September 22, 2013
Haman was a proud, presumptuous man who fell into his own trap. As Alistair Begg recounts, when Esther risked everything and revealed her Jewish heritage to her husband, King Ahasuerus, he exploded in anger at Haman, who begged Esther for his life. In the end, though, Haman was hanged on his own gallows. Esther took action, and God worked through her to rescue His people, even though He was unseen. Haman’s fate reminds us that there is a higher throne above all earthly rulers, from which God orchestrates His purposes.
Sermon Transcript: Print
Esther chapter 7, verse… Well, let’s start at 6:14. The conversation is taking place between his wife—that’s the wife of Haman—and some of his friends. They’re essentially telling him that he’s pretty well on his own now:
“[And] while they were yet talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried to bring Haman to the feast that Esther had prepared.
“So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. And on the second day, as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king again said to Esther, ‘What is your wish, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.’ Then Queen Esther answered, ‘If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king.’ Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, ‘Who is he, and where is he, who has dared to do this?’ And Esther said, ‘A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!’ Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.
“And the king arose in his wrath from the wine-drinking and went into the palace garden, but Haman stayed to beg for his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that harm was determined against him by the king. And the king returned from the palace garden to the place where they were drinking wine, as Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was. And the king said, ‘Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?’ As the word left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face. Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, ‘Moreover, the gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, is standing at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.’ And the king said, ‘Hang him on that.’ So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the wrath of the king abated.”
Thanks be to God for his Word.
Father, we bow before you, a great and good God, thanking you that you have made yourself known to us—the wonder of your ways and your dealings—in your Word. And as we continue our study here in this book from so long ago, our prayer is that you will make yourself known to us. Help us to see ourselves and to see our Savior, and to turn to him in repentance and in faith, for it’s in his name we pray. Amen.
Some of you will remember that I told you before that radar was invented by a Scotsman, a man by the name of Robert Watson-Watt. He was later knighted for his work in the military, and the invention of radar was a wartime invention, and he received, as a reward, some $140,000, which was the largest sum ever awarded for a wartime invention. Subsequently, when he was driving in Canada, he was caught for speeding in a radar trap. And acknowledging the irony of what was represented in that, he wrote a little verse about it, which goes as follows:
Pity Sir Robert Watson-Watt,
Strange target of [his] radar plot.
And thus, with others I [could] mention,
[A] victim of his own invention.
Now, I begin there because that provides an apt summary of what happens here in chapter 7 to Haman—far more significant, far more devastating, but nevertheless, Haman is essentially hoisted on his own petard.
You will recall, I hope, that at the end of chapter 5, Haman had been pleased at the suggestion of his wife and friends to take Mordecai out. If he was such a nuisance to him, “Let’s be done with Mordecai. Let’s kill him.” And so, if you allow your eye to scan the text—which I wish more of you would do—then you will find in 5:14 that “this idea pleased Haman, and he had the gallows made.” And so, at the end of chapter 5, he has the gallows made. And now, at the end of chapter 7, we read the words, “So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai.” What a difference a day makes!
Haman would have been well served by paying attention to the wisdom of Solomon, captured for us largely in the book of Proverbs—a book that tells us that real wisdom is found in “the fear of the Lord,” in understanding who God is, what God desires, what God has done, what he has accomplished in making a way for sinful men and women who have no interest in him to be reconciled to him. It is in this discovery of God and in this rightful sense of fear of God that wisdom is to be found. And outside of it, no matter how clever an individual may be, that which is their enjoyment does not fit within this category.
So Haman would have done well to pay attention to the opening verses of Proverbs chapter , which read as follows:
Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day [will] bring.
[And] let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
a stranger, and not your own lips.
And, of course, we know now that Haman failed on both counts. We’ve seen that he is unbelievably proud, and as a result of that, he is presumptuous. He presumes upon time, he presumes upon his place and status, and so on.
He should have paid attention to Solomon when he wrote, “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.” It’s a proverbial statement, of course. It doesn’t mean categorically, every time you dig a pit, you will fall into it, but it is not uncommon, especially if you dig a pit for someone else, that you don’t actually end up in there, or once you start something rolling that may be to the detriment of others, it may actually collapse on you. Some of you have proved that. You decided, with a significant lack of wisdom, that you would try and make sure that somebody in office number four did not get the promotion that you felt was unbelievably and most necessarily designed for you, so you started the ball rolling, and you ended up rolling yourself right out of the company, unwittingly. You dug a pit for one of your colleagues, and you fell into it. That’s the wisdom of Solomon. And it is so far removed from Haman’s thinking that it’s quite incredible, isn’t it? He had got the ball rolling for the murder of Mordecai. He never imagined for a moment that what he was actually doing would result in his own death.
And as far as not praising yourself is concerned, well, he obviously had never read that part or paid any attention to it at all. As we saw back in chapter 5, when it comes to blowing his own trumpet, he’s pretty well without parallel, isn’t he? Except, I suppose, maybe I’m as good as him. I don’t know. Verse 11 of chapter 5, he gathers his friends, his family, around him, and he “recounted to them,” remember, number one, “the splendor of his riches”; two, “the number of his sons”; three, “all the promotions with which the king had honored him”; four, “how he had advanced him above [all] the officials and the servants of the king”; and five, how the queen had included him expressly in a special little tête-à-tête at a feast that had been designed for she and her husband and to which feast only he, Haman, had been invited. It’s really quite pathetic! You just see him there with a big trumpet, and he’s just blowing it to his own glory—just blowing, blowing away, to his heart content. And he doesn’t realize that he’s playing taps for his own funeral. That’s what he’s actually doing.
He’s about to discover the truth that Eliphaz conveys in Job chapter 5 when, in responding to the circumstances of Job, he points out something that is true—namely, that God “catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end.” God “catches the wise in their own craftiness.” You ever heard somebody said, “You know what? You’re too clever for your own good.” Well, Haman was very crafty. Caught. He was really wily. He was coming to a fast end. And Eliphaz goes on to say these individuals “meet with darkness in the daytime and [they] grope at noonday as in the night.” “Darkness in the daytime,” groping in the noon hour as if it were midnight. It’s a graphic picture. Very helpful. Keep it in mind.
Tracing a line through this chapter, which is fairly straightforward, is something that each of us is able to do. You may have read ahead and decided that you have the layout of it. The way that I have sought to summarize it is in just three headings. First of all, I wrote down in my notes, “Esther spills the beans.” “Esther spills the beans”—as she does. She spills quite a few beans here about herself and her identity, about what’s going on. Things that have been secret up until this point are now finally made clear.
Now, I think some of us have already decided that Esther is just really a kind of dumb blonde, or a dumb brunette, or just really good looking, and therefore, she couldn’t possibly have much of a brain, right? That the whole thing about her is just simply that she’s a bit of a stunner, and as a result of that, she’s able to play on her prettiness, and there isn’t much more could be said for her. Of course, if we have been tempted to think in those terms, then that idea should have been laid to rest before now but must definitely be axed as a result of reading chapter 7. Because here we discover that although she has a pretty face, she is also pretty shrewd. She’s pretty shrewd.
From the beginning of chapter 5, when she puts on her royal robes and goes in to see the king, and from the moment that we read at the beginning of chapter 5 that she found favor in the sight of the king, she has now become a representation of, again, the words of Solomon, Proverbs 25:15, which reads, “With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.” “With patience a ruler may be persuaded.”
Now, if you think about this, those of us who are impatient by nature have been dying to get to the end of chapter 7. I mean, we’ve been longing for the death of Haman. The hanging of Haman has been, like, hanging over us now for weeks. Some of you have even said to me, “Could you speed it up, please? I’m sick of Haman!” Somebody said to me this morning—I met him in between the first and second service—he said, “Oh, what a great day it is!” I said, “Why is that?” He said, “Haman gets hanged today!” I’m not sure that we’re supposed to think that way just about poor old Haman, but nevertheless, those of us who are impatient, we’re saying, you know, “What in the world is Esther doing? Can’t she speed the jolly process up here?” So we got a “Well, I’d like to have a feast.” “Okay. What?” “Well, I think I’d like to have another feast.” “Okay. All right. Fine.”
Well, what she’s actually been doing is very skillful, isn’t it? There’s method in this. Because what she has managed to do is she’s cornered her king by getting him to acknowledge publicly on three separate occasions that he’s going to give her what she wishes, that he’s going to grant her her request. You know, just in case, you know, he said the first time, “Well, whatever you like, I’ll give you” and then he changed his mind, she doesn’t jump on that one. Even when he asks her the second time in the feast, she doesn’t jump on that one. And she waits until we come back to this feast. And now here we go. She embodies the truth of Ecclesiastes 3: that there is a time to be silent, and there is “a time to speak.” And there is a lesson from her silence as well. She doesn’t just go blustering in, the way some of us go into certain circumstances. No, she’s very, very careful.
And now it’s Queen Esther’s moment. I think you should note that three times in the opening three verses or so, she’s referred to as “Queen Esther”—once as “Esther,” but on three occasions, “Queen Esther,” “Queen Esther,” “Queen Esther.” Obviously, the writer wants us to understand that having gone in wearing her royal robes, she is making it really clear to the king that she’s his queen—that she’s, if you like, his number-one queen; that she’s the one who had received the great accolades and who was preferred and loved beyond all the others. So her relationship to the king really matters—of course it does—and in particular, in relationship to what she’s about to disclose.
Her moment has come. She’s passive: “If I have found favor in your sight,” verse 3, “and if it please the king”—here we go—“let my life be granted me for my wish, and [the life of] my people for my request.” There you have it. It’s done. Reid, the commentator, says this is “Esther’s moment.” This is the moment when she takes seriously Mordecai’s challenge to her. What was Mordecai’s challenge to her? Well, back in chapter 4, remember, in the dialogue that is taking place between them as Hathach is going back and forth relaying the information that Mordecai has provided, and then as Esther has responded, Mordecai then sends word to Esther: “[Tell her,] do not think to yourself”—this is Esther 4::
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 [but that] you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
In other words, he says, “It’s time for you to step up, Esther.”
So, she has donned her royal robes. She’s gone into the presence of the king. She’s gone through feast number one. Then there has been chapter 6, where she’s been doing nothing at all, apparently—presumably putting her makeup on. And then, back in chapter 7… (Sorry.) And then in chapter 7, she’s back in action again, proving the fact that God is at work when she works, and he’s also at work when she isn’t working. You can’t say that the whole thing falls because God needs Esther so badly that if Esther doesn’t do what she do, nothing will take place. That would be to give far too much prominence to the notice of our human responsibility. But nor can we say that God is gonna do whatever he wants to do; it doesn’t matter if there’s an Esther or not, because that would pay far too much attention to the notion of divine sovereignty, as if sovereignty happened apart from the agency of human engagement. It is a great mystery, isn’t it? Course it is!
She’s done a masterful job of concealing herself. She must have done. We’re not talking about concealing herself for a couple of weeks here or three or four months. We’re talking about concealing herself for some four and a half years. That must have involved incredible compromises on her part—not necessarily things that would be commendable in the sight of God. She was a child of Judaism. Therefore, she had the Law of Moses to contend with. Therefore, presumably, she didn’t. That wouldn’t be right. Frankly, that was wrong. Was it right for her to be wrong? No, it was wrong for her to be wrong. Well, did her being wrong jeopardize the fulfillment of the plan of God? No. Well then, does that legitimize us doing wrong things? No. Well, what? Think!
She takes her stand with the people of God unreservedly. Some of us haven’t really done that. I can just say this in passing: some of us are still trying the kind of secret discipleship thing: slip in here on a Sunday and then evaporate Monday through Saturday; identify as long as there are people around us who share our convictions, but as soon as we go back into the workplace or back into the home environment, or the college, or whatever it is, or into the lab, back we go into secret mode. There’s gonna come a time where we have to step forward. And this is her moment.
She purposefully uses the words of the edict, doesn’t she? “I’m asking for my life. I’m asking for the lives of my people. They’re my people.” You can imagine Ahasuerus looking at her and going, “Are you kidding me? I’ve been married to a Jewish girl all this time, and I never knew? Boy, you did a good job! You’re good.” “Yeah,” she says, “we’ve been sold, I and my people,” and she uses the language from the edict: “to be destroyed, to be killed, to be annihilated. We have been sold.”
Think about Haman sitting at the table now. He’s just having a glass of wine, and things are not going particularly well. But the little phrase “we have been sold,” he just feels the spotlight begin to turn on him. In what way had they been sold? Well, remember, he said, “In this edict, king, don’t worry about the fact that you will lose all the benefit that comes as a result of the lives of the Jews—their endeavor, their industry, and so on, their business. And I will make sure that into your treasury goes a significant sum of money, so that it will at least in part offset the deficit in the balance of payments, as it were.” That’s a little dig. Haman knew that he’d been the one who’d sold them down the river.
And the skill in this, as she spills the beans, is that she can’t get them all over the place. She needs to do this in such a way that the spotlight is turned on Haman without actually implicating the king. Because when the king says, “Who is he, and where is he?” she might justifiably have said, “Do you have a mirror?” Or as you would say, “Do you have a ‘meer’?” “Do you have a mirror?” As in Nathan to David—remember, when David says, when he told him the story about the little lamb and everything else, he said, “Who is it that did this?” And Nathan says, “You are the man!” But she’s not gonna do that. That wouldn’t be smart. That wouldn’t be shrewd. She’s not just pretty. She’s clever!
She couldn’t simply appeal to the king on the basis of his sense of right and wrong, because he didn’t have much of a sense of right and wrong. She couldn’t appeal to the king and say, “You know, killing people like this, destroying and annihilating big groups of people, is not a good idea. You know, genocide is wrong.” She couldn’t go to him with that. Why? ’Cause he didn’t believe it was wrong. He didn’t care about it. Before we finish, I’m going to show you what a bad man he really was. The only way she could really appeal to him was on the strength of his own self-interest: “I wouldn’t have come to you,” she said, “if it just involves slavery. But because it involves my death, and I’m your favorite queen, I don’t think you want to lose the group. Because if you lose the group, you lose me—and I have found favor in your sight, haven’t I?” She’s giving him the eye, you know? “Hey?” And he’s not above that, is he? No, he’s susceptible. We all are.
And Haman had conned him—conned him into arranging for the killing of his favorite queen! “Well,” you might say, “he should have been paying more attention.” There is no question that he should have been paying more attention. He was a bit of a vacillator. His approach to government was sort of hands-off. He was then able to say, “Oh, I didn’t realize what I did.” But he’s confronted now. “Who is he, where is he, who has done this?” “And Esther said”—here’s some more of the beans—“And Esther said, ‘A foe and enemy!’” Oh, come on, Esther. “‘This wicked Haman!’” Boom. “Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.”
So, Esther spills the beans. Secondly, the king explodes. There’s a kind of volcanic eruption that comes from the king here. He is enraged. He rose “in his wrath.” You don’t have the picture of him simply saying, “Excuse me, I’m going for a little walk in the garden.” No! He just is like vroom! And he disappears out into the garden. And it’s just that stillness after the eruption, you know. At the table, Haman is left looking at Esther, and Esther at Haman.
Why does he go out into the garden? Forget the garden for a minute. Why’s Haman even there? Because, remember, Haman had told his wife and his friends, “You know what? Queen Esther has invited no one except me to go to the feast. I was at the first one, and I’m going to be at the second one.” And his assumption is that he’s invited again because of how significant he is, ’cause he’s so stuck on himself. He can’t imagine that there would be any other reason for him to be there than so that he could rub shoulders with the king and the queen. Now he finds that there is a very important reason for him to be there: so that he might be confronted, so that he might be exposed, so that his sins might find him out, so that he might realize that his goose is cooked, and that the king might realize it too.
It’s interesting—and I haven’t really thought it out—but the continued reference on wine drinking and the impact of it: it comes again and again, doesn’t it? It’s at the beginning of chapter 7: “On the second day, as they were drinking wine after the feast…” And then again in verse 7: “And the king arose in his wrath from the wine-drinking … went into the palace garden.” The idea that wine is a strong drink, and it is raging, and there is great danger that is represented in the imbibing of such is set against the fact that wine is given by God “to gladden the heart of man.” And so, there is little that is able to gladden the heart of the king here in relationship to what he’s enjoying, and he goes out into the palace garden, erupting in his anger.
Now, there’s all kinds of thoughts, aren’t there, that run through our minds as to what he’s doing out in the garden? I don’t think he’s out in the garden trying to figure out what he’s supposed to do. Haman has already figured out what’s gonna happen to him, because “he saw,” verse 7 says, “he saw that harm was determined against him by the king.” He knew in that instant, “I’m a dead man.” ’Cause he knew what this king was like.
So if the king hasn’t gone out into the garden to say, “What should I do now?” what is he doing out in the garden? I think he’s out in the garden—this is conjecture on my part; you’re sensible people, figure it out—he’s out in the garden on the horns of a dilemma. Because he had signed Haman’s edict into law. He had backed it with his royal signature. He was as much responsible for the potential demise of his queen and the death of the Jewish people, their eradication, as Haman himself—in many ways, more so.
So what is he now going to do? Is he now going to kill his prime minister for a plot that he, the king, had actually approved? And how’s that gonna play in the newspaper? “Ahasuerus ordered the assassination today of Prime Minister Haman, for a plot to annihilate the Jews which has been published throughout the entire kingdom and is anticipated in some eight months’ time.” The people are going, “Well, what’s up with the king?” Well, I don’t know whether he resolved it out there, but I think he got his answer when he came back.
When he came back, he was provided with a way of justifying in his mind the hanging of Haman without having to hang it on the fact of this edict. Because you have to determine what’s going on here as he comes back into the palace and he finds Haman falling on the couch where Esther was: “And the king said, ‘Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?’” Well, let me ask you: Is this just his rage simply befuddling his brain, and he actually thinks that’s what’s happening? Or does he know that it isn’t happening, but it fits for it to appear to be happening? Because no king is ever, worth his salt, going to tolerate that kind of thing happening to his queen while he’s out in the garden.
But then we would have to credit Haman with some peculiar, gutsy move, wouldn’t we? Saying to himself, “Well, he’s going to kill me anyway, so I might as well rape his wife.” Is that really what we think is happening here? I don’t think so. Haman’s toast. Haman’s terrified. Haman can hardly stand up. Haman has fallen before the queen. That verb is important. ’Cause that’s the verb that his wife used at the end of the previous context, remember, when at the end of chapter 6, Zeresh and all his friends, he told them “everything that had happened to him.” And “his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, ‘If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you’ve already begun to fall.’” And now he falls. Irony is everywhere, isn’t it? He was gonna kill Mordecai because he wouldn’t fall before him, and now he falls before the queen, begging for his life.
You can think this out. I mean, it’s not a main thing and a plain thing. But I think that this incident—whether it was real or imagined in the king’s mind—gave him a perfect excuse for the elimination of Haman. And his people around him obviously got the development of thought so clearly, because it says, “As the word left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face.”
That’s my final point. Point one: Esther spills the beans. Point two: the king explodes. Point three: it’s curtains for Haman. It’s curtains for Haman. I use that phrase because of what we read there: “[And] they covered Haman’s face.” It’s customary in the Roman world, in the Greek world, and clearly in the Persian world too, that when a sentence of death was issued, that the person on the receiving end of it had their face covered.
Well, do you remember what we read in Job chapter 5 about the fact that the wily will come to a swift end? And do you remember what it then said? “They meet with darkness in the daytime.” And now Haman meets with darkness in the daytime. They cover his face. The judgment of God falls on Haman. And Harbona says, “Well, you know, he built gallows for the hanging of Mordecai,” whom he refers to as the one who saved the life of the king: “whose word saved the king.” There’s nothing left out here, is there? He doesn’t just say, “Well, what about the gallows for Mordecai?” No, “for Mordecai, whose word saved the king.” In other words, he’s saying to the king, “Do you realize that Haman was going to kill the man who saved your life?” “And the king said, ‘Hang him on that.’ So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai.”
It’s a sorry, sad, salutary end to a life, isn’t it? Haman had a mom and dad. They brought him up. They had dreams and hopes for him: “Maybe he’ll become the prime minister one day.” And he did. What did that matter now? No, you see, the only hope that we ought to have for our children and for our grandchildren is not that they become the prime minister but that they love God with all their heart and all their mind and all their soul and all their strength—that the accolades of an alien world that says, “This is prestige, this is success, this is significance,” hold no currency in the bank of heaven. It’s not that they’re marginal. It is that they are ultimately irrelevant.
And what you have here in this unfolding drama is this great distinction between those who have hope in God alone. Because the people of God are moving, as we sang in our song. And ultimately, they realize that their rest is not in Jerusalem, their rest is not in the promised land, but their rest is in God alone. “I rest in God alone”—as opposed to “I rest in myself, in my ego, in my desires, in my longings, in my significance.” I mean, Haman could justifiably been buried with Frank Sinatra singing, “I did it my way,” because he did do it his way. And he came to a sorry end.
Well, he’s gone, but the edict is still here, so we’re not finished. How are we going to handle the edict? What is gonna happen to the people of God? To that we will come, but let me give you a couple of pointers by way of application, and I will be done.
Number one—and we say this almost week by week now, but it is worth repeating: we recognize that God is at work in events over which—let’s just use Esther—over which Esther has absolutely no control. For example, the insomnia of the king. She couldn’t control the insomnia of the king. And yet the insomnia of the king is absolutely crucial in the development of the story line. So, God is at work in the things over which she has no control. And he’s also at work in the way in which she exercises her wisdom and her skill and her obedience and so on— things over which she does have control—reminding us that God may purpose to use human agents. He can work without them, can work without us. And even when he does use us, success does not depend upon the agents nor upon what they do.
Now, think about it, for example, in relationship to telling other people about Jesus or preaching sermons like this. I suppose God could have said, “I’ll preach myself,” we could all just sit quietly and wait. But he said, “No, I’m going to give to the church pastors and teachers. You go ahead and preach. You study the Bible, and then you go tell these people. Make sure you make clear between them the difference between life and death, and heaven and hell, and faith and the lack of faith.” And so we do—for thirty years, in the same spot! Loving it out, slogging it out, doing it. And at the end of every single Sunday, what do we all know? That nothing in terms of heart, life transformation is ever achieved apart from the work of the living God, because he is the only one who softens hard hearts and opens darkened eyes. Well, does that mean there’s a waste of your time doing what you’re doing? No! Because he has chosen to use human agencies, even though success is not dependent upon the agency. So, in other words, it humbles us, but it also helps us.
We ought to recognize, too, that the idea of God being veiled throughout this story should be a help to all of us. Because, frankly, that’s where we live our lives, isn’t it? I don’t know many of you that have had a particular crossing of the Red Sea, or a dramatic miracle, or a huge vision that has changed you, or a revelation. No! You’re just going to work tomorrow. You’re just going back to do what you do tomorrow. And largely, God is unseen. So it’s a great encouragement to realize that the unseen God is at work in the darkness, in the doubts, in the disappointments, and in the delays.
We need also to keep in mind that there is a higher throne than all the thrones of the Ahasueruses of this world and that God is appointing everything to its end.
And finally, we need to learn, too, that the activities of the Hamans of this world that seem to be so successful and so uninhibited will send us in the wrong direction unless we learn to read our Bibles properly. For your homework, let me assign Psalm 73, where the psalmist says, “I almost fell off my horse when I began to think about how successful wicked people are. I almost drove my car off the road when I realized how it is that people who are so apparently opposed to God, opposed to his Word, opposed to anything that is morally right, seem to do so well. They seem to do well financially, they seem to do well physically, they always look good, they have the right purses, they travel in the right way, they use the right moisturizer, everything. They’re just magnificent people. And look at me! I’m trying to do this God thing, this Jesus thing, and it’s gone! Something’s deeply up!” That’s what the psalmist is saying.
If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
He says, “I wouldn’t have been thinking properly.”
But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task…
Here we go:
… until I went into the sanctuary of God;
[and] then I discerned their end.
Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by [terror]!
In other words, justice will be served. It won’t be served at the thrones and the courts of the Ahasueruses of this world. Persia is long gone. The emperors of our world and the emperors of our world are just a footnote in history. But Jesus Christ is King. He’s the one who’s in charge of the great reversals. He turns us from darkness to light, from sadness to joy, from death to life. God achieves his purposes through the preservation of his people here in Persia, and all the way through, and ultimately in the provision of his Son as a Savior, the gift of salvation to the world for all who will believe.
Ultimately, this morning, we are divided, as I often say to you, not by gender, not by race, not by intellect, not by social status—none of those things—but only by one thing: either we are “without hope and without God in the world,” which is our natural state, or we have been born anew, born from above, “to a living hope [by] the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” And that distinction matters in this world—and trust me, it matters in the next world too. That’s why I continue to say to you, “Today, if you hear God’s voice, do not harden your heart.”
Father, thank you for the Bible, and thank you for the privilege of thinking these things through together for now and having it to take to our homes and ponder it further. Grant that that which is of yourself may be brought home to us with conviction that shows us who we are and who Jesus is, that that which is unclear and confusing may be lost sight of; anything that is wrong, that it may be banished from our recollection, so that we might affirm again that beyond the voice of a mere man, we actually listen to you, the living God, and the only reason we know you is because you have chosen to disclose yourself. And how humbled we are to think that you, the one who made the entire universe, would come and speak to us in such a manner. Hear our prayers, O God.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God our Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each one, today and forevermore. Amen.
 Robert Watson-Watt, “Rough Justice.”
 Proverbs 9:10 (ESV).
 Proverbs 27:1–2 (ESV).
 Proverbs 26:27 (ESV).
 Job 5:13–14 (ESV).
 Ecclesiastes 3:7 (ESV).
 Debra Reid, Esther: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2008), 125.
 See Esther 3:9.
 See 2 Samuel 12:1–7.
 Psalm 104:15 (ESV).
 Esther 6:13 (paraphrased).
 See Esther 3:5–6.
 Paul Anka, “My Way” (1968).
 Psalm 73:15–19 (ESV).
 Ephesians 2:12 (NIV).
 1 Peter 1:3 (ESV).
 Psalm 95:7–8; Hebrews 3:7, 15; 4:7 (paraphrased).
Copyright © 2023, 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.