The Difference in Deliverance

Posted: May 25, 2011 in Esther

Esther 8-10, “The Difference in Deliverance”

What do you do when things look hopeless?  Some of us have tried all sorts of things to try to make ourselves feel better about our situation – and usually we come up short.  Outside of Christ, people try, but they can’t drown it in alcohol – can’t ignore it in entertainment – can’t escape it at work…nothing works.  Even for Christians, we sometimes turn everywhere but to the Lord Jesus.  Instead of being our 1st source of refuge, oftentimes the Lord becomes our last resort.  Yet without question, the Lord Jesus (our hope of glory) is the only One who can provide hope in hopeless situations.  When God acts, what a difference the Lord makes!

Esther & the Jews had faced a seemingly hopeless situation.  They were servants under a (mostly) benign king, who surprisingly had turned against them at the promptings of an evil prime minister – who had actually been an ancient enemy of Israel.  After Haman convinced King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) to authorize a decree to exterminate the Jewish people because of his hatred of Mordecai, Mordecai implored his younger cousin Esther to plead to the king for mercy & intervention.  Esther had been divinely placed into the royal household by God, for “such a time as this.”  Esther did indeed make supplication to the king, directly accusing Haman of selling the queen off unto death.  Haman was amazed to discover Esther was a Jewess, and the king was furious at his treachery.  Without wasting a moment, Haman was taken to the very hanging gallows that had been built the prior night for Mordecai, and the king had him killed there.

Quite a change!  In an instant, Esther went from facing execution to seeing her persecutor destroyed.  Surely that’s enough, right?  There’s still much aftermath to conclude as Haman’s order had been distributed all over the kingdom.  Technically although Haman’s plan had been revealed, the Jewish people are still in danger of death – and intervention is needed again.  Yet God is going to act again – and again we’ll see what a difference the Lord makes.

Esther 8 (NKJV)
1 On that day King Ahasuerus gave Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her. 2 So the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai; and Esther appointed Mordecai over the house of Haman.

  1. Haman had just been hanged (impaled) on the gallows constructed for Mordecai – what was to happen with all of his belongings?  As natural in an ancient dictatorship, all of his possessions become property of the king – who promptly turns it over to Esther.  Haman had threatened the wife of the king, and the king took away the privileges of Haman & given them to his queen.
  2. Notice it wasn’t only Esther who was blessed – Mordecai was as well.  To this point, Mordecai’s relationship to Esther had remained a secret before the king.  Now everything had been revealed, and Mordecai ended up taking the position that Haman had once held.  By having the signet ring of the king, it was equivalent to Mordecai having the king’s signatory power…Mordecai was now the prime minister/grand vizier.
  3. Question: had Mordecai or Esther done anything to deserve these blessings?  No.  They were simply victims of Haman’s scheming.  Yet upon finding grace in the eyes of the king, they received incredible blessing & elevation in the eyes of the king.
    1. Not unlike what happens to each one of us in Christ.  Have we done anything to deserve the blessings we receive as born-again Christians?  Absolutely not.  We were simply dead in our sins prior to receiving the grace of Christ.  But IN Christ, everything changes!  We who were once marked for execution have now been raised to a place of spiritual exaltation by the King…all because of Jesus Christ.

3 Now Esther spoke again to the king, fell down at his feet, and implored him with tears to counteract the evil of Haman the Agagite, and the scheme which he had devised against the Jews. 4 And the king held out the golden scepter toward Esther. So Esther arose and stood before the king,
5 and said, “If it pleases the king, and if I have found favor in his sight and the thing seems right to the king and I am pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to annihilate the Jews who are in all the king’s provinces. 6 For how can I endure to see the evil that will come to my people? Or how can I endure to see the destruction of my countrymen?”

  1. Obviously this was the heart of Esther’s original request, but apparently in the furor of the day that Haman was taken, Esther wasn’t actually able to voice this request.  (All she had mentioned was that Haman had desired to have her & the other Jews killed.)  It seems that Esther had to back to the king unannounced one more time in order to voice this request.  This had been a fearful thing before, but as before, the king extended his golden scepter to allow Esther to speak.
  2. The problem?  Although Haman had been executed, a royal decree still existed throughout Persia ordering the destruction of the Jews.  Esther was passionately pleading (with tears!) for her people as she interceded for them before the king.
  3. As Christians, have we grown cold to Esther’s compassion?  “How can I endure to see the destruction of my people?”  This ought to be our cry in prayer as well!  We have brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world who undergo massive persecution daily.  Yet we forget about them so often.  How can we endure to see their destruction?  Surely we ought to be interceding for them before the King of kings (who knows them & loves them far more than King Xerxes did of the Jews)!
    1. This isn’t just a prayer for the persecuted, but also for those who are lost & destined for Hell.  Surely those who don’t turn to Christ Jesus WILL be destroyed in an everlasting punishment.  How important it is for us to intercede on their behalf that they might turn to Christ & be saved!

7 Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and Mordecai the Jew, “Indeed, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows because he tried to lay his hand on the Jews. 8 You yourselves write a decree concerning the Jews, as you please, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s signet ring; for whatever is written in the king’s name and sealed with the king’s signet ring no one can revoke.”

  1. The king emphasized that he had sided with the Jewish people.  Haman & his house had already been turned over to Esther – now he gave them carte blanche to write any decree necessary to save the lives of the Jews.
  2. Question: If an order sealed with the king’s signet ring could not be revoked, how could Esther & Mordecai write an order revoking an earlier order written in the king’s name?  Technically, they weren’t revoking the earlier order; they were giving a supplemental order that counteracted it.  Haman’s royal decree said that the Jews would be destroyed; Esther’s decree would say that the Jews should defend themselves.  It’s a bit of a legal loophole, but it worked.

9 So the king’s scribes were called at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day; and it was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded, to the Jews, the satraps, the governors, and the princes of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, one hundred and twenty-seven provinces in all, to every province in its own script, to every people in their own language, and to the Jews in their own script and language. 10 And he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus, sealed it with the king’s signet ring, and sent letters by couriers on horseback, riding on royal horses bred from swift steeds.

  1. This is exactly what happened with Haman’s decree (Ch 3:12-14).  A copy of the decree was sent to every province & every language throughout the Persian empire.  There was nothing left to chance that this decree would be misunderstood by the people.

11 By these letters the king permitted the Jews who were in every city to gather together and protect their lives—to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province that would assault them, both little children and women, and to plunder their possessions, 12 on one day in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.

  1. What the decree stated. First, the Jews had the right of self-defense.  Those who followed through on Haman’s original decree to destroy the Jews could be themselves rounded up & destroyed.  The king gave the Jews the right to preserve & protect their own lives.
  2. Second, the Jews had the right to the victory spoils.  Just as the king gave to Esther all of the house of Haman, he gave the Jews the right to take the belongings of those who perished in battle.  Keep in mind, this is a complete reversal of Haman’s plan!  Haman had desired to destroy the Jews & confiscate all their belongings in order to bribe the king.  Now the Jews had the right to take the possessions of those they defended themselves against.
  3. We can see quite a bit of application to the modern Israeli state!  Even in the Persian empire the Jews had the right to defend themselves from those who wished their utter destruction – such as terrorist organizations like Hezbollah & the rogue governments that support them.  In addition, they had the right to take what they conquered in battle – such as the land conquered during the 1967 war.  We need to be very careful as a nation how we treat the modern nation of Israel.  Granted, the vast majority of the Jews there live in rebellion against God in that they reject Jesus as Messiah – but they still live under the unbreakable promises of God.  God will bless those who bless Israel & curse those who curse Israel (Gen 12:3).  Our own government would be wise to learn from the lessons of ancient Persia.

13 A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province and published for all people, so that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies. 14 The couriers who rode on royal horses went out, hastened and pressed on by the king’s command. And the decree was issued in Shushan the citadel.

  1. Think of this like ancient e-mail or Facebook. J  There wasn’t any faster of a way to get the message out than the ancient Persian pony express.
  2. The point is that the decree was delivered to every corner of the Persian empire in plenty of time for everyone in the land to understand the true intent of the king to protect the Jewish people.  Anyone still rising up in rebellion against the Jews would be in direct rebellion against the king.

15 So Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, with a great crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. 16 The Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor. 17 And in every province and city, wherever the king’s command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them.

  1. What a difference the deliverance of the Lord makes!  Mordecai had once been specifically marked for execution; now he’s wearing the national colors of Persia & the royal robes of the king.  The Jews had been wailing & fasting; now they had joy & gladness.
  2. This is exactly what happens to us because of the deliverance we find in Jesus! David wrote in the Psalms of God’s wonderful work in turning mourning to dancing & exchanging sackcloth with a clothing of gladness (Ps 30:11).  Jesus proclaimed the same thing when quoting Isaiah 61 in reference to Himself.  Isaiah 61:1–3, "(1) “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; (2) To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, (3) To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” " []
  3. Not only was there celebration among the Jews, but conversion among the Gentiles.  “Then many of the people of the land became Jews…”  Whether this conversion was whole-hearted, or borne out of a fear of retribution coming upon them isn’t known – but it would seem that at least some people came to faith in the one true God when they witnessed His delivering power at work among His people.
    1. That’s exactly the power of a Christian testimony in the world!  As people see how God delivered someone from death to life, some are going to hear that message & come to faith in Christ for themselves.  As family members see a person who’s life is completely transformed, they understand better than most what that person used to be; something supernatural HAD to have taken place.  And something supernatural DOES take place for every person who comes to Christ: they once were dead in their sin & now they have been given life through the Holy Spirit!
    2. Some Christians are hesitant to share their own testimony with other people.  They think: “My testimony isn’t dramatic enough…there’s just not much to say.”  Not much to say?!  You were lost & now you’re found – you were in rebellion against God & now have been showered with the grace of Christ & made a child of your Heavenly Father!  What can possibly be more dramatic than that? 

Esther 9 (NKJV)
1 Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day, the time came for the king’s command and his decree to be executed. On the day that the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, the opposite occurred, in that the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them.

  1. We’ve already seen many examples of Divine irony in how God used the scheming of Haman to bring about his own destruction – here’s another example as God delivers the Jewish people.  The very day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to conquer them & steal their possessions was the day that the Jews were authorized by the king (and empowered by God) to overcome their enemies.

2 The Jews gathered together in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could withstand them, because fear of them fell upon all people. 3 And all the officials of the provinces, the satraps, the governors, and all those doing the king’s work, helped the Jews, because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them. 4 For Mordecai was great in the king’s palace, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces; for this man Mordecai became increasingly prominent.

  1. Note that the Jews weren’t doing all of this alone.  The government officials who were loyal to the king helped the Jews gather all of their enemies together for the battle.  Why did they help?  (1) They feared the Jews (vs 2), and (2) they feared Mordecai (vs 3).  They saw how Mordecai had been elevated in the sight of the king & the Jews along with them, and they dare not work against him, for fear of incurring the wrath of the king.
  2. Understand this is how spiritual battle works as well.  The devil doesn’t fear us by ourselves.  Why would he?  How then can we ever overcome the enemy?  Through the power of God.  The devil & his demons don’t fear humans, but they do fear God – and thus they understand what it means for God to work through His people. [Sons of Sceva – Acts 19:13-15]

5 Thus the Jews defeated all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, with slaughter and destruction, and did what they pleased with those who hated them.

  1. Massive victory for the Jews & overwhelming defeat for their enemies.
  2. If this seems excessive, we need to remember that no one had to die that day.  It wasn’t that the Jews were bloodthirsty in battle; it’s that they were attacked.  They were specifically authorized by the king to kill anyone who would assault them…but no peoples were forced to assault the Jews.  Any who persisted against the clear decree of the king brought their destruction upon themselves.
    1. The same thing is true today.  People sometimes try to lay the blame at God’s feet for those who will eternally suffer in Hell – saying that God is unjust & vindictive.  Yet God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Eze 33:11).  The law is absolutely clear that the wages of sin is death – yet God has provided grace & forgiveness & salvation in Jesus Christ…this offer is open to any & all who would humble themselves before Jesus as Lord.  Yet for those who persist in rejecting Christ & rebelling against God, how is it God’s fault that they end up in eternal Hell?  Truly their own sinful actions & rebellion sent them there.  Just as a righteous judge is not faulted for the sentence he gives to a felon, neither is God to be faulted for the sentence handed down upon those who reject Christ.

6 And in Shushan the citadel the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men. 7 Also Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, 8 Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, 9 Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai, and Vajezatha— 10 the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews—they killed; but they did not lay a hand on the plunder.

  1. The 10 sons of Haman were killed, along with the other enemies.  Yet interestingly enough, the Jews did not partake of the plunder.  They had the right to do so (they were authorized by the king as such), but they didn’t do it.  Why?  Primarily because they weren’t out to get rich (as we’ll see in a moment). 
  2. Interestingly enough, although the Jews at the time likely did not intend this at all, they actually honored God’s commandment to Saul about the Amalekites.  1 Samuel 15:2–3, "(2) Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. (3) Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’" []  Each one of these 10 sons of Haman the Agagite were themselves of Amalekite origin – God’s judgment of them is being fulfilled to the letter.

11 On that day the number of those who were killed in Shushan the citadel was brought to the king. 12 And the king said to Queen Esther, “The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the citadel, and the ten sons of Haman. What have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? Now what is your petition? It shall be granted to you. Or what is your further request? It shall be done.” 13 Then Esther said, “If it pleases the king, let it be granted to the Jews who are in Shushan to do again tomorrow according to today’s decree, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged on the gallows.” 14 So the king commanded this to be done; the decree was issued in Shushan, and they hanged Haman’s ten sons.

  1. This may seem gruesome to us, but this was fairly common practice at the time.  The 10 sons were already dead, but they were impaled & publicly hanged to serve as an example to the rest of the people.  The idea was that the same fate would fall upon anyone who attempted to persecute the Jews in the future.
  2. Esther asked for the campaign to continue one more day.  Why?  To ensure ALL of the Jewish enemies were gone.  They might not get another opportunity at this, so Esther is taking advantage of the time that she has.
    1. Don’t waste your opportunities!

15 And the Jews who were in Shushan gathered together again on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and killed three hundred men at Shushan; but they did not lay a hand on the plunder. 16 The remainder of the Jews in the king’s provinces gathered together and protected their lives, had rest from their enemies, and killed seventy-five thousand of their enemies; but they did not lay a hand on the plunder.

  1. Again, the enemies of the Jews are killed (it’s amazing that anyone still desired to rise up against the Jews at all!), and again the Jews do not lay their hands on the victory spoils.  It seems that those outside of the walled city had their day of deliverance on the 13th; those inside the city seemed to have waited it out & had their day of deliverance on the 14th.
  2. Were these all Amalekites as well?  Doubtful.  Scripture doesn’t tell us why the Jews didn’t take the plunder, but it illustrates the idea that the Jews did not conduct this campaign for fun or wealth; they did it for survival.  They simply did what needed to be done, without evil motives involved.  (A direct contrast with Haman!)

17 This was on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar. And on the fourteenth of the month they rested and made it a day of feasting and gladness. 18 But the Jews who were at Shushan assembled together on the thirteenth day, as well as on the fourteenth; and on the fifteenth of the month they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. 19 Therefore the Jews of the villages who dwelt in the unwalled towns celebrated the fourteenth day of the month of Adar with gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and for sending presents to one another.

  1. Keep in mind this was the original date set by Haman (Ch 3:13).  The very day the Jews were supposed to be destroyed was the day that God allowed them to destroy their enemies.
  2. What a celebration!  Like Christmas for us today, they celebrated their deliverance from death with feasting & presents.  Christmas is a fair comparison – that’s the day we celebrate the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, which led directly to our own deliverance.

20 And Mordecai wrote these things and sent letters to all the Jews, near and far, who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, 21 to establish among them that they should celebrate yearly the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar, 22 as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor.

  1. Instructed to celebrate this feast perpetually – as one of the national feasts of Israel.
  2. Note the specific instruction to send gifts to the poor as well as to one another.  Why?  God had shown compassion to them; they ought to show compassion to one another.

23 So the Jews accepted the custom which they had begun, as Mordecai had written to them, 24 because Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to annihilate them, and had cast Pur (that is, the lot), to consume them and destroy them; 25 but when Esther came before the king, he commanded by letter that this wicked plot which Haman had devised against the Jews should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows.

  1. Summary of the origin of the feast.
  2. Question: Why put in a summary of the origin of the feast in a book that specifically explains the origin of the feast?  Simple – to ensure no one misunderstands it.  Think of what Christmas & Easter have become in our own culture…secularized & sanitized of anything dealing with the faith.  Instead of celebrating the birth & death & resurrection of Christ Jesus, most Americans think of Santa Claus & chocolate bunnies.
    1. We need to remember why it is we worship!  We need to remember why we celebrate!

26 So they called these days Purim, after the name Pur. Therefore, because of all the words of this letter, what they had seen concerning this matter, and what had happened to them, 27 the Jews established and imposed it upon themselves and their descendants and all who would join them, that without fail they should celebrate these two days every year, according to the written instructions and according to the prescribed time, 28 that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city, that these days of Purim should not fail to be observed among the Jews, and that the memory of them should not perish among their descendants.

  1. Shows the origin of the name “Purim.”  “Pur” = “lot”…the method by which Haman chose the date to destroy Israel (Ch 3:7).  Thus they remember that although Haman chose by chance, God is sovereign over all things – including so-called “luck.”  The name is somewhat ironic.  The Jews did not survive due to good luck; they survived due to the supernatural protection of God!
  2. To this day, Purim is still celebrated among the Jewish people.  Traditionally, they read the book of Esther, give gifts to each other & to charity, and have a feast meal.  Not at all unlike what is described here.
  3. Why so many reminders to celebrate this feast perpetually?  We need to remember this is one of the few national feasts that is not specifically instructed in the Bible (Hannakuh being another example).  Moses had received commands concerning the Day of Atonement, Passover, the feast of Tabernacles, and more – but Purim obviously came much later.  Thus the emphasis that this is to be a national feast, on par with the others given by God through Moses.

29 Then Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter about Purim. 30 And Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews, to the one hundred and twenty-seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, with words of peace and truth, 31 to confirm these days of Purim at their appointed time, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had prescribed for them, and as they had decreed for themselves and their descendants concerning matters of their fasting and lamenting. 32 So the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim, and it was written in the book.

  1. Note the authority given to Esther.  No longer is she asking for permission from the king to write this letter to the Jews about Purim; she’s been entrusted with authority from the king in this matter already.
    1. This is huge!  Not just a woman with authority – a Jewish woman in Persia!
  2. Again, notice the difference the deliverance of the Lord makes.  Almost a year ago, the words handed from the palace concerning the Jews were words of death.  Now the words from the court of King Xerxes were “words of peace and truth.”  Praise God!

Esther 10 (NKJV)
1 And King Ahasuerus imposed tribute on the land and on the islands of the sea. 2 Now all the acts of his power and his might, and the account of the greatness of Mordecai, to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia? 3 For Mordecai the Jew was second to King Ahasuerus, and was great among the Jews and well received by the multitude of his brethren, seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his countrymen.

  1. A final follow-up on Mordecai.  Earlier the text had shown that Mordecai had been elevated in the eyes of the king – now we see the extent.  Truly he was 2nd in command of all of the Persian empire.  Like Haman was before him – and like Joseph was in the court of Pharaoh, so Mordecai was in the eyes of King Xerxes.
  2. Mordecai was trusted by the king & he was trusted by the people.  Quite a change for a man who had been marked to die by the previous prime minister of Persia!

Conclusion:
What a difference the deliverance of God makes!

  1. God gave the house & authority of the enemy to His own people (Esther & Mordecai).
  2. God changed many within the nation from killing the Jews to converting to their faith.
  3. God turned potential victims into glorious victors.
  4. God saved those destined for destruction & elevated them to the highest positions in the kingdom.

The ramifications of God’s deliverance are absolutely outstanding!  They are no less outstanding for those of us in Christ Jesus.  We’ve been given authority to carry the name of Christ into the world – we’ve been given the gospel of grace through which men are converted to Christ – we’ve been given the power to have victory over sin & in spiritual battle – we’ve been saved from eternal destruction & already seated with Jesus in the heavenly places.  Amazing deliverance!

So knowing all that about our eternal deliverance – let’s return to our original question: what do you do when things seem hopeless?  Surely if anyone had reason to lose hope, it was Esther, Mordecai, & the rest of the Jews.  Yet they saw the work & power of their God who delivered them.  If God has delivered us from such eternal destruction, what problem is it for Him to care for us in our earthly difficulties?  Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow – our Heavenly Father is more than capable of providing for our needs.  He might provide us a way out of our circumstances, or a way through our circumstances – but either way, we have a confident faith that our God will care for us.  Why?  Because of the grand deliverance He’s shown to us already!

Have you partaken of His deliverance?

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