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Aug 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 18, 2017 – Esther chapters 6-10

Forgive me, but for awhile I was unable to get around to posting my sermon notes. (Parenting grandchildren can be a all-consuming adventure.) So here are the remainder of my notes on Esther all bunched together and without all the editing I usually do to make them readable. I hope you can make sense of them, but even more, that God enables you to find something helpful, encouraging, inspiring, or at least useful in them.  — chuck

Esther 6

Intro: Let’s begin like a TV series, “In previous episodes . . . .”

Esther is the hero, though so far she’s taken only one heroic step
– her cousin controlled her decisions growing up
• still counselor, but in a turn-around, she gave commands and he obeyed
– Haman is the villain – he’s also the king’s favorite official
• if Mordecai would not bow because he was a Jew,
◦ then all Jews were Haman’s enemies
• so Haman devised a scheme to annihilate the Jews in Persia
◦ Esther has begun to work on undoing his evil scheme

But now a new complication has come up
– Haman will go to the king the next morning
• he will seek permission to hang Mordecai on a gallows he built
• what can be done about this?
◦ no one outside of Haman’s small circle even knows about this
◦ and Mordecai only has until the morning to act
– regarding saving the Jews, Esther was off to good start
• but she has not yet presented her case to the king

V. 1, “During the night” – A great opening line!

The tension increases as time is running out
– people sleep at night; no action occurs; we do not expect any action
– a king’s troubled sleep is a consistent theme in exile stories
• Pharaoh’s disturbed sleep– door for Joseph to be promoted
• Nebuchadnezzar’s . . . – for Daniel (& later, Darius)

Vv. 2-5, Rather than fight insomnia, King Xerxes did homework
Ordered accountant awakened & brought to review records
– perhaps to make him drowsy or catch up on backlog
• going through ch. 2 I pointed out foreshadow (2:23)
• gallows for would-be assassins & record book for Mordecai
◦ this time, gallows for Mord., whose name came up in …
– “It was found written” – statement seems anemic, harmless
• an incidental, unrelated to the plot
◦ when event occurred, storyteller didn’t make big deal of it
• Mordecai’s name pops up again (2 X, topic of discussion)
◦ Xerxes realizes that this is still an open file
◦ it’s possible he felt this was reason he could not sleep

“What honor or dignity . . .?” – one word answer, “Nothing”
– whether it’s intentionally, king’s attendants seem to take sides
• every word for Esther & Mord is positive – for Haman, neg.
– needing help of a creative mind, Xerxes asks, “Who . . .?”
• Haman wanted an early start; finish business before feast
◦ perhaps wanted to catch king as soon as he woke
• he had just arrived and was waiting in outer court

Vv. 6-9, The final set-up before the total reversal

There was no formal greeting – Xerxes went straight to business
– the issue was so much in forefront of his mind,
• that he blurts out question w/out explanation or details
• Haman, for his part, had no context for the question
◦ he has to guess who king desired to honor
◦ he could not imagine anyone other than himself – 5:11
– Haman has reached his summit – ultimate honor w/in reach
• “royal robe . . . crown” – no one would dare to do this
◦ clothing fit only for a king (“royal” same wd kingdom)
◦ there could not be a greater honor
• Mordecai had saved king’s life, awarded king’s honor
◦ that kind of honor in his culture did not go away
◦ it was a form of social capital

Vv. 10-11, Haman’s sudden fall into the abyss

From this point, Haman’s “bad luck” snowballs
– he is commanded to act “quickly”
• 12, “hurried” home & 14, interrupted & “hastily brought”
– “Mordecai the Jew” – shock must have hit him hard
• he had designed the honor that his enemy would receive
◦ he’d come to request Mordecai’s execution,
◦ now he must be one to proclaim Mordecai’s honor
• “do not fall short in anything” – gives added emphasis

The last time we read anything about Mordecai’s clothing,
– he was wearing sackcloth and ashes
• in the reversal that is underway:
◦ Haman, who was lifted up is brought low
◦ & Mordecai who was taken down is lifted up
• king was apparently unaware of the friction between them
◦ but the people at the king’s gate would be amazed
◦ they had been the ones to inform Haman (3:3-4)

V. 12, Mordecai & Haman return to their respective places

Neither one of them is driving the story
– they’re being carried along – waiting to see what unfolds
• Haman’s “head covered” indicated agonizing grief
◦ also a foreshadow of what is coming in next chapter
◦ it becomes a symbol of his demise
• his “mourning” is contrasted to his earlier expectation:
◦ to “go joyfully” to the feast, having killed Mord (5:14)
– all these things point to the ironic reversal at heart of story

Vv. 13-14, Haman seeks consolation from Zeresh & Co.

This begins like his previous consultation with wife & wise men
– he gives them a full account of what happened
• and again, Mordecai is at the center of his unhappiness
• then they give him their thoughts and insights
◦ only here, not advice, but only a dire prediction
– “If Mordecai is of . . .” Why “if” – they knew (5:13)
• it wasn’t in question, but way we construct logical formula
◦ If-Then: If all humans are mammals & Fred is human, then
• two times they use word “fall”
◦ if you stumbled here, then you’re going all way down
◦ why? sooner or later Xerxes will learn it’s the Jews that Haman convinced him to annhilate

Haman did not have even a few seconds to absorb this
– “While they were still talking” king’s servants arrived
• and “hastily brought Haman to feast”
• another foreshadow of what’s coming in next chapter

Conc: This chapter is where the tables are turned

And these important shifts occur before Esther has intervened
– she is about to expose Haman
• but that will not be phase one
• the groundwork had already been laid, then she built on it
– a lot of activity has been going on
• wasn’t Esther, Mordecai or Haman who had done it
• they were not even aware of it
◦ & even if they had they idea, they couldn’t manage to do

The miracle of providence is that it operates backstage
– God is offstage through the whole story
• but from behind the scenes, he controls the outcome
– we have this long-range view of providence
• when we reach heaven, everything will be made right
• it’s not as easy to see, if that is so,
◦ then everything is all right now,
◦ because it’s being used to fulfill God’s objective

God is doing something right now that you don’t know about
– but it will work in your favor – & no one can shut door on it
• the spiritual journey progresses by trusting that

All things work together for good and
If God is for us, who can be against us?

– I’m going to borrow something from Jim
• Julian of Norwich, Christian mystic – NDE, 16 revelations
• she came to see how all that stood between her & Jesus
◦ was her sin – the thing that stands in everyone’s way
◦ God could have prevented sin – this disturbed her so much she couldn’t let go

Then Jesus gave her all she needed when he told her, “Sin is inevitable, yet all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”


Esther 7 

Intro: If this scene were set in the Old West,

The town sheriff & gunslinger would be standing in street
– we have come to climax of conflict – the showdown
– Esther versus Haman, and only one will come out alive

Everything in first two versus is familiar

The story opened with a feast – and one after another, chapter by chapter
– wine has flowed like a steady stream through story
• also familiar to us, the king’s questions sound like a standard form
• petition and request – fill in the blanks

Vv. 3-4, Esther finally reveals what she wants

She began same as before, but this time she spilled her guts
– she used the “standard form,” presented petition and request
• if king assumed she wanted lavish gift (or remodel kitchen)
◦ he was in for a surprise, and for Haman,
◦ another shock in a day of unpleasant surprises
• “my life” and “my people”
◦ until now, no one had known she was Jewish
◦ even still, king doesn’t seem to make connection at first
– I think, a pause before she continued – stunned silence as the two men were at a loss for words
• she explained, “we have been sold” we’d say “sold out”
◦ destroyed, killed . . . – quotes the very words of edict
• “if we had only been sold as slaves . . .”
◦ the next sentence has given translators a lot of difficulty
1.) “Would’ve kept silent if didn’t mean great loss for you”
2.) “Would have not annoyed you with anything so trivial”

Vv. 5-6, King wants to know immediately source of threat

He asks two questions: Who? and Where?
– Esther answers the Who question,
• only  she gives more than the culprit’s name
◦ to truly know who he is, you have to know his character
◦ the foe and enemy of the Jews, “this wicked Haman!”
• with the answer to Who, no need to divulge Where
– hearing this, Haman is understandably terrified
• “before” – face, presence, in company of king and queen

V. 7, Now storyteller focuses all attn on two characters

“The king arose” – this is a first!
– so far, he had been sitting through whole story
• in fact, this is a big deal
◦ he retreated to palace garden to cool his head & think
– again anger and wine are linked
• wine usually associated with joy & festivity, out of question
• storyteller did not want us to overlook this
◦ wine is mentioned too many times to be insignificant

Haman also made his move, but not with king
– he could see king had already determined his fate
• only possible hope was that Esther could soften him

Vv. 8-10, A dark comedy of errors

In ancient mid-east hey did not sit on chairs to eat their meals
– reclined on cushions – or for the wealthy, bed-like couches
• Haman most likely fell at Esther’s feet
◦ but that meant he encroached on her personal space
• desperation compelled him to commit this capital offense
◦ he’s literally “falling” – as his wife predicted
– Haman’s bad luck, precisely at that moment, king returned
• Xerxes either assumed the worst or attributed the worst
◦ “Will he even assault…?” violate her

Two flashbacks:
– “As the word went out…”
• 6:14, “While they were still talking”
• wheels turning so fast, no one has time to finish a sentence
– “they covered Haman’s face”
• 6:12, he had covered his head himself to hide his shame
• my guess, remove the condemned man from king’s sight

We have seen that Esther was provided with “helpers”
– it’s possible that king’s servants felt an affinity with the Jews
• Harbonah conveniently volunteered this information
◦ provided details and a reminder
◦ gallows were intended for Mordecai, who saved the king
• “Hang him on it”
◦ irony, when Haman hits bottom, raised higher than ever
– “the king’s anger subsided” – as in 2:1
• anger has fueled the plot
◦ both when it flared up and when it subsided
• anger has been a kind of energy running through story
◦ energy for motivation, planning and implementing

Conc: There are two insights we can take home, I think helpful

The first has practical value and second is of more spiritual value

Esther had risked her life to rescue her people
– reading between the lines,
• she had surrendered her life to the will of God
– when I do this – choose God’s will & accept it as my own,
• when I get up each morning,
◦ I find that he has already been at work
◦ what I step into is like a “kit” & all I do is put it together
– if I have time, know-how & tools, I’m a do-it-yourself guy
• but never when it comes to God’s work
• I am dependent on him for everything
◦ so I want to surrender to him everything

The second insight I found here was from unexpected action
– it comes from king’s instinct to take troubled soul into garden
• retreat to a place of natural beauty
◦ to settle into solitude and silence
◦ allow the oxygenated air to clear & refresh mind & heart
• that’s where Jesus went when his soul was deeply grieved
– when we retreat to garden,
• it’s a symbolic return to our first home
◦ return to a time when all God made was still good
◦ free of stress, pain, sorrow, & evil – & God was near
• the garden was not destroyed, buried or lost
◦ it was transplanted
◦ it’s now what E. Herman called, secret garden of the soul

Our original calling was to “cultivate and keep” the garden
– same job description today – in our soul & souls of others
• it is always there when we are under stress
• or if we just want to take a walk with God in the cool of day
– I read this week, our most transforming conversations
combine affective and reflective elements
• affective refers to our emotions and mood states
◦ emotion: what dominates our thoughts & energizes action
◦ and it is not just psychological – releases chemicals into
• reflective refers to the thoughts we have re: our emotions
◦ sometimes we have to wait for emotions to subside
◦ that’s when the garden is useful

As contemplative Christians, we become more reflective in general
– doesn’t mean more analytical;
• e.g, asking why & looking for answers
– rather, curious – What is this _____ experience? Moment?
• what does it awaken with in me? How is God using it?
• explore whatever is present, look for deeper meanings
David’s thirst “in a dry and weary land where no water is”
– return to the garden, where there’s always water
• and where you’ll always find God’s love – in everything


Esther 8 

Intro: Last week, Jim & I were in another conversation where

Two or three of us mentioned our disenchantment with Ap Paul
– and Jim expressed his deep appreciation for Paul’s writings
• the reasons he gave made good sense – his perspective
◦ offers a refreshing & enlightening way to read Paul
– we do not have to like everything we find in the Bible
• but before we get hyper-critical or reject it,
◦ let’s make sure we understand what we’ve read
• we will encounter some hard things in last three chapters
◦ & for which many modern scholars condemn Esther
◦ let’s try to understand these chapters

A lot of changes were made quickly

The same day Haman was hanged, king gave Esther his house
– perhaps to repay her for the distress he had caused her
– she took this opportunity to reveal her relation to Mordecai
• by now the king was very familiar with the name
◦ he gave him signature ring that he had taken from Haman
◦ authority went from one hand to other, from predator…
• Esther’s purpose was to have him manage Haman’s house

Vv. 3-6, Esther had to finish what she started

Getting rid of Haman was not her objective
– the villain was dead, but threat to Jews was still unresolved
• “fell at feet … wept … implored” – emotional display to:
◦ demonstrate her desperation & intensity of her concern
◦ and evoke the king’s sympathy
• by extending his scepter, he granted her permission to speak
– this is her longest introduction yet – four “if’s”
• if all four conditions are met, she expects affirmative answer

“Let it be written” – i.e., write a new law into play
– technically, no one, not even king could “revoke” previous …
• this has been clear from start (1:19), & reiterated in v. 8
• somehow, legal force of Haman’s letters had to be undone
– she ended speech as she began, with strong emotional appeal
• he explanation is poetic – parallelism
• poetry adds emotional energy

Vv. 7-8, The king addresses both Esther & Mordecai

He reminded them of what he had already done
– he eliminated perpetrator & seized his estate
• depriving Haman’s family from resources to launch attack
– in verse 8, “you” is plural and emphatic, “you write …”
• my guess – he didn’t want to try to solve this puzzle
•authorized them to use his name and ring
◦ assured them the law would be enforced
◦ but also established their limits

Vv. 9-14, It’s important that we set this beside 3:12-14

The story retraces the steps of Haman
– uses language taken from Haman’s announcement
• only this time, it specifies translating into language of Jews
• why is this significant?
– it looks like Mordecai & Esther were legitimizing genocide
• but that was not their objective
◦ they copied Haman’s declaration in order to reverse it
• the targets of this edict were not universal, but specific
◦ Jews could defend themselves from anyone who attacked

How can we be certain Jews didn’t slaughter women & children?
– like Haman’s declaration, this also has a clause: “to plunder”
• but next we will see a phrase repeatedly
“But they did not lay their hands on the plunder” (9:10, 15, 16)
• not stated, but implied
◦ family members were spared who inherited possessions
The same method of delivery was also used
– except: “royal steeds sired by royal stud”
• these were chariot horses – bred to be the best & fastest
– royal resources are placed in service of the Jews
• greater authority than had been in hands of their enemies
• this is seen especially in way Mordecai was treated

Vv. 15-17, Mordecai’s new status and privilege

It was not simply a new wardrobe or fact that he wore a crown
– but there is a flash back to chapter 1 & opulence of palace
• there we saw tapestries of white & violet linen,
◦ fine purple linen and golden wine cups
• Mordecai is wearing those symbols of majesty & wealth
– news radiates out from palace in concentric circles
• and as the news spreads, the response is celebration:
◦ the city of Susa – “shouted & rejoiced”
and for Jews: “light and gladness and joy and honor”
◦ then “in each & every province and in each & every city”
◦ finally “wherever” the king’s decree was read
“gladness and joy for the Jews, a feast & a holiday”
• finally, something almost impossible to believe
◦ especially because we just don’t see it in OT
“many among the peoples of the land became Jews”
◦ “peoples …” ordinary men & women

Several of Israel’s prophet anticipated this
– but it’s rare
• usually, Israel was an island of true faith in a sea of pagans
• Gentile conversion ran contrary to established belief
◦ that their covenant with Yahweh was unique, and
◦ they were a special race that belonged to him exclusively
– now we need to pause and take a breath before last words:
“for the dread of the Jews had fallen on them”

Conc: One clause of the decree, in v. 13, “avenge themselves”

This one word opens a door fo potential evil
– I can see why it was inserted into the edict
• this is what anyone would do when assaulted or attacked
• it’s almost as if this was meant to legalize self-defense
◦ almost
– but avenge can easily turn into revenge
• it can be intensified by emotion & it can become personal
◦ then their actions would be as evil as Haman’s
◦ the same brutality, only with the roles switched
• was this the intent? Is this what it means?
◦ I want to think through this carefully
◦ to go slow and be cautious

The law God gave Israel contains a statute: Lex talionis; Le. 24:19
If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth
• the vendetta or law of retaliation is as old as civilization
◦ the problem, however, is with our human nature
• we determine what justice looks like from our frame of ref
– the statute was meant to set a limit on retaliation
• to permit vindication but prohibit vengeance
◦ God takes punishment out of our hands
• same as when he says, “Vengeance is Mine” (De. 32:25)
◦ Paul’s commentary on this, in Rom. 12:17-19:
Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. . . . Never take your own revenge . . .
◦ and Jesus in Mt. 5:38-42

A disturbing trend: fear Islam and hate Muslims — implying we should prepare for war
“As a Christian nation, it has been, and will be necessary again, to take up arms against the armies of Islam.” Islam “is a religion which must be stopped if the world is to know peace.”
– Dali Lama & Desmond Tutu
let’s make love our practice – perform one loving act every day
we belong to God and he watches out for us

God can turn our worst day into a holiday
bring sun instead of rain
joy instead of sorrow
peace instead of war
blessings instead of disaster
even those tears we spilled in the morning can be turned to laughter by noon

Esther 9 

Intro: The timing of coming to this chapter today could not be more perfect

This past Tuesday, “we the people” celebrated the Fourth of July
– our holiday that doesn’t have a name like “Memorial Day” or “Veterans Day”
(“Independence Day” hasn’t really caught on)
• just the date – the day we officially declared our independence
– events in today’s episode, build to a national day of celebration

Verse 1 introduces what will follow with a brief synopsis

A theme running through recent events is brought to surface
– the turn-around – “it was turned to the contrary”
– all of the pieces of the story come together
• the tension that has been building is resolved
• the Jews in Persia are no longer in danger

Vv. 2-10, [summarize] The key victories

Remember, a royal proclamation that
– gave Jews right to assembly, and to defend themselves
• they also had in their favor, Mordecai’s growing authority
◦ “the dread of the Jews had fallen on them”
◦ in v. 3 becomes more specifically, “dread of Mordecai”

Who did the Jews attack and kill? There are three identifiers:
those who sought their harm, all their enemies, and those who hated them
• if I am trying to live in peace, I avoid making enemies,
◦ and if I have enemies, it is because someone else made me their enemy
– it’s difficult for us to stand in their sandals –appreciate context
• think of Nuremberg Trials after WWII
◦ in pursuit of justice, Allied nations tried Nazi war criminals
• recent years, UN sanctioned interventions around world
◦ dictators brought to trial for crimes against humanity

The blessing of revolution: oppressed people win their freedom
– the tragedy of revolution: our human nature
• revolutionaries commit same atrocities on oppressors
◦ resentment erodes empathy
• “revenge is sweet,” but also tends to be merciless
– some readers have projected that into Esther
• but looks to me like storyteller tries to avoid, implication
◦ “men,” sons of Haman, and “did not lay hands . . .”
• he insists on making that point
◦ would be going too far to say it was “surgical strike”
◦ but it wasn’t a bloody free-for-all

Vv. 11-15, King Xerxes last on-stage appearance in story

He received report of those killed in capital city
– brought the report to Esther and asked if she desired more
• she was ready with a request: grant one more day
◦ but only in the city of Susa
– apparently she felt the threat was not fully contained
• she may have known of antisemitic cells that still existed
◦ also possible Jews in capital city felt inhibited
• public hanging of sons of Haman’s corpses
◦ would not make them any “deader”
◦ but it would send a message

Vv. 16-19, The day after, the Jews celebrated

“Made it a day of feasting and rejoicing”
– in v. 17, refers to Jews in the outlying provinces
• v. 18, the Jews in Susa
• explanation of how it landed on two days
◦ because of extra day granted to Jews living in capital
– “feasting” – we have seen this is one of the key words
• the story opened with a feast
◦ and it has moved from one feast to another
◦ only exception was Esther’s fasting
• but what would have been extinction and mourning
◦ became salvation and partying

Vv. 20-32, The beginning of a tradition

The festivals were written into a law for the Jews
– the only Jewish festival without roots in the torah
• and still celebrated in Israel and Jewish communities
– we have seen, casting lots is form a divination
• decisions were made according to results
• in Persia, not referred to as “lot” but “pur” (im is plural)

That they must continue observance is strongly emphasized
– they would not fail to celebrate, were to be remembered
these days were … not to fail or the memory [of them] fade
• a chiasm in vv. 29-31:
“Queen Esther…with Mordecai the Jew” – then:
“Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther”
• her name, book marks to the tradition, emphasizes her
◦ even more so in the last verse of the chapter
◦ which makes for a troubling omission in epilogue
– an interesting phrase in v. 30
• letters they sent contained “words of peace and truth”
◦ a rare combination in Hebrew Scriptures
◦ much more common: mercy and truth
• “truth” is true to another person or what’s right
◦ God’s faithfulness – so here:
◦ their continued peace depends on continued faithfulness

Conc: I’ve said before, in these stories of exile

We see life go the way things ought to be
– the plans of the wicked are foiled, miracles occur
• the people of God are protected and blessed
– they are stories that end “happy ever after”
But that is not how my life has gone the last couple of weeks
– or–ever! – how about you?

– our world rolls along in a discernable cause & effect pattern
• we can fast, but no voice answers from the sky
◦ we can feast ourselves into intoxication & no fire falls
• courage & cunning count for a lot in our successes
◦ the effect of faith & hope are harder to see
◦ we can feel pretty much abandoned in natural world

Friday, a friend asked why Jesus said, “My God, My God …”?
– in terms of OT, he died the worst possible death
• the good death was, “old and full of days”
◦ execution was a bad death
◦ but to be hanged on tree was a curse
◦ Jesus did not escape the gallows built for him
• NT faith is many times more demanding
◦ their commemoration was feast of wine & pastries
◦ ours is a meal of bread & wine; broken body & wine …
– God is always present, whether mentioned or not

Vasco, “God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, but that’s its characteristic. There is a feeling [here] that events are happening with a purpose that only God can [manage] . . . even the insomnia of the king. Therefore those who are seeking His will can always count on Him even when deliverance seems impossible and in spite of all the [schemes] of their enemies….”

• we are accepted, even in our broken & fragmented lives
• our weaknesses & pains are not deterrents to God

For the spiritual journey: we can find purpose in our disciplines
– ideally, find passion for them & find peace in them
• but I believe we are to find pleasure as well (Ps. 16:11)
• otherwise, we’re not in it with all heart, mind and soul
– who stays at hobby that does not give some pleasure?
• for some, reading is a chore
◦ but change your reading material and you can change your experience
• affectionate touch can never become a chore
◦ and spiritual disciplines are always affectionate touch
Enjoy daily pleasures (beauty, etc.), but make sure you find joy


Esther 10 

Intro: These verses are not part of the story

The story ended in verse 32 of chapter 9
– so chapter 10 is like an appendix or bibliography
• for anyone who wanted more information
• tells them where they can find it
– its purpose: to emphasize the imperial greatness of Mordecai
• first we’re given an idea of Xerxes’ power
◦ then told of Mordecai’s promotion
• second to the king fits the pattern I’ve tried to point out
◦ Joseph (Gen. 41:40-43) and Daniel (Dan. 6:1-3)
◦ Mordecai: a model for Jewish believers in exile

But this appendix is a huge disappointment – I’ll try to explain
– we’ve been in Persia the last nine weeks
• followed the progress of young Jewish woman
• she rose from obscurity in ethnic minority to queen
– meanwhile this weekend
• a young Persian woman died here in California
◦ she had risen to the top of her profession
• Maryam Mirzakhani was a professor of theoretical mathematics at Stanford University
◦ first Iranian woman: National Academy of Sciences
first woman to win Fields Medal (equivalent Nobel Prize in math)
◦ she received full credit for her accomplishments

This is the reason for the disappointment I feel over the way Esther ends
– she is at the heart of the story,
• one in which a major turn-around took place
◦ but the major reversal required several other reversals
• a significant challenge loomed large at beginning
◦ dominant status of males & subordinate status of females
◦ by end of story, Esther had subverted hierarchy
– but now, as the credits roll, she is not even mentioned
• Mordecai is the one honored for speaking out
• in regard to status of women, nothing had changed
◦ or had it?
◦ had there been a significant yet subtle change?

Before answering that question . . .

Let’s take one last look at the unique feature of book of Esther
– that here is a biblical book that says nothing about God
• that is bothersome
◦ not just because it makes us wonder if it belongs in Bible
◦ or what is its spiritual message
• but because even the most spiritual men and women,
◦ worry about the absence of God
◦ & the fact that his absence is more easily felt than presence
Behold, I go forward but He is not there,
And backward, but I cannot perceive Him . . . . (Job 23:8)
How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me? (Ps. 13:1)
How long, O LORD?
Will You hide Yourself forever? (Ps. 89:46)
– Helmut Thielicke spoke of “dangerous pauses”
• between the time we lay our prayer before God & answer
• and the longer God stalls,
◦ the more room there is for doubts to creep in
Thielicke, “The silence of God is the greatest test of our faith. We all know this.”

The Book of Esther is not about God’s absence
– perhaps his hiddenness
• God is present, but unrecognized
• we can compare this with Esther herself
◦ not mentioned in credits of book, has her name for title
– it is a sad truth, God does not always get credit he deserves
• not all the praise or the thanksgiving
Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
. . .
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name (Ps. 96:6-8)

There are times when absence of God is a good for us

A man wrote Abbot John Chapman
– complained of feeling he was being pushed along,
• but didn’t know where – it “is very trying after a while”
Chapman, “Only because you expected something else!”
• God’s silence drives us crazy, only because we expected …
– God’s absence is good when the god we assumed
• would perform in a certain way, respond predictably,
◦ the god we could summon & control is not the true God
• it’s a good thing when the absent god is not the true God
◦ and now we have to sit in silence & wait for true God

When God seems absent, be with what is present
– the here and the now of our immediate experience
• be mindful of sound, because God is never totally silent
• be mindful of breath, because each one comes from him

Years ago, F. Schaeffer published He Is There and . . .

Sounds promising, doesn’t it
– that we can have reassurance of God’s nearness & voice
• his chapter titles reveal how he addressed his topic
◦ with philosophical and theological “proofs”
◦ “The Metaphysical Necessity”
◦ “The Moral Necessity”
◦ “The Epistemological Necessity: The Problem”
◦ “The Epistemological Necessity: The Answer”
– this rational response to spiritual experience leaves me cold
• it is not what you want to tell someone lost in grief or pain
• I can find more warmth in this story
◦ even if it does not mention God

The Book of Esther is a thought-bomb

What I mean, is that it enters the imagination as a seed
– it is true that Esther was an anomaly
• that she broke the conventional rules regarding women
• that she exercised authority reserved only for men
◦ and in doing so, she brought a feminine quality to it
– Esther was not the first woman to cross this line
• another premier example is Deborah – Judges 4:8-9
• again, she didn’t bring immediate change to culture
◦ but planted a seed

Every significant change begins with the imagination
– someone thinks, “It could be different” and begin dreaming
• many influential Jewish women come to mind
• Golda Meir, Janet Yellen, chair woman of US Fed Reserve
◦ COO of Facebook, CEO of Youtube
◦ and two Associate Justices of the Supreme Court
– what can we imagine?

Conc: A few weeks ago we were talking about Jesus Movement

In 1972 Mike Yaconelli wrote “Obituary for the Jesus M.”
– premature by most counts – however:
• Jack Sparks (& other high-profile Evangelicals) – Orthodox
• Shiloh commune disintegrated from internal corruption
• music and messages became commodities – “industries”
– can we imagine a new openness to God, something fresh?
• not so rationalized, commercialized, politicized?
• I ask myself,
“Can I be someone who seeks good of my people?”

If we ask, “Where did Christian saint’s in past go for renewal?”
or “How have average Christians refreshed their souls? their faith? their passion?”
– the answer is, they turned to monasteries and spiritual directors
• they went to men and women who had devoted their lives to God
• they returned to the spiritual disciplines that had been the foundation of apostles and prophets
◦ every generation of Christians who hunger and thirst for God has found its lighthouses
◦ people for whom the old practices continue to gush forth in new life

I’ve run into lots of “former” what-have-yous
Fundamentalists, Evangelicals and Charismatics,
Protestants and Catholics, Pentecostals and Eastern Orthodox
they are burned out, have been kicked out, or otherwise disenchanted
some of these men and women have found their way
to the same road on which we are making our spiritual journey
So I cannot help but wonder:
Can you and I be examples for them?
Can we become lighthouses for the current generations?
Can we work for welfare of all?
Can we help them dream a new and vibrant life in Jesus Christ?

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