Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
(8/6) Today, we start our new message series "Jesus is Better" and as we begin our study of the book of Esther, I want to give you some background and history. You see the book of Esther was one of the last books written in the Old Testament. It was written about two and a half thousand years ago, so we’re looking at a very ancient book. We don’t know
who the author is since it doesn’t say in the text. Maybe it was Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, we don’t know… but what we do know is that ultimately, that God the Holy Spirit wrote the book of Esther. God was the author and we know that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the "people" of God may
be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Yet for Christians over the centuries they have not really known what to do with the book. For the first seven centuries of the Christian church nobody said anything about it… zip… zero… zilch… We sort of treated it like Superman and kryptonite or a cat and water. We just stayed away. We didn’t know what to do with it.
Martin Luther, the great Protestant Reformer, said it was a horrible book… he suggested that it shouldn’t even be in the Bible.
Karen Jobes in her commentary on Esther says, "It’s probably not a good idea to preach or teach through the whole book of Esther."
And you know what? I love that… I love that it’s controversial… I love that it’s difficult to interpret. ‘Cause I know that "All Scripture is God-breathed and useful…" it’s useful… I know that the book of Esther doesn’t tell us why it was written… it doesn’t tell us what God’s perspective is… it doesn’t give us any commentary... but as we get into the
story of Esther. As we get into this new series… we’re gonna "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" because "Jesus is Better". Amen!
Jesus is a Greater King! It was He who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). So if you can turn in your Bibles to Esther 1:1 we are going to dig right in this morning.
Verse 1, "This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush: 2 At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, 3 and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes,
and the nobles of the provinces were present.
4 For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. 5 When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king's palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest, who were in the citadel of Susa. 6 The garden had hangings of white and
blue linen, fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other costly stones. 7 Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king's liberality. 8 By the
king's command each guest was allowed to drink in his own way, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished. 9 Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes." (Esther 1:1-9; NIV)
1. XERXES THE GREAT
So who’s the first character that God, the Holy Spirit, introduces in this story? Well, we read in verse 1, "This is what happened during the time of Xerxes…" Alright, so who’s Xerxes. Have you heard of Xerxes?
Well if you have seen Frank Miller’s film, 300… you know he’s got a bunch of guys on steroids… a bunch of gals who don’t wear enough clothes… and enough blood, guts, and gore for Armageddon… that’s why I won’t recommend watching it. But that’s what 300 is… it’s the story of King Xerxes… it’s this man we read about today.
Now, Xerxes was the great Persian king who ruled, who reigned, and who towered over human history at that time here in the story of Esther. He is in his mid-thirties and he is a man who grew up very wealthy, very affluent, and he "ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush". He is the most powerful man on the earth. There’s no one who rules
as Xerxes rules.
And so here we are in Susa, somewhere around Iran. We’re far away from Jerusalem… far away from the temple… away from the priesthood… away from the presence of God as He was known on earth. And what we discover in this story of Esther… here in the Old Testament… is that God is at work in nations beyond Jerusalem, even pagan, godless nations like Xerxes
Now at this point in the history of the world, there had never been an empire this large… this wealthy… and this powerful. Xerxes ruled over about 3 million square miles. That’s roughly about the same size as the United States of America. So he is a big deal. He is the U.S. president, plus Bill Gates, plus everyone else who’s rich, powerful, famous,
and cool. That’s Xerxes… he’s it… add a zero. He’s a big deal.
And so Xerxes is a god in the eyes of those who are under his rule. His throne symbolized all that he valued… his authority, his power, and his might. King Xerxes throne was beautiful… it was enormous… it was glorious… and if you can just imagine him seated, high and exalted, upon his throne, it was a godlike picture. It reveals him in all his majesty…
all his glory… like being in the very presence of the Living God; he was unapproachable. The great King Xerxes was the king of kings. He was a god. And he was worshiped as a god.
2. SPLENDOR AND GLORY
So, what’s he going to do with all this power and fame? Is he going to care for widows, orphans, and the poor? Is he going to protect the young girls who don’t have fathers to keep them from being abused? Is he going to make sure all those kids who don’t have parents are cared for? No… He doesn’t care.
Here’s what he does. Verse 3: "in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present."
He threw a party. This was a party to end all parties. Those of you who are event planners… who are into hospitality… start thinking about thousands of people, transportation, housing, rooms, security, food, drink, flowers, place settings, entertainment, bands, even a harem of teenage girls. All of it organized. How much does it cost? It’s free. It’s
all from the great King Xerxes. It’s your tax dollars at work!
Now, how many of you have let your imagination go? You hear that and your like, "Well that’s just nasty. That’s nasty with a side of nasty and nasty for dessert. That’s just a drunk old man, lording over the people, abusing young girls, spending money, feasting and drinking."
But seriously, if we gave you an unlimited amount of power and wealth, wouldn’t you throw a party? You’d throw a party and you’d invite lots of important people… you’d get your picture taken… you’d put it on Facebook and Twitter. You know, "Here I am with Puff Daddy. It’s amazing. Here I am. Look I’ve got 28" rims on my chariot. We’re rolling high
society. It’s a big deal. Here I am with musicians, political leaders, heroes, and all the people that you see on television or you read about in the tabloids. All these people are at my house… they all want to hang out with me… because they know that I’m in charge."
And so here, we get a portrait of what it looks like to live at the highest levels in the days of the kings of Persia. But get this…. How long do you think this party lasted? This is crazy. "He displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty…" How many days in verse four? "For a full 180 days" (Esther 1:4). That’s a
How many of you are like, "Yeah, I partied one time for six months in college! I don’t remember it, but I heard it was amazing." You know, that’s the time you woke up and the only thing you… Well, I know you’re better now!
So why does Xerxes do this? Because he loves people, because he’s nice, because he’s generous? No. "He showed "the splendor and glory of his majesty." Glory! There’s a worship word. Here’s what it’s all about: "Everyone, come see the glory of the king. He’s high and exalted… he’s seated on a throne." Doesn’t that begin to sound familiar… doesn’t it?
"We’re going to gather people around him from all the nations. We’re going to eat… we’re going to drink… we’re going to sing… and were going to play. And one after the other, we’re going to spend six months toasting the great King Xerxes while he sits on his throne and receives glory, honor, and praise, and he’s worshiped as a god." It’s all about his glory.
3. ANOTHER THRONE
You see this man Xerxes wants to be Jesus… he thinks he’s Jesus… Xerxes reveals something of the wicked, evil, selfish, egotistical desire of humanity to be God, to sit on a throne, to rule over nations, to ravage and abuse women, to indulge in food and drink in excess. You know we might say he’s like the first American.
Let me ask you this question… think about this for a moment… as we’ve read the words of the book of Esther. Did you notice what’s missing? Or let rephrase that… who’s missing in the story? We’re reading the Bible right? We’ve just read the first nine verses of the book of Esther and God is not mentioned, the name of the Lord doesn’t appear. And if we
read the whole book of Esther, God is never mentioned once. It’s a "godless" book. God never appears. He doesn’t speak. No angel shows up. The heavens don’t open. There are no miracles. There’s nothing supernatural. There’s no mention of Jerusalem, and the temple, and the presence of God. There’s no mention of God anywhere in the entirety of the book of Esther.
But let me assure you of this… God is silhouetted through the book of Esther… God works in Esther through his invisible hand of providence. You see, history is not circumstance, happenstance, or any chance. History is governed by our sovereign God who rules and reigns over all peoples, times, and places. God is in the details of history, working
everything out according to a plan for his glory and our good.
And maybe today you feel a bit like the story of Esther feels? I want you to know that God is at work in your life as well. You may never hear his voice. You may never see an angel. That prayer may not be answered the way you asked. The voice of God may not come thundering down, but let me assure you that God is active, present, and at work in the
lives of his people… even those who are far away from him… even those in godless Persia.
You see, here’s the good news: above Xerxes, there’s another King. This is not the only book of the Bible. It’s just part of the story that leads to a greater King. You see above Xerxes, there’s another throne, a greater throne, and seated on it is another King named Jesus. And Jesus is our King, and unlike Xerxes, he got off his throne. He didn’t just
invite us to come and worship him. First he came down to live among us. He lived the life we all live. He experienced the trials we all face. He died the death we all should. But praise God he was raised on the third day. He’s seated on a greater throne in heaven. And I need you to know today that Jesus is a better King.
You see Xerxes was the son of Darius, but Jesus is the Son of God. Xerxes never tasted poverty nor humility, but Jesus tasted both poverty and humility to identify with us. Xerxes used his power to abuse women, but Jesus used his power to honor women. Xerxes spent his entire life being served, but Jesus spent his entire life serving others. Xerxes
killed his enemies with an army of millions, but Jesus died for his enemies, saving billions. Xerxes sat on a throne in Susa, but Jesus sits on a throne in heaven. Xerxes was the most powerful man on earth, but Jesus made both the heavens and the earth.
Xerxes died and today, no one worships him as god; but Jesus conquered death and billions worship Him as the only God. Xerxes’ kingdom came to an end, but Jesus’ kingdom has no end. Xerxes declared himself the king of kings, but he died. Xerxes stood before and was judged by the one and only King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Church today is our day of celebration. We are citizens of a greater kingdom. We have received a greater gift. We are looking forward to a greater blessing, and we gather in the name of Jesus Christ. He is our great King. He is a better King than any and every king. He is the King of kings, and so we celebrate Jesus Christ. We rejoice and are glad that
our King knows us, that our King loves us, that our King saves us, that our King seeks us, that our King serves us, and our King is preparing a banquet for us. Amen?
Jesus is Better… He is a Greater King!
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