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Who Lives and Who Dies

03.06.22 Nathaniel Wall

  1. Four Reasons to Celebrate
    03.27.22 38m 19s
  2. Four Significant Steps of Faith
    03.20.22 36m 57s
  3. Four Traits of a Powerful Ministry
    03.13.22 42m 37s
  4. Who Lives and Who Dies
    03.06.22 41m 04s
  5. God of the Gallows
    02.27.22 43m 52s
  6. Confident Identity
    02.20.22 39m 36s
  7. A Coming to Jesus Moment
    02.13.22 45m 11s
  8. Waiting for the Lord
    02.06.22 42m 48s
  9. Messy Grace
    01.30.22 44m 28s
  10. Marriage Troubles
    01.23.22 48m 31s
  11. What Type of Kingdom Are You Building?
    01.16.22 40m 21s

Who Lives and Who Dies

03.06.22 Nathaniel Wall Esther: Such a Time as This Series

I’m going to invite you to the book of Esther chapter seven, Esther chapter seven is where we’re at today. And this is a very sobering subject that we’re going to engage in. Now, this is the part of the story where we’re going to find out, and you probably already know somewhat of the story of Esther, but this is the part of the story where they tell us who lives and who dies in the book of Esther. And when we talk about life and death, it’s a very sobering subject. I mean, even on the world stage on the news every night, if you flip that on you see a battle raging in the world between Ukraine and Russia right now.

And just the idea of life and death unfolding before our eyes, it is a sensitive topic, a very weighty topic. And on a snowy day like today, this is the topic we’re going to engage in. But the very top of your notes, this is the first blank if you picked up the notes this morning. This is where we want to begin is, Consider the value of your soul. Consider the value of your soul.

And before I actually dive into Esther chapter seven, I’m going to springboard from one text to another leading into this. We don’t typically do this. I like to just engage directly with the text, but I want to initiate this by looking at Mark chapter eight for just a minute, and you don’t necessarily have to turn there, but Mark chapter eight is a very pivotal chapter in the gospel of Mark. It correlates well to Matthew chapter 16, the same story in Mark eight unfolding in Matthew chapter 16.

This chapter is a very motivational chapter. This is where in the gospel of Mark chapter eight, where Jesus really transitions in his ministry. He’s demonstrated a lot of what he’s about in Mark eight, but now he starts to communicate what he’s going to do, in this chapter of Mark. It’s sort of this monumental moment. And at the end of this chapter, he asks a very thought provoking question that he wants the heart and minds of his disciples to contemplate, to churn within their soul, to consider as he has just going through in this chapter, some very heavy and weighty thoughts. And he asks this in Mark chapter eight, and this parallels well with Esther seven, but he says, “For what does it benefit a person to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul, for what could a person give an exchange for his soul?”

What Jesus is asking is, “What is your soul worth? And what would you toss aside… I mean, what would you give up for your soul in order to gain some things from this world?” He wants us to recognize there’s really nothing in life worth exchanging for the preciousness of what your soul is. But for some reason, we do that. We give up on the value of the things of… Or we gain the value of the things of this world in exchange for the preciousness and pricelessness of what our soul is.

In talking about this soul and the importance of your soul, previous to these verses Jesus was teaching us about the value of his identity in light of our soul. In verse 29, he asked that famous question, Who do you say that I am? Who do you say that I am? The reason Jesus was asking this question is because in Mark eight, Jesus recognized that, as he’s done ministry in this world, all these people that he was doing ministry around had this perception of what the Messiah should be about. And none of their thinking was correct. And Jesus, with his close followers, he just wanted to get to the root of his identity so they could understand how the importance of who he was helped them better understand who they were in light of who he was, and why he has come for the rescue of their souls.

Satan is okay with you believing in a Jesus. Satan does not care about you believing in a Jesus. It’s what you believe about Jesus. That is where the power is represented. In fact, in Second Corinthians chapter 11, verse four, that’s what the apostle Paul said to us about Jesus. He says, “I’m concerned for you that you might be pursuing another Christ.” The religions in this world have all different views of the idea of who Jesus is, but who is Jesus, really? It’s not about what people say about Jesus. It’s what Jesus says about Jesus that matters. That’s what Jesus asks disciples in Mark chapter eight.

And then he goes on to demonstrate to them. And in verse 31, he says, “Look, I’m going to die. You want to understand what I’m about? I’m asking this question, Who do you say that I am? And I want you to have this correct picture that I’m coming to this world not just simply to teach people how to be better. I’m coming to this world in order to give my life that you might find life in me.” That’s the whole point, he gave his life. His whole point was his life, was his death. Verse 31. And Peter, not even understanding that, rebukes Jesus. And that’s when Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan. You don’t understand what I’m about.”

We need Jesus to lay down his life. There is no other way for life, for our soul, apart from that. If there was another way, Jesus would not have sacrificed himself for us. The fact that Jesus was willing to do this, if there were any other way, Jesus would’ve said, Look, here’s some suggestions of other opportunities you might have in life because I am not about to die for this, right? But the willingness that Jesus had to lay down his life for you and for me suggests that if there were any other alternative, Christ would’ve pursued that, but because he is the only way, John 14:6 tells us that it’s important for our souls to understand who he is and the preciousness of what it means to trust he in him. Not only do we need it for us to experience true life, it’s also inspiring to see that kind of sacrifice in Christ. There is no greater battle than the battle Jesus has fought for you and for me.

I mean, it’s inspiring when you see leaders that give of themselves. And I don’t want to be political in this and pretend like I understand every detail that’s happening in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, but I will tell you, one of the things that I have just been drawn into is to see the resolve of the president of Ukraine. I mean, when he says to his other leaders in the government that, “This may be the last time that you see me alive,” and he’s willing to stay down and fight for his country and his people. That is inspiring.

And when I look at Jesus, everyone abandoned him, but he saw the need and the need compelled him with such great conviction that he was willing to do that for you and for me. He didn’t need us, but we needed him and he willingly gave his life. What a beautiful picture of love and grace and mercy for your soul.

The story in Esther chapter seven becomes the place of exploring the significance of life and death. This is the place now in the story where Esther, she reveals her identity to the king. This is done at great risk to herself because you remember the law that’s been written by the king, that it’s the Jewish people? The king, I don’t think, is aware that it’s necessarily the Jewish people, but Haman has written a law that the Jewish people are about to be exterminated. And before she became queen in Persia, she was told by her uncle Mordecai, Do not tell anyone you’re a Jew.

And now in chapter seven, this is the part of the story where she has prepared this feast for the king, not just once but twice, and now she’s about to reveal her identity. And not only is she going to reveal her identity, she’s also going to point to Haman as being the one who’s writing the law to exterminate her people. This becomes the place in the story where there is life and death in the balance, and this story becomes a place for us to consider the position of our own soul before the Lord, and how we’re using it.

Esther chapter seven, verse one. In this blank in your notes, before I read this, I want you to write down these two blanks: Esther represents a soul’s new life by faith. Esther, in this story, she represents a soul’s new life by faith. And it begins this way in verse one. Says, “Now the king and Haman came to drink wine with Esther and the queen.” And this verse is no different than every verse we read about the king. I feel like every time the king Xerxes or Ahasuerus is brought up in this story, it’s always the same. The man never puts down a wine glass, right?

The king with his wine glass and Haman, here they are again. We know how this goes for the king. The very beginning of the chapter, that’s chapter one, this is a story that starts with the king with the wine glass. This guy is a man of extremes when he drinks. He’s throwing lots of parties and all kinds of happy places. And then someone doesn’t do what he wants and he just goes flying off the cuff. That tends to be Xerxes and so it lets us know, Here we go again, the king and his wine.

And then verse two, “And the king said to Esther on the second day, also, as they drank their wine at the banquet, What is your request, Queen Ether? It shall be granted you. And what is your wish? Up to half the kingdom it shall be done here.” Here he is in his merry state, asking this question. He’s asked this question twice already. He did it in chapter five, verse three. He did it again in chapter five, verse six. Asked her, “Whatever you want, up to half the kingdom is yours.” And here we are at chapter seven, verse two, asking the question once again, What is it you want? I’m here to give you whatever you offer.

Now we were saying the first time he mentioned this in chapter five, that he probably literally doesn’t mean this. I think that he likes Esther as much as he likes the other 1000 women in his harem, but at least he’s favorable to Esther, but this was kind of a way that the king would just show off. He wants the praise of the people to recognize, What a generous king he might be, up to half the kingdom. But if you were to take this literal from the king and request half the kingdom, he would probably see it as a threat and take your life, right? But he’s at least asking the question to Esther.

And then in verse three, Esther says, “Then Queen replied, If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my request and my people as my wish; for we have been sold, and I and my people to be destroyed, killed and eliminated. Now if we had only been sold as slaves, men and women, I would’ve kept silent because the distress would not be sufficient reason to burden the king.”

When Esther brings this up, this would’ve been a shocking revelation for Xerxes because he is unaware of the background of his queen. He has no idea of her ethnicity, which just begins to show you what an awful… Guys, if you’re married, know something about the history of your wife. Where she comes from, what she’s about. This guy, this is a new revelation for him that he’s hearing from the queen. He’s trying to wrap his mind about what in the world could she even be talking about because a threat to the queen is a threat to the king. And she identifies for us in verse four that her people have been sold. And if you remember the law that Haman had written in order to write this law, he says to the king, Look, if you let me kill these people that I hate, I will make you very rich. He wants to give an exorbitant amount of silver to Xerxes for allowing Haman to write this law these people that the king is really unaware of.

And Esther recognizes the dire moment that her people, “We’ve been sold and we’re about to be destroyed, killed and eliminated. Had there been any other way, any other opportunity, we would not even have bothered the king.” This is what she said, “Even if we were just going to be sold into slavery, at least we would still have our lives, but because we have no other place to go, King, I’m coming to you.”

And then verse five, “The king Ahasuerus asked Queen Ester, by this point in a slurred speech, I’m sure, “Who is he, and where is he, who would presume to do such a thing?” The king wants to know, Where is this attack coming from. Esther, why are you saying this? ”

And then in verse six, she identifies and Esther said, “A foe and an enemy is the wicked Haman!” Esther comes to this place where she finally fully puts her life on the line. I remember chapter five, Mordecai comes before Esther. It’s chapter four, actually. Mordecai comes before Esther and he says to her, “For such a time as this, God’s got you in a position to be the queen. And you’ve got to go before the king. And you’ve got to share with the king that the Jewish people, that we’re going to be eliminated if you don’t do something.” And Esther in verse 16 says, “Get together all the people, and fast and pray for me because I’m going to go before the king.” And it’s the first time we really see, in this book, Esther taking a true step of faith in the Lord and putting her life in his hands and just trusting that God is going to provide in this moment. And so finally, it’s come to this place in this story where Esther has verbally put herself out there before the king, who has written this law to kill her people, to expose that she, in fact, is a Jew. And it’s Haman’s fault. It’s Haman’s fault for writing this law that’s going to eliminate her and her people.

And this puts the king now in a position to decide who lives and who dies. What will the king do? It’s the king, who’s written the law, the king can’t back down from this law. In order to observe this law, then, Esther could be killed. The king should just decide, just like Vasti. Remember Vasti? She was the queen and she didn’t do what the king wanted. And now, all of a sudden, Vashti’s never heard from again. What happened to Vashti? The king was frustrated by her. It’s just easier for him to get rid of life than to deal with trouble. And he could easily do this with Esther, and he could easily do this with Haman. Life and death are in the balance. We generally know how the story of Esther goes, that Esther’s life is preserved and so are the people. And so in that, she becomes a representation of a soul’s new life by faith. And not just her life, but, but others’ as well. If you remember how this story worked in the life of Esther, it took a sobering moment for Esther in order for her to recognize the preciousness of her soul and the souls of her people.

That laid out for us in this book my thoughts on Esther and Mordecai, but I don’t think they necessarily really had a walk with God before this trouble began. I think Esther and Mordecai, both of them gave enough evidence in their lives that they were compromising in their Jewish identity, that they didn’t exercise genuine faith in the Lord. But when trouble came, that was the sobering moment in their life, where they considered the value of their soul before the Lord.

And not only does Esther choose to just cherish her value before God, but she also looks at the value of her people. I mean, she could have said before Mordecai, when Mordecai says, “Look, you’ve got to go before the king and declare to the king that you’re Jewish and stand up for your people or we’re all going to die. And she could have said, that’s, that’s awful for you, but I’ve got it made for me. I’m the queen and the castle, right? Like this is bad circumstance. You guys think of plan B, but she didn’t do that. She saw the importance of where the Lord had brought her and asked her in that moment of faith that led her to a place of bravery, she laid it all down for the Lord and for her people. And she exposes who she was. This wasn’t a popular decision for her. This wasn’t an easy decision for her, but it was an important decision for her to think selflessly as the grace of God was made known in her life, how she could allow that grace of God to work through her life for the benefit of others.

And guys, I think about our position in this day and age when I see a story like this, where God has led you, the grace he has demonstrated to you, and the opportunity he’s provided in your life to do the same. Esther’s story for us becomes a spiritual picture of what it looks like to follow the Lord. Esther, in this moment, she’s in a physical battle that reminds her of her spiritual need. And we, in this day and age, where we are here in America, we don’t carry the concern of physical war, at least in this moment, but it does, and a story like this awaken us to the the reality of spiritual needs of people around the world. And we’ve shared about it a little in the beginning here with Uganda, but the same is true for this place in which we live.

I mean, how important it is, your relationship with God and where the Lord has you in this valley and the opportunity that you have to be a light for him, for the glory of God and for the sake of people. If we would just see the opportunity in which God has presented us with, and willingly each day lay down our life for the benefit of others, that the goodness of Christ could be made known and to consider, as Jesus says in Mark chapter eight, “What value is the soul?” In verses 36 and 37? And see how precious the opportunity is in any day that we’re given to honor our God and those he has created in his image by declaring his goodness in their lives, that they may know him too and find rescue, and such a glorious king that would pursue them with his life.

Given the position that I’m in as a church plant catalyst for an organization here in Utah and I get to study the statistical needs of our valley. Some of the things that are just interesting to me, if you go back and look at the history of Utah. Since 2004, Utah has grown by an average of 54,000 people every year. 54,000 people every year, which means if we plant a church of a thousand people every week, we can’t even keep up with the population increase, let alone reach the people that already live here. In our county, 700,000 people live here, and about 25 mainstream Christian churches. What’s that? One church for every 28,000 people. How important to recognize the spiritual battle that takes place in our valley and the importance of a soul, and the position that the Lord has you to let your life shine for him.

Here you see a story of the life of Esther and she, at risk to herself, leans into the faithfulness of God. And she sees God delivering in that moment. And the same is true for us, that we see the truth of God proclaimed. And we have a position in our life, by the goodness of who he is, to lean in God and just say, “Lord, show yourself faithful in your promises to us that we can see your great name declared in this valley.”

Esther becomes a representation of the newness of life by faith in him. Juxtaposed to that story, then, is Haman. Haman, in the next blink in your notes. Haman represents the soul’s destruction and sin and judgment. The soul’s destruction and sin and judgment. Anytime you talk about life and death as it relates to spiritual matters, you come to a place where you talk about sin and judgment. Excuse me, if I said “destruction,” I meant “sin and judgment” in your blank, but you come to a place where you talk about sin and judgment, and that’s the reality of what Jesus rescues us from. But when you read in chapters seven verse six, it goes on from there. Second half of the verse, “Then Haman became terrified both for the king and the queen.”

Once Esther let the cat out of the bag and she revealed that Haman was coming against her, which was a threat against the king, Haman became terrified in his position because his sin found him out. Haman and his hatred wanted to kill the Jews. That place of hatred is wrong. It’s sinful, it’s bad. It’s not good. It’s not honoring to Lord. And Haman, once the light, spotlight is put on him, he becomes terrified in this position, but that’s the reality of all sin before God. Listen to this. Luke chapter 12, verse two. These are the kind of the verses that we like to read and read fast in the Bible and start thinking about other verses, but let me read this one to you, “For there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed neither hid, that shall not be known.” That’s a sobering verse when we consider the soul before God.

Or in Jeremiah 23, “‘Can anyone hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him?’ says the Lord. “Do not I feel heaven and earth?’ says the Lord.” And then as the story goes on in chapter seven, verse seven, you see this judgment unfolding. It says, “Then the king got up in his anger,” because that’s what the king does when he drinks, right? He’s either one extreme or the other. He gets up in his anger from drinking wine and went into the palace garden “but Haman stayed to beg for his life from Queen Esther for he saw that harm had been determined against him by the king.” It sort of gives this idea, the king in this moment, he knows he’s angry, but he is not quite sure what he’s going to do. So he gets it from this moment, he’s probably reeling from all the information he just heard. He just found out his wife was Jewish and he had no idea. And then he realizes that his wife has been turned over to Haman who’s written this law that’s going to exterminate her people.

And so he gets up and he leaves, and Haman’s begging for his life in verse eight. “Now, when the king returned from the palace garden into the place where they hadn’t been drinking wine, Haman falling on the couch where Esther was. Then the king said, ‘Will he even assault the queen with me in the house?’ And the word went out of the king’s mouth and they covered Haman’s face.” And it goes on, “Then Harbonah, one of the eunuchs who stood before the king, said, ‘Indeed, behold the wooden gallows standing at Haman’s house, 50 cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai who spoke good on behalf of the king.’ And the king said, ‘Hang him on it.” So they hanged Haman on the wooden gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai and the King’s anger subsided.”

Judgment happens. Haman is executed. And this becomes a clear picture of the certainty of judgment. This correlates for us in spiritually thinking about our own condition before God. And it would be easy in this moment to get all hell, fire and brimstone on you. But look, I know guilt is a horrible motivator, and I would rather think more reflectively on the condition of our soul before the Lord. Judgment is sobering. And in order for one who’s in authoritative position, in order for a ruler of any kind to be considered halfway decent, they have to execute judgment. In order for God to be good, it demands that he must execute judgment. The reason we say that is when you think about the laws in our land, if you ever had someone commit a crime against you and you go into the court of law and you represent your case, and the judge determines that the person against you is guilty, but the judge determines that he’s also not going to execute any sort of discipline or judgment against the individual that violated anything against you, you would look at that judge and say, “You aren’t a good judge at all because if you cared about me, if you loved me, then you would execute judgment.”

And the same thing’s true with the Lord. In order for God to be a good God, he must be a God that judges. In Galatians six verse seven, it says, “Be not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man’s soweth, that shall he also reap, for he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption. But he that soweth to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting.” And in second Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that everyone may receive the things done in his body according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” First Peter 1:17, “And if you call on the Father who, without respect of persons, judges according to each man’s work. Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.” There is the reality that God, in order to be good, must judge.

We think in terms of what Jesus has done for us, though Jesus has come to offer us salvation. Jesus has provided a way to escape. Now it’s presumptive on our parts as people to just assume that because of Jesus, that means we all just get to go to heaven, right? I think we naturally conclude that as people, that in this life, sometimes, not biblically speaking, but in this life we realize that heaven in our imagination is a great place to be. So when we die, we automatically go there. No one just instantly says, “I’m the one Jesus talks about in judgment that gets cast to outer darkness. That’s me, right?” No, no. Or at least I’ve never walked into anyone that says, “I’m the hell bound person.” No one just takes that posture or assumes that. But it’s very presumptuous for us, I think, to assume the other side of that coin. But the reality is, God owes us nothing. God owes us nothing.

And sometimes in that sort of thinking where we just assume that we’re bound for heaven as people, we kind of caveat that idea with this thought living, that as long as you’re good, that’s all that matters. I’m heading to heaven. And the reason being, my theology is, as long as you’re good, that’s all that matters. We think about the idea of just being good simply by comparing ourselves to someone else, we get this definition of what we think is bad. We compare that to that person or that idea of what we think is bad. And in comparison to that, we think that we’re better than that, so therefore we label ourselves as good. And in conclusion, therefore, the determination is, that I must enter into the good side of the afterlife into heaven.

But it’s important for us to recognize that when we think in terms of good and bad, that what we compare ourselves to isn’t other people. What we’re comparing ourselves to is the perfection of God, and God is holy and we aren’t. And God, in order to be good, must judge. So please hear me this morning in saying this. I am not telling us this morning, “Esther is good, Haman is bad. Be a better do-gooder.”

I’m not telling you this morning, “Try harder.” I mean, if you remember the story of Haman and Esther, Esther was one, I don’t think in the beginning, who walked with the Lord. And I don’t think Mordecai walked with the Lord. I think it took a very sobering moment for them to recognize that life is precious and life can be gone in the blink of an eye. And what are you going to do about it? That’s Mark eight verse 36 and 37. That’s what Jesus was wanting us to recognize. And the importance of his own life as he’s come to deliver us by giving of himself. Jesus gave his life for us that we may find freedom in him. It’s not about being a do-gooder. It’s about turning ourselves completely over to him. And Esther finds her life full by giving it over to God.

Everyone who ends up in heaven, everyone must come to heaven through the cross. Everyone must recognize their need for Jesus, that they’re a sinner. They need forgiveness and they need rescued. And God has pursued us with his life. And God calls us to him that we may find freedom in Christ and in Christ a new identity. And in that new identity, a place that God’s grace can flow through us to bless others for such a time as this.

Forgiveness becomes an important part of finding our newness of life in Jesus. Apart from forgiveness, there is no newness of life. And we, in that, find a motivation to live for a new purpose. In fact, in John 3:36, it says this, “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” That position in Jesus, it’s not about if you believe in a Jesus, but what you believe about Jesus, that matters. Because Jesus has given his life for us that we may find freedom in him. And he tells us apart from Jesus, the position that we find ourselves, it’s under wrath because in order for God to be good, he must judge. But in the goodness of God, he also has provided a way of escape through his grace.

I think it’s one of the most beautiful pictures in all of life, is that at the cross of Christ, you find both justice and grace colliding in an incredible way. And nowhere else in all of humanity can you find that because everywhere else in humanity, in order for someone to show one side of either judgment or grace, they have to sacrifice the other. In order to bring judgment, you have to sacrifice grace. In order to bring grace, you have to sacrifice judgment. But at the cross of Christ, both of them collide. The judgment of God poured out on Christ and the grace of God made known through Christ that we could find ourselves free in him. And he says in that we find eternal life. And when he talks about eternal life, he doesn’t just mean the quantity of life being forever, but also the quality of life being made new in Jesus, you find the purpose for which you exist.

In the story between Esther and Haman, in Haman we find someone who keeps trying to find his purpose in himself. He makes life about himself. He lives his life to please himself. And when he couldn’t control the circumstances to make himself happy with how his life was going, he gets angry and he decides to execute sinfully against the Jewish people. And inevitably, it leads his soul to death. But Esther, Esther who was not perfect, Esther finds a new way of life, one where she surrenders herself before the Lord, one where God makes her new and one where God puts her in a position to use her life for his glory, to the benefit of other people. How do you respond to this?

One of the things that, as I see this story coming to this end, especially end of Haman, and I know we got a couple more chapters left, one of the things that my soul has just churned and resonated over in my mind, has been the identity of Haman. And what I mean is this. If you remember, I shared this once with us in an earlier sermon, that Haman was an Agagite, and an Agagite comes back to the book of First Samuel chapter 15. In chapter 15, you’re introduced to a king, King Agag. And King Agag becomes the lineage of Haman who was an Agagite from King Agag. But all the way back in First Samuel chapter 15, God told to the Jewish people, and especially King Saul, “You need to deal with King Agag now.” But rather than deal with King Agag, they let King Agag live.

And from that time, there became this perpetual pressure, the thorn in the flesh and the side of Israel, that they never dealt with what God told them to deal with. And now here they are, 600 years later and the problem has still perpetuated. And it just leads me to think, in my own life, where am I allowing those Agagite moments, the King Agag types of opportunities where God has come to me over and over and he has said, “Enough, it’s time to stand up and deal with this. Give your life over to the Lord. Let God do a greater work in you and stop living for the things of this world. Give me control.”

Esther represents that lady, by faith, who finally said, “I am sick of this having an impact on my family, my friends, and even my life.” She’s the one that puts her foot down, for not only her sake, but for the sake of the people around her. And she takes a stand by faith in the Lord and she finds her identity in him.

And not just Esther taking the stand, but when we take that stand, to think further about how it benefits people around us. Like every Sunday morning that we gather as a church, because I’m always thankful where I get the opportunity to stand on stage and look at everyone that’s gathered to worship. Makes me just so appreciative of what God does here. And while I stand appreciative of what God does here, my eye is always, I consider, what about the empty chairs? What about the people that aren’t here? What about the opportunity God has for us in such a time as this to understand we may not be fighting a physical battle like Esther, but there is value in the life of a human soul. And this valley needs us to be a people that stands up and fights. And the way that we fight is by being willing to lay our lives down as Esther did for his glory to the benefit of others. And the only way we do that is in a thankfulness for the way that the grace of God has shined into our lives. What about the empty chairs?

And I think sometimes, I wonder about the power of the enemy that prevents us from seeing the opportunity from where God has placed us to do such a work as that. How do I tie that to an elephant? Let’s do that, right? There was a story about a man who was walking through a village and he came across this herd of elephant. I think if a group of elephant are together, you call it a herd. I don’t know. Maybe there’s a different word for a gathering of elephants. Let’s call it a “gaggle.” He came across a gaggle of elephants, all right? And he was astounded because he recognized the elephants weren’t going anywhere. And as he noticed, he realized the reason the elephants weren’t moving is that they were tied to the ground by a rope. And this guy was blown away. Why are elephants tied to the ground by a rope? Those elephants can just break that rope in a matter of seconds. All they have to do is decide, “I don’t like being here on this rope anymore,” and walk away. And so he went over. He recognized that there was a man there that was actually in charge of these elephants.

He went over the man and he said, “What in the world is… How are you keeping these elephants here by a rope? That is insane that they would even be there. What is your magic, man? That these elephants would just stay here on this rope like this?” And he said, “Oh, it’s easy. When they were little, as soon as they were born, I tied them there with that rope. And when they were young, they believed that that rope could hold them there. And it could because they were too little to break the rope. But as they began to age, they never realized that they’d gathered the strength to break that rope and be free.” And here they stood by the power of a meager rope, this majestic animal able to be free.

And guys, I think for us as God’s people, the gospel is the same thing. If our hearts resonated and was saturated in the beauty of what Jesus has done and the transforming power of what Christ can do in us and through us, there is nothing that would hold us back from sharing and declaring the glory of God in this valley. A people this size in this valley could turn the world upside down for Jesus’ sake. If we, by faith, would allow our souls to recognize just how glorious and powerful that Christ is, who desires to work in us and through us. I don’t want to say all that to leave us walking out of here, just feeling heavy and guilty like you’re not doing good enough as a church. I am thrilled by a church that deeply loves Jesus and continue to see what Christ is doing in us and through us, but I want to continue to encourage us to give it all over for him.