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Esther 3-7: Of Plans and Providence Print E-mail
Sunday, 10 July 2016

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The best laid plans of men are never guaranteed success. Generals lose battles because of rain. Teams lose games because of injury. Businesses go broke because of new technology. Perhaps it could be argued that in each of these situations there should have been a proper backup plan. But even those fail. There arenít enough backup plans to account for everything that could possibly happen. Granted good plans can (and often do) produce good results, but there is no guarantee. Why? Because men are finite beings. We donít know the future. We donít know how things are going to play out. We donít know what the next hour will bring, much less the next day or week or year. Our plans are always limited by our lack of knowledge and understanding.

But not so with the Lord. His plans are eternal. His purposes will never be thwarted (Job 42:2). He will always succeed. Why? Because He knows all things. He knows every day from eternity past to eternity future. He knows every thought of every man. He doesnít just know the playbook, He exhaustively knows all the players. His omniscience, or ability to know all things, guarantees that all His plans will succeed. He works all things according to His will. We call this His providence and it is a great comfort to the people of God (and their finite plans).

We see a great example of this in the story of Esther. In particular, we see it in the lives of Haman and Mordecai. As we saw last week, Esther is the orphaned exile who became queen. The former queen fell out of favor with King Ahasuerus and Esther took her place. With the story this week, we see the significance of her position. And even though the Lord is never named in this book, we see Him behind the curtain accomplishing His purpose of saving His people so that He can send His Son. So then, letís quickly look through the story and note the plans of man and the providence of God.

The plans of man (ch. 3-5)

The story begins with the plans of Haman to destroy the Jews. Look at 3:1-6. The author introduces us to Haman by telling us that he is an Agagite. Anybody know why that is significant? Remember the story that we studied a few weeks ago about Saul losing the kingdom because he refused to kill a particular king, who was an enemy of Israel. Anybody remember the name of that king? The king that Saul spared was Agag. He was king over the Amalekites who attacked Israel when they were in the wilderness. Haman is a descendent of this king and these people. So already we know that he is not friendly with Israel.
Perhaps for this reason, we are told that Mordecai refused to bow to him.

We may be tempted to condemn Mordecai for his pride, but the text does not condemn him for the refusal. While it does not necessarily commend the action, it does note that it is the reason that Haman was so angry with the Jews. And what is his plan? He wants to kill them all. So he cast lots to see when he should do it. Look at verse 7. I only note this because even here we see a glimpse of Godís work behind the scenes. The lot tells Haman to carry out his plan in 11 months, which is more than enough time for the plan to be foiled. Then Haman convinces the king. Look at verses 8-11. Haman lies to the king about the Jews not obeying the laws of Persia and attempts to bribe him with money. The king agrees to Hamanís plan and the notice is sent to the entire kingdom. Hamanís plan to annihilate the Jews is set in motion.

But Mordecai and Esther develop a plan as well, only their plan is not to destroy the Jews but to save them. We are told in the beginning of chapter 4 that Mordecai wept and mourned over the plans of Haman. Look at 4:1-3. In light of the events that took place this week, it is good for us to see the people of God mourn and weep over evil in their land. However you view what took place in Minnesota and Dallas, we must all admit that we are literally killing ourselves in the streets. We should mourn for such evil as Mordecai and the Jews did on this occasion. When Esther hears about Mordecaiís mourning, she sends a servant to find out what is going on. Mordecai informs her of Hamanís plan to destroy the Jews and pleads with her to intervene. But Esther is not sure about this approach. Look at verses 9-11. She knows that to appear before the king without being invited could cost her her life. So she is hesitant to act. But Mordecai encourages her. Look at verses 12-14. Mordecai points her to providence: ĎPerhaps you have been shown favor for such a time as this.í Esther listens to Mordecai and agrees to the plan. Look at verses 15-17. She is willing to put her life on the line for her people. She is willing to take the risk. And she has no guarantee from the Lord that all will go well. But she is willing to act.

We are told how she goes about talking with the king in chapter 5. She comes before the king and he holds out his scepter to grant her permission to speak with him. With that important act we know that Esther is safe. But what about the Jews? Instead of confronting the situation head-on, Esther decides to play things out a bit. So she invites the king and Haman to a feast. Instead of asking him at this feast, she invites him to a second feast. It seems that she wants to be sure that the time is right for addressing the issue and confronting Haman. Yet, little does she know that Haman is making more plans as well. After the first feast, he returns home and is again put out with Mordecaiís refusal to bow. His friends tell him to build a gallows and have him hanged. Mordecai likes that plan and decides to ask the king for Mordecaiís life in the morning. At the end of chapter 5, the situation has reached a climax. Will Esther finally talk with the King about the Jews? Will Haman get permission to kill Mordecai? Which plan will succeed?

The providence of God (ch. 6-7)

The great reversal in the book takes place in chapter 6. It begins with a sleepless night. Look at 6:1-3. On the very night that Haman was planning to kill Mordecai the king cannot sleep and has his servant read to him out of the book of chronicles that contains the story of Mordecai saving the king. Coincidence? (I mean you have to wonder how big was the book of chronicles?) No, providence. The Lord is not named but we see Him working in this situation. He has a plan and He will bring it about. Notice that Estherís plan might not have saved Mordecai. She could have showed up at the second feast unaware that Mordecai had been killed. But the Lord had a plan to save His servant. The sleepless night of the king turned into an opportunity for him to remember Mordecai which essentially saved his life. And who would the Lord use to honor Mordecai? How about Haman! Look at verses 4-9.

Once again we see the ugliness of Haman. He came early to speak with the king about killing Mordecai. Yet, the king was more interested in knowing about how to honor one of his servants. Haman, full of pride and arrogance, assumes that the king wants to honor him so he describes his perfect day. And then the hammer falls. Look at verses 10-11. Wow! Can you picture it? Mordecai dressed in the kingís clothes, wearing the kingís crown, riding on the kingís horse! And Haman, can you see Haman? Can you hear him announcing again and again: ĎThus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.í What a reversal! Haman went to kill the man and instead lead him through the streets as one honored by the king. Best laid plansÖ

But it gets worse for Haman. He goes home to tell his wife and friends what happened and even they turn on him. Even they recognize that providence is against him. They say to him: ĎIf Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.í Why would they draw that conclusion? Perhaps they were Amalekites too and they knew their own history. Maybe they had heard about the God of the Jews and knew that He could not be defeated! Or maybe even they could see the hand of Providence working against Haman at this point. Either way, they do not give him good news.

And rightfully so, for he is living his last day. As soon as his friends make their statement, Hamn is taken away to Estherís second feast. When the king asks for an explanation this time, she answers him. Look at 7:3-4. Notice her language: ĎIf I have found favor in your sight, O kingÖí How is this whole situation even possible? From an earthly point of view, itís easy: the king thought Esther was hot. But from the view of providence: God had a plan all along. And how does the king respond? Look at verses 5-6. Esther tells the king about Haman and his plan and Haman knows that he is in trouble. Yet, it seems the king is in a hard spot as well. After all, it was his edict that went around to all the provinces. Can he just change his mind? Apparently, before he has to make a decision, Haman makes things worse for himself and easier for the king. Look at verses 7-10. No matter what Haman did, he could not bring about his plans. And in the end he was hung upon the very gallows that he built for his enemy, which happens when manís plans are at war with Godís providence. He will always win in the end.

Hamanís plan to kill the Jews did not come to pass. He got the kingís permission, sent out the edict, and thought everything was going his way. But he was foolish to think that he could defeat the God of the Jews. Even in his trying to get the upper hand, he was bringing about Godís purposes. Mordecai was saved (and honored by the king). Esther was saved. And the Jews were saved. Godís providence overcame the plans of this man.

But this is not just a story about Haman and Esther and Mordecai. It is not just a story about the Jews. It is a story about Godís great plan to save a people for Himself. At the right time, God would send His Son, born of a virgin, to live a perfect life and die on a cross for the sins of the world. And how did that happen exactly? God used the evil plans of men in the city of Jerusalem to bring about the death of His Son for the salvation of His people. The early church prayed: ĎFor truly in this city (Jerusalem) there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take placeí Acts 4:27-28. The death of Jesus did not catch God by surprise. His plans were not frustrated by Herod or Pontius Pilate or the Gentiles or the Jews. No, He used them to bring about our salvation. They had a plan to put down this threat to their rule, but God had a plan to save His people. My hope is that we will turn from our sins and trust in Jesus as Godís plan to save us from our sins. And in days of doubt and despair, I pray that the promise of Godís plan and the truth that nothing can thwart it will be a comfort and balm to all of His children. Amen.
~ William Marshall ~

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