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Esther Chapter 6

Esther Chapter 6

Sermon Transcript

Sometimes, when everything seems stacked against us, God flips the script and shows us the bigger picture of his redemptive plan. Join Dr. Marty Baker this week in Esther chapter 6 as we continue to see how you and I were "Made for this Moment".

In the mid-1800s, I’m sure it didn’t look like God was doing anything to thwart the scourge of slavery in the United States.  God, however, was silently and sovereignly working to bring about a significant societal reversal of this evil practice.

Physically standing below five feet tall, Harriet, the seventh child of a prominent Congregationalist minister, became a mental, spiritual, and social giant in her day.  Seeing the horror of slavery when her father became the president of Lane Seminary in 1832 moved her to compassion; however, she didn’t know how she could be used, as a Christian, to abolish this national evil. So, for years, she listened to slaves, helped some escape on the Underground Railroad, and wrote pieces for several local Cincinnati newspapers.

In 1850, her new husband moved the family to Brunswick, Maine, where he became a professor at Bowdoin College—that year taught Harriet what God wanted to do to address the issue of slavery.  In 1843, she used her thinking and writing ability to compose a successful book titled Sketches of Scenes and Characters Among the Descendants of the Pilgrims. This literary success, coupled with the well-received newspaper articles denouncing slavery she wrote in Cincinnati, moved her to write 40 installments for the National Era, an anti-slavery paper in Washington, D.C.  In short order, the novel became a bestseller, was translated into 23 languages, and enjoyed being written into a dramatic production.  By the time the Civil War broke out on April 12, 1861, the fictional book had sold 1,000,000 copies, representing an astronomical number at the time.

What was the name of Harriet’s book? She titled it Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  What’s the book about?  It tells about the brutality and immorality of slavery through the lives of slaves like Uncle Tom, a devout Christian man who is Christlike in his approach to his suffering, and Eliza and her husband, George. Antagonists in the story, like Simon Legree, are now names known to describe people with a penchant for greed and cruelty.

Using a fictitious tale based on numerous factual elements from the day, Harriet Beecher Stowe courageously took on the scourge of slavery.  She had many enemies in the South who wrote and argued against her, but this hatred didn’t deter her from her calling from God.  And God blessed this young mother who dared to stand up for a noble cultural cause.  Because of the influence of her work, God moved behind the scenes to bring about a significant reversal where slavery was concerned. When President Lincoln met her in 1863, he is reported to have commented, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.”

Harriet’s Christian life is a challenge to all who claim Christ's name. It leaves each of us with a question: How does God desire to use my gifts and abilities, my power and position, to push back evil and advance the cause of righteousness, be what may, whether it is the protection of the less fortunate or the upholding of laws that bring justice?

Harriet chose to stand in the cultural gap in the mid-1800s; however, a Jewish young woman did this many years before her.  Her name? Esther. When God sovereignly and secretly placed her as the Queen of Persia, she faced the coming genocide of her people, Israel, because of the racial hatred of one politician named Haman.  While Harriet chose pen and paper to address the evil of her day, Esther courageously chose to slowly expose Haman’s blood-thirsty anti-semitism through two timely dinner parties.

However, God moved in a profound, decisive fashion between the two parties to reverse Haman’s fortunes and set him up for his ultimate demise.  In the book of Numbers, Moses warned, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23).  Haman was about to discover, in chapter 6 of the book of Esther,  the truth of this timeless word from the living God.  In chapter five of the book of Esther, Haman rode high as his contractors constructed a seventy-foot gallows on which to hang the main object of his hatred: Mordecai, the Jew who would bow before him.  However, just when believers must have thought God wasn’t working to deal with evil, God moved in a blitzkrieg, jaw-dropping fashion. That historical story concerning how God’s providence eventually causes major reversals no one anticipated is showcased in chapter six. Five movements within these fourteen verses teach us this truth.

Verse 1 introduces us to what I call . . .

The Rule (Esther 6:1)

Suffering from insomnia after Esther's delicious dinner party, King Xerxes sought some relief.  This was his version of taking Unisom, ZzzQuil, and Sleep Aid:

1 During that night the king could not sleep so he gave an order to bring the book of records, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. (Est. 6)

Are you serious?  He ordered his close aides to bring in a copy of the Persian political records and to read them to him.  The nature of the Hebrew participle “to read” ( קָרָא  ) suggests they read for quite a while.  Talk about a great way to put yourself to sleep.  Just have someone bring in a copy of the Federal Register at 2 a.m. and read the mundane, monotonous, boring facts.  Let’s see, five hundred chariots were purchased two years ago by the Department of Defense; 1,000 shields were destroyed three years and six months ago because of battle fatigue; the acquisitions office purchased six tons of papyrus for the construction of new scrolls for the Department of the Treasury, and so on ad nauseam.

Do you think King Xerxes just happened to have insomnia while Haman had gallows built for Mordecai near the palace?  I don’t think so.

  • Do you think Abraham just happened to see a ram caught in a thicket when he was about to sacrifice his only son, Isaac (Gen. 22:14)? No, God sovereignly placed the ram there.
  • Do you think the Philistines put pressure on King Saul’s rear flank just when he closed in on David (1 Sam. 23:27)? No, God sovereignly motivated the Philistines to move out so Saul would move away from David, the object of his jealously and hatred.
  • Do you think King Nebuchadnezzar just happened to have disturbing dreams after he brought Daniel to Babylon as a slave? No, God sovereignly sent these dreams to position Daniel to interpret them when no sorcerers could (Dan. 2:19-20).
  • Do you think King Darius just happened to have insomnia after he had Daniel, an innocent Jewish man and seasoned politician, thrown into a dark, dank den with hungry lions (Dan. 6:18)? No, God sovereignly placed Daniel in that den so he could bring about a miraculous deliverance and reversal of fortunes.  Those wicked people who sought Daniel’s death in the den became the major meal.

When God is preparing for a jaw-dropping reversal to push back evil through the work of His courageous people, He will often use the most mundane things to accomplish that goal.  In this historical situation, God made sure King Xerxes couldn’t sleep after the dinner party because there was information He wanted the king to be privy to, information that would hold evil in check, while also judging a man engaged in a diabolical plan to exterminate God’s chosen people, the Jews.

In Harriet’s situation, God made sure her father moved to Cincinnati, where the people were divided over the slavery issue.  In your situation, God is working in the lives of those who oppose you, make your life difficult, seek to intimidate you, and so on.  And if He needs to give them a sleepless night to think about the error of their ways or for them to come across information that can assist them in their courageous quest, He will do it. Believe it.

Just what did King Xerxes happen to discover as his aids read through the captivating government document? Verse two gives us the answer:

The Revelation (Esther 6:2)

In the middle of the night, King Xerxes had one of those enlightening life moments:

2 And it was found written what Mordecai had reported concerning Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs who were doorkeepers, that they had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. (Est. 6)

Four years earlier, two of his crucial security guards had devised a plan to assassinate him; however, it was thwarted by excellent intel garnered and relayed to the king by a Jew named Mordecai. Interesting.  While Haman built gallows to hang the innocent Jew, Mordecai, God made sure the sleepless, wide-eyed king just happened to stumble on this particular significant historical note out of reams of information that could have been read.  Trust me. God never forgets what you do.  Men will, but He doesn’t, and He will cause your work to rise to the surface at the right time so wickedness can be effaced and righteousness elevated.  As the Scripture says, “For God is not unjust to forget your work . . .” (Heb. 6:10).  He will remember and reward you at the right time, and He will typically use you to deal with evil when makes His sovereign move.

Armed with this shocking political data point of a thwarted coup de’tat, we naturally encounter . . .

The Remedy (Esther 6:3)

The Persians prided themselves in lavishly rewarding those who supported them. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus reminds us of this in his book The Histories (3:138-140; 5;11; 8:85; and 9:107. This work covers the conflict between the Persian Empire and the Greek city-states in the fifth century B.C.  In this last reference, King Xerxes rewarded a man who saved his brother's life with Cilicia's governorship (half of what is now modern southern Turkey on the Mediterranean Sea).[1]  Yet Mordecai’s good deed was entirely overlooked by the unfortunate, party-loving king at the time:

3 And the king said, "What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?" Then the king's servants who attended him said, "Nothing has been done for him." (Est. 6)

Don’t you know he sat up in bed with that last clause?  He must have yelled, “What? Did we fail to show our utter appreciation to this man? How did this happen? We need to fix this problem now.”  Ironically, the remedy will be an absolute righteous reversal to end all reversals. That remedy sovereignly unfolded with what I call . . .

The Request (Esther 6:4-5)

First, let’s read the historical record and then offer some salient observations:

4 So the king said, "Who is in the court?" Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king's palace in order to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai on the gallows which he had prepared for him. 5 And the king's servants said to him, "Behold, Haman is standing in the court." And the king said, "Let him come in." (Est. 6)

Scholars believe this occurred early in the morning because it appears Haman was the lone figure in this massive court designed to receive people with political issues. Don’t you find this all most interesting? I do.  Haman couldn’t wait to wake up to secure the king’s approval to kill Mordecai. So he hastily headed to the palace to ensure he was at the proverbial front of the line to gain an audience with the king.  Don’t you find all this most ironic? I do. Haman wanted to vaporize Mordecai, the Jew,  while Xerxes wanted to venerate him.

As the king pondered how best to repay a brave man like Mordecai, he thought it fortuitous that his second in command, Haman, had just happened to arrive at the crack of dawn. Now, he had another political mind to pick to determine how best to honor Mordecai.  Excellent. Again, as you consider your complex situation, be what it may, realize God will make sure the right people are in the right places to bring about the astonishing righteous reversal.  Speaking of a reversal, we bump into one of the biggest ones in Scripture in verses 6 through 11.

The Reversal (Esther 6:6-11)

Watch how this divinely orchestrated reversal unfolds. Before Haman could submit his wicked request to the king, the king opened the encounter with a question:

6 So Haman came in and the king said to him, "What is to be done for the man whom the king desires to honor?"

That question instantly caused Haman to think of himself. Why? From what we have learned thus far, Haman dripped with pride.  You wouldn’t be shocked to find his picture beside the definition for the word arrogance in a dictionary.  His pride certainly got the best of him as we read:

And Haman said to himself, "Whom would the king desire to honor more than me?"

The danger of pride is that it closes your eyes to yourself, causing you to have a sick view of your character, which is detached from reality. Listen to what the strutting peacock told the king to do for this unnamed man:

7 Then Haman said to the king, "For the man whom the king desires to honor, 8 let them bring a royal robe which the king has worn, and the horse on which the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown has been placed; 9 and let the robe and the horse be handed over to one of the king's most noble princes and let them array the man whom the king desires to honor and lead him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him, 'Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.'"

Could the sovereign set-up for the significant reversal get any better or juicier than this? I don’t think so.  This godless man is gloating like no one before.  He can’t wait to have the king fulfill the magnificent words that have just come from his golden, gifted tongue.  Imagine the massive grin on his face.

But then the king spoke words Haman couldn’t believe:

10 Then the king said to Haman, "Take quickly the robes and the horse as you have said, and do so for Mordecai the Jew, who is sitting at the king's gate; do not fall short in anything of all that you have said."

Haman started his day on top of the world, but now he’s about to be ushered off the world. Modecai started his day at the bottom of the world, facing imminent death and destruction. Now he’s about to be showcased as a national treasure to all of Persia as Haman, of all people, will lead him through the city streets on the king’s horse and while wearing the king’s clothes.  Are you kidding me? No.

The poetic justice is simply shocking. The wicked man who was all about glorification and exaltation now experiences degradation and humiliation in public.  The wicked man who couldn’t stand even to pronounce Mordecai’s name, nor to even look at him, had to walk in front of Mordecai’s regally dressed horse while proclaiming: 'Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.'" Those must have been the most complex words he ever had to say: cacah ye’a’she laish hamelek chaphets biqaro  . . . loosely transliterated from the Hebrew:  ‎

כָּ֚כָה יֵעָשֶׂ֣ה לָאִ֔ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֥ר הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ חָפֵ֥ץ בִּיקָרֽוֹ׃

And he had to say it REPEATEDLY.  Wow. Talk about humiliation.  Sinners should sit up and take good notes.  When God moves against evil, He moves quickly and doesn’t mess around. You might think you are getting away with your godless activity now, be what it may, but God is quietly working behind the world scenes of your life to arrest your attention in a sobering, never-to-be-forgotten fashion.

Did you see what happened to Hasan Bitmez, 53, a member of the Turkish parliament for the Islamist Saadet Party, in December of 2023? As he angrily denounced and cursed Israel after the October massacre of innocent Israelis by Hamas terrorists, he had a heart attack and hit the floor. A few days later, he passed into the living God’s presence. This is sobering.  The writer of Hebrews was correct when he remarked, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 9:14).  Haman, like Hasan, was about to find out the truth of this verse. But in the meantime, God completely deflated Haman’s pride before He set up events to remove him from the planet for his vile antisemitic plans calling for genocide.

11 So Haman took the robe and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city square, and proclaimed before him, "Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor. (Est. 6)

Dramatic irony doesn’t get any better than this.  When, not if, God brings a righteous reversal no one saw coming, it is something you will never forget.

Again, if you are cut from the same prideful cloth of Haman, I give you a word of warning: God will, in due time, reward each man for whether they have lived for Him or themselves.  The Scriptures are clear on this timeless truth. Consider these clips from Isaiah 59:

2 But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear. 3 For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken falsehood, your tongue mutters wickedness. 4 No one sues righteously and no one pleads honestly. They trust in confusion, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity . . . 7 Their feet run to evil, and they hasten to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; devastation and destruction are in their highways. 8 They do not know the way of peace, and there is no justice in their tracks; they have made their paths crooked; whoever treads on them does not know peace. 9 Therefore, justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, but behold, darkness; for brightness, but we walk in gloom . . . 11 All of us growl like bears, and moan sadly like doves; We hope for justice, but there is none, for salvation, but it is far from us. 12 For our transgressions are multiplied before Thee, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: 13 Transgressing and denying the LORD, and turning away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving in and uttering from the heart lying words. 14 And justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the street, and uprightness cannot enter. . . 

 16 And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him; and His righteousness upheld Him. 17 And He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; and He put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle. 18 According to their deeds, so He will repay, wrath to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies; to the coastlands He will make recompense.

These words could have been written to us instead of ancient Israel. Sin had bloomed fully for hundreds of years, and many thought that God didn’t know what was going on, but He did and would act at the right time.  He always does, and when He does, what is His ultimate purpose? The next verse gives us the coveted answer:

 19 So they will fear the name of the LORD from the west and His glory from the rising of the sun, for He will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. (Isa. 59).

He wants sinners to revere Him as He judges them.  Haman learned to fear God as a sinner, but it was only when God dealt with him through a righteous reversal that cost him his life.  I pray God gets your attention sooner so that fear will lead you to saving faith that only comes through a faith relationship with Jesus Christ (Acts 4:10-12).

What happened after God grabbed Haman’s prideful attention? He quickly headed home to face . . .

The Ruination (Esther 6:12-14)

What we have here is the tale of two men: one is godly, and one is godless:

12 Then Mordecai returned to the king's gate. But Haman hurried home, mourning, with his head covered.

Mordecai was a class act.  Nowhere in the narrative do we read he gloated over Haman’s misfortune.  On the contrary, he rode quietly on the horse through the city streets. I’m sure he was stunned by how God had orchestrated this righteous reversal.  I’m sure he was speechless as he watched Haman guide him through the city like royalty.  I’m sure he was awestruck by the fact he wore not sackcloth but the king’s clothes.

Hence, knowing God had elevated him, Mordecai was humbled beyond measure.  And when the entire parade ended, he merely returned to work at the king’s gate. That’s why I say Mordecai was a class, spiritual act.  Learn from him when God blesses your courage with a righteous reversal.  Don’t think more of yourself than you should, don’t degrade others who are divinely forced to see the error of their ways, and remember where you came from and who you are.  You are just a sheep in the fold of the Lord.  He gets all the praise for righteous reversals, and you should merely get back to work fulfilling your calling.

Haman, conversely, went from going home gloating as he did in Chapter 5 to entering his royal residence and recounting how humiliated he was.

13 And Haman recounted to Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him.

Sad. Haman only talked about what happened to him as a victim.  He should have done a little soul-searching and asked how his actions had brought this all about. But he didn’t. Will you look hard at your life and permit the Lord to get your attention so He can save and bless you? Or will you just play a victim of your sad circumstances?

Looking back over how the Jews were resilient through the Babylonian invasion and 70-year captivity, followed by their almost sixty profitable years under Persian rule, his advisors and wife leveled with Haman:

Then his wise men and Zeresh his wife said to him, "If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish origin, you will not overcome him, but will surely fall before him."

Truer words could not be spoken.  God had promised to bless those who blessed Israel, His people, and to curse those who cursed them (Gen. 12:1-3).  Based on this, coupled with history, their conclusion was spot on. Haman’s humiliation was a precursor to his extermination.

At that precise ironic moment, this occurred:

 14 While they were still talking with him, the king's eunuchs arrived and hastily brought Haman to the banquet which Esther had prepared. (Est. 6)

The God of the righteous reversal was not finished with wicked ol’ Haman.  No, his rendezvous with the living God had one more scene.

What scene are you in? If you are faithless, Haman, and God has miraculously worked to grab your spiritual attention, I must ask you: When will you turn to Him in faith? He waits to save you. Confess Christ as the risen Lord and you will be saved (Rom. 10:9).

If you are a faithful Mordecai, I give you a word of counsel: Don’t interpret the silence in your life as if God has forgotten you and your situation.  He hasn’t.  He’s merely quietly working in and through you as well as the lives of others to bring about a righteous reversal that will take your breath away. Wait for it. It is coming as you are courageous in the face of evil. If you don’t believe me, study the lives of great saints like Esther or a small but mighty woman named Harriet.

[1] Joyce G. Baldwin, Esther (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984), 89.