Archive for the day “July 22, 2014”

God is Faithful to His Promise

Esther, Chapter 9

I recently delivered a message from the book of Esther about the faithfulness of God, who is sovereignly at work in our lives, sometimes in ways that are obvious, and sometimes from behind the scenes. If you know the story of Esther and Mordechai (see Esther Part 1and Esther Part 2), you will remember that it is an example of God at work from behind the scenes. It did not just happen that, when the king of Persia made an impulsive decision to divorce his wife, he selected a Jewish girl as his Queen. It did not just happen that Mordechai, Esther’s uncle, overheard a plot to assassinate the king and was able to get word to him through Esther to save his life. It did not just happen that the king was favorably disposed to Esther and welcomed her, uninvited, into his presence and granted her wish for two banquets. It did not just happen that the king couldn’t sleep one night – and it did not just happen that he turned to the account of Mordechai’s loyalty when he read the official records to make him drowsy. It did not just happen that there was a grand reversal of the future of Haman, the enemy of the Jews, and Mordechai, the advocate for the Jews. And, it did not just happen that the king was favorably disposed to Esther and Mordechai in granting a reprieve to the edict that encouraged people to massacre the Jews. In all of these events, God was at work behind the scenes.

There is one more act of God’s sovereignty from behind the scenes that brings final resolution to the story of Mordechai and Esther, and that drives home the truth of the faithfulness of God. In Chapter 9 of Esther, the King of Persia grants Mordechai and Esther the ability to make an edict that counters another edict that gave the citizens of Persia permission to attack and potentially annihilate the Jews who lived anywhere in the empire. This new edict gave the Jews permission to defend themselves, and even take the offensive against their enemies.

Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them. The Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could stand against them, for the fear of them had fallen on all peoples. (Est 9:1-2 ESV)

As the story unfolds, the Jews killed over 75,000 of their enemies over a two-day period. Now, this action has often been criticized by those who suggest that it was a heinous act of the Jews that was carried out at the command of the powerful Mordechai and his niece, the Queen. But I would like to suggest that it was really an act of God from behind the scenes to demonstrate his faithfulness to his word. Let me set this up for you.

This circumstance grew out of the conflict between Mordechai and Haman. Mordechai was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, a distant relative of Kish, whose son was Saul, first King of Israel (2:5). Haman was an Agagite – a descendent of Agag, an ancient king of the Amalekites (3:1). Saul and Agag  had a history of unfinished business. The first army to attack the new Hebrew nation after the Exodus was the Amalekites. They became the arch enemy of the Jews. As a result, Israel was instructed to blot out their name from under the sun.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” (Exo 17:14 ESV) – Ex 17:16.

To utterly blot out the memory of a nation is called holy war, when God’s judgment on a people who were so vile and godless that his sentence was total annihilation. God decreed that the Amalekites were under that sentence. In 1 Sam 15, Saul was given the opportunity to accomplish this sentence, but he failed. You will remember that instead of total annihilation, Saul spared the Amalekite king, Agag, and he took some of the spoils of war. He even spared some of the people (1 Chron 4:43). That failure cost Saul the throne, and the tribe of Benjamin the honor of the throne. Generations later – Mordechai and Haman – descendants of Saul and Agag, continue the ancient conflict. But this time, there is no failure. When the day of the conflict arrives, the Jews accomplish a great victory.

The Jews struck all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and did as they pleased to those who hated them.  In Susa the citadel itself the Jews killed and destroyed 500 men, and also killed Parshandatha and Dalphon and Aspatha and Poratha and Adalia and Aridatha and Parmashta and Arisai and Aridai and Vaizatha, the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews, but they laid no hand on the plunder.(Est 9:5-10 ESV)

This last phrase is very important. Later in the story, this same phrase is repeated in vs. 15 and again in vs. 16. Here is the suggestion.  The terms of holy war specifically state that there is to be no plundering of the victims. You will remember this is the reason Achin and his family were judged following the annihilation of the people of Jericho (Jos 6). Even though the king gave them permission to plunder their enemies (8:11) when the day came, the Jews did not plunder their enemies. The suggestion is that Mordechai instructed the Jews that this was holy war. It is possible that those that the Jews killed were descendents of the Amalekites and that with this action, God’s declaration of holy war against the Amalekites in Ex 17:14-16 is fulfilled.

How faithful God is to his promises!!!

But lest we conclude that God is a tyrant, let’s reflect on the grand truth of the Bible. God provided for our welfare by carrying out holy war – not on us who are his enemies (Eph 2:1-3), but on himself through the sacrifice of his Son.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2Co 5:21 ESV)

Instead of wiping out his enemies, he made them his friends.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Eph 2:13-16 ESV)

The grand His-Story of the Bible is a marvelous unfolding of the truth of God’s faithfulness to his word.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (Joh 3:16 ESV)

If you have not already, won’t you bow and receive the gift of God’s grace extended to you? When you do, He will be faithful to his word. You will not perish but you will have eternal life.

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