Today’s selected reading is found in the Old Testament book of Esther which describes the ascension of Esther as an ordinary Hebrew girl to the queen of the Persian Empire, as well as Haman’s attempt to exterminate and eradicate the entire Jewish population from the earth. More specifically, today’s reading is found in the entire Old Testament book itself. When you come to the Old Testament book of Esther you will find the third of three books that describe events which occurred during the days of the Persian Empire when it ruled, reigned and governed the earth. If you study the history of empires within and upon the earth you will notice and discover that the Babylonian Empire—the empire which invaded the land of Judah and the city of Jerusalem, which carried away captive the people of God, and which burned the Temple of the LORD to the ground, as well as destroyed the wall of the city and burned the gates with fire—was succeeded during the days of Belshazzar, which was the son of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. It would during the days of Darius the Mede that the city of Babylon would be conquered and taken, and from that moment on the Medes and Persians would rule over and govern the land. The Old Testament books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther all describe events which took place during the days of the Persian Empire, as well as certain kings which sat upon the throne therein. One might also say that the prophetic book of Daniel encompasses some of the time during the days of the Persian Empire, as both Daniel and the people of God were present within the city when it was invaded by Darius the Mede and the army of the Medes and the Persian. In fact, if you read from the sixth chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel on you will encounter and come face to face with days during Darius the Mede which would be that king which would first rule over the Medo-Persian Empire after it succeeded the Babylonian Empire within the earth. In all reality, there are three distinct book, as well as one specific chapter within the prophetic book of Daniel which highlight and describe the days of the Persian Empire and the direct link and connection between the kings of the Persian Empire and the divine work and will of the eternal God for and on behalf of His people. These Old Testament books help provide us with a powerful glimpse into what the days and times were like during the reign of the Persian Empire, and how the living and eternal God would use the kings of the Persian Empire to fulfill and accomplish His plan and purposes.
As I sit here this morning I can’t help but think about the fact that during the days of the Persian Empire and the kings which would sit upon the throne, there were kings therein which would be used mightily of the living and eternal God to fulfill and accomplish His plans and purposes. What makes this absolutely intriguing and exciting is when you think about and consider the fact that none of the kings which sat upon the throne in Persia worshipped, nor did they serve the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We know from the prophetic words of Isaiah the Hebrew prophet that Cyrus would be anointed, appointed and raised up by the living and eternal God in order that He might release the people of God from their captivity and exile in a strange and foreign land. We know front he prophetic book of Isaiah that Cyrus would be appointed by the eternal God to build a house for and a house unto the living God, as well as to rebuild the ancient ruins which were present within the land of Judah. It would be during the days of Cyrus the king of Persia that we find the people of God returning unto the land of inheritance, the land of promise and the land of blessing after seventy years had been fulfilled according to the prophetic word which was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah in the letter which he wrote and sent to the captives and exiles beyond the river in the land of Babylon. During the days of Cyrus king of Persia we find a powerful exodus from the land beyond the river, and a powerful journey unto the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It’s important that we recognize and understand this absolutely astounding reality, for when you read and think about the kings which sat upon the throne of Persia, you will find that they were used mightily in the hand of God to accomplish and fulfill His divine plans and purposes in the earth. The kings which would sit upon the throne of the Persian Empire would be used—perhaps more than any other kings of the earth—to accomplish the divine work and will of the eternal God. We know that Pharaoh during the days of Joseph would be used to bring the people of God into the land of Egypt, and even to give unto them a place in the midst of the land of Egypt, yet the kings which would sit upon the throne of Persia would be tools and instruments in the hand of the living God for His divine plans and purposes.
If you read the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah you will find that the kings which sat upon the throne of Persia would be instrumental in the work of rebuilding the Temple of the living God, as well as the work of rebuilding the wall of the city of Jerusalem and the repairing of the gates therein. It would be during the days of Cyrus the king of Persia that the people of God would be permitted to return to the land of their inheritance—and not only return to the land, but also to be restored in the midst of the land, and to rebuild the Temple and sanctuary of the living God. It would be during the days of Artaxerxes king of Persia that Nehemiah would be permitted to take a journey to the land of his people in order that the wall of the city might be rebuilt, and that the gates therein might be repaired. It is truly astonishing and remarkable to think about and consider the absolutely tremendous and incredible reality that the people of God would not only be permitted to return to the land of their inheritance, the land of their ancestors and forefathers, but under and during the reigns of the kings of Persia would they be able to rebuild the Temple of the LORD in the midst of the land, as well as rebuild the city of Jerusalem with its walls and gates therein. How interesting it is to think about and consider the fact that it would be during the days of Daniel the Hebrew and Darius the Mede that we would find the king of Persia once more being involved with the people of God, as Darius would be manipulated by the principals and satraps within the empire that he might sign a decree that would prohibit any people from praying to anyone other than the king. As you read the words which are found within these Old Testament books—not only will you encounter and come face to face with the kings which sat upon the throne in Persia and their being directly involved in the work of the LORD in the midst of the land, but you will also read of a great opposition that would rise up against the Jewish people. The more you read the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and Daniel that there would be something else that would almost seem to rise up side by side with the work that was to be carried out in the midst of the land, as well as within the Empire itself. Upon reading the words which are written and recorded within the book of Ezra you will find that there would be opposition that would rise up in the midst of land of Israel as the enemies of the people of God would seek to hinder, halt and stop altogether the work of rebuilding the Temple of the living God. Within and during the days of Nehemiah you will find that there would again be opposition that would rise up in the midst of the land as the enemies and adversaries of the Jewish people sought to halt and hinder the work of rebuilding the wall of the city and repairing its gates. Consider if you will the distinct accounts and narratives within these two Old Testament books and the tremendous opposition that would rise up against the Jewish people within their own land:
“Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the Temple unto the LORD God of Israel; then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assurion, which brought us up hither. But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, hey have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us. Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the peoples of Judah, and troubled them in building, and hired counsellers against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue…This is the copy of the letter that they sent unto him, even unto Artaxerses the king; Thy servants the men on the side the river, and at such a time. Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations. Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings. Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king’s dishounour, therefore have we sent and certified the king; that search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have molded sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed. We certify the king that, if this city be builded again, and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river. Then sent the king an answer unto Rehum the chancellor, and to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their companions that dwell in Samaria, and unto the rest beyond the river, Peace, and at such a time. The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me. And I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein. There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all countries beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid unto them. Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me. Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should a age grow to the hurt of the kings? Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribes, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power. Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia” Ezra 4:1-7, 11-24).
“At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shethar-boznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this we all? Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building? But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this matter. The copy of the letter that Tatani, governor on this side the river, and Shethar-boznai, and his companions the Apharsachites, which were on this side the river, sent unto Darius the king: they sent a letter unto him, wherein was written thus; Unto Darius the king, all peace. Be it known unto the king, that we went into the province of of Judaea, to the house of the great God, which is builded with great stones, and timber is laid in the walls, and this work goeth fast on, and prospereth in their hands. Then asked we those elders, and said unto them thus, Who commanded you to build this house, and to make up these walls? We asked their names also, to certify thee, that we might write the names of the men that were the chief of them. And thus they returned us answer, saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was builded these many years ago, which a great king of Israel builded and set up. But after that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven unto wrath, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house, and carried the people way into Babylon. But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon the same king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God. And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that was in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon, those did Cyrus the king take out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered unto one, whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; and said unto him, Take these vessels, go, carry them into the temple that is in Jerusalem,a Nd let the house of God be builded in his place. Then came the same Sheshbazzar, and laid the foundation of the house of God which is in Jerusalem: and since that time even until now hath it been in building, and yet it is not finished. Now therefore, if it seem good to the king, let there be a search made in the king’s treasure house, which is there at babylon, whether it be so, that a decree was made of Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter” (Ezra 5:1-17).
“When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieve them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel” (Nehemiah 2:10).
“But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? Will ye rebel against the king? Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial in Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 2:19-20).
“But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? Will they fortify themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they make an end in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall. Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: and cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders. So build we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4:1-6).
“But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, and conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it. Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them. And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall. And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease. And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return us they will be upon you. Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the LORD, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work. And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah. They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens with those that landed, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword birdied by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me. And I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another. In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, restore ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us. So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared. Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labour on the day. So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing” (Nehemiah 4:1-23).
“Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, the TObiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;) that Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner. Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand; wherein was written, It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words. And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together. Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart. For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:1-9).
PROPHETS! PRIESTS! GOVERNORS! The more I think about and consider these specific times in the midst of the reign of the Persian Empire, the more I can’t help but think about just how mightily the living and eternal God watched over His people, and how faithful He was unto them—not only in the work of rebuilding the wall of the city of Jerusalem, not only in the work of repairing the gates, and not only in the work of rebuilding the Temple and sanctuary, but also in the accusations which their enemies and adversaries sought to raise up against them. It is important to note within the books of Ezra and Nehemiah that during the days of the building of both the Temple, as well as the wall of Jerusalem Ezra was priest of the LORD who was mighty in understanding concerning the Law of Moses, and faithfully taught the people of God concerning and according to it. We know during these days that Joshua the son of Josedech was also incredibly instrumental in the work of rebuilding the Temple and sanctuary of the living God. Moreover, we learn and read of two distinct governors in the midst of the land—namely, Zerubbabel and Nehemiah—you were monumental and instrumental in leading and overseeing the people concerning the work that was before them in the midst of the land. What’s more, is that we also recognize and understand that there were also two distinct prophetic voices which were present among the people of God during these days and during these times—namely, Zechariah the son of Iddo, and Haggai the prophet. How absolutely wonderful and incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that during this time—not only do we find priestly voices and priestly presence during these days, but so also do we find prophetic voices that would be present during these times of rebuilding. WHEN PRIESTS TEACH AND PROPHETS PROPHESY! WHEN PRIESTS TEACH THE LAW OF THE LORD, WHEN PROPHETS PROPHESY THE WORD OF THE LORD! It is quite astonishing to think about and consider the fact that when you read the words which are found within these Old Testament books you will find the presence of the priests who taught the people of God concerning the Law of Moses the servant of the LORD, which was given unto him by the LORD at Horeb in the wilderness of Sinai, as well as the presence of the priests and Levites who would lead the people of God in worship and praise before the LORD, as they would minister before and unto him with the instruments of David. During the days of Ezra and Nehemiah—not only was there the voice of the priest among the people, but there was also the voice of the prophet. It was the voice of the priest which instructed them on how to walk in obedience before the LORD, and it was the voice of the prophet which instructed them on the times and what they ought to do during those days.
THE VOICE OF THE PROPHET, THE VOICE OF THE PRIEST, THE PRESENCE OF ENEMIES AND ADVERSARIES! THE WORK OF GOD! The more I think about and consider the narrative that is found in the Old Testament books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther, the more I can’t help but think about and consider the reality that in the midst of the work that was before the people of God there were prophetic voices which proclaimed the word of the LORD, as well as priestly voices which not only taught them the Law of Moses, but also led them in joyful celebration and worship before the LORD their God. With that being said, however, it’s important to note that running parallel to the prophetic and priestly voices that were present among them there was also the voices of enemies and adversaries which not only sought to hinder the work before them, but also sought to fight against—and even destroy them. In the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah we see the presence and voices of enemies and adversaries within the land which sought to hinder the work that was before them, as well as lift themselves up against the people of God to fight them in the midst of the land. What’s more, is that when you come to the Old Testament book of Esther you will find that another enemy rose up within the Persian Empire who was specifically labeled and described by the Holy Spirit as “the enemy of the Jews.” It’s quite astonishing to think about and consider the fact that within these three Old Testament books we find opposition rising up against the Jews and against the people of God—not only within the land into which they had returned, but also within the very palace itself, as Haman the son of Hamadatha the Agagite rose up a strong and powerful enemy of the Jews. When and as we consider the words which are found within these books it is absolutely necessary that we consider the tremendous opposition that would rise up against the Jews from within the land itself, as well as in the capital city of the Persian Empire—namely, Shushan. You cannot read these three prophetic books and not think about and consider the great opposition that would rise up against the people of God—not only to hinder and prohibit the work that was before them, but also to utterly annihilate and eradicate them altogether. It would be through the enemies and adversaries mentioned in the book of Ezra we find and read of enemies that rose up against the work of rebuilding the Temple of the LORD with the altar thereof, while in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah we read of the opposition which rose up against the work of rebuilding the wall of the city of Jerusalem and repairing the gates. What’s more, is when the enemy and adversary realized they could not stop or hinder the work of rebuilding the wall and repairing the gates, they attempted to rise up against them, threaten them, and even seek to fight against them. Through these two Old Testament books we encounter a great opposition which the returned and restored people of God faced in the midst of the land which they were given permission to return to by decree of Cyrus king of Persia.
What is truly astonishing about the words which we find and read in these Old Testament books is that while the Jewish people would indeed return to the land, and would indeed rebuild the Temple and the wall of the city—the work would not be without opposition from enemies within the land itself, as well as from enemies round about the land. There is a great misconception that when the LORD does a great and mighty work among us, and when He returns to the place of promise, inheritance, and blessing, and when He appoints unto us a work to do, that work will somehow not be without opposition. There is a growing misconception when thinking about and considering the reality of the people of God returning to the place of inheritance, promise and blessing, and that such a return can, will be, and perhaps even should be without any type of opposition or affliction. The truth of the matter is that even though the people of God would be permitted by the decree of the king of Persia to return to the land, and even though the people of God would be permitted to rebuild the Temple of the LORD, the walls of the city, and the gates therein, that didn’t mean that they would not experience tremendous opposition. The LORD would indeed bring the people of God back to the land that was sworn on oath to their ancestors—unto Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—however, that didn’t mean that they would do so without facing opposition on all fronts and all sides. In all reality—even when the Jewish people returned to their homeland after World War II, and even as they began to be restored in the midst of the land itself, they would face tremendous opposition from Syria, from Lebanon, from Gaza, from Egypt, and from Jordan. The return of the people of God to the land the second time would not be without opposition as you can read from the time of their return in 1948 all the way through present day, they have faced continual opposition and affliction in the midst of the land. Oh it is true that they have returned to the land, and it is true that they have been restored therein, however, it is also true that even in the midst of their returning, and even in the midst of their being restored to the land, they would still face tremendous opposition and threats on all fronts and on all sides. I have always found it interesting that what the Jewish people faced immediately coming out of Egypt—namely, being found between the sea and the adversary—has been their story throughout their history. The Jewish people have always been in that place between the sea and the adversary. The Jewish people have always been in that place between the sea behind them and enemies all around them. In the wilderness it was the Red Sea before them and the Egyptian army behind them, however, that would eventually change and be transformed to where the Mediterranean Sea would be behind them, and enemies would be all around them. The entire history of the Jewish people from the time they came out of the land of Egypt has been one that has been steeped in opposition and affliction from their enemies and adversaries who have sought to annihilate and utterly destroy them.
What we find in the midst of the Old Testament book of Esther is something more than simply trying to hinder and prevent the Jewish people from engaging themselves in the work of rebuilding in the midst of the land they returned to by decree of the king, and the sovereignty and providence of Almighty God. That which we find in the Old Testament book of Esther is something that far surpasses and far outweighs the opposition they would face in the midst of the land concerning the work which was before them, for even though a Jewish girl would become queen of the Persian Empire, there would arise within the midst of the Persian Empire, and within the capital city of Shushan a fierce enemy and adversary who sought to utterly and completely eradicate and annihilate them. While the Old Testament book of Esther is indeed about the promotion of Esther to queen over the Persian Empire, it would also be a picture of a fierce enemy and adversary that would rise up against the Jewish people from within the city of Shushan itself—one who would seek to do more than halt and hinder a work, and one who would seek to do more than simply fight against them. Haman the son of Hamadatha the Agagite would engage in such a fierce hatred, a fierce malice, and a fierce animosity toward the Jewish people, and that hatred and animosity would be entirely and altogether fueled by Mordecai who was Esther’s uncle refusing to bow down and pay him homage. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego refused to bow down and worship the golden image which Nebuchdadnezzar had set up, it resulted in their being thrown and cast alive into the fiery furnace. When Mordecai refused to bow down and pay homage to Haman the son of Hamadatha the Agagite—he wasn’t thrown into a fiery furnace, but rather he ignited a raging inferno within the heart and soul of Haman. Instead of there being a fiery furnace into which three Hebrews were cast alive into, there was a different fiery furnace that was not only ignited and turned up seven times hotter, but also into which the Jewish people as a whole were cast into. It would be as a direct result of Mordecai’s refusal to bow down and pay homage and respect to Haman that he would enrage and infuriate Haman, and ignite a fierce hatred, animosity and rage within him—one that would ultimately seek to completely and utterly annihilate the entire Jewish population from within the earth and within the empire. Consider if you will the events which would ultimately lead up to Haman’s hatred of the Jews, and his desire to completely and utterly eradicate them from within the empire:
“After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him. And all the king’s servants, that were with him. And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed, and referenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed now, nor did him reverence. Then the king’s servants, which were in the king’s gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king’s commandment? Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he heartened not unto them, that they told Haman to see whether Mordecai’s matters would stand: For he had told them that he was a Jew. And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of warmth. And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Hman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai. IN the first month, that is, the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar. And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their law as are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king’s treasuries. And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy. And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee. Then were the king’s scribes called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded unto the king’s lieutenants, and to the governors that were over every province, and to the rulers of every people of every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king’s ring. And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey. The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, that they should be ready against that day. The posts went out, being hastened by the king’s commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed” (Esther 3:1-15).
Within this particular chapter we encounter and come face to face with how quickly the hatred, the animosity and the rage of Haman was stroked and fueled, and how it arose from Mordecai’s refusal to bow down and pay him homage and reverence when he passed by in front of him. Day after day—despite the king’s decree, and despite the servants of Haman speaking unto Mordecai—Mordecai would refuse to bow down and pay homage to Haman. This would go on until it would be told unto Haman—and not only would it be told unto Haman, but Haman would also observe this reality for himself. It would be after Haman’s own observation of Mordecai’s refusal to bow down and pay him homage that he would not merely seek to put Haman to death, but would seek to put to death and utterly annihilate the people to whom he belonged to. Stop and consider the fact that the Jews within the land of Judaea would indeed face threats and opposition from the enemies and adversaries within the land and round about them, however, this threat would be something that would be far different than those in the land had experienced. This threat was one that guaranteed their utter and complete annihilation and destruction from the midst of the earth. This threat from Haman who would be branded in Scripture as “the enemy of the Jews” would come with the approval and seal of the king of Persia. It’s something truly powerful when an enemy of the people of God rises up in the midst of the earth and has the full backing and support of the throne and the one who sits upon the throne. Perhaps what makes this so incredibly powerful is when you think about the fact that although Haman had the backing of the throne within and upon the earth—there would be a higher throne that would far outweigh and would far supersede the authority of the king of Persia.
If you read the words found in the Old Testament book of Esther you will find and discover that the name of God isn’t mentioned once from beginning to end. Search and search as you may, but you will not find the name, nor will you find the mention of God in this Old Testament book. This is truly something to think about and consider, for although the enemy of the Jews would have the support and authority of the earthly throne which was upon the earth, there would be a different throne that would be behind the Jewish people—despite and even in the midst of the threat of annihilation, desolation and destruction in their midst. Haman who was the enemy of the Jews would seek to have the authority and approval of the earthly throne in Persia to bring about the utter destruction of the Jewish people, and yet even though the name of God isn’t mentioned in this particular book, we must recognize and see the divine hand of God working behind the scenes—beginning with raising up a Jewish woman to stand as queen within the Persian Empire. We dare not focus solely on the enemy of the Jews without also taking the time to focus on the Jew who was uniquely placed, and placed “for such a time as this” as queen over the Persian Empire. Even when Mordecai sent messengers to Esther in the palace at Shushan, he emphatically declared unto their that it might very well that she was appointed and raised up to be queen of Persia in order that she might fulfill a wonderful and powerful call to intercede in the presence of the king on behalf of the people. Oh how absolutely astonishing and remarkable it is that there would be one who would intercede for and behalf of the Jewish people in the midst of the earth, and it would come from within the palace itself. How truly wonderful it is to think about and consider the fact that the bride would rise up to intercede for and on behalf of the people of God in the presence and company of the king. What’s more, is that as you read the words which are found within this Old Testament book—not only will you find the bride interceding on behalf of the Jewish people before the king alone, but she would also intercede in the presence of the king, as well as in the presence of the adversary. INTERCEDING IN THE PLACE OF THE KING AND THE ADVERSARY! INTERCEDING BEFORE THE KING AND THE ADVERSARY! INTERCEDING BEFORE THE THRONE AND THE GALLOWS! It is something truly powerful to think about and consider how not only did Esther intercede on behalf of the Jewish people in the presence of the king alone, but she would also do it before that one who sought to destroy and utterly annihilate them altogether. Consider if you will the narrative as it unfolds in the seventh chapter of this Old Testament book beginning to read with and from the opening verse:
“So the king and Haman came to banquet with Esther the queen. And the king said again unto Esther on the second day at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition, queen Esther? And it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? And it shall be performed, even to half of the kingdom. Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favor in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request: for we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bond men and bond women, I head held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king’s damage. Then the king Ahasuerus answered and said unto Esther the queen, Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so? And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen. And the king arising from the banquet of wine in his wrath went into the palace garden: and Haman stood up to make request for his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king. Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquets of wine; and Haman was fallen upon the bed wherein Esther was. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? As the word went out of the king’s mouth, They covered Haman’s face. And Harbonoah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold, also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him there on. So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified” (Esther 7:1-10).
Please don’t miss the words which are written and recorded in this passage of Scripture, for we know that when Mordecai sent word unto Esther, she asked that both Mordecai and the Jewish people fast for three days while she prepared herself to intercede before and in the presence of the king. What’s so incredibly interesting about the intercession of Esther the queen was that in order to make her request known to the king she would have to come and appear before him uninvited, and hope for mercy to be upon her by extending the golden scepter. Of course we know that Esther would make an initial request to the king that both he and Haman would join her in a banquet she herself would throw for them. Isn’t it interesting that the very thing that Vashti the first queen of Persia in this narrative would be summoned and invited unto a banquet which the king had thrown in the midst of Shushan, and yet she would not come. Esther had absolutely no guarantee that the king would either hold out the golden scepter before and unto her, nor that he would come unto the banquet which she would prepare for him. What’s more, is that Esther would not only invite the king to one banquet, but would invite the king to two banquets. This is especially powerful when you think about the fact that part of what positioned Esther to become queen of Persia was vashti’s refusal to come unto the banquet which the king would prepare. The king sought to show off the beauty and splendor of the queen, and yet when the queen refused to come unto the king, there would eventually come the point when Vashti would no longer come before the king, and her place would be given unto another. It is something to be said about the fact that here we have Esther preparing—not one, but two distinct banquets, and inviting the king to the banquet. It should be worth noting that the king responded to both invitations, and came unto Esther on both occasions. What’s more, is that the invitation of the queen would not only be for the king, but also for Haman the enemy and adversary of the Jews. How truly powerful it is to think about the fact that Esther sought to make her petition before the king—not only in the presence of the enemy and adversary of the Jews, but also in the place of fellowship and relationship. INVITING THE ADVERSARY TO THE TABLE OF FELLOWSHIP! THOU PREPAREST A TABLE BEFORE ME IN THE PRESENCE OF MY ENEMIES! Stop for a moment and think about the fact that Esther prepared a table—not only before and for the king, but also for and before the enemy and adversary of the Jews, which were her people.
If you are honest you have to admire the courage and bravery of Esther during this time, for she was willing to position herself between the king and the enemy, as well as between the decree of the king and the hatred of the adversary. When Esther was before Haman the enemy of the Jews and the king who was the lover of Esther, she positioned herself between the adversary and the king knowing that the king could grant her that which she requested. Oh I can’t help but see within this narrative a truly wonderful and powerful picture concerning intercession, and how intercession can and may very well take place before the enemy and adversary, as well as before the one who sits upon the throne. Moreover, intercession can and may very well take place in the presence of the King and in the presence of the enemy. Stop and think about intercession as not only inviting the enemy and adversary to the table which you have prepared for him, but also inviting the king to the same table. It would be in that place where you bring the adversary and the King together that true intercession takes place. It would be in the company and presence of the king and the adversary Esther would make her petition and request known unto the king. It would be in the presence of the king, as well as in the presence of the enemy and adversary that the bride and the queen would make her petition and intercession for and on behalf of her people. Oh how truly astonishing and incredible it is to think about and consider this truth, for Esther was not only willing to position herself before the king and cast herself upon his mercy, but she was also willing to confront the enemy and adversary of the Jews. CASTING YOURSELF UPON THE MERCY OF THE KING AND CONFRONTING THE ENEMY FACE TO FACE! What a truly powerful picture this is when you take the time to think about it, for on the one hand we find Esther casting herself before and upon the mercy of the king, while on the other hand we find her confronting the enemy and adversary of the Jews. If this isn’t indeed a true picture of intercession, I have to honestly admit that I don’t know what is a picture of intercession. It would be in the presence of the king and the enemy Esther would plead for mercy, and would plead for the lives of her people who were threatened by the enemy of the Jews who hated them with a fierce and vehement hatred.
I sit here today, and I can’t help but think about how incredibly courageous and brave Esther was—not only to initially cast herself upon the mercy of the king by appearing and coming before him unannounced and uninvited, but also again by pleading for her life, and the lives of her people. Esther would cast herself on the mercy of the king, and would trust in his love for her, as she would also invite him to not one, but two distinct banquets. CASTING YOURSELF UPON MERCY AND APPEALING TO LOVE! When Esther would appear before the king—not only would she cast herself upon the mercy of the king, but she would also appeal to his love and his affection for and toward her. This is something that needs to be recognized and understood, for it is through this reality we see a clear and powerful picture of intercession. In all reality, I would dare say that intercession is more than simply prayer, and intercession is more than simply mentioning someone’s name and need before the throne of God in heaven. I am absolutely and completely convinced that intercession is indeed about casting ourself upon the mercy of the King and the One who sits upon the throne, and appealing to the love and affection of the One who sits as the bridegroom and husband. I absolutely love how Esther would initially cast herself upon the mercy of the king of Persia as king, but she would appeal to him as husband when he attended the banquet which she herself had prepared for him. PREPARING A TABLE IN THE PLACE OF LOVE AND HATRED! INVITING LOVE AND HATRED TO THE TABLE! BRINGING LOVE AND HATRED TO THE TABLE! What is so absolutely mesmerizing about this encounter is that neither the king, nor Haman knew that Esther was a Jew herself, and it was in the place where love and hatred were brought together that Esther revealed and made known her Idenity. Please don’t miss this, for earlier on in this Old Testament book you will find that Mordecai instructed and gave Esther specific direction not to make her identity known. Esther would keep her identity sealed and would not make it known until the appointed time when she would be before the king of Persia and the enemy and adversary of the Jews. How truly spectacular this is when you take the time to think about it, for Esther’s identity would be known only by her and Mordecai—and perhaps by those who knew her growing up—until the time that she would not only use her identity, but would also use her intercession to plead for her life, as well as the lives of the people of Israel.
IDENTITY AND INTERCESSION! I have to admit that it is something worth noting and point out when reading this book that when Esther would make her request of the king—not only would she do so based on her relationship to the king, but she would also make it based on her identity with her people. Esther’s request wouldn’t simply be made based on her relationship to the king alone, but it would be made based on her Idenity—an identity which was kept secret until the appointed time. When Esther would intercede for and one half of her people, she would do so based on her position and role as queen, but also as her relationship to the king as bride. Stop for a moment and think about the fact that when Esther made her request before the king—not only did she make her request before the king as queen of Persia, but she would also make her request based on her being the bride of the king. IDENTITY AND INTIMACY! In all reality, I would dare say that true intercession has at the very and core of it Idenity and intimacy, as not only do we position our Idenity before the king, but we also position our intimacy with the king. Esther’s intercession before the king would be based on her identity and identification with the people of God, as well as her intimacy with the king. What’s so amazing about this, as well, is that Esther would reveal her identity, and would identify with a people destined for destruction and annihilation, while centuries earlier Moses would forsake the riches and pleasures of Egypt to Identify with the suffering and affliction of the people of Israel. Here we have Moses who grew up in the king’s palace, and yet he refused to be associated with the pleasures of the king in order that he might associate with the suffering and affliction of the people of God. Within the book of Esther we encounter and come face to face with the fact that Esther would choose to identity herself as part of the people that were destined for destruction and annihilation, and it would that identity that would help her position herself as Intercessory before the king of Persia, as well as before the enemy and adversary.
TRUE INTERCESSION IS BASED ON OUR IDENTITY AND OUR IDENTIFICATION WITH THE AFFLICTED! TRUE INTERCESSION IS BASED ON OUR INTIMACY WITH THE ONE WHO SITS ON THE THRONE! TRUE INTERCESSION CASTS ITSELF BEFORE AND UPON THE MERCY OF THE KING NOT KNOWING WHAT THE OUTCOME WILL BE! TRUE INTERCESSION APPEALS TO THE LOVE OF THE KING AND THE ONE WHO SITS UPON THE THRONE! TRUE INTERCESSION IS FOUND IN THE PLACE OF ROYALTY, AS WELL AS THE PLACE OF INTIMACY—ROYALTY AS QUEEN, AND INTIMACY AS BRIDE! THE ROYALTY AND INTIMACY OF INTERCESSION! TRUE INTERCESSION POSITIONS AND PLACES ITSELF BETWEEN AND BEFORE THE ENEMY AND ADVERSARY AND THE KING! TRUE INTERCESSION CASTS ITSELF ON THE MERCY OF THE KING AND CONFRONTS THE ENEMY AND ADVERSARY! The narrative and account of Esther is something that is quite incredible, and quite powerful when you take the time to truly study and mediate upon it, for her intercession was not only based on her position as queen, but also as her relationship as bride. TRUE INTERCESSION IS BASED AS MUCH ON POSITION AS IT IS RELATIONSHIP! If we are going to be those who would indeed give ourselves to intercession before the throne of God in heaven, we must recognize and understand that such intercession has at the very heart of it relationship and position, as we come boldly before the throne of grace to obtain mercy and help in time of need. Esther came boldly before the throne of the king of Persia, and yet she had absolutely no clue whether or not she would live, or whether she would perish. Please don’t miss and treat this casually and lightly, for it shines a tremendous amount of light onto our perception of intercession, and how we approach and come before the throne of grace. Esther would call and invite—both the king as well as the enemy to the table, and it would be there at the table she would make her plea and would make her intercession before the king. What’s more, is that the enemy and adversary would hear her intercession before the king, and would even hear the queen call him out as enemy and adversary in the presence of the king. Oh how truly astonishing it is to think about the fact that Esther didn’t merely invite the king to the banquet to make her request known to him, but she would invite the enemy and adversary to the table as well, and it would be there in the company and presence of the king and adversary that she would make her petition and request known. What a truly glorious and powerful picture of intercession this truly is when you look at it through the lens of royalty and intimacy.
LOOKING THROUGH THE LENS OF ROYALTY AND INTIMACY! When Esther would intercede on behalf of the Jewish people, she would not only make that request known from a place of royalty as queen of Persia, but she would also make that request known from a place of intimacy as bride of the king. In all reality, I would dare say that both of these need to work in glorious and beautiful harmony with each other, as it takes both royalty and intimacy to make true intercession in the company and presence of the king. It is something truly spectacular and truly wonderful to watch and behold as both Esther’s royalty as the queen and her intimacy as the bride were put on full display—not only in the presence of the king, but also in the presence of the enemy and adversary as well. Stop for a moment and think about this absolutely astonishing and breathtaking reality, as Esther’s royalty and intimacy were put on full display before the enemy and adversary of the Jews as she cast herself upon the mercy and love of the king. It was her royalty and intimacy that enabled her to carry out such a banquet, and it was in the presence of the enemy of the Jews, as well as the king of Persia that she was able to appeal to the mercy, the love, the grace and the affection of the king. In all reality, I am absolutely and completely convinced that this is the picture that is behind the author of the epistle when they encouraged us to come boldly before the throne of grace to obtain mercy and help in a time of need. Esther was not sure if the king would extend her mercy when she first appeared before him, however, once she had received the extension of mercy and invitation, she would make her request and petition known. How absolutely wonderful it is to consider the fact that Esther entered into the presence of the king of Persia, and in the presence of the king she would receive an open invitation to ask of him whatever she would. It’s important to note that in both cases—not only did Esther receive mercy, but she was also informed by the king that he would grant her her request up to half of the kingdom. Pause for a moment and think about that reality, that not not only did Esther receive mercy in a time of need and desperation, but she was also given the awesome truth that the king would grant her whatever she asked for. Undoubtedly the king knew that Esther wouldn’t ask for half of the kingdom, but what this demonstrates is the full scope and magnitude of just how much Esther would and could ask for while in the presence of the king. Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—do you know how much you can ask for in the company and presence of the king? Do you know how much you have the ability to intercede for in the presence of the King? It was Jesus who declared unto the disciples that up until a particular moment they had asked nothing, but now the time had come for them to ask, and whatever they asked in His name He would grant unto them.
I absolutely love how the intercession of Esther would not only find its foundation in the mercy and love of the king, but also in the willingness of the king to grant unto her whatever her request might be. The king had absolutely no idea what Esther was going to ask of him, and yet even before she asked she was already granted whatever her heart desired. How awesome and beautiful it is to think about the fact that even before Esther voiced her request of the king she was told—and not once, but twice—that the king would grant her whatever she asked and whatever she requested. How incredibly bold and courageous that must have made Esther in her request before the king, as not only did the king extend unto her mercy via the golden scepter, and not only did the king accept her invitation to a banquet she prepared, but the king also declared unto her that he would grant unto her whatever her request would and could have been. What great courage and confidence Esther would have had as she prepared to enter into the company and presence of the king to not only ask her request in the company and presence of the king, but also in the presence of the enemy and adversary. What a truly spectacular truth and reality it is to think about and consider the fact that the king’s declaration unto Esther that he would grant her whatever she asked up to half the kingdom would have given her the boldness and the courage to voice her request in the presence of the enemy and adversary. Oh that we would recognize and understand the great promise we have within our hearts and lives when we ask anything in the name of Jesus, knowing that we can even make our request known in the presence of our enemies. Even when the LORD prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies we can with full assurance, full confidence and full boldness make our request and our petition known before and unto the living God—not only for others, but even for ourselves. What a great promise we have been given by the eternal King that whatever we ask for in the name of the eternal Son Jesus Christ we will have. OH the question then becomes whether or not we are indeed coming before and coming unto the throne of God with boldness, with confidence, with courage, and with full assurance knowing that there is grace and mercy to help in time of need. Oh we don’t need to come before the throne weak, fearful and trembling, but we can come emboldened, courageous, brave, and assured in the promises which have been provided to us through the Word of God. Consider if you will the words which are written and found in the fourth chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews:
“Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:11-16).