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Jun 23 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 11, 2017 – Esther chapter 5

“A Time to Every Purpose”

Now it came about on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace in front of the king’s rooms, and the king was sitting on his royal throne in the throne room, opposite the entrance to the palace. When the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favor in his sight; and the king extended to Esther the golden scepter which was in his hand. So Esther came near and touched the top of the scepter. Then the king said to her, “What is troubling you, Queen Esther? And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be given to you.” Esther 5:1-3

Intro: In chapter 4, Esther struggled through an important rite-of-passage

Perhaps for first time, she found herself in conflict with her cousin Mordecai
– what he ordered her to do ran contrary to her own will
• specifically, her natural and fundamental human drive to survive
• after a brief exchange of messages, Esther came to a realization;
◦ the fate of her people came before her personal concerns
– but then an interesting thing happens
• Esther found her own voice
◦ she became a real queen, not merely Xerxes’ “trophy wife”
◦ the chapter ended with Mordecai obeying her command

Dana Crowley Jack had been a therapist for several years when it became clear to her that her education had been deficient when it came to treating women suffering with depression. So she and her colleagues began doing their own research. They discovered that a common complaint their depressed female clients made in describing their depression was a “loss of self.” Some of them had been for many years silenced by others and some had silenced themselves to keep the peace with family members, bosses and coworkers. Dana Jack explains, “Voice is an indicator of self. Speaking one’s feelings and thoughts is part of creating, maintaining, and recreating one’s authentic self.” To have one’s voice constantly ignored, contradicted, devalued, or suppressed is to find one’s self excluded from important discussions and decisions. We present our ideas and point of view–in fact, one’s very self–through the communication of words. “To be willing to risk arguments . . . one has to believe in the legitimacy of one’s own point of view.”

This is what I mean by “Esther found her voice”
– she is no longer a stock character (e.g, beauty queen), but becomes a real person
• in that light, consider the irony of the last words we heard her utter,
If I perish, I perish
– her life was not more secure than it before
• but now this was her decision to make (not one that someone else made for her)

After three days of fasting, the critical moment comes

The setting here is more descriptive than we are used to finding in the Hebrew Scriptures
– why does storyteller specify the fact that Esther put on royal robes?
• because this is her unique connection with the king
◦ he is in his royal house, sitting on his royal throne
• and Esther’s royalty sets her apart from everyone else
◦ it created a direct link to the king
◦ so when Xerxes looked, he saw “Esther the queen”
– she stood at the threshold, opposite or “over against” the entrance
• she was in the king’s direct line of sight
• this is important, because
When the king saw Esther . . . she obtained favor in his sight

I assume Esther was not allowed to speak first
– but it is possible to communicate some messages without words
• he addressed her formally, “What is it Queen Esther?”
• “If it pleases the king . . .” — the customary introduction
◦ but we have seen that this phrase is also a hinge on which plot swings
◦ those listening to the story would be alerted to the shift that was about to occur
– I wonder if fasting for three days gave Esther the idea for preparing a feast
• in chapter 1, Vashti’s risk was her refusal to make an appearance when summoned
• Esther’s risk is in making an appearance withoug being summoned
◦ Vashti dodged the king’s feast, Esther prepared him a feast

Vv. 5-8, Esther surprises us

Tension between Esther and Haman has building below the surface
– so now that they are face to face, we expect it to erupt in open conflict
• all that verse 5 does is to make a transition between scenes
◦ (notice for later that the king hurries Haman to the queen’s quarters)
• again, wine is flowing
◦ and as it tends to do, it loosens the grip on human emotions
– the king again asks Esther again for her petition, and makes a promise to her
• this is the open door Esther has needed
◦ she does not want half of his kingdom
◦ she only wants the Jewish population–spared
• but that is not what she asked – instead, Esther delays her request
◦ no reason given, but it allows Haman to totally misread the situation
◦ and it leaves him off guard, oblivious to what has been set in motion

Vv. 9-14, Haman’s perfect day is spoiled

Haman left the palace in high spirits–until he reached gate
– we have seen how anger drives the plot
• Haman arrived home and called for his friends and wife
◦ only his wife, Zeresh, is mentioned by name
• Haman boasted of his many successes and fortunes
◦ and climax to all of it,

Even Esther the queen let no one but me come with the king to the banquet which she had prepared; and tomorrow also I am invited by her with the king. (v. 12)

◦ his mistaken impression of what this actually means is thick with irony
– the joy all Haman boasted immediately drained away when he saw,
“Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate”
• it seems Zeresh was the spokesperson for the group
◦ what she said in essence was

“Why would you let Mordecai upset you? He and his people are already doomed. Make him the first casualty of the Jewish genocide. Send him from the king’s gate to a tall gallows.”

• the height of gallows they suggested was ridiculous–seventy-five feet
◦ how tall would it have to be to sate Haman’s hatred?

With Mordecai out of the way by noon, Haman could go the the feast “joyfully”
• pleased with their counsel, Haman ordered the gallows to be made
– it is as if upon hearing the plan immediately gave relief

Conc: Sometimes, when walking near ocean I watch the waves

I mostly watch the waves, looking for the best ones to ride
– many times I’ve seen a guy sitting on his board, letting a perfect wave roll by
• then I wonder to myself, “Why didn’t he take that one?”
• but then I have to remember, the wave looks different from his perspective
◦ he’s in the water and can sense with his body as well as eyes,
◦ how the wave will break
– that sort of trained sensitivity comes with practice
• from spending hours in the water
◦ and years of reading and riding waves
• even still, a veteran surfer can get too excited and make mistakes
◦ take off too early or too late

Why did Esther delay? Because she was waiting and watching
– the very disciplines Jesus taught in regard to prayer
• there can be a too soon and a too late, a too little and a too much
– unlike Haman, Esther did not let impatience get the better of her

The New Testament uses three words for time (aside from “the ages” or eternity)

  1. Chronos: All time from beginning to end
    • “the succession of moments” from birth to death
  2. Hora: Specific blocks of time–hour, day, spring, summer
    • “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” (Jn. 11:9)
  3. Kairos: A unique moment in time; e.g., when fruit ripens or harvest comes
    a. opportune time or divinely appointed time
    “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Ro. 5:6)
    b. someone has said Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is “a miniature essay on the word” (kairos)

We are always in chronos time; looking at our watch, the clock, or calendar
– it takes something big to snap us out of our fixation with chronos
• to make time stand still or cough up an unforgettable moment
kairos is God’s time and it intersects with chronos
◦ we experience kairos as eternity breaking into time
◦ int the Greek translation of “such a time as this” the word kairos is used
– how do we wake up to that? to God’s kairos entering the present moment?
• contemplative prayer is waiting and watching
• with trained practice, it deepens our awareness
◦ through slowing down and paying attention, we receive grace to notice more
◦ and that awareness stays with us
◦ as a result, we experience kairos more often

A prayer retreat can also be helpful
– not a conference (even as to pray is more helpful than reading a book on prayer)
• a retreat can renew our energy for prayer
• and deepen our experience of prayer

In Jesus, time and eternity are combined
– he is the intersection of humanity and deity
• he is always present in our kairos moments
– if we recognize kairos when it occurs and we are aware in those moments,
• then we know the presence of Jesus in the here and now

And we know, he is not only here with us
but he is also here for us

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