Sermon – March 28, 2021
Today we come to the end of the book of Esther. It has been a time, I hope, of worthwhile reflection on the work of God, even as it shadows the coming of the cross of Jesus Christ. Today, as we read and consider the last two chapters, we will focus on summing up the major themes of the book; themes that we no doubt have hit previously but will reward reflection. What have we to learn about God from a book that steadfastly refuses to even name him? Much, in every way! Let us turn to Esther and see the many ways in which this story reveals God to us.
1. God’s absence
If anything marks the nature of the book of Esther, it is that any signs of spiritual beings, whether God or angels or demons, is seemingly completely missing from the book. Yet, that absence is quite conspicuous – and we feel his presence at every moment. Even when we cannot see God, he is there!
2. God’s faithfulness
We often think of God’s faithfulness to us in personal terms, but it is first and foremost a faithfulness to his word and to himself. God had promised long ago that Amalek would be destroyed, and his people, from the face of the earth. While it may have seemed to many that his promise was now defunct, as the nation of Israel was no more, nevertheless God shows his devotion to his word by finally destroying Haman, the son of Agag, the son of Amalek. God is always faithful to his word!
3. God’s mercy
Further, we need to understand why Haman and Esther’s fates were so dissimilar. It was not simply because Haman was wicked and Esther righteous. While the story is silent on much of the moral quandaries we feel in the text, we should understand that God’s mercy was on Esther and the Jews simply because he placed it there. Because he is faithful to his word. They had certainly not earned it! And neither do we. We are not shown mercy because we are good, but rather because God is. Remember always that God has mercy for his people, not because his people are especially good, but because his people are specifically his.
4. God’s judgment
Along with mercy often flows judgment. God does indeed judge, and judge harshly, the enemies of the Jews. He promised this long ago, when he spoke the gospel to Abraham (see Genesis 12:2-3). The Amalekites tried to curse Abraham and his kin, and thus found no mercy from God, but only curse. Likewise, we must be people who bless the name of the Lord, and the true and final seed of Abraham, Jesus. For if we don’t, there exists for us only judgment.
5. God’s victory
God’s victory here is especially ironic, as the Jews call this festival Purim, after the Persian loan word for lots. remember, though, the lots were cast specifically against the Jews! They called it this almost as a taunt. “What was it that determined our fate, that sealed our deaths, that promised our annihilation and demise? Purim, you say? Well, lets celebrate these wonderful Purim!”
6. God’s servant
Esther has been shown to be a foreshadowing of Christ before in the letter, but we have a small reminder of another way in which she is like Christ. Names are especially important in the book, but of all the characters that we meet, only one is given two names: Esther is also Hadassah. We are reminded that while she is the Queen of Persia, she is also the daughter of Abihail. She must be both Jewish (to be unified with the Jews) and a Persian (to be a true queen) in order to save them. While not quite two natures, we feel the difficulty in this split identity. Jesus, likewise, needed to have two natures in one person in order to save us completely. He needed to be like us to redeem us, and provide an appropriate sacrifice, but also God so that God might be all in all. Jesus is the true and better Esther.
7. God’s people
While God’s people are shown mercy, not because they are good, but because of God’s faithfulness, they do show that such mercy ought to make them strive for faithfulness and righteousness themselves. Unlike Saul, the people do not pounce on the spoil Mordecai’s edict allowed them to have (cf. 1 Samuel 15:19 and Esther 9:10, 15, 16). They do not need to pursue the goods of the earth, for they know that God gives them all they need. After all, the tables have been turned and they have received blessing over curse already!
8. God’s power
Finally, let us trust in God’s power. The entirety of the book is set up to show that God is more powerful and mighty than any kingdom, no matter how fully the deck is stacked against him. Do not trust in the power of the world – in the end, it is small and insignificant. Jesus walked into Jerusalem to the applause and commendation of the people. Yet, he didn’t strive to keep their good graces, to accommodate himself to the powers that aligned against him. Rather, he purposely gave himself over to the power of God, even in death. And when God seemed silent, when he wasn’t there, Jesus didn’t fail in his fail or his trust of God. Trust in that power – in the power of an unseen God. For that same unseen God has raised Jesus to life again, and will do the same for you!