Esther vs evil

The Bible bits that need to be read are from Esther 5 and Esther 6. You’ll need to be selective in which parts you read as it’s quite long. The suggested reading is below but you may want to add or delete parts as works for you!

On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the sceptre.
Then the king asked, ‘What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.’
Esther replied, ‘My petition and my request is this: If the king regards me with favour and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfil my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question.’Haman’s rage against Mordecai
Haman went out that day happy and in high spirits. But when he saw Mordecai at the king’s gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai. 10 Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home.
Calling together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, 
11 Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honoured him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. 12 ‘And that’s not all,’ Haman added. ‘I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. 13 But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.’
14 His wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, ‘Have a pole set up, reaching to a height of fifty cubits, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai impaled on it. Then go with the king to the banquet and enjoy yourself.’ This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the pole set up.

Esther 6

That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes.
‘What honour and recognition has Mordecai received for this?’ the king asked. ‘Nothing has been done for him,’ his attendants answered.The king said, ‘Who is in the court?’ Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about impaling Mordecai on the pole he had set up for him.
His attendants answered, ‘Haman is standing in the court.’
‘Bring him in,’ the king ordered.
When Haman entered, the king asked him, ‘What should be done for the man the king delights to honour?’
Now Haman thought to himself, ‘Who is there that the king would rather honour than me?’ 
So he answered the king, ‘For the man the king delights to honour, let them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honour, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honour!”’
10 ‘Go at once,’ the king commanded Haman. ‘Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.’
11 So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honour!’
12 Afterwards Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman rushed home, with his head covered in grief, 13 and told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him.
His advisors and his wife Zeresh said to him, ‘Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him – you will surely come to ruin!’ 
14 While they were still talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared.

Using wisdom and being ‘wily’

The situation facing the Jewish people was serious. They were facing being wiped out. So Esther and Mordecai took action. The people prayed and fasted.

But Esther also acted very wisely. Jesus told us to be as innocent as doves and as wily as serpents. Often we’re innocent as doves and as wily as doves… This is not about acting wrongly but acting with streets smarts and God’s wisdom.

In James 1.15, God says we can ask him for wisdom if we lack it. I don’t know about you but I ask every day and need God’s wisdom in everything! I need him!

During the English – Scots civil war a girl was off to worship but was stopped by English soldiers. It wasn’t legal to go and worship Jesus (something secularists would love today in the UK). The soldiers asked the girl where she was going? She didn’t want to lie so asked God for wisdom and replied, “It’s my brother’s birthday and I’m going to his celebration.”

Now that is doing what Jesus said about being innocent as doves and wily as snakes! (In Matthew 10.16 Jesus said, ““I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”)

Esther threw a banquet and the King was in a happy, jovial mood. She also used wisdom. With the King in high spirits and happy, he was more likely to hear her request. The lesson for us is that we should use prayer and action. Prayer leads to action and action needs prayer! In the book of James, he says that this is what faith looks like. Faith without works is dead. Yes of course we pray many times without needing action as prayer is asking for God’s action. But God often uses prayer to lead us to action.

Faith looks like…

In early 2019 the homeless magazine, ‘The Big Issue’ looked at 100 of the people making a difference in the UK.

Funnily enough, none of those mentioned were visibly Christian organisations, although Christians evidentially make the biggest difference in society. Christians provide half of the UK’s parent & toddler groups, the biggest network of debt counselors, feed over 100,000 people every year for free and have the most children’s and youth workers (even when there were council funded youth workers).

Faith looks like prayer and action. And Christians are full of more good than any other group in society. As we should be!

Days of Haman..

We live in a time where there are many ‘Hamans’ who are there wanting to silence the people of God. Often in the name of equality and tolerance, they are filled with a savage rage and hatred that is satanic in nature.

When Judge Kavanaugh was proposed to be a Supreme Court Judge and an inquiry was launched, there were some women so full of rage that there was hysteria in and outside court, with people throwing themselves to the floor and trying to batter down the doors in Congress. Laws in China are seeing Christians persecuted, churches closed, Christians being forced to install CCTV, the Bible being re-written by the state. The worst persecutor is North Korea, a secular state, contrary to the claims of those who claim religion is always the worst offender. In the UK and the US and beyond, Christians are losing their jobs because they simply take stand for what the Bible says. They are being attacked by ‘Hamans’ full of rage against God.

The world has become full of identity politics where groups are being formed and setting up against each other. This is dividing society and breaking people apart. I’ve seen many Christians get hugely angry about Brexit and about President Trump. Social media feeds into this culture of anger, offence, no-platforming and silencing free speech contrary to certain ways of thinking – often in the name of equality.

Someone famously said, God offends the mind to reveal the heart. What we see going on right now could be God allowing things to happen in order to show people what people are truly like without God. The move to secularism shows how empty and disastrous secularism really is.

There are many Hamans trying to destroy God. Satan started with Herod (trying to kill Jesus) and he’s been trying ever since. Haman didn’t just want power, he also wanted to silence differing points of view, to be worshipped and to exterminate others he didn’t like. He is a picture of the devil who hates worship of God. Haman’s hatred was so strong that he wanted to destroy God’s people completely. Don’t think that quality simply means that some people want equal rights. They are unwittingly motivated by satan and have been deceived into doing his work – wanting to silence, steal, kill and destroy. Meanwhile the cost to society as a whole is huge.

Haman was also boastful and full of pride. He loved the fact that he seemed important. Again, we see movements that are full of pride, sparkles, things that look good but hide a terrible underbelly. Society is now full of new words that make things that are wrong seem OK and seem fun. But a name change doesn’t change the nature of the thing. Out of Haman’s self-importance, he came up with the idea of having a pole set up to impale Mordecai on. When evil abounds, the evil increases.

How do we respond as Christians?

First of all, we need to be above suspicion and above reproach. We need to be who we say we are in public and private. We also need to show God’s love but humbly and be prepared to pray for our ‘enemies’, remembering we aren’t against people but against the supernatural evil forces (Ephesians 6). We should be careful of our speech at all times (knowing that recording is going on constantly) and not speak abusively about people. We just need to live in line with the word of God and trust that God has a purpose and a plan. And we should pray like our lives depended on it.

We should also be encouraged. God is moving behind the scenes. A National Day of Prayer happened in January 2019 in London, the first one ever. God is moving today as he was in the tie of Esther. The Message Trust in Manchester reported in 2018 and 2019 that through their incredible missions, that thousands of young people responded to the Gospel and were fed into local churches and youth organisations. Young people especially are hungry and desperate for truth and real love. So we need to be full of hope, full of action and full of giving too!

Back in Esther, God was on the move…

The King was woken up and started reading the history of what had happened in his Kingdom. Now it’s important to remember that when there had been a plot against the King, Mordecai overheard it, told Esther and Esther passed this information on, crediting Mordecai. So when the King read Mordecai hadn’t been rewarded for his actions, he wanted to reward him.

God orchestrated things so that Haman was used to create something that was set up not only for the benefit of Mordecai, but also the thing used to see Haman killed and Haman was first made to honour Mordecai, who he hated. Truly God had set a banquet table up in the middle of Mordecai’s enemies.

We’re in a season where it seems that the Haman’s are winning. But God wants and will turn things around, just as he did for the Jewish people. He will do the same again for the church and for the Jewish people, when it looks like there is no hope. God is the God of all hope and he will have his way.

The day of the Lord is coming. As Anglicans say before Communion:  ‘Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.’ Then, we can add the word ‘soon.’ And that should be a call to action and a call for a church that lives out the words of Isaiah 60.1-3:

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.
3Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Come Lord Jesus. Let’s pray for this.