SS Lesson for 04/19/2020
Devotional Scripture: Luke 19:11-27
After serving nearly 25 years for the murder of his wife, 57-year-old Michael Morton walked out of a Texas prison on October 4, 2011. He was released and officially exonerated after DNA evidence proved his innocence and pointed to the crime's true perpetrator. Investigation into the initial prosecution of the crime also revealed that the district attorney in the case had illegally concealed evidence that pointed to Mr. Morton's innocence. As a result, the district attorney spent time in jail himself and was stripped of his law license. Miscarriages of justice and abuses of power stir our outrage all the more when they involve officials who have been entrusted with maintaining a just society. Today's lesson will identify a corrupt, prejudiced official whose abuse of power could have resulted in the destruction of God's covenant people. Little did this individual realize that certain Jews were in positions to foil this genocidal intent.
The story of Esther is one of several in the Old Testament to portray the success of Israelites living in foreign surroundings. In a few noteworthy cases, these Israelites rose to influential positions (examples: Genesis 41:40-43; Nehemiah 1:11; Daniel 2:48, 49). These accounts illustrate God's care for His covenant people. They also illustrate His resolve to use them as agents of influence even when (or especially when) they faced opposition, criticism, and ill-treatment. The events in the book of Esther take place in the Persian citadel of Susa during the reign of Ahasuerus, also known as Xerxes I (485-465 BC; see Esther 1:1, 2). Key figures in the account are the close relatives Mordecai and Esther. They were part of a Jewish community that had remained in the area even after a decree in 538 BC allowed them to return home (Ezra 1:1-4; Esther 2:5-7). Esther became queen after Vashti, the previous queen, was divorced by Ahasuerus (Esther 1:10-22). Ahasuerus subsequently replaced Vashti by holding a beauty pageant, which Esther won (2:1-18). Throughout the selection process, Mordecai forbade Esther from revealing her nationality, and she complied (Esther 2:10). There is no indication that the king himself would have held her Jewish identity against her. Perhaps Mordecai was aware of a general prejudice among the members of the royal court in the larger community. Eventually, a scheme to destroy the Jews materialized. Ahasuerus's highest official, Haman, had developed a fierce animosity for Mordecai (Esther 3:1-5). This resulted in Haman's seeking an edict from Ahasuerus for the annihilation of all Jews throughout the Persian Empire (3:6). Haman secured this edict without revealing to Ahasuerus which people he had targeted for destruction. A date for their eradication was set, and the Jews found themselves in grave peril (3:7-15). Mordecai convinced Esther to act, at the risk of her own life, to save her people (Esther 4). A key part of his appeal was to consider the possibility that divine providence was at work. This possibility can be seen in his question, “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:14). Esther's subsequent resolve is seen in her reply, “So will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish” (4:16). After three days of fasting, Esther went before Ahasuerus and received his mercy (Esther 4:16-5:2). She asked that he and Haman join her in a banquet, where she would answer the king (5:3, 4). When prompted at the meal to offer her petition, she requested only that they come to another feast the next day (5:5-8).
So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king's wrath subsided
7:1-4. What Haman knew about Esther is not stated. If he knew of the connection between Mordecai and Esther he may have been even more terrified at the prospect of attending this second banquet given by Esther. This was the fifth banquet mentioned in the Book of Esther: two were given by the king (1:3, 5), one by Queen Vashti (1:9), and two by Queen Esther (5:4, 8). During the banquet the king again asked Esther her request, and again he promised that he would grant it to her (cf. 5:3, 6). This time Esther got right to the point and gave her petition and request... life for her and her people. It was now clear to Xerxes what her nationality was (cf. 2:10, 20). She explained that all her people had been sold (i.e., the king was offered a bribe by Haman; cf. 3:9; 4:7) into extinction (cf. 3:13). Showing her subservient position to the king, she added that if they had merely been sold into slavery she certainly would not have bothered the king. Esther’s statement not only shows the unbelievable power of the king, but also the condition to which she was reduced. Esther may have been apprehensive, not knowing if the king would grant her request. It was quite possible that he would fly into a rage, as he had done with Vashti (1:12).
7:5-6. However, this time the king did not become furious. He requested more information about who was doing such a thing to Esther and her people. Undoubtedly a look of terror was on Haman’s face as he realized that he was about to be exposed before the most powerful man on the face of the earth. Haman must have known that his execution was assured now that “fate” was working against him. Esther revealed that vile Haman was the enemy (cf. 3:10; 8:1; 9:10, 24).
7:7-8. Now the king was filled with rage (cf. 1:12 and cf. Haman’s anger on two occasions, 3:5; 5:9). The reason why the king left the palace to go outside to his palace garden is not given. It has been suggested that he went out to control his anger, but that is unlikely in view of his other behavior. Others have suggested that he was thinking up a way to execute Haman legally, but that is unlikely because any word of the king was law. Others have said that Xerxes was trying to figure out a way to spare Esther and her nation. Whatever the reason, Esther and Haman were left together in the banquet hall. While begging Esther to spare his life—though he realized that the king had already decided his fate—Haman fell on the couch (cf. 1:6) on which Esther was reclining. Persians (and later Greeks, Romans, and Jews) reclined on couches when they ate. At just that moment (another so-called “happenstance” in the sovereignty of God) the king returned and accused Haman of assaulting the queen. However, Haman was not assaulting her but was merely falling on her couch. It is highly unlikely that Haman and Esther were alone in that banquet hall. No doubt people who were serving the meal and the guards were also present. The word they (7:8) suggests that several people were there. What is meant by their covering Haman’s face is uncertain. Probably they did this because Haman was now a doomed man, condemned to death.
7:9-10. Harbona, one of the king’s seven eunuchs (cf. 1:10), told the king about the gallows which Haman had built during the previous night to kill Mordecai (5:14). Possibly Haman was hated by many people in the city of Susa, especially in government circles. Many might have been glad to see Haman killed. Harbona obviously knew of Haman’s plot to kill Mordecai. At the king’s orders, Haman was taken and hanged... on his own gallows (i.e., impaled; cf. 2:23). The tables had now been turned, but the Jews were still left with a major problem. The king’s edict to eradicate them was still in effect. Per a Persian decree there would still be a great slaughter of many innocent people because of the wicked actions of a now-dead man.
1 So the king and Haman went to dine with Queen Esther.
2 And on the second day, at the banquet of wine, the king again said to Esther, "What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request, up to half the kingdom? It shall be done!"
3 Then Queen Esther answered and said, "If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request.
4 For we have been sold, my people and I, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. Had we been sold as male and female slaves, I would have held my tongue, although the enemy could never compensate for the king's loss."
20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.
3 Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. 4 If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." 6 But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country — a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
24 See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he promised us — even eternal life.
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 16 "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.
7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.
22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, 8 the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. 9 The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
8 This is what the Lord says: "In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, 9 to say to the captives, 'Come out,' and to those in darkness, 'Be free!' "They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 14 He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. 15 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, 16 for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.
15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."
5 So King Ahasuerus answered and said to Queen Esther, "Who is he, and where is he, who would dare presume in his heart to do such a thing?"
6 And Esther said, "The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman!" So Haman was terrified before the king and queen.
7 Then the king arose in his wrath from the banquet of wine and went into the palace garden; but Haman stood before Queen Esther, pleading for his life, for he saw that evil was determined against him by the king.
8 When the king returned from the palace garden to the place of the banquet of wine, Haman had fallen across the couch where Esther was. Then the king said, "Will he also assault the queen while I am in the house?" As the word left the king's mouth, they covered Haman's face.
21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me." 22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means."
4 So about three thousand men went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, 5 who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted and became like water. 6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, "Ah, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies?
2 His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
17 "'Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.
20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
15 because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.
12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.
21 Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?" "From childhood," he answered. 22 "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." 23 "'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes." 24 Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
2 There a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue."
12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." 13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" And immediately the leprosy left him.
23 Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" He said to them, 24 "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.' "But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.'
9 Now Harbonah, one of the eunuchs, said to the king, "Look! The gallows, fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai, who spoke good on the king's behalf, is standing at the house of Haman." Then the king said, "Hang him on it!"
10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king's wrath subsided.
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
6 God "will give to each person according to what he has done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gen
13 But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors,
11 Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy."
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
11 God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.
1 O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. 2 For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me. 3 Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin.
1 Now the king and Haman came to drink wine with Esther the queen. 2 And the king said to Esther on the second day also as they drank their wine at the banquet, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be done.” 3 Then Queen Esther answered and said, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request; 4 for we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed and to be annihilated. Now if we had only been sold as slaves, men and women, I would have remained silent, for the trouble would not be commensurate with the annoyance to the king.” 5 Then King Ahasuerus asked Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who would presume to do thus?” 6 And Esther said, “A foe and an enemy, is this wicked Haman!” Then Haman became terrified before the king and queen. 7 And the king arose in his anger from drinking wine and went into the palace garden; but Haman stayed to beg for his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that harm had been determined against him by the king. 8 Now when the king returned from the palace garden into the place where they were drinking wine, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was. Then the king said, “Will he even assault the queen with me in the house?” As the word went out of the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. 9 Then Harbonah, one of the eunuchs who were before the king said, “Behold indeed, the gallows standing at Haman’s house fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai who spoke good on behalf of the king!” And the king said, “Hang him on it.” 10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai, and the king’s anger subsided.
The king and Haman arrive at Esther’s banquet and begin with drinks (verse 1). Over their drinks (verse 2), the subject of Esther’s request is once again brought up by the king. He seems eager to hear her request, which may be partly out of curiosity and partly because he is aware something serious is troubling her. Any concern to the queen should be a concern to the king. Again, the king assures Esther he will grant her petition, even before he knows what she will ask.51
Haman’s pride blinds him in yet another way. He looks upon Esther as a new ally. He thinks he has the king in his pocket, but now he believes Esther too is taken with him. If he has both Esther and the king sold on his abilities, how can he fail to achieve anything he sets out to do? He fails to see that Esther is his arch enemy. He does not know she is a Jew, condemned to death by the law he passed. Rather than threatened, he feels safe in her presence. His guard is down. With a little liquor and a great meal, Haman lets down his guard. No doubt he wonders what is troubling her and does not understand the danger of which she speaks. He does not seem to see what is coming until it is too late. Queen Esther (for so our author refers to her here) does not identify Haman as the source of the problem until the very end. His efforts to save himself then are simply too little and too late.
Esther then informs the king of things he should have known, but due to his misdirected trust in Haman, he knows nothing. The king does not know Haman was speaking of the Jews and that they are condemned to death by Haman’s law. Esther now tells Ahasuerus that she has been sold, along with her people, not into slavery but unto death. If it were mere slavery, she indicates, she would silently accept her plight. She would not trouble the king with such matters. But she and her people have been sold for annihilation.
The king’s anger now aroused, he is ready to rectify the situation. Who would do such a thing to the queen? This presumptuous person will be dealt with; all he needs is a name and where this evil person can be found. After keeping the king in suspense, Esther now blurts out the name of the villain—to Haman’s shock and horror. Esther identifies Haman as both a foe and an enemy, as well as a wicked man (7:6).
The king is shocked and angered. One does not know how much wine he has already had to drink, but it probably slowed his thinking. In addition, the implications of what Esther has just told him have yet to sink in fully. And so the king gets up from his wine-drinking and walks out to the garden. He must clear his head and try to grasp what has happened and what he must do.
Had nothing more happened, Haman would still have been in deep trouble with the king. But God’s providential intervention in this matter is not yet complete. Ahasuerus is angry and perhaps a bit confused. Haman is terrified. He sees the anger in the king’s eyes, not to mention Esther’s eyes. While the king is out of the room, Haman makes one last futile effort to save himself. He attempts to plead with Esther for mercy, who has become his only hope. In his panic (and perhaps having drunk too much), Haman falls. He couldn’t just fall on the floor. That would have been bad enough. He falls upon Esther’s couch where she is still reclining. At that very moment while Haman is floundering about on the queen’s bed, the king returns and in his anger assumes the worst—Haman is now trying to sexually assault his wife, the queen.
There is no hope for Haman after this. The king’s servants cover Haman’s face and are about to take him away. Harbonah, one of the king’s servants, is aware of the gallows Haman has constructed on which he had intended to execute Mordecai. He seems to grasp the moment and mention to the king there is a gallows ready for use—at Haman’s house—the very one intended for use in putting Mordecai to death. How fitting it seems to Harbonah and the king that this gallows be used for putting Haman to death. And so Haman is led away to be executed on his own gallows.
(Adapted from URL:https://bible.org/seriespage/sleepless-susa-esther-51-710)
Like many people, I count the story of Esther among my favorites in the Bible. Though the book famously does not mention God by name anywhere, its many twists and turns strongly hint at God's providential hand with His covenant people. From Esther's selection as queen, to Haman's execution, to the Jews' deliverance—the eyes of faith clearly see these events as much more than luck or happenstance. Rather, God was at work behind the scenes. We therefore should see God as the main character in the account. The actions of its human characters are of mixed quality. Ahasuerus consistently acted under the influence of alcohol and with a hot temper. Haman always acted in self-interest and pride. Esther and Mordecai seem not to have resisted Esther's participation in a contest that resulted in marriage to a pagan king (contrast Ezra 10). But God worked His will through all parties nonetheless. Like Esther and her relative Mordecai, we are God's imperfect servants in rectifying the wrongs in the world. But God can and does work through us nonetheless. There are two extremes to avoid: (1) thinking that confronting evil is all up to us and (2) thinking that confronting evil is all up to God. The proper path to take in any given situation will depend on prayer, Bible study, and openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We must always consider the possibility that God has placed us in a circumstance “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). There is no guarantee that every incident in the lives of God's people will have a tidy ending, as the book of Esther does. Evil sometimes enjoys temporary victories. The path to triumph over evil is often unclear, recognized only in twenty-twenty hindsight. But with Christ working in us and through us, we can live with the assurance that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).
A Horrible Plan - The Book of Esther lays out a historical account of a plot to commit genocide against all Jews living in the Persian Empire. The plan was stopped when a young Jewish woman named Esther became queen and was given the opportunity to boldly address this horrible plan. King Ahasuerus [ah-haz-you-ee-rus] of Persia, called Xerxes [zurk-seez] by the Greeks, chose Esther to become his new queen and wife. About the same time, Esther's cousin Mordecai, the person who raised her after the death of her parents, refused to bow to one of the king's high officials named Haman. As a result, Haman devised a plan to destroy Mordecai and all other Jews as well.
The Right Person in Place - Mordecai strongly encouraged Esther to speak out on behalf of her people saying she had been made queen "for such a time as this" (Esth. 4:14). Esther wisely invited Haman and King Ahasuerus to attend two banquets (5:1-8). At the second banquet, the king urged Esther to tell him the petition she had asked for. The queen then pleaded for her life and her people. She exposed Hainan's deadly plot that included her death along with all other Jews in the empire.
Justice for the Jews - The enraged king demanded to know who was behind the plan, and when Esther identified Haman, the king ordered Hainan's swift execution. Because Esther put her life on the line and spoke out against this injustice, she and her people were saved.
God's Children Should Take a Stand - The Holy Spirit reveals to us injustices in the world around us. Sometimes a loud outcry needs to happen so others will see the injustice. Other times a silent defiance in the face of injustices is what God asks of us. Either way, God's children always need to do what they can to stand against unfair treatment in society and not be afraid of the consequences.