An Apostolic Reading of Esther
It is traditional to read the book of Esther on Purim. Today we want to tell the story with a new twist. We want to look at this story with an Apostolic flair.
Purim is the story of Queen Esther. They do not know if the book was written to explain the celebration of Purim or if because of the story we now celebrate this holiday. Esther lived sometime between 486-465 BC. She lived during the time of the Persian Empire.
But the story does not start with Esther: it starts with a banquet that King Ahasuerus, also known as Xerxes I, was having. All of those who were anyone were at this banquet. During this banquet the king had all of the glory of his empire on display. On the seventh day of the king's festival, he called for the queen (whose name was Vashti), for she was beautiful, but the queen refused. And so she was banished from his presence forever.
We may say that for the rest of the story, the king represents our Lord, and Vashti represents those who are called but who do not answer the call. Isaiah 50:2 says, "Why, when I came, was there no man; why, when I called, was there no one to answer?" Matthew 22:8-14 says this: "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, 'How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?' The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are invited, but few are chosen."
And that is exactly what the king did. He had his servants go out to find a new queen. They searched throughout the whole region to find the perfect girl. Esther was chosen.
Esther represents the faithful, the called-out ones, the chosen. Before she could appear before the king, she had to go through a time of beautification. This represents the called-out ones who make themselves ready for the day of the King's appearing. 1 John 3:3 tells us, "And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure."
Titus 2:11-14 tells us: "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good."
Revelation 22:14 says, "Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates."
And so Esther prepared herself to become the queen. Now, there was a man named Mordecai and he was Esther's overseer. He looked after her and advised her. We will call him the Holy Spirit. John 16:13 says this: "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come."
There was also a man named Haman, and he plotted evil against Mordecai and his people. He hated Mordecai because he would not bow down to him. We will call Haman the Devil. One day, Mordecai overheard about a plot to kill the king. Mordecai saved the king from this plot to kill him, and the king was very grateful.
Now, Mordecai also warned Esther about Haman's plot to annihilate all of the Jews. Esther did not want to get involved. She did not want anything to disrupt her life. But Mordecai told her that even though the king did not know that she too was Jewish, that that would not save her. He told her, "Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?"
We are all children of the King, and we have all been called for such a time as this. And what time is it? Well, we will answer that question at the end of the story.
The first thing Esther did was tell Mordecai to assemble all of the Jews and pray and fast for three days, and she and her maidens would do the same. Her plan was to seek God and then go into the king's presence, and if she would perish, she would perish. It was not permitted to enter the king's presence unannounced, or else you could die.
Today, we too must prepare to come before our King. He is holy, and we too must be holy. We must examine ourselves, as Psalm 139:23-24 tells us: "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." And again, Matthew 5:23-24 tells us, "So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
So, Esther planned a banquet and entered into the king's presence unannounced, but the king welcomed her. How he loved Esther, just like our King loves us. John 3:16 tells us, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."
The king asked her what was troubling her, and he told her that he would give her up to half of the kingdom. What does our King tell us in Matthew 7:7-8? "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks, finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened." And again we read in Luke 12:32, "Don't fear, little flock. Your Father wants to share His kingdom with you."
The king graciously accepts Esther's offer to dine with her, and he and Haman that evening ate with the Queen.
Later that night, the king could not sleep, and so he had his attendant read from the Book of Records. Revelation 20:12 tells us that God is keeping His own books: "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done."
Again in Malachi 3:16-18 it says this: "Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored His name. 'On the day when I act,' says the Lord Almighty, 'they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.'"
It was at this reading of the Records that the king heard of Mordecai and how he saved the king's life. The king realized that he never showed his appreciation to Mordecai. So the king told Haman to get out the king's royal robe and his horse that he would ride and lead Mordecai throughout the streets, crying out, "This is the man that the king wishes to honor."
Isn't that like our Lord, to give His people honor in the midst of their enemies? Psalm 23:5 tells us, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." 1 Peter 1:7 says, "So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Messiah Yeshua."
The next day, Esther had the king once again for another banquet, but this time the king said to her, "What is your petition? It will be granted to you even up to half my kingdom." And so Esther boldly answered him and told the king of Haman's plot to destroy her people. The king arose in anger and had Haman, along with all of his sons, hanged. He also allowed every Jewish person to arm themself against those who would do them harm. This is a picture of the final judgment when our King Yeshua will judge His enemies. The Devil and all of his demons and the wicked will be thrown into the lake of fire for eternity.
We too are not left defenseless against our enemies, for God has given us weapons of warfare, as it speaks of in 2 Corinthians 10:4: "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." And again in 1 Thessalonians 5:8, "But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet."
And of course Ephesians 6:11-19: "Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel."
Today, we want to challenge everyone here to be an Esther. We believe that everyone here has been called by God for such a time as this and that we too must be like Esther, for the days are days of darkness, and darkness is overtaking the light.
Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:1-9, "But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people."
Matthew 24:5-14 tells us, "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Messiah,' and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
Today, we see these things clearly. Our families and communities and this country as a whole are being torn apart. We have broken down from family to community to country. The Devil has set his sights on those who believe, and that has resulted in an increase of persecution and martyrdom all around the world, including here in our country. There is a decrease in attendance in our churches and congregations. The youth have fallen away. The average churchgoer no longer lives by godliness and holiness in its pure meaning. Drugs, alcohol, and every kind of uncleanness have become hidden sins in our congregations and out to our communities, from so many of our pastors to our city leaders. Today more than ever God is calling a people who will rise up and do what is right before God.
Like Esther, we must fast and pray. Fasting and prayer are lost virtues. There is great power in fasting. Yeshua tells us in Matthew 16:24-26 to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him. We must stand in the gap and pray, but as Ezekiel 22:30 tells us so sadly, "I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one."
Today, you see in so many churches that people do not come out for prayer. They do not take the time to intercede and pray it through until they have the victory. Ephesians 6:12 tells us, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." There is a spiritual battle going on like never before, and God is calling on people who are listening to His voice and who are looking for the signs of His coming.
As we come and stand before our King Yeshua, interceding with longsuffering for our families and for the lost, we must fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12). We must contend for the faith (Jude 3). Esther was a prayer warrior. She was an overcomer. She was more than a conqueror. Why? Because she knew that God would be faithful to fight alongside her. She spoke out against the evil. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:11 to expose the deeds of darkness. She did just that with a boldness and a confidence.
We must be strong and courageous in the face of evil. To quote Esther, "If I perish, I perish." We must put on the armor of God with prayers and supplications and petitions, and we must fight the battle on our knees and with our words.
Are you up to the challenge? Are you willing to face evil and speak out like Esther who boldly told the king all about Haman? We must get out the same message that Yeshua Himself told His disciples to speak in Mark 1:15, "Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand." If we have the faith of Esther, Mark 11:23 tells us this: "Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him." We can speak to the walls and they will fall. We can speak to the waters and they will part.
Today, let us make that commitment to make our congregations and our communities and this country a better place—a place where God's name will be exalted and His kingdom will advance—because, like Esther, we will not escape the evil of this world by sitting back and thinking that, just because we are God's children, no harm will come to us. We know that this is not true, because God's people all over this world are being persecuted and facing evil every moment of every day.
Rise up, all of you who are Esthers, and take upon yourselves the yoke of the kingdom, for 1 Peter 2:9 tells us, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light."
Let us be like all those brave women of the Bible that made a difference in this world and for the kingdom because they fought for the truth of God in prayer and in deed, like Rahab, Deborah, Ruth, and Esther and so many more who in their own little ways stood up and said, "If I perish, I perish." The time is now, the time is today. Let us commit to prayer and fasting and spreading the Word of faith with boldness and courage.