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Esther Chapter 5

Esther Chapter 5

Sermon Transcript

How do you prepare for the moment God has called you to? Join Dr. Marty Baker as he walks us through chapter 5 and unpacks Esther's process as she gets ready to present her request to the king.

Born into slavery in 1820, Harriet Tubman endured forced servitude in eastern Maryland.  In 1849, she escaped and secured freedom in the North, but the condition of her people moved her to free 300 fellow slaves in the South on nineteen clandestine return trips.

Slaveowners placed a $40,000 bounty on her capture, which didn’t deter her. Dubbed by the nickname “Moses,” Harriett leaned heavily on the Lord for His strength and guidance in freeing slaves despite the danger.  At one point, she told fellow abolitionists, “I always tole God: I’m gwine [going] to hole stiddy on you, and you’ve got to see me through.”[1]

The Lord didn’t disappoint her work of saving lives on what was eventually called The Underground Railroad. Routes to freedom followed natural and man-made modes of transportation: rivers, ferries, roads, trails, canals, and so forth, and Christian people, like Harriet, served as courageous conductors.

In many respects, Harriet merely mirrored the spirit of another young Christian woman from the Old Testament named Esther.  When her husband, King Xerxes, signed off on a diabolical plan to exterminate the Jewish slaves of the Persian empire based on the anti-semitism of Haman, the number two man in the government, this young Jewish woman bravely determined to use her power and position as the Queen to save her people.

Once she learned of the coming holocaust from her well-connected cousin, Mordecai (Esther 4), and once she dropped her rationalization for not breaking the (illogical) Persian law of approaching the king unannounced because God had sovereignly placed her in this pernicious, problematic moment, she boldly stated she would stand uninvited before the King.  Her courage is best remembered when she stated, “If I perish, I perish” (Est. 4:16).

How she prepared for the tense moment is best summed up in this statement: Esther got prayed up and then pumped up to get wised up for the work at hand. The divine promise of Isaiah 40:31 certainly stood as the foundation of her fasting and praying:

31 Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. (Isa. 40)

Translated: Those who bow before the LORD gain strength beyond their strength for the task at hand; they achieve a better perspective (like the keen eyesight of an eagle) concerning what’s going on, they gain extra energy to push forward when most would pull back, and they be able to persevere when most would throw in the proverbial towel.  Perhaps this verse must be your verse as you head to prayer and fasting.

And she didn’t fast and pray alone either.  She challenged all Jews throughout the empire to join her for three days, and they did.  What happened next is a testimony of how saints, at all times, should function when faced with personal and societal evil.

To appreciate how Esther’s spiritual preparation prepared her for the most significant moment of her life when attempting to deal with outright evil, we will work systematically through the historical movement of the biblical narrative in chapter 5.  From verses one through fourteen, there are eight sections concerning the dialogue between Esther and Xerxes, and between Haman and his wife and advisors.  Embedded in the jaw-dropping dialogue, we will quickly discover how prayer prepares us to act wisely to address the wickedness we encounter.

The Rendevous (Esther 5:1-2)

After three days of fasting, praying, and seeking God’s wisdom for the way ahead, Esther wasted no time executing her plan to save her people from the blood-thirsty antisemitism of Haman, her husband’s political ally.

1 Now it came about on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king's palace in front of the king's rooms, and the king was sitting on his royal throne in the throne room, opposite the entrance to the palace.

Listen and learn from this brave young lady.  When God places you in a position where you know you must act to counter evil, be what it may, get prayed up so you can get pumped up and wised up to be God’s “conductor” of righteousness. And then get to work.

Knowing her husband’s weakness for a well-dressed woman, Esther wore her finest regal clothes and headed for the hall of pillars leading to the king’s throne.  Imagine the fear and tension as she stared down the shiny marbled floors adorned on each side with a total of thirty-six columns rising a whopping sixty-five feet high.  She must have thought, “What will my husband do when he sees me without an invitation? Will he be in a bad mood and reject me so I am then turned over to the executioners? Or will he extend the coveted scepter to me?”  Remember that fear is natural when you step out for God in support of moral and spiritual principles.  However, that fear is tempered by the fact that the Lord stands with you in your version of the inner court.

Between verses 1 and 2a, you could have cut the tension with a knife.  Would Esther get the sword or the scepter? Here is what happened:

2 And it happened when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favor in his sight; and the king extended to Esther the golden scepter which was in his hand. So Esther came near and touched the top of the scepter. (Est. 5)

Ah, all of that fasting and prayer had paid off.  The living God who had sovereignly placed her, a Jew, on the throne of Persia just saw God act when her unpredictable, sometimes ruthless, and often drunk husband extended the scepter to her, showing he accepted her. I’m sure Xerxes did what he wanted in all his political pride, but God worked in and through him at the end of the day.  As the writer of Proverbs reminds politicians:

1 The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. (Prov. 21)

Sure, we have free wills; however, those wills are held in check by God, who will quietly work to advance His loftier purposes for His people. With the extension of that golden and ornately adorned scepter, Esther saw the quiet working of the true King of Kings she had just humbled herself before for three days. Learn from her.  The person you are facing may be powerful and fearsome, but you needn’t tremble before them as you seek to do your part in being a spiritual conductor, for the Lord is working in their life to accomplish His righteous will.

The Response (Esther 5:3)

The King’s opening words to his wife are perceptive and magnanimous:

3 Then the king said to her, "What is troubling you, Queen Esther? And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it will be given to you."

Xerxes knew his wife wouldn’t approach him if something big wasn’t going on. That’s why he posed question number one. Also, knowing she had to be coming with some request, he lovingly told her he was prepared to give her half of the kingdom.  Gentlemen, why not try that approach the next time your wife says she needs to talk to you.  Xerxes made Esther an offer, but she had a more significant request in mind, as we shall see.  Xerxes was concerned about an earthly kingdom, while Esther was concerned with the people of God’s spiritual kingdom.

From all of this, realize that while your priorities as a Christian will differ from those of the world, know that God will go before you to make even your enemies at peace with you. As the Lord promises through the writer of the book of Proverbs, “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Prov. 16:7). Esther’s ways were right before God because she had paused to fast and pray. This activity paid dividends as she approached her non-Christian, sometimes volatile and unpredictable husband.  The same will hold true for you when you step onto the marble floor of the palace.

The Request (Esther 5:5)

What did Esther want? Her request must have somewhat blown her husband’s mind and raised his eyebrows:

4 And Esther said, "If it please the king, may the king and Haman come this day to the banquet that I have prepared for him."

When she could have asked for more power and wealth, she asked if she could throw a dinner party for her husband and one other politician, Haman.  Xerxes must have thought: “What? You risked your life for an invitation to a dinner party? Wow. What a woman.”  Esther, however, was ten steps ahead of her clueless husband.  She proposed a dinner to soften up her target: Haman.  By inviting him to a private party, she would lower his defenses while also elevating his already stratospheric pride.  Where did she get a plan like this?  From the Lord, whose ways are certainly not our ways.

  • When He sought to provide for His people in a time of drought, He used a dysfunctional family to abandon a son named Joseph. From his degradation came the elevation of God’s people (Gen. 30-50).
  • When He sought to deliver Israel from slavery, he sent an octogenarian, Moses, to do it (Ex. 7:7).
  • When He sought to deliver His people from the savage and superior forces of the Philistines, He worked through a young man named Samson, who used the jawbone of a donkey like a massive sword (Judges 15).
  • When He chose a king for His people, He bypassed the first seven sons of Jesse and selected the youngest boy, a shepherd, to be the greatest king Israel ever had (1 Sam. 16).

Do you want to deliver a people from an impending holocaust? Then, have a (Jewish) “Persian” Queen throw a lavish dinner party for two powerful, egotistical, and maniacal men.  What “wild,” “illogical” plan will God lay on your heart to execute to hold evil in check?

The Response (Esther 5:5)

A party? That is just what Xerxes lived for.  Remember, he’s the politician who threw a 180-day wine-laden bash to prep his key leaders to go to war against Greece.  He’s the politician who approved of Haman’s murderous plan against the Jews and then went out and had a few drinks with the forerunner of Hitler (Esther 3:15).  Esther knew she’d have no problem getting these two men to a party.

5 Then the king said, "Bring Haman quickly that we may do as Esther desires." So the king and Haman came to the banquet which Esther had prepared.

See what I mean? Underline the word quickly. Neither man balked at the idea of a private party laden with fine foods and plenty of booze.  Neither man had any idea what Esther was really up to.  She was about the Lord’s work, while they were about the Devil’s.

The Requests (Esther 5:6-8)

Though he was inebriated, Xerxes still had one gnawing question on his mind.  What did Esther want from him? Don’t you know the Lord put this burning question before him?

6 And, as they drank their wine at the banquet, the king said to Esther, "What is your petition, for it shall be granted to you. And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be done."

His statement alerted Esther to the fact that her plan was working. But for some reason, she sensed that the timing for her big request just wasn’t right.

Follow her example when you launch your prayed-over plan to deal with the evil God sovereignly places before you.  Be sensitive to the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Realize you may need to bob and weave, waiting for the right time to go full throttle. Some time ago, I received an email from a Christian businessman who knew he had to take his company's leaders to task over a moral issue.  He had communicated his feelings about the problem here and there. Still, the moment came when he had to write a full-blown statement of his position to those who embraced and supported a position that wreaked of evil.

Watch how Esther bobbed and weaved in a gutsy fashion:

7 So Esther answered and said, "My petition and my request is: 8 if I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition and do what I request, may the king and Haman come to the banquet which I shall prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king says."

What? She wanted ANOTHER dinner party. Concerning this unusual request, Carey Moore helpfully observes in The Anchor Bible commentary on Esther:

“From the reader’s point of view, refusing to state her real request may have been defensible the first time (vs. 4), but her second refusal 9vs. 8) was tempting fate. Postponing her real request another time was a most questionable gamble: any number of things could go wrong in the interval between the two dinners: the king’s benevolent mood could change, for example, if Haman could learn of Esther’s true feelings toward him or her relationship to Mordecai.”[2]

Esther was not worried, for she was prayed up, pumped up, and wised up to God’s perfect leading in this sordid, potentially deadly affair. She and her people had humbled themselves before God through fasting and prayer for three days; therefore, she would deal with Haman’s immense and dangerous pride and self-love on the third day. Yes, the third day was perfect. Three days of prayer, followed by three days of partying, would set the stage for Haman’s fateful fall.  Again, don’t act too quickly when using your power and position to stand up courageously for God and others.  Additionally, like Esther, you might find it helpful to use your opponents' weaknesses against them.  Haman's weaknesses were his fathomless pride, his love of power over others, and his extreme wealth.  In a second dinner party, Esther would effectively deal with all of these weaknesses that served to fuel his hatred of the Jews living in his country.

Watch how Haman incorrectly interprets Esther’s seemingly harmless second request. I call this hinge or pivotal verse . . .

The Ripple (Esther 5:9)

In this one verse, we see how quickly Haman went from pridefully thinking he had the world by the tail; after all, HE, of all people, had been chosen to attend not one, but TWO private dinners parties with the King and Queen. It’s true.  The problem with many people in power positions, or who want to be in power positions, is their arrogance makes Mount Everest look like a small, insignificant hill in the Smokey Mountains.

9 Then Haman went out that day glad and pleased of heart; but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate, and that he did not stand up or tremble before him, Haman was filled with anger against Mordecai.

Yes, just when Haman thought he had arrived politically, he just happened to have his prideful bubble popped when he left the dinner party and saw Mordecai just sitting at the gate to the palace.  Even though Mordecai and his people were under an impending holocaust, Haman dreamt up; he didn’t rise when Haman the Magnificent passed by. He didn’t bow to the ground either, as everyone else did.  No. Mordecai, the Jew, just stood there courageously and defiantly staring down a man whose ancestors had hunted down old Jewish men, women, and children as they walked across the desert sands headed to the Land of Promise.  “How dare HE not bow before ME,” must have blared in Haman’s messed up mind.

Like Mordecai, we are called to be salt and light to the Hamans we encounter (Matt. 5:13). As salt stings a wound, our stand for righteousness stings the wound of their wickedness. As light defies the darkness, we, too, are to push back the darkness by standing up for light.  Will you? Do you? Further, as Mordecai’s bold stance grounded and founded upon three days of fasting and prayer caused a ripple in Haman’s evil life, so, too, should our stance cause the Haman-types to stand up and take notice that not all is well in their wicked world.

What happens next is most interesting.  I call it . . .

The Retreat (Esther 5:10-14)

From Haman’s response to the dinner, the reality of being invited to the following private dinner, coupled with his reaction to seeing Mordecai, we learn everything we need to know about this misguided, worldly-minded politician:

10 Haman controlled himself, however, went to his house, and sent for his friends and his wife Zeresh. 11 Then Haman recounted to them the glory of his riches, and the number of his sons, and every instance where the king had magnified him, and how he had promoted him above the princes and servants of the king. 12 Haman also said, "Even Esther the queen let no one but me come with the king to the banquet which she had prepared; and tomorrow also I am invited by her with the king.

Haman is the poster child for a deceived sinner.  His pride and love of power and position keep him from seeing the glaring inadequacies of his character.  As he reflected on being invited by Queen Esther to this private dinner, he said three things about himself: I’m loaded. I’m fertile. He had ten sons, according to Esther 9:7-10, which in Persian lingo meant he was some kind of man. I’m somebody.  Can you imagine sitting there and listening to him go on and on about how he rose to such a high, lofty position in the Empire? What a joke. I’m powerful . . . because I’m the number two man in the empire. And, finally, I’m special . . . because the Queen only invited me.

Have you ever met anyone like Haman? Our world, especially D.C., is full of them. These are the folks who think they are all that and a bag of chips because they go to all the right parties, know all the right people, have power over the lives of people who are not in the know (like they are), take limos to the airport, drive Porsches you could never test drive, enjoy fine foods and wines while with people of prominence and power, watch the National’s play from private rooms laden with food, who enjoy special parking spots at the Pentagon, who have badges that let them go anywhere they want in secure buildings, and who live for the titles that adorn their names and office doors. These are the folks who can’t wait to tell you they rode in Kim Kardashian’s 150 million dollar private jet, or who were invited to Taylor Swift’s expensive hotel suit for the post-Super Bowl party, or who had dinner with a Four-Star General and his wife at an exclusive restaurant.

None of this matters.  According to Jesus, this man is a fool because he has laid his treasures on the earth and not in heaven (Luke 12:20).  Christ’s words to the wealthy farmer are undoubtedly applicable to Haman, especially the fact that death was imminent. The two men didn’t know it, nor were they spiritually prepared for it (Luke 12:19-20).  It is far wiser to be rich toward God by having a faith relationship with Jesus, the Jew, who died for our sins and rose from the grave, defeating sin and death.  Unfortunately, it is difficult for prideful, self-deceived, power-hungry folks to see their sin and bow before the feet of the Savior in faith.

Haman was a man of this world through and through.  He was in love with himself and the things of this world, as temporary as they were, and he thought that people like the Jews needed to be eradicated because they would never rise to his caliber. Right. He thought the things of this world would bring him comfort, but they didn’t.  All he had to do was see a Jew like Mordecai, and his antisemitic blood started to boil, causing him not to think straight. Listen, and you will see his words prove my point:

 13 "Yet all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate."

Give Jew haters money, land, power, position, and special protections, and these will not quench their demonic thirst to rid the world of the people who gave us the Messiah, Jesus. Haman is living proof of this, and many Hamans are walking among us today. Despite his power, wealth, and position, Haman-types will not be satisfied until the world is composed of Gentiles.

According to Robert Spencer, who writes for PJ Media, after the brutal attack on innocent and defenseless Israelis on October 7, Imam Alhagie Jallow, a pillar of the community in Madison, Wisconsin, showed his true Haman colors in a sermon he preached at the Madinah Community Center in Madison, Wisconsin just six days after the massacre. At one point he bellowed:

“Oh Jews, you unjust, criminal, corrupt oppressors-stop! You will almost definitely be killed. The Jews, the aggressors, the evil . . . You describe them, what they do. By Allah, all of them will be killed by Muslims . . .  They will all be killed, this is a divine promise that will inevitably be fulfilled.”[3]

Doesn’t he sound like Haman? Indeed . . . anger and all. Unfortunately, he is not alone, which means we need to stand against this antisemitism without flinching.

Seeing Haman’s teeth gnashing, nose-flaring anger because one Jew would not bow before him, Haman’s wife and friends, who must have been as shady and sinister as him, gave him an idea to solve his problem:

14 Then Zeresh his wife and all his friends said to him, "Have a gallows fifty cubits high made and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it, then go joyfully with the king to the banquet." And the advice pleased Haman, so he had the gallows made. (Est. 5:3-14 NAS)

They proposed putting together a construction team that night to build a 75-foot impaling pole just for Mordecai.  It could not have been a more gruesome, painful death.  A man could hang for hours speared in the hot desert sun on a splintery pole of this nature.  When Haman heard this proposal, it brought a sinister smile to his face, so he set it in motion.

What the wicked fail to realize is the way God has created the cosmos cannot be tampered with.  A man will reap what he sows, eventually. In judgment, God will be just insofar as it will be an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Further, God will protect the righteous and will one day bring judgment and a major reversal of roles.  Sometimes, that judgment comes in the here and now, as it did when God judged wicked Jezebel for her murder of Naboth (2 Kings 9). At other times, God will bring much-needed justice when He appears at the end of the age:

10 Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust, From the terror of the LORD And the glory of His majesty. 11 The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, The haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, And the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. 12 For the day of the LORD of hosts Shall come upon everything proud and lofty, Upon everything lifted up-- And it shall be brought low-- (Isa. 2).

If you are a Haman-type today, sit up and take note.  God is working through people, as He worked through Mordecai and Esther, to bring your method of judgment back upon your head so His people are protected and blessed. If you are a Christian today, realize that the merriment our world evidences over the advancement of evil will be held in check. How? By saints, like Mordecai and Esther, who are prayed up, pumped up, and wised up concerning what God wants them to do as they step out and live courageously by working a plan God lays on their hearts.

For Esther, that plan meant putting her life on the line and approaching her husband with a request. For Mordecai, that plan meant keeping a key person in the know as to what was happening. For Harriet, that plan meant doing what she could to deliver people from slavery. What does that plan now mean for you?

As a side note, if you are looking for a Psalm to pray as you prepare, you can do no better than Psalm 73.  Like you, the humble, broken, and burdened Psalmist struggled with the seemingly unchecked growth of evil in his day. Like you, he struggled with how the saints suffer and the godless seem to live lives of utter ease. And, like you, he had a spiritual awakening when he spent quality time in God’s holy presence. While there, he learned that God was with him and would not fail to bring justice to the godless and peace to His people.

[1] Mark Galli and Ted Olsen, 131 Christians Everyone Should Know (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 295-296.

[2] Carey A. Moore, Esther: The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1982), 57-58.

[3] Robert Spencer, You Won’t Believe What This Wisconsin Imam Preached-On Second Though, You Probably Will, PJ Media (January 16, 2024), accessed February 16, 2024,