What kind of king? – Friday 20th November

Esther saves her people

Esther 7
(New International Version)

So the king and Haman went to Queen Esther’s banquet, and as they were drinking wine on the 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.”

Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favour with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”

King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who is he? Where is he—the man who has dared to do such a thing?”

Esther said, “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!”

Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen. The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realizing 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?”

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 pole reaching to a height of fifty cubits[b] stands by Haman’s house. He had it set up for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.”

The king said, “Impale him on it!” So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided.

Reflection

Esther 1-6 explains the background to Esther 7: God’s hands moved to save his people even while they were exiled.

Let’s review the story of Queen Esther from chapter 1.

Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai, who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon along with Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful.

Esther and Mordecai stay true to God and to their Jewish faith, even when they were brought to a foreign land against their will.

King Xerxes doesn’t make his own decisions he is always calling for his wise men, who often seem to give advice that is not so wise.

Xerxes, who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush,,was offended when his Queen, Vashti, had refused to come when he had asked for her to come to him. He had her cast out and called for all 127 provinces to send him their virgins so that he could pick a new queen.

The virgins had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for them, six months with oil of myrrh, and six with perfumes and cosmetics. Esther was taken to King Xerxes in the royal residence in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.

Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favour and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. Esther didn’t tell King Xerxes that she was a Jew because Mordecai had warned her not to

Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate one day when, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the guards, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai.

After these events, King Xerxes honoured Haman, giving him a seat of honour higher than that of all the other nobles. All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honour to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honour.

Haman thought a lot of himself and didn’t like the fact that Mordecai wouldn’t bow before him. He didn’t just want Mordecai to die he wanted every Jew in the 127 provinces dead.

Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king’s administrators for the royal treasury.”

Most kings or leaders would have questioned who these people were, and what customs were strange, and what laws were being broken. No, not Xerxes! The king takes his signet ring from his finger and gives it to Haman “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman, “and do with the people as you please.”

Haman sent out a decree to all 127 provinces to kill all the Jews on a set date: the 13th day in the twelfth month, Adar. He also had a post erected 50 cubits high to impale Mordecai on, and the next day seeks out the King to get permission to kill Mordecai.

But that night King Xerxes couldn’t sleep, and he read from the book of chronicles which told how Mordecai had helped foil a plot to kill him and decided to honour him. He asked Haman how he could best honour someone, and Haman, thinking it had to be him he wanted to honour, said dress him in a royal robe, and give him a horse with the royal insignia, and parade him through the streets proclaiming how much Xerxes honoured him.

Haman was mortified when King Xerxes asked him to do what he had suggested for Mordecai the Jew he wanted to impale. The Jew who would not honour him.

When in Susa Mordecai hears what is to happen to the Jews because he has upset Haman, he throws himself at the king’s gate in sackcloth. Queen Esther sends Hathak, one of the king’s eunuchs, with clothes for Mordecai, and asks why he is so distressed. He sends back with Hathak, both the clothes and details of Haman’s plot for the destruction of the Jews.

When it comes to great women in the bible Esther is one of the great ones. Esther to this point has done as she was asked and follows instruction without question. On this day she takes control: the lives of her people are at stake.

Queen Esther sends this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

Esther goes to the court, and the King is delighted to see her. She touches the Royal sceptre, and proceeds to invite Haman and King Xerxes to a banquet. Chapter 7 shows how her brave actions save all the Jews in the 127 provinces belonging to King Xerxes.

God placed Esther in a place where she could help her people, and Esther was brave enough to do what she needed to do. Firstly she fasted and took everything to God: she prayed for guidance and God gave her a plan, and the strength to carry it out.

Xerxes was a king who didn’t think through his actions. Esther could have said “dear king Xerxes, you gave Haman the right to kill me and my people, when you gave him that ring with the seal on – he sealed our death warrants!”

She didn’t. Haman was the Hitler of his day: he didn’t like the Jews for whatever reason, mostly because they were different, and his solution was to annihilate them all. But our God is supreme over all things and can use us small as we are to help in times of crisis.

Esther, on paper, was just an orphan in a foreign land. She was obedient, she had a different faith to the country she was exiled in. She had a beauty that was not just on the surface, she found favour with those around her.

She could have asked the king for wealth for herself – he offered her up to half his kingdom. She asked for her life and the lives of her people, who had been bought by Haman, to be saved.

God put Esther in that place, at that time. She was born to carry out God’s plan. We are born in this time, and in this place. The question is what is God’s plan for us here in Wigan today?

Esther fasted and prayed for three days with those around her doing the same. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and a number of senior church leaders, are inviting Christians across the nation to participate in a month of prayer as a second lockdown in England comes into force.

Can we, here, in this time and in this place, make a difference? With a sovereign God, the great “I Am”, anything is possible. We just need to pray.

Prayer

Father God,
help us to be prayer warriors for you
at this time and in this place,
for we were born for this:
shine your light in this darkness,
give us the torch,
and we will be the bearers of light.
Amen.

Helen Weavers
Reader

(South Hub)