An Evil Interlude

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An Evil Interlude

Esther 2:21-3:15

 

In the Christina life we often discover that coming on the heels of spiritual victory comes a great battle against evil.  Oh, it isn’t always recognized as evil.  Sometimes is just that everything seems to go wrong and we lose our patience.  Perhaps we allow an unkind word to be said or an impure thought to live in our mind.

5 people have this morning made a public statement of their faith in Jesus Christ.  Let me tell you that Satan does not like for us to be public about our faith – Satan does not like it when God gets the glory.  Now you can expect spiritual battles to begin.  It is almost as if when you make a statement of your faith then your faith is tested.  Is your faith real?

It is important for us to remember this family in our prayers this week.  Pray for protection, pray for courage, pray that they will be bold in their Christian life.

Esther was living a simple life.  As a Jew she lived with her people in exile.  Her parents died when she was young and she was adopted into the family of her cousin Mordecai.  As a young woman, just when girls her age were thinking of marriage, she was forced to join the harem of the pagan king who was looking for a new wife.

Her personality shone through as she won the favor of the head of the harem, of the other women she was competing against and then of the king himself.  She was chosen as queen of Persia and a banquet was given in her honor.

As the new queen, Esther continued to follow her cousins’ advice.  She told no one of her identity as a Jew.

It would seem the exiled orphan turn queen had any girls dream come true.

But evil is lurking and about to break the enchantment.

Today, our story talks about evil – but evil is only an interlude – an intrusion – but it does not end the story. 

(Some people have been reading the story of Esther ahead of the sermons.  It is a fascinating read.)

This morning we focus simply on the intrusion of evil in our lives.

1)      Revelation of a plot to kill the king

Mutiny – a secret conspiracy was growing in the minds of two men.  While most were satisfied, evil surfaces.

Something about the king must have irritated them.  They could not shrug it off.  Instead some offence grew to anger then to rage and finally a plot to murder.

The poison of an unchecked mind.

Mordecai learned of the plot, told his cousin and adopted daughter, Esther, who was now queen, and in turn Esther told the king, giving credit to Mordecai.

Upon investigation, the plot was discovered to be true and the two men were hanged.

This story gets put on the back burner by the storyteller.  But do not forget it.  This act of Mordecai’s to save the king has not yet been rewarded but it has been recorded in the king’s records.

2)      Enter:  Haman – the Agagite

I Sam. 15

Agag was king of the Amalekites.  He was defeated by king Saul and put to death by Samuel.

Exodus 17:8-16

Amalekites attacked Israel during their exodus from Egypt.  Concludes:  ”The Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

Deut. 25:19

“You shall blot out the memory of the Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget.”

Haman is a descendant of king Agag,

Mordecai is a descendant of Kish (2:5) so was King Saul a descendant of Kish.

These two men, Haman and Mordecai are heirs to a long-standing and bitter tradition of ethnic anger and hatred.

Story:  Haman is exalted by the king and expects honor from all in the realm.

PAUSE:  Why is Haman getting the promotion?  Wasn’t it Mordecai that saved the king’s life?

Life is unfair – isn’t it?

You deserve the promotion.

You worked the hardest.

You came up with the big ideas.

You have done most in your company for the boss.

It’s only right that you get the promotion.

But it doesn’t happen.  Life isn’t fair.  Evil prevails!

Haman gets promoted to the high place of honor where all others pay him respect and honor.

But not Mordecai.  He refuses to bow down or pay him honor.

Why?  He is a Jew.

Vs. 2-4 – when the officials asked him why he would not join them in paying Haman the honor his position deserved he continually gave them the same answer – “I am a Jew.”

It went against the deepest conviction of his faith.

The Torah, the law given by God stated clearly:  “You shall have no other gods before me.”

Mordecai’s faith simply prevented him from bowing down to any earthly being.

Haman was enraged.  His reaction far exceeded the offence.

Far beyond simple revenge and plotting to murder Mordecai for humiliating Haman, he chooses to kill all the Jews.

What is happening here?

He is action is motivated by racial hatred.

The Agagites hated the Jews.  They had been taught this hatred since their childhood.

From his parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, from his uncles and aunts and cousins, Haman the Agagite had learned to hate the Jews.  That hatred ate away at him, and when he was placed in a position of power, we can be certain he carried that hatred with him.

And so he devised a scheme and presented it cloaked with truths, half-truths and lies to the king.

From chapter one we learned that the king is an empty puppet leading only by his own desire to display his wealth and power.

With his mind dulled by alcohol, to somehow alleviate his hurt pride, the king banished his queen from his presence and pronounced a law for his entire kingdom that he could not even enforce within his own family!

As Haman approaches him again we see a callous king bent only on keeping peace and propping up his image in the courts.  Without any thought to the people he was about to exterminate, King Exerses gives Haman royal power to carry out his wishes.

Haman is unmitigated evil.

Exerses’ indifference is just as dangerous an evil!

3)      Rivalry escalates from one person refusing to worship another to full-scale murder.

Haman put into motion his anti-Semitic extermination plan.

The plan was to have all the citizens rise up against their Jewish neighbors and with the motivation of keeping anything their Jewish neighbors possessed they were to kill all the men, women and children at the command of the king.

The law specified a certain date some 11 months away – lots of time to fuel anti-Jewish feelings while prolonging the agony of the Jews who have no place to run since the Persian empire covered the entire known world.

The date was chosen by a method similar to shooting dice.  They sought out a lucky day for them and chose to do their murderous act on that day.

Haman was able to go to the king and say in effect:  “Look!  If you want good luck in your life, if you want fortune to smile upon you, there’s one thing to do – get rid of those people!

Racial hatred and superstition combined to unleash a demonic plan.

Public violence, murder and pillage are to be unleashed to provide vengeance for Haman’s wounded pride.

The fate of the Jews seems sealed.  Or is it?

3:12  The edict was written and sent out on the 13th day of the 1st month.  The next day was Passover! – the commemoration of the deliverance from slavery in Egypt.

Let’s not forget God.  He has moved behind the scenes to cause one of the Jews to occupy the very chair of the Queen of Persia.  The narrator has not left us without hope or expectations.

Esther, now queen, still obeys Mordecai who sits at the gates – he is an elder of the city council.

The Jewish community has an entrance into the Persian court.

Conclude with two pictures in Susa:

The king and Haman sat down to drink.

The people of the city were bewildered – they were confused.

But the storyteller has left us with inside knowledge that gives us hope that the king and Haman will not drink long in peace and tranquility.

Evil is only an interlude.

4)      Evil threatening our lives.

What lessons can we learn for our own lives?

Is it possible that there is something lurking just under the surface that awaits it’s moment of revenge – and that revenge is only evil?

Before completely turning away from the evil of Haman and other such Hitler’s of our world, let’s look at our own lives.

Be honest.  The animal-like nature resides in us too.  Were it not for the presence of Jesus Christ at work within us, controlling our passions and urging us to forgive and move on, this nature would consume us.  We too would seek revenge at any cost.

Are you nursing a grudge?

Do you have someone’s face on your dartboard?

Perhaps a former spouse?

     A former pastor,

     A former roommate,

     A church that offended you?

     An organization that took unfair advantage of you,

          A boss,

          A coach,

     Someone you revered and trusted who used you and/or abused you?

Do you have someone who has made life difficult for you and has never “made it right”?  And although they are perhaps now out of your life – physically absent – the incident in the past is still vivid in your memory, deepening your determination to hold onto them.

You think:  “Someday, some way I’ll get back!”

This nursing of anger, this lingering grudge, this deliberate refusal to forgive festers and grows.

It’s silent.

And it’s deadly.

How absolutely powerless we are to solve our own inner problems of evil.  We need the cleansing forgiveness of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit each day.

Chuck Swindoll concludes this chapter with three lessons from the characters of Mordecai, Haman and the King.

1)      Mordecai.

“Never forget there will always be someone who will resent your devotion to the Lord.”

For Mordecai, he simply could not bow down to Haman “For I am a Jew.”  My devotion to the Lord simply will not permit that action.

There will be someone who will resent your devotion to the Lord.

Expect it.

Perhaps from friends in the neighborhood.

Perhaps your personal convictions might cut across “company policy”. – written or simply in practice.

Perhaps it will be within the church family that you will discover the affront.

I do not know where it will be – but I know it will be somewhere.  Expect it.

2)      From Haman we learn:

“Never underestimate the diabolical nature of revenge.”

A lack of forgiveness that stays on the back burner has the ability to poison your life if you allow it.

Don’t underestimate your own ability to connive and retaliate.

Many a divorced person today is consumed by the poison of an unforgiving spirit.

How many young-to-middle-aged adults have turned on their parents rather than forgive them?

How many vicious acts of terrorism have been spawned in polluted streams of unforgiveness?

3)      From King Exerses:

“Never overestimate the value of your own importance.”

It’s so easy to be blinded by one’s own pride of position and power.  Some wise counselor should have had acces to the king and been allowed to say to him, “What is this terrible thing that you are permitting?  It isn’t worth it.  Not even you are that important.”

An evil interlude – never far away in our life.

Perhaps a secret plan to walk away from God-given responsibilities.

Perhaps a smoldering unforgiving spirit that is festering, looking for an opportunity to exact revenge.

There is evil around us and seeking to lodge within us.

But God has provided so that it can be overcome and not have the final say.

God invaded our polluted world in the Person of Jesus Christ, His Son.

We are not able to help ourselves, but the Lord Jesus can.

He opened the door to forgiveness and power on the cross.

He let nails be driven into His hands and feet, pinning him to the cross. 

He hung and died there, so that whoever believes in him would never perish in their own sin and evil.

You cannot escape pain and evil in this life.

I can’t even promise you that after giving your life to Jesus Christ there will never be another evil thought of revenge.  There probably will be!

But I can promise that with Christ in control of your life, you can keep from carrying out the wishes of your wicked old nature.

Beginning today, you can experience an internal transformation.

Gods sees beyond our deepest need.

He meets us where we are.

He does this through His word – even through an obscure story like Esther.

We are not helpless victims of the evil in us or around us.  They can be known simply as interludes as we give ourselves in trust to the power and love of God. 

 Will you release yourself to Him?

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