Read: Esther 5-7
For us, the end of this story is no surprise, but for Esther and Mordecai, they had no idea of how this would play out. ODB this morning left me with this perspective as I prepare to breathe in the Word from Esther:
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18
Esther, along with many Jews, prayed and fasted, but the task remained with Esther, she was the one who needed to step into the king’s court, the burden fell on her to step out on faith, the unseen.
Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.” Esther 5:3
As I thought about this encounter with Xerxes, I wondered what he must have been thinking. Years ago at this point, he was supremely stupid in his treatment of Vashti and as a result he lost his favored queen. It seems he didn’t want to do this again. Esther was beautiful, intelligent, poised, etc., everything he could want in a queen. Perhaps he’s getting a bit older and realizes he doesn’t want to go through the whole select-a-queen game again. Whatever the case, the result is more than favorable as the story unfolds.
Esther has a plan, she didn’t just pray for God to miraculously do something, she came to the throne room with a plan, with patience and with faith. She’s prepared a feast with exclusive invitations for the king and Haman. They enjoy some wine together (not the endless faucet like the first celebration) and Esther asks the king and Haman to come to another feast tomorrow. This lights Haman’s pride and ego beyond Esther’s wildest expectations.
In his pumped up state, Haman sees Mordecai and whines to his friends and family. Their suggestion is to have him impaled on a very high pole for all the world to see. Haman loves the idea and the work begins.
Pause for a moment and imagine the pride and arrogance of Haman, how this attitude affected his judgment. Often I think of Haman as a pompous idiot that glanced at every mirror and stuck his nose up at any underling, but he didn’t get selected for his position by accident. He wasn’t the son of Xerxes and he wasn’t forced on the king. He earned his position, but that did not prevent him from having an ego and pride bigger than Susa.
I’m compelled to ask: is there a hint of Haman in me? Have I worked hard to get to a position that is recognized by my family and friends as one which demonstrates how well I have done? Have I reached the top rung of the ladder only to beg the world to see me? Maybe not so audacious as Haman, but Lord I pray that I would not have a hint of Haman in my life!
Esther must have perceived this and effected a plan that fed the ego like gas on a fire.
Meanwhile, Xerxes cannot sleep after banquet one, so what better way to get to sleep than by having someone read chronicles! To his surprise, he learns that Mordecai was never properly honored for uncovering the assassination attempt, so now it’s the king’s turn to stoke Haman’s ego:
When Haman entered, the king asked him, “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?” Esther 6:6
Haman, thinking only of himself, devises a grand plan to honor “the man.” When he discovers it is Mordecai that is to be honored, he plays his part, but obviously this is a horrible scene for Haman. In the meantime, the stage gets set for Mordecai’s ascent to prominence. The guy that sits at the gate in the presence of Haman, who put on sackcloth and ashes and wailed at the edict to eradicate the Jews–suddenly this guy is being paraded through town and proclaimed “honorable” by the king. In my mind, Mordecai accepts his position in the parade, but doesn’t gloat over Haman and didn’t ask the king to mint coins with his face or name. That, all by itself, would be hard to do. Mordecai’s humility and boldness are hard to appreciate, but somehow he straddles the two extremes.
Haman, on the other hand, is now completely out of his mind, but before he knew it, he was being rushed back to the palace for another banquet with the king and queen.
The king asks Esther for her request (again):
Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. Esther 7:3-4
Her patience, prayer and poise all payoff as she points the finger at Haman for his plan for genocide.
The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life. Esther 7:7
Xerxes goes out to clear his mind. How could his trusted right hand man do such a thing? How could he miss the signs? He remembers Haman’s petition about “those people,” but didn’t know they were Esther’s people, so now he is really stuck. Xerxes may have had some plan in mind, but when he returns and finds Haman grabbing Esther, all bets are off!
Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining. The king exclaimed, “Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?” Esther 7:8
One of the attending eunuchs is quick to point out that Haman has erected a pole to impale Mordecai and the king’s rage turns into resolution.
The king said, “Impale him on it!” So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided. Esther 7:9-10
It’s so easy to read a short narrative and see the unexpected plot twist at the end without giving it a second thought. It’s much harder to step out in faith without knowing what tomorrow will bring. We know God is sovereign and can save us from whatever fiery furnace that lies ahead, but he is not obligated to do our bidding. He simply asks us to believe his plan is better than our plan.
May we have the courage to step out completely on faith today. May the testimony of our lives, our humility and faith, be a beacon to those who are far from Christ and may we have words and actions to lead them to you Lord, our rock and our redeemer.