The story of Esther is often misunderstood, but it actually describes an imperfect woman that God used despite her brokenness. Think about all the messiness and drama of "The Bachelor" meshed with “The Princess Diaries,” and you get Esther. In this message, we look at the first two chapters to see how God is at work in the details and tragedies of life. Even when it looks like He is hidden, we can be assured that God is always there.
All right. Well, welcome friends in the room in El Paso, Phoenix, Tulsa, Austin, Houston, Fayetteville, Philly, wherever you are joining, and especially friends here. We're kicking off a brand new series tonight on the book of Esther. It is one of the most unique books in all of the Bible. So if this is your first night, you chose a great night to come, because we're about to open up this book that is like if Game of Thrones, The Bachelor, and Princess Diaries had a baby, that would be the book of Esther. So it is about to go down in here.
Hey, let me start by sharing a little bit about me, and it'll give us some tracks to where we're going. My team would say that I am a little bit of a germaphobe. Like, I like to keep Purell around me all the time. If you are sick, I don't want you to come into work. Don't be a hero. I'm not impressed by how tough you are. You're just being selfish, and you're getting all the rest of us sick.
Yesterday, I was writing this message. I feel like all the coronavirus has already made everybody a little bit more like, "Cough, cough.""Uh, excuse me?" I was at Starbucks, and it was like everywhere that I went in this Starbucks, I switched seats three different times, because I kept sitting next to people who were coughing.
You're like, "Dude, what are you doing here right now? You should be home, and now all of us are going to be sick because of you." And then I switched seats, and I sat right next to a guy. People just don't know how to cough appropriately. Like, cough into your arm or into your hand or into your shirt. Don't just let it out there, people.
Then, I went to the restroom… Somebody told me this recently. I went to go wash my hands in the midst of working on this message, and they didn't have paper towels. They only had the air vents. Somebody told me this past week that if you wash your hands and you blow dry your hands, you might as well not even wash your hands because it just circulates all that air and blows all the different things, bacteria and germs that are in the air, on there.
I'm like, "Dude, I'm toast now." Just thinking, "I'm for sure going to get out of here and get sick." I find myself in those moments going like, "Man, I just wish I could see the germ presence here. Like, I wish I had microscopic eyes that would allow me to know, 'Oh man, I can see those things flying through the air right now.' Or, 'Someone who sat in this chair before me…Don't sit in that chair, because that is the flu chair. If you could go over here…'"
I wish I just had an ability to see, because you know it's there. You know that they're all around you, but you can't really see where all these different germs are. This is going somewhere, by the way. I'm not just getting this off my chest. I wish I had the ability to almost see that microscopically, the presence of something I know is there, but I can't really see it in the moment.
The reason I start there is because I think that for me, a lot of times, I feel that way about God. Here's what I mean. I know that he is present and I know that he is at work, but I just can't always see exactly how he is at work and what he is doing behind the scenes, if you will. I can't always see…
Maybe for you it's in a dating relationship, and you're wondering, "Man, is this person the person that God would have me move forward with?" Or maybe for you, it's a career or job, wondering like, "God, did you just open up a door and you want me to walk through that door? Is this you working here?"
Sometimes when we look back in life, we're able to see, "Man, I just think that was a God thing. I think he was in all that and I'm sure he had me live in that dorm room back then next to that person because this was going to happen." But in the moment, it's really hard to see. I can find myself wishing, "I just wish I knew what God was up to. I know he is there. I know he is at work, but I just wish I could see what I can't see."
The book of Esther was a message to the people of Israel that even when it looks like God is hidden, you can rest assured he is working. It's a book that… Really, the reason I say that is throughout the entire book, there's something really interesting. It's one of two books in the Bible that never mentions the name God. It never talks about prayer. It never talks about God.
It never foreshadows even extra-spiritual things or supernatural, if you will, things in terms of how we often think of miraculous things, but it clearly showcases the providence or the hand of God moving the pieces around and God working and moving the hearts of people, the locations of people, and directing the lives of people.
The name Esther even means hidden. It was a message that was given to the people of Israel to know confidently, "Even when you can't see God in the forefront of him at work, you can know he is at work and is working things for his purposes all around you." So tonight, we're going to start and look at the first couple chapters in this book, chapters 1 and 2, where we can begin to trace some of the ways that you and I can know, "Hey, this is where God is at work."
Tonight, we're going to talk about some of the areas so that you can know, "Here are some of the ways that God is at work." For us to dive in, I have to do a little bit of like, "Here are some historical lessons," so everybody put their thinking cap on to get a little refresher on what exactly is going on.
So Esther is the main character in the book. The entire thing takes place in the Persian Empire 500 years before Jesus was around. Here's like what the Old Testament is about, if you don't know anything about faith, religion, Christianity. The Bible has two parts. The first part is the Old Testament. The second part is the New Testament.
The first part, the Old Testament, is about God's relationship with the people of Israel. He had something called a covenant, which is a relationship that he had with this nation called Israel. He basically said, "Hey, if you worship and follow me, it's going to go really well for you. If you worship foreign gods, which by the way are not real, but if you worship them, I'm going to let you be ruled by foreign rulers. So worship me, things go well. Worship foreign gods, they don't, and you'll be conquered by foreign rulers or I'll give you over to foreign rulers."
In this period, the nation of Israel had rebelled against God. They were not listening, so God was like, "Hey, I told you this is what was going to happen. You're basically in time out." He sends this empire called the Babylonian Empire. Okay, this is going somewhere. They come in, a guy named Nebuchadnezzar. You may have heard the story of Daniel and all that, but it's in the book of Daniel.
Basically, he comes in and he is like, "Hey, I'm now the ruler of you guys and the rest of the world in this incredible kingdom." He would do something really interesting. When he would go in and conquer, he would basically take the best of the best from a city. So he goes into Jerusalem and says, "I want the top 10 percent. If you're in the top 10 percent, you're coming with me. Top 10 percent in looks, gifts, intelligence, any arena. You're coming with me." And he made them slaves.
So they lived underneath this and God was like, "I told you. You need to worship me. It goes well. You worship foreign gods, you're going to have foreign rulers." But people didn't listen. They were conquered. They had slaves taken to Babylon. So then things are going along and this Persian king… A new empire comes on the scene.
The Persian Empire comes in and dominates the Babylonian Empire. They're like, "Hey, I'm the new ruler." And a guy named Cyrus is basically the ruler of the kingdom of Persia. He sets up the biggest empire the world has ever seen. Takes out Babylon. He is the most chill leader, we're told, in the Bible. We're really told he was a good king.
Something kind was said about a foreign, pagan king. He didn't know God, but something nice was said in that he allowed anybody who was a slave… He was like, "I don't believe in slaves. You guys can go home if you want to." So anyone who was exiled to Babylon could go home. The Persian Empire began.
Inside of this, there was a Jewish person, a part of a family, named Mordecai and a girl named Esther. They were some of the exiles who were allowed to return home, but they and their families had been there for decades and decades. They were like, "This is the only home I've ever known. I'm living here."
The story of Esther takes place inside of this time frame. The Persian Empire… So today, we're going to look inside of that story. Where this takes place is in modern-day Iran in a capital called Susa. It was the capital of the Persian Empire at that time. We're going to be introduced to really three characters tonight who are important to the story.
The first one would be Xerxes. For this, think Jake Gyllenhaal. Here he is, the Persian king. He is the most powerful. There he is. Looking good, Jake. P90X, man. He has been working out. He is the most powerful… Here is what you need to know. Xerxes, a real story. This is a true thing. He was the most powerful man on the earth, was the wealthiest person who had ever…
He had accumulated riches upon riches. He conquered the known world by his 30s. He ruled over from by Ethiopia all the way to India. He was just an incredible presence. He was a pagan king and did not know God, but that's who he is. You think Jake Gyllenhaal. That's the first character in our story.
Then we have our girl, Queen E, Esther. Who do you think of when you think of here? Bella Hadid. Bella Hadid, this could be… The guys do not know who this is, I'm confident, because I did not know who it was, but she is apparently a model famous for taking pictures of herself. This would be kind of who you think of in this kind of Persian, beautiful queen. She wins a beauty pageant. We'll see that in just a second.
Then her uncle is the one who raises her. His name was Mordecai. He brings up this orphan girl named Esther, Bella. For her uncle, who is the most classic iconic uncle of all time? There he is: Uncle Jesse. This is Mordecai. These are the three characters in our story. Okay? Everyone follow me? So there's the king. He is ruling the land. He rules millions and millions and millions of people. He is over everything. You don't mess with the king. Then there's this peasant orphan girl named Esther who is being raised by her uncle Mordecai.
So we're going to first dive in and look at the king. I'm going to just play the movie and walk through chapters 1 and 2 with you, and then we're going to look at three takeaways of how you and I can see and know where God is at work around us. So I'm going to start in verse 1 of chapter 1, and we will dive in.
"These events happened in the days of King Xerxes, who reigned over 127 provinces…" Or you could think nations. "…stretching from India to Ethiopia. At that time Xerxes ruled his empire from his royal throne at the fortress of Susa." That's the city. That's the capital. "In the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet for all his nobles _ [royalty] _ and officials.
_ He invited all the military officers of Persia and Media as well as the princes and nobles of the provinces. The celebration lasted 180 days—a tremendous display of the opulent wealth of his empire and the pomp and splendor of his majesty." _ So we're told that Xerxes, first thing, we're told is he gathers together this celebration and party. He gathers all the royalty from all the different provinces.
If you're anybody important, you're coming, and all of the military, commanders, and generals, all of you guys come together. We're going to have a party. There's no party like a Persian party. We're about to do this for six months. And they go crazy for six months. They're just having like an ultimate kegger. They're partying in a city of Susa. That's what's taking place.
This is going on, and eventually at the end of that time… Here's why he was doing that. We know that shortly after this took place, he would go in and attempt to conquer Greece. It was the only area of the known world that he hadn't conquered. You may have seen of the movie 300 or heard of that movie. He is about to go do that and try to conquer Greece.
So he wants to get all the boys together and show them how much wealth he has, how much fun he is, and how, "If you hang with me, it's going to go well for you, so let's party." For six months they throw a party. At the end of that six months, he sends everybody home and he is like, "Man, I just threw a huge party and the city hosted thousands of people who came in from out of town. Let's throw a local party just for the city here. Not for six months, but for seven days."
So he throws a seven-day party, and at the end of the seven days, here's what happened. Oh, and during that seven days, there was only one rule. Verse 8, this was the only rule for that feast. "By edict of the king, no limits were placed on the drinking…" So it is an open bar. You can have as much as you want. Don't listen to anybody who tells you, "I think you've had enough."
"…for the king had instructed all his palace officials to serve each man as much as he wanted." This is not something the Bible is encouraging. It is just telling you what happened. "At the same time, Queen Vashti…" So there's his queen. It's not Esther at this point, Vashti. "…gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes. __ On the seventh day of the feast, when King Xerxes was in high spirits because of the wine…" Which is a nice way of saying, "He was drunk." "…he told the seven eunuchs…"
A eunuch is…the most unfortunate character in the story. A eunuch was somebody who the king castrated to watch over his women. That's a bad day when that happens, but he had seven eunuchs. There were lots of eunuchs throughout this story, and he says to his seven eunuchs. "…who attended him—Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas…"
I'm just reading their names because they need some dignity here. "…to bring Queen Vashti to him with the royal crown on her head. He wanted the nobles and all the other men to gaze on her beauty, for she was a very beautiful woman. But when they conveyed the king's order to Queen Vashti, she refused to come. This made the king furious, and he burned with anger."
So seven-day party is going on. He is hanging out with all of his boys, and he begins to do what guys do when they've had too much to drink, and they begin to talk dumb. So he is like, "Hey dude, have you seen how hot my wife is? Dude, she's the hottest wife around. You think Carl's wife is hotter than my wife? Are you kidding me? No, my wife is the hottest… Hey somebody go get my wife right now and tell her to come in here."
Scholars believe that when he said that, he wanted to show off her figure and beauty, and so when he says, "Tell her to come wearing the crown," it may have been the reason she said, "No," because he said, "Tell her to come wearing only the crown." Again, this guy is not a good dude, but she basically responds and says, "No."
The king gets furious. So then he is left with the problem of, "Man, you just embarrassed me in front of all of my boys here." So he turns to the young men around him, and he is like, "What should we do?" Then it's like this big frat party going together like, "Get rid of her! She's not good enough anyways." So he is like, "That's fine. Let's get rid of her." Verse 19:
"'So if it please the king, we suggest that you issue a written decree, a law of the Persians and Medes that cannot be revoked. It should order that Queen Vashti be forever banished from the presence of King Xerxes, and that the king should choose another queen more worthy than she.'" Chapter 2, verse 1: "But after Xerxes' anger had subsided, he began thinking about Vashti…"
So he follows their instructions and gets rid of her. "I'm going to find a new queen." Then he finally calms down and kind of wakes up the next day, now hung over, and he realizes that he just made a law that he can't reverse, that he is no longer married to this woman, and he is like, "But I need a queen. I need a girl." He begins to think about her, and his boys around him know that.
"So his personal attendants suggested, 'Let us search the empire to find beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint agents in each province…" So each of the 127 provinces. "…to bring these beautiful young women into the royal harem at the fortress of Susa. Hegai, the king's eunuch in charge of the harem, will see that they are all given beauty treatments. After that, the young woman who most pleases the king will be made queen instead of Vashti.' This advice was very appealing to the king, so he put the plan into effect."
This is crazy that this is in the Bible. Do you see what just happened? These guys were like, young, dumb, drinking too much like guys do. "Do you know what we need? We need some chicks right now, that's what we need. So here's what we should do. We should do like 'The Bachelor: Persia' meets the Miss Persia competition. We're going to go to all the provinces, get the most beautiful women there are.
We're going to take them. We're going to bring them here and make them beautiful for a year," we're told later. "We're going to come together and they're going to sleep with the king, and whichever one the king wants to sleep with, that can be his wife." Again, this is not something that the Bible is encouraging. It's a really terrible…
Like at this point if you're reading it, especially as a dad reading this, you're like, "Oh no. Nuh-uh." I'm like, "This feels like the time, God, where you should show up and kill somebody. You did it earlier in the Bible. Why don't we do that right here?" Because it's just like, this is not a good dude. He is not surrounded by good dudes. It's not condoning it, but it's telling us the path of which the story that we're about to see came about.
So they go, they gather, and they get together all these different women. We're told by a historian of the time that it was 400 women who they bring in to the king's harem. Then there's a scene change as they're collecting and gathering these women. It says this. So inside of the movie, there's a scene change. We're introduced to our next character, Uncle Jesse.
"At that time there was a Jewish man in the fortress of Susa whose name was Mordecai son of Jair. He was from the tribe of Benjamin and was a descendant of Kish and Shimei. His family had been among those who, with King Jehoiachin of Judah, had been exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar."
So it's just saying, it's just pointing out the fact that he was among those exiled. Though he was released to go back to Jerusalem, he and the next woman we're introduced to, stayed in that city. "This man had a very beautiful and lovely young cousin, Hadassah, who was also called Esther. When her father and mother died, Mordecai adopted her into his family and raised her as his own daughter."
So we're told a couple of things about Esther. One, that she was an orphan. Two, she had two names. She had a Jewish name and a Persian name: Hadassah and Esther. "As a result of the king's decree, Esther, along with many other young women, was brought to the king's harem at the fortress of Susa and placed in Hegai's care."
Hegai is like the Chris Harrison of this story from The Bachelor, if you know who that is. He is like the dude who is like, "Bring all the ladies here. Sir, I'll get them ready for you and you can decide from there." Again, I just lost all of the guys on there, but he is the one who is over… Again, he is a eunuch, and he is over preparing and making sure all of these ladies are ready. We're told something happened in his interactions with Esther and him.
Verse 9: "Hegai was very impressed with Esther…" Your translation may say, "Esther found favor in Hegai's eyes." "…and treated her kindly. He quickly ordered a special menu for her and provided her with beauty treatments. He also assigned her seven maids specially chosen from the king's palace, and he moved her and her maids into the best place in the harem."
She is given special treatment and special favor from this guy who is overseeing her. "Esther had not told anyone of her nationality…" That she was Jewish. "…and family background, because Mordecai had directed her not to do so." Mordecai was afraid her Jewish faith may hurt her chances or just impact what happens to her, and so he says, "Don't share your faith with anyone." Verse 12. Then we're told from the author the rules of the competition that they're about to be a part of.
"Before each young woman was taken to the king's bed…" This dude is such a dirt bag. "…she was given the prescribed twelve months of beauty treatments—six months with oil of myrrh, followed by six months with special perfumes and ointments. When it was time for her to go to the king's palace, she was given her choice of whatever clothing or jewelry she wanted to take from the harem.
_ That evening she was taken to the king's private rooms, and the next morning she was brought to the second harem, where the king's wives lived. There she would be under the care of Shaashgaz…" _ It's like a first-century rapper. _ "…the king's eunuch in charge of the concubines. She would never go to the king again unless he had especially enjoyed her and requested her by name." _
So anyone in the competition, here's the future you have. You either win and you're queen, or you spend the rest of your life either as a concubine who has no interaction with the king, maybe, or he calls you whenever he essentially wants a booty call. That's the path that you're going to have. You can never marry anybody else. It was a law that if you sleep with the king, you don't get to marry anybody else.
And you have the king who decides, "I'm going to do whatever I want, whenever I want," and Esther is taken. We're told that she is taken. In other words, it likely wasn't that she volunteered to be a part of this, but she was taken and was made as a part of these women.
Esther was taken to the king after a year of preparation. I don't know if that excites the girls in this room, like, "You get to go to the spa for a year," or if that feels like you're getting ready to be a bridesmaid for a year with people messing with your hair and getting makeup, but some mixture of the two of those is taking place. After a year of that, Esther is ready, and it says this.
"Esther was taken to King Xerxes at the royal palace in early winter of the seventh year of his reign. And the king loved Esther more than any of the other young women. He was so delighted with her that he set the royal crown on her head and declared her queen instead of Vashti." So she goes in, sleeps with the king, and God turns the heart of the king to love her more than anybody else. He says, "The competition is over. I've found the girl, Queen Esther." He puts the crown on her head. She is declared the queen. It's a crazy story.
It's a story that looks like anything but God being at work. Yet when you look and you see all the different ways that God was clearly turning people's hearts, positioning people in specific places, he was clearly at work, because here's what just happened. Esther was just placed to the position of queen, and she is now in prime placement to become the savior of the nation, and that's going to happen a few chapters later.
It's the ultimate rags-to-riches. She goes from riff raff street rat to now she's in the palace and she is at the right hand of the king. In the midst of all this, God clearly is at work. The book was written so that the people of Israel would know even when it seems chaotic and out of control, you can know that God is at work.
The first thing I just want to talk about that we learn from this passage is that God is at work even when it looks like he is not. God is at work even when it looks like he is not. Not just when it kind of looks like God is at work always. When it looks like, "This doesn't feel like anybody is at the wheel," God is absolutely at the wheel. He is moving the pieces around, and he is bringing about his purposes in spite of people who don't know him, don't work with him, and don't live in the direction that he has called people to live.
This would look… I mean, think about the story. There's a king. He gets drunk. He decides, "Hey, I want my wife to come in here and dance around for us a little bit," and she won't. He says, "Well, screw you." He does a beauty contest and 400 women come and this drunk, angry king ends up marrying this Jewish girl who sleeps with him and has sex with him before they got married, and she marries a non-believer.
It's not the type of scenario where, if it happened today, people would be like, "Dude, that's clearly a God thing." Wow. This is synonymous with the Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton thing where people are like, "Dude, feels like an answer to prayer to me, huh?" It's like, "What?" And yet God was clearly at work.
Then he brings about, despite all the ways that this king was not living in a way that God would condone, God was clearly saying, "I'm going to move all of these things around for my purposes because I'm always at work, even when it looks like I'm not." God is working through, and in the midst of, at a high level and in the details of each one of our lives.
He is in control, no matter what's taking place in the world around us. He is at work even when it looks like he is not. It's a message…One of the big themes of the first two chapters. He is at work through every authority that has been placed in our world. Whether that's in terms of whoever (primary is today) is elected president, whoever is in the Senate, a leader of a foreign nation, he is over and moving all of those.
He is over all of them. He is at work and he is bringing about his purposes, even when it doesn't seem like or even when we can't see it, Scripture says. Romans, chapter 13, says that every authority has been established by God, both good and bad. Romans, chapter 13, verses 1 and 2 say, "For all authority comes from God…" Think about this. "…and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished."
"Wait. Did you just say that every authority, like my boss who is a total jerk, was placed there by God?" Yes. The president who sits in the White House right now was placed there by God. The president who will sit there in 12 months is placed there by God. Is God always a fan of every single action that every president has ever done? No, but he is over and he uses all of that and every shortcoming because there hasn't ever been any perfect president and there hasn't ever been any perfect leader anywhere.
Yet he is over and moving all the different pieces around for his purposes to take place. Is the Bible saying that "Hey, if my authority, my boss, someone over me is asking me to do something that is sin or contradicts God's Word, I need to do it?" No, because then there's a higher authority involved, which is God, and we have to decide or have to say, "Hey, look. You're asking me to go to a strip club for work.
You're just saying that's what you do. That's not what I do. That's not what I think is right and I can't do that because of my faith. So if that means I lose my job, that's okay. I trust God." You're missing that. But every authority it says, all of it, he is moving all the different pieces around. God is at work even when we can't see it to bring about things.
Sometimes you're like, you just see how despite tragic things that happen, that God didn't cause, he is clearly a part of it, or he clearly brings about good in spite of it. Like, you guys know the Holocaust? It was happening in World War II and just the tragic atrocities that happened through the Holocaust, millions of Jewish people losing their lives.
Do you know one of the things that was a clear fulfillment of prophecy that happened after that? The nation of Israel was given land, a location. In other words, as a result of that, nations got together and were like, "We should give these guys a place they can go to and gather," and the nation of Israel was formed after hundreds and hundreds of years of not having a nation. I don't know if you know that. It's not like it's… Look up, "Israel 1938." It doesn't exist. It happened after World War II.
Despite all the horrificness of that, God moved the things around, and he fulfills a prophecy that they would be established having a land, and he brings that about. In the midst of all the different evil, you can be left with the question of like, "God is at work, but it doesn't look like it. Why doesn't he step in and stop more evil in our world? Stop more suffering that takes place? Why doesn't he stop school shootings or terrorism or viruses out-breaking?"
To that I would say, how do you know he is not all the time? Every single moment that there isn't an outbreak of utter evil is because God holds it back at bay in a world that's full of evil and brokenness and chaos. Every moment that there's not a school shooting is a moment he stopped it. Every moment there's not a virus that's exploding and breaking out is a moment he stopped it.
Yet in his sovereign will, there are times where it allows, but we're not told why. We are told that he will allow even the worst of circumstances to be used and brought about for good. I don't know how he is going to do all of that with certain things, just to be candid. Any answer I would give you right now is not going to satisfy you. It certainly doesn't satisfy me.
How do you reconcile sexual abuse, God? How is that a part of your sovereign plan? Why would you even allow that? I don't know. "You know, the divorce that has ripped apart my family's home and my family, just all the different pain that was caused as a result of my father having an affair?" Or whatever your story is. "How do you reconcile and make that good, God?" I don't know.
But we're told in Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, even the worst of things, verse 11, "Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time." Everything. There's going to come a day and a moment where you look and the worst and most broken things that he allowed, he didn't cause. But when you were the victim of some painful moments like that, I don't even know that the difference matters because it still happened.
We're not told how, but we are told that when everything is made new, there's going to come a moment where he will make everything beautiful and woven together in its time, even the worst of things that you experience. It's like this. Here's a bunch of random kind of ingredients that are up here that, in and of themselves, no one would want to eat.
This is a bunch of flour. You wouldn't want to eat a cup of flour unless you're on Fear Factor and there's money on the line or something. Or like, butter, unless you're just doing some bulletproof coffee. Or eggs, no one wants to go eat eggs unless you're Gaston or an über CrossFit guy in here. Or vanilla. Things that are in and of themselves, you're like, "Man, did I lose a bet that I have to eat that stuff? It doesn't taste good at all."
But what's crazy is that when you take all those different things and you put them together in the hands of a baker, you make something that just made people be like, "Oh, that tastes amazing." These things that, in and of themselves, they don't taste good at all. Like, you couldn't pay me to eat that. Then you put them in the hands of somebody who is a gifted baker and they make something that tastes delicious out of it.
That's what the Scripture says. Whether you believe it or not, that's what it says. That, hey, there's going to come moments where it's like, "Dude, this is flour. This is…What I'm walking through right now does not taste right." But it promises that God, there's going to come a moment where he makes everything beautiful in its time. All of it woven is together for good for yours and mine if you know and love God, it promises. Even when it doesn't look like he is working, he is.
The second thing that we see in this text is that God is at work in the details. God is at work in the details of life. God is bringing about his plans and his purposes through the details of her life and your life. If you think about her, she's in the city of Susa, which is not like any other… She could've been in any city in the kingdom. She finds herself in the capital city.
He is at work through her beauty, the way that she was made. The way she was formed and put together, God was sovereign, and he was over all of that and weaving it together. He was over Hegai (Chris Harrison) having favor with her. He was over the king having favor with her, and he is over the details of your life.
He is at work. He is bringing it about, and he is sovereign over the things that are taking place inside of your life. We're told in Scripture that he is sovereign over how you are made. That's the color of your skin, the way that you look. That he formed everything about you, the personality that you have.
In Psalm 139, verse 13, it says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…" Matthew, chapter 10, verse 30 says, "And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered." Think about that. Every hair on your head is numbered. That's the level of detail to which God knows you.
We're told that he is sovereign over the places that you live. Proverbs, chapter 16, verse 9 says, "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps." Like, you think it's random you live in Dallas. Or you think it's a curse you live in Dallas. Or I don't know what you think of wherever you live that you're listening in.
You think like, "Aw man, I didn't even get the job that I wanted to. I wanted to be in Atlanta. That's where all my friends ended up. The only job that I got was in Dallas, so that's why I'm here. It's not because I want to be here because God was like, 'Oh, go to Dallas.' That's why I'm here." The truth is, it's not random.
He is in the details, and he has you here, even has you in this room, for a purpose. He is intimately at work in the details of your life, of my life, just like he was in the story of Esther. He is at work in where you worked today or the career that you have. God is over all of those things. They are not random, biblically speaking. They're a part of a plan that he is unfolding.
I was at a restaurant in town called Cinco Taco, which I think is the best chips and salsa in Dallas. I'm going to go on record. I know that's crazy, and I'm probably going to get more emails about that comment right there than anything else that I say. I was in there, and I was with a friend. We're eating lunch and talking to the waitress. She came up and she was serving us.
Her name was Sarah. I began to ask Sarah, "Where are you from?" And just kind of walk through just getting to visit with her a little bit. Then at some point I asked her, "Hey, what do you know about the name Sarah?" She said, "I know it's Persian for princess." I said, "It does mean princess. Do you know what your name comes from?"
She was like, "Persia?" I was like, "It's from a book, actually. The Bible." She was like, "Oh yeah, it's in the Bible." I said, "What do you know about the story of Sarah?" I walked her through. She was a part of this covenant relationship that God had with the people at that time through Abraham, her husband, and that Sarah was a part of that.
That covenant today has been fulfilled in Jesus. Anybody who trusts not in how good of a person they are, how bad of a person they are, but in what Jesus did on the cross: dying for them, paying for their sin, once and fully and finally. Everything wrong they've ever done is paid for. He died in their place and he was buried and he rose from the dead, showing the payment for the sin of all mankind was more than enough.
If anyone trusts in that free gift, not in themselves, they're going to have eternal life, and they are a part of that covenant people that God has invited all of us to be a part of. I said something to her that is true. I said, "Do you know what's crazy, Sarah? This is going to sound weird. You're going to think that's crazy. I think God brought us here so that we could tell you that and we could tell you he hasn't forgotten you. He knows your name. He cares about you and he loves you."
Biblically, that is incredibly true, without question true. We're told in Acts, chapter 17, that God appoints the boundaries and the times in which people live, the moments, all of them. He was moving the pieces around. In that moment, he is saying, "Hey, I'm going to bring you here to that person." She looked at me and kind of had a face. Then I said, "Because we're angels…" No, I didn't say that at all. What if I did? They just slowly vanished away. No, that part didn't happen.
But God is over it. He is over even that moment of who is going to be at that table. As God's people, we just have to have the eyes to see and to remember that he is moving the pieces all around. He is sovereign of the places they work. He is intimately at work in the details of your life. He is over even the fact that the king's heart chose her, that he wanted to have that relationship with her.
The king, we're told, he falls in love with her. We're told in Proverbs, chapter 21, verse 1, "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes." You know who is over the hearts of people around you? Like your boss's perception of you, whatever he thinks about you? Do you know who is over more of that than you are? Who has more control of that than you do? God. Whatever people's perception of you in the relationship and the way somebody feels towards you.
Do you know who has more control over that than you do? God. More control over that than even they do? God. He turns it and he is like, "Here, Esther. She is your girl." You can walk in confidence knowing that, "Man, hey, I can either try to always be defending myself and always be concerned about what other people think about me or I can walk knowing that, 'Hey God, you know everything that they feel and everything that they think. I'm going to trust you with the perceptions that others have of me. You're the king of hearts.'"
Esther experienced that king of hearts turning his heart because God is in the details. I remember there was a moment… Knowing that allows us to face things when it's like, it doesn't look like he is clearly doing that here. I remember when I was dating my wife and we were in college and we came to that moment, kind of like "ring by spring." Where you're like, "Hey, are we going to move forward here or not?"
We were at a place where we just weren't ready for the relationship to move forward, so we broke up. That was terrible. Every breakup is horrible. We had dated well, relatively speaking. It was brutal, and it was painful. We broke up for two years. In those moments when that was going down and happening, especially initially, it was so painful.
I'm like, "God, what are you doing? We invested all this relational time. This is not something either one of us wanted to experience, but we knew this is not the time to move forward and may never be." Two years went by and became more of a time where God had the relationship move forward. But here's…
Despite the fact that I didn't want that to happen, I never would've thought that that would be God a part of that. My faith in those two years that we were separated grew like it had never grown in my entire life. I had just started working here. I was going to seminary and studying. The way that God just got ahold of my heart was unique compared to all the other years I've lived.
I look back, and I think that's some of the most developmental time that I've ever had, and God was in the midst of all of that. I don't know what you're walking through. I don't know what you're facing, but I do know that God is at work in the details of your life.
Then finally, God is at work through imperfect people. God is at work through imperfect people. The text… This may surprise you. Here's the challenge with Esther. A lot of people come in and they're like, "Dude, Esther, favorite girl in the whole Bible. She's slay queen. She's goals. She's my favorite." She's not, in this chapter, a great example of what to do. Like truly.
She is a girl no one would say, "This is a recipe for success. You're going to marry a non-believer, have sex with him before you get married, along with like 400 other girls who have sex with him, and you're going to end up living in his house regardless. Don't tell anybody about your faith. You probably should be in Jerusalem anyway."
She's not a recipe of someone to follow, but despite all of that, God is at work through imperfect people because he is always at work through imperfect people. How do I know that, scripturally, she wasn't supposed to have sex? Even the Old Testament, Exodus, chapter 22, says that people, men and women, Esther, were not to have sex before marriage.
Deuteronomy, chapter 7, verses 3 and 4 says you are not to marry people who did not worship the one true God, Yahweh. Matthew, chapter 10, talks about, "Anyone who does not acknowledge me before men, I will not acknowledge." If you hide your faith, it's a reflection of a weak faith that you're not to have.
What's challenging, or what is maybe a result that… Let me just clarify quickly, because in case that's shocking to you, it's probably because of a couple of things. Let me just high-level teach some of what the Bible is. The Bible has things involved in it that are stories that are descriptive and then things that are prescriptive.
Prescriptive is like a prescription: do this. Descriptive is like, "This is what happened, and it was crazy." That happens all throughout the Bible. There are a lot of stories that are descriptive, not prescriptive. In other words, you should not do this type of thing. Then there are commands that are prescriptive that are instructions on how to live, how to handle alcohol, sexuality, how to live your life, care for family, how you should bring up your kids. Those are prescriptive. This is a story that is descriptive inside of Scripture.
The second thing that may clarify why Esther is not a great example, at least in this chapter, and she's not the good guy in this part of the story at least, is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Bible is. This is really important in case you tuned me out and you're counting these little wood things over here. Just come back.
A lot of you guys don't read the Bible right. You don't understand what it actually is. I'm not trying to insult you. It's just true. You think the Bible is a book that is a bunch of like, "Hey, there are some good people and then there are some bad people, and you want to try to be like the good people." That's not what the Bible is.
The Bible is a bunch of bad guys and one good guy named Jesus. The bad guys are so bad they kill the one good guy named Jesus. So Esther, just like every other person in the Bible, is not one of the good guys. She is one of the bad guys, but God uses imperfect, broken bad guys. You may be going, "What? That's not true! What about Noah? He built that ark. Got all those animals on there. That was awesome!"
Noah, after he got done with that ark, found himself at sea, ended up being… Dry land came eventually. You know what one of the first things we're told about Noah whenever he got off that ark? He built a vineyard and got hammered. He walked around naked and his kids were like, "Dad, this is gross. Oh my gosh!" That's in the Bible! That's Noah.
Let's go to the next one. Abraham. Abraham pimps out his wife two different times. In other words, he is like, "Hey, I think they're going to kill me if I say you're my wife because you're a looker and they may end up wanting to take you, so they'll kill me. So let's just say you're my sister." His sister ends up being taken into the room of a king. Two different times, the same exact story happened. Then he sleeps with the maid and gets her pregnant. Is that a guy that you're like, "That's my hero right there? That's what I'm talking about."
King David. King David, a man after God's own heart. He slew Goliath. He did lots of good things. He is a guy who has an affair, commits adultery with one of his closest friends' wife. Then she gets pregnant, and he is like, "Okay." He can't get his friend to come home to make it look like he got her pregnant, so he just kills his friend. Then you're like, "Yeah, everyone has a bad day." Let's go with that, okay?
From his death bed, King David, from his death bed. Do you know what he asked his son to do? He puts out a hit on another guy's life. He's like, "Yeah, and by the way, I'm about to die. I think you should kill that guy." That's a part of 1 Kings, chapter 2, where David, as he is dying, puts a hit out like a mafia boss.
It's not a bunch of stories about good guy and good guys, and "Try to be like the good guys." It's a story of a bunch of broken, messed-up people, and God is the hero in the midst of the story. Esther is no different. What Esther, because the interpretive challenge is then, "You can do whatever you want. You can sleep before marriage. Marry whoever you want and God can still use it to bring about good." There are two problems with that.
One is that all of us are accountable for what you know. We don't know what Esther knew. We don't know if she had access to an Old Testament Bible. We don't know what she knew, but if you're in this room tonight, you've been exposed to the truth that God, in the Scriptures, has called us to date in certain ways, live in certain ways, marry certain people, believers who share that same faith as you. James, chapter 4, verse 17 says, "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." We do not know exactly all that Esther knew, but we know what you know.
The second thing is in Esther doing that, she forfeited the story that could've showcased God working with people who follow his will in an incredible way. In other words, we wouldn't be sitting here 2,500 years later going, "Hey, and this is not exactly a great example to follow here. God can redeem anything, but this is not a recipe for success."
We would be sitting here going, "Wow, look at her courage." Had she gone in to the king and said, "Hey, you took me away from my family, but I'm not going to have sex with you because I believe that sex is for marriage, so I'm going to sleep with my husband." Let's say the king didn't kill her there and he is like, "All right. Man, feisty." Want what you can't have. "Let's get married!"
If she looked at him and said, "No, I can only marry people who worship the one true God." Maybe he would've said, "Get out of here. Go home." It would've been a less exciting story. Maybe he would've said, "Tell me more." Maybe he would've converted to Judaism and worshipped the one true God. We have no idea.
Do you know what happens when a king converts? A nation converts. It could've been an entirely different story, and she forfeited seeing God show up and be faithful to his promises and his people by her being obedient and faithful to him. Many of you are going to forfeit seeing God show up in your life just like Esther did because you're not actually willing to be obedient, and you're not going to see him work.
Two people came down in the last couple of weeks. Different stories in both of their lives, but they were in a similar circumstance. One was in a situation where they're like, "Hey, I'm living with my boyfriend. I just don't know what to do. We've been talking about how that's not a great thing, but I feel like maybe I should move out."
The exact same story with somebody else was taking place. Both of them came down. One of them… And they both had hearts that were like, "I think maybe I shouldn't be living with him. Will you pray for me? I'm scared. I just became a Christian, and I think I need to move out." Both of them were in that same place.
One of them decided to actually act on that, and the other one decided to say, "I know God says that's what I should do, but I don't care, and I'm just going to try to look the other way." Do you know what she forfeited? One, marrying a godly husband, at least being in that circuit if she doesn't change the direction of her dating scenario of continuing to live with the guy. And two, she forfeited seeing God show up.
The other girl decided, "Hey, I'm going to do it and I'm scared, and I've lived with him two and a half years, but I'm going to make the decision to move out." She saw God show up by the people of God coming around. God showed and provided a house. "Hey, you can come live in this bedroom."
She was concerned because she didn't have a car and she had to walk to work. She was like, "If I move to someplace else, how am I going to get to work?" Then all of a sudden, the people of God are like, "Hey, you can use this car." She got to see God at work in the midst of her obedience. When you and I forfeit and are disobedient to following God's way, you forfeit seeing God show up, just like Esther in this story forfeited getting to see God show up to save his people.
In conclusion, God is always at work even when it looks like he is not. He is at work in the details of your life right now. Who you are, the way that you look, the place that you live? He is at work. God is work and has always been at work through imperfect people. He is the hero of the book of Esther. He is the hero of the story. He is the hero of the entire Bible.
The point of Christianity is not how great any one of us is. We have found a Savior, hero, named Jesus. That's the point of Esther. It's the point of the whole story. He is the solution. He saves the queen. He is the Savior of anyone who will trust in him. Let me wrap up like this. Crazy thing about the coronavirus thing, which it's really not that bad, just FYI, in terms of symptoms.
The flu is probably worse, but now I'm going to get an email on that from somebody in the medical community. I think the crazy thing about that is that the contagiousness of it in two weeks being dormant where you can't tell if somebody has it and just eventually the symptoms begin to pop up and you can see.
The virus that you can't see with the human eye, but you can see the presence and the evidence of it showing up in somebody's life, and just the ways that it even spreads from there. How much craziness and just people obsessed about like, "Oh no, what are we going to do?" We should do… We should be wise and use Lysol and all that stuff.
But there's a much more serious virus that, likewise, has also infiltrated into the human race. It's a virus that you can see the evidence of it all around us. You can't always see the presence of it infecting someone, but you can see the symptoms of the infection. That is a virus called sin. Unlike the virus of the coronavirus that takes two in 100, this is a virus that has killed 100 for 100 people.
There is a solution for it, but it is not some vaccine or some medical procedure. It is a Savior named Jesus. What do I mean by the symptoms of this virus that comes in? You can see, and even if you're not a Christian, listen to me very closely. You know there are messed up things in your life and the lives of people around you that you are like, "Dude, that's probably not right."
You could see the evidence of the symptoms of this virus that come in. They begin to infect somebody and that infection leads to them being addicted to looking at naked pictures of men and women on the internet having sex together. Think about that. All of a sudden, they're like, "Man, I just can't stop." Because this virus has begun to infect…
The virus, sometimes you see the evidence of the infection in somebody's life. They ate food and then they purge it up because they just hate the way that they look and they're reaching for control and they can't face this life without having something they can control. It's because that infection. Those are just symptoms of the virus of sin that is there.
That virus is the reason why many of you, like my home, was ripped apart through parents divorcing. Because sin came in and you didn't see it exactly all the way come in, but you saw the evidence of it and the destruction take place. Evidence of the virus you can see around us in the ways that racial division still marks so many people inside of our country.
Evidence of the virus in my life I can see through sexual desires for people who are not my wife, anger, greed that can mark my heart, selfishness that doesn't care about people the way that God says I'm to care about people. It's all symptoms of the virus. But here's the good news. Unlike in that scenario with the coronavirus there isn't really a solution to the virus, there is one for this.
There's a solution to the symptoms in your life, but it is not you trying harder or you reading some book. It is you trusting in a Savior. When you do that, that Savior begins to promise you will one day be delivered from the penalty of sin and that virus and the presence of sin will one day forever be gone.
This world will rise again, just like Jesus rose from the dead, and it will be healed. Now you can begin to experience freedom from the power of sin because the Holy Spirit begins to come into your life and save and purge everything that's hurting you from your life and everything that's hurting me.
There is one Savior, one hero, one solution to the disease that is far more deadly than anything our world has ever seen. Many of you have never trusted in that, and tragically you think that you can save yourself. You think that you can, through whatever you do, earn a relationship with God, and you have bought a lie.
You feel like you need to clean yourself up a little bit or get things together and then God… You'll work on your relationship and just read a little bit more Bible and then you'll get there. You have bought a bunch of B.S. One of the greatest lies our world has bought, specifically in America, is that good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell. Biblically, forgiven people go to heaven, and there is one way to get forgiveness. His name is Jesus. Let me pray.
Father, thank you for the story of Esther that showcases when we can't see you, you're working. You work in imperfect, broken people. You bring about your purposes. Nothing can thwart your hand, your plans. You're sovereign and you're good. You invite us, who know you, to call you Father.
I pray for anyone tonight who has never trusted in Jesus. This would be their night. The Savior of Esther would be the Savior of them. Thank you that you made a way. You're the ultimate God who just opens doors and saves his people in spite of themselves. Would you help us to not forfeit seeing you show up by us choosing to be obedient and walk with you, God? We love you. We worship you in song. Amen.