Messy Grace

I’m going to invite you to the Book of Esther. Esther, chapter two, is where we are together. And Esther, chapter two, the easiest way to find that if you’ve never read the Book of Esther is find the Book of Psalms, it’s right in the middle of the Bible. You can go to the Book of Psalms and just flip back two books. So, the Book of Esther is just two books before the Book of Psalms, which is usually the middle book in the Bible. It’s the biggest book of the Bible. That’s the easiest to find and just go back two books from there.

When we get to the Book of Esther, here’s what I want you to know. If you’ve ever read the Book of Esther or studied the Book of Esther, Esther is a difficult book. It gets a bad rap, and I think the reason it’s a difficult book and it gets a bad rap has a lot to do with where we’re going today in chapter two. It is messy. Esther’s not really quoted in the New Testament. You got all these quotes of the Old Testament in the New Testament. You don’t find one for Esther. And when you read church history on the Book of Esther, people say a lot of negative things about the Book of Esther, and it’s because of the mess that we’re going to step into today. We’re going to see what makes this book such a challenge. And, while we look at the mess of the Book of Esther, we’re also going to look for in chapter two … what you’re going to see is really God’s hand of grace coming in to this chapter.

And that’s what we’re going to title this chapter is Messy Grace. Not because grace is messy, but really because grace is made for the mess. I mean, we recognize in our lives, we can make a mess of things and the way we’re able to find ourselves restored and forgiven and renewed is because of grace. And Esther chapter two, I think, starts to build the idea of God’s grace stepping into the mess of this story. And when we go through chapter two together, we’re going to look at three characters. We’re going to talk about three sections from the characters and then we’re going to discuss what in the world happened and what do we do with that, because it’s a mess to read the story, and so we need to reach some conclusions as to why this passage of the Bible is where it is and what it means for us.

And so Esther 2:1, I’m just going to kick it off. You remember the story begin with King Xerxes, Ahasuerus or Ahasuerus is the way that it’s written in the New American Standard. Some of your translations may translate it as Xerxes. One is his Hebrew name, the other one is his Greek name. And so it depends on which translation you have as to which name they referred to him as, but in Esther 2:1, after these things, when the anger of the King Xerxes or Ahasuerus had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what he had done and what had been decided regarding her. So if you remember this story in the beginning, chapter one, King Xerxes wants to display to his kingdom, the Mito Persian kingdom … It’s in modern day. The headquarters where he’s at is in modern day Iran. He wants to display to his kingdom how great he is and reveal his glory so everyone just continues to praise him.

This guy loved himself more than he loved anything in life. He was always sitting on his throne and he always wanted to hear people’s opinion of him. And it better be a good one, or you’re going to lose your life. That’s the kind of person Xerxes was. And so, he puts on this party that lasts 180 days. In verse eight of chapter one, it tells us he decides he’s going to have one rule for this party, and the one rule is there is no rule for the party. You do what you want. You become your own moral compass, and if you don’t have any morals who cares? Nobody cares. We’re just having a party. And everyone just gets wasted, and then Xerxes decides to make this dumb decision where he treats Vashti like she’s a tool to be used.

And he makes a request of her to show up to the party with nothing but her crown … is all he wanted her to wear. She says no, he gets mad and he divorces himself from Vashti. And some believe, not only does he separate himself from Vashti, but he actually requires an edict for her execution that Vashti’s not only separated from the king, she is separated from this planet. That’s how far some people believe he went. And then in chapter two, verse one, when he wakes up from his drunken stupor, he realizes a kind of an idiot he was. That’s what he’s saying. Or, at least to a degree, he realizes what kind of mistake he has made regarding her. And then in verse two, he decides to seek counsel, once again. What should I do with this? And in verse two, it says this, “Then the King’s attendance who served him said let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king.” Some translations go a little bit further here and they let you know that it’s not just attendants that the king goes to, but it’s young men.

Young attendants. So, it’s the same dumb single party frat guys that got him in trouble in chapter one are the same guys that he now comes to and is like, “You know what I need from you young, single guys? I need marriage advice.” And, here’s the wonderful advice they give. They say to Xerxes, “Xerxes, you were so bad with the first relationship, we’ve got a great idea. Let’s give you several more relationships at the same time. You’ve been such a great guy, knocking it out of the park with that first one, let’s just compound all of this.” That’s the advice they give in verse two.

And then, verse three and four, it goes on. And may the king appoint overseers in all the provinces of his kingdom, and have them bring every beautiful young version to the citadel of Susa, which is just north of the Persian Gulf in Iran, to the harem, into the custody of Hegai, the king eunuch, who is in charge of the women and let their cosmetics be given to them. Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen in place of Vashti. And, the suggestion pleased the king, and he did accordingly. Now, when you read verse three and four, it’s this section of scripture … If you’re a dad, especially of young ladies, I’ll tell you the way to interpret this is this section of scripture has you contemplating, when you read about people like this on earth, you’re thinking to yourself, “I’ll probably need to consider a shotgun and freshen up on my MMA skills.”

Because it’s saying in this story, at least some people interpret it this way, that when the king starts to hear the idea of these young guys, it’s this wonderful idea that when they go throughout the region of this land in order to take these young virgins, that it’s not necessarily seeking them willingly,. This isn’t the Cinderella story where the prince is like, “I want to get married. Let’s just invite all the young ladies and I’ll pick the one that seems right for me and the kingdom.” That’s not the choice here. It’s more along the lines of you go around and see which girl you think I would think is the prettiest, and you don’t even ask them if they want to come, you make them come.

And, you bring them to the kingdom and they become a part of his harem. There’s no choice involved. Some people think that the king may have gone this far. It’s difficult to interpret specifically that way, but at least it gives the opportunity to lean that way, that your choices really are do what you’re told or die. That measure. So, when you read the story, you ask the question then, or at least we should, how do we respond? What do we do with this?

One of the significant things that I think is important for us to understand as God’s people is there are circumstances for us that seem more dire than others, and things that quite frankly seem much more dark than we want to lean into. Especially a circumstance like this, where this individual, this king, may be taking advantage of ladies. But at the same time, we recognize as a church that we are called to be a light in the darkness and that the Gospel heals. If there is a place that we would hope the Gospel could transform, it would be the heart of a king like this. That he would go from a place of seeing women as tools to be used to seeing them as image bearers of God to be honored.

And, the thing that would do that is the truth of who God is and the Gospel that changes hearts. When you read the story of King Xerxes, one of the things that makes this a challenge to communicate the truth of who God is and the value of really the women that he might be mistreating is … We know he’s mistreating and maybe specifically in these verses … is what’s reflected in verse one. In verse one, you see Xerxes when he starts to be aware of the dumb choice that he has made towards Vashti. You see the terms that he’s expressing here, that they take no responsibility. I mean, look at it, remember he says in verse one, after these things when the anger of the king had subsided he remember Vashti and what she had done.

He remembered Vashti and what she had done. Not, “I was an idiot and I’m so sorry for my stupidity.” There’s no repentance in his heart. Remember, it was her fault. I got so angry and it wasn’t me that needed to be responsible for me. It was her fault. And then, all of a sudden, when he realizes what Vashti had done and he starts to regret the circumstances, because it’s not his fault, it says this: He remembered Vashti and what she had done, and what had been decided regarding her. It’s like, “Who do you think made the law that banished Vashti?” Me, completely out of my circumstances. He goes from two extremes here.

He’s completely in a rage trying to force what he wants to have happen, because Vashti isn’t being obedient to his request, so you see this king getting angry. And then, when the king doesn’t get what he wants, what he plays in this verse is also the card of the victim. Can you believe what Vashti did? And those laws? How it’s hurt me and the way that it’s affected me. Poor me. Woe is me. That’s the two cards that the king is playing in the story. And, I want to be careful here and tread lightly because there are times in life when people are victim and they’re truly a victim to the circumstances. Someone over them terrorizes them, mistreats them and they’re vulnerable and they’re a victim.

But then there are other instances where the person pretending to be the victim isn’t really the victim. Rather, they’re the victimizer. But in Xerxes situation, what other card does he have to play? I mean, think about the way he’s built his empire. The center of Xerxes’s universe is Xerxes. And when you can’t get what you want by your authority and your anger, and you see yourself as the solution to life, what else do you have but to try the card of the victim to win the sympathy of the people so that you can still manipulate the circumstance to get what you want? That’s Xerxes.

And quite honestly, in a lot of ways, it’s the way we set ourselves up for in America. And, it’s not to say that people aren’t victims. People are victims and we should be concerned, compassionate and caring to people that are taken advantage of when the weak are prayed upon on. But, in our own culture, we set ourselves up to lead people to believer that the world needs to revolve around them, that they are the center of the universe. And, when things don’t go the way that they want, they throw their weight around in anger. But, when you don’t get what you want and you’re the center of the universe, you find yourself weak and the only card you have to play if you are the king of your domain is victim.

So, when I think about how the Gospel could impact this moment for Xerxes, there’s really one thing in both circumstances that Xerxes needs. It’s humility. It’s humility. Humility is the language of God. The Bible tells us humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God and He will exalt you. In His pride, in His anger, it’s to recognize Xerxes, your actions, your attitude, your behavior in making yourself the center of the world is destroying the people around you. You need to realize that you’re not the one in authority, but there is one greater. And, you’re accountable.

And, the same thing in his circumstance where he feels like he is the victim and playing woe is me. He is still the hero of the story. He’s still the center of the universe, and the response is the same. Xerxes, you built this and you need forgiven and you need to stop looking within you and you need to look to the one who will heal you. Because, it’s not you.

But anytime we lead into this type of scenario, it’s not only detrimental to the individual who sees their identity as the center of the universe, but everyone else around them that is being affected by their behavior. Pride leads to destruction. Humility is what heals.

So you think about this issue of Xerxes and you think about your scenarios in life, maybe you specifically … How willing are you to take accountability? How willing are you to confess and seek forgiveness? Does your leadership typically display itself in anger? And, when you display that anger and don’t get what you want, do you then pout as if you were the victim? Or, do you take accountability? Humility. Surrendering the situation to the Lord to recognize it’s not you who is ultimately in control, but Him.

Character number two, and this is where it gets even more challenging. Xerxes is an easy one, right? You can see his flaws. It’s apparent. And, maybe it’s a reason to also honor the Lord, praise the Lord for, because it’s easier to see how the gospel fits in his circumstances, but the next two characters that we’re going to be introduced to, a little bit harder that we struggle with, because we want to put these characters on a pedestal.

And the first one that we find is this character named Mordecai. And, I want you to know there is room in what I’m going to present to you with Mordecai and Esther in just a moment … The bigger hero of the story there. There’s room here for interpretation. So I’m going to tell you, I’m going to share a little bit more of my opinion on who these two characters are, and you can disagree with me and you can disagree with me passionately, and I would even be curious to know if you agree or disagree with what I have to say with these two. But there is a challenge in understanding who these characters are and what they represent in the greater story that the Lord wants us to focus on. So, here’s what happens. Verse five, there was a Jew at the citadel in Susa whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjaminite, who had been taken from Jerusalem with the exiles who had been deported with Jeconiah, king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon had deported. Amen.

If you remember how this story is told or where it fits in the timeline of Jewish history, I’ve shared this with you before that the story of Israel goes a man named Abraham is promised from him, there would be a nation, and through him, all nations would be blessed. And as you follow the timeline of Israel, they end up in Egypt and under the hand of Pharaoh, as slaves, and eventually this guy named Moses sets them free. And they end up to a promise land, which is where Israel is today. They end up in this promise land, and then they end up under the rulership of kings.

And as they end up under the rulership of kings, they’re disobedient to the Lord, and the Lord sends Israel into deportation, and two people groups deport them, the Assyrians take 10 Northern tribes in 722, and the Babylonians take two southern tribes in 606 to 586. And the northern tribes are never heard of again. The southern tribes carried on to Babylon. God tells them that they’re going to return one day to Israel. After 70 years that they’re deported out of Israel into Babylon, God would free them, and in 70 years, they would be able to go back.

Esther is a story that takes place after they’re taken into the Babylonian in captivity, and this is what the author is saying here in chapter two. He’s saying here is the background to this guy named Mordecai and his lineage that was taken out of Israel into Babylon. Now, when it tells us this about Mordecai, it’s not saying that Mordecai was carried from captivity from Israel to Babylon, but rather his family was, and this is his genealogy. Most likely, maybe Kish was taken out of this area into Babylon, and now Mordecai finds himself born in captivity under the Babylonians, which are eventually conquered by the Mito Persians.

And the Mito Persians is whose Xerxes represents today. So, a little bit of historical background there for who Mordecai is. And then it says verse seven, he was the guardian to Hadassah, that is Esther, his uncle’s daughter for she had no father or mother. Now the young woman was beautiful of form and face, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter. So it came about when the commanded decree of the king were heard, and many young ladies were gathered to the citadel of Susa into the custody of Hegai, that Esther was taken to the king’s palace into the custody of Hegai who was in charge of the women.

So you see here, many young ladies, Mordecai’s raising Esther. Esther’s not his daughter, but he’s adopted Esther, and he is cousin to Esther, and that Esther represents one of several ladies that were taken into custody. And if you read a little bit of Jewish history on this, there are Jewish historians that think that when Xerxes sent his guys out to take ladies into his harem that he could pick a new queen, that Josephus, one Jewish historian says that upwards of 400 plus young ladies were taken. And then it goes up from there. So 400 is the lower number. Some say up to 1400 women were taken during this period to the King Xerxes for him to decide who his future wife would be.

And you see in verse eight that Esther was one of those, that it doesn’t say that she was necessarily given a choice, but that she was taken. And then verse 10, 11 goes on. Esther did not reveal her people or her kindred because Mordecai had instructed her that she was not to reveal them. And every day, Mordecai walked back and forth in front of the courtyard of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her. Mordecai, how do you respond? Again, this character is a little bit messy and there’s a little bit of difficulty in really understanding the heart of what Mordecai is about. Because on the one hand, he looks godly. On the one hand, he adopts Esther, which I think one of the things that’s closest to the heart of God is the idea of adoption. [inaudible 00:20:12] God in the New Testament correlates our relationship to him as one of an adopted child, because we were alienated from God. We didn’t belong to God.

The Bible calls us enemies of God. But in Ephesians 1:5, he predestined us to adoption. And in Romans 8:13-25, a few times it mentions the idea of adoption. And again, in Galatians 4 … I think it’s verse five, you’ve been adopted into the Lord. So, the idea of adoption very biblical, very godly. It’s mimicking the heart of God for us as people who are alienate to him, that he pursued us. He desires a relationship for us. He paid the price for us, and you see that heart here expressed here with Mordecai. He not only adopts, but he checks on Esther. You see in verse 11, after Esther’s taken, he’s every day going to the kingdom, he’s walking out in the courtyard to learn how Esther is faring. And then, a little bit later, it even tells us that Mordecai goes out of his way to preserve the king’s life. He rescues the king at one point from death, as people wanted to take the king’s life.

So, Mordecai appears godly. But then on the other hand, when you think about Mordecai’s position in the Mito Persian empire, he comes in in this story on this timeline after the 70 years that Israel was to be held captive in Babylon, meaning God told his people you’re going to be taken into captivity. The Babylons are going to conquer you. You’re going to be taken into captivity. After 70 years, I’m going to allow you to return. And so, some of the Jews have now made the journey and they are back in Jerusalem, but not Mordecai. It begs the question is Mordecai then godly if God opened the door and told his people He wanted them to return, yet Mordecai refuses to go back?

Or, when you read the Book of Esther, you never see anyone specifically talking to the Lord or about the Lord. And some people look at the Book of Esther and call a godless book in that sense, that God has not spoken about directly. How godly can you be when you don’t even talk about the Lord in the book, especially when your character is introduced? And then, some people will say, “Well, in the Book of Esther, it says that Esther is taken. It says these ladies are taken, but it never really truly says that they’re taken by force.” And, it never shows any of the ladies disputing being taken by the king. So maybe yes, the king came and got them, but they also went willingly and Mordecai never fought it.

There’s no description here in this narrative that says, and it was opposed to Mordecai’s desire or will for Esther that he may have willingly allowed her to go to the king. And then some people go a little bit further and say in verse 11, when he’s going out to the courtyard, if he willingly let her go to the king, that his intentions in going and checking on Esther isn’t because he’s really concerned with Esther. It might be that he’s more interested in the political game that he’s going to receive because he knows Esther’s in the kingdom. And so, he’s just interested in the juicy daily gossip so he knows where he stands before King Xerxes, because Esther belongs to him.

How godly is Mordecai? Who knows? But let me ask, what would you do in his shoes? We don’t know the full story or the intentions behind everything that’s written here, but what would you do in his shoes if there was an opportunity, let’s say, for your child to become queen of the Mito Persians? What if there was a risk to try to stand up for your child because you didn’t want them to become a part of the king’s harem? How far would you go to fight for your kid? Where is the line between convenience and conviction? What price would you accept to compromise your faith? How much would someone have to pay you for you to do something that you knew would stand against the Lord?

One of the chapters in the Bible that I have loved to reflect on in the last couple years … I was doing a devotion with my kids a year or so ago, and we got to Acts 16, and the Book of Acts, chapter 16, one of the things that struck me when I was reading it with my kids … it was a family devotion one night … was Paul’s heart in the beginning of that chapter to go to the city of Lystra. If you read Paul’s first missionary journey, it ends and Acts 14, the last town that he goes to on his first missionary journey is the town of Lystra. And, the last thing that happens to Paul in that town is he’s drug outside of the city and they stoned him and left him for dead. They thought he was dead.

And Paul got up, and Paul ends up going home and reports on his first missionary journey. And when Paul then decides to go on his second missionary journey in Acts 16, and they ask Paul, “Where do you want to start in your missionary journey?” You know the first place Paul says? It’s Lystra. It’s Lystra. And, Paul didn’t travel by himself, and the friends that went with him, they would’ve heard the story of how Paul and everything that happened to Paul and how Paul was stoned at the end of his journey in Lystra. You can imagine if you’re joining him on a second missionary journey, you’re like, “Where are we going to go first, Paul? You saw all these great places.” Paul’s like, “I’m going to start in Lystra.” I don’t know about you, but when I think about faith and the conviction and convenience of what it should be, I would say, “I’m not sure if that’s the Lord’s will, Paul. How about this? What’s the second town? I’ll meet you there and you go ahead and go to Lystra.”

And then Paul goes to Lystra, he preaches, and then as Paul starts on his secondary missionary journey, one of the things that happens to him is he gets a vision from the Lord that God tells him to go to Macedonia. Go to region of Macedonia. So, Paul goes to the region of Macedonia and he ends up in a town called Philippi, and do you know what happens to Paul in Philippi? He gets thrown in jail. God’s will for him was to go to Philippi, and what happens to Paul is he gets thrown in jail. I don’t know about you, but when I think about me and if I were to think the Lord is leading me to do something and I get there and I’m thrown in jail, I would be questioning whether or not that was really the Lord. I would think, I think Satan tricked me. He pretended to be God, but obviously the Lord would not want me in jail. That’s not very convenient.

And, that becomes the struggle. What is our faith about? What is our faith about? Is it about convenience or is it about conviction? Is it about truth or is it about comfort? What risk will I go to stand for the reality of who Jesus is and how important He is in the lives of other people? What sacrifice would I pay? Jesus paid it all. Why would I stop at anything less? That’s why when you look at Mordecai, he’s such a challenging figure because God’s people, God’s people should be back in Jerusalem because that’s where God’s presence was. Convenience or conviction. Not passivity. At least in the circumstance, we’ve got to recognize that one thing Mordecai should do, and I wish the text told us a little bit more, is at least stand up for your child.

At least understand that God has given you a gift in nurturing their heart, even at times when they don’t want. It is so important and valuable for you as a parent, because God created the family to go and bless the world. And you as a parent have an opportunity to nurture a heart that’s going to affect their generation and generations to come if they could walk with Jesus and see the goodness of who He is. Psalm 127:4, like arrows in the hands of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. I love that picture of parenting. So understand that kids are like an arrow, and in this day you shaped your own arrows, right? You got to shape this arrow for the trajectory to which it’s to be sent.

And then it describes you as a parent, as a warrior, which is a perfect picture of parenting. Is it not? Every day is a battle. It does not stop. It doesn’t matter the age. There’s all always something to be conquered with your child, and to understand that God has a goal for them in mind … and I know how kids operate. Kids operate in the short term, but you, as a parent, you play the long game. Your kids, instantaneous gratification. That’s what they seek in life. And, kids are made that way. Your brain, it does not develop to think of longterm consequences with the decisions you make in your life until your early 20s for young ladies, mid-20s for young men. You as a parent, it’s important to think about how you’re helping your child be shaped to the direction that God’s calling them in life.

You play the long game, which means it’s not always about the details, but it’s about what their heart is becoming. Because if their heart can be aligned right, the direction will take care of itself. It doesn’t mean you don’t deal with the directions. Sometimes they need help. For example, if you think about shaping the heart of your child and you go to your child and you say, “Why don’t you steal?” If you ask them that, “Why don’t you steal? Why aren’t you a child that steals?” And hopefully your kid is not a child that steals, but if your kid’s response is “Because I don’t want to get caught and deal with the consequences,” a parent could be like, “Well, that’s good. I’m glad you don’t want to get caught.” No one wants to get caught and no one wants to deal with the consequences, but the godly answer deals less with the actions and more with the heart.

And, what I mean by that is the child should get to a place where it’s not just, “I don’t want to deal with the consequences,” but rather “I have determined to be a person of integrity. The reason I don’t steal isn’t because I’m worried about getting caught or not getting caught. Rather, it’s the kind of person I want to be. I want to be a person of integrity and I want to make my life about that, and because my life is to be about that, then it automatically removes me from other choices in this world, like stealing and lots of other poor decisions.” But, you as a parent get to help them shape that heart. It’s about the long game, the direction you’re going to send that arrow out in this world. And the arrow is being sent to bless. A godly heart will place God’s desire over life’s convenience because God himself is the prize.

So, that’s where we got to get to. I think that’s where Acts 16, that’s where Paul was. Out of all the things that can matter in this world to Paul, his prize was Jesus and to honor Him in everything that he did. He was a man of integrity, a man for the Lord. And then, Esther … I need to move on here. Esther. Verse seven, pick back up a little bit back, a couple verses here. He says he was the guardian to Hadassah, that is Esther … talking about Mordecai … his uncle’s daughter, for she had no father or mother. Now the young woman was beautiful of form and face, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.

Real quick, I think there’s a foreshadowing here with Esther. I think that’s the reason why it told us both of her names. This word Hadassah is actually the word for myrtle, and this word for Esther means star. I think it’s a little bit of a foreshadowing of who Esther’s going to be. Now, I don’t think … here’s my personal opinion … Esther starts off this book as a godly young lady, but I think by the end of the book she certainly is. There’s room for me being wrong on that. This is just speculative, but by the end of this book, I think she is a godly young lady. Here in the beginning, I think there’s a struggle for her to find her place.

But, it says here this Hadassah is a picture of a myrtle, and you see some references there at the end of the verse. Isaiah 41, 55, Zechariah 1:8. Those verses are referenced because the myrtle is used as an image of God’s healing. What I mean is God says in those verses that in the desert there are thorns, and the thorns are going to be replaced by myrtle. It shows the beauty of who God is, that God heals the brokenness of the desert. And so, myrtle is a picture of what God is ultimately going to do over the world. He’s going to bring His healing hand, so that myrtle is that picture, and the flower on the myrtle looks like a star, which I think is Esther.

In fact, today when the Jews celebrate the Feast of Booths, they still carry myrtle branches as a reminder of peace and thanksgiving, which the Lord wants to restore for his people. But a little bit of foreshadowing there in verse eight. So it came about when the command and the decree of the king were heard, and many young ladies were gathered to the citadel of Susa and to the custody of Hegai, that Esther was taken to the king’s palace into the custody of Hegai, who was in charge of the women.

Now the young lady pleased him and found favor with him. So he quickly provided her with cosmetics and food and gave her seven choice, female attendants from the king’s palace and transferred her and her attendants to the best place in the harem. So Esther comes in, not only does she come in but she gets the best that they have to offer. The best location, the most attendants. And so, you see this happening with her, and then verse 15, now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail, and the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her as his daughter, came to go into the king, she did not request anything except what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the women, advised. And Esther was finding favor in the eyes of all who saw her.

So, Esther was taken to King Xerxes in his royal palace in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth in the seventh year of his reign. Last two verses, I promise. The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor in the kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal turban on her head and made her queen in the place of Vashti. Then the king held a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his officials and his servants. He also made a holiday for the provinces and he gave gifts in proportion to the king’s bounty.

What do you do with Esther? How do you deal with her? She’s not this flat monotone character. She’s a little bit complex. When I think about her story, she’s most likely late teens, somewhere around there, when all this takes place. Let me just ask you, how many of you made the best decisions of your life in your late teen years? How many of you are like, man, if you could go back then, you would just be so impressed with how amazing I was and the choices I have made for my life during that time period? There’s maybe one of you, if you lie. You know how that goes. Some of you might even say if social media were around when I was a kid, we’d be in jail. You’d be talking to me in jail right now. That’s how that would work. We don’t make the best decisions when we’re young. We need to mature and grow and we need guidance and wisdom from the people around us.

But some people, when they read this story, they want to assume Esther’s the hero and there’s nothing but the best for Esther. So, when Esther was taken, she’s definitely taken by force. And when she was taken into the kingdom and she met with the harem, she did nothing but lead ladies’ Bible studies every night. That’s Esther. She’s memorizing scripture with the women, and when she got her night with the king, all they did was sit by the fire and play Skip-Bo and UNO together until the sun came up. It was glorious. That’s how people want to describe this story.

And then there’s other people that play the fence a little more. They’re like, “Well, she didn’t want to be taken but she tried to make the best of it for her people. That’s why she didn’t reveal who she was. She was taken by force, but she went into the king and she gave in, and she did the best she could with where she was.” And, that was the scenario. And then, some people think that Esther, she didn’t really start off godly but she grew into that role based on the need. What I mean is when you read stories of the Babylonian captivity … You can go to the Book of Daniel. Read Daniel 1. See how Daniel was deported, and Daniel stood for the Lord before the Babylonian king to the point that Daniel wouldn’t even eat the king’s food, knowing if he didn’t eat the king’s food, the king might kill him when the king offered him that food for rejecting it.

And, Daniel refused because he didn’t want to compromise. But when you read the Book of Esther 2:9, Esther is given cosmetics and food, and the food could have corrupted the Jews on their dietary restrictions, but Esther didn’t reject that. How godly might Esther be? We struggle with Esther because we want to shape our heroes and heroines in a certain way, but when you read the Bible you find a lot of the people that we tend to think are so godly had some incredible flaws, like Noah, built the ark, finds favor with God. First thing he does after he’s off the ark is he gets wasted drunk and out of his mind. Abraham, godly Abraham, he gives his wife over twice. David, don’t even get me started on David. David was a mess all over the place. David murdered not just Uriah, but a group of his soldiers to cover his own sin when he committed adultery.

These heroes of the Old Testament that they look at, they’ve got flaws. And when we read the story of Esther, I’m not so sure that Esther is this spotless hero either. In fact, I don’t even think the book would be helpful for us if we saw her that way. If we saw Esther as the hero and she’s done nothing but follow God and never made a mistake, even in her teenage years, in compromising her faith … The way they’re going to tell the story is this, Esther was good, and because Esther was so good, God did good things for her and that’s why we have this story.

But, what does that do for you? Have you always been good? Have you been perfect? Here we have godly, great heroine Esther. How does that book encourage you that God only shows up for the good people, and if you don’t find yourself as one of the good people all the time, then you don’t get God. That’s not helpful. That’s not encouraging, right? Because we need grace and forgiveness and love. So, this is what I would say to us. I don’t think the hero of the Book of Esther is Esther. I think the hero of the Book of Esther is the Lord. And, here’s where you see it. In a couple verses, verse nine … and, I should have written this down. Verse 15. It’s also there in verse 17. What you see repeated multiple times, there is this phrase that’s just peppered in the story.

Esther finds favor. Verse 15, Esther finds favor. Verse 17, Esther finds favor. It’s as if without saying God has His hand in the circumstance that it’s telling us God has His hand in the circumstance. It’s as if God dips into the mess of this story and all of the things that are happening here, and He’s setting up the stage to provide an opportunity for God’s people to find freedom. That’s what Esther does at the end of the book is she becomes a part of God bringing rescue to His people who are facing death.

And, how does it happen? That despite us, God steps in and he moves in the mess that we can find His grace. Esther, I think, comes to the Lord because she sees the evidence of His grace, and she surrenders to it. And guys, what I think about this story in relating to us, let me just ask you this way. How many times in your life does God have to pepper your story with His grace, that you would finally come to a place where you surrender to Him? Or, maybe we could say it like this if you feel like you’re surrendered. How many times in your life can you reflect back on the grace of God peppered into your life, where it brought you to the place of recognizing how much you needed the Lord and you turned to Him?

That’s the story of Esther. That in one young lady turning to the hand of God, many people are rescued. Guys, that should be our story, too. We came to the Lord, and not only did the Lord heal my life and transform my life, through me, He blessed other people. It’s an incredible story that gives hope to everyone that way. That God would do such a thing with His grace, and that as He is the hero of the story, we have the opportunity to come to Him as He weaves His grace into our lives.

Let me end with this and be done. There is a sculpture in Geneva, Switzerland. It was made by a man who’s Romanian. His name’s Albert Gyorgy, I think is how you say it. But, he made this sculpture … and this is a touching story, but he made this sculpture after he lost his wife. And you see, it’s titled Melancholy because you see as this man is sitting there absent of his wife, he’s just recognizing the hole in his soul because she’s not there. When I think about this, not only do I see the pain of an individual who loved and cherished his wife, but I really see a Gospel story in it too, that we’re all made this way as spiritual beings, and the one intended to fill our soul ultimately is the Lord. And what you see in the Book of Esther are people going through the struggle and they’re all in different places.

You have Xerxes in his pride, who is completely blind to the need for the Lord. You have Mordecai, who’s wrestling with convenience and conviction, and then you have Esther, who’s being put in a place of opportunity as God is weaving His grace and His hand is becoming evident with how much He can not only bless her, but all of her people if they would just surrender to Him, God has made us as a worship being and all of us have struggles, but the answer for us begins and ends with our surrendering to the Lord to allow him to have His way in our lives. That’s the gospel of hope. That’s who Jesus is, that in the midst of our mess, His grace comes reigning in that we can find freedom in our king, not because of anything that we’ve done in our perfection, but because of what He has done in his perfection, because He is the rescue king come for our soul.

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