Sermon – February 21, 2021

Esther by Jean-François Portaels, ~1869

Esther 5:1-14 – Wisdom and Savvy (mp3)

Jesus often tells us very difficult things. One of the most difficult sayings that Jesus gives to us is found in Luke 16 (the parable of the dishonest manager). Shall we also be dishonest as this man was? What does Jesus want us to do? At the very least, I think, he desires for his people to be as Esther, who shows great deftness and savvy in how she handles the king. At the same time, the pride of Haman makes him fragile, forgetful, and foolish.  Therefore, as we travel through the story this morning, let us follow the course set down for us in the person of Esther, who expertly deals with the problems before her, and find the repentance that escaped Haman.

1. The plan of Esther reveals her shrewdness
Esther, previous to this chapter, was little more than a beautiful, obedient woman. Yet, here, she shows herself immensely capable in the face of the great crisis that faced her. While we might want to rush headlong into the request after the extension of the golden scepter to us, Esther delays. This delay shows her shrewdness: it is shrewd politically to demonstrate that she understands the gravity of her request before the king, and personally in that she understands well the king. What’s more, it is also quite subtle. By the end of the feast, while she is in actuality asking the king for an extremely important favor, she makes him seem to beg her for the request, almost guarantee the affirmative response (before she has even asked!), and made it seem like she is doing him the favor! In other words, she has completely turned the tables! This brilliance comes not from laying the facts down before Ahasuerus, but rather persuading him. Esther cares about the right ends, yes; but she also cares about the best means to achieve those. Let us focus on persuading people, not just with argument, but by appealing to their desires and through and understanding of the situation in which God has placed us.

2. The pride of Haman reveals his shortsightedness
Esther sees rightly the world around her; this fact makes a nice point of comparison with Haman, who can’t see past the end of his own nose. Although he is quite blessed, as he apparently knows, none of that matters to him so long as someone he didn’t know three weeks ago continues to do the thing he didn’t know about. His pride makes him frail – a little disappointment, a little criticism, a little bit of dishonor, and his life is meaningless. His pride also makes him forget how good those things truly are, and ultimately, makes him act foolishly. Haman, like all of us, will not get away with his wretched behavior. Let us humble ourselves, seeking repentance and faith in God, for we are not promised tomorrow!