ESTHER 4:1 – 6:14 and ACTS 27:1–44
Mordecai came to know of the wicked plotting of Haman. He came before the king’s gate with great mourning and lamenting for what was being put into motion. The Jewish people were fasting and weeping and seeking the face of God. Esther was eventually informed of the plot of Haman and was exceedingly grieved (vs 4). Mordecai went into greater detail as to what he heard in his conversation with Hatach, one of the king’s chamberlains that attended unto Esther. He also informed him of the money that would be paid to the king’s treasuries (vs 7). If this was not enough Mordecai was even able to give a copy of the written decree that was given at Shushan to destroy the Jews. Mordecai insisted that Esther had to go before the king on this matter so as to stop this planned atrocity. Esther received the words of Mordecai through Hatach and then prepared words to send back to Mordecai. She informed that it would not be advisable to approach the king at this time unless they were summoned. A presumed entrance into his courts would end in immediate death unless the king was to hold out the sceptre. One could easily understand Esther’s being hesitant in approaching the king; it was not something that anyone would presume to do. The word came back to Mordecai and he immediately responded to Esther, probably through Hatach in the following words.
“…Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews” (Est 4:13)
This situation was most urgent. Esther knew it was a major issue but Mordecai saw it as a now or never moment. Esther was in a most difficult position because it was she who was on the front line. If the king did not extend the sceptre it would be all over for her. Mordecai saw the bigger picture of knowing what would happen if action was not taken now. He was able to put this whole matter into perspective. He was not being insensitive to Esther’s plight; he actually had her long term interest in mind. This is an important truth. We oftentimes make decisions out of expediency. It may seem to settle things for now but its effect is only temporary. The decisions taken at such stages must get to the root otherwise it will rear its head later, usually with greater force.
This situation helps to portray the greatness of Mordecai. We also see attributes of the Holy Spirit in his life. Mordecai, like the Holy Spirit was able to bring light to a developing situation. Mordecai, like the Holy Spirit prompted Esther to come to a right decision. Mordecai, like the Holy Spirit, perceived the long term consequences of inaction on Esther’s part. Mordecai knew that the time to act was now. He made clear to Esther that if she did not act then God would raise up someone else to do so but her and her father’s house would be destroyed. He was able to convey the fact that she had been brought to the kingdom for such a time as this. All her preparation and development hinged on what she would do at this moment. Esther was extremely dependent on Mordecai’s insights and advisement.
John the Baptist came into his season at a unique time. There was considerable time and preparation that went into his development. The scriptures spoke of him long before he was born. There is the set time of God where He brings forth His plan and purpose in its fullness. It represents a narrow window for us to respond and be in proper alignment when that time comes. John’s ministry lasted for a matter of months but what an impact he made. There was no room for error in his timing. We can say the same for Esther. She has been nurtured and prepared by Mordecai for this moment. She found favor in being prepared to become queen after Vashti forfeited her thronely rights. Now is the time! There is no more time since further delay would result in the extermination of the Jewish people.
Esther came to quickly know that she had to act so she instructed Mordecai and all of the Jews in Shushan to fast and seek the Lord over a period of 3 days after which time she would go before the king. She makes the following statement which characterizes her resolve and courage.
“…and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”
Does this resolve sound familiar? How about the three friends of Daniel when they were challenged in not bowing down before the king’s image? They put their trust in God and willingly laid their lives on the line. In the end God vindicated and preserved them and brought them into a position of greater prominence. We must be able to recognize the times and seasons of the Lord. We need the “Mordecai’s” who are alert and vigilant; who press the people of God more into the things of God. Esther would not have been effective if not for Mordecai’s oversight in her life both before and after her becoming queen. No matter where we are in our walk with God we always need the Holy Spirit; we also need men and women who have a Mordecai type ministry who help to keep us alert and on track. It is the “Mordecai’s” that provoke us into the greater things of God and help for us to discern the times and seasons of the Lord.
The three days of prayer and fasting are now completed and Esther is about to make her approach to the king. One can only imagine what was going through her mind as she was preparing to come before the king’s throne. I tend to think that no matter what happened she was prepared either way knowing that what she was doing was the right thing. It may have looked like she was presuming in the eyes of man in approaching the king but it was God’s ordained opportunity for her. There are times when God’s will take precedence over the laws of man. Daniel did the same thing when the 3 presidents devised a law to undermine him (Dan 6). The laws that Daniel and Esther were breaking were for the purposes of God; they counteracted illegal laws that were meant for harm to God’s chosen representatives. This must be properly discerned especially in these days of licentiousness.
Esther approached the throne and found immediate favor with the king. This was consistent with the favor that Ezra and Nehemiah had found with the king. When a person is walking in integrity and in the purposes of God you see God’s protection and favor coming forth. Once again we can never presume upon this kind of favor. The favor Esther had is recorded in verse 3 where the king asks what her request is unto half of the kingdom. He extends this courtesy even before knowing of her request. When God chooses to bestow favor there is no stopping it. She wisely asks that he and Haman be invited to a banquet that she was to prepare later in the day. Esther did not immediately go into the primary reason as to why she made her approach to the king. In fact, she is including the very enemy that is plotting this diabolical purge amongst the Jews. At the banquet the king again asks what he can do for her unto half of the kingdom. She lets it be known that she has a request but still does not let it be known. We will see the wisdom in the way she managed this shortly. This request has Haman now on top of the world. We can see how God is allowing iniquity to become ripe through Haman. To add further insult to injury, Haman sees Mordecai in the king’s gate once again as he passes by. Just like before he does not bow or give any reverence and respect to Haman. His fury is now at a fever pitch towards Mordecai. In verse 10-12 Haman shares the events of the day with his wife and selected friends. He takes pleasure in letting it be known that no other man was included in the invitation given to the banquet that would take place the next day. Once again we see the wisdom of Mordecai as he made clear to Esther to let not any of these matters be known. Haman appears to have no clue to Esther’s true loyalty.
The indignation within Haman continues to rise even in the midst of his great joy at the day’s events with the King and Esther. Interestingly, his wife who obviously shared her husband’s disdain for the Jews devises a method for the hanging of Mordecai upon a set of gallows. This plan pleased Haman and he immediately gave the order for them to be made. Up till now we have seen Mordecai and Esther functioning in the purposes of God. A plan was about to be enacted by Haman that will bring God’s sovereignty into the picture. God will intervene in a unique way but it’s for the benefit of someone (Mordecai) whose life was pleasing in alignment with His purposes. Without this sovereign act which will be seen in the next chapter there would be no more Mordecai. This proves to be instructive to us as we prepare for the days that lie before us.
After the banquet the king had a difficult time sleeping. He requested for the Chronicles of the Kings to be read before him. In the midst of the reading the king discovered that it was Mordecai who sounded the warning concerning Bigthana and Teresh who had plotted against the king. He wanted to do a service for Mordecai seeing that nothing had yet been done for him. It is amazing in seeing who the king was about to task for carrying out his wishes for Mordecai. It is equally amazing to see who happened to be in the courtyard at this time. It is Haman, the man who was conspiring against Mordecai and the Jews. To me we see a picture of man’s volition intersecting with the sovereign purposes of God. We can say that only God could orchestrate something like this but it must be seen in conjunction with the free will choices of men. Mordecai was a man who chose to be faithful in his devotion to God and for that which he was tasked to do. Haman chose by nature of his evil heart to follow through on his ambitions. In both cases God did not compel either one in the area of their choices but we can see His sovereignty at work interwoven in their respective actions. This helps us to see the two sides of the arguments in the Calvinist/Armenian debate. God does administrate and predestinate based on the choices that He knows men will make. Just because man is predestinated does not mean that he is without excuse. God in His foreknowledge knows what choices we will make. We are responsible for our choices which stems from human volition. These choices are a product of what is found in our heart. God gives every opportunity for these root issues of the heart to be addressed and transformed. It is a decision that each individual must make for themselves. When we stand before God we will give an account for the choices and opportunities we have been given in life.
Haman comes in before the king and is tasked to honor a man whom the king delights in. The king does not name the man but the evilness of Haman’s heart has already determined that it is himself whom the king is referring to. It is with this in mind that Haman devises the means and method of how this honouring would be done. This is a significant judgment being placed upon a man who is evil and despised of God. It seems that God is allowing Haman a quick “claim to fame” moment. He devises the gallows that he thinks will be for Mordecai and then devises the means of pomp and pageantry that he believes will be for himself. In both cases it is the exact opposite. These verses come to mind as I write on this account:
Psa 2:1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
Psa 2:2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
Psa 2:3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
Psa 2:4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
There is another verse that comes to mind in this account as well. Let us not forget that in the Book of Esther the name of God is not mentioned yet His hand can be seen working throughout this narrative.
Pro 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
Ahasuerus is not a godly king but he is one who is used mightily for the purposes of God. He is oblivious to what Haman has been planning but yet is instrumental in determining his fate as well as the fate of Mordecai and the Jews. Haman at this moment is on top of the world, everything appears to be going his way. He reflects a characteristic that is seen in much of today’s culture. It is all about “me” with little regard being given to anyone or anything else. We live in a world where today the basest of men are exalted as seen in the following verse:
Dan 4:17 This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.
The difference between now and then is that we are more refined in how it is carried out. The ways of evil have been cleverly sugar-coated to give it a more palatable taste. Haman was tasting and delighting in his sugar-coated fame but it was about to come to an abrupt end. The people who love Christ, the Jewish people as a nation are coming under increasing siege today. The spirit of Haman is at work and for a season seems to be in the ascendancy but it will be short-lived provided we reflect the posture and humility of a Mordecai and an obedient responsiveness of an Esther.
In verses 8-9 Haman shares with the king what should be done for the man he seeks to honor. This is incredible when you think about it! Haman is sharing everything that he would love to see for himself. His wicked heart is the means by which Mordecai will be lifted up and exalted throughout the city. Our God is an amazing God in how He works on behalf of His own. The king gives Haman immediate instruction to begin implementing upon his suggestion. Oh by the way, the king now announces to Haman that Mordecai is the man he seeks to honor. Can you imagine the expression and look upon Haman’s countenance at the discovery of this news? Haman followed through on the king’s commandment and publicly honoured Haman throughout the city. What a reverse of fortune in seeing that Haman should be the one being honoured with someone like Mordecai proclaiming his honor. One cannot help but be overwhelmed at the sovereignty of God while going through this chapter. This should bring great encouragement to us as we seek to serve and honor the Lord in a difficult place. Only God could have arranged for the king to be disturbed the night before Mordecai’s planned execution. We need to press in and follow the example of both Mordecai and Esther in similar days of Restoration in which we live.
Paul is now set to sail towards Italy along with some other prisoners. Though he is a prisoner he is given some privileges while in route. It was clear that people like Felix, Festus and Agrippa saw Paul as innocent of the charges brought against him by the Jews. Still, they had to follow protocols and they had to manage the people of the provinces they had the oversight of. For them it could be a delicate balance because they were judged on how they were able to keep the peace in their particular areas. Paul was a problem to them because he was able to put forward his citizenship as a Roman otherwise they would just leave him to be executed by the Jews. They travelled to various ports experiencing adverse weather along the way. The ship master and others wanted to reach Phenice before the winter set in but Paul warned them not to embark while they were still in Lasea, a place known as “The Fair Havens”. Paul discerned that the voyage would be a dangerous one and was emphatic that they should hold there through the winter. They had the early south winds which betrayed the true picture of what awaited them. They set voyage sensing that they had the advantage.
I learned a lesson the hard way which can relate to the above. In January of 1977 my home city of Buffalo New York endured a record setting blizzard. I was a truck driver at the time and I had to make an 80 mile trip to deliver some goods and then return. The morning was sunny and unseasonably warm for January. Before leaving the house my dad warned me about taking warmer clothes, a shovel and other gear due to the possibility of a snow storm later in the afternoon. I said goodbye to my dad with a snicker pointing to the weather outside. (Sure dad, you can prepare but I am fine) Several hours later while trying to make my way back home I got stranded about 20 miles outside the city. My truck broke down and I had no boots or warmer gear to wear. All the roads to the city were shut down. The winds blew harder and the temperatures dipped to 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. I was very fortunate to be stranded near a friend’s house that I knew. The brothers of my friend had to come out and rescue me as I nearly froze to death. Trust me; I learned a lesson that day that has forever stayed with me. My dad also got stranded but he had a change of clothes, boots and a shovel which he was able to use to get to a safe place. He likes to chide me of this to this day. This blizzard in Buffalo is recorded in Google and I call it to mind whenever I read this account of Paul in Acts 27. We must be able to discern and to have eyes that see beyond the here and now.
In verse 14 the weather conditions abruptly changed as they encountered a known tempestuous wind known as Euroclydon. It came to a point where they were no longer able to steer or drive the ship so they let the wind just take it. What started out as a journey under good sailing conditions quickly changed into a trip of terror. I am also calling to mind a song that came out in the 1970’s that resembles the above account. Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is a true story of a ship that tried to make a destination ahead of a storm. It is a haunting song that personalizes the event of those on board that ship and their surviving families.
In this example of Paul all hope was lost as they wandered at sea for many days with no letting up of the storm (vs 20). The Lord inspired Paul to stand up after many days to declare that there would be no loss of life in this voyage. This was an opportunity for God to show Himself strong. Paul certainly had the men’s attention as he shared on how an angel had come to him saying that he would indeed be brought to Caesar (vs 24). After many more days there was a sense that they were nearing land. It was still night and they feared the possibility of hitting rocks. They lowered 4 anchors and determined to get into some of the life boats. Paul made the statement that unless they stayed upon the main ship they would not be saved.
What a beautiful illustration in speaking of Christ as being like the ship. It is only as we link and stay and live with Him that we can be saved. Paul encouraged them to take meat sensing that they were close to land. The men must have rationed their food during the times of uncertainties but Paul was now exhorting to them eat and gain strength (vs 34). Paul took stock of the remaining food on board and gave thanks for it and as he did so they all ate. Though this trip was not recommended as one to be taken, Paul was able to share the gospel. He was a master of being in and out of season. He had such adaptability to any people and to any situation. Through Paul the Gospel clearly had no bounds. With Paul there was never an excuse in not being able to preach; he made every excuse to minister. This to me is what best defines being a new wineskin; it is a model we need to adapt ourselves. Each of the men escaped safely to land just as Paul testified. His credibility continued to be established as they pressed forward towards Italy.