The book of Esther is one of those books, like Ruth that is best read at one sitting. It’s a great story of a meteoric, providential rise to a place of honor and power at just the right time; with a prideful, vengeful antagonist; with a humble heroine who has to take a fearful step of faith; and with a sharp turn of events at the end. It is the story of Purim, a joyous festival celebrated every year by the Jews to this day (it fell on March 19,20 in 2011). We’ve already covered how Hadassah (Esther) was chosen by God’s providence to be the queen of Persia. We’ve also seen how Haman, because Mordecai conscientiously refused to bow to him, plotted to destroy all the Jewish people in the Persian empire (virtually all of them) by official decree of the king (who trusted Haman too much). When this plot came to Mordecai’s attention, he persuaded Esther (who was fearfully reluctant at first) to approach the king. Esther and the Jews fasted and prayed for 3 days, and then Esther humbly and diplomatically approached the king, at first inviting him and and Haman to a banquet. At this banquet Esther invites King Xerxes (Ahaseurus) and Haman to yet another banquet the next day (I suppose that is has always been true that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach), when she promised the king that she would then make her request of him.
That night, when the king was having a bout of insomnia, he called for the royal book of records — doubtlessly, like most other government reports, a good remedy for insomnia, a real snoozer — and discovered that although Mordecai had been responsible for foiling an assassination plot against the king that nothing had been done to reward him. The next day, the king called in Haman to ask him what should be done for the man that the king wanted to honor. Because Haman thought (in his pride) that the king wanted to honor him, he laid out an elaborate scheme of honor — which the king then commanded Haman to lead in Mordecai’s honor. Haman was privately mortified and vexed beyond words as he obeyed the king’s command. The turn of Haman’s fortunes had begun, and that’s where we left it.
But in the reading today Esther finally reveals to king Xerxes that someone had plotted to murder her entire ethnic group, the Jews. When the king asks who this villain might be, Esther fingers Haman, who was probably shocked to just now discover that the queen was Jewish! The king stands up in a rage and walks to the balcony to think, while Haman begs for his life, even throwing himself on the queen’s couch. When the king returns to the room, he finds Haman touching the couch, which angers him all the more. When it is reported to the king that Haman has already built a very tall gallows to hand Mordecai on, the king finds poetic justice in hanging Haman on those very gallows — later his 10 sons would join him. To repel the planned attack (because the command of a Persian king cannot be rescinded), the king gives Mordecai, the new grand vizier, permission for the Jews to defend themselves against their enemies. The Jews do defend themselves and destroy their enemies, and the day was established as a Jewish holiday, Purim.
Revenge is not as satisfying as we think — Have you ever gotten revenge? Have you ever noticed how dissatisfying it is? And even how it often comes back to bite us? Haman’s revenge turned inside out isn’t all that unusual. Even if you get the revenge you wanted, you still have to look over your shoulder constantly. Revenge often involves the burning of relational bridges; and it often just becomes a vicious (literally) cycle — witness: the middle east. Haman’s prideful scheme to get revenge not only didn’t work, it came back (by God’s greater scheme) to bite him — hard.
The enemies of God’s people — Although sometimes on our personal, micro level of life it sometimes feels like our enemies and our persecutions persist; a time is coming in which — like in the story of Esther — all the enemies of God’s people will be eliminated and God will bring proper justice and vengeance.
“When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.” Revelation 6:9-11, NAS95.
“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:19, NAS95.
One day we will enjoy our own version of Purim. Rest from trials; rest from temptations; rest from sin, suffering, and death; and rest from enemies.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.