When Service is Risky

Explore the Bible Series

February 11, 2007

 

Background Passage: Esther 3:1-4:17

Lesson Passage: Esther 3:2, 5-6; 4; 5, 8-16

 

Introduction:

 

Must I be carried to the skies,

On flowery beds of ease;

While others fought to win the prize,

And sailed through bloody seas?

 

Isaac Watts penned these words (c. 1721) as he prepared to preach a sermon on I Corinthians 16: 13, ďWatch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strongÖĒWatts understood an important principle of Christian living, a precept largely forgotten in our comfortable, easy cultural setting.No person truly walks with the Lord without paying a significant price for discipleship.The Apostle Paul cautioned his protťgť Timothy about the dangerous path Christians must follow.

 

But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystraówhat persecutions I endured.And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.But evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.

 

Paulís words seem clear and unmistakable.He affirmed a universal, unalterable principle; those who seek to live for Christ will suffer persecution.Paul did not rub off the rough edges of his claim, and he did not allow any exceptions to the rule.Persecution is a mark of all true believers.Please understand, the Apostle does not encourage Christians to seek persecution (that, it seems to me, is a mark of mental illness); however, he did not want men like Timothy to be caught off guard by hardship.

 

Repeatedly, the Lord taught his disciples of the cross they were to bear, the cross of persecution, trial, and hardship (See Matthew 10:38).The Savior trod this path before his people, and to follow him means walking in his steps.Indeed, if the ungodly hated Jesus, they will hate his disciples (See, for instance Matthew 10:16-26).

 

Esther and Mordecai, godly people living in an ungodly world, found themselves in a precarious situation.Approximately five years had passed since Esther married Ahasuerus and Mordecai had entered the kingís service.Perhaps they imagined that these halcyon days would continue unperturbed and uninterrupted, but that would not prove to be the case.The lesson passage for this week outlines the greatest trial of the Estherís (and Mordecaiís) life.

Background Passage Outline:

 

I.                    Hamanís Murderous Conspiracy Against the Jews (3:1-15)

A.     Haman the son of Hammadatha the Agagite (3:1): Haman appears in the text with little introduction, at the height of political influence.He descended from the family of Agag who ruled the Amalekites five centuries before the time of Esther (See I Samuel 15).The text gives little insight into the historical currents that swept this man to power, but Ahasuerus certainly had great confidence in Haman.

B.     Hamanís displeasure with Mordecai (vv. 2-6): The Scriptures do not forbid believers to pay appropriate respect to governmental leaders, but Mordecai refused to play Hamanís game.Perhaps Mordecai discerned some grave fault in Hamanís character, and, therefore, he refused to bow before Haman as the kingís decree demanded. Mordecaiís refusal infuriated Haman.

C.     Hamanís plot against the Jews (vv. 7-15): Hamanís anger at Mordecai persuaded him to seek the annihilation of all of the Jewish people in the Persian Empire.The Scriptures do not inform us about the motives for Hamanís murderous designs, but Mordecaiís insurrection certainly acted as a catalyst for Hamanís genocidal schemes.The weak, indecisive character of Ahasuerus is made plane in this chapter.Haman presented his bloody scheme to the king, and Ahasuerus seems to have complied without much thoughtful consideration.The king affixed his signature to the decree to slaughter all of the Jews, women and children as well, on the appointed day.

 

II.                 Mordecaiís Plan to Save the Jews (4:1-17)

A.     News spread about Hamanís plot (vv. 1-3): 3:15 seems to indicate that Haman was so confident in the success of his murderous plan that he made no efforts at concealment.The news of the impending disaster spread quickly, and the situation threw Susa into confusion. Mordecai, like all the Jews in Persia, grieved when he received the ill tidings.

B.     Mordecai and Esther corresponded about the news of Hamanís scheme (vv. 4-11): Esther got wind of Hamanís ill designs, and she sought more detailed information from her beloved uncle.A Persian servant named Hathach carried messages between Mordecai and Esther.The text, here as elsewhere, implies that Mordecai held some position in the Persian royal court.He had access to the written decree issued by Ahasuerus, and he sent the document to his niece.Then, Mordecai, through the mediation of Hathach, pleaded with Esther to go to the king and intercede for her Jewish brethren.The customs of the Persian monarchy forbid anyone to enter the kingís court without summons.To enter, uninvited, meant certain death for Esther.The king could, upon his whim, extend his scepter to the bold intruder, but Esther remained uncertain of the kingís disposition toward her.This would require great courage and boldness.

C.     Mordecaiís final counsel to Esther before she entered the kingís presence (vv. 12-17): Mordecai reminded Esther that annihilation of the Jews would mean her destruction as well; therefore, he urged her to a bold confidence in providence.Mordecai retained his faith concerning the deliverance of the Jews (See v. 14), and he theorized that Esther had risen to her place of honor for just this hour (See v. 14b). Esther asked Mordecai to pray for her, and she resolved that she would intercede for Israel, whatever the consequences (See v. 16).