Turning the Tables
Turning the Tables
Here at River City, our mission comes from 2 Corinthians 5:20, which says we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal to the world through us. Which means that the way God accomplishes His goal of having the whole earth be filled with the knowledge of his glory, is through you and me encountering the good news of Jesus, enjoying that good news by worshiping God, praising him for what he’s done, killing sin in our lives and turning to God, and then displaying that good news to others around us.
We think that if every one of us encountered the good news, enjoyed it and displayed it, that every man, woman, and child in Riverside and the surrounding communities would not be able to go a day without running into someone who is displaying the grace, and the love, and the joy of Jesus. I think that kind of a church would not be able to contain it’s joy, and not only would it change their community but they would spread out across their state, their country, their continent, the globe – doing exactly what God has purposed the Church to do, which is… fill the earth with the knowledge of his glory.
And we believe that starts when we dig into God’s word, which is living and active, sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel – able to reach the deepest parts of us to expose and cut out the sin that keeps us from glorifying God. It doesn’t end here, it starts here.
We’ve been studying the story of Esther for the last six weeks, and we have seen a lot go down. I don’t have time to recap the entire story this morning, but basically we’ve just watched a rated R movie, full of violence and sex and power, and the main thing you need to know for today’s message is this:
Characters: Bad guy = Haman; Jewish guy = Mordecai; Jewish woman = Queen Esther; King = king, although it seems everyone but him is running the kingdom.
The bad guy (Haman) convinced the king to write a law that allowed public officials and anyone else who wanted to to kill all the Jews in Persia on a certain day 11 months down the road. But the Queen was secretly a Jew, and when she revealed to the king that Haman’s plan meant killing her and her people, the king killed Haman instantly putting an end to his leadership.
So the bad guy is dead, which is great, but the king’s law is still in place. The day of slaughter is still coming, and the Jews around the Persian empire are still in danger. According to the laws of Persia, it cannot be revoked (1:19). The king can’t just cancel it. So let’s see what happened next.
Esther 8:1-17 CSB
 That same day King Ahasuerus awarded Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. Mordecai entered the king's presence because Esther had revealed her relationship to Mordecai.  The king removed his signet ring he had recovered from Haman and gave it to Mordecai, and Esther put him in charge of Haman's estate.
If you were here two weeks ago, “that same day” means the same day the king couldn’t sleep. A lot has happened on this day! Mordecai started the morning sitting at the King’s Gate, then to his surprise, he got paraded around on a horse, then Haman (the guy trying to kill him) was killed, and less than 12 hours later Mordecai is second in command of the entire empire! I wonder if he has even been able to speak a complete sentence yet today. His head is spinning trying to figure out what in the world is happening!
I could preach the rest of the sermon on these verses right here, because this is the marvel of saving grace! This is the mind-boggling magnificence of what the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus accomplishes for those who believe! This is the story of redemption in all of human history, where the lowly are lifted up and the mighty are brought down!
1 Samuel 2:6-9 – The Lord brings death and gives life; he sends some to the grave and raises others up. The Lord brings poverty and gives wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the trash heap. He seats them with noblemen and gives them a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; he has set the world on them. He guards the steps of his faithful ones, but the wicked perish in darkness…
Psalm 40:1-3 – I waited patiently for the Lord, and he turned to me and heard my cry for help. He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and they will trust in the Lord.
Luke 1:51-53 – [The Lord] has done a mighty deed with his arm; he has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; he has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.
Mordecai went from sackcloth and ashes, a visible posture of death and mourning, to having the king’s ring on his finger, which means he carries the name of the king everywhere he goes, in every word he says, in every thing he does. This is EXACTLY what happens when someone puts their faith and trust in Jesus.
The only requirement to come to Jesus today is that you need to see yourself as poor. If you think you’re a pretty decent person, if you think you’ve got a lot going for yourself and God would be so lucky to have you on his team, you will find yourself toppled from your throne and sent away empty. Mordecai in an instant goes from death to life; his identity changed from poor and hopeless, to royalty in the kingdom.
But the law of death still is in place for the Jews. So the mediator goes to bat for her people again.
 Then Esther addressed the king again. (For the second time in the story, she approaches the king unannounced. She again risks her own life, hoping for his mercy.) She fell at his feet, wept, and begged him to revoke the evil of Haman the Agagite and his plot he had devised against the Jews.  The king extended the gold scepter toward Esther, so she got up and stood before the king.  She said, "If it pleases the king and I have found favor before him, if the matter seems right to the king and I am pleasing in his eyes, let a royal edict be written. Let it revoke the documents the scheming Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the king's provinces.  For how could I bear to see the disaster that would come on my people? How could I bear to see the destruction of my relatives?"  King Ahasuerus said to Esther the queen and to Mordecai the Jew, "Look, I have given Haman's estate to Esther, and he was hanged on the gallows because he attacked the Jews.  Write in the king's name whatever pleases you concerning the Jews, and seal it with the royal signet ring. A document written in the king's name and sealed with the royal signet ring cannot be revoked."  On the twenty-third day of the third month -that is, the month Sivan-the royal scribes were summoned. Everything was written exactly as Mordecai commanded for the Jews, to the satraps, the governors, and the officials of the 127 provinces from India to Cush. The edict was written for each province in its own script, for each ethnic group in its own language, and to the Jews in their own script and language.  Mordecai wrote in King Ahasuerus's name and sealed the edicts with the royal signet ring. He sent the documents by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses bred in the royal stables.  The king's edict gave the Jews in each and every city the right to assemble and defend themselves, to destroy, kill, and annihilate every ethnic and provincial army hostile to them, including women and children, and to take their possessions as spoils of war.  This would take place on a single day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month Adar.  A copy of the text, issued as law throughout every province, was distributed to all the peoples so the Jews could be ready to avenge themselves against their enemies on that day.  The couriers rode out in haste on their royal horses at the king's urgent command. The law was also issued in the fortress of Susa.  Mordecai went from the king's presence clothed in royal purple and white, with a great gold crown and a purple robe of fine linen. The city of Susa shouted and rejoiced,  and the Jews celebrated with gladness, joy, and honor.  In every province and every city, wherever the king's command and his law reached, joy and rejoicing took place among the Jews. There was a celebration and a holiday.
I want to take you back to chapter 3, verse 15, the last time the couriers on fast horses took off with a command from the king. This was to destroy the people of God, and look at the reaction of Susa – The king and Haman sat down to drink, while the city of Susa was in confusion.
Now flip back to 8:15 – The city of Susa shouted and rejoiced
Destroy the Jews – what?; The Jews can fight back – yay!
I don’t know what kind of people the Jews were here in Susa that made the Persians rejoice. I do know that God had told them through the prophet Jeremiah that even though they would be in exile that they should seek the welfare of the city they are taken to. But I don’t know if the Jews are doing that or not. But aside from that, this whole scene makes me wonder:
What would it take for River City to be the kind of church where even people who don’t believe what we believe go to bat for us? What would it take for River City to be the kind of church where if we were threatened and had to leave town, that Riverside would be in confusion and mourning?
Anyway, I don’t know what all is happening in Susa, but watch what happens at the end of verse 17:
And many of the ethnic groups of the land professed themselves to be Jews because fear of the Jews had overcome them.
People started identifying as Jews. This is a major reversal! At the beginning of the book, Mordecai warned Esther to keep her Jewish identity quiet out of fear, and now the Persians are pretending to be Jewish out of fear! It doesn’t say specifically why they were afraid of the Jews, but any other time in scripture when pagans are afraid of God’s people it’s because when God is so clearly FOR you, who can be against you?
Well, the 13th of Adar finally came around. Blades were sharpened, people were at the ready. Some attacking according to the kings first order (from Haman), and some defending according to the king’s second order (from Mordecai).
You ready for this?
Esther 9:1-19 CSB -  The king's command and law went into effect on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month Adar. On the day when the Jews' enemies had hoped to overpower them, just the opposite happened. The Jews overpowered those who hated them.  In each of King Ahasuerus's provinces the Jews assembled in their cities to attack those who intended to harm them. Not a single person could withstand them; fear of them fell on every nationality.  All the officials of the provinces, the satraps, the governors, and the royal civil administrators aided the Jews because they feared Mordecai.  For Mordecai exercised great power in the palace, and his fame spread throughout the provinces as he became more and more powerful.  The Jews put all their enemies to the sword, killing and destroying them. They did what they pleased to those who hated them.  In the fortress of Susa the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men,  including Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha,  Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha,  Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai, and Vaizatha.  They killed these ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews. However, they did not seize any plunder.
 On that day the number of people killed in the fortress of Susa was reported to the king.  The king said to Queen Esther, "In the fortress of Susa the Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men, including Haman's ten sons. What have they done in the rest of the royal provinces? Whatever you ask will be given to you. Whatever you seek will also be done."  Esther answered, "If it pleases the king, may the Jews who are in Susa also have tomorrow to carry out today's law, and may the bodies of Haman's ten sons be hung on the gallows."  The king gave the orders for this to be done, so a law was announced in Susa, and they hung the bodies of Haman's ten sons.  The Jews in Susa assembled again on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and killed three hundred men in Susa, but they did not seize any plunder.
I don’t know what you think of Esther by this point, or what you expect her to do, but does that surprise you that Esther asks for another day to kill? But before we lose all respect for Esther, look carefully at her request: Only Jews in Susa, not Jews all across the kingdom; they only killed 300 more but didn’t take anything. It wasn’t a free-for-all. It was specific. And to complete the reversal, she wants Haman’s dead sons on poles too.
And where I think Esther is worth respecting here is that (to a Jewish person reading this) she doesn’t want to make the same mistake King Saul made when he had the chance to eliminate an enemy of Israel. Remember the history between Haman and Mordecai? Haman was a descendant of King Agag who hated the Jews. Mordecai was a descendant of Israel’s first king, King Saul. When Saul was asked to destroy King Agag, he kept the best of the plunder against the Lord’s command. God punished him for it by taking away his kingdom and giving it to someone else.
This time around, the Jews have permission to gather up the plunder, and they are like, “No way in the world. We are not doing that again. No chances taken here. We are going to carry out what we should have done a long time ago.” Esther doesn’t want to leave anyone alive who can come back and avenge the Jews. So she takes decisive action to make sure that won’t happen by asking for another day, just in the city of Susa. So here’s the summary:
 The rest of the Jews in the royal provinces assembled, defended themselves, and gained relief from their enemies. They killed seventy-five thousand of those who hated them, but they did not seize any plunder.  They fought on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar and rested on the fourteenth, and it became a day of feasting and rejoicing.  But the Jews in Susa had assembled on the thirteenth and the fourteenth days of the month. They rested on the fifteenth day of the month, and it became a day of feasting and rejoicing.  This explains why the rural Jews who live in villages observe the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a time of rejoicing and feasting. It is a holiday when they send gifts to one another.  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.
400 years after this happened, another scene of the Story of God took place where, on the day when one Jewish man’s enemy had hoped to overpower him, just the opposite happened.
As a bloody Jesus hung on that cross in agony, nails through his hands and his feet, giant thorns jammed into his scalp, his back, legs, and torso lacerated by whips, the enemy of our souls thought he had overpowered the Son of God. That ancient serpent who had tempted and deceived Adam and Eve in the garden thousands of years earlier, the one who incited Saul to keep the spoils for himself and not destroy Agag when he had the chance, the one who corrupted the kings of earth and deceived believers throughout the centuries... the roaring lion roaming the earth looking for someone to devour, thought he had devoured the hope for humanity, the Son of God – and just the opposite happened.
- Satan hoped the cross would mean the children of God die in their sins, but the cross brought Forgiveness for sins. You no longer have to fear that your past sins disqualify you from saving grace!
- Satan hoped the cross would mean our unrighteousness would keep us separated from the Father, but the cross brought Justification, which gives us the perfect righteousness that makes us legally acceptable to God. You no longer have to fear that God will somehow bring up those past sins again in the future and use them against you!
- Satan hoped the cross would mean that we are forever outsiders to the family of God, forever aliens, forever strangers; but the cross secured our Adoption, which gives us legal standing in the family of God, no longer strangers but SONS & DAUGHTERS! You belong to God! You share his name, and the inheritance of eternal life and fullness of joy in the presence of God is yours!
- Satan hoped the cross would mean death is the end of the story for all of humanity, something to be feared; but in the resurrection, Jesus defeated death and the gift of eternal life now secures our endless joy in God’s presence. You don’t have to be afraid of sickness or death anymore. If you’re in Christ, death is not a period at the end of your sentence – it’s a comma. There is more to come.
- Satan hoped the cross would put the crown of power forever on his own head, but instead the death and resurrection of Jesus disarmed demonic powers ensuring our fellowship with God will never be invaded by hostile powers. You don’t have to fear that your addictions or habits are too much for Jesus. You have been given the power to overcome and root out sin in your life!
- Satan hoped the cross would be painful enough that Jesus and all of us would find the cost of following Yahweh too much to bear, but when Jesus walked out of that grave healed and whole, it secured a final healing of all disease, and means our enjoyment of God’s perfect presence will never be hindered or interrupted by distracting pain.1
And here’s the best part – if you will receive the work of Jesus by faith, believing that you can do nothing apart from him, then not only are you raised out of the dust, adopted, and dressed as royalty, God has given you his signet ring as well! The signet ring was a symbol of power. It was basically a seal, where any laws that were written, any correspondence would have the king's signet ring pressed into wax to seal the document and carry the authority of the king.
If you are a believer in Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection applied to you, you have been given a seal as well, which believers for centuries have celebrated on Pentecost Sunday, which is today! You have been given power as well! And praise God it’s not just some ring you dip in wax. It’s the presence of God’s very own Spirit living and working inside of those who believe, giving us power to defeat sin; giving the faith to believe; the grace to forgive; giving peace and comfort even in horrible circumstances; joy even in suffering, authority over evil spirits, for some the ability to speak in tongues, be ministers of healing, ministers of discernment and truth – And the presence of this Spirit in you, Ephesians 1:13 says, is in itself a seal, guaranteeing that you will endure hardship and that he will transform you into the image of Son.
It’s not because we deserve it. It’s by grace we have been saved. `Next week, we’ll wrap up the story of Esther with some final applications and communion, but for today, we’re going to close with a song to celebrate the incredible grace of Jesus.
- List loosely based on John Piper, Providence (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 185
- Ibid, 185