Sunday, September 15, 2013

Esther Sermon

I had the opportunity to preach on Esther today at Agana Heights Baptist Church. It was the second on my series of “Unsanitized Bible Stories.” My take on Esther is that the main point deals with the returned exiles in Jerusalem, who have no idea what is going on in the story, who God saves (working behind the scenes) through a pair of unfaithful Jews: Esther and Mordecai. Mordecai is part of the Jewish majority who disobey the prophetic word to return to Jerusalem and separate from Babylon. Nevertheless, God places them in positions of authority in the Persian government, despite their unfaithfulness (Esther even denies her Jewishness), and then God brings them to a crisis point where they finally make the right decision to stand up for their people. The returned exiles are saved and God’s plan is preserved.

The book of Esther is an intricate and beautiful festal song with an amazing outline. The outline is a very deep chiasm in which Esther and Mordecai go in as faithless deniers and come out as faithful heroes. Things begin to change when Mordecai begins to think of his people instead of just himself. Here is the outline which I adapted (added a lot more detail) from the Believer’s Church Bible Commentary.

Power and Greatness of Xerxes 1.1-2        
  Xerxes Banquet 1.3-8
    Vashti's Banquets  1.9-12
     Vashti Deposed/Esther's Opportunity 1.13-2.1-7
        Esther Acts Like a Gentile 2.8-18
          Haman Elevated 3.1
            Mordecai refuses to bow 3.2-4
             Haman's plot against the Jews 3.5-15
                  Mordecai appeals to Esther 4.1-17
                    Esther's First Banquet 5.1-8
                     Haman's Gallows constructed for Mordecai 5.9-14
                            Mordecai Honored 6.1-14
                   Esther's 2nd Banquet 7.1-7
                     Haman Hung on His own Gallows 7.8-10
                  Esther Appeals to Xerxes 8.1-8
               The Jews plot against Haman 8.9-10
            Jewish Resistance 8.11-14
          Mordecai and the Jews Elevated 8.15-16
        Gentiles Act Like Jews 8.17
      Triumph of the Jews 9.1-17
    Mordecai establishes feast of Purim 9.18-28
  Esther confirms a second Purim 9.19-32
Greatness and Power of Mordecai with Xerxes 10.1-3

The returned exiles, who were wondering if God had abandoned them, were encouraged that God was working to accomplish His plan for them, without their help or knowledge, and was even using the power of their enemies to benefit them. All the coincidences that came together to save them illustrate Michael Fox’s comment that a “coincidence is a miracle in which God prefers to remain anonymous.”

Despite their lack of past faithfulness, Esther and Mordecai receive another chance to serve God’s people and both come through as heroes.

Haman finds out the hard way that, no matter how much political, or other, power you have, opposing God’s people and God’s work is always fatal in the end.

God is going to accomplish his plan and nothing can stop that. God turns the banquets of this world into a great banquet for his people in the end.

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