Pride Before Destruction.
Esther 7-8, James 3
For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. – James 3:16 NLT
Over in Proverbs 16:18, we find the sobering warning: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” That statement could have been the epitaph for Haman. This ambitious, greedy, manipulative man had gone out of his way to secure a place of highest honor in the kingdom, and had been willing to destroy an entire people group along the way. There is no doubt that Haman prided himself in his accomplishments. At one point, he “gathered together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, and boasted to them about his great wealth and his many children. He bragged about the honors the king had given him and how he had been promoted over all the other nobles and officials” (Esther 5:10-11 NLT). Haman had it all. He had made it to the top and wanted everyone to know about it. But sadly, his rapid rise to fame was not enough. He was not only driven by pride, but by hatred and a self-destructive need for revenge. As great as his new-found success was, he desired something even more. “But this is all worth nothing as long as I see Mordecai the Jew just sitting there at the palace gate” (Esther 5:13 NLT). Mordecai was the one man who had refused to bow down before Haman and show him the honor he believed he so richly deserved. In spite of all his wealth, power and honor, Haman would not be satisfied until Mordecai was destroyed. Driven by his pride and motivated by his insatiable need for revenge, Haman was susceptible to the advice of his wife and friends. “So Haman’s wife, Zeresh, and all his friends suggested, ‘Set up a sharpened pole that stands seventy-five feet tall, and in the morning ask the king to impale Mordecai on it. When this is done, you can go on your merry way to the banquet with the king.’ This pleased Haman, and he ordered the pole set up” (Esther 5:14 NLT).
What does this passage reveal about God?
As has been the case throughout this story, God was working behind the scenes, orchestrating events and organizing affairs in such a way that His divine will would be accomplished. Haman prided himself in his wisdom. He was certain that his plan would prove to be successful. Not only would he have all the power and prestige his heart desired, he would be able to see his enemy, Mordecai, put to death for his insolence. But the apostle reminds us, “For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’” (1 Corinthians 3:19 ESV). Haman’s grand plan was no match for the sovereign will of God Almighty. The writer of Proverbs gives us a similar reminder: “No human wisdom or understanding or plan can stand against the LORD” (Proverbs 21:20 NLT). The book of Job contains another warning regarding man’s wisdom and God’s sovereign will: “He traps the wise in their own cleverness so their cunning schemes are thwarted” (Job 5:13 NLT). Haman was no match for God. His plans and power were futile against the sovereign God of the universe. James writes in his letter, “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic” (James 3:13-15 NLT). True wisdom – godly wisdom – is always accompanied by humility, not pride. Jealousy and selfish ambition are not the byproduct of godly wisdom. They are of this world. James goes on to write, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble” (James 4:6 NLT). We see the grace, mercy and favor of God clearly in this story. Mordecai and Esther experience it. The people of Judah are the undeserving recipients of it.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Haman is a picture of man without God. In the absence of God, man always worships himself. He becomes the center of his own universe. His desires become central. His plans become the focus of his life. Others become the tools to achieving his desires or roadblocks that require removal. One of the key ways in which man’s pride and arrogance shows up is in his use of his tongue. Haman couldn’t keep from bragging. He couldn’t prevent himself from saying what was on his mind. When he mistakenly thought the king wanted to reward him for his faithful service, he brazenly offered the king the following recommendation: “If the king wishes to honor someone, he should bring out one of the king’s own royal robes, as well as a horse that the king himself has ridden—one with a royal emblem on its head. Let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. And let him see that the man whom the king wishes to honor is dressed in the king’s robes and led through the city square on the king’s horse. Have the official shout as they go, ‘This is what the king does for someone he wishes to honor!’” (Esther 6:7-9 NLT). Little did he know that his pride-fueled words would end up rewarding the very man he wished to destroy. Haman would find himself leading his arch-enemy, Mordecai, through the streets of Susa, as Mordecai basked in the glory and honor Haman had mistakenly thought were to be his. James described the tongue as “a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself” (James 3:6 NLT). Jesus put it this way: “But the words you speak come from the heart – that’s what defiles you” (Matthew 15:18 NLT). Haman’s real issue was a heart problem.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
James closes out chapter three with these words: “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:17-18 NLT). Godly wisdom has a different character about it. We see godly wisdom revealed in the lives of Mordecai and Esther. They were both willing to wait on the Lord. Rather than seek the destruction of Haman, they sought the salvation of the Lord. Esther appealed to the mercy of King Ahasuerus. She was willing to leave the fate of Haman in the king’s hands. Her greatest desire was that her people be spared. She asked that the king reverse his decree and protect the Jewish people from the destruction ordered upon them by Haman. Mordecai, who remained a somewhat invisible character in this part of the story, seemed to willingly wait on the salvation of the Lord. He didn’t rail against Haman. He didn’t call down God’s wrath upon his enemy. He simply waited to see what God would do. And both he and Esther reaped “a harvest of righteousness.” They would see God move in miraculous ways, not only destroying the plans of Haman, but orchestrating his death on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai. And Mordecai would find himself wearing the king’s signet ring, once the property of Haman, and running the former estate of his mortal enemy. God had done a mighty work. He had accomplished the impossible. And as a result, “The Jews were filled with joy and gladness and were honored everywhere. In every province and city, wherever the king’s decree arrived, the Jews rejoiced and had a great celebration and declared a public festival and holiday. And many of the people of the land became Jews themselves, for they feared what the Jews might do to them” (Esther 8:16-17 NLT).
Father, no one has any right to boast before You. There is no place for pride when standing before the God of the universe. The idea of any man being “self-made” is ludicrous. You govern the affairs of all men. You put kings and leaders on thrones and You take them down. You are in complete control of all human affairs – whether it looks like it or not. Help me to remember Your sovereignty whether I recognize it or not. Help me to remain humble and to understand the danger of pride and the destructive power of the tongue. May I remember the words of Paul: “If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD” (2 Corinthians 10:17 NLT). Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men