Divine Irony

Posted: May 18, 2011 in Esther

Esther 6-7, “Divine Irony”

Some of the most interesting movies include some sort of plot twist.  Whereas it looked like everything was going to be wrapped up in a nice little bow, all of a sudden everything changes & the tables get turned in a unique way that no one could have guessed was coming.  In Esther 6-7, Haman gets his own personal plot twist.

What takes place in these chapters is nothing less than divine irony.  The villain Haman expects to be exalted even higher than he already is & things come crashing down upon him – all orchestrated by the hand of God.  As we’ve already seen often, the name of God may not be mentioned in this book, but His hand & work is clearly seen!

Esther 6 (NKJV)

1 That night the king could not sleep. So one was commanded to bring the book of the records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.

  1. Some people take Benadryl to try to get to sleep; King Xerxes had his daily records read to him. J  Basically, the king always had a scribe nearby to notate the events of the day & this is what was being read to him during his royal insomnia.
  2. Interestingly enough, we’re going to find that God had a plan for Xerxes’ sleeplessness.  What was an annoyance for the king was God’s providence at work.  How does God use your insomnia?  Sometimes when we can’t sleep, it may be the perfect time to pray & intercede on someone’s behalf.  Perhaps that’s the perfect time to dig into the Bible & listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying through the word.  That’s not to say sleeplessness is always spiritual – sometimes it may just be a result of indigestion. 🙂  But the question is: do we look for ways in which God can redeem any given situation (beyond the single issue of insomnia)?  God had a specific plan in this case – it’s fully possible God has a plan to redeem your situation as well.

 

2 And it was found written that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, the doorkeepers who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. 3 Then the king said, “What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” And the king’s servants who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.”

  1. Apparently the day that the servants were reading from was the day in which Mordecai had discovered the plot against the king & saved his life. [Esther 2:21-23]  Keep in mind that years had likely passed since this point (enough time for Haman to rise up through the ranks of Persian politics to become the grand vizier/prime minister).  Out of all the books that could have been pulled off the shelf – out of all of the days that couldhave been read, THIS day from THIS book was read in the hearing of the king.  There’s no doubt the providence of God was at work!
    1. Never forget that Jesus is on the throne & God is in control!  Granted, Satan has a limited reign on this earth (he’s called the “ruler of this world” – Jn 16:11), but his power is indeed LIMITED.  Ultimately, it is Jesus who has been given all authority in heaven & on earth (Mt 28:18).  Jesus reigns over all things!  There’s not a sparrow that falls without God the Father knowing it (Mt 10:29) – surely He has His reign & rule over our lives as well.  We can trust our lives into the hand of the providential Almighty God!
  2. King Xerxes asked the obvious question at this point: “Wow – he saved my life!  What did we do to show our thanks?”  The answer: nothing.  Keep in mind this is a bit bigger than forgetting to send a thank-you card after a birthday party gift – the king owed his very life to Mordecai.  It would be a national insult & disgrace NOT to show some sort of thanks to the man.  The king has to do something & he’s got to do something fast.

 

4 So the king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace to suggest that the king hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him. 5 The king’s servants said to him, “Haman is there, standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him come in.”

  1. You’ve just got to love the perfect timing of God!  The king is looking for quick action for Mordecai so he asks who’s around that can take care of the job & lo & behold, who walks through the door other than Haman?  This is great timing for the king; terrible timing for Haman.  Haman had come into ask permission to have Mordecai hanged (impaled on a stake) on a freshly made gallows.  In fact, Haman had likely just got done wiping the sweat off his face from making the gallows when he walked to the palace.  Now the king will be asking for Haman to bestow honor upon Mordecai – the very man he wants dead.  (Only Haman doesn’t know any of this yet.)
  2. Do we trust the timing of God?  What looks to be terrible for us may be exactly what God wants to use for His glory.  We’ve seen this in our study of Revelation – every supposed “tragedy” from the various judgments all lead one step closer to the 2nd coming of Christ.  God’s timing is absolutely perfect because God is sovereign!

 

6 So Haman came in, and the king asked him, “What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?” Now Haman thought in his heart, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?”

  1. Oh the arrogance of an egotistical man!  Haman automatically assumed the king was speaking of him.
  2. The proverbs have much to say about this.  Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.”  Proverbs 18:12 “Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, And before honor is humility.” Proverbs 29:23 “A man’s pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor.” []  Beware of pride & ego!  It will take you down every time.  We need to understand that at the root of pride is the same arrogant thought with which the Devil tempted Adam & Eve: “you will be like God…” (Gen 3:5)  How we want to be like God!  We want to be inherently worthy of honor & glory – completely independent of God.  The prideful man or woman wants to be honored because he/she thinks they “deserve” it.  The truth is, we don’t deserve anything but death!  We tend to look at ourselves upon a sliding scale – “Oh, look how good I am.  I’m so glad I’m not like him/her over there!  I may not be perfect, but I’m so much better than them!”  Beware that kind of foolish thinking.  (1) In all likelihood, the person we look down our nose at stinks a whole lot less than what we want to give them credit for.  Although we may think we know differently, we don’t really know that person at all.  (2) Our own sin stinks a whole lot MORE than what we want to give ourselves credit for!  If the apostle Paul could look at himself at the end of his life & call himself “the chief of all sinners” (1 Tim 1:15), where do any of us stand in comparison?  When we start to believe that our own sin is better than someone else’s, then we’ve truly lost perspective of the sinfulness of ALL sin.
  3. How are we supposed to see ourselves?  As God does – no more, no less.  Paul wrote to the Romans telling them not to think more highly of themselves than they ought (Rom 12:3).  We ought to see ourselves as God sees us: utter sinners who have been made saints by the incredible love of God & work of Jesus Christ.
    1. BTW – we can err here on either side of the question.  Some people think too much of themselves in how “good” they think they are.  Other people think too much of themselves in how “bad” they think they are.  Either way, they spend far too much time thinking about themselves.  As born-again believers in Jesus Christ, we’re simply not to spend too much time thinking about ourselves at all!  We’ve been bought with a price & belong in the service of God – we’ve been called to love one another as we love ourselves.  That doesn’t leave a lot of time (or desire) for navel-gazing.

 

7 And Haman answered the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, 8 let a royal robe be brought which the king has worn, and a horse on which the king has ridden, which has a royal crest placed on its head. 9 Then let this robe and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that he may array the man whom the king delights to honor. Then parade him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!’ ”

  1. Because Haman was thinking of himself, he thought of everything he’d like to see done for him to glorify himself in the eyes of all the people.  Basically, he wanted to be honored to the same extent that the king was honored. Not unlike what Satan desired.  Satan wants the same honor as God & to be worshipped as God. Isaiah 14:12–14 “(12) “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! (13) For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; (14) I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ ” []  Keep in mind this is still what Satan desires!  This is why Antichrist will go into the rebuilt temple & proclaim himself to be God & demand to be worshipped as God (2 Ths 2:4).  Of course, that event will also be the beginning of his downfall as things progress very quickly to the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ & His glorious victory!
  2. Although Satan wants this kind of honor for himself, in a very real way God does much of this for us.  Obviously we are not ever to be worshipped as God, but we are given the honor of becoming the children of God.  Like a royal robe draped around our shoulders, we’ve been clothed in the righteousness of Christ…  Like a royal crest placed upon our head we’ve been promised the crown of life…  We’ve even been paraded before the world in a victory march as we become the fragrance of Christ (2 Cor 2:14)…  Our God has delighted to honor us because of the work & victory of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Because Jesus is honored & exalted – because Christ is in us & we are in Christ – we partake in His exaltation & honor.   We are graced to taste of the heavenly glories of His incredible inheritance because we are seen in Him.

 

10 Then the king said to Haman, “Hurry, take the robe and the horse, as you have suggested, and do so for Mordecai the Jew who sits within the king’s gate! Leave nothing undone of all that you have spoken.”

  1. What Divine irony!  Haman had desired all of this honor for himself – he had described the glories he wanted given to himself, while waiting to proclaim ruin upon Mordecai.  Yet in a singular moment, the tables are turned as the king commands Haman to give all of that honor to Mordecai…to the point where Haman has to personally oversee it all.
  2. The Bible is filled with Divine ironies – those moments in which the work of the flesh (or of Satan) is sublimely subverted & turned into the glorious work of God.  Examples:
    1. Joseph: what his brothers meant for evil, God meant for good. (Gen 50:20)
    2. Moses: persecuted from birth, ended up growing up in Pharaoh’s house. (Exo 2)
    3. David: when confronted with an anonymous sin, he passed judgment only to have that judgment proclaimed upon him (via Nathan the prophet). (2 Sam 12)
    4. Paul: imprisoned by the Jews in an attempt to stop the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ, yet imprisonment was the means by which half of the NT was written.
    5. The Church: The Great Commission itself is a grand point of irony.  How would it be possible for idolators, adulterers, murderers, blasphemers, liars, and more to proclaim the good news of salvation in Christ?  Only through Jesus!
    6. Jesus: the very best example is found in the Cross.  What Satan assumed was the victory bell over God was actually God’s triumph over sin & death. Isaiah 53:10–11 “(10) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. (11) He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.” []
  3. Praise God for His Divine ironies!  How important it is to remember the old phrase “It’s not over ‘till it’s over.”  We tend to look at a situation & think “How great!” or “How sad!” & we think we can assume how things have ended.  Yet until we see Jesus face-to-face, we rarely will know the ultimate end of anything.  What looks to be tragedy now might actually be shown to be an incredible victory for God in the end.  We’ve got to be willing to wait to see things from His eternal perspective.

 

11 So Haman took the robe and the horse, arrayed Mordecai and led him on horseback through the city square, and proclaimed before him, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!” 12 Afterward Mordecai went back to the king’s gate. But Haman hurried to his house, mourning and with his head covered.

  1. Haman personally supervised the entire event – to the point of proclaiming Mordecai’s praise from his own lips.
  2. Absolute humiliation for Haman.

 

13 When Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him, his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish descent, you will not prevail against him but will surely fall before him.”

  1. Recall that Zeresh had been the one to counsel Haman (during his temper tantrum) to build the gallows for Mordecai… (Ch 5:14)
  2. At this point, Haman’s wife & friends understand how much Haman has already started to fall & they (unknowingly) prophesy accurately about his failure & death.
    1. Question: was it a lucky guess or a prophecy?  The text doesn’t specifically tell us, so there’s no way to know.  We do know that God allowed unbelievers to prophecy at other times (the high priest prior to Jesus’ crucifixion…) – so it’s not impossible that God allowed the same thing to happen here.

 

14 While they were still talking with him, the king’s eunuchs came, and hastened to bring Haman to the banquet which Esther had prepared.

  1. Things are moving quick!  No sooner did those words leave their mouth did the king’s servants appear to bring Haman back to the palace for Esther’s 2nd feast.  Try to envision the time-frame here.  Three days after her talk with Mordecai (urging her to go to the king, trusting in God’s provision) Esther appeared before the king & invited he & Haman to dinner that day.  After that dinner, Haman goes out & sees Mordecai & becomes so angry that he builds a hanging gallows.  Before the night has even ended, he goes back to the king & is commanded to go & honor Mordecai during the morning.  As soon as that has ended, his presence is required back for a 2nd dinner.  Barely 24 hours have passed, and the plans of Haman are going radically awry as God works in marvelous ways.
  2. How fast can things change?  In the blink of an eye.  One moment everything is fine; the next moment someone is in the ER.  One day a marriage is crumbling; the next day people are on their knees in repentance.  It’s amazing how fast some things can change.  Thus how important is it for us to be grounded in our faith in God?  Life doesn’t just give us unsteady ground from time to time – it can give us 9.0 earthquakes when everything we know is rocked.  It’s vital that we are grounded upon the solid foundation of Jesus Christ!  As the hymn says, “When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace – When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope & stay.  On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

 

Esther 7 (NKJV)

1 So the king and Haman went to dine with Queen Esther. 2 And on the second day, at the banquet of wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request, up to half the kingdom? It shall be done!”

  1. This is the same answer that the king had given Esther every time (though she hadn’t yet made her request).  This is not to be interpreted as a literal offer – but the implication is that Xerxes would grant her whatever it was that she wanted.  Basically a blank check.

 

3 Then Queen Esther answered and said, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. 4 For we have been sold, my people and I, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. Had we been sold as male and female slaves, I would have held my tongue, although the enemy could never compensate for the king’s loss.”

  1. Finally, Esther makes her request!  Again, we ought not to look at Esther’s delays as timidity, but rather God-inspired wisdom.  Not only did she take the time to build trust with the king, but God used the time to prepare the king & Haman for this very moment.
  2. The problem: The Jews had been sold unto death.  Remember that although the king had basically signed this death warrant himself (he had given his signet ring to Haman, who wrote out the decree – Ch 3:12-13), Xerxes himself had not been told the name of the people group he was annihilating, nor had he yet learned of Esther’s own family background.  The idea that someone could have betrayed Esther’s family to death would have been absolutely shocking to the king – he didn’t have a clue as to what was going on.
  3. Question: would Esther really have been ok with the idea of her countrymen being sold as slaves?  Probably not – but we need to remember that technically, they already WERE slaves.  Although Persia had given the Jews freedom to return to Jerusalem (and the rest of the land of Israel), Persia still ruled over the Jews.  For the Jews to have been sold in slavery to a new land would have been a matter of changing rulers; not changing status.  Esther’s obvious point is that although slavery is bad, extermination is far worse.  Outside of the intervention of the king, the Jews were absolutely doomed.
    1. Keep in mind that outside of Christ, we are ALL enslaved to death.  People may not yet realize it, but their sin has earned them utter & eternal death.  Outside of the intervention of the King of kings, we’re all doomed.  Yet that’s exactly when God acted on our behalf – sending Jesus to die for us while we were yet sinners.  At the time that we needed it the most (and before we ever knew we needed it), Jesus provided our salvation for us at the cross & resurrection!

 

5 So King Ahasuerus answered and said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who would dare presume in his heart to do such a thing?” 6 And Esther said, “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman!” So Haman was terrified before the king and queen.

  1. The king was furious!  Like David who railed at the injustice of the man who stole his neighbor’s sheep (prior to him realizing he WAS the man), the king railed against the one who would dare commit such an injustice in the land.  The king had little clue of his own involvement in the matter.
  2. Esther (wisely) does not blame the king, but instead points directly to Haman…who, at this point is likely needing a change of clothes as he understands what’s going on.  Keep in mind that not even Haman knew that Esther was a Jew (Mordecai had advised her to keep it secret).  By ordering Mordecai & all of the Jews to be exterminated, he unwittingly called for the death of the queen of Persia.  Even if you’re not politically minded, this is obviously not the way to maintain political influence!
  3. Note what it was Esther was doing here: identifying the enemy.  Her enemy was not Xerxes (the king had been used as a pawn by Haman); her enemy was the Agagite who designed the whole plan to wipe out the whole race of the Jewish people.  Likewise, we need to be able to identify our enemy.  Many times we confuse our enemy with our neighbor.  We look at the person who’s working against us & we call him/her our “enemy” – when in actuality, he/she is our “neighbor” who needs to be loved with the love of Christ.  Our enemy is the one to whom our neighbor is enslaved: the devil.  Ephesians 6:10–12  “(10) Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. (11) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (12) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” []  Keep in mind that when Paul wrote this, he was sitting in a Roman prison under the evil emperor Nero.  If Paulunderstood the difference between his neighbor & his enemy, we need to as well.
    1. Because our enemy is spiritual, we need to engage with him in spiritual means.  We put on the armor of God – we stand firm in the truth – we pray with all might & supplication – we continually pray to be filled with the Spirit, and more.  Identifying the enemy correctly does not mean that we avoid battles (Esther wasn’t avoiding anything); it means we engage in those battles effectively.  If you find yourself in conflicts & problems with other people & can’t seem to “negotiate” your way out, or solve the problem on your own – perhaps it’s because you haven’t correctly identified your enemy & waged war against him, rather than the one whom God has given you to demonstrate the love of Christ to.

 

7 Then the king arose in his wrath from the banquet of wine and went into the palace garden; but Haman stood before Queen Esther, pleading for his life, for he saw that evil was determined against him by the king.

  1. Why did the king leave?  Perhaps he was in shock.  Quite possibly, all the pieces of the puzzle started to come together for him, and he realized what he had done to contribute to all of this.  Perhaps he went into the garden to think everything through.  Remember, Haman was his most trusted advisor – there was none higher in the kingdom than him other than Xerxes himself.  It’s understandable that he needed a moment or two to absorb it all.
  2. At the same time, Haman uses the time to beg for his life.  He understands what is about to happen, and he’s trying everything in his power to delay the inevitable.
    1. This is the one act Haman takes that our enemy will never do.  Not once in Scripture do we see Satan beg for mercy or for forgiveness.  Even after 1000 years of being chained in the bottomless pit during Jesus’ millennial kingdom, Satan will rise up for one last rebellion, only to be absolutely crushed by God.  Satan will never beg for mercy; he’ll rebel until the end.

 

8 When the king returned from the palace garden to the place of the banquet of wine, Haman had fallen across the couch where Esther was. Then the king said, “Will he also assault the queen while I am in the house?” As the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.

  1. Obviously Haman wasn’t assaulting the queen, but things certainly didn’t look good.  Xerxes came back in the house, only to find Haman sprawled out on the couch with Esther.  Likely Haman was hysterical with panic at the time & it just made things all the worse for him.
    1. We see the opposite example of this with Joseph & Potiphar’s wife (Gen 39).  There, she falsely accused Joseph of assault; here the king assumed assault where there was none.  Haman certainly was deserving of punishment – he just brought it upon himself that much sooner with his lack of control.

 

9 Now Harbonah, one of the eunuchs, said to the king, “Look! The gallows, fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai, who spoke good on the king’s behalf, is standing at the house of Haman.” Then the king said, “Hang him on it!” 10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s wrath subsided.

  1. Try to imagine the scene.  The palace guards had pulled Haman off the couch & thrown a hood over his face while restraining him.  At that moment, they look out the window to see the gallows that Haman had made for Mordecai (over 75 feet high).  By this time, word had gotten back to the eunuchs regarding the purpose of the gallows (which was another reason for the king to be upset with Haman), and they not-so-subtly suggest that they use the gallows for a different person.  The king readily agrees & Haman is impaled upon his own stake.
  2. Less than a week after Esther & Mordecai began fasting to seek God’s face & help in times of trouble, Haman himself had been apprehended.  Less than 24 hours after Haman built a gallows to kill Mordecai, he himself was killed upon them.  How amazing it is to see what God can do!

 

Conclusion:

Divine irony!  Mordecai received Haman’s honor; Haman received Mordecai’s death.  Haman looked for exaltation, but instead received humiliation.  The evil one who had ordered the execution of the Jewish people was himself executed by the very king he had sought to use.  All very ironic – none by random chance or happenstance.  100% of this was orchestrated by the hand of God to His glory.

What a joy it is to see the Divine irony at work!  Even more so in our own walk with Christ.  We, who were absolutely deserving of death were given life.  We, who were absolutely deserving of wrath experienced grace.  The Son of God who is 100% free from sin actually became sin for us – giving us His righteousness in return.  The One who needed no justification became the justifier for all who would put their faith in Him.  Can we give thanks for Divine irony?  Our very salvation depends upon it!

Knowing that we can trust God with those circumstances – what else can we not entrust to Him?  If God’s divine irony can work out our salvation & eternal life, surely He can cause all other things in our life to work for His glory.  In fact, that is a direct promise from the Scriptures!  Romans 8:28 “(28) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  Question: are you trusting God for that promise?  So often, we in our finite minds demand to see how all these things are actually working out for God’s glory, but the fact of the matter is that sometimes we might never know.  We might not know, but we CAN trust.  We can trust that even if God is doing a divinely ironic work, that He WILL glorify Himself in every situation in the lives of His children.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s