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Esther Chapter 8

Esther Chapter 8

Sermon Transcript

God is a God of righteous reversals and no matter the person or the circumstance, God can turn things around for His purposes and plans. Join Dr. Marty Baker in chapter 8 as we continue in the story of Esther.

God is a God of righteous reversals followed by radical rewards.  Don’t believe me? I invite you, then, to consider the historical evidence:

  • Moses started as a slave and became the Savior of a nation.
  • The Israelites went from being slaves in Egypt for 430 years to being freemen in their own country.
  • When the Egyptian army had the defenseless Israelites backed up against the Red Sea with no way of escape, God did the unthinkable. He parted the waters, dried up the sea bed instantly, and made an escape route.
  • David started out shepherding sheep but went on to shepherd a nation.
  • Jericho, a mighty, virtually impregnable fortress, fell not because Israel attacked with weapons but with the sound of trumpets and their voices united in a war cry.
  • Thousands of blood-thirsty Assyrian forces surrounded King Hezekiah’s capital city. He prayed when it looked like all hope was lost, and God sent one angel to wipe out the invaders in one evening.
  • Ruth, a poor Moabitess, lost her Jewish husband but eventually married a wealthy Jewish farmer. Together, they became the progenitors of the Messiah, Jesus.
  • Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into a Roman jail on trumped-up charges. God sent a focused earthquake to open all the prison cells at midnight. Seeing the divine nature of this plate tectonic shift, the jailkeeper and his family became devout followers of Jesus.
  • Jesus, the Son of God, was murdered on a cross based on false charges; however, three days later, the grandest reversal of all time occurred when He rose from the grave.

As I said, the historical verdict is that God is a God of righteous reversals.

When you think all hope is lost in a given situation, God shows up profoundly to turn things toward righteousness, peace, and justice.  Yes, there is no hard heart He cannot change, no carnal circumstance He cannot untangle, no evil person who cannot be overcome, no powerful and well-connected wicked individual He cannot humble, no lawlessness He cannot defeat with lawfulness, no judicial situation seemingly stacked against you He cannot unstack, and no dysfunctional family He cannot make functional.

Why is this true?  It’s true because nothing, and I mean nothing, is too hard for the God who possesses all power, and He will make sure His kingdom plan is eventually realized.  As the LORD told Abraham after his aged wife laughed at the fact God would give them, of all people, a promised child, one who would eventually be instrumental in bringing the Messiah, Savior, and King to mankind: “Is anything too difficult for the LORD” (Gen. 18:14)? You know the answer. It is no.

From the book of Esther, we’ve certainly seen how God is a God of righteous reversals.  How else do you explain a young Jewish woman becoming the Queen of Persia just in time to bravely step forward to thwart an evil plan to cleanse the country of all Jews? How else can you explain how her cousin, Mordecai, just happened to be in the right place at the right time to hear what he needed to hear to challenge her to fulfill her divine calling to use her power and position to stop the genocide? I don’t know what your complex, gut-wrenching, sleep-depriving situation is right now, but this I do know: The same sovereign God of Esther and Mordecai is working in your life to bring a righteous reversal at the right time.  And when He does this, as we will discover in the chapter before us, He loves on us by giving us radical rewards we never anticipated.

Watch how the inspired author develops this concept of hope as we move systematically through the historical narrative of chapter 8.

The Reward (Esther 8:1-2)

When God causes a righteous reversal, it is shocking and unexpected and typically followed by blessings no one saw coming. Here is a case in point:

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

From Herodotus's literary work, Histories, we learn that the property of condemned criminals became the property of the empire.[1] How ironic.  The same money Haman, the wicked politician, used to bribe the king into permitting him to annihilate the Jews not only became the king’s, but he turned and gave it to his newly outed Jewish Queen, Esther.  Believe me, when Esther’s parents died and she went to live with her older cousin, Mordecai, never in a million years would she have thought God would position her to be the Persian Queen so she could deliver Israel from an impending genocide. Further, she would have never dreamed that she, a poor Jew in bondage to Persia, would receive the massive financial portfolio of the number two most powerful politician in the land.  But that’s precisely what happened.  God rewards us in various ways when we take courageous action to advance His kingdom, hold evil in check, and stand for what is right and moral.

In addition, once she came clean and told her husband who Mordecai was, instead of being mad at her, the king did the unthinkable to this man who had saved him from assassination.  He, the Gentile, gave Mordecai, the Jew, the powerful signet ring.  Whoever possessed this ring possessed the power of the Persian empire and could do what he wanted.  I’m sure dumbfounded Mordecai couldn’t believe his eyes every time he looked at his hand and saw that ring glisening in the sunlight.  And if Mordecai read his Torah, he knew how God had some 1,400 years prior blessed another mistreated Jewish man with a signet ring. His name? Joseph.  And as with Mordecai, Joseph went from the pit to the political pinnacle per God's sovereign placement. Yes, over time, God reversed the misdeed committed against Joseph by his dysfunctional brothers, eventually positioning him to be second in command of Egypt (Gen. 37-41).  He, too, delivered his people, Israel, by using his power and position to provide for them in a time of harsh famine.  Again, remember that God is a God of righteous reversals followed by radical rewards. Your reversal and jaw-dropping reward may be on the horizon, so stay the course.

Divinely orchestrated reversals and rewards usually take time to develop as God moves various human chess pieces around the board of life. Further, this side of heaven is typically never totally tidy. Since our world is riddled with sin, it is not illogical to feel like the Sword of Damocles might still be hanging over your head. This is precisely the situation Esther and Mordecai encountered after God rewarded them.

The Request (Esther 8:3-5)

First, let’s read the text:

3 Then Esther spoke again to the king, fell at his feet, wept, and implored him to avert the evil scheme of Haman the Agagite and his plot which he had devised against the Jews. 4 And the king extended the golden scepter to Esther. So Esther arose and stood before the king. 5 Then she said, "If it pleases the king and if I have found favor before him and the matter seems proper to the king and I am pleasing in his sight, let it be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the king's provinces.

True, the Lord had definitively dealt with wicked Haman through the influence of Esther and Mordecai. There was, however, one major, ongoing problem. Haman had used the signet ring and the King’s prior approval to create a final solution to the Jewish “problem” by devising a law calling for their eradication. Hitler did the same thing in his day. He started with the notorious Nuremberg laws of 1935. He kept adding new laws as he went along to transform Jews from citizens to noncitizens and then to subhumans not worthy of living in the “glory” of Arian Germany. Not much has changed in our socialistic, communist-leaning country, whether it is laws designed to demonize Jews, Christians, or a political party certain groups don’t like. These pernicious people, like Haman, create laws to “nobly” silence and eventually cancel certain people because they are a (supposedly a) threat to the State. Hitler, like Haman, used unjust laws he created to legalize the genocide of the Jews, and these laws, at the time, were not to be repelled, only applied with ruthless skill.

In our country, we change laws all the time. When groups like Van Halen wrote songs like “I Can’t Drive 55” in 1984 to protest lowering the speed limit, eventually, that law was changed to allow people to drive 65 on the freeway.  That would have never occurred in Persia.  Once a law was on the books, no one took it off the books.  So, even with Haman in hell (Luke 16), his vile, venomous, antisemitic law still had to be fulfilled because it was recorded law.

What did Esther do in this seemingly hopeless legal situation? Did she hire a top-notch attorney from a successful law firm in Susa? No.  Did she get on the local Persian news network and talk about the unjust nature of Haman’s horrific law? No.  Did she go to the streets with signs and the ancient version of bullhorns to call for a change in an unjust law? No.  She went to her husband and asked for mercy and for him to take radical action. Put differently, she asked Xerxes for the absolutely impossible: Honey, can you break ranks for the first time in Persian history and change this illogical, dangerous law?

Look. I don’t know what you are up against in your life.  I don’t know how impossible the situation is you are facing, and it might be a legal one an evil person has directed against you. I don’t know how hopeless your current circumstance is, either.  You might be the object of an unjustified lawsuit, but it doesn’t look like it's going too well for you. You might be fighting a school board that is stacked against all that is decent and pure. Given who is in power, you might be in a wrestling match with an issue on Capitol Hill that the odds makers say you can’t possibly win.  You might be a federal officer being asked to defy one older law for the sake of a newer, more progressive one, and you don’t know how to fight back to win.

What should you do? First, don’t lose hope.  God is on His throne and working in your life, even if you don’t see His fingerprints outright. Second, don’t be afraid, like Esther, to ask the impossible from a person who can do the impossible.  Don’t withdraw from positing a request to a person who can, if they so will, make a radical change to advance righteousness, law, and peace. Finally, don’t be timid and fearful in speaking up against an unjust law or practice to protect life and liberty.  That’s what Esther did.  She asked for the unthinkable. What will you ask for?

Just in case her husband needed to know the reason for her request, she made sure he had it:

The Reason (Esther 8:6)

Listen to the passion and emotion of her words:

6 "For how can I endure to see the calamity which shall befall my people, and how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?"

With the impending genocide still scheduled to occur in about eight months from when this dialogue occurred, Esther realizes she can’t just sit idly by and do or say nothing.  She can’t emotionally handle what is scheduled to occur in the month of Adar, or February-March of 473 B.C.  So, she shares her heart and her concerns with her husband.  He appreciated her honesty, as we learn from how he reacted:

As a sidelight, garner some wisdom here from Esther. Share your heart about whatever you are facing. Share those concerns with others who can pray with and for you, and make your thoughts clear to someone who can do something to rectify the situation.

In any event, let’s get back to King Xerxes:

The Reply (Esther 8:7-8)

He listened to what she had to say, processed it, and made a move to provide a way out of the legal conundrum:

7 So King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, "Behold, I have given the house of Haman to Esther, and him they have hanged on the gallows because he had stretched out his hands against the Jews.8 "Now you write to the Jews as you see fit, in the king's name, and seal it with the king's signet ring; for a decree which is written in the name of the king and sealed with the king's signet ring may not be revoked."

In our parlance, we’d call this a workaround.  Since he couldn’t alter the prior law, he gave Esther and Mordecai the royal legal authority to write a new law to repeal and modify the existing unjust law. Once again, the action here is highly ironic.  The same signet ring Haman used to create this vile, horrific law was the same one used by Jewish leaders to trump the unjust law while establishing a just law. God uniquely sets up the events in your life to move you from the pit to the pinnacle.  It is just how He rolls. He loves ironic reversals that lead to blessings He brings your way.  Just ask Esther and Mordecai when you see them in glory.

The Retribution (Esther 8:9-14)

What exactly did King Xerxes let Esther and Mordecai do? Read on, and you’ll see:

9 So the king's scribes were called at that time in the third month (that is, the month 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 which extended from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, to every province according to its script, and to every people according to their language, as well as to the Jews according to their script and their language.

Ironically, it is Mordecai who was formerly doomed, along with his people, Israel, who writes an entirely new law designed to replace the former genocidal one.  The month Sivan in the Hebrew calendar was May-June, or the third month. Since the original law to exterminate the Jews was devised in the month of Nisan, which is the first month in the Hebrew calendar, or March-April, this means the Jews had experienced over two months of mental anguish concerning their D-Day, or what Haman might have called Death-Day.  Once again, irony drips from this turn of events, for now, the anti-Semites in the Persian kingdom, who were champing at the bit (like Hamas or Hezbollah) to kill the Jews unmercifully, are the ones who must endure their coming judgment at the hand of the Jews.  Talk about a surprise no one saw coming.

This reminds me of what will happen at the end of the Tribulation when the nations attempt to wipe Israel off the map.

6 In that day I will make the clans of Judah like a firepot among pieces of wood and a flaming torch among sheaves, so they will consume on the right hand and on the left all the surrounding peoples, while the inhabitants of Jerusalem again dwell on their own sites in Jerusalem. 7 The LORD also will save the tents of Judah first in order that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not be magnified above Judah.  8 In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them. 9 And it will come about in that day that I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem (Zech. 12).

When the Iranians, the Iraqis, the Turks, the Muslims of the Egyptian empire, and the forces of the Western powers, coupled with those forces of China, attempt to do what Haman didn’t do, the Lord will empower the biggest weakling in Israel.  All of a sudden, all of their soldiers will be fearsome, effective soldiers like David of old.  Talk about a reversal to end all reversals, and the reward will be the appearance of the final king, Jesus, the Christ (Zech. 12:10-14:5).

What was the content of the new law?  Here is what it entailed:

10 And he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus, and sealed it with the king's signet ring, and sent letters by couriers on horses, riding on steeds sired by the royal stud. 11 In them the king granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them, including children and women, and to plunder their spoil, 12 on one day in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month (that is, the month Adar). 13 A copy of the mandate to be issued as law in each and every province, was published to all the peoples, so that the Jews should be ready for this day to avenge themselves on their enemies. 14 The couriers, hastened and impelled by the king's command, went out, riding on the royal steeds; and the decree was given out in Susa the capital (Esther 8).

This law echoes Haman’s wicked law but with this one caveat.  It protects the Jews and gives them the right to defend themselves against their genocidal aggressors, which is just and holy. They are not empowered to wipe out the Gentilic Persians, nor are they permitted to arbitrarily kill men, women, and children, as some wrong surmise.  Some wrongly conclude they had this ability, derived from how verse 11 is read.

NAS Esther 8:11 In them the king granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them, including children and women, and to plunder their spoil . . .

The way the NAS reads, the participial phrase “including . . .” sounds like the Jews could attack the attackers, along with their entire family lines.  Not only does this sound unjust, but it isn’t the only viable reading.  I think the NIV is more on target:

NIV Esther 8:11 The king's edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies.

This translation gives the Jewish men the ability to defend themselves, along with their women and children, by attacking those Persians who, like Hamas and Hezbollah in our day, wouldn’t stop their genocidal ways where the Jews were concerned.   Once more, irony is present in this.  An unjust law called for the elimination of all Jews, while a just law called for the elimination of Gentiles bent on genocide while protecting the lives of non-combatants.  In many respects, this sounds like Israel’s current approach to the October 7th massacre of innocent Israelis in the kibbutzim on the border of Gaza.  They are painstakingly attempting to preserve lives while also seeking to deal with an implacable foe that uses innocent people as shields, hostages as bargaining chips, and hospitals as staging areas for weapons and soldiers.  And as with Haman’s day, a decree is recorded calling for the elimination of the Jewish people.  That decree is in the charter of Hamas. Any people facing an unjustified, unreasonable decree like this have the right to defend themselves so they are never massacred again.

In any event, the presence of the decree designed by Jews working within the political structure of Persia, which is modern-day Iran, to protect Jews and deal with combative Gentiles was sovereignly surprising.  Who would have ever thought this would all transpire in so short a time?  God’s righteous reversals can catch you off guard, and the rewards that flow from them might leave you feeling dumbfounded . . . and blessed.

What was the upshot of this new anti-genocidal law? Read on for the answer:

The Rejoicing (Esther 9:15-17)

Why did the people, both Jew and Gentile, rejoice? The divine author tells you:

15 Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a large crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. 16 For the Jews there was light and gladness and joy and honor. 17 And in each and every province, and in each and every city, wherever the king's commandment and his decree arrived, there was gladness and joy for the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many among the peoples of the land became Jews, for the dread of the Jews had fallen on them (Est. 8).

Mordecai, with God’s help, of course, had changed what all lovers of life had thought could not be changed.  Impending chaos and death were met with the prospects of peace and life.  It is true.  People are joyful when their leader devises fair laws, honors life, and keeps evil activity at bay.  Unjust laws, or the failure to enforce just laws already on the board, create the feeling of national doom and depression as citizens sense the smell of sunset at the hands of barbarians.  When law enforcement lifts that darkness and proper order flows back into society, the people pour into the streets to celebrate.

In Mordecai and Esther’s day, not only were the Jews relieved and rejoicing, but many Gentiles became Jews.  How could they not after learning how this day of deliverance had replaced the day of death? There were too many coincidences to say a divine hand was not behind this.  I think these ironic reverses moved numerous unbelieving Persians to see the hand of the living God in all of this, so they turned to Him. Of course, this conversion merely echos what Isaiah prophesies will occur when the Messiah appears at the end of the Tribulation:

6 Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, everyone who keeps from profaning the sabbath, and holds fast My covenant; 7 Even those I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples  (Isa. 56).

Talk about reward to end all rewards.  Jesus, the ultimate Jew, will bring a reversal to end all reversals when He deals with the wicked to elevate the righteous (Rev. 3:4-5; 4:4; 7:9, 13, 14; 22:14). Talk about a reward to end all rewards.  We who were last shall be first. We who were despised by the world will be prized by our Lord.  So, have hope.  Evil is not forever, but Jesus and His kingdom are.  Will you be with Him when He comes to turn the tables on the Hamans of this old world?

[1] Herodotus, The Histories, 3:128-129.