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Well good morning!
I can’t tell you how excited I am to get into this week’s message from God’s Word in Esther.
If you are joining us for the first time this morning, welcome!
We are in a sermon series called Esther: Living with Courage, Backed by Providence.
And that idea of living with courage, backed by God’s provision is prevalent throughout the story of Esther.
Add some sort of transition here.
Dark Times: Fear Abounds (1-12)
We are about to see that the Jewish people, Mordecai, and Esther experience crippling fear.
If you’ll remember from last week, the villain of this story - Haman - has figured out a way to pass a law requiring that the entirety of the Jewish people in all of the 127 provinces of Persia be murdered on a certain day.
This caused confusion throughout the city of Susa, which was the capital city at the time of Esther, and most likely the rest of the empire.
Meanwhile, we see that key people in the palace are sitting down for a drink - and I think this is the author’s way of saying that the king, Haman, and the rest of those in the royal palace were out of touch with what was going on.
They gave little thought to the well-being of their people.
And that’s where we find ourselves at the end of Esther, chapter 3.
With that said, let’s read together about what unfolds following these events in Esther, chapter 4. Let’s read in verse 1 of chapter 4 together:
Fearful mentors (1-2)
As we can see here, Mordecai himself is fearful.
He is tears his clothes - and living in a time when a person is unlikely to have more than one or two sets of clothes that’s saying something - and puts on sackcloth and ashes.
Now, if you saw this, you would immediately realize something is wrong.
I don’t think I need to put you in the mindset of an Old Testament Jew to know that if you saw something like this, you would say to yourself - “Wow.
Something is definitely wrong.”
On top of this, he is crying loudly and bitterly.
And he is doing this through the city as far as the King’s Gate, where he stops because the law prohibits him from going further.
Mordecai, the mentor and surrogate father to Esther, is in distress, fear, and mourning.
Fearful people (3)
We are told next that the Jewish people’s response to this edict is, understandably, a response of “great mourning in every province.”
And notice, too, that the people are following the example of Mordecai and they are putting on sackcloth and ashes, weeping, and lamenting.
Fearful leaders (4-12)
Remember earlier when I mentioned that the palace and the king seem to be disconnected from what is happening, even in their own city?
The crazy thing about what is unfolding here is that Esther is disconnected from it, as well, and these were her own people.
In fact, a lot of scholars believe that it didn’t matter that she was the queen - but that this edict would have applied to her as well because of her Jewish lineage.
Meaning - if she were discovered to be Jewish, Queen Esther would be executive alongside everyone of the other Jews.
And yet, as we see in this passage, she is completely unaware of what is going on.
Let’s look into it in verse 4:
So, you can see that she is “overcome” with fear.
If you look into the original word in Hebrew for “overcome” here, you realize that Esther’s fear was debilitating.
It was almost paralyzing.
She was trembling, panicking, writhing in fear.
And here’s the crazy thing - she doesn’t even know what’s wrong yet!
All she knows is that Mordecai is in mourning outside of the King’s Gate.
And she probably wants to know what is wrong, so she sends a change of clothes, probably so that he can be granted entrance to come share with her what is wrong, but he refuses the change of clothes.
So, we have Mordecai’s response to the situation - fear.
We have the people’s response to the situation - fear.
And we have Esther’s default response, even though she doesn’t even know the whole situation - its fear.
Let’s see what happens next:
So Mordecai had refused the change of clothes, but Esther still needed to find out what was going on.
I still think this shows that she and everyone around her are out of touch with everyday people because the entire city of Susa had been in confusion after this edict!
Why did no one in the palace and no one serving the queen know of what could be wrong with Mordecai?
So Mordecai relays to Esther through her servant all that had happened so far, including giving her a copy of the edict ordering the execution of the Jews.
Now - let me ask you - if you were Esther, how would you respond to this situation?
Some of you might be thinking, “Hey - I’m in a great position.
Of course I’ll approach the king and intercede on behalf of my people.”
That’s exactly what Mordecai was asking of Esther.
A couple interesting things to point out about this dialogue that I don’t think are immediately obvious:
Mordecai had a written copy of the edict.
Having a written copy of anything in this time was highly unusual, much less a commoner.
So, it is likely that Mordecai was not your everyday Jew.
He probably served somewhere in the king’s court and had access to the law.
Knowing this, it is likely that Mordecai knew what Esther is about to share with him - that the law prescribes death for anyone who approaches the king unsummoned - unless the king chooses to make an exception.
I’ll repeat that Mordecai knew he was asking Esther to possibly give her life in service of her people.
Lastly, there is a great likelihood that the king would not make an exception for Esther.
He has proven to cave to pressure in the past, he has grown distant and disinterested in the queen, and, as we shall see later, his power is limited because he will not step forward and attempt to override an edict that is clearly wrong.
All of this is to say that the gravity of what Mordecai is asking of Esther comes out in her response.
Here it is:
But it is highly likely she is telling things to Mordecai he already knows - and she knows that he knows.
Esther is gripped by fear and her response in the face of great fear is similar to how many of us respond - its by looking at my immediate situation, thinking about me, and trying to figure out a way that I can escape this feeling of fear, this feeling of being out of control of my situation.
In this moment, Esther’s view of God is limited and blinded by crippling fear.
Listen - let me ask you - Are you fearful today?
Do you still believe that God is on your side?
You are in one of two states today.:
To those who haven’t taken the step to trust your life to Christ, here’s what Scripture has to say: God loves you.
God is good.
In His goodness, He looked at our sinfulness and our brokenness and He sent Jesus to live a perfect life, to die, and in His power and might He rose Jesus from the grave.
If you trust in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ today, you turn from your old life and begin following Him - there is life, and hope, and peace.
And you don’t have to be afraid.
So I want to invite you to take that step this morning - trust in Jesus.
To those that have trusted in Christ - you’ve handed yourself, your life and your future into the hands of Christ - here is what Scripture has to say: God loves you.
God is good.
Did you know that God was at work long before you were born to orchestrate the events that would bring you to faith in Christ when He did?
God reached into your life, when you alone, fearful, without hope, and in Christ He gave you confidence, hope, and a church family that walks alongside you through the good times and the bad times of this life.
God has brought you to this position that you are in today.
To both groups, I want to ask these questions: God has brought you to where you are right now - are you anxious and fearful?
Here's a truth for you - "God works all things together for the good of those who love Him..." Do we believe that?
Here's something else God says - "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it."
God did not save you and that was the end of things, but instead that was the beginning of things for you.
You are redeemed from fear and sin and death into a life of serving God and making a difference with His truth.
God did not just save you from something - God saved you for something.
God saved us from sin and death to be an amazing part of His good purposes.
And in addition to that, He gave us a church family that walks with us through everything.
I want to pause for just a minute on a passage of Scripture that I believe sums up why we can look in the face of fear and be courageous, looking to Romans, chapter 8...
I think that many times we look at that passage of Scripture and over-personalize it.
What I mean by that is we miss that this was written to a church - to a group of believers in Christ - and that Paul included himself in this realization that we, collectively, are brothers and sisters in Christ.
And that in all these things we are more than conquerors in Him who loved us.
And that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I don’t believe that the way any portion of Scripture is worded is an accident and this portion of Paul’s letter is no different - he is emphasizing the community that we are to be a part of, to lean on, and come to realize that we need each other as we live this Christian life together.
That brings us to the truth that we find in this passage of Scripture and the great turning point in Esther’s heart and mind…
Jesus Followers Combat Fear (13-17)
Fear’s greatest opponent is a courageous group of Jesus followers.
And while the Jews didn’t have Jesus in Esther’s time, we do see them indicate signs that God stirs and works in the hearts of people here and that they combat fear, and they do it together, with God’s help.
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