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Jesus is Better

Esther vs. Jesus

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(8/18) Today we’re reading from Esther 2:1–18, looking at Jesus, in a book that doesn’t say anything about our Savior. And as we read, as we look at it today, we’re going to see three main characters: Xerxes, Mordecai, and Esther. They all like us have some failures, some faults, and some flaws, and we’re going to look at how God interacts in their lives and in particular in the life of Esther.

Esther 2:1 “Later when the anger of King Xerxes had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what he had decreed about her. 2 Then the king's personal attendants proposed, "Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. 3 Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful girls into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. 4 Then let the girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti." This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it.

5 Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, 6 who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah. 7 Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.

8 When the king's order and edict had been proclaimed, many girls were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under the care of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king's palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. 9 The girl pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven maids selected from the king's palace and moved her and her maids into the best place in the harem.
10 Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so. 11 Every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her.

12 Before a girl's turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. 13 And this is how she would go to the king: Anything she wanted was given her to take with her from the harem to the king's palace. 14 In the evening she would go there and in the morning return to another part of the harem to the care of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She would not return to the king unless he was pleased with her and summoned her by name.

15 When the turn came for Esther (the girl Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail) to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her. 16 She was taken to King Xerxes in the royal residence in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.

17 Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. 18 And the king gave a great banquet, Esther's banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality.” NIV

King Xerxes made a dumb decision out of anger and frustration. So after awhile, he is like, “Man that was a bad idea.” but it took this guy four years. Four years after he loses his temper, divorces his wife, he wakes up one day and it says “When his anger had subsided, he remembered Vashti.” He’s like, “I miss my wife.”

So Xerxes not so wise counselors tell him to pick another girl, go get a bunch of young girls and take your pick. That’s what is happening here.

So now we are introduced to Mordecai. He is an actual, historical figure... He is man who is living far away from God... He was part of the people of God but because of their sin and rebellion God had allowed them to be exiled to Babylon. But now they were freed to return to Jerusalem and many people did. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah talk about those people who went back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city… to rebuild the temple… and to rebuild their lives.

But Mordecai’s family was one of those families that didn’t go. We might go so far as to say that he is rebellious. He didn’t want to walk toward God… he didn’t want to walk with God… he didn’t want to worship God… So, he and his family, stayed in the pagan country and culture of Persia where they were compromised and worldly.

Now I wouldn’t say he was an atheist, but he didn’t tell people that he worshiped the God of the Bible, and for that matter he told Esther, “Don’t tell anybody that we worship the God of the Bible.” So their faith is very private, it’s not public. These are the kind of people who believe in God, but they’re not really believers, because they’re not walking with God, living for God, or obeying God, but they would say that they belong to God. That’s Mordecai.

And so here he is, here’s Mordecai, and he does a good thing. He adopts Hadassah, Esther, his cousin. He’s the older, closest living male relative, so he adopts her. Now Esther is likely in her teens and Hadassah is her Hebrew name. Here’s something interesting and I don’t want to read too much into the text, but she’s got two names… she’s a gal with a dual identity… like her uncle Mordecai she lives in the world, but she also says she belongs to God. She is conflicted. You could say she is a hypocrite.

That’s Esther, she says she belongs to God, but she disobeys his dietary laws in Scripture. She says she belongs to God, but she lives far away from him. She says she belongs to God, but at this point, we’ve never seen her pray, open the Bible, worship God, or repent of any sin. There is no indication that she has any relationship with God at all.

And at this point, she hasn’t even spoken. She hasn’t done anything. She doesn’t seem to have her own convictions. All the decisions are getting made for her, and it’s almost like she’s just a little twig being carried along by the current of the decisions of Mordecai and Xerxes. And it’s hard with people like that, because you wonder if they’re really a believer or not? Is she living in rebellion against God or is she blind and doesn’t even know God?

So what’s going to happen? The tension is mounting, right? Verse 8 tells us, “When the king's order and edict had been proclaimed, many girls were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under the care of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king's palace…”

So Xerxes the jerxes has an audition, Esther’s in the harem at the spa. She’s got her number, she’s in line. Her night is coming… one night with the king. What is going to happen?

Well verse17 tells us, “Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti”

She won. The media’s there, everybody shows up, it’s a national holiday. Everybody’s happy now, right? Well here’s my spin on it as the father of a teenage daughter. The thought of her competing for a man, performing for a man, would be devastating to me. Esther wins, but it’s a tragic victory.

And I believe what happens to Esther is, in the story, God gets hold of her heart and she has a conversion experience and she starts to grow spiritually as a person. I experienced the same thing in my life in my thirties and I certainly don’t want to condemn Esther, but what I want to do is I want to invite everyone whose story is like Esther to meet Esther’s God and to change like Esther did.

You see there’s hope for us!

Don’t you find great hope in the story of Esther? God takes messed up people, perverted people, rebellious people, people who are not walking with him, people who are not obeying him, people who are not close to him, and he gives them grace… he gives them favor… and he chooses them. I find that to be just amazing! That there’s hope for us!

You see here’s what we can learn from Esther. First, is that there’s hope, because like Esther, God walks with you even when you don’t walk with him. You see Esther’s not going to synagogue; she’s not going to her church. Esther’s not reading the Bible. Esther’s not praying. She’s not worshiping. She’s not tithing. She’s not going to the temple to offer sacrifices. Esther’s not doing any of that. She’s not walking with God, but God’s walking with Esther. Through the sovereign wisdom, care, and guidance provided by God’s loving hand of providence, he’s working through the circumstances of her life.
And even when she makes bad decisions or decisions are made that get her in bad situations, God is still there working it out, working with her, and working on her.

And I don’t know about you, but I find that to be very encouraging? Because maybe this morning you know in your heart that you haven’t been walking with God; but the good news is that God has been walking with you… he hasn’t gone anywhere… he’s right there… he loves you and he’s committed to you.

The second thing we can learn from Esther is this: God gives “favor” to undeserving people. In this passage of Scripture Esther is described as having found “favor” three times. This is awesome.... this is God looking down and saying, “I’m going to bless you, I’m going to love you, I’m going to save you, I’m going to help you, and I’m going to work with you.” And so we look at that and we say, “That’s not fair.” No, it’s not. It’s grace. It’s undeserved, unmerited, favor.

You see that’s the way it works. In Genesis chapter 3, the man and his wife (Adam and Eve) had sinned, they heard the sound of God walking in the garden, and they hid from him. But verse 9 tells us, that “the Lord God called to the man, "Where are you?" (Genesis 3:8-9). You see we don’t look for God, God looks for us. We don’t cry out to God, God calls for us. We don’t get what we deserve, Jesus gets what we deserve. We get grace and favor. It’s God’s always and forever love.

The third thing we can learn from Esther, is that God can get you through the trouble you’ve gotten yourself into. God’s not to blame for the decisions that Mordecai, Xerxes, and even Esther made. They’ve made some decisions that have put Esther in a very uncertain and precarious situation.

Now don’t answer out loud… but how many of you are like Esther? Because of the choices you’ve made and others have made, your life right now is really complicated…. you’ve found yourself in situations that you can’t get yourself out of… you’re kind of stuck, like Esther. Once they put the crown on her head, called her queen, and sat her up front, she’s kind of stuck isn’t she?

But God gets her through it. God doesn’t get her out of it, God doesn’t get her around it, God works through his invisible hand of providence to get her through it. And today that’s what he’s doing in your life. Even if you’ve made decisions or others have made decisions that put you into a difficult position, a complicated situation, a place where you don’t want to be… God will by his sovereign loving hand get you through it.

And the last thing I want to share this morning is that like Esther, God needs to save you before you can help save anyone else. You see some of you are worried about lots of things and lots of people. Some of you have this Savior mindset and you want to help lots of people. You’re concerned about lots of people, but God needs to save you before you can help save anyone else. And before Esther could be the one that God uses to save his people, God had to first save Esther. He had to change her heart, change her mind, change her life so that she could be part of his plan.

You see God needs to save you before you can help him save others. And this is by turning from sin, trusting in Jesus, getting a new nature, and getting a new heart. This is when your punishment goes to him and the new life comes to you, so that you can be born again, so that you can have that experience of regeneration, and that change in character… just like Esther.

You see, Esther is a type of Christ, a savior. She’s a portrait, a picture, a sign, a symbol pointing to Jesus Christ. The whole Bible is about Jesus, it’s for us, but it’s about him. And so at this point, they’re waiting for a greater King, another kingdom, a Savior, and a deliverer. So Esther is a type of Christ and everybody and everything is yearning for, longing for, and leaning toward the coming of Jesus. And so Esther is a little picture… a portrait… of our Savior Jesus Christ.

And so here in the story of Esther, Xerxes sits on a throne, but for us Jesus sits on an everlasting throne… Jesus rules as King over every nation… and so what happens is that when we gather as the church, we gather around the risen Jesus, a better King with a better kingdom… Jesus is better... Jesus alone is worthy of glory.

And so the good news is that when we go out and invite people to our King and kingdom, we are assured that they will be treated with love, and grace, and affection, and favor, and kindness. You see Jesus is better… he’s not a God who shames us, but he’s a God who takes away our shame… he’s a God who serves us… he’s a God who encourages us….

Our Jesus is a much better King than Xerxes, his kingdom is a much better kingdom, and though Esther is a great savior at the end of the book, our Jesus is an even better Savior. We celebrate a Savior who died for our sin. We rejoice that our Savior is alive and celebrate the promise of his coming again.

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