When the day of judgement comes

Text Esther 9, 10 Date 16/02/14 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
We have been looking at the Book of Esther and we have come almost to the end. The book begins by telling us about Queen Vashti and her refusal to do what her husband King Xerxes, King of Persia required. This leads to the appointment of a Jewish girl Esther to be queen. We then learn of Haman, the villain of this whole story and his unhappiness with the man who brought Esther up Mordecai and his plans to kill not only Mordecai but the whole Jewish race, not that he then knew that Esther would be included.
Anyway, by the grace if God and through a series of amazing providences the planned destruction of the Jews never happens. Haman is found out and out to death through the work of Mordecai and Esther and in answer to the prayers of the people.
By the end of Chapter 8 we have almost come to the end of the story but for one or two things. The most obvious things is how it all works out as by the end of Chapter 8 the law that says all the Jews should be killed on a certain day but they have permission to defend themselves.
What we learn is that they inflict a mass slaughter on their enemies and they rejoice and celebrate in their victory. The feast of Purim, which is still celebrated today, is established to commemorate what happened.
These chapters are a reminder that we are fast approaching the day when the final judgement comes. The day spoken of here was fixed by Haman using lots, what in a Hebrew loan word are called purim. He thought it was a day chosen by sheer chance but from everything else we read in this book we know that God was in control even of that. As the proverb says (16:33) The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. In a similar way he has set a day for judgement. It is known only to him but that day will come and we need to be ready for that day as the Jews in this story clearly were and as many others were clearly not. We want to say three things then.
1. A great judgement is coming for this world – are you ready?
Chapter 9 begins with a reminder that it was
On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the edict commanded by the king was to be carried out. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them
which is the story of the whole book and indeed of the Bible. The enemies of God's people hope to overpower them but they will not succeed. A day is coming when the tables will be turned, when God's people will have the upper hand over those who hate them and the meek will inherit the earth. Do realise that.
What happened at that time was that (2
The Jews assembled in their cities in all the provinces of King Xerxes to attack those seeking their destruction. It turned out that No one could stand against them, because the people of all the other nationalities were afraid of them.
Why were they afraid? Not just because they had power but because they could also see their God was at work. Not only did the Jews help themselves but (3)
all the nobles of the provinces, the satraps, the governors and the king's administrators who could see which way the wind was blowing helped the Jews, because fear of Mordecai had seized them.
Something similar will happen at the end of the world. Not only will believers be strong but they will be helped by God's angels and by other heavenly creatures and even the rulers of this earth will feel compelled to support the cause.
Just as Mordecai rose to eminence at this time so Christ will be pre-eminent at the end. We will say something more about that later. For now note how (5, 6)
The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased to those who hated them. In the citadel of Susa, the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men.
There is also a final list of Persian names – the 10 sons of Haman who were all killed too.
By the new law the Jews were allowed to plunder goods
But they did not lay their hands on the plunder.
Then in verse 12b King Xerxes once again asks his Queen
Now what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? It will also be granted.
She says
If it pleases the king, Esther answered, give the Jews in Susa permission to carry out this day's edict tomorrow also, and let Haman's ten sons be hanged on gallows.
So the king commanded that this be done. An edict was issued in Susa, and they hanged the ten sons of Haman.
They had killed 500 in the citadel of Susa the day before and on this second day they kill 300 more, 800 in all, again not taking any plunder.
Outside Susa some 75,000 are put to death across the whole empire on the thirteenth. Some have thought this number too high and have spoken of exaggeration. It was a vast empire, however, and there is no reason to doubt its accuracy.
All this killing sounds distasteful to us but we must remember that this was a situation of kill or be killed and the Jews chose to kill the anti-semites who tried to kill them. It sounds pretty horrible but is surely better than 750, 000 Jews dying at the hands of their oppressors.
A day is coming when there will be an even greater slaughter, when men and women will be thrown body and soul into hell, forever. Although this work will be done by angels it will be in some senses on behalf of believers who have for so long been trampled under. If you are a Christian you will look forward to that day. If not, you need to be aware of what is going to happen.
2. A great celebration is coming for this world – will you be involved?
In verse 17 we are that this slaughter
happened on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth they the Jews rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.
Verse 18 makes a distinction.
The Jews in Susa, however, had assembled on the thirteenth and fourteenth, and then on the fifteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.
Verse 19 adds
That is why rural Jews - those living in villages - observe the fourteenth of the month of Adar as a day of joy and feasting, a day for giving presents to each other.
Verses 20-28 tell us that Mordecai recorded these events, so presumably he wrote this Book of Esther or set down its basic story
and … sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, to have them celebrate annually the two days 14, 15 Adar as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. It was Mordecai who encouraged them to do what they spontaneously had begun to do -
to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.
The Jews agreed to it, as it says here, because
Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them and had cast the "pur" (that is, the lot) for their ruin and destruction. But when the plot came to the king's attention, he issued written orders that the evil scheme Haman had devised against the Jews should come back onto his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. (Therefore these days were called Purim, from the word "pur".)
So it was due to this letter describing what had happened that
the Jews took it upon themselves to establish the custom that they and their descendants and all who join them should without fail observe these two days every year, in the way prescribed and at the time appointed. The writer adds These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory of them die out among their descendants.
Queen Esther was also in on this letter writing and wrote to confirm this is what should happen.
Again, in a similar way a great day of feasting is soon to come. When the great day of judgement comes Christians will be spared by the grace of God and they will celebrate God's goodness and there will be feasting and great joy. The Jews often thought of heaven as a a great celebration and in the New Testament we read of it as the Marriage supper of the Lamb, the Lord Jesus. The celebration will go on for ever and forever. Are we looking forward to that day? If we are trusting in Christ then we ought to be.
3. A Jewish man will be held in great esteem – did you know?
In 9:4 we read that
Mordecai was prominent in the palace; his reputation spread throughout the provinces, and he became more and more powerful.
He is the one who sends out these authoritative letters throughout the empire.
In Chapter 10 we have a brief postscript that tells us that
King Xerxes imposed tribute throughout the empire, to its distant shores.
He was a powerful king though his reign brought its own benefits.
And all his acts of power and might, together with a full account of the greatness of Mordecai to which the king had raised him, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Media and Persia?
Yes, this can be proved by reference to these documents we are told.
Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, so with this powerful king was a Jew let it be noted. He was understandably pre-eminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.
So Mordecai the Jews replaced Haman and took the very highest place in the kingdom. People spoke of his greatness and we are told that he was held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews. We are told that this was
because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.
A Christian is immediately drawn to think of Jesus. He too was Jewish and he too is said to be great and held in high esteem for much the same reason. He too worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of them all. He worked for their good by dying on the cross in their place and he speaks up for their welfare in heaven itself. When the day of judgement comes not only will there be judgement for the wicked and celebration among believers but Jesus Christ will be held in great esteem by all and will be worshipped for who he is and all he has done.

The God who changes things

Text Esther 8 Date 09/02/14 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
We are looking at the Book of Esther and this week we come to Esther Chapter 8. In this chapter we learn what happened after Haman's wicked plot to destroy the Jews was revealed to King Xerxes by his Jewish Queen Esther. We have mentioned several times that one of the peculiar things about Esther is that it never mentions God's name. Even though God's name never appears it is clear that he is to the one who is behind the various things that happen that lead to the exposure of evil Haman and the saving of the Jews through Mordecai and Esther.
One of the things that this book assures us is that God is the God who changes things. He has the power to change people and change situations and that ought to be a great encouragement to us if we are in a situation that we are unhappy with and that seems impossible to change. We may be able to do very little but if God is at work he can change things very easily.
In Isaiah 66 the prophet says
Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? God can do such a thing. Jeremiah similarly has God saying I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? Jesus himself tells us that With God all things are possible.
1. God can make changes in ownership and government
1. He can change ownership as he chooses
At the end of Chapter 7 we read of the death of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. Chapter 8 begins by saying That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. There is evidence to say that in the ancient world and in Persia in particular the property of criminals reverted to the crown. Haman's estate then (his house, his property, his wealth) was in the King's hands. He chooses to invest it in the hands of his Jewish Queen Esther. If we are tempted to feel sorry for Haman's wife then we ought to remember that she was one of the ones who urged him to build the gallows for Mordecai and was guiltless. No doubt the rest of the family were implicated too.
So here we see God turning the tables. Haman the enemy of God's people not only dies but also loses his estate to a woman who is a Jew, the people he opposed.
It is a reminder of God's power to give and take as he chooses. Job understood this. He says in his trouble The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.
Just a few years ago, I was reading, flamboyant billionaire Eike Batista from Brazil was boasting that he'd soon be the world's richest man. But his fall was deep and fast.
Now 56, Mr Batista's fortune has reportedly dwindled to less than one percent of the $36.4 billion that Forbes magazine estimate he was worth in early 2012.
His OGX oil company filed for bankruptcy protection recently in a stunning reverse for the champion speedboat racer who came to symbolise Brazil's economic boom.
In 2005 Roger Griffiths won almost £1.8 million on the National Lottery and embarked on a luxury lifestyle. Eight years later he had less than £10 in his pocket. The mansion, Porsche and private school places for the kids are already a fading memory.
Griffiths lost it all through quirky overspending (he spent over £20,000 reforming his student band and making a record) and a series of poor investments that he thought could double his fortune. He now relies on his family to help him pay day-to-day expenses. Another UK man Michael Carroll won over £8.1 million in 2002 and by 2012 was surviving on benefits.
Whatever wealth you may have, whatever goods, it is God who has decided that you should have them. If they are taken away he has decided that too.
At the moment certain men have certain powers and certain spiritual forces are given certain advantages but when God chooses this situation will be reversed. It will come to an end. He can bring about such changes when he will. Remember that.
2. He can change positions of power as he chooses
We also read that Mordecai came into the presence of the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her. We learn that The king took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai. The signet ring was not only an insignia of power but it conveyed real power to the one who possessed it too. Esther we are told appointed him over Haman's estate.
So here is the reversal, the turning of the tables even more graphically represented. Haman has gone right down – he has lost his life, his estate and his position. Meanwhile Mordecai has shot up – he has not only escaped Haman's gallows but he has Haman's position and is even in charge of Haman's estate.
It is a reminder of God's power to raise up one and bring down another as he chooses. Psalm 75:6, 7 says No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt themselves. It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another. He brought down Haman and he also raises up Mordecai. The choice is his.
In 1979 the Shah of Iran was deposed and had to flee into exile in Egypt where he soon died. Just in the last few years we have seen heads of state deposed in Yemen, Libya, Egypt (twice) and Tunisia.
Whatever power or authority you may have, whatever influence, it is God who has decided that you should have them. If they are taken away he has decided that too.
At the moment certain men have a certain authority and certain spiritual forces are given certain powers to do things but when God chooses this situation will be reversed. It will come to an end. He can bring about such changes when he will. Remember that. God is a God who changes things
2. God can make changes in law
It is a little surprising perhaps tor read in verse 3 how Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping. Surely she now has all that she wants. But no the king's concern has only been with her so far and she I concerned for all her people. Further, the law that Haman framed was still on the statute books and so She begged him to put an end to the evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews. In verse 4 we read that once again the king extended the gold sceptre to Esther and she arose and stood before him. (5) If it pleases the king, she said, and if he regards me with favour and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, see how diplomatic she is. She knows that the Persians prided themselves on the unchangeable nature of their laws and so she says let an order be written overruling not the Law of the Persians or the law of Xerxes but the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king's provinces.
She adds movingly For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family? She is another Moses. By faith her standing as Queen is not the things that drives her. She identifies with the people of God rather than enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. She regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ the Messiah to come as of greater value than the treasures of Persia, because (s)he was looking ahead to his reward. Again one cannot help but admire her devotion to her people and her wisdom in all this.
And she gets what she wants. 7, 8
King Xerxes replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, Because Haman attacked the Jews, I have given his estate to Esther, and they have hanged him on the gallows. That has been dealt with but Xerxes sees that he needs to do more. Now write another decree in the king's name he says in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, to Mordecai and Esther who he is now trusting in and seal it with the king's signet ring - for no document written in the king's name and sealed with his ring can be revoked. The previous law cannot be revoked but a new law can be framed to counteract the previous one.
We then see the swift and powerful bureaucratic machine that existed in Persia at this time and was mentioned earlier swing into action. The wording reflects what was written back in Chapter 3 about the earlier decree 9, 10
At once the royal secretaries were summoned - on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan. They wrote out all Mordecai's orders to the Jews, and to the satraps, governors and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. These orders were written in the script of each province and the language of each people and also (an important addition this time) to the Jews in their own script and language. Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king's signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king. Faster horses than usual seem to have been used this time.
The way it worked was that (11, 12)
The king's edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate (a legal phrase we have had before) any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies. The day appointed for the Jews to do this in all the provinces of King Xerxes was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar.
So the Jews are given a number of rights – to assemble together (to muster an army), to protect themselves from the expected attack; to kill any attackers; to plunder the property of their enemies. The right to do this was limited to one particular day. It was not to be an ongoing vendetta.
We are told (13) that
A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies. The couriers, riding the royal horses, raced out, spurred on by the king's command. And the edict was also issued in the citadel of Susa.
Again it is a turning of the tables, a reversal of the situation. This time it is done through law – and even where a law could not technically be reversed. That will not stop God. His law prevails and the Jews are saved from their enemies.
It should hearten us to think how easily God can reverse laws. An obvious law that runs counter to God's word in or country today is the abortion law. Since the 1967 abortion act was implemented in this country about 8 million babies have died. The vast majority have been killed under the social clause of the legislation, which effectively paved the way for elective abortions. Over five hundred babies are aborted in this country every day. Can God change a law like that? He can. We should pray that he will.
The Bible talks about the law of sin and death. We can think of sin and death as a law at work in all of us. The penalty for sin is death and because we sin we will surely die. But the bible also speaks of being set free from the law of sin and death. That can happen because God can do it. He can set you free from that law by joining you to Christ who never sinned and who died on behalf of sinners. All you have to do is to trust in Christ. He does it all. He can change your situation. Be in no doubt.
3. God can change people's attitudes
In the final two verses the reversal, the turning of the table, the way God changes things is again emphasised.
1. Susa is changed
In verse 15 we read that
Mordecai left the king's presence wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen. And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration.
This contrasts with the statement in Chapter 3 that the city if Susa was bewildered when Haman was in power and he had his law passed against the Jews. Now Susa is happy again and there is a joyous celebration. Why the change? God has brought about the change. He can change this city too. Let's never doubt it.
2. The Jews are changed
In verses 16 and 17 we are told that
For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honour. In every province and in every city, wherever the edict of the king went, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting always a big theme in this book and celebrating.
What joy an edict can bring. It is like the joy that the good news about Jesus Christ brings to his people as the message goes out. Pray that God's people will be renewed and rejoice as they look to God.
3. Others are changed
And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them. Interestingly there were conversions or at least people became Jewish Proselytes. This is again a change that God brings about. He alone can change people's hearts so that they trust in him. He can change your heart and my heart and the heart of anyone.

The enemy of God's people overthrown

Text Esther 7 Time 02/02/14 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
We are looking at the Book of Esther. It is a story from the period when the people of God were exiled in Persia and tells how King Xerxes right hand man the evil Haman took offence at Mordecai the Jew and got the king to pass a law that all the Jews in all the empire should be put to death. We come this week to the chapter where the villain Haman is exposed and put to death. His overthrow comes about through Mordecai's cousin Esther who God has made Queen following the deposing of Queen Vashti.
We have spoken about Haman at length already and we have seen that he is an evil man, right up there with Adolph Hitler, Josef Stalin and Pol Pot. He is the arch anti-semite and because the Jews are God's chosen people he is typical of the arch enemy of God's people the Devil himself. We have said that God's enemy has honour and seeks honour but we who believe must not honour him and we have spoken of the nature of his opposition, an opposition that is full of hatred, superstition and deceit and that relies on the complacency of others. It is usually efficient and organised.
Here in Chapter 7 we see this arch enemy defeated and overthrown and it is a reminder to us that (as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 15:25) Christ must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. Every enemy, every foe will eventually be subdued under Christ including the devil himself. The chapter teaches us to see that and to wait patiently until that time comes.
We want to say four things then
1. Patiently wait until the time of deliverance
The Jews had fasted and prayed and Queen Esther had gone to the king on their behalf and he had held out his golden sceptre to her as a sign that her request would be accepted. She wisely did not reveal what was her concern at first but asked only that the king come and dine with her and that Haman, his prime minister, be invited. Even at that banquet she continued to pique the king's interest by requesting only that there should be another just like it, which the king agreed to. And so Chapter 7 begins
So the king and Haman went to dine with Queen Esther, and as they were drinking wine on that second day, the king again asked, Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.
All this while, of course, Haman has been feeling more and more confident that all is well. At the end of Chapter 5 he says I'm the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. But in Chapter 6 he comes unstuck and his wife and friends conclude Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him - you will surely come to ruin! It is as they are telling him this that the king's eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared.
He is still ignorant of how dangerous a position he is in and how very soon he will fall as he sits down with the King and Queen. Then in verse 3 we are told Queen Esther answered the king's question - If I have found favour with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life - this is my petition. And spare my people - this is my request. Such a statement can only have brought the king's interest to boiling point. For I and my people she continues have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation. Haman had offered the king money you remember to expedite the slaughter. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, Esther adds (more to highlight the dire situation than anything else no doubt) I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.
And so we come to the point where the people will surely be delivered. It has taken a long time. There has been much prayer and fasting, much fear and trepidation. Esther has been so careful and cautious. But now the point of deliverance is at hand. She unburdens herself to the king on behalf of the people and that leads to their salvation.
It is a reminder that God's people will ultimately be delivered and that the Devil cannot win. In Revelation 20:10 we read of how the devil was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet his allies had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Already the devil has been hurled down to earth by the death of Christ on the cross and a loud voice in heaven says Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (Revelation 12:10,11). Soon, however, Satan will be completely overthrown and God's people will be gathered to God in heaven.
As Paul reminds believers our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Each day it gets a little closer. What we need to do is to be patient until that day. Twice in Revelation we are told This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus. Let's be patient then as Esther was patient until our salvation comes.
2. Patiently wait until the enemy of God's people is revealed
King Xerxes question follows and it is an obvious one. Up until this point he is genuinely aware of the answer. He was as much aware who Haman was as he was that Esther was Jewish. And so in verse 5 we read King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, Who is he? Where is the man who has dared to do such a thing? Who would have the audacity? The answer comes in verse 6 Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman. If the king had not seen this coming then clearly Haman was even less aware. Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen we read. What a shock it must have been to know that the queen was Jewish and that his plot was known.
What a shock it will be for Satan too when he is exposed for what he is. And that day will come. Be in no doubt. Much is hidden and kept in the dark now but one day all his evil machinations will be exposed. Even before then more and more people are realising just who is behind the evil things that happen in this world. The devil is a master of disguise and he does all he can to cover up his evil doings. However, one day he will be exposed for who he is. In Luke 8:17 and 12:2 Jesus warns us that there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open and There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. Do you watch or read detective stories? The trick is that you don't know who did it (if it is done well). Often the criminal is not obvious. We have had this case in Italy where the two accused (Knox and Sollecito) were first found guilty then acquitted and have now been found guilty again. Who knows the truth? God does. One day we will all know the evil that Satan has wrought.
3. Patiently wait till the end for nothing can go right for the enemy of God's people
We are told that on hearing the news The king (7, 8)
got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realising that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life. Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining. The king exclaimed, Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?
We have noted how full of strange providences this book is. You almost feel sorry for Haman at this point as he is at least innocent of this last accusation. However, he knew the etiquette of the court and that the harem was carefully protected. Did he think his charm was so great that he could somehow win Queen Esther round? Some people do not know when they have lost. As anticipated by Haman's wife and friends, the wheels are now in motion that will lead to his destruction. He cannot save himself.
Mistakes are sometimes made. You think a person is drunk – they're having a stroke. Remember the man with the table leg under his arm and they thought it was a sawn off shotgun and they shot him. Here Haman is a sort of King Midas in reverse, Midas with a curse – everything he touches turns to dust. This is always going to be the way with God's enemies. Sometimes it is simply more obvious than at other times.
Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the cross when Christ died. It was Satan who entered into Judas so that he betrayed Jesus and clearly Satan was moving in it all to bring about the death of an innocent man. No doubt he thought he had won a great victory when he saw Jesus on the cross but that was far from being the case.
Paul reminds us in Romans 8 that everything works together for the good of the people of God. The corollary is that everything works for evil against those who are not the people of God. Even what they think is for their good works against them in the end. Haman thinks pleading with Esther will win him some respite. It does not, it only hastens the end for him. It is a sign of his doom. If you follow him, nothing can work for your good.
4. Patiently wait for the enemy of God's people to be destroyed
We read then that
As soon as the word left the king's mouth, they covered Haman's face. Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, A gallows seventy-five feet high stands by Haman's house. He had it made for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king. The king said, Hang him on it! So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king's fury subsided.
The very instrument that Haman had designed for the death of his enemy Mordecai was the means of his own execution in the end. What a warning that is. There is a phrase in Hamlet about a man being hoist by his own petard. The petard was a notoriously unreliable war machine that used gunpowder. The evil man lights the fuse intending to kill others and ‘Kaboom!’ - he blows himself up! Here is a warning, then, that is found in several places in Scripture, including Proverbs 26:27 If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him. A man digs a pit to catch someone else and falls into it himself or tries to roll a stone onto someone else and it rolls back onto him. Haman builds a gallows (or whatever it was) for Mordecai and dies n it himself. The biter is bit. For all their efforts, those who oppose Christ and his people are self-defeated.
The greatest example of this is again the cross itself. Do not oppose Christ; rather flee to him. Otherwise, it will be your undoing. The rolling stone picture reminds one commentator of the Sisyphus myth in which the ancient King of Corinth was condemned to spend eternity rolling a stone to the top of a hill only to have it roll down again. It is more reminiscent of those who thought that sealing and guarding a stone rolled into the groove of a grave entrance could prevent it rolling back again to their hurt as it revealed the empty grave of the risen Christ.
Paul encourages his readers at the end of Romans (16:20)
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
We ought to be encouraged too if we are Christians tonight. What is that verse from Isaiah 54:17 again?
No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me, declares the LORD.

The inevitable victory for God's people foreshadowed

Text Esther 6 Time 26/01/14 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
When a business fears there will be bad news in their annual report to the shareholders or when an enquiry is taking some time to reach conclusions, they will sometimes produce what is called an interim report. Rather than everything being a big shock later on, they try to give some idea of what is coming.
Something similar happens in schools where they try to get the pupils to do mock examinations before the finals – so that the end result will not come as a shock. Here it is different in that if the student is not working hard enough, a bad result in the mocks can give him the shock he needs so that he doesn't do the same thing in the final exams.
I want us to consider this evening Esther Chapter 6. Esther 6 does not tell us how the villain Haman was discovered to King Xerxes as the enemy of Esther and her people or how the King commands that he be put to death. That all comes in the next chapter. What happens in this chapter is that in a very obvious way Haman is humiliated and Esther's cousin and guardian Mordecai is exalted. It leads Haman's wife and advisors to feel that they have no choice but to say to him (13) Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him - you will surely come to ruin! They recognise this as the start of Haman's downfall and a sign that he was in a losing battle because he was trying to oppose the Jews, the people of God.
Why does this happen? You could take Chapter 6 out of the book and it would not really make too much difference. Most of the main parts of the story would remain. So why is it there? It is there because it is often God's purpose to show the truth in no uncertain terms before the end. It is like an interim report or the results of a mock examination.
God, the God who made all things, has purposed to have a people to himself, a people he will save to the uttermost through the one Saviour Jesus Christ. It is God's purpose to vindicate his Son so that every knee will bow to him and to vindicate his people so that all will one day know that they are his people who he loves and so they must be respected whatever people may think of them now.
Now God could simply do this by honouring them at the end - just as in this book once Esther has alerted King Xerxes to the plight of her people, he swiftly deals with the need. But what happens is that even before Haman's final defeat, God puts him through this ritual humiliation so that he is in no doubt which way the wind is blowing, where things are going – and, of course, to give Haman the opportunity to repent. When his wife and advisers said to him Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him - you will surely come to ruin! Haman should have listened. He shouldn't have wasted any time in going straight to the King and making a full confession. The moment he appeared at the banquet he should have gone on his knees and begged for mercy – but sadly he only got to that point when it was too late for him and it worked out in a way that simply hastened his death.
The lesson tonight then for us all is to stop and think. Realise that the downfall of unbelief has already started – there are signs of it, if you only look – you cannot successfully stand against the people of God. You will surely come to ruin if you do. Repent now, rather, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, before it is too late.
What we have here is an encouragement to the believer and a warning to the unbeliever.
1. Consider the providences leading to Mordecai's exaltation and Haman's humiliation
They say that everyone and everything is only six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world. The claim is disputed but there seems some plausibility in the idea. In a similar way there are only some seven providences in this chapter that take us from a situation where Haman is nearest to the king, the second most powerful man in the empire, and Mordecai (who Haman is intending to have killed) is an anonymous and lowly servant of the king to the point where Haman is parading Mordecai around on horseback and honouring him in the most public way. If you had asked Haman whether this was possible, he would have said no and most others would have agreed, but it happened.
We are in a situation today where Christians are not very powerful at all. Perhaps they are among the least powerful groups on earth but God can turn it around in moment. It has happened in history. Take for example the turn around that came about in the Roman Empire in the year 313. At one time Christianity was an often persecuted, a barely tolerated religion, in the Roman Empire. Then suddenly with Constantine's apparent conversion everything changed – not all for the good but Christians were no longer persecuted as they once had been. Other examples could be given but they all anticipate the coming day when the tables will be turned completely and the saints will reign forever.
Let's consider these seven steps in Esther 6 then.
1. A case of royal insomnia
First, we read That night the king could not sleep. How often that happened we don't know. Some people are good sleepers, some aren't. No explanation is given as to why he could not sleep.
We know it wasn't too much coffee or jet lag. Was it something he had eaten or drunk? Was he in pain or was there some bodily or mental irregularity? Was there something on his mind? Were there noises near the palace? The truth is we don't know.
Indeed, there is a lot we do not know about the whole subject of sleep. Its purposes and mechanisms are only dimly understood despite substantial ongoing research. It is sometimes thought to help conserve energy, though that theory is inadequate as it only decreases metabolism by about 5-10%. Mammals require sleep, for example, even when they are hibernating. Like many things about us, we are in a lot of ignorance. In Psalm 127:2, however, it says In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat - for he grants sleep to those he loves. Sleep is God's gift. He can give it or take it as he chooses. Something worth remembering.
2. The choice of night time reading
I don't know what you do when you can't sleep. Watch TV, listen to music, go for a jog? What the king decided to do is this - he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. For many people, reading will get them to sleep. We are not sure here whether he thought this particular reading material would give him some pleasure or drive him off to sleep. Anyway, that is what he did. It was his own idea but no doubt God prompted him to it. Proverbs 21:1 says The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.
3. A forgotten incident recalled
Then in verse 2 we read that It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. This incident is referred to earlier in the book and must have happened some years before. We do not know how detailed the chronicle was and where they began reading but how interesting that in the providence of God Mordecai's name should come up. Nothing happens by chance. The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD (Proverbs 16:33).
4. The putting of a fair question
The king remembers the incident it seems though he has given no thought to it for some time. What honour and recognition has Mordecai received for this? he asks. Nothing has been done for him, his attendants answered. It is an obvious question for a king to ask. Why no reward was made at the time is, of course, another mystery but not one that is hard to imagine happening. People often do good things and are then forgotten. Following England winning the world cup in 1966 the manager was knighted and then a while later some players were given MBEs. It was not until the year 2000 that Alan Ball, George Cohen, Roger Hunt, Nobby Stiles and Ray Wilson were given the honour. There is a certain vagueness about earthly rewards and anomalies abound. You often hear of campaigns to get knighthoods for David Beckham, Ringo Starr or Eric Clapton.
5. A matter of timing
Next, things take an interesting and perhaps unexpected turn. Verse 4 The king said, Who is in the court? It is not immediately clear why he asks the question but we read Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai on the gallows he had erected for him. And so (5) the king's attendants answered, Haman is standing in the court. Bring him in, the king ordered. No-one has forced Haman to go to the court. The fact that the king is about to honour Mordecai could never have been guessed. The fact that Haman has come to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai on the gallows he had erected for him is just a massive irony that cannot but make us sit up and think. I think all ironies have this character. It is one of God's ways of waking us up to reality. C S Lewis called suffering God's megaphone – that is it is a way for God to wake us up. I think ironies, coincidences, work in the same way. It is God's megaphone, his whistle, his siren or klaxon. I have a book at home called Beyond coincidence an international best seller (authors: Plimmer and King). It relates over 200 stories of amazing coincidences.
  • Two sisters in Alabama decide, independently, to visit each other. En route, their identical jeeps collide and both sisters are killed.
  • Laura Buxton, aged 10, releases a balloon from her back yard. It lands 140 miles away in the backyard of another Laura Buxton, also aged 10.
  • A British cavalry officer was fighting in the last year of World War One when he was knocked off his horse by a flash of lightning. He was paralysed from the waist down. The man moved to Vancouver, Canada where, six years later, while fishing in a river, lightning struck him again, paralysing his right side. Two years later, he was sufficiently recovered to take walks in a local park when, in 1930, lightning sought him out again, this time permanently paralysing him. He died soon after. Four years later, lightning destroyed his tomb.
One of the authors tells how he went for a job interview as a journalist many years ago. The editor in Yeovil wanted to test his general knowledge and so he pulled out a book and choosing religion at random asked him 10 questions. He didn't do very well. The next week it was an interview for the Bucks Herald in Aylesbury and quite a different place and interview but at the end this editor also decided on a general knowledge test. He too pulled a book of the shelf and at random chose 10 questions on religion – the same 10 questions!
These writers talk of a cosmic "yes".  I prefer to speak of God's megaphone but it cannot be denied that these things make us think.
6. A response fuelled by pride
We read next (6-9) that
When Haman entered, the king asked him, What should be done for the man the king delights to honour? Now Haman thought to himself, as he would Who is there that the king would rather honour than me? So he answered the king, For the man the king delights to honour, have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king's most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honour, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, 'This is what is done for the man the king delights to honour!'
We don't know what answer King Xerxes might have expected but that sounded good enough to him. What a mess our pride can get us into. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall says the proverb (16:18) and When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom (11:22). There are many stories that teach the lesson. In Aesop's fables there is the story of a cockerel that had won a great victory over another cockerel and so stood very proudly on the farmer year gate only for a fox to come along and snatch it to eat. In the story of tortoise and the hare it is the hare's pride that makes him think he is bound to win. I like the story of the school girl who was sure she would win every prize including the essay competition. But that year the subjects were happiness and friendship. As she knew very little about either she couldn't win the essay prize and so it went to someone else. Another proverb tells us that God mocks proud mockers but shows favour to the humble and oppressed. We see it here.
7. A command with some ignorance in it
The king did not know that Mordecai was Haman's mortal enemy. I'm sure that he would not have asked Haman to do what he asked of him if he had. But, in God's providence, he was ignorant. Ignorance is a powerful thing in certain contexts. Do you know Sophocles' Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex? It is an amazing play all about irony. In one place the tragic hero Oedipus says “Upon the murderer I invoke this curse - whether he is one man and all unknown, Or one of many - may he wear out his life in misery to miserable doom!” He is cursing the man who has brought a curse on his city for killing his father and marrying his own mother. He is ignorant of the fact that he himself is that man and he is cursing himself. The audience, on the other hand, knows the situation just as we know the truth about Haman and Mordecai. There is a sweet irony for the believer then to read of how the king commanded Haman (10)
Go at once, … Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for wait for it Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king's gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended. Can you imagine Haman as he got the robe and the horse then robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, This is what is done for the man the king delights to honour!?
"How one earth could this have happened?" he must be thinking. It was the last thing he wanted to happen.
And you see why God did it? To encourage his people. He can turn any situation around. Every now and again he does do it – he converts a Saul of Tarsus, he converts an Augustine or a Luther. We have mentioned Constantine's conversion or whatever it was. Think of how Communism suddenly collapsed a few decades ago and state persecution came almost to a standstill.
He did it also to warn Haman and to warn others who oppose Jesus Christ.
2. Consider the right conclusion of Haman's wife and advisers and learn the lesson
Lastly, I want to focus on the closing verses of the chapter. In verses 12-14 we read
Afterward Mordecai returned to the king's gate. But Haman rushed home, with his head covered in grief, and told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him. His advisers and his wife Zeresh said to him, Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him - you will surely come to ruin! While they were still talking with him, the king's eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared.
Those words of his friends and his wife stand out Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him--you will surely come to ruin! You are fighting a losing battle. You cannot win. They want to distance themselves from Haman's coming fall, of course, but they have now seen it and he needed to see it too. We all need to be convinced of its truth. The Edomites were also carried into exile at the same time as Israel. They did not survive. The Jews did, however, Indeed, they survive to this day despite every effort to destroy them. These are signs that God will be gracious to his people but that unbelievers are without hope. Let's learn the lesson and learn it well.