Over the years of ministry I have been fascinated by the many times that I have been tempted to take matters into my own hands, only to watch as the LORD turned the circumstance totally in the other direction. Most of the time this involved people who said or did something that was unethical, manipulative, or downright sinful, and responding in kind was my first impulse. When I resisted, (to my embarrassment I must confess that I did not resist in every case) I watched as the words of a mentor of mine came true, “Give people enough rope and eventually they will hang themselves.” I wonder if he was reading Esther when he learned that principle.
At my last post we left Esther at the entrance of the King’s chambers where she was about to request an audience with Xerxes in order to intercede on behalf of her people. You will remember that Haman, a high-ranking court official, convinced the King to issue an edict authorizing the annihilation of all Jews on the 13th day of Adar. In the providence of God, the King willingly welcomed Esther into his presence and inquired about her intentions. But instead of immediately explaining her request, she invited the king and Haman to dinner. Evidently the timing for making her request did not suit the queen during this occasion so she invited both the king and Haman to a second banquet the next day. It was during the 24 hours between these two banquets that the twist in the story occurs.
On his way home from the first dinner, Haman convinced himself that Esther invited him to a second dinner in order to bestow royal honors on him. But his joy and adulation were spoiled when he encountered Mordecai, who, consistent with his convictions, refused to bow down to him, an insult that ruined Haman’s fanciful expectation. When he complained to his wife and a few friends, he was advised to execute Mordecai. Gallows were immediately constructed to carry out the deed.
That same night, it just happened that Xerxes could not sleep. So, in order to make himself drowsy, he had the official court ledger read to him. It just happened that the court reporter read the entry where Mordecai discovered the plot to assassinate the king. When Xerxes inquired what had been done to honor Mordecai, he discovered that Mordecai had never been rewarded. At that moment, Haman arrived at the palace to request permission to have Mordecai hanged, only to be pre-empted with the king’s request for advice.
When Haman entered, the king asked him, “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?” Now Haman thought to himself, “Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?” So he answered the king, “For the man the king delights to honor, have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor! ‘” (Est 6:6-9 NIV)
Haman must have been delighted, only to be decisively crushed when the king subsequently said these words:
Go at once,” the king commanded Haman. “Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended. (Est 6:10 NIV)
Haman was humiliated and hurried home sulking and mourning. But he wasn’t home long when the king’s eunuchs arrived to escort Haman to Esther’s banquet, during which she revealed her national descent to the king and pleaded for her life and for the lives of her people. Furious at the circumstance, Xerxes stormed out of the room, which gave Haman the opportunity to plead for mercy before the queen by throwing himself prostrate on the couch where she was seated. Just then the king returned, and seeing Haman next to the queen, he assumed the worst and immediately ordered Haman’s execution for inappropriate advances toward Esther. Immediately, Haman was hung on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. The rope intended for Mordecai snapped the life out of Haman.
In a total change of heart, Xerxes issued a decree, reversing the command to slay the Jews, and further stated that if any Jew was attacked, he could defend himself and even retaliate. In the fighting that broke out, thousands of non-Jews were slain. Peace was quickly restored and from then to the present, that day has been observed as a day of Jewish celebration, a feast known as Purim, which means “lot”, the way Haman designated the 13th of Adar for his treachery.
So, the next time you are tempted to take matters in your own hands, remember Mordecai and Haman. God is the advocate of the righteous and the judge of the unrighteous. In the end, the wrong will fail and the right will prevail.