Exalted By God.
Esther 9-10, James 4
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. – James 4:7 ESV
The story of Esther ends on a high note. The whole intention of its author was to remind the people of God how He had provided for them during their time in exile in Babylon. While Ezra, Nehemiah, Zerrubabel and the remnant of the people of Judah had been busy rebuilding the temple and restoring the walls of Jerusalem, there had been a large contingent of Jews left in the land of Babylon. But God had not left them alone. He had been with them and had miraculously provided for them even while they had been living in exile in a foreign land. Through the lives of Esther and Mordecai, we are given a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes involvement of God as He orchestrated the salvation of His people from destruction. When the story opened, Mordecai was an obscure Jew raising his orphaned cousin, Esther. Through a miraculous chain of events, Esther because the next queen of Persia. This obviously God-ordained promotion set the stage for a series of events that would allow God to reveal His sovereignty and power, even in the midst of a godless and hostile environment. The story ends with Esther still serving as queen, Mordecai as one of the powerful and feared rulers in the land, and the Jews celebrating a stunning and unexpected victory over their enemies. When things had gotten tough, Mordecai and Esther turned their attention to the only one who could save them. They fasted, mourned and prayed. They sought God’s help. They took their fears, anxieties, doubts and worries about the future to God. And He heard their cries. He answered their prayers. They humbled themselves before the God of the universe and He exalted them. .
What does this passage reveal about God?
In his letter, James writes, “Draw near to God, and he will draw hear to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:8-10 ESV). These words could have been the perfect opening to the book of Esther. We have to remember that the people of God living in the land of Babylon were far from faithful. The very fact that they were living in a foreign land was due to their unfaithfulness to God. Their entire history as a people had been marked by rebellion against God Almighty. They had refused to worship Him alone. They had rejected His prophets and ignored His warnings. Their exile was God’s punishment for their sin. They had loved the world more than they had loved God. James echoes an Old Testament theme regarding the people of God. “You adulterous people. Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4 ESV). The Jews living in Babylon were still in love with the world – even in the days of Esther. The very fact that they were still there, after having been given the opportunity to return to Judah under the leadership of Zerrubabel and Nehemiah, spoke volumes. Many had likely become comfortable with their new life in Babylon. They had acclimated to their new environment and had begun to compromise their faith. So God orchestrated a series of events that would provide a wake up call and a much-needed reminder of who they were and just how powerful their God was.
What does this passage reveal about man?
It is amazing just how often we need a crisis to open our eyes and refocus our attention on our need for God. There is the old saying, “There are no atheists in fox holes.” It seems that tragedy and trouble improves the prayer lives of just about everyone. When difficulty strikes, our knees tend to bend far more easily and readily. Trials can be great reminders of our own weakness and drive us back to God in dependency and submission. Esther may have been the queen of Persia, but she knew that her position would provide no guarantee of safety when faced with a royal edict that commanded the destruction of every Jew living in the land. Her crown wouldn’t protect her. Her marriage to the king wouldn’t even give her access to the very man who could do something about the problem. Mordecai was a powerless Jew who had made an enemy of the second most powerful man in the land. His refusal to bow before Haman had stirred up a hornet’s nest of trouble for every Jew living in the land. And little did Mordecai know that Haman had built a gallows with his name on it. The Jews, living comfortably and complacently in the land of Babylon, would wake up one day to find that their peaceful world was about to be rocked. A royal decree had ordained their complete annihilation. They found themselves in a hopeless, helpless position. But if they would submit to God and draw hear to Him, He would draw near to them. If they would humbly come before Him, expressing their need for Him and confessing their sins to Him, God would exalt them. He would do for them what they could not do for themselves.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
The words recorded in the opening verse of chapter nine of the book of Esther say it all. “Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them” (Esther 9:1 ESV). Just when things were supposed to have turned out poorly for the Jews, God stepped in and turned things upside down. Rather than defeat, the Jews experienced victory. God turned their annihilation into a scene of celebration. He turned their mourning into joy. He replaced their fear with renewed faith in the power and provision of their God. He used difficulty to reestablish their dependence upon Him. Sometimes we just be brought to our knees before we will turn to God in prayer. There are times when we must be reminded just how much this world really hates us. We can so easily be lured into believing that this world is our friend and has our best interest at heart. But Jesus Himself warned us that the world would hate us just as it hated Him. We do not belong here. This world is not our home. And as long as we are here, we must constantly remind ourselves that our hope and help must come from one place – from our heavenly Father. We must submit to Him. We must humbly turn to Him in total dependence and complete reliance. We must humble ourselves before Him, acknowledging our sin and expressing our need for His help. And He will exalt us. He will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He will reveal His power. He will remind us of His sovereignty. He will turn our sorrow into celebration and our helplessness into hope. The story of Esther is the story of God’s exaltation and vindication of His people. It is a real-life illustration of John’s timeless truth: “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 ESV).
Father, may I never forget just how powerful and reliable You are. You have proven Yourself time and time again, in history and in my own life. You have turned tragedy into triumph, sorrow into celebration, and replaced my helplessness with hope and healing, more times than I can remember. I want to learn to trust You more. I want to live humbly before You. I want to fall less and less in love with this world and more and more in love with You. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men