In God's Schoolroom With Mordecai & Esther
Here at Refuge, we generally like to pick a book of the Bible, then make our way through that book a few sentences or paragraphs at a time from one side to the other. This is our fourth week doing that in the Old Testament book of Esther.
This morning, as we continue to do that, we find that Esther chapter four is a schoolroom where the Lord would sit us down alongside our brother Mordecai and our sister Esther and teach us about faith and repentance.
Reorienting Ourselves in the Story
Ok, so the book of Esther is a historical vignette, basically a short historical story, so let’s reorient ourselves in that story before we move on into new narrative territory.
There’s a king named Ahasuerus, or Xerxes in Greek, who rules the Persian Empire at its peak, a kingdom some 3-million square-miles. We’ve learned that Ahasuerus, though seemingly all powerful in his rule, a man who thinks of himself as a little god on a throne, is really powerless. He can’t rule himself (he’s sexually out of control); he can’t even rule his own wife.
So when his wife refuses to come at his beckoning to be paraded as an object of his glory at a drinking party, he disposes of her, eventually replacing her with a young woman named Esther, a young Jewish orphan raised by her uncle, Mordecai. She was picked from a menagerie of young women whom the king stole away from their families and forced into his bed, then into his harem when they didn’t make the cut.
Last week, as we closed out chapter 2 and then chapter 3, we saw Mordecai save the king’s life by tipping him off to an assassination plot. But his service went unrecognized, with the King promoting a man named Haman to be his grand vizier instead.
Mordecai then got into trouble for refusing to pay homage to Haman, which we saw was likely due to the fact that Haman was an Agagite, likely descended from he Amalekite king Agag, enemy of Israel in general and the tribe of Benjamin in particular—which is relevant because Mordecai was a Benjaminite.
Haman is furious at the slight, and being the most evil man in the whole story—in fact, as we saw, the very embodiment of Satan’s opposition of God’s people—he managed to get King Ahasuerus to issue a decree, not just against Mordecai, but the entire Jewish people!
So chapter 3 ended with Haman and Ahasuerus fixing the date of the Jewish genocide for a day some 11 months future, decided by rolling the Persian equivalent of dice. That third chapter ends with city in an uproar, but with Haman and Ahasuerus sitting unruffled, having a drink as the city is in upheaval.
Now here’s what we’re going to see as we move into chapter four:
The Lord is going to providentially, out of love for Mordecai and Esther, use this evil situation to force them to confront their own sin. God is going to use the evil plotting of their enemies to teach them—and us—about repentance.
Look with me at Esther 4:1–3.
“When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry. He went up to the entrance of the king's gate, for no one was allowed to enter the king's gate clothed in sackcloth. And in every province, wherever the king's command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.”