Last week, we saw that Mordecai heard about (and revealed to Esther) a plot against King Xerxes (or Ahasuerus) of Persia. The assasins were foiled, and life went on . . .and it's recorded for us beginning with chapter four of the book of Esther. Yes, life went on....
Except that the king was fearful for his life now. So he shakes up his government, big time! He promotes a really slimy politician to be his right-hand man. (Does this sound anything like the politics of today? Just sayin.....)
Haman is the new fellow's name, and he is known as an "Agagite." That didn't ring a bell with me, either. (Grin)
So, it turns out that an Agagite is an "Amelikite." Remember them? They were enemies of God's people way back in the book of Exodus. You can check it out in chapter 17. The history is this: Saul was ordered by God to completely destroy the Amelikites in I Samuel 15. He disobeyed, and let the king of the Amelikite people live. Because of that, Saul lost his kingdom. And about 700 years later, his sin is still causing trouble for God's people.
This Haman was such an obnoxious guy. He demanded that everyone bow down before him whenever he walked by. No, I don't mean a nod, or a slight bend at the waist for the sake of politeness. He literally wanted everyone to bow down -- and they all did, except for one courageous guy: Mordecai, Esther's uncle. Because Mordecai was a Jew, and because he followed his God faithfully, he was committed to only bowing before God. To him, the verses in Exodus really meant something!
You shall have no other gods before me . . . You shall not bow down
to them or worship them.... (Exodus 20:3-5)
Well, the fact that Mordecai didn't bow to him really bothered ole Haman. Got under his skin something fierce. And when he found out that Mordecai was a Jew, it brought back all of the bad feelings from his heritage. He decided to devise a plan to destroy Mordecai and all of the Jews that were scattered around in the Persian empire. Haman bribed the king and persuaded him to sign a decree to destroy all of the Jews on a set day in the month we call February. Young and old, women, men, children. Mordecai hears of the plan and begins to mourn.
He stops eating. He weeps and wails, and puts dust on his head. He substitutes coarse sackcloth for his everyday clothes, as a symbol of death and decay. When Queen Esther hears about it, she sends a messenger to ask what in the world is going on . . . apparently she hadn't heard about the decree yet.
What if we went home this evening and turned on the television, and the news anchor calmly said that on a certain day, all of the Christians in our country were to be killed.
How would we feel?
I have no doubt that Esther was upset about the decree. Mordecai pleads with her, to use her high position to take a stand, and to save her people.
Please go into the king's presence and beg for mercy and plead
with him for our people. (Esther 4:8)
Esther's first response was a fearful one. For one thing, no one knew that she was Jewish. For another, she knew what had happened when the former queen dared to go against the king. Plus, no one was allowed into his presence unless you had been summoned! In fact, unless you were summoned by him, and he pointed his scepter toward you, you could be put to death! Persian etiquette was no small or trivial matter, eh? Lastly, she told him, it had been about thirty days since she had seen the king.
Mordecai told her that she needed to "step up to the plate." He made a very convincing argument:
He's telling her, don't think that you will escape death when the killing happens . . you will be wiped out just like every other Jew in the kingdom because you are one of God's chosen people. And, he says, if you don't do something, Esther, God will send someone else. Esther, you aren't indispensable, for God will accomplish His purpose. Mordecai is reminding her that God's plans will still move forward, but she could miss out on the opportunity to serve God and enjoy the blessings that come from that service. Besides, he says, God put you here for a reason -- for such a time as this!
Esther's courage picks up and her faith is encouraged. She knows that she cannot do this alone, so she calls on all of the Jews in Susa to pray and fast for three days. Then she tells Mordecai that she will go to the king. She is risking her life for her people -- "if I perish, I perish."
Did you see what happened here? The winner of the Persian beauty pageant just became a courageous woman of God!
We'll continue with Esther next time . . . stay tuned!