How Courage Triumphs

Explore the Bible Series

February 18, 2007

 

Background Passage: Esther 5:1-7:10

Lesson Passage: Esther 5:1-3; 7:1-6, 9-10

 

Introduction:

 

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,

In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;

Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,

And the choice goes on forever, Ďtwixt that darkness and that light.

 

Nineteenth-Century American poet and essayist, James Russell Lowell penned these words in December, 1845.Since the previous summer, the U.S. seemed on a certain course for war with Mexico, and the twenty-six year old poet believed that the war, in this case, was immoral.His powerful poem, later set to music, expresses Lowellís appeal for Americaís politicians to courageously refuse to let the country enter war with Mexico.Whatever political views my readers may embrace, one must appreciate Lowellís impassioned please for courageous action, courage that Christians must often display.

 

While reading the story of Esther, my mind has returned, again and again, to the life and legacy of Dr. Bill Wallace.A generation of Southern Baptist children grew up hearing of the martyrdom of this humble, splendid servant of Christ. The Foreign Mission Board sent Dr. Wallace to China in the 1930s, and he served as a medical missionary to the Chinese people until his untimely death in 1950.The good doctor, from a human perspective, could not have come to China a more difficult time. Japanese aggression in China troubled the first several years of Wallaceís tenure, and the Second World War took its toll on the Chinese people and the faithful cadre of missionaries in Wuchow. In the aftermath of the war, Maoist revolutionaries overthrew the Jiang Kai-shek regime, and communist operatives moved into the Wuchow vicinity. They immediately turned their unwelcome attention to the popular American doctor at the Stout Memorial Hospital.

 

Understandably, many of the American missionaries in China reluctantly decided to return to the United States during these politically unstable times.In particular, missionary families determined that circumstances made it impossible for wives and children to stay in the region.Bill Wallace, however, chose to stay, and he knew that his choice could cost him his life.In December of 1950, local Communists arrested Bill Wallace and accused him of serving as an American spy!His interrogators planted a small caliber pistol in Wallaceís living quarters, and assured the startled Chinese people that this firearm affirmed the doctorís connection with U.S. espionage.Soldiers tortured Wallace for weeks, and he died in his prison cell on February 10, 1951.Bill Wallace chose to remain in China despite the dangers that threatened his life.Perhaps like Esther, he could have said, ďIf I perish, I perish.Ē

Outline of the Background Passage:

 

I.                   Estherís First Banquet for Ahasuerus and Haman (5:1-14)

A.    The queenís invitation (vv. 1-5):The last verses of Chapter Four record Estherís plea for Mordecai and the Jews to fast on behalf of the queenís quest for Israelís clemency.After the three days of fasting, Esther made her way to the kingís inner court.As we discovered last week, security protocol demanded the execution of any person who entered the monarchís inner court without authorization.Estherís only hope rested in the kingís trust and good will toward his wife, good will that he had to express by extending his scepter.Thankfully, Ahasuerus greeted Esther warmly.In addition to extending the scepter, the king offered to fulfill his lovely wife's request, even to half of his kingdom (Bible students should probably understand this offer as a hyperbole, a manner speech that revealed the kingís warm and generous spirit toward Esther.)Esther did not immediately unburden her heart to the king; rather, she patiently asked the king and Haman to attend a banquet.

B.     The first banquet (vv. 6-8):The king and Haman attended the first banquet, and, as before, Ahasuerus offered to answer any request the queen made.Still reluctant to reveal her heart, Esther asked that her two guests return for second banquet on the morrow.

C.     Hamanís pride (vv. 9-14)

1.      Haman took great joy in his apparent insider status with the king and queen (v. 9a): Wicked men delight in the advantages and applause of the world and Hamanís glee in the apparent favor of the royal couple reveals his foolishness and lack of discernment.

2.      Hamanís irritation at the disregard of Mordecai (v.9b):Haman, though ecstatic about his relationship with the king, chafed at the disregard of Mordecai.

3.      Hamanís conversation with his wife and friends (vv. 10-14): The wicked prime minister, in the presence of his wife and friends, reveled in his unrestrained self-congratulation; nevertheless, Mordecaiís disrespect tempered the prideful manís celebration.His desire for vengeance controlled the unholy conversation, and the wicked council plotted the inglorious execution of Mordecai.

 

II.                Ahasuerus Honored Mordecai (6:1-14)

A.    The king rediscovered Mordecaiís kindness and loyalty (vv. 1-3):Esther 2:19-23 recorded the uncovering of a plot on the kingís life; however, Ahasuerus had forgotten Mordecaiís kindness.In Chapter Six, a bout of insomnia caused the king to call for the historical records of Persia (Some of my students also believe that reading history cures insomnia!), and the king realized no one had rewarded Mordecai for his loyalty.

B.     Ahasuerus sought Hamanís counsel (vv. 4-9):Haman assumed that the king wanted to honor him, and the prime minister advised an extravagant celebration.To Hamanís horror, the king wanted to revere Mordecai!

C.     Haman forced to honor Mordecai (vv. 10-14): After celebrating Mordecaiís service to Ahasuerus, Haman returned to his wife and friends.They quickly surmised that Haman had plotted against the wrong man, and the prime ministerís doom was certain.

 

III.             The Execution of Haman (7:1-10)

A.    Estherís second banquet (vv. 1-8): Again, Ahasuerus asked Esther to make her request.Finally, the queen revealed her concern about the plot to kill the Jews.Esther told the king that she was a Jew, and Hamansís murderous designs spelled her doom as well as the destruction of all of her people.The revelation outraged the king, and stormed from the banquet.Haman, desperate to save his life, fell on the couch of the queen.The king returned at the moment Haman assaulted the queen, and Hamanís fate was sealed.

B.     Haman killed on his own gallows (vv. 9-10):Harbonah, one of the kingís eunuchs, pointed out that Haman had built gallows for Mordecai, and the king decreed that Haman be executed.

 

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.      Several years passed before the king honored Mordecai.What does this passage teach us about the disappointments and delays in the Christian life?How can believers best handle these disappointments?

2.      Again and again, the Psalms promise that God will vindicate and protect his people.What does this story tell us about the Lordís providence for believers?

 

Personal Note:First, I apologize for the lateness of this weekís lesson.The demands of my job, at times, make completion of the lessons very difficult.Second, a few readers raised concern about my statement, in last weekís lesson, that Mordecai was Estherís uncle. I am aware that 2:7 indicates that Mordecai was Estherís cousin.Oddly, when I was child, I was constantly taught that Esther was Mordecaiís niece, and, in my haste, I wrote the misstatement last week.I try to exercise great care when writing these outlines; however, I often find myself typing these outlines in odd moments between classes and meetings. Though I study hard for every lesson, I occasionally find myself writing in haste.It is not, of course, my intent to give misleading information in the outlines.Thanks for your help, prayers, and patience.

 

Finally, I want to thank many of you for your prayers concerning my heart condition and general health. Last summerís surgery went very well, and I have recovered well.Yesterday, I went in for a few heart tests, and the cardiologist, for the first time in several years, gave me a clean bill of health and removed all restrictions on my activities.Thank you all for praying for me.

 

Sam Tullock

 

 

 

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