Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Women of Faith #1: Esther: Queen of Courage

Esther: Queen of Courage

For Such a Time as This
Text: Esther

In her book, Living with Love, Josephine Robertson tells a story. "In 1883, a youthful missionary,  Joe Roberts, arrived by stagecoach in a blizzard to minister to the Shosone Tribe of Wyoming. Soon after he, the son of the chief was shot by a soldier in a brawl, and Chief Washakie vowed to kill the first white man he met in retribution. Since this might mean the start of a long, bloody feud, young Roberts decided to take act. Seeking out the camp, fifteen miles away in the mountains, he stood outside the chief’s teepee and called the chief's name. When Washakie appeared, Roberts opened his shirt and bared his chest.

"I have heard of your vow," he said, "The other white men have families, but I am alone. Kill me instead."

Washakie was amazed and told him to come into his tent. "How do you have so much courage?" he asked.

Joe Roberts told him about Christ, His death, His teachings. They talked for hours. When Joe left, the chief of the Shoshones had renounced his vow to kill and resolved to become a Christian.

Would you if you were the missionary Joe Roberts travel 15 miles to offer yourself to appease a father’s rage in order to preach the Gospel? Would you sieze that time, in the midst of death, anger and sorrow, to introduce yourself as the new preacher in town? That took real courage and faith in what we are going to talk about this morning, the Providence of God in the story of Esther, as we open our series for the month of May, Women of Faith.

God’s Providence  Esther 1:10-12

On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, 11  To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. 12  But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.

The Providence of the Past Nations, Peoples and Events

In the book of Esther we see several events which seem random or unconnected, but actually are under the providence of God. Events that will work to bring about God’s will and save God’s people.
In this case we have an enormous banquet put on by the most powerful but now drunk king in all the world at this time, Ahasuersu or as other histories recorded him Xerxes.  We have Queen Amestris who the Bible give us as Vashti, a title which meant “most beautiful.” Then we have the critical event in our story, the king calls for his queen to dress up and show herself before his guests, which may have numbered in the 10s of thousands but the queen refuses to come. We are not told exactly why she refuses. Was it because of the drunkenness of the guests? Was it because she did not want to be paraded like a prize horse. Perhaps it was because she had her own banquet for the women at another palace and it was her duty to stay there. We don’t know but her refusal brings about a cascade of reactions and crises that only God could use to accomplish His own purpose.
So let us discuss Providence because the book of Esther is a perfect example.

The Providence of the Present Nations, People and Events

Learning to trust God in His providence not in the past as we can see with hindsight in the book of Esther and all the Bible, but trusting God’s providence now in our present when it is not visible at all and we must touch providence by faith not by sight.
Providence: Literally means foresight, but is generally used to denote God's preserving and governing all things by means of second causes.

Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.,

Col 1:17  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

God's providence extends to:
The affairs of men

Proverbs 21:1 The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

James 4:14-15 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

It applies even to the free actions of men Pro19:21, 20:24; Php 2:13 Eph 2:10

As regards sinful actions of men, they are represented as occurring by God's permission and as controlled and overruled for good. God does not cause or approve of sin, but only limits, restrains, overrules it for good. The mode of God's providential government is altogether unexplained. We only know that it is a fact that God does govern all his creatures and all their actions; that this government is....

universal Ps 103:17-19
particular Mt 10:29-31
efficacious Ps 33:11 Job 23:13
embraces events apparently contingent Pr 16:9,33 19:21 21:1
is consistent with his own perfection 2Ti 2:13
and to his own glory Ro 9:17 11:36

Illustration: “We Sent Two Boats and a Helicopter.”

Here's a great story about providence. During a terribel flood, volunteers risked their lives to rescue victims stranded in the deluge. One old Pentecostal preacher was up to his knees in the fast-rising waters when a rowboat came by. "Hop in, we'll save you!"

"No thanks, the Lord will take care of me."

A short while later, the water had risen to the roof and the man had climbed there for safety.  A motor boat was sent to save him. Again he declined: "No thanks, I have faith.  The Lord will save me."

Soon the water was up to his chin, a helicopter was dispatched at the last minute. "Climb aboard, this is your last chance!"

"Thanks anyway, but I have faith.  I don't need you, the Lord will save me."

Before the helicopter returned home, the old man drowned and went to heaven.  He was bewildered and mad, banging on the Pearly Gates. He bitterly complained to St. Peter, "I never doubted, I had faith why wasn’t I saved?"

Peter looked at him, shook his head, and explains: "Hey! We sent two boats and a helicopter!”

The providence of God continues through the events of the Persian court as Vashti is removed as the queen, and a search is began for a replacement to teach her and all the women of Persia a lesson about who is really in charge, the king or queen, men or women. It is an interesting side story that history tells us that though Vashti was removed and Esther put in her place, the lesson ended after that and Vashti was put back into her role as queen sometime after our story ends. So in the final tally the battle between the sexes wasn’t dealt a decisive blow here, but if you are married, you probably already know that.
But lets move back to something easier to deal with, God’s providence. Providence especially when it comes to the nation of Israel or the church will be especially seen in God’s Person.

God’s Person  Esther 4:13-14

Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. 14  For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

God Uses Esther to save Her people

In chapter 2 we once again see God’s Providence at work as we meet Mordecai and Esther through the search for Vashti’s replacement. Mordecai was one of the Kings officers who served in the court and whose station was “at the Kings Gate” this may have been a literal gate in the palce or it may have simply meant a place where the kings officers would wait to be called to the King.
We then met Esther, her Persion name, in Hebrew her name was Hadassah. Mordecai had raised her as his dauther when her father, Mordecia’s uncle had died.

Esther has been installed as the replacement of Vashti in the Kings attention and affections when in chapter 3 we meet Haman, a proud vain sycophantic man who want first place in the Kings court. When he ride out one day past the the other officers in the court Mordecia refused to bow down as the others do. Seems the Jews have a problem with bowing before anyone but God. Haman in is spite to punish Mordecia decides to destroy all the Jews in all the lands of the Empire. An Empire that stretches from throughout most of western Asia at this time.

Haman though is position with the King, has a law put into effect that on the 13th day of the 12 month all the Jews in all the kindom were to be killed and those who did the killing could keep the possessions of the families that they killed as a bounty.

It is under the danger of that decree that Mordecai comes to Esther and tells her she must be God’s Person for this hour. Eshter had never even told the King or anyone else that she was a Jew and now she must walk into the King’s presence without an invitation, which could result her own death and try and stop the slaughter of Mordecai and her people.
Mordecai in convincing her asks  this famous question, “who knows whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this.

He then appeals to her using three principles in 4:13-14
Faith: …then shall deliverance arise to the Jews from another place (based upon God’s promises.)
Fidelity: Thy fathers house shall be destroyed (loyalty and duty to your family)
Fortitude: thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this (courage to act)

We know God used Esther and Mordecai but the question for us today is….

Will God Use You?

In the Bible there are many examples of “for such a time as this.”

Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego: Daniel 3:16  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 17  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18  But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Daniel in the lions den: Daniel 6:10  Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
Peter and John before the Sanhedrian.: Acts 5:27  And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28  Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. 29  Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

You might say, “sure if those things happened I’d stand for God just like the heroes of the Bible.”  Le me give you some other examples from today.

A teacher attacks Christianity and opens the class for discussion.  Do you speak or hold your tongue?
Co-workers or friends call you over to listen to a dirty story or watch an immoral video on their smart phone.  Do ackwardly smile and just go along?

Your children want you to buy them music or take them to a show that you know is a bad influence and show sin as enjoyable.  Do you say ok?

Friends decide to eat out after work and when you arrive they order a pitcher of beer for your table even though they know you don’t drink as a Christian. Should you stay while they drink? 
You and a friend are driving down the highway and pass a car with the hood open and steam coming out of the radiator.  A mile or two later you pass a man walking with a container in his hand. Do you stop and help him?

The point is that no one can know for sure when God will use us, therefore we must be always ready “for such a time as this.”

How do you know what to do in these situations? What principles will you use to decide what to do?  Just like Mordecai’s appeal to Esther we must have:

Faith in God’s promises
Fidelity to your God, you family and your Church
Fortitude, the courage to act now.
Those principles will never fail you in any decision you will make. I think they are reflected and summarized here in ….

1 Chronicles 19:13  Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly for our people, and for the cities of our God: and let the LORD do that which is good in his sight.
God’s providence is at work, God’s person is in place and now we will see…

God’s Power Esther 8:5-7

And said, If it please the king, and if I have found favour in his sight, and the thing seem right before the king, and I be pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews which are in all the king's provinces: 6  For how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred? 7  Then the king Ahasuerus said unto Esther the queen and to Mordecai the Jew, Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and him they have hanged upon the gallows, because he laid his hand upon the Jews.

God’s Power through Esther and Mordecai Saves the Jews.

Esther risks her life to go before the King and he points his scepter at her allowing her to live and come into his presence. She invites him and Haman to a dinner which of course appeals greatly to the vanity of Haman. At the dinner she pleads for her life and the King asks who would dare to threaten her and her people and Esther points and says, “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.”
The King is filled with wrath and has Haman hanged on the gallows that Haman had built to kill Mordecai. He then signs a law that allows the Jewish people to defend themselves when the day comes that Haman had devised to have them eradicated.
And though Esther, Mordecai and the King were all involved, it was God in His power, working thorugh thm, who brought about their deliverance.

Can God work through you?

If you are a child of God you want the answer to be, yes. But know that even if you are not saved, the answer is still yes. In the former God works though you willingly and in the latter He still works through you though you may be unwilling. Either way God’s power, through God’s providence shall accomplish God’s will.

I hope and pray that all of us here are in the first group. We want to willingly be used of God, to see His will done and power seen in our choices and service.  We must always be aware of the reality and the opportunities in the same way that Mordecai spoke to Esther, “for such a time as this?”  Has God brought you, has God brought our church, has God brought others, into the times and events of our lives, for such a time as this?

What open doors do we see? What challenges? What chances for service? What tests of faith?
Are you facing these with faith, fidelity and fortitude?  Or are you shrinking back from what you should be, true, honorable and courageous?

Ezekiel 22:30  And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.
Is there a gap, a breech in the wall, that you should be standing in?  Is there a break in the battle shield wall that you should be stepping into?  You must be willing to trust God and then like Esther and Mordecia, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo, Like Daniel, Peter, John and so many others, you can be used of God for such a time as this.


Let me conclude with the most important event in all of history when “for such a time as this” came down to one man in a garden and His choice made a difference for all of us for all eternity.
Christ in the garden of Gethsemane.

Luke 22:39-44  And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.  And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.   And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Christ stood at the crossroad of all time and eternity, at the edge of man’s salvation or destruction.  He had come into this world “for such a time as this” and He would not run, he would not turn away, though His heart and soul staggered at the cost and the pain it would bring.
What has God brought us to in our lives, our schools our home, our workplaces “for such a time as this?”  Yes it may be frightening, painful or embarrassing. It may cause physical or emotional loss, but God has placed you there for just such an opportunity. 
All of us face our own time of decision, our own time to stand in the gap and we must all decide …my will or thy will be done.

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