Fasting, Weeping, Lamenting
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Fasting, Weeping, Lamenting

Esther 4:1–11  (ID: 2973)

When the Jews’ lives were in danger, Mordecai mourned so visibly that Queen Esther, who was secluded in the palace, heard of it. Mordecai had a plan, but Esther was reluctant to commit to a course of action that risked her life to plead with the king. Alistair Begg reminds us that the providence of God doesn’t absolve us from the responsibility to act. Fortunately, God is in the business of using fainthearted people like Esther—and like us.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Esther

The Unseen God Esther 1:1–10:3 Series ID: 11703

Sermon Transcript: Print

Esther 4:1:

“When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry. He went up to the entrance of the king’s gate, for no one was allowed to enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth. And in every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.

“When Esther’s young women and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed. She sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this was and why it was. Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate, and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people. And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, ‘All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.’

“And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, ‘Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’ Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, ‘Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.’ Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.”

Thanks be to God for his Word.

Gracious God, we humbly pray:

Make the Book live to me, O Lord,
Show me yourself within your Word;
Show me myself, … show me my Savior,
And make the Book live to me.[1]


Well, I hope you’ve missed Esther, at least a wee bit. I have, and I’m glad to be back with her. Esther is proving to be a wonderful adventure, at least in my own personal study. It has now taken its place alongside the study of Joseph in my mind, alongside the study of Ruth as well. And in each case the link between them all, of course, is the doctrine of God’s providence—that there is a God who oversees the affairs of history, that he is involved cosmically, that he’s involved ecclesiastically, nationally, familially, individually, and that we are not cast about upon a sea of chance, we’re not held in the grip of blind and deterministic forces that are dark, but we’re actually being schooled in the realm of God’s providence.

This is the story—it’s a good story—about real people in a real place at a real point in time. The place: Persia. The point in time: around 479 BC—so, about five hundred years before the birth of Jesus. I think most of us have come to agree that it is a good story, as stories go. After all, it has a heroine. We like stories with heroines, especially if she’s beautiful, as Esther was. There’s an evil villain who gets his comeuppance, and we like it when they do. There’s a Jewish man who wouldn’t take no for an answer, and we’ve met some just like that—both Jew and gentile, but in this case, he was a Jewish man. As we read the record, there is love lost and love found. There is ethnic rivalry, sudden reversals, dramatic irony, poetic justice, and finally—finally—resolution. Events which took place, clearly, a long time ago and far away from here, and yet events which confront us with a fundamental question. And that is the question: How do you live as someone believing in this God of providence in a world that thinks about the entire world in a different way? And that, of course, is the question that many of us face on a day-by-day basis.

Some of us are scientists. I am not, clearly—although I listened to a wonderful scientific program this week on the BBC about a man called Dennis Klatt, whose name I’d never known, who was famous at MIT for the development of speech technology. And I learned a great deal, although most of it I found difficult to understand. Some of you are involved in science, and your friends regard it as rather strange that despite how good you are at your job, you have this strange predilection for suggesting that somehow or another God is overseeing things. The same would be true for others in different places—the arts community, in the daily routine of family life. It is absolutely different to make these claims, the claims that lie at the very heart of this unfolding drama concerning Esther.

I find that on a daily basis I am talking out either to the television or talking out to my newspaper. I hope you talk to your newspaper and to the television as well. You’re not supposed to talk to the trees, but you can talk to your television—and especially when it is funneling you a bunch of nonsense. Now, yesterday morning in the Wall Street, in the inside cover, “Mind and Matter,” a lady there writing a little piece entitled “Does Evolution Want Us to Be Unhappy?” How many of you saw this article? How many of you read this article? Not a single soul. Okay. I don’t know how to feel about that. I feel very special. You’ve gotta read the paper. One of the reasons that Christians cannot interact in society is ’cause we’re talking to ourselves, and we’re reading our own stuff. But that’s for another day.

She writes this article, and she says we’re hard-wired, as a result of evolution, to try and find stuff that will satisfy us, but it doesn’t satisfy us, to try and be fitter than the person next to us, but just when we think we’re fit enough, we’re not as fit as we would like to be. And it goes on quite wonderfully. It’s not a bad piece. She says, “It is as if every time we make a decision that actually makes us better off, evolution resets our happiness meter to zero.”[2] Okay? So, this is a view of the world. We are the product of time plus matter plus chance. We are just finding our way through this strange business till we shuffle off this mortal coil and it resets our meter to zero. That prods us to decide to take the next action, which will make us even better off, but not any happier.

The providence of God does not relieve us of our human responsibility. It doesn’t call for inactivity. It calls for activity.

So, I finished the article, and I finished my coffee, and I sat for a little bit. And then I said, “Well, I’ll just write across the top of the article.” I looked if she had an email, but she didn’t, so I couldn’t immediately write a “Dear Alison” letter. It wasn’t going to be an unkind letter; I was just going to ask her if she’d ever read C. S. Lewis, and particularly this quote from Mere Christianity, which we all know now, don’t we? I repeat it about every third Sunday. “If I find in myself,” says Lewis, “[desires] which [nothing] in this world can satisfy, the [only logical] explanation is that I was made for another world.”[3] Of course we’ll never satisfy these longings. These longings were never supposed to be satisfied by stuff, by experience, by all of the enjoyments of our earthly lives. No, it’s very, very important that we learn to read our newspaper as a result of knowing our Bibles, not learning from our Bibles as a result of what we have found in the newspaper.

And these people, 479 BC, at a far different level and to a far deeper degree, were confronted by the tyranny of a Persian community that had turned in upon them and was about to drive them into extinction. How, then, is a man like Mordecai to hold the line as a believer in God and yet as a significant subject of the king, Ahasuerus? How is Esther, who has been taken into the king’s bed, to navigate the fact that she has a Persian name and a Jewish name, and she can’t figure out who she really is? Is she ever going to come clean? Is she ever going to identify with the cause of God? Or is she going to live in the splendid isolation that is afforded to her in a palace which has become a prison? Those are the questions. They might not be so dramatic for us, but they’re not so far removed.

And what we’ve been learning is that the providence of God does not relieve us of our human responsibility. It doesn’t call for inactivity. It calls for activity. We’re learning that although God’s name is never mentioned, his activity is evident in what Alec Motyer refers to as “the God-shaped holes in the narrative.” What a great phrase. You know, you long for one phrase like that in your life, don’t you? That you could just write one like that: “the God-shaped holes in the narrative.” “The God-shaped holes in the narrative” are there because God wants the holes in the narrative. And if we try and go too quickly to fill in the theological gaps, then we miss the way in which this story unfolds. It’s supposed to be like this. And as someone has observed, “God is most present and most absent in this [fourth] chapter.”[4]

Well, we better to get to chapter 4, but let’s just understand—and some have walked in out of nowhere, and you’re saying, “I haven’t a clue what’s going on here.” Well, I can’t give you the whole program. You can get the CDs if you want, or download them for nothing, I’m sure, somewhere. But what this king, Ahasuerus, has done is he has been involved in the rejection of his queen Vashti. So, we’ve seen the rejection of Vashti, we’ve seen the selection of Esther. She has now become the queen. Do you like her? Do you like Esther? So far in this story, do you like Esther? Yeah, you do? I’m not sure I do. No? She’s a beauty queen, she’s a spa babe, she is just livin’ the life. So far, I’m not seeing much from her at all, apart from the fact that she’s cute and sleeps with the king. Why do you like her so much? You must have been reading ahead. That’s why you hadn’t read the newspaper! That’s good! That’s good! Of course! You were reading your Bible. And I should have been doing the same instead of reading the newspaper.

The rejection of Vashti, the selection and election of Esther, the corruption of Haman—who is so infuriated with Mordecai that he has engineered this edict to exterminate the Jewish population, the prospect of which has thrown the entire city of Susa into confusion. And that’s where we left things last time with the final phrase of chapter 3: “The city of Susa was thrown into confusion.”[5] The word was out that on a certain day this pogrom was to take place. Those who name the name of God were to be swept up and carried away into extinction. And chapter 4 begins with the reaction of Mordecai to this.

Mordecai’s Reaction

Let’s just notice, in verses 1, 2, and 3, Mordecai’s reaction.

His outfit, with torn clothes and sackcloth and ashes, is not a fashion statement. Tearing your clothes is apparently one way of showing how wealthy you are these days, that you can tear them up and show… It’s quite… That’s for another time. I just was in Fort Collins, Colorado, ten days ago, and I was just remarking, I said, “I’m so boring. I really need to tear some of my clothes.” But anyway, Mordecai, if he had shown up like this in Fort Collins, Colorado, nobody would have hardly looked at him at all. But they would never have assumed that what he was actually doing by means of this strange outfit was conveying the grief that had engulfed his heart. Read the Old Testament, and you discover that this was a commonplace reaction by the people of God. It was a public display of mourning, of agitation, of consternation.

And for Mordecai, of course, this was something very personal about this, wasn’t there? Because this edict had been issued, if you traced it back, directly to the fact that he refused to give obeisance, to bow, before Haman. And Mordecai would have had occasion to get up in the morning and say to himself, “You know, we are moving inexorably towards extermination—and I’m the problem! Maybe I was a little rash. Maybe I shouldn’t have done what I did. It wouldn’t have cost me much just to bow to the fellow, for goodness’ sake. And now look what I’ve done!” He’s not walking out going, “I believe in providence, diddly diddly do!” No! No! No! Look at him. He is in the middle of the city, crying with a loud voice and a bitter cry.

He’s at the entrance to the king’s gate. That’s as close as he dare go, because if you go in like that, you’re a dead man. Kings don’t like it when people are sad. We saw that a hundred years ago when we studied Nehemiah. Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king, remember, and he was sad because the news had reached him from [Judah] that the glory of God was in disrepair, and the gates were broken. And he says, “And I was sad before the king, and I had never been sad before the king before.”[6] Why not? ’Cause you might get your head chopped off. So, he is there at the entrance to the gate. His refusal to bow has triggered this dreadful predicament.

And we note in passing that although his actions have consequences, as do our actions, we ultimately can’t control the actions of others. He did what he thought was right to do. He did it in relationship to the animosity that had existed going back, as we saw in our study. He couldn’t control Haman’s reaction, and he did what he thought was right, and he must leave the rest to God.

No, look at the pathetic picture of him there, crying aloud. And his actions are duplicated throughout the provinces where the news has spread. Once again you will see that the response of the people is not one of celebration but one of consternation. “There was great mourning among the Jews,” verse 3 says. There was “fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them” were lying around “in sackcloth and [in] ashes.”

Lawson, the old commentator, makes the point, and I think it’s helpful: “The faith of God’s people does not interfere with the exercise of [emotion] suited to mournful dispensations of providence.”[7] Do you see what he’s saying? It’s actually understandable and legitimate for the people of God—who believe in God, who trust God, who are committed to the notion that he is overruling everything for the praise of his glory and will bring everything in heaven and earth underneath the rule of Christ—it is still appropriate and understandable for the people of God to express the emotions of deep sadness, and of lament, and of inquiry, and of discouragement, and of disappointment, and of fearfulness, and of faintheartedness. And that ought to be for some of us a real liberation, especially if we’re hanging around with a group of people who have told us that if you were a real solid, faithful, believing soul, you would not be lying around on the ground wailing and mourning and lamenting and creating such a ruckus.

What do they know? What do they know of faith? What do they know of “the exercise of emotion suited to [the] mournful dispensations of providence”? The “mournful dispensation of providence” that takes your spouse when you want her to stay living with you, that takes your child when you expect her to grow to the fullness of life, that takes your life from you when you have an expectancy in human terms that runs out before you. What is the emotion, then, you see? And here we find, in the reaction of this man, an understandable reaction, an honest reaction, and an action which sets many of us free from some of the silly stuff that has been foisted upon us, which owes more to self-help books than it does to an understanding of the Bible. The hymn writer gets it, doesn’t he? “When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie…”[8] Not “when over fiery trials.”

What is your deepest distress this morning? God will sanctify that to you.

If you’ve been flying a lot in these last three weeks, especially around the South as well, you know that we can’t just keep going over this stuff. We’re going through it. We’ve asked everyone to be seated. You know the routine. We’ve asked them all to be seated. We have suspended the service. It’s like, “Okay! Here we go! Buckle up and hang in there.” Through it. Not over it. Through it. I find that tremendously encouraging. I hope you do too.

When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
His grace, all-sufficient, will be your supply,
For he will be with you in trouble to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.[9]

“Your deepest distress.” What is your deepest distress this morning? God will sanctify that to you. “Yeah, but please remove it from me.” “No, I’m not removing it from you. I’ll sanctify it to you. I’ll make it a means of grace to you. I promise to be with you. I will not forsake my people. I am committed to bringing to fulfillment the promise that I made to Abraham,” although it seems to be rockin’ and rollin’ in the middle of Persia five centuries before Jesus.

Mordecai’s reaction. Boy, we spent a long time on that, didn’t we? That’s what happens when I’m gone.

Esther’s Isolation

Secondly, Esther’s isolation. If Mordecai’s reaction is striking, Esther’s isolation is worthy of our note as well.

We’ve come through chapter 3, and she was never mentioned in it. She has been removed from the mainstream of life in Susa. She’s not out at the stores. She’s not out at the marketplace. She’s not there to hear the buzz on the street. She’s not attending worship with the people of God. She is isolated. She doesn’t have the pulse of the people. She’s not identified with them at this point in any significant way at all. Indeed, Mordecai, her cousin, had told her, “It’d be better if you didn’t come clean about being a Jewess,” and so she hadn’t. And so, news of the edict had reverberated through all the provinces, but it hadn’t reached her in the palace. And it’s only through her support team, through her young women, those who served her, and through the eunuchs, who also were in servitude to her, that she discovers the news of what her controversial cousin has been up to.

And when they “came and told her,” verse 4, what was going on with Mordecai, “the queen was deeply distressed.” Well, that’s nice. “If he’s sad, I’m sad,” she says. “I don’t like to see my cousin like that, lying around in the street, wailing like a crazy man. And what kind of clothes is he wearing out there, in any case?” “Well,” they said, “he’s got sackcloth and ashes, everything’s ripped up, he’s a royal mess. He’s been lying around the street screaming.” “Oh,” she said, “well, I think what we should do is, let’s just send him some clothes. I mean, it’s obvious he’s got a problem with his wardrobe. If we can get him just clothed up nicely, then maybe he’ll cut this nonsense out.”

Well, she’s very sincere in her response, but she’s completely clueless. Why? Because she’s isolated! She’s not involved! She is now away somewhere else. She doesn’t watch the news. She’s like you! She doesn’t read the newspapers either! And as a result, she hasn’t a clue what’s going on. And when the news reaches her, she responds in what you would regard as an appropriate fashion, but she’s completely deluded as to the nature of the problem. And it is only when, having sent the new wardrobe out, that she discovers that Mordecai refuses to wear it, that she then says, “Well, wait a minute. I need to find out exactly what in the world is going on here.”

He wouldn’t accept them, verse 4, and so “Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs who[’d] been appointed to attend [to] her,” and she “ordered him to go to Mordecai.” So, someone has already gone to Mordecai, given him the clothes. He came back, says, “He doesn’t want the clothes.” She says, “Hathach, go down there and find out what’s going on. Let me understand what this was. I need to know what this was and why it was.” Okay, so she realizes that she is isolated, and Hathach is dispatched.

Incidentally, if you just watch Hathach here, it’s almost humorous if you read it in a certain way, you know. She says, “Okay, Hathach, go to Mordecai and say this.” So he goes to Mordecai and says it, and Mordecai says, “Okay, go to Esther and say this.” So he comes back and said, “Mordecai said this.” She said, “Well, listen, why don’t you go to Mord—” And Mordecai said, “Oh, Esther, yeah. Let’s head back to Esther.” It’s good if you see it visually, no? Okay.

If, incidentally, Mordecai had operated on this very public display in order to get to the queen, then he must be absolutely delighted. Because think about it: he didn’t have any access to the queen. She was isolated. She lived in a palace. Early we’ve seen that he walked up and down the street outside the entrance to the king’s gate in order that he might be able to pick up snippets of information and then in turn relay information to the queen. But he wasn’t able to text her, he couldn’t directly contact her; he was isolated from her. And so his public display, which was obvious to all who were in the thoroughfare of life, then achieved what may well have been his objective: to actually get to the queen’s attention, because he recognized that the queen may well be about to play an important role in the unfolding drama of God’s purposes.

And so he was ready when Hathach came with his questions. And you’ll notice that he then explained exactly what was going on. Verse 7: “Mordecai told him all that had happened to him.” He must have said to him, “Listen, this whole thing started when Haman wanted me to bow down to him. I wouldn’t bow down to him. Haman’s gone over the top, and he’s ordered this extermination of the entire Jewish population. I have to acknowledge my part in it.” He also told them “the exact sum of money” that was involved. This was a huge commitment on the part of Haman, because he recognized that revenue would be lost as a result of the extermination of these people. And he was able at the same time to give “a copy of the written decree issued in Susa” for their destruction. So we can only assume that there were a number of these decrees written, whether they were written on papyrus, or whether they were hacked out on stone, or whatever they were done, they must have been rather freely distributed, and Mordecai’d got his hands on one of them, and he was able to say, “Why don’t you just take this back to Esther? When she sees this, she’ll understand exactly what’s going on.”

“And actually, this is what I want you to do,” he says to Hathach. “I want you to go to the queen. Go to the queen. And you just tell her what’s happened, and have her go to the king”— this is verse 8—“and beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people.” “Her people.” So, the secret is out. Her people? If no one had known before, Hathach knows now that the queen is actually a Jew; that she is included in this edict of extermination; that she, then, personally, and her family, faces the threat that has been unleashed as a result of this plot by Haman. “Go to the king, beg and plead on behalf of her people.”

Esther’s Response

Well, Esther then responds. You see that in verse 9: And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said.” Here we go again. “Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai.” “Okay, go back again. This is what you need to say to him.” So, you have the reaction of Mordecai, you have the elevation of Esther, you have Esther’s isolation, you have Hathach’s intervention, and then you have Esther’s response. And this will be all we’ll be able to do before we wrap this up.

Notice the response of Esther: “Go back to Mordecai and say…” Now, let me just try and summarize it. Basically, she says, “Go back to Mordecai and say, ‘That’s easy for you to say. That’s easy for you to say. You’re not the one that’s going to do this.’” She’s essentially saying to Hathach, “Go back to Mordecai and say, ‘Let’s be practical about things. Let’s use our minds on this one. Let’s not get carried away here. Let’s be sensible.’” All the kinds of things that people say when there is some great drama before us, when there is some adventure that awaits us, when there is some challenge that faces us. There’s always somebody who is very quick to say, “Now, let’s just make sure that we’re very sensible about this. We don’t want to do anything crazy. We don’t want to really start trusting God in this situation. I mean, they’re gonna think we’re nuts if we start that kind of conversation.”

“No,” she says, “listen, you just don’t walk into the king’s presence. It’s a risky business.” And she says, “Everyone knows, all the people of the king’s provinces know”—and therefore, the inference is “and Mordecai ought to know as well”—“that the law forbids anyone who is unsummoned to enter. And if you do enter, the penalty is death.”

Now, I said to you that this story is full of irony. Here’s one of the ironies, just in passing, for those of you who like stories. You think about it: in chapter 1, Vashti… Vashti is gone. Why? Because she wouldn’t come when the king told her to. Now, apparently, Esther faces the possibility of being gone, because she’s gonna go when the king hasn’t told her to. So we might be down two queens here before we get to chapter 5, and there’s only one queen in a chess game, so that couldn’t be. The chances of her losing her head are significant. In fact, the only chance of being able to pull this off is if the king gives a nod and a wink to the henchmen that stand around him. It actually says that he would motion with his royal scepter—that when somebody intruded in the king’s presence, immediately would go on to full alert, and the men who were ready to deal with the predicament would look to the king to see whether he said, “Oh no, it’s okay, you can let her stay.” But she doesn’t know whether the king will treat her in that way or not.

Josephus in his Antiquities (he’s a Jewish historian), writing of this time, he says round his throne—that’s the throne of King Ahasuerus—stood men with axes to punish anyone who approached the throne without being summoned.[10] That’s pretty straightforward. You might find it’s difficult to get in to see your doctor unless he, you know, holds up his royal stethoscope or something to let you in. But as difficult as it might be, the chances of him having a group of people with axes, you know, out in the corridor ready to chop your head off if you happen to come back through the outer bit into the first part of the inner bit before you get into the inner, inner bit, after you’ve sat for an hour and a half being weighed and finally get in… I say that with the greatest respect. Our doctors are busy people. They need to be protected. Their privacy needs to be protected, their time needs to be protected, and their lives need to be protected. And that is exactly why they were protecting this man. You couldn’t just go running in there to see the king.

And furthermore, Esther says, “I’m no longer at the top of his list. I haven’t slept with him in a month. I mean, so, you can’t… Don’t think you’re going to use me just to go like, ‘Hey, hey! Hey, king! Got a wee problem here with a…’ It’s not gonna happen.” So, she’s not going to play the beauty card. She’s not going to play “I’m the queen” card. Frankly, we don’t know if she’s going to play any card. Dun-da-dun-dun-dun! You know. What’s going to happen next? We’ll have to wait till next time.

Two Closing Observations

Two observations to close.

Number one, I hope you’re encouraged by the faintheartedness of Esther. I hope you’re encouraged by the fact that when the word reaches her, she doesn’t immediately go, “Oh, yeah, I’ll do that!” She goes, “I’m not doing that.” Why would you be encouraged by that as a believer? Because if you’re honest, you see your face in that response. Most of us are not stepping up to say, “Oh, yeah, I’ll put my life in jeopardy for you, for the people of God, for the living God. All I have is Christ. He’s everything. Yeah!”

“No, I’m not going.”

“Well, you just sang this song.”

“Yeah, I sang the song, but I mean, singing the song’s not the same as going.”

Clearly it isn’t.

Here’s the encouragement for the believer: go, even though you’re fainthearted. And here is the exhortation to the unbeliever: come to this King. Come bow before him now. Accept his mercy, accept his grace, and trust resolutely in him.

Isn’t it fantastic that God uses the fainthearted—people like Esther? He doesn’t set her aside, as we’ll see as the story continues. So observation number one is: God uses fainthearted people in order to achieve his purposes, even when we say no the first, second, and third time. It’s remarkable.

And second observation is this: that the King who bids us come to him is nothing like Ahasuerus at all. The Palace—the Palace, the Palace—has been on the news all last week, hasn’t it? Don’t be looking at me like, “What palace?” The Palace! But I didn’t see anybody just strollin’ in through the gates, did you? No! Hordes of people gazing through the railings, completely inaccessible. Whoever’s in there, unless they come out to us, we’ll never have a chance of even catching a glimpse of them, let alone having a conversation with them. That’s how some people think of God. That’s not God. That’s not what God is like. That is not the King. King Jesus is not sequestered behind bars. King Jesus stepped out of his throne and down into time and stood on the streets, accessible to the masses, and said, “Come to me, all [you] who [are weary and] heavy laden, and I will give you rest. [And] take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, [because] I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”[11]

Here’s the encouragement for the believer: go, even though you’re fainthearted. And here is the exhortation to the unbeliever: come to this King. Come bow before him now. Accept his mercy, accept his grace, and trust resolutely in him. And when we come back next time, God willing, we will pick up the story from here.

Let us pray:

O God our Father, thank you for your Word. We bow down before you, a great and good God. Help us, even in our faintheartedness to the challenges of our day, to say, “Here am I. Send me!”[12] And help us, Lord, to give up our flawed notions of the kingdom of Christ, of his kingly rule. Help us to understand that this King rode a donkey, that this King was crowned with thorns, that this King entered into the very depths of our predicament, bore the edict that was the penalty of sin, in order that we might come to him. Oh, help us then to do so, Lord, we pray. And grant that our gaze may be filled with you, the living God—not substitute gods, the gods of our contemporary world, but the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that we might behold him in all of his power and majesty and glory. For in his name we pray. Amen.

[1] R. Hudson Pope, “Make the Book Live to Me” (1943). Language modernized.

[2] Alison Gopnik, “Does Evolution Want Us to Be Unhappy?,” Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2013,

[3] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperOne, 2000), 136–37.

[4] Adele Berlin, Esther, The JPS Bible Commentary (Philadelphia: JPS, 2001), 44.

[5] Esther 3:15 (ESV).

[6] See Nehemiah 1:1–3; 2:1–2.

[7] George Lawson, Discourses on the Whole Book of Esther (Edinburgh, 1809), 112.

[8] “How Firm a Foundation” (1787).

[9] “How Firm a Foundation.” Lyrics lightly altered.

[10] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 11.6.3.

[11] Matthew 11:28–30 (ESV).

[12] Isaiah 6:8 (NIV).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.