O Father, You Are Sovereign!
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O Father, You Are Sovereign!

Esther 5:1–14  (ID: 2974)

Esther, appropriately fearful, chose to risk her life for the sake of the Jews, approaching King Ahasuerus’s throne to seek the protection of her people. She proceeded with winsome subtlety and humility, despite the urgency and conviction of her cause. In contrast, Haman’s temporary honor was not enough; his pride blinded him and filled him with discontent. Behind all these human decisions and actions, Alistair Begg reminds us, the sovereignty of God was at work and, even to this day, can never be thwarted.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Esther

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

Sermon Transcript: Print

Esther chapter 5 is our Bible reading for today. In the church Bibles, you’ll find it around page 412, 413. If you’re visiting with us, we’re working our way systematically and consecutively through this book, a book in which the name of God is never mentioned, and yet God is everywhere present. Verse 1 of chapter 5:

“On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace.” It’s not easy for us to work out the architecture of that, but what is pretty clear to us is that the queen is in the sight line of the king, although she is not immediately in the presence of the king. “And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. And the king said to her, ‘What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.’ And Esther said, ‘If it please the king, let the king and Haman come today to a feast that I have prepared for the king.’ Then the king said, ‘Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther has asked.’ So the king and Haman came to the feast that Esther had prepared. And as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king said to Esther, ‘What is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.’ Then Esther answered, ‘My wish and my request is: If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my wish and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come to the feast that I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said.’

“And Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai. Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home, and he sent and brought his friends and his wife Zeresh. And Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king. Then Haman said, ‘Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king. Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.’ Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, ‘Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it. Then go joyfully with the king to the feast.’ This idea pleased Haman, and he had the gallows made.”


Our great God, we bow down before you, believing that when your Word is faithfully opened up, that your voice is truly heard. We listen, then, for your voice. Illumine to us the printed page. Conduct that divine dialogue by the Holy Spirit whereby we are taken in our thinking beyond the voice of a mere man and encountering you, the living God. To this end we seek you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“Coincidence,” observed C. S. Lewis, “is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” “God’s way of remaining anonymous.”[1] And here in the book of Esther we have the classic statement, story, in the Old Testament of the anonymity, as it were, of God. But we’ve been discovering—and now we’re at chapter 5—that beneath the surface of the story, of the narrative, as it unfolds, behind a whole series of events, we’re finding that although God’s name is never mentioned, that God is at work everywhere and in everything.

So, when we came to the end of chapter 4, Esther had determined that the prompting of her cousin Mordecai was sufficient for her to resolve that she would actually go to the king. And there at the end of chapter 4, if your Bible is open, you see her statement: “Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”[2] It was against the law for someone to come into the presence of the king unbidden. But she recognized that she had a higher responsibility to a higher throne, where there was a King that was greater than King Ahasuerus, and it is to this King that she must eventually and ultimately bow her knee.

So, for her to say “If I perish, I perish” is not simply a statement of bravado but is actually an acknowledgment on the part of Esther that there is a tremendous risk involved in what she’s about to do. And the difficulty for us in having read the story all the way through is that the tension that builds here in chapter 5 may easily be lost on us unless we resolve consistently to stay within the chapter. You lose, we lose, the benefit of the unfolding drama if we constantly push beyond it. And so we need to realize that in 4:11: “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know,” Esther had proclaimed, “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.”

So, in other words, the king was not going to have his privacy or his security broached. He made sure that that would not happen by surrounding himself with henchmen who bore axes, so as to make sure that the head of someone was immediately removed.[3] They wouldn’t be able to do whatever it was they came to do. The only exception, which Esther points out there in chapter 4, was if the king determined that this person who makes their appearance should be allowed to enter, then, as an expression of his royal and supreme prerogative, he would hold out a symbol of his power—namely, the royal scepter—and the individual would then be made aware of the fact that the king was prepared to allow him or her this broach of etiquette.

But what we need to know as we go into chapter 5 is that Esther has now resolved that she will face the possibility of death for doing what she’s about to do, as a result of speaking up for her people and identifying with them rather than taking the alternative, which is to remain silent and hope that there will be sufficient security provided for her because she’s actually in the palace. So, in other words, she has two options, and neither of them are particularly good. She could stay in the palace and die, or she could enter the king’s presence and maybe die there.

The Subtlety of Esther

So, let’s follow the story line as it’s given to us, first of all noticing what we’ll refer to as the subtlety of Esther. The subtlety of Esther. As you read this and as you allow your eye to scan it as I’m addressing you, you will see that her approach to the king is brave, it is appropriate, it’s cautious, it’s humble, it’s skillful. And I think subtle is the right word. Because she approaches in a fashion that is delicate, it is precise. Her approach is cleverly designed; it is carefully planned and executed. After all, “Wise men say only fools rush in.”[4] She’s not about to appear in the presence of the king like a bull in a china shop.

There’s a lesson to be learned here by many of us, who, once we’ve resolved something, are tempted to say to ourselves, “Well, I can just get at this directly, and it doesn’t really matter how I affect or offend anybody else. After all, something needs to be done, and I’m the one that needs to do it.” And we find ourselves stumbling and bumbling around and often acting in a way that is entirely unhelpful, unedifying. And so we might take a leaf from Esther’s book.

Yes, she is resolved that this is something that she must do. She is going to take the route of obedience, even though she die, and that’s a good route to walk. But at the same time, she approaches the opportunity subtly. And her subtlety is revealed in a number of ways.

First of all, in her dress. That’s how the chapter begins: “On the third day Esther put on her royal robes.” The time for fasting and preparation is now over. The time for action has now come. And as she put on her royal robes, that may make you think, as it made me think, of chapter 2 and of the first occasion when she had gone in before the king—remember, when she had in Hegai a fashion consultant, and he was responsible for making sure that she and the other girls were all properly prepared. And having taken a peculiar liking to Esther, he made sure that on the occasion that she went in to see the king, that she wore and was appropriately conveyed in relationship to the expectations of the king.[5]

So, I found myself just wondering whether she checked with Hegai or not. It’s the way my mind works. But I imagined her saying, “Hegai, do you think I wear heels, or shall I wear flats with these robes?” And Hegai said, “Well, I think heels are always better, especially with those robes being as long as they are.” That’s not in the Bible. Of course it’s not in the Bible. You don’t need to worry about it for a moment. I’m just asking the question. She obviously made preparation. She put on her royal robes. She clothed herself in a particular way. She thought about what she was going to do.

Some of the commentators are very clear about the fact that this is a departure for her now. Whereas before she relied on her beauty, perhaps on her powers of seduction, instead, they say, she now is done with all of that, and she is only standing before the king dressed in the robes of her royal Jewish personae. Now, I’m not so sure about that, and I don’t think we can say so categorically. We would then have to assume that identifying herself in a royal position meant that that supplanted the place of the beauty that God had given to her, the looks that he has entrusted to her, the personality that he had given to her, her coyness, her accessibility, and so on. It doesn’t need to be one or the other.

And if you look at it from the other side, you have to then assume that the reason that she found favor with the king—if we accept the view that she no longer went in à la the old Esther that we know but the new Esther that we’re now meeting—that the king, then, when he saw her coming, said to himself, “My, my! Look at Esther standing there with all the dignity of a royal Jew.” Does that fit the king? Does that sound like the king? It doesn’t sound like the king any more than the idea is presented in relationship to Esther. But you’re sensible people. You have to work this out. It’s not foundational to the story.

I don’t think that was the king. I think the king found her “simply irresistible,”[6] to quote Robert Palmer. And because it’s the exact same phrase that is used in chapter 2, where he looked over all these girls, and he found that this girl rang his bell, that this girl stood out beyond all the other girls. So it’s highly unlikely that having not seen her or had access to her for over a month now, that he was favorably disposed to her just because she showed up dressed in the robes of royalty. But again, who knows?

Her subtlety, though, is conveyed in her approach, in her dress, and also, secondly, in her demeanor. In her demeanor. Because she responds according to protocol. Verse 2: when he held forth this golden scepter that was in his hand, “Esther approached and touched the tip of [his] scepter.” That’s important too! In other words, she didn’t say, “Oh, I didn’t need to do any of that stuff. I have immediate access to the king.” No, she recognized that she was going in here in a peculiarly perilous environment. And so, when he extended his grace, as it were, towards her, she accepted it in the way that it was conveyed. Her clothes and her countenance conveyed something of her disposition. I resist the temptation to launch into a rabbit trail discourse on the nature of clothing and what clothing says concerning the disposition of our hearts and what it says concerning the nature of our approach to one another, to business, and to God. Clothes actually matter. They actually convey something. And her demeanor is conveyed in her clothing and in her countenance.

Thirdly, it is conveyed—the subtlety—not only in this but also in her dinner plans, or in her invitation to the banquet, or to this great feast. Now, the king has issued the first of three requests to do something for his queen: “What is it? What is it you want? Ask whatever you want.” He’s in the position of Dodger in Oliver Twist—at least in the stage play of Oliver Twist, the musical of Oliver Twist—declaring, “I’d do anything for you, queen, anything for you, dear, anything for you.”[7] Okay? That’s what he’s saying. It’s hyperbole: “I’ll give you half my kingdom.” He’s not going to give her half his kingdom, but what he means is “You know, there’s really no limit to what I’m prepared to do for you. You have found favor in my eyes, Queen. Come on! What do you want?”

Now, he actually has to ask three times, as we’ll discover as the narrative unfolds, before he gets the actual answer that she’s prepared to convey. In fact, the answer that she now gives appears to be almost anticlimactic, doesn’t it? Because, after all, we’ve had this great setup: “Who knows but that you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”[8] That’s Mordecai to Esther. “It’s time for you to step up, Esther. It’s time for you to identify with your people. It’s time for you to fulfill your calling under God.” “Okay, okay, okay, I’ll go ahead.” And so she gets there, and he says, “And what is it you want?” And she says, “Would you like to come to dinner later on today? And would you like to bring Haman with you?” Doesn’t seem like much, does it? You got the camera, you got the lights—no action, just a banquet. I resist the temptation to go down the banquet trail, which is another trail that you can study to your own benefit. She recognizes that the way to a man’s heart is apparently through his stomach. “So, why don’t we eat about it? Why don’t we get together and eat?”

And Haman was pleased. “If it pleases the king,” and it did please the king. And so he said, “Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther has asked. We’re gonna have a feast.” The first chapter was Ahasuerus’s feast, but he put that together for himself. It’s one thing to put together for yourself. It’s another to be invited to a feast that is prepared in your honor. And that’s what Esther wanted to do, including his prime minister, this rascal, Haman. So he sends for him, and they “came to the feast that Esther had prepared.”

And verse 6: “And as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king said to Esther”—second time—“‘What is your wish? It will be granted to you. What’s your request? Even to half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.’” Okay, now she’s gonna tell him, right? No. Verse 7: “Then Esther answered, ‘My wish and my request is: If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my wish and fulfill my request, then how about we do this again tomorrow night? How about we have another meal?’”

What in the world is going on here? This is a wonderful story. You understand the way in which this narrative develops, ’cause it’s creating suspense, it’s creating tension. If you write a story, you don’t just move from the cliffhanger at the end of chapter 4 into the resolution at the beginning of chapter 5, because what are you gonna do for the rest of the book? It’s over! And the way this story is told is told in order that we might follow along and be intrigued by this, because we’ve got no way of knowing what is in the mind of Esther.

Why does she do this? Why feast one, and then why feast two? Is feast two as a result of a loss of nerve? Is she just about to say… And then she says, “Well, if you would like to know what my request is… Let’s have another feast tomorrow evening! And then, at that feast, I will certainly let you know.” Because if curiosity killed the cat, curiosity in this case caught the king. And that’s exactly what she’s doing. I don’t think it’s a loss of nerve on her part. Some suggest it is. I think she’s just hooking him. She recognizes that she’s going to put him in a position whereby, on this next occasion, it will be virtually impossible for him to step back from doing anything other than that which she desires.

And remember, what she is asking him to do is significant. In doing so, she’s identifying herself with her people. Remember, she’s lived in the shadowlands for five or six years. She is asking him to reverse an irreversible law. She is asking him essentially to lose face in front of his entire kingdom. That’s what she’s about to do. She’s already identified herself and her allegiance with her people. She is the mediator of her people. But she holds back on actually lowering the boom, as it were, in relationship to what is essential to the plot.

Now, I think she’s very subtle. Very subtle. She’s setting him up, and she’s also setting Haman up.

The Stupidity of Haman

And it is to Haman we come in verse 9, moving from the subtlety of Esther to the stupidity of Haman.

He is the archetypal egomaniac. He is the embodiment of a fool. “Do you see a man,” writes Solomon, “who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”[9] And here his essential folly stands out. His arrogance stands out against the backdrop of the humility of Esther. Esther is bold, and yet she is winsome: “If I have found favor in your sight…” She has actually already found favor in his sight. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have ever got in there. But she’s clever. She’s subtle. “If I have found favor in your sight…” Her humility is pervasive. You turn to Haman, and his pride is unmistakable.

Pride and discontentedness sleep in the same bed.

Now, he’d been there at this banquet, and he’d gone out, verse 9 tells us, “that day joyful[ly] and glad of heart.” “Joyful[ly] and glad of heart.” He went out “that day joyful[ly] and glad of heart.” There wasn’t going to be another day like that day. That was his last day for going out “joyful[ly] and glad of heart.” You can follow that through on your own.

You see, what Haman was about to understand, to his great shame and eventually to his death, was what Robert Burns identifies in his poem “Tam O’Shanter,” which I’m sure you all read frequently on a Tuesday. And in that poem, Burns, addressing the transient nature of life and how quickly things go through the fingers of a man or a woman, he says, or he writes,

But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flow’r, its bloom is shed;
[And] like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white—[and] then [gone] forever.

It is an absolute stupidity to

Itemize the things we covet
As we squander through our lives:
Bigger cars, better houses,
Term insurance on our wives.

To live in a world where

Eighty-six-proof anesthetic crutches
Prop us to the top,
Where the smiles are all synthetic,
And the ulcers never stop.[10]

Because ultimately, when they take the final inventory, it’ll be the same old story: “Let’s have your autograph, Haman. Endorse your epitaph, Haman.”

“And [he] went out” from the banquet “that day joyful and glad of heart. But…” “But,” the conjunction. “But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate…” Here we go again. Here’s the fly in the ointment, as it were. All of the enjoyment, the prestige, the significance, the accolades were insufficient to prevent him from becoming entirely destabilized by the fact that this little guy Mordecai never stood up when Haman came by and certainly never trembled in his presence. And “he,” verse 9b, “was filled with wrath against Mordecai.”

It wasn’t that he was just a little offended, that he was a little ticked. He was actually consumed with wrath. Pride does that to a man. Because, you see, when I am a proud person, nothing can ever satisfy me. When I am a proud person, no one can ever meet my standards. When I am a proud person, there is always another thing. There is always another floor. There is always another dollar. There is always something else beyond my reach which, although I have reached this, got that, succeeded here, I cannot enjoy all of this because of the absence of this. You understand why Paul says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”[11] “With contentment.” Pride and discontentedness sleep in the same bed.

But he should have been able to say, “What’s one little Jew that won’t bow? After all, look at me. I’m in the society pages. I’m photographed all the time now with the king. There’s few people that’s got as much access as me. I’m going to all the big feasts, the banquets. Who cares about Mordecai?” But he can’t do it. And so he goes home. He “restrained himself” from actually, presumably, reaching out, and he “went home, and he sent and brought his friends and his wife Zeresh.” It’s not that he went home and everybody said, “Hey, Haman, great to see you! How you doing?” No, he actually sent for his friends. He brought them in. He surrounded himself with those who would be prepared to listen to him talk about himself. That’s what pride does to us.

And verse 11: when he had put this little assembly together, he “recounted to them the splendor of his riches.” “Have you seen my latest painting? I bought this at such and such a Persian gallery. Why don’t you come down in the basement, and let me show you my wine cellar? Would you like to see the porcelain that I have just picked up recently?” What is all of this? It’s to say, “Look, do you realize how great I am? Do you realize how significant I am?” It’s like Liberace when he comes out onstage on one occasion, and he’s playing a glass piano. Did you ever see him do this? And he begins to play the piano, and it’s entirely, it’s Perspex, or glass, or whatever it was. You could see the mechanism underneath. And he begins to play, and then he stops, and he says—turning to the audience—he says, “There are only two pianos like this in the whole world.” And then he says, “And both of them are mine.”

That’s what Haman is doing. And he recounts his family. There’s a way to be thankful for your family. There’s a way to just brag about your family that obnoxious. Do you think Zeresh, his wife, didn’t know how many babies she’d had? He “recounted to them the splendor of his riches, [and] the number of his sons.” Poor Zeresh is sitting there going, “Yeah, yeah, I know that. Why’re you telling us that?” ’Cause this is like a Facebook page gone crazy. This is a Christmas letter in July. This is the worst! This is the worst. He actually lives with the mistaken notion that he is the center of the universe. He’s not even the center of his own universe. His impending death is before him. He doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. He is stupidity on two legs. He is the fool, as related in the Bible. He fits perfectly in contemporary twenty-first-century Western culture.

Who are in the publicity magazines? Who are on the front pages? Who are the heroes of our day? Many of them have done nothing at all. Nothing! When’s the last time you saw the best schoolteacher in America on the front of Vogue magazine? Or when you saw the brightest cardiothoracic surgeon elevated to a position of significance and heralded in town? Or when you saw a mother that had dealt with children in their infancy and in their adolescence and had sustained it all, and there she was? But no. No. No, we want the Hamans on the front page. We want ourselves on the front page. You see, the problem is, it’s not enough for me to say, “Oh, look at the pride of Haman,” because I look into the Word, and I see my own sinful heart.

When Whitefield was a young man, he made the statement in his journal: “O that I could always see myself in [my] proper Colours! I believe I should have little reason to fall down and worship myself. God be merciful to me, a Sinner![12] “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”[13] “God opposes the proud”; he “gives grace to the humble.”[14] Jesus “made himself of no reputation … being found in fashion as a man,”[15] he became a servant, giving himself up, ultimately, to death. Uzziah, in the Old Testament, was gloriously helped until he became strong,[16] and “when he [became] strong, he grew proud, to his [own] destruction.”[17]

The Sovereignty of God

We’ll come back to this, but let’s take our final point: from the subtlety of Esther and the stupidity of Haman to just drive home again for us the underlying theme of the entire book and the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God.

Behind the surface of all these human decisions and actions in Esther, we discover an urgent and an uncontrollable power—a power that is at work in such a way that it cannot ultimately be explained, nor can it ultimately be thwarted.

The coincidences that we find in this book are, as we said at the beginning, God’s way of remaining anonymous. Vashti chose not to come when the king called her, and as a result, she was deposed. She did not choose not to come because she was preprogrammed to choose not to come by some divine plan. Her choice was her own choice, her decision was her own decision and resulted in her deposition. Esther was exalted as a result of her beauty, a beauty that she did not procure for herself but was given to her by God. She had no control over the way her eyes set in her face nor the line of her cheek or her jaw. She had no statement to make in relationship to that. She was the beneficiary of God’s goodness, and God in his grace chose to use that. Mordecai, realizing that he’s separated from his queen, from Esther, chooses to walk around in front of the king’s gate. There he picks up snippets of news. It’s his choice. It’s his decision. He could have gone and lived in the suburbs, but he chose to live there. And as a result, he becomes the beneficiary of the plot for the assassination of the king, and he’s able, then, in turn, to convey that. And so the coincidences continue. And as we read, we discover that behind the surface of all these human decisions and actions, we discover an urgent and an uncontrollable power—a power that is at work in such a way that it cannot ultimately be explained, nor can it ultimately be thwarted.

I was reading Jonathan Edwards this week, and he was talking about how as a young man he really stumbled over the issue of the sovereignty of God. He didn’t like the idea that God was sovereign, that he’s involved in the atomic nature of the universe, that his interest extended to every part of humanity. And he writes about how he finally resolved that in his own mind and how his life was radically changed. Some of us may be still wrestling as Edwards was wrestling. Some of us may have come to a convinced position in relationship to these things. Don’t fall foul of a caricature of it. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can either have the sovereignty of God on the one hand or you can have the free decision of Mordecai and Esther on the other. No, you have both.

If I take the back off my watch, there are wheels that go around against one another, but they work in conjunction with one another in order to make sure that they produce the end result and tell me the time. Such is the way of God’s intervention in time with the affairs of men and women. Don’t take my word for it. Take God’s word for it. Go and read your Bibles. “The king’s heart is a stream of water,” says Solomon. “He turns it in whichever direction he chooses.”[18]

The psalmist, when he writes concerning the praise of God—I’ll just give you a couple of verses to reinforce this: “Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’” The psalmist says, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”[19] He does what he pleases. Psalm 135:

For I know that the Lord is great,
 and that our Lord is above all gods.
Whatever the Lord pleases, he does,
 in heaven and on earth,
 in the seas and all [the] deeps.
He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,
 who makes lightnings for the rain
 and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.[20]

Nebuchadnezzar did not believe that. Confronted by the faith of Daniel and his colleagues, he grew proud to his own destruction. He ended up a poor character, living like a beast in his fields, in his palace grounds—until, he tells us, that he lifted his eyes to heaven, “and my reason returned to me.” “I … lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me.”[21] See, people are trying to deal with the world as it is from a rational perspective: “Well, I think it’s a reasonable thing to believe this, it’s a scientific perspective to believe that,” and so on—“and maybe sometime later on, I may actually lift my eyes to heaven.” The Bible actually says, “No, you will never actually engage as a scientist until you lift your eyes to heaven. For when you lift your eyes to heaven and you realize the unmistakable power of God behind everything, then you may go about, with purpose, your scientific investigation.”

So he says, “I blessed the Most High, and [I] praised and honored him … for his dominion is an everlasting dominion.”[22] “Clearly mine isn’t,” says Nebuchadnezzar. “His kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing.” That doesn’t mean that he’s disregarding of individual life but that the vastness of humanity is just a drop in the bucket in comparison to his immensity. “And he does according to his will among the host of heaven … among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’”[23]

This actually makes sense of the story line not only of the Bible but the story line of our lives. I put it to you: without this, Solomon—or the writer of Ecclesiastes, whoever he was—comes up with the right answer: “‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Everything is utterly meaningless.’”[24] Says, “I tried to become really educated, and I found that at the end of that, there was sadness and despair. I tried to become really rich, and I found that it didn’t answer my questions. I decided to go the route of humor, and when everything became funny, nothing was funny anymore.” And then he says, “Until I finally recognized that God is God.”

Have you done that? You’re here today, you’re agnostic, you’re pushing around in these things, then I’m glad you’re here, and I’m glad of the opportunity to address you. Maybe you’re actually an atheist. You’ve decided there is no God. You’ve come here just to prove your point. Maybe I’ve helped you to that end. Maybe you’ve said, “If that’s what it is about, I definitely don’t believe.” C. S. Lewis quite masterfully said, “Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.”[25] The only reason there’s meaning is because there’s God. And if we believe that God is everywhere, why would we not believe that he is in the coincidences that seem so strange to us? For coincidences are God’s way of making himself anonymous.

Father, thank you for the Bible. Help us to become, increasingly, students of it and to rest our heads on the soft pillow of your providence. For your Son’s sake we ask it. Amen.

[1] Commonly attributed to C. S. Lewis. Original source unknown.

[2] Esther 4:16 (ESV).

[3] See Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 11.6.3.

[4] George David Weiss, Luigi Creatore, and Hugo Peretti, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (1961).

[5] See Esther 2:8–9, 15.

[6] Robert Palmer, “Simply Irresistible” (1988).

[7] Lionel Bart, “I’d Do Anything” (1960). Lyrics lightly altered.

[8] Esther 4:14 (paraphrased).

[9] Proverbs 26:12 (ESV).

[10] Ray Stevens, “Mr. Businessman” (1968). Lyrics lightly altered.

[11] 1 Timothy 6:6 (ESV).

[12] George Whitefield, The Two First Parts of His Life, with His Journals (London: W. Strahan, 1756), 75.

[13] Proverbs 16:18 (ESV).

[14] James 4:6 (ESV). See also Proverbs 3:34.

[15] Philippians 2:7–8 (KJV).

[16] See 2 Chronicles 26:15.

[17] 2 Chronicles 26:16 (ESV).

[18] Proverbs 21:1 (paraphrased).

[19] Psalm 115:2–3 (ESV).

[20] Psalm 135:5–7 (ESV).

[21] Daniel 4:34 (ESV).

[22] Daniel 4:34 (ESV).

[23] Daniel 4:34–35 (ESV).

[24] Ecclesiastes 1:2 (paraphrased).

[25] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; repr., New York: HarperOne, 2000), 39.

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.