Sermon – January 31, 2021

Esther 2:1-18 – Moral Ambiguity in a Foreign Land (mp3)

There is no doubt that the people of Persia had different standards of right and wrong then we do today. Their relationship to authority, individual and social rights, government, and even God would have been so radically different from our we likely have a hard time even understanding how deep the differences go. The same would be true for those living in the Persian empire who were Jews. The difference between God’s desires and the culture in which they lived was vast. How could they be expected to navigate such a context in purity? How can we? Today, let us try to find some hope even as we live in a foreign land.

First, before we get to any application, we should understand that there are good reasons to believe that both Esther and Mordecai would have been in quite a bit of ignorance of the right moral path. Esther was raised in the Persian culture, and told to continue in that stream. Mordecai, raised during the last days of the Jewish kings prior to exile, would have had poor instruction in the law and poorer examples of leaders. In addition to this, we can certainly see the moral difficulty facing each. Esther’s adoptive father has pushed her into this act, a command that would be difficult, if not impossible, for her to ignore. And Mordecai may have had good reason to do so: anti-Semitism may have been already baked into leading members of the royal court. However, while these things ought to temper our reaction to their sin, we should not hesitate to call it sin. What, then, can we learn from all this?

1. We should be humble
We should first admit that, as much as Esther and Mordecai were ignorant of their sins, so might we be. We live with one foot in Christ’s kingdom, but also as sojourners in a foreign land, and are always subject to being pulled along by the cultural stream we find ourselves in. Therefore, let us be slow in judging others where they are wrong, and quick to listen to how we might be astray.

2. We should be hungry
This humility should make us hungry for our own righteousness. If we are blind, we should seek sight. However, only listening to those who are standing in our very streams will only lead to more blindness. If both are blind, the end is only to fall in a pit. Let us listen to others who stand outside our stream, so that we might see our sins and pursue a better righteousness. We also stand outside streams – so let us winsomely speak wisdom to them, using rhetoric and politics, yes, but also lives well lived.

3. We should be hopeful
None of this is to make us panic, or concerned, or worried. We serve a great and kind God, who sent his Son that he might make us into his very own righteousness. We are to be saints, and that by his power, not ours. God uses sinful and morally insufficient people to build his Kingdom. So let us be hopeful! God will work and build his Kingdom, God will work and make us into better people, fit for such a Kingdom. Trust in God!