Esther 3-4 When Service Is Risky

WHEN SERVICE IS RISKY
Esther 3:1-4:17           February 11 2007

King Ahasuerus promoted Haman to a high position
in the Persian government. Everyone bowed down
before Haman except Mordecai, who was known to
be a Jew. Haman decided to retaliate against
Mordecai by killing not just Mordecai, but all the
Jews in Persia. A lot was cast to determine the day
for attacking the Jews. Haman convinced Ahasuerus
that the Jews would defy the king’s orders, and
Haman paid a large amount of money to the royal
treasury. The king then authorized a decree that
was sent throughout Persia, announcing that all
the Jews would be eliminated.
When Mordecai heard about Haman’s plan, he
mourned openly. Esther learned that Mordeceal
and other Jews were grieving . so she questioned
why via a message to him (delivered by a eunuch
assigned to her). Mordecai sent Esther a copy of
the king’s decree calling for the slaughter of the
Jews. He urged her to approach the king and help
her people.
Esther replied that she would be risking her life to
approach the king without being summoned. Mordecai
answered that she may have been placed in her
position to save her people. Esther then told Mordecai
to have the Jews fast, and she would fast as well.
She would go to see the king.

1. Following God Includes Loyalty (Esth. 3:2,5-6)

Esth. 3:2   All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt
down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded
this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or
pay him honor. 3:5   When Haman saw that Mordecai would
not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. 3:6   Yet
having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the
idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a
way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout
the whole kingdom of Xerxes.

Obedience (Esth.3:2-6)to the second commandment
(Ex 20:4) is not the issue in Mordecai’s refusal to bow
down to Haman, for the Jews were willing to bow down
to kings (1Sa 24:8; 2Sa 14:4; 1Ki 1:16) and to other
persons (Ge 23:7; 33:3; 44:14). Only the long-standing
enmity between the Jews and the Amalekites accounts
both for Mordecai’s refusal and for Haman’s intent to
destroy all the Jews (Esth.3:5-6). The threat against
the Jews “throughout the whole kingdom” (Esth.3: 6)
is a threat against the ultimate issue of redemptive
history . Compare the phraseology with that in the
Joseph story (Ge 39:10).

2. Following God Includes Understanding
(Esth. 4:5,8-9)

Esth. 4:5   Then Esther summoned Hathach, one of the
king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him
to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why. 4:7
Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him,
including the exact amount of money Haman had promised
to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the
Jews. 4:8   He also gave him a copy of the text of the
edict for their annihilation, which had been published in
Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told
him to urge her to go into the king’s presence to beg for
mercy and plead with him for her people.

The fact (Esth.4:4-12) that the dialogue of Esther
and Mordecai is mediated by Hathach reflects the
prohibition against Mordecai’s entering the royal
citadel dressed in mourning (Esth.4:2) and the
isolation of Esther in the harem quarters. That
Mordecai is aware of the amount Haman promised
to the king is a reminder of his high position in the
bureaucracy at Susa (Esth.2:21-23).

3. Following God May Include Risk
(Esth. 4:10-16)

Esth. 4:10   Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai,
4:11   “All the king’s officials and the people of the
royal provinces know that for any man or woman who
approaches the king in the inner court without being
summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to
death. The only exception to this is for the king to
extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life. But
thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the
king.” 4:12   When Esther’s words were reported to
Mordecai, 4:13   he sent back this answer: “Do not think
that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all
the Jews will escape. 4:14   For if you remain silent at
this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise
from another place, but you and your father’s family will
perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal
position for such a time as this?” 4:15   Then Esther
sent this reply to Mordecai: 4:16   “Go, gather together
all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not
eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids
will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the
king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish,
I perish.”

Herodotus also notes that anyone approaching
the Persian king unsummoned would be killed unless
the king gave immediate pardon. Esth 4:12-16 The
themes of the book of Esther are most clearly
expressed in this passage. Mordecai’s confidence for
the Jews’ deliverance is based on God’s sovereignty
in working out his purposes and fulfilling his promises.
Their deliverance will come, even if through some
means other than Esther. Yet that sovereignty is not
fatalistic: Unless Esther exercises her individual
responsibility, she and her family will perish. Mt 26:24;
Ac 2:23 for similar treatments of the relationship
between divine sovereignty and human responsibility.
Such a time as this. Ge 45:5-7 in the Joseph narrative.
Fast. Esth.4:3 Prayer, which usually accompanied
such fasting, was presumably a part of this fast as well
( Jdg 20:26; 1Sa 7:6; 2Sa 12:16; Ezr 8:21-23; Ne 9:1-3;
Isa 58:3; Jer 14:12; Joel 1:14; 2:12-17; Jnh 3:6-9). The
omission of any reference to prayer or to God is consistent
with the author’s intention; absence of any distinctively
religious concepts or vocabulary is a rhetorical device used
to heighten the fact that it is indeed God who has been
active in the whole narrative . I and my maids will fast.
The rhetorical symmetry: Where once Esther and her maids
had received special foods (Esth.2:9), now they share a fast.
If I Perish the similar formulation in the Joseph narrative
(Ge 43:14).

Summary:

Studying Esther’s response to the plot to destroy
the Jews reminds us of several important truths.
We need to maintain our loyalty to god in all situations.
We need to gather as mush information as possible about
the problems we face and the opportunities God gives us
for service.
We need to be willing to take risks in order to follow God
faithfully.