Esther and the Great Reversal
Esther 6:6-11; 7:3-10; 9:1-2
Esther – one of the historical books, post-exilic, written between around 400 B.C. Author unknown.
The events of the book are from 486 to 465 B.C. during the reigns of the Persian king Xerxes I
(Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther), son of Darius I. Xerxes was the father of Artaxerces.
Persian king (486-465 BC), the son and successor of Darius I. He is best known for his massive invasion of Greece from across the Hellespont (480 BC), a campaign marked by the battles of Thermopylae, Salamis, and Plataea. His ultimate defeat spelled the beginning of the decline of the Achaemenid Empire.
Susa was a principal city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires (capital of the Elamites) and was originally known to the Elamites as 'Susan’ or 'Susun’. The Greek name for the city was Sousa and the Hebrew, Shushan. The modern city of Shush, Iran, presently occupies the ancient site.
While some Hebrews had returned to Judah/Jerusalem most remained in Persia and had assimilated much of the Persia culture and religious practices.
Esther, born in captivity, would have considered Persia her home.
The Book of Esther contains no mention of God, Jerusalem, Law of Moses, or the Temple; however, no other book speaks to the providence and preservation of God …
The time period would make Esther contemporary with Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and Nehemiah.
The Backdrop of the Story
Because of what was considered insolence toward the King, Queen Vashti was stripped of her position and banished from the King presence.
Esther was chosen for her beauty and behavior (ultimately God was at work behind the scenes) to succeed Vashti as Queen.
Esther was a part of a religious, racial, and cultural minority often disdained by the Persian citizens.
Esther kept her heritage a secret for fear of reprisal.
Haman’s hatred of the Jews, fueled by Mordecai’s lack of reverence, resulted in a plot to destroy all the Jews throughout the Empire.
Mordecai sought Esther intervention to prevent the slaughter of the Hebrews.
Review: Remember when you are struggling with adverse circumstances Mordecai’s admonition to Esther, “for such a time as this.” God who is absolutely sovereign is always working behind the scenes to accomplish your good and His glory and will use your circumstances to accomplish His plan. Our commitment should be Esther’s, “If I perish, I perish.”
This section of Scripture highlights the sovereignty of God to abase those who exalt themselves and exalt those who are humble. It further encourages the believer to realize that things are not always as they appear; to look beyond one’s circumstances and trust God for an outcome not readily apparent.
“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.”
“Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. 9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9, 9
Consider Joseph’s journey to the palace of Egypt….
The Reversal of Exaltation and Humility (Esther 6:6-11).
Mordecai models humility (sackcloth and ashes) that leads to exaltation, while Haman models exaltation (“Who is it the king would want to honor more than me?”) which leads to humiliation.
“Just as water always seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds men abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and to bless.”
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
“For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.”
“But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
When we humble ourselves before the Lord, or we are humbled because of our circumstances, know that God will exalt us, accomplishing His desire for our lives through the circumstances.
The Reversal of Judgment and Salvation (Esther 7:3-10).
Esther’s conversation with the King, pleading for the Jews, revealing her own nationality, shows her commitment to the Jews (God). She made a choice.
Like Esther, we need to be risk takers, standing for what we believe!
Haman’s plot against the Jews had a major flaw: he didn’t know that the Queen was Jewish. Xerxes saw the plot against the Jews as a plot against the Queen.
Remember: “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
God brings to naught the best laid plans of mice and men.
“Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap”
Show how Christ exemplified humility which resulted in His exaltation and our salvation:
“Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. 7 Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, 8 He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. 9 For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Discuss how humility and pride factor in one’s decision for Christ (humility leads to repentance and acceptance, while pride prevents one from acknowledging sin and the need of salvation.
The Reversal of Victory and Defeat (Esther 9:1-2).
Through God, in Christ, believers are not victims but victorious.
In difficult times believers must keep the future in view. There may be ups and downs while we live on earth, but the outcome is certain; we ultimately WIN.
Encouragement: The enemies of the Lord thought the victory was theirs, BUT three days later, He rose from the dead.
Theological Theme: God is sovereign, and is working to accomplish His will and fulfill His word.
Christological Theme: Like Christ, what appears one way, in God, is another – He rose!
Missional Theme: Comfort can come from the reality that God is working to reverse one’s circumstances for their good and His glory.