DUE TO A TECHNICAL GLITCH, THERE IS NO VIDEO/AUDIO
Today, we come to the end of the book of Esther. I have to say this has been one of my favorite sermon series yet. So before we cross the finish line, here are the main characters again, for the last time:
- King Ahasuerus = not really in charge it seems
- Esther = Queen, Jew who risked her life twice on behalf of her people
- Haman = bad guy, enemy of the Jews, he is dead.
- Mordecai = Jew, took Haman’s spot as second in command of the whole kingdom, doing well, and he has just established a new Jewish holiday to commemorate the Jews’ deliverance from their enemies:
Esther 9: Mordecai recorded these events and sent letters to all the Jews in all of King Ahasuerus's provinces, both near and far.  He ordered them to celebrate the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar every year  because during those days the Jews gained relief from their enemies. That was the month when their sorrow was turned into rejoicing and their mourning into a holiday. They were to be days of feasting, rejoicing, and of sending gifts to one another and to the poor.  So the Jews agreed to continue the practice they had begun (that is the two days of feasting), as Mordecai had written them to do.
In case anyone was celebrating this new holiday with their children and their children asked “Why are we celebrating this?”, the author of Esther writes into this conversation a concise summary of the whole story:
 For Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them. He cast the Pur-that is, the lot-to crush and destroy them.  But when the matter was brought before the king, he commanded by letter that the evil plan Haman had devised against the Jews return on his own head and that he should be hanged with his sons on the gallows.
Now in my own head, I imagine Esther reading this summary and thinking, “hold on a second! I risked my life TWICE! And I don’t get so much as a mention?” Don’t you think a better way to describe the story would be, “Haman, the enemy of the Jews, plotted to destroy them, but when the matter was brought to Esther, she risked her life to stand up to the king and plead with him to change his mind. And because she was as intelligent and wise as she was beautiful, the king listened to her and let her and Mordecai write a new law that let the Jews overpower their enemies.”
Wouldn’t that sound a little more like what you think of the story? I mean the book is called “Esther” and yet she doesn’t even make it into the closing summary!? It’s just that the Jews were going to be destroyed and the king stopped it. But remember, the story is not about Esther – our big idea throughout the whole series is that God is the leading role in human history. He is seeing to it, through ordinary people, that his kingdom comes and his will is done on earth throughout human history, despite satanic opposition.
Destroying the Jews is a theme that occurs throughout history, beginning in the book of Exodus, with Pharaoh and his order to the midwives to kill all the Jewish boy babies, continuing with the Amalekites in the wilderness and in the land of Canaan, the Philistines and the Assyrians, King Herod killing all males under 2yrs old in Bethlehem in order to get rid of Jesus, and all the way up to the twentieth century, with Hitler; and, as some contemporary Jews will tell you, it still continues with present-day radical Arabs and Palestinians.
Yet throughout the centuries, God continues to preserve them and not allow their destruction, as we saw here in Esther. So, to celebrate this deliverance, even though the Jews already had the Passover feast which celebrated their deliverance from Pharaoh, Mordecai and Esther instituted another feast to celebrate their deliverance from Haman.
26] For this reason these days are called Purim, from the word Pur [that is the lot Haman used]. Because of all the instructions in this letter as well as what they had witnessed and what had happened to them,  the Jews bound themselves, their descendants, and all who joined with them to a commitment that they would not fail to celebrate these two days each and every year according to the written instructions and according to the time appointed.  These days are remembered and celebrated by every generation, family, province, and city, so that these days of Purim will not lose their significance in Jewish life and their memory will not fade from their descendants.  Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, along with Mordecai the Jew, wrote this second letter with full authority to confirm the letter about Purim.  He sent letters with assurances of peace and security to all the Jews who were in the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus,  in order to confirm these days of Purim at their proper time just as Mordecai the Jew and Esther the queen had established them and just as they had committed themselves and their descendants to the practices of fasting and lamentation.  So Esther's command confirmed these customs of Purim, which were then written into the record.
I don’t know how much you know about Purim. I knew nothing about it until studying this. Turns out, Jews still celebrate Purim even to this day. From what I’ve read, it gets a little crazy in some places. The story of Esther is read every year, and sometimes when the reader reads the name Haman, people boo and hiss, use noisemakers, etc to drown out his name. People dress up, and in some places, they are allowed to drink alcohol until they can’t tell the difference between the name Haman and Mordecai. If you end up celebrating Purim, I would not encourage that.
But in an article I read this week, a Jewish jokester summarized Purim like this, “They tried to kill us; they failed; let’s eat.”
And maybe you think, “I’m not Jewish. I’m probably not going to add Purim to the list of things I celebrate. What does this have to do with me?” Well, I’m not proposing that we start celebrating Purim, or that the reason this story is in scripture is so we do. Look at Colossians 2:16-17:
Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is Christ.
In other words, just like when you see your shadow on the ground which looks somewhat like you, moves when you move, it’s not you: the story and celebration that is the book of Esther is a mirror of the whole story of God that is fulfilled by Christ!:
The story of Esther begins with a king, showering his kingdom with abundance in a garden courtyard.
The story of God begins with a King, in a garden, showering his creatures with abundance and provision.
The story of Esther finds the unlikely intrusion of an enemy, deceiving his way to a position of power.
The story of God finds the unlikely intrusion of an enemy in the garden, deceiving his way into power. (Gen 3)
The story of Esther finds God’s people compromised; not living out their identity as followers of Yahweh.
The story of God finds the people God created listening to other voices but his, finding their identity in their work, their family, their accomplishments, their appearance, etc; enemies; sinners; helpless to do anything about it. (Eph 2)
Redemption by a mediator
The story of Esther finds a mediator stepping in between those destined to die and the king who had signed the law, in order to see her people saved.
The story of God finds a Mediator, stepping in between humans destined to die in their sin and the Almighty God who could not allow them into his presence, to redeem them and see them saved from hell.
Consummation, Celebration, Stasis
The story of Esther ends with a celebratory party, as people rejoice in the decisive victory over Haman and his cronies.
The story of God ends with a celebratory party in heaven, as those God has saved are welcomed to the marriage feast of the Lamb, celebrating Jesus’ decisive and eternal victory over Satan, hell, and death. (Revelation 19:9)
In another summary of sorts, Revelation chapter 12 puts that whole story into one great scene. Listen to this:
Revelation 12:1-12 CSB
The apostle John paints with words the picture he sees in his mind that describes this scene: A brilliant woman clothed with the sun and the stars, in labor. Right next to her, another villain—an ugly, huge, powerful, red dragon, waiting to devour the newborn child. His name is Satan, that ancient serpent that first entered the Garden of Eden, attempting to thwart the plan of God from the beginning. But its plans are thwarted. As soon as the child is born, he is caught up and taken away to safety.
You wonder what that has to do with Esther?
The woman represents Israel, her child represents Jesus – In other words, if Satan could destroy Israel before Jesus was born, he would keep a Savior from ever entering the world!
The enemy tried to kill our hope, the world’s hope, multiple times, to destroy us forever. But he failed. God provided a way again and again. The infant born in a manger grew up. He accomplished our salvation by his death on the cross and his glorious resurrection from the tomb. When Jesus walked out of the grave, the death sentence that hung over the children of God was turned on Satan instead. Because Jesus is alive, our hope is secure; and Satan’s demise is certain! The prince of this world is about to be cast out of the world, just as he already has been cast out of heaven.1
The Jews celebrated their deliverance with a meal, and so do we! It’s not nearly as satisfying as the marriage supper of the Lamb will be, but as a symbol, it points us to the victory Jesus has earned over sin and death and Satan. Normally, we think of communion as a somber thing; something heavy. And that’s appropriate, but this morning, we’re going to participate joyfully! We’re going to not only remember what Jesus has done on our behalf, but we’re going to delight in it!
This story of Esther began with a king, showering his people with the abundance that only he could provide. He was giving of himself for the benefit of his people. Esther ends with Mordecai, giving himself for the benefit of his people. This bread symbolizes a much better King, the eternally wise King of kings and Lord of lords, giving of himself for the benefit of those who would trust in him for salvation.
In the story of Esther, this king satisfied his wrath by bringing harm to other people. This cup symbolizes the King of kings and Lord of lords, satisfying the wrath of God with his own body; taking on himself the separation of God that we deserved. Just like Purim recalls the salvation from Haman, communion recalls our salvation from sin, Satan, and death. So, I know this might seem a little weird, but in the spirit of rejoicing and deliverance, I invite you to raise a glass to the one true King: “Now to him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen.”
Let’s wrap up the story. Chapter 10.
Esther 10:1-3 CSB
 King Ahasuerus imposed a tax throughout the land even to the farthest shores.  All of his powerful and magnificent accomplishments and the detailed account of Mordecai's great rank with which the king had honored him, have they not been written in the Book of the Historical Events of the Kings of Media and Persia?  Mordecai the Jew was second only to King Ahasuerus. He was famous among the Jews and highly esteemed by many of his relatives. He continued to pursue prosperity for his people and to speak for the well-being of all his descendants.
The reversal of fortunes is complete. Mordecai holds the highest position in the land, next to the king, just like Joseph did many years before; just like Haman did for a few moments. But where Haman used that position to threaten the lives of an entire ethnic group of people, Mordecai used it to bless and speak out for the well-being of the Jews. There is peace and security for the Jews who once feared for their lives, and hope lives on.
We can also look back across this story, and clearly say “God is the primary character in the story.” Through a smattering of “just-so-happens” moments, God is directing the events of everyone, from kings to eunuchs, the greatest to the least, in order to bring about the saving of his people. What you have here in the story is an example of how ordinary moments in the lives of ordinary people are all under the direction and control of a holy God working his purposes throughout all of human history. As we continue to live faithfully in Christ, we can be sure that the decisions we make, the mistakes we regret, even the sins that shame us are all links in God’s plan for his greater work in history2.
Even though the end of the story has already been written, no matter where you live, believers still face Hamans and Herods and Hitlers who want to see promises broken and the community of faith destroyed. Maybe that takes the form of legislation, where behavior outside of God’s will is not only legalized, but championed, like here in the US. Maybe it takes the form of physical persecution or torture like Iran, China, Nigeria, India. Maybe it’s just being mocked in a personal conversation, but there is still a satanic opposition to the things and the people of God actively present in our world today.
But the story of Esther tells us our fate is not in the hands of chance or coincidence. It is in the hands of the God who spoke light into darkness, who calls into existence the things that do not exist, calls beauty out of the ashes of our regrets and mistakes and our sins, who calls dead people to life in his name, who raises the poor in spirit from the dust and seats them at his own table of royalty, who makes enemies into family members, sinners into sons and daughters and seals them with his indwelling Holy Spirit, in whose loving and providential hands are every detail of your life – sleepless nights included – and He will cause his kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven…. Not so that we bow in fear, but To the praise of his glorious grace! And though we might be struck down, we will not be destroyed.
I want to leave you with this: While the book ends talking about Mordecai, I think the book of Esther leaves us at a crossroads. There are only two people mentioned in this last chapter, the king and Mordecai, each with very different reactions to the events of the 5-6 years the book covers.
- Mordecai seems to understand his role in history. He used his position to work for his people, and specifically, those who would come after him. He wasn’t a priest or a pastor – he was an ordinary guy, using his position for the good of others.
- The king however seems to miss the whole thing. He goes right back to doing things kings do – raises taxes and celebrates himself. He uses his position to produce the two things he knows – revenue and pride.
I believe the author of Esther ends the book this way in order to present those two options to you, the reader. The question is, will you be unmoved by God’s providence in the world (his active role in the details of life) or will it move you to action? Will you miss it? OR will you delight in it?
- Karen Jobes, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999) 231
- Ibid, 230