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Jun 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 4, 2017 – Esther chapter 4


When Mordecai learned all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city and wailed loudly and bitterly. He went as far as the king’s gate, for no one was to enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth. In each and every province where the command and decree of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing; and many lay on sackcloth and ashes.
Then Esther’s maidens and her eunuchs came and told her, and the queen writhed in great anguish. And she sent garments to clothe Mordecai that he might remove his sackcloth from him, but he did not accept them. Esther 4:1-4

Intro: One time, when I was still new to ministry

I went with a friend to Lake Nacimiento for weekend of water skiing
– Guy, a talented musician and singer, was in Bible College at the time
• on a lakeside bulletin board,
◦ we saw an announcement for a Sunday morning Protestant service
• we went and there we met a friendly group of people, mostly locals
– eventually a man got up and explained their preacher was in another town
• when he paused, I spoke up, “I can preach”
◦ he looked relieved and said, “Really? Come on up”
• Guy sang while I begged God for something to say
◦ the morning turned out well and the folks there were very grateful

Here’s what I think: your destiny comes to you
– perhaps at first in small and unrecognizable ways
• but it comes every day, and then one day it comes in a big way
◦ then you realize you have stepped into your destiny
– that is one of the potential lessons in today’s scripture

For now, just notice Mordecai’s clothes

We can’t help it, because of their strangeness and the storyteller emphasizes them
– in that time and culture, people wore their grief
• they let their community know their hearts were broken
• in white American culture, we tend to hide our emotions
◦ you may suffer great inner turmoil and no one ever sees it
◦ we pay a price for this silence
– human relationships are designed to:
• relieve heartache and help us regulate our emotions
• that is what we deny ourselves with our stoic silence

“As far as king’s gate” – not because appropriate attire was required
– but so king would not be exposed to human misery
• to hear that “the queen writhed in great anguish” must have sounded absurd at time
◦ no one lived in greater luxury or isolation from anguish
• the royal family was shielded from even the sight poverty or pain
– part of Abraham Lincoln’s appeal was his humble background
• how many politicians today have come up from the working class?
◦ people passing laws with no idea how they affect the avgerage family
◦ their families do not have to live on an average income
• so the king can throw the capital city into confusion and go off to drink
◦ for all its flaws, today’s news media would not tolerate this from a leader

Before Esther knew the nature of the crisis, she writhed
– it was for her cousin and the great misery his behavior indicated
• she had an unbreakable bond with him and with her people
• even in king’s palace, she could not escape those ties

Vv. 5-8, Esther’s and Mordecai’s first communiques

Esther is behaving like a queen, summoning servants and giving orders
– when she sent nice clothes to Mordecai, he refused them
• so she sent a courier to find out the what and the why
• Mordecai returned an explaination with a copy of the edict
– he not only informed her, but he ordered her what she had to do
• this had been nature of their relationship (2:20)
◦ him giving her orders and her giving humble obedience
• meanwhile, she was also giving orders–to Hathach
◦ this bouncing back and forth of commands reveals a change taking shape

None of the characters in story could see God at work
– neither can we, because storyteller does not reveal it
• but we do not have to see God to know he’s here
◦ we do not have to see God to know he is working out his will
• we cannot possibly predict how he will rescue us
◦ but neither can we sit on our hands
– we learn to accept what we cannot change
• and to expect God to use it for good
• as for our temporary writhing, well it may be part of the process

Vv. 9-12, Esther explains the risk he’s asking of her

Herodotus was a Greek historian born in Persia in the 5th century BC
– he also referred to this law regarding court protocol
• now, I do not want to cross the line of decency, so–
◦ I’ll make a comment here and not bring it up again next week
• in scripture, feet are sometimes used as a euphemism for private parts (1 Sam. 24:3)
◦ I would provide examples, but I’m already too close to that line I mentioned
– okay, so “sometimes a scepter is just a scepter” (but not really)
• scepters have always been regarded as a phallic symbol
◦ in Genesis, a combination of synonymous symbols is used regarding Judah
◦ this was the tribe that would provide Judah’s rulers

The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet . . .
(Ge. 49:10)
Sidnie Ann Crawford, Associate Prof of Hebrew Bible at the University of Nebraska wrote, “[Esther] uses her knowledge of the king’s character in order to attain her goal by appealing to his emotions. The author has already demonstrated that Ahashuerus reacts emotionally rather than rationally . . . . Esther’s best way to appeal to this king is clearly through his emotions.
“She has put on her royal robes in order to appear as attractive and queenly as possible. Her strategy works, for she wins his favor . . . .”

– and that is as far as I will go with this thought

Esther felt it significant that she had not been summoned for thirty days
– her risk was identical to the danger her people were in
• if she entered the court, she was a dead woman
◦ her only hope was a long shot; the disposition of the king
• so her first response to Mordecai heightens suspense
◦ and that suspense is focused on this one person

Vv. 13-17, Their second round of communiques

Mordecai scolded Esther, but then he inspired her
– he reminded her of her status and its implied privilege
• he challenged her to not use it only for herself
◦ and suggested the possibility her rise to royalty had been arranged
◦ without mentioning God
• she was faced with a unique opportunity

And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?

Esther has the last word
– she tells Mordecai, “Go” – and for first time she commands him (v. 17)
• this is the first significant reversal in a series of important reversals
• she accepted risk rather than doing nothing

And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish

– Esther has stepped up to her destiny and become the woman she was created to be
• the pressure of hour forced her to take her life in her own hands
◦ she acts within the conventions of the time,
◦ yet she also pushes envelope and breaks from stereotype female
– in coming into her own, she demonstrates depths of personal development
• her political savvy, diplomatic skill, exquisite timing,
◦ and strategic use of feminine charm and sexuality
• Esther becomes a godly feminine hero

Conc: Today is Pentecost Sunday

We remember it as a spontaneous moment,
– when the followers of Jesus were energized by divine power

There is something that, out of all the people on earth, only you can do
– you will not have to learn on the spot
• and it will not require anything outside of your skill set
• it may be smile, a pat or hug, or a handful of change
◦ but you will be there and then for such a time as this
– these moments occur frequently
• we rarely notice them –
◦ we are like Mordecai, who asks, “Who knows?”
• but in stepping up to these opportunities, we actualize our true self
◦ if you find yourself there and think, “I can do this,”
◦ then the moment is yours

To take this risk, is to be a true follower of Jesus Christ
who risked everything
and perished so that we could live through him

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