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Esther 8-10: The Great Reversal Print E-mail
Sunday, 17 July 2016

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Most people love a great plot twist. We love it when it is looking like the heroes are not going to win in the end and all will be lost, when out of nowhere their deliverance comes and they all live happily ever after. Life doesnít always work out like that here in the real world, but we do it enjoy it when the circumstances change dramatically for the good and the bad guys are defeated. We are wired to appreciate such reversals of fortune. Remember the Rocky movies? I remember going and seeing Rocky IV (I believe) in the theater, the one where Rocky fights the Russian who had killed his best friend in the ring at the beginning of the movie. When the final fight begins, Rocky gets pummelled for the first few rounds. Yet, it seems like that is his plan. He is trying to wear the Russian down. And then, he finally decides to throw a real punch and it lands right on the jaw of his opponent. People in the theater stood up and cheered. The makers of the film really caught the power of the great reversal.

But they are not the first nor the last. The book of Esther is a story of great reversals. The orphaned exile becomes the Queen in the first couple of chapters. And in the heart of the story, just when you think Haman is going have Mordecai hanged on the gallows he has built, the circumstances change and Haman finds himself headed for the noose. Esther pleads for the king to stop Haman and save her people and we see him do just that by the end of chapter 7. The rest of the story could be considered the epilogue. Not because it is unimportant, but simply because it is telling us how everything played out after Haman was defeated. And the author of Esther calls it a great reversal. Look at 9:1. So what reversals do we see in the close of this book? Letís consider three of them this morning.

Mordecai is victorious over Haman (ch. 8)

Mordecaiís life was being threatened by Haman, but now that he is dead how will things turn out for Mordecai? Look at 8:1-2. Talk about a serious reversal. Not only did Haman die on the gallows, the king gave Mordecai the signet ring right off of his dead finger and Queen Esther put him in charge of Mordecaiís home. But it only gets better. Look at verses 3-8. Once again we see that the king is pleased with Esther (she is pleasing in his eyes). But the edict of Haman is still in place and it seems that it cannot be revoked (such an edict was hard to overturn in Persia). So the king allows Haman to write another edict.

What did this edict say? Look at verses 10-12. Since Hamanís edict seemingly could not be revoked, Mordecaiís edict allowed the Jews to take up arms to defend themselves against those who would try to harm them in the name of Haman. They could do to their enemies what they were trying to do to them. Haman thought that he would annihilate the Jews, but Mordecai reverses the situation. He sends his edict throughout the kingdom so that the Jews will be ready for the coming day.

Remember how Haman wanted to march through the city of Susa and be praised by all of the people? Mordecai has already experienced that once for saving the king, but we see again that his favor with the people keeps growing and growing. Look at verses 15-17. Mordecai received what Haman craved. Everything that Haman attempted to accomplish for himself is now happening to Mordecai. It is a great reversal indeed!

The Jews are victorious over their enemies (ch. 9)

So finally the day arrives. Haman had cast the lot to determine this day for killing the Jews months ago, but things have greatly changed since his plan was put into motion. So how does it play out on this fateful day? Look at 9:1. The kingís edict of exterminating the Jews was about to be carried out, but instead the reverse occurred. Instead of the Jews being killed, their enemies were defeated. Look at verses 2-10. The enemies never stood a chance. Fear of the Jews had filled the whole land and any who dared to attack them paid a heavy price with their lives. And the victory does not end there. Look at verses 11-15. Now this may seem odd to us. Why would Esther ask for another day? Doesnít that seem excessive?

Of course, part of the answer lies in the fact that the culture of the day was different from our own. It was not strange to seek complete victory over oneís enemies. Yet, that is not the only issue. As is seen in several accounts of the Old Testament, God sometimes uses the Israelites to exact judgment on other nations. This happened in Egypt with Moses and in Canaan with Joshua. The Lord uses His people to judge the pagan nations. Even here, the author repeatedly notes that the Jews did not take any plunder at this time, which seems to indicate that they viewed this victory as belonging to the Lord. He was bringing temporal judgment on the Persians and they were simply His agents.

The victory of the Jews over those that sought them harm becomes a national holiday for Godís people. Look at verses 20-22. It was a holiday to celebrate the great reversal. Look at verses 23-28. Even Queen Esther gave her command in writing that Purim should be celebrated each year (v.29-32). Why are they celebrating? They set this day aside to celebrate each year because what was supposed to be the end of the Jews became a day of great victory for them over their enemies. They celebrate because their fortunes were reversed. Instead of defeat they got victory. Instead of death, they got life. Purim was to be a celebration of this great reversal.

God is victorious over Ahasuerus (ch. 10)

The end of chapter 9 seems to wrap everything up, but the author makes one final comment on king Ahasuerus. Look at 10:1-3. Why would the author include these verses? He is once again telling us of the greatness of Ahasuerus. He was able to tax the land. He had power and might. His great acts were recorded in the Book of Chronicles. But along with this, we are also told of the greatness of Mordecai the Jew. He was an exile living in a foreign land, but he became second in charge. The Jews loved him and he loved and served his people well. Ahasuerus was great, but so was Mordecai.

So then, why would the author close the book with these words? I think it leaves us with two lessons. First, we see the greatness of God, even when His people are in exile. It seems impossible that Mordecai the exile could become second in command, but he does. It seems crazy that an orphaned Jew could be the Queen, but she was. It seems unbelievable that the Jews would get victory over their captors, but they did. God works behind the scenes to accomplish all of this in the reign of Ahasuerus. He might have been a great king, but he was still serving under the rule of the Sovereign King of the world. Yahweh is the true King of the story (and all stories).

But second, it also leaves us longing for more, after all, Mordecai is only second in command at this point and the Jews are still scattered through the kingdom of Persia. When will God truly set His people free? When will He send a Savior who will be second in command to no one? One of my commentatorís notes: ďIn other words, the text itself shows us that the great reversal of the Book of Esther is not yet the Great Reversal of full redemption. It was a great deliverance, to be sure, but any deliverance that rest on the influence of a single individual who must inevitably grow old and die, in an empire that has not been radically transformed, is at best only partial and temporary. We need a greater reversal yet, one which results in the coming of the true King, the Prince of Peace, whose reign will never end!Ē1 The book of Esther leaves us longing for that future King.

The great reversals in the book of Esther are a joy to read. The orphaned exile becomes Queen. The hated foreigner becomes second in command. Godís people get victory over their enemies instead of being destroyed. All of this prepares us for the even greater reversal that comes through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. He is the true King to set His people free.

How do we see the great reversal in His life? Let me close by mentioning a couple of ways we see this. The enemies of God must have rejoiced when they saw the humility of Christ. He was born in a lowly manger, lived a meager life, and died on a cruel Roman cross, sold out by one of His own disciples. They must have loved that. Or maybe they knew that Jesus was doing exactly what we needed to have victory over sin, Satan, and death. It seemed like He was defeated, but the grave could not hold our King! He rose victorious and conquered all of our enemies. It was the greatest reversal of all time. Not only that, but through His death and resurrection He has now made a way for His enemies, that would include us, to actually become the sons and daughters of God. We are born in sin, born as rebels against God, but by turning and believing in Jesus we can become His friends. We can be brought into the Kingdom through faith. What an amazing reversal! The book of Esther gives us a glimpse of Godís work in reversing a situation for the good of His people. But our redemption through Christ is the ultimate fulfillment. It is the Great Reversal. And it brings hope for us all! Amen.

1 Iain M. Duguid, Esther and Ruth REC (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2005), p. 122.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Friday, 12 August 2016 )

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