009-06-02
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


ESTHER 9:1-19

(Reading: Ephesians 4:17-5:2)

 

The Victory Esther Was In, We Are, Too!

 

 

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ…

 

     Have you ever experienced a very strong reaction against your Christian faith?

          Were you ever in a situation when it was expressed to you in the most sharp way that your faith was utterly despised?

              And wasn’t obvious then how much that person or group couldn’t be rid of the Christian religion soon enough?

 

     If we haven’t had this happen to us personally, we only need to read the accounts of what’s happening to many Christians throughout the world today.

          The religion of Mohammed - Islam - the religion many political leaders have called a religion of peace, shows this hatred quite clearly!

              For when Islam becomes the predominant religion in a country there is no room for Christianity.

                   Then you can have peace alright - if you become Moslem!

 

     In a country where Islam is not in the ascendancy, the Moslems there live with that political situation.

          But you cannot ever believe the promises that Islam is happy to work under things that way.

              Because it’s not.

 

     And that makes our text an interesting piece of history.

          For here we have quite a number of people who didn’t wait till history favoured their way.

              Over 75,000 perished throughout the empire because they thought that this was their day!

 

     Why would they think this way?

          Well, however did it come down to this day?

              Then you go back to nearly a year earlier when Haman named the day the Jews were to be annihilated.

 

     Reading the account about that in Esther 3, and we see, in verse 12, that this day came about through the casting of the lot in the presence of Haman specially to select a day and month.

          So this day was the date because of ‘luck’.

              They threw the dice and this is what turned up.

 

     But ‘luck’ doesn’t happen by ‘luck’!

          This comes out of a whole religious framework which is directly opposed to the LORD God.

              Which is exactly what all the other religions of this world are!

                   No matter the nice accommodating words, no matter the multi-faith ecumenical services which has all their priests and clergy and immans and gurus and whoever sharing the same platform, they are implacably set against the LORD and His people.

         

     And they really believe it!

          Why else would you read in verse 1 of our text that “the enemies of the Jews hoped to overpower them”?

         

     So while the political realities of our world may make religions seem harmonious, that’s only convenience.

          Underneath it all, there’s a terrible battle going on.

              For congregation, in the first place, THIS WAR GOES TO THE HEART.

 

     Those 75,000 who were killed by the Jews believed in this cause.

          They honestly thought that the gods were on their side.

              So their ‘hope’ is not the chance they might win.

     And it’s not much of a chance because the Jews and especially Mordecai was so powerful.

          Rather, their ‘hope’ is this strong religious conviction that the Jews have to die.

 

     Chapter 8 has already told us that these enemies were those armed and ready to wipe out the Jews.

          They are men, not women or children.

 

     But the fact they’re men tells us how deep this rot goes.

          For were not men the leader of their households?

              And would not their beliefs permeate throughout their entire families?

 

     What happened to the sons of Haman in the verse 7 till 10 shows this.

          They shared their father’s religion.

              And there’s no doubt they were with those who had armed themselves to do away with the Jews.

 

     THIS WAR GOES TO THE HEART.

          And look at how many hearts!

              Haman had ten sons.

                   And they would have had children.

 

     Some commentators draw in a racial line to these enemies of the Jews.

          They refer to Haman being an Agagite, which means he was most likely an Amalekite.

              And then they show how a racial connection would have created such a fanaticism that meant they attacked the Jews, even if for every other reason it was the most stupid thing to do.

 

     How many inter-racial wars before then and since have seen the most stupid military campaigns?

          Look at the Balkans!

 

     And here we have a race which is closest related to the Jews.

          For Amalek was a grandson of Esau.

              These people were Esau’s descendants.

                   They came from the one who despised his birthright!

 

     In looking at chapter 3 we saw how the Amalekites were a race which had treacherously killed off the weakest of the Israelites as they lagged at the back of the travels through the wilderness.

          In Exodus 17 verse 16 it’s clear that the LORD’s people would be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.

              And as the LORD became angry with His people when they did not completely wipe out the Amalekites, so there’s the strong sense in the text that this must be a complete victory.

     The Lord’s people must obey His Word.

          That’s what pleases Him.

              Whether the enemy are Amalekites or anyone else otherwise united in their intense hatred for God’s people.

 

     This helps explain what Esther asks for in verse 13.

           Because you would feel a bit here for Xerxes.

              He has just had five hundred of his top officials wiped out in his capital city.

                   And he knows it’s not going to be much different elsewhere in the empire.

 

     But Esther knows THIS WAR GOES TO THE HEART.

          And there are still those who believe in this false religion with all their heart.

              They must be routed out.

 

     And here we see another indication of how historically true the book of Esther is.

          Because any legend or myth would have nicely wrapped it up on that day.

              Adding another day after the day tells us how real that day is.

                   Also as we know just how binding the decrees of the Medes and the Persians was.

 

     So those who went into hiding that first day had to be found and killed.

          To allow any with this belief in their hearts to live would only mean more trouble later on.

              It would mean the trouble that King Saul brought upon Israel when he did not completely wipe out the Amalekites in 1st Samuel 15.

 

     Mind you, Saul had his excuse all lined up when the prophet Samuel confronted him.

          He gave it a nice religious spin - you know all about saving the best for God and all that.

              But Samuel quickly exposed his heart.

     In 1st Samuel 15, the verses 22 and 23, he replied to Saul, “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?

          “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

              “For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.

                   “Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”

 

     Did you hear that?

          THIS WAR GOES TO THE HEART.

              Also to what’s on the hearts of those we might think are part of God’s people.

 

     And what it exposed about Saul’s heart, as it did for all those opposing the LORD’s people in our text, was a heart set against Him.

          The divination and arrogance Saul was guilty of was certainly a hallmark of the enemy in the text.

              That’s why they had to be routed out.

                   Routed out and hang out.

 

     For while it is a gruesome picture in verse 14 with the public hanging of the bodies of Haman’s sons, it is a sure sign of what happens to all those who don’t come to bow the knee before the King of kings and Lord of lords.

          The book of Revelation has even more vivid imagery about their end.

              And it is their end.

                   Those who make their stand against the LORD and His people cannot win.

 

     And what we see at the end of the book of Revelation, after the destruction of Satan and all his hosts, is what we get a foretaste of here, in chapter 9.

          In the words of the second aspect to this text, THIS VICTORY BRINGS A NEW START.

 

     So interwoven through our text is not only the strand which shows how THIS WAR GOES TO THE HEART, but also the strand which testifies to how THIS VICTORY BRINGS A NEW START.

          Because as much as this brings out those who are dead set against the LORD so also it shows us the signs of those who are His, and that’s aside from the obvious racial origin here.

         

     We see this in three ways.

          The first is what happens at the beginning of the text and at its end.

              For God’s people assemble together.

 

     The believers are united.

          They realise the danger they are in and they meet it head-on.

              If they hadn’t joined together to protect themselves and get relief from their enemies it would have been a completely different result.

 

     To us this may seem an obvious thing.

          But it is something we must never take lightly.

              In fact, it is something we must be in the highest awe of.

     For this unity is what God commands.

          The unity verse 2 pictures as scaring the nations is what we must hold so very precious and vital.

 

     Because this is not the unity you have when a group of people simply come together.

          It is not even the unity you have when that group of people coming together are strongly committed to doing something together.

              This is the unity that only comes because God is in the centre of it all.

 

     Then there’s no options about it!

          It’s what you do.

              God commands you to!

 

     Here there is a clear recognition of Mordecai’s leadership as being that through which the Lord works.

          For while we may say doing this was a matter of survival, we are talking here about God’s chosen people, the race through which the Messiah would one day come!

 

     In the same way, we may speak today about the unity of God’s people being that place where Christ is shown to have come!

          As much as God’s people coming together because of His command then testified to what He was going to do, so our gathering together has to point to what He has done in His Son.

 

     Then, secondly, we note how the LORD’s people dedicated what they did to their God and to Him alone.

          They weren’t going to repeat the sins of the past where Israel had gone its own way.

              And so, in the verses 10, 15, and 16, we are told that the Jews did not lay their hands on the plunder.

 

     God’s people made it clear that they were only focused on doing it for the LORD, even though in the previous chapter, verse 11, they had been given every right to take that plunder.

          They followed a clear principle in Scripture.

              For it was Abraham, in Genesis 14 the verses 21 till 23, who had refused the accept the spoil offered to him by the king of Sodom.

 

     That principle was broken by Saul, when, in 1st Samuel 15, he had blatantly selected animals for himself.

           That was a clear sign of disobedience and the beginning of the end for Saul.

 

     But THIS VICTORY BRINGS A NEW START.

          God’s people show who is in their hearts.

              And what a witness that would have been!

 

     You see, the culture then was very much about the victors taking the spoils.

          The idea of self-denial would have really stood out!

             

     Mind you, is it all that different than our age?

          How does the expression go, “The boy with the biggest toys wins”?

 

     And all around us the materialism is more than evident.

          Buy this, do that - it’s all on for what you want!

 

     So imagine the witness we are when we dedicate ourselves and all we have to the Lord!

          And then think about how that proves our case?

              What better witness is there than the way we write ourselves off?

 

     Because the Christian doesn’t take that lucrative promotion that would be a huge salary jump but less time for his family and his church.

          He won’t be a party to the office sweepstake, or that under the table quick-take!

 

     And, then, thirdly, THIS VICTORY BRINGS A NEW START because God’s people rested and made the day after a day of feasting and joy.

          This is brought out in the verses 17 till 19.

 

     The phrase “feasting and joy” is repeated three times - as many times as the phrase about not laying their hands on the plunder.

          And this is quite rightly done.

              Because God’s people rejoice in His great deeds.

     We do that today by especially highlighting the incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of the Messiah.

          But, then, in the time before Christ, they looked forward to His coming by remembering the deliverance they had received thus far.

             

     Whether that was through the Passover, celebrating the exodus out of Egypt.

          Or through this new festival - Purim - which remembered His rescue at another time and at another place.

              But a salvation for the same reason - that He would show His grace!

 

     And let’s notice what they did.

          Because it was the opposite of where we find them at the beginning of chapter 4.

              There they had been in great mourning, with fasting, weeping, and wailing.

                   Now it’s feasting and rejoicing!

 

     It’s similar to another celebration which took place in Jerusalem some years later in the days of Nehemiah.

          The people then had been weeping as the words of the Law were read out.

              But Nehemiah said to them, in chapter 8 verse 10, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared.

     “This day is sacred to our Lord.

          “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

 

     And how much didn’t Esther and her people rejoice!

          Who could boast a deliverance such as this?

              Which other people upon the face of the earth were so blessed as they?

 

     It was V-Day alright.

          THIS VICTORY BRING A NEW START.

             

     Now we know that Lord’s ultimate V-Day brings the eternal beginning.

          It’s what He’s told us.

              But because Christ has come we already live in that victory now.

     This is what Jesus meant when he compared his disciples with those of John the Baptist.

          You see, in Luke 5 verse 33 He was asked as to why his disciples went on eating and drinking while John’s were fasting and praying.

              He answered in verse 34, “Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?”

 

     And following Pentecost Christ is now indeed with us, in a way that’s even better than when He was on this earth with us.

          We rejoice!

             

     And in that rejoicing we give gifts to each other.

          All kinds of gifts - money, time, talent.

              But all given because of what God has given us once-and-for-all time in His dear Son, Jesus Christ.

                   Amen.

 

 

PRAYER:

Let’s pray...

     O LORD God,

          What a victory we have in Your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

              He defeated once-and-for-all-time the one who has been behind every force opposing Your people - the one who even now prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

     But he is a dying lion.

          His time is up - his days are numbered.

              He has been doomed to eternal punishment with his own, while we will be forever feasting and rejoicing in Your presence!

     What a Day that will be!

          But a Day we can now already see by Your Spirit lighting up Your Word to us.

              And so it is in the Name of the Living Word, we pray, Amen.

 

 

    




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2003, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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