The Unseen Hand of God
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The Unseen Hand of God

Esther 6:1–14  (ID: 2979)

Man’s apparently inconsequential decisions are appointed by God and used to achieve His purposes—even in the tiny, mundane details. Because King Ahasuerus couldn’t sleep, he had the chronicles of his kingdom read aloud to him. Haman was thus forced to honor Mordecai, the Jew whom he disdained and planned to kill. Alistair Begg reminds us that even sinful, foolish, or flippant behavior can be shaped by our trustworthy God to bring about His eternal plan.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Esther

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

Encore 2015

Selected Scriptures Series ID: 25906

Sermon Transcript: Print

Esther chapter 6. Let’s read from 5:14:

“Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him”—that is, to Haman—“‘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.

“On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. And it was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. And the king said, ‘What honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?’ The king’s young men who attended him said, ‘Nothing has been done for him.’ And the king said, ‘Who is in the court?’ Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for him. And the king’s young men told him, ‘Haman is there, standing in the court.’ And the king said, ‘Let him come in.’ So Haman came in, and the king said to him, ‘What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?’ And Haman said to himself, ‘Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?’ And Haman said to the king, ‘For the man whom the king delights to honor, let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set. And let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming before him: “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.”’ Then the king said to Haman, ‘Hurry; take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.’ So Haman took the robes and the horse, and he dressed Mordecai and led him through the square of the city, proclaiming before him, ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.’

“Then Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman hurried to his house, mourning and with his head covered. And Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, ‘If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is [one] of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.’

“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 [the] feast with Queen Esther.”

And we leave this story there for now.

Let’s pray together:

Thank you, Father, for the reminder this morning that part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to help us to understand the Bible. So we pray for that help now. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, we say to one another, don’t we, “The early bird catches the worm”? There’s great advantages in getting up early in the morning. Those of us who were here early this morning or up early had the benefit of seeing that wonderful sunrise. Others will only be able to know about it because we’re telling you now.

And it would appear that Haman worked on a very similar principle. He was up early in the morning so that he might be promptly in the court of the king. After all, his wife and his friends had given him such a good suggestion the previous evening: “Why not build a gallows and kill Mordecai the Jew? He’s such a nuisance to you. And then once you’ve killed him, then you can go to the second banquet feast that Esther has prepared.” And that really, then, was the strategy in the morning with which Haman had awakened. Little did he know what was waiting for him. It’s a reminder of what Solomon says in Proverbs 10: “The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.”[1] The hope of the righteous—those who are in a right standing with God—the hope of the righteous will bring joy to them, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.

Now, it’s not just Solomon that says that. We find it all the way through the Bible. In fact, the book of Psalms opens with a very similar theme, doesn’t it? “Blessed is the man who doesn’t walk in the counsel of the ungodly or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of the scoffers.” And then the psalmist says, “This is what this man will be like: a tree planted by the rivers of water, and his life will prosper.”[2] And then he says, “[But] the wicked are not so,” because they’re like the “chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.”[3]

There’s a sort of prevailing notion amongst contemporary America that death is the great equalizer—that, you know, no matter what you’ve really believed, or what your convictions have been, or what you’ve done, or what you haven’t done, don’t worry about it, because all bets are off as long as you die. And when you die, it’ll all be evened out. The Bible says, “No. No, the expectation of the wicked should only be that of destruction. It is the righteous that look forward to discovering that in God’s presence there is fullness of joy, and at his right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”[4] That’s what makes everything so unbelievably solemn.

Now, in this sixth chapter, we are arguably at the most ironically comic section of the entire Bible—not just the entire Old Testament. This is a comic-tragic picture. I think Shakespeare probably knew this passage and borrowed from it in the way he introduced many of the scenes that we find in Shakespeare’s plays—usually his sad plays, his tragedies. And it confirms what we have noticed—namely, that the book of Esther is a book of wonders without any obvious miracles. There’s nothing that you come to and you go, “Well, that’s a dramatic thing!” You don’t have the crossing of the Red Sea. You don’t have some dramatic intervention. Everything ticks along fairly steadily. And in these little bits and pieces, decisions and so on, it becomes increasingly obvious to the reader that behind all of this coincidental activity there is a higher hand, that beyond the throne of Ahasuerus there is, as we often sing, “a higher throne than all this world has known.”[5]

And I hope that you have been fastening on the fact, as I’ve been trying to, that even the most casual events that take place in our world are actually connected to God’s purpose for his people from all of eternity, that things that are apparently inconsequential are appointed by him and directed by him in order to achieve his purposes—even the sinful activities of those who are involved. So, for example, when we think about the role of these two characters who are mentioned here again, Bigthana—most unfortunate name—and Teresh… Maybe there was a “Smallthana” as well as a Bigthana. But anyway, I don’t recommend that as a name. But when we’re reminded of them here in chapter 6, it takes us back to the end of chapter 2 and what had taken place there. Here were two individuals whose job was to ensure the custody and safety of King Ahasuerus. They decided that they would subvert that and that they would assassinate the king.[6]

Even the most casual events that take place in our world are actually connected to God’s purpose for his people from all of eternity.

Now, let me ask you a question: Do you think that Bigthana and Teresh sat down one morning and said, “Let’s fulfill the eternal counsels of God from all of eternity; let’s do something that will set forward the purposes that God has had from all of eternity”? No, they didn’t do that. They said, “Let’s kill the king.” They were solely responsible for the idea. They were solely culpable for their wicked intentions. So, what a mystery it is that God brings about events in the fulfillment of his purpose through the freedom and the sins of men and women.

You see, you have immediately gone wrong if you read your Bible and read the events of life in terms of a duality in the universe where you have God on the one side and the devil on the other, and every time something good happens to you, it happens as a result of God won one, and every time something bad happens to you, it means the devil won one. No, not for a moment. And the book of Esther is making that clear.

A Sleepless King

Now, all I would like to do this morning is follow the story line. So, let’s notice, first of all, that the king couldn’t sleep. The king couldn’t sleep.

Now, keep in mind that the king was unaware of Haman’s plot. And he couldn’t sleep “on that night.” That’s important. “On that night the king could not sleep.” Think about it. It wouldn’t have mattered if he couldn’t sleep the following night. If he was gonna be awake, this was the night to be awake, because this was the night where Haman couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to come to the king, who presently can’t sleep, to make sure that Mordecai is hanged on the gallows. “On that night the king could[n’t] sleep.” God is at work in the tiny details.

And of all that he might have done, given that he couldn’t sleep, look what he chooses to do. “He gave orders” not to bring one of his harem. He had plenty of girls available to him to help him get back to sleep or amuse him in the night. If “old King Cole was a merry old soul” and could call for his pipe in the middle of the night, then this fellow had plenty of options as to what he might do either to induce sleep or, having decided that he wasn’t going to sleep, to enjoy being awake. But of all the choices that he makes, he says, “Why don’t you bring the book of the chronicles,” the things that record—the minute book, as it were, of his kingdom—for whatever reason, either as a means of encouragement or because he wants to catch up on events which he has not paid particular attention to.

And so they bring the book. What are the chances of them bringing this book and of reading this part, the part about Mordecai? ’Cause think about it: Mordecai’s asleep. I mean, I assume he’s asleep. He’s not mentioned. During the night, you’re supposed to sleep. And Mordecai is the one who should be awake. If anybody should be awake, it should be the one with the threat of death hanging over his head, the one who, when he awakens in the morning, he’s going to be hanged on a gallows seventy-five cubits high. He’s the fellow who shouldn’t be able to sleep. But apparently, he’s sound asleep, because he’s unaware of his doom. He’s unaware of the fact.

And furthermore, Mordecai had no means of intervening to save himself. He didn’t know what awaited him, and if he’d known, he couldn’t have fixed it. So how does God plan on fixing it? He’s gonna use a pagan king. He’s gonna use the sleeplessness of a pagan king, who when he wakes up says, “Bring the book.” And when they read the book, they read from the section that contains the part about Mordecai, who had been the one responsible for intervening when Ahasuerus, the insomniac, was gonna get clobbered by Bigthana and Teresh.

And so the king says, “What honor or distinction has been given to Mordecai the Jew? What did we do for him?” Now, behind that, of course, is the whole Persian gesture whereby the authority and the magnificence of a Persian king would be seen not simply in his entourage or his palace or his enthronement but would be seen in the spirit of generosity with which he rewarded those who’d been good to him. And so he says, “What did we do for Mordecai?” And you’ll notice what the answer is: and they said to him, “We haven’t done anything for Mordecai.” “The king’s young men who attended him said, ‘Nothing has been done for him.’”

Now, here’s just a thought in passing. We’re never told what Mordecai thought at the end of chapter 2 after he’d done what he’d done. He had prevented the assassination of the king, but he hadn’t been honored. Do you think he felt hard done by? I wonder, did he say to his wife, “You know, you’d think you’d at least get a note. I mean, I wasn’t looking for a gift certificate or anything, but you know, the king was gonna be assassinated, I tipped him the nod through Esther, and I’ve never heard a word from him.” And eventually time had gone by—some four years, almost five years, since the events of chapter 2. He’s been overlooked. The thing that he did that was so significant, nobody apparently cares about it, not least of all the king, who was the beneficiary of what he did.

Well, we’ve been overlooked too, haven’t we? Or we’ve said to ourselves, “You know, I deserve better than this. Why am I not getting what I deserve? If anybody had just even a plausible perspective on what I’ve done, they would say something. But nothing has been said.” We have to learn to do what is right because it is right, whether we’re honored or whether we’re not honored, whether remembered or whether we’re never remembered. Because the fact of the matter is that one day, all the scales will be reset. One day, honor will be given where honor is due. One day, the cups of cold water that no one has paid attention to, the kindnesses that no one has apparently received with a spirit of thankfulness, all of that will be settled.

But no, we just need to learn to do what is right. And God’s timing is always perfect, because God is never in a hurry. There’s a lot of hurry-up in chapter 6, but it’s not the hurry-up of God. It’s the hurry-up of humanity. God is never in a hurry. “As for God, his way is perfect.”[7] I wonder, do you believe that? Not when the band is playing and the sun is shining, but when that which we’ve done which we think is deserving of honor and acclaim is largely, if not entirely, ignored.

The king couldn’t sleep.

The King Seeks Advice

Secondly, we’re told that the king sought advice. He sought advice.

We know this. He has done this from the very beginning. He, in a moment of pique, banishes his queen, Vashti. He then wasn’t sure what to do, his advisors come up with a beauty pageant, and so it goes on from there. You can rehearse it all yourself. And so, it’s not surprise to us that when he discovers that nothing has been done, his first response is to say, “Well, who is in the court that can actually help me with this kind of thing?” That seems to be the inference, doesn’t it? “And the king said, ‘Who is in the court?’” Two questions in a row: “What has been done?” “Nothing.” “Who’s in the court?” Now we’re told: “Now Haman had just entered the outer court” of the king. [Hums ominously.] Right? Okay? I should really have an organ playing up here behind me, but that was… No, I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t. That was just foolishness.

God’s timing is always perfect, because God is never in a hurry.

So, I imagine Haman gets up in the morning, he says to his wife, “You know, I want to get an early start, as early as possible. Please don’t do eggs. I’ll just get an orange juice on my way out the door. Because I want to get to Ahasuerus before anything else happens. I want to make sure that I get to him so that I can tell him, ‘Let’s get Mordecai hanged on the gallows. Then we’ll have a wonderful evening at the feast.’” Well, little does he know as he makes his way there to the outer court of the king, that the king is also wanting to talk about what is to be done to Mordecai. So they are both wanting to do something to Mordecai. So they woke up singing, “When I woke up this morning, you were on my mind.” You remember that song? Nineteen sixty-four. Sorry, for those of you who were born earlier: “When I woke up this morning, you were on my mind.”[8] Who was on their mind? Both of them had Mordecai on their mind.

It’s remarkable, isn’t it? If the king hadn’t been kept from sleep, if the book had not been read, if the conspiracy within the book had not been referenced, then Mordecai would have been on his way to the gallows. If the king had asked the question he then asked differently, then Mordecai would have been a dead man. Look. Look what he says. And “‘Haman is there, standing in the court,’” verse 5. “And the king said, ‘Let him come in.’ So Haman came in, and the king said to him”—look at how he asked the question—“‘What should be done to the man…?’” He doesn’t say, “What should be done to Mordecai?” If he had said, “What should be done to Mordecai?” remember, it’s Mordecai that he has on his mind. He’s asked what has been done for Mordecai. They said, “Nothing’s been done for Mordecai.” He said, “Then we need to do something for Mordecai. Who’s in the court?” “Haman’s in the court.” “Bring him in. Haman, what should be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?” If he’d said, “What should be done to Mordecai?” Haman would have said, “I’m glad you asked! I couldn’t get up fast enough this morning, because I’ll tell you what should be done to Mordecai: he should be hanged on the gallows that we have prepared.”

Once again, we see that God’s purpose is brought about by those whose only view is to fulfill their own purpose. Do you get that? The purpose of God is brought about by those who are only seeking to fulfill their own purpose.

You see, when you read this story, it becomes apparent that God had a plan for the deliverance of his people, even though the enemies had a plan for the destruction of the people. Isn’t that right? Isn’t that what we see in the unseen hand of God? That the longer we read this book, the more we realize that the activity of God is unmistakable in this, and that God has a plan for his people that he has sought to execute long before this particular threat to the welfare of his people has unfolded.

Now, this should be no surprise to us. Goldsworthy in his Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics has a wonderful sentence or two that I wrote down years ago. This is what he says: “History is not the story of God’s trial of something good that failed, thus requiring him to come up with an emergency package as an afterthought. God’s ultimate creation plan was not Adam and Eve in Eden, but Christ in the gospel.” “God’s ultimate creation plan was not Adam and Eve … but Christ in the gospel.”[9]

You remember Mary mistook Jesus for the gardener?[10] It’s a remarkable thought, isn’t it? And it helps us, so that we don’t think somehow or another that God looks over the parapet of heaven, as it were, and says to himself, “Dear, dear, what am I going to do now? This thing is gonna get completely out of control.” No, it’s not. Nothing is out of control, and nothing will be out of control. The hymn writer puts it,

O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came.[11]

God planned that. “What should be done [for] the man whom the king delights to honor?”

Haman Miscalculates

The king couldn’t sleep. The king asked advice. Thirdly, we’re told of Haman’s miscalculation. And what a miscalculation it is! Notice how it begins: “And Haman said to himself…” “Haman said to himself.” “A man wise in his own eyes, there’s more hope for a fool.”[12] That’s what we saw last time. And so, Haman is proud, and he’s presumptuous. When you’re proud and somebody says, “You know, what should be done for the man that the king wants to honor?” and you think, “There’s nobody in the world that he would want to honor more than me,” you’re going to immediately assume that this must be some special package that he’s put together for you. And that’s exactly what he thinks.

And so he outlines a plan for the exaltation of the man, not with anyone else in mind other than himself. And it’s there in verses, what, 7, 8, and 9. We needn’t rehearse it again. But it’s quite remarkable, isn’t it? He takes it right down to the details. Not only is he going to be dressed properly, he’s going to ride a royal steed that is marked by the insignia of a royal crown, but he’s gonna have somebody walk in front into the square announcing the fact: “If anybody would like to know the kind of thing that the king does for those that he honors, here’s an illustration of it right now!” And here we’ve got to hurry up. Verse 10: “Then the king said to Haman, ‘Hurry.’” “Hurry.” Well, Haman had woken up hurrying. He was in a hurry when he woke up. He’d been in a hurry when he went to his bed. So it’s no problem for him to hurry now.

And if you ever imagine… You know, we talk about somebody’s jaw dropping, you know. This is the great jaw dropping of the Bible, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s made all the more ironic by the way in which the king doesn’t use Mordecai’s name until deep into the instruction. Do you see that?

“Hurry; take the robes…”

“Got the robes.”

“… and the horse…”

“Lovely horse.”

“… as you have said—good idea, Haman—and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate.”

“Are you kidding me? I know Mordecai the Jew! Of course! Never pays homage to me, never stands up when I walk by. Mordecai the Jew?”

How do you think that felt for Haman? “No, no eggs, just take orange juice. I’m gonna go and hang Mordecai.” If he called his wife on his cell phone, he said, “Hey, you’re never going to believe this.”

“Why, what are you doing?”

“Well, I’m walking through the public square. Actually, if you’re out shopping, you might even see me.”

“What are you walking through the public square for?”

“Well, I’ve got Mordecai on a horse.”

“Why do you have Mordecai on a horse? He’s supposed to be on the gallows!”

“No, no, there’s a been a big change. A big, big change. It’s gone all pear-shaped. I mean, the thing is a mess. I mean… Hang on a minute. I’ve got to shout again. THIS IS WHAT IS DONE FOR THE MAN WHO THE… I’ll get back to you in a minute. Hang on. Oh, watch the horse, would you? Watch the horse, please. Yeah, hey, you know what? We’ll talk when we get home. Bye. Thanks. We’re good.” Done.

He didn’t get up early in the morning to honor Mordecai. He got up early in the morning to hang Mordecai. Do you think they talked to one another during this little episode? What a parade! What a picture! What a performance! If I was Mordecai, I don’t know if I coulda kept quiet. Right? “No, shout it again, Haman. I love it when you do that! Go ahead! No! Do that thing about ‘What does the king give to the one he wants to honor?’ I love that! Do it again!” Well, I can’t imagine what Haman was saying.

Haman’s Fall Predicted

The king can’t sleep. The king asks for advice. Haman’s dreadful miscalculation. And finally, Haman’s fall is predicted.

Verse 12: “Then Mordecai returned to the king’s gate.” I’m sure there’s more in that than we have time to deal with right now, but there’s a sense at which the sort of humility and normalcy of the existence of Mordecai is established just in that single sentence: “Then Mordecai [went back] to the king’s gate.” In other words, he didn’t do what Haman had done, obviously. You know, Haman, when he came from banquet number one, couldn’t wait to get home to blow his trumpet—to tell everybody, you know, how significant he was, that he was the key guy for the king, that he was the only person that Esther had invited to the feast, and so on. He could hardly get in his bedroom for the size of his head. Mordecai is paraded through the town—an unsought parade, an unsought enthronement, an unsought journey on a horse. And he just went back and sat down where he had always sat.

There’s something about routine, isn’t there? There’s something about just faithfulness. There’s something about just doing what we do. Doesn’t seem like much. I do the funeral of elderly grandparents, and they always tell me, the kids and the grandchildren always tell me, “You know, he always did this. He was always there. He used to sit here. This is where his Bible was.” Mordecai went back to the king’s gate.

How different for Haman, who’s hurrying again. He “hurried to his house.” Course he hurried to his house! He didn’t want anyone to see him. He covered his face, like an arrested person trying to shield themselves from the gaze of the television cameras. He’s a picture of mourning and disappointment and pain. And now he goes back to the same group of friends, to his wife, Zeresh, and his friends, and he told them everything that had happened. Well, they’ve changed their tune pretty quickly, haven’t they? The end of chapter 5: “Whoa! I’ll tell you what to do: let’s just build a gallows and hang the guy!”[13] He comes back and tells them this, and they say, “Well, don’t look at us! We don’t know what to do. In fact, the purposes of God will be fulfilled for his people. We’ve understood that. We’ve learned that along the way. And if this is Mordecai the Jew before whom you have begun to fall, frankly, your destiny is written.”

Closing Observations

Well, that’s really the end of it. Let me just make one or two observations before we sing a final hymn.

First of all, let us learn to trust God in the matter of his timing and his delays. Let us learn to trust God in the matter of his timing and of his delays. All of God’s delays, said Derek Kidner in his little commentary on the Psalms, are the maturings either of the time or the maturings of the man or the woman.[14] So, for example, “Before,” says the psalmist—Psalm 119:67—“before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.” “I used to be able just to do my thing and wander any way I wanted. But when you in your providence brought affliction, disappointment, pain, heartache, bereavement, bankruptcy into my life… Before I was afflicted, I just went anywhere I wanted. But now I pay attention to your word.” Do you want it back as it was before? No. Trust God in the matter of timing and details.

Secondly, don’t let’s miss his hand in the details. In the details. Some of us do not enjoy God in the way that we might because we’ve got some kind of expectation that is neither realistic nor biblical nor any other thing: “If God was really God and he really loved me and really blessed me, then this would happen, and that would happen, and the next thing happen.” Hey, listen: Did you sleep through the night? Did he awaken you today? Is your double-circulatory system at work right now, creating oxygenated and deoxygenated blood? Do you have renal function? Do you have neurological function? Can you blink your eyes? Can you say hello? Can you kiss your wife? Can you hug your kids? What else do you want? Don’t miss God in the tiny things. In the tiny things! The reason that some of us live impoverished lives is because we have decided what it would be really like if God were to step forward at the time that we’ve decided and to do what we believe is right for us to receive if it is going to be a representation of our status and our standing.

Thirdly, let us, in light of this truth, bring all our doubts and all our fears and all our disappointments—whether it’s our children, or our future, our employment or our lack of it, or whatever it is—just bring it all underneath this overarching truth, which is, as we began the entire series, to keep reminding ourselves of the fact that God has an ultimate purpose that Paul says in Ephesians 1 has been “set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on [the] earth.”[15] “For from him and [for] him and to him are all things.”[16] That changes a Sunday, changes a Monday, changes the way we view things.

The righteous have every reason to look joyfully forward even through tears, pain, disappointment, and regret. The expectations of the wicked have no such joy to look forward to.

I was sure that the verse was there, but I had to go and check. The verse I had in mind was Romans chapter 5, where Paul, having outlined the condition of man and the provision of God—the condition of man is in being in rebellion against God—in Romans chapter 5: “For while we were still weak,” here’s the phrase: “at the right time…” “At the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”[17] God is not in a hurry. He’s never late.

But here’s the issue. Let me end where I began. The righteous have every reason to look joyfully forward even through tears, pain, disappointment, and regret. The expectations of the wicked have no such joy to look forward to. Haman unwillingly declared Mordecai’s honor. He wasn’t happy about it. And the Bible says that on that day when every knee will bow before Jesus Christ and declare him to be Lord,[18] some will bow unwillingly. Some will bow rejoicing in their understanding of Jesus. Others will bow with great cries of anguish. We sing it in our hymn, don’t we? “A shout of joy, a cry of anguish, as [Christ] returns, and every knee bows low.”[19] Can I say to you, can I urge upon you this fact? That you and I will stand before God, we will bow before Christ, either with great joy in the reality in its fullness of having discovered him to be a Savior and a friend, or we will cry out in anguish before him. The Bible says so.

So, would you not—will you not—come bow before him now? Bow before him, in light of his love and of his kindness. Because here is a King who is stripped in order that we might be robed. Here is a King who is wounded in order that we might be healed, who is forsaken in order that we might be forgiven. Here is a King who wears a crown of thorns so that we can wear a crown that will never perish or fade away. Is this not good news?

Are you gonna live in your rags forever? The rags of your religious orthodoxy, the rags of your good works, the rags of your “Well, I’m not as bad as the… You oughta see our next-door neighbor,” the rags of whatever it might be? Or the rags of your sinful sadness, clutching them to yourself, with no hope for today and only fear for tomorrow? And the love of God towards you in Jesus would draw you to himself. That’s what this is all about at the end of the day.

Can I ask you, have you ever exchanged your rags for a robe? You may today. You just say, “Jesus, look, I’ve been wearin’ this stuff and restin’ in this stuff. And I’m givin’ it to you. Now, I know you promised me a robe. I don’t deserve a robe. But I’ll take it if you’re givin’ it.” You ever done that? That’s what it means to be converted. That’s what it means to be saved. That’s what it means to be born again. That’s what it means to become a Christian.

Well, I leave it with you. But I have one final thought.

The focus here is all on these people, right? We got Mordecai, we’ve got Haman, we’ve got King Ahasuerus, we’ve got various people. So, the camera angle is in really narrow. Meanwhile, life is going on in the community, right? People are gettin’ up, they’re going to their work, they’re meeting each other for the equivalent of coffee, they’re talking about the news. And somebody says to his friend, “Do you think anybody knows what’s going on in this kingdom?”

The friend said, “What are you talking about?”

They said, “Well, I read the newspaper. It seems like total chaos to me. I mean, take the king, for example. It’s not a few months since the headline in the local newspaper—in fact, it was throughout the entire kingdom—it said, ‘We’re gonna annihilate the entire population of the Jews.’ But did you see the little article on page 2 yesterday?”

His friend says, “No, what was that?”

“Well, Mordecai—you know, the wee guy that sits at the king’s gate—apparently, he was riding all around the place on the king’s horse, dressed up, and the horse had a crown on it.”

And his friend says, “What’s that all about?”

“Oh, and let me tell you something else: Haman—you know, the guy with the big head and the big mouth—Haman, he was leading him around! And apparently, Mordecai’s the new man. Mordecai is exalted.”

“But wait a minute. I thought you said the Jews were to be annihilated.”

“Yeah, that’s right. And Mordecai the Jew is exalted. Does anybody know what’s going on around here?”

So the guy says, “Well, you know what? I’m gonna tell you something: that king is a vacillator. One minute he says this, the next minute he says that. I don’t know if he even has a plan. I don’t even know if the plan is workable. I don’t even know if he’s competent for the job. I don’t know what is gonna happen to us in this place.”

Got a real contemporary ring to it, doesn’t it? What is the answer? The answer’s right here in the book of Esther: to acknowledge that God knows exactly what he’s doing, that he exalts who he chooses to exalt. He uses the freedoms, the foolishness, the sins of our feeble humanity in order to bring about his plan from all of eternity, so that all things may be united in heaven and under heaven, on the earth and under the earth.

I wonder, do you believe that? Do you believe that in a way that you just believe it for yourself—in your own car, in your own bedroom, just trust in God? I hope so. And I hope if you don’t, that God in his mercy will spare you for another day, so that if you hear his voice, you won’t harden your heart.[20]

Let us pray:

O God our Father, look upon us in your grace and kindness, we pray. You know us. Grant to us the enabling of the Holy Spirit, so that our hard hearts may be softened and our dull eyes may be able to see. And help us to bow down underneath your sovereign rule, acknowledging you to be a good God, entirely reliable, even through our sadness and our disappointment, our shortcomings and our rebellions. For we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.

[1] Proverbs 10:28 (ESV).

[2] Psalm 1:1, 3 (paraphrased).

[3] Psalm 1:4–5 (ESV).

[4] See Psalm 16:11.

[5] Keith and Kristyn Getty, “There Is a Higher Throne” (2003).

[6] See Esther 2:21–23.

[7] 2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:30 (NIV).

[8] Sylvia Fricker, “You Were on My Mind” (1962).

[9] Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation (2006; repr., Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014), 223.

[10] See John 20:15.

[11] John Henry Newman, “Praise to the Holiest in the Height” (1865).

[12] Proverbs 26:12 (paraphrased).

[13] See Esther 5:14.

[14] Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, ed. D. J. Wiseman (Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1973), 61.

[15] Ephesians 1:9–10 (ESV).

[16] Romans 11:36 (ESV).

[17] Romans 5:6 (ESV).

[18] See Philippians 2:10–11.

[19] Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, “Jesus Is Lord” (2003).

[20] See Psalm 95:7–8; Hebrews 3:7–8, 15; 4:7.

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.