Devotional # 82. 4/14/14. Esther 5:1-14.
Introduction. After today we’ll be half way through the story of Esther so we’re immersed in the story and characters. In case you’ve forgotten the heroine of the story is Esther, the young Israeli girl who became queen of all Persia. Then there is her elderly cousin named Mordecai who raised her and is a judge in the court. The king is Xerxes (also known as Ahasuerus). And the villain is Haman, who has been promoted to an office similar to Prime Minister. He has passed a law to kill all of the Jews in the kingdom because Mordecai’s disrespect bugged him. Today the plot starts coming together with the people making decisions that cannot be undone.
vv. 1-2. On the “third day” of the fast Esther finally goes in to see the king. Esther really thought she was going to die for going before the king (and had probably suffered worrying about it all three days) but, as we’ll see, she is given life. Isn’t this an interesting picture of Jesus? Christ was dead for three days but resurrected to life and gave that life to many. In the same way Esther is allowed to live and by making this sacrifice she gives life to God’s chosen people. Notice that she “put on her royal robes” so obviously she tried to make herself look as good as possible. And it worked because “she found favor” but do you think it was really the king she found favor with or with God? Certainly this must mean that Esther found favor with God first (Source 1, p. 688). So she touches the “top of the scepter”, which was the custom (Source 2, p. 219), and is allowed to make her request.
vv. 3-8. The king asks her what she wants but Esther bides her time, not actually getting around to her real purpose until later (Esther 7:2, 3). The king, probably wanting to calm her fears, offers her “up to half the kingdom” (similar to Herod Phillip I in Mark 6:22-23). She tells him that she has prepared a banquet for him and Haman, which intrigues the king, so much that he demands the guards to find Haman immediately. Esther wants Haman to be there when she reveals that she’s Jewish, she craftily plans to burry Haman in his own sin!
So they have the banquet but the king knows Esther didn’t risk her life just to ask if he wanted to party, so he asks what her real reason was. Interestingly although it seems that Esther continues to stall, unbeknownst to her, this drives Haman to dig himself further into the hole for his proverbial coffin (vv. 9-14)!
vv. 9-11. So Haman leaves for home “joyful and with a glad heart” (which was purely based off of pride, as we see in verse 11). But he sees that Mordecai doesn’t bow down or shake with fear in his presence. Somehow Haman holds it together but it ruins his mood. He gets home and assembles his friends so he can boast. Bragging doesn’t get worse than this. Haman elaborates on four different areas where he had excelled. Pride truly does come before the fall (Proverbs 16:18).
vv. 12-14. If you thought Haman was done patting himself on the back he brings up a fifth topic to brag about. But (as Christians know all too well) none of this satisfies him. He can’t get Mordecai out of his mind. Who cares that the whole kingdom bows down to him, one guy won’t worship, cringe and respect him in the way he wants. Notice he adds “the Jew”, racist people feel the need to mention nationality when it normally wouldn’t apply. You can tell the size of a man by the size of the things that bother him. If small things irritate, he is a small man but if it take big things to irritate then he is a big man.
So Haman has “Zeresh and all his friends” give him advice. If you surround yourself with bad company it will permeate your life and continue to influence you negatively. I am amazed at how many Christians tell me that they made a decision because their friend or relative suggested it, but that person isn’t a believer. Why would you take advice from someone who doesn’t seek God before making their decisions? Isn’t it the Christian who has wisdom given by God? This doesn’t mean we take advice from anyone who calls themselves a Christian but, after we pray about the situation, we should be discerning (like Esther was in asking Mordecai for advice) when asking for counsel. For more on wisdom, and how Jesus is our wisdom, see 1 Corinthians 1:24 & 30 and you can also read this article by R.C. Sproul: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/christ-our-wisdom .
These “gallows” were different then what we might picture. MacArthur says this was, “a stake on which a human would be impaled to death and/or displayed after death (cf. 2:23).” He also notes that the height was “approximately 75 ft. or almost 8 stories high. Perhaps the gallows involved displaying a shorter stake atop a building or wall to attain this height” (Source 1, p. 689). McGee notes that the name “Mordecai” means “short” so it really shows the mean spirit of Haman building an incredibly tall gallows to further shame him (Source 2, p. 223).
Haman is told that in the morning (quick construction!) he will be able to “go merrily with the king to the banquet” since his “conscience” will be clear knowing annoying Mordecai was dead. Then he can enjoy the feast for himself. Haman couldn’t wait the remaining 11 or so months for all the Israelites to die, he had to give in and watch Mordecai die immediately. So his “self control” wasn’t that strong and he allowed himself to be influenced. It is important to note that God allowed things to transpire at these exact moments to ironically show His sovereignty and faithfulness.
Conclusion. The story gives us much to study and meditate on. I think we should chiefly focus on making good decisions, seeking God’s will. Really desiring to not fall into the trap of pride and arrogance, but seeking humility (2 Chronicles 7:14, 1 Peter 5:5, etc.). Lord, we pray that You would give us the faith and obedience of Mordecai, the (eventual!) boldness of Esther and the wisdom to not be prideful like Haman.
Source 1: John MacArthur, John MacArthur Study Bible.
Source 2: J. Vernon McGee, Ezra, Nehemiah & Esther, 1977.