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Jesus is Better

… than Esther

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(9/8) It’s been over a month now that we’ve been digging into the Word of God here in the book of Esther. So I don’t want you to lose sight of where we’ve come from and I want to share what’s going on. First we’ve got this man named Xerxes who rules and reigns over the largest, most powerful empire in the history of the world. He is the King of Persia, yet he had problems in his own house and with his wife so he divorced her. Some four years later, he marries one of his favorite girls from his harem and he announces her as queen. That’s Esther.

And in our Scripture today, at this point, they’ve been married about five years, but they’re not close. We read in chapter 4 that she had not seen him in thirty days, and it was during this time that Xerxes had empowered a man named Haman to be his right-hand man, kind of like a vice president. Well everyone honored, respected, and bowed down to Haman with the exception of a Jewish man named Mordecai. Mordecai who just so happens to be Esther’s adoptive father. And so she too, is Jewish, yet at this point no one knows it. Her identity, her true identity, has been concealed.

Well, it becomes a point of great contention for Haman when Mordecai won’t bow. And so Haman is seething with anger… he is furious… and decides he’s not only going to destroy Mordecai, he’s going to assassinate… he’s going to murder… commit genocide on all the Jewish people. So Haman’s planning a holocaust… the extermination of millions of people.

Now, Esther’s in the palace and she hears of this, and because she is Persian royalty and of Jewish ancestry, she has the opportunity to be a mediator of sorts and to represent the people before the king… kind of like Jesus does between us and God the Father. So Esther’s in a position like that… she’s in this position of mediating this conflict… of alleviating this death sentence… but here’s the problem: the rule is that you can only enter the king’s presence if he invites you.

You see, this guy, King Xerxes really doesn’t like to get interrupted. So he sits on his throne in the palace… he would have the golden scepter as the reigning king… and if he tipped it toward you, you could come forward, touch the end of it, accepting his invitation to a meeting. But if he didn’t tip his scepter… they chopped your head off!

So this is not the kind of thing you gamble on. You don’t try to get a meeting with the king unless you really need one and you’re fairly certain that he’s going to acknowledge your request. And so what Esther says is, "If I perish, I perish." That’s what she says at the end of chapter 4. So again like Jesus, she is willing to die to save her people.

Esther 5

5 On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king's hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. 2 When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.

3 Then the king asked, "What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you."

4 "If it pleases the king," replied Esther, "let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him."

5 "Bring Haman at once," the king said, "so that we may do what Esther asks."

So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared. 6 As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, "Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted."

7 Esther replied, "My petition and my request is this: 8 If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king's question."

9 Haman went out that day happy and in high spirits. But when he saw Mordecai at the king's gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai. 10 Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home.

Calling together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, 11 Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. 12 "And that's not all," Haman added. "I'm the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. 13 But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king's gate."

14 His wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, "Have a gallows built, seventy-five feet high, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai hanged on it. Then go with the king to the dinner and be happy." This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the gallows built." NIV

1. Esther’s Wisdom

So here in verse one, we find Esther entering the Kings court demonstrating great wisdom. She was a wise woman and in this scene here she dresses up in royal robes, she’s respecting and honoring her husband, even though he is a husband who is not a particularly honorable or respectable man. But she’s demonstrating great wisdom… she’s acting very wisely… because she’s been fasting, the Lord is guiding her, and she knows that the king cares a lot about appearances. In fact, the reason he got rid of his last wife was because she dishonored him in front of others. So, she dresses up in royal robes to show him respect.

And ladies I want you to pay attention to this, because you should positively influence your husband… you should build him up… and the easiest way to do that is through respect. That’s why the Bible says that a wife should respect her husband, not because it’s trying to put her down in any way, shape, or form; but it’s trying to help her to become more influential.

So Esther knows that when she enters the king’s court, everyone will be looking at her… they won’t be expecting this… she’s uninvited… it’s a little tense… but as King Xerxes looks at her, he sees a wife who’s respectful. She’s not standing there yelling and screaming… She’s not browbeating him… She doesn’t have her hands on her hips dishonoring him in front of his court. No… she’s being respectful.

And Xerxes extends the scepter and she receives it. Now she’s got his attention, so in verse three, "The king said to her, ‘What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request?

"If it pleases the king," replied Esther in verse four…

Notice how she’s still respectful? She’s direct… she’s courageous… she’s bold… but she’s respectful. There’s so much we can learn here about how to engage with those in authority. This can be if you are a young person, your parents… if you’re an employee, your employer… if you’re a citizen, your government and leaders. Whatever the case may be, when you’re under authority, even if you don’t believe the authority’s right… and here, Xerxes is not a good man… He’s not a godly man... He’s not a right man... But he’s still a powerful man. And so what Esther does wisely, in a godly way, is she approaches him respectfully.

2. Esther’s Request

Now how many of you find that when there’s something really important, that you get emotionally ahead of yourself and you make it worse? Do you know what I mean? You blurt out what you’re thinking… you talk about it too early... you haven’t gathered your thoughts… you haven’t put a game plan together… your just freaking out… you’re getting really emotional… and all of a sudden, your frustration and your anxiety is welling out of you… and now it’s more than all over your face… it’s all over the place!

But check out Esther’s response: "If it pleases the king… let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him" (Esther 5:4).

Aren’t you a little surprised by her request? I mean… do you really think she is going to sit down to dinner with this man who’s planning the genocide of her entire race? What about the millions of Jewish people that are about to die?

Yet somehow, Esther is able to maintain her composure. She realizes it’s not yet time to spring the question… to lay out her petition… and so rather than her spilling her guts and lashing out with, "I’m a Jew… he’s Hitler… and you need to do something," she’s wise about it. She tries to rebuild the strained relationship with her husband. I mean she hasn’t seen him in a month… he hasn’t been faithful to her… and so she’s trying to win him back, keep her eye on Haman, and put together a wise plan. And this is so good. It’s good to make sure you do the right thing, at the right time, in the right way, with the right motive, or you could end up with a disaster and the wrong result.

So verse 5 tells us that the king and Haman came to the feast that Esther had prepared.

And "As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, "Now what is your petition?" (Esther 5:6). He’s like, "I know this can’t be it… I know you didn’t risk your life to cook me dinner… there’s just got to be more. What is your request?"

Esther answered, "My petition and my request is this: If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king's question" (Esther 5:7-8).

So the King had asked, "What do you want?" And she’s like, "Let’s all have dinner." So dinner comes and he asks, "What do you want?" And she says, "Let’s have dinner again and we’ll talk about it tomorrow."

Esther is being so gracious isn’t she? She’s demonstrating what the New Testament in Galatians calls the fruit of the Spirit. You see Esther has come into her own faith. She’s come into a maturing relationship with God. And now she is starting to live out her own faith which is manifested… which bears the fruit of… "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal 5:22-23).

You see, she’s thinking of others and not just herself. She’s now become very active and not passive. She’s making progress… she’s speaking… she’s taking risks… because she’s received a new identity. Now, you’ve got to realize… she’s still a Persian princess, but that explains her and it doesn’t define her. This is important because the things that have happened to you, might explain you, but they don’t define you.

Let me repeat that… the things that have happened to you, might explain you, but they don’t define you.

And Esther has a new faith.

3. Esther’s New Faith

When she was young her parents died and she became an orphan… that may explain her, but it doesn’t define her. Mordecai hasn’t been the greatest adoptive father… and that may explain her, but it doesn’t define her. She entered into a competition that was really ungodly… and that may explain her, but it doesn’t define her. She was the queen of Persia… that may explain her, but it doesn’t define her. You see her identity has changed. She now has faith in God. We don’t know how it happened, but we know, that now she knows that she belongs to God. That’s why in chapter 4, at verse 16, she asks the people to be fasting for her. She asks them to seriously pray for her before she goes to the king and makes a petition to save her people.

I thought it was noteworthy that God’s people fasted and waited for three days for Esther to cautiously enter into the presence of the king. You see because our King Jesus is so much better. Our King was three days in the grave before he was raised for our salvation. Our King has gone through the heavens. Our King sympathizes with our weaknesses. Our King welcomes us to come into his presence. The Bible, in Hebrews chapter 4 says, "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Heb 4:16).

You see our King Jesus is nothing like Xerxes. We don’t have to tremble in fear before coming into the presence of our King. And here we see Esther coming into the presence of Xerxes because she has faith in someone greater… her identity has changed.... now she has a better King… she’s one of God’s people. And if you’re one of God’s people, like Esther, your identity is not achieved, it’s received. You’re loved, forgiven, cared for, and blessed. You’ve found favor in the sight of your King. You don’t have to impress anyone. It’s not achieved by your looks, your income, your relationships, or your performance. You don’t have to do anything. So I want you to know today, that your identity is not achieved, it’s received.

It’s the same thing as what happens when a baby is born. The parents see them, hold them, and love them. The baby can’t do anything, hasn’t done anything, hasn’t accomplished anything, hasn’t achieved anything, but they’re loved, they’re cared for, and they’re part of the family. You see, they don’t work for their identity, they work from their identity.

And it’s the same as when you come to faith in Jesus Christ and you’re born again. We receive a new identity. Our identity is not something we need to compete for, to produce for, or work for… we don’t... For the Christian our identity is something that’s received.

And so for Esther what happens is that her identity has changed. Now in faith, she can say things like, "If I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:16) because she has come to that firm foundation of faith and a new identity as someone who belongs to God, is loved by God, has found favor in the sight of God, is forgiven by God, is helped by God, is loved by God, and that changes how she sees herself, and that changes how she lives her life.

Let me ask you a question as I wrap this up. How do you see yourself? And how does the loving grace of God change the way you live your life?

You know how we come to understand ourselves and who we are begins with wisdom and understanding what Jesus has accomplished for us. That he came and lived the sinless life we couldn’t… he died the cruel death we should’ve… and he was raised to life again… he pioneered… blazing the way into eternity to prepare a place for us. So for us to establish and develop our new identity in Christ is to request His forgiveness… it is a walk of faith… then who you are, and who you perceive yourself to be as a child of the King really changes everything.

And maybe today you’ve got an identity crisis and all of a sudden you realize you’ve never really had a clear picture of who you are, or at least who you’re supposed to be. Right now all of that can change for you if you’ll enter into the presence of the King and request his favor just like Esther did… you see her life wasn’t perfect, but she has a change of identity… she’s making progress… she’s no longer consumed with herself… but she’s concerned about others. She’s willing to lose her life if others might be saved. In faith, Esther was willing to lose her life today, because Jesus gave her a new identity and a better eternity.

You see Esther waited three days to petition the king, but Jesus waited three days to leave his tomb and save his people… Esther was clothed in royal robes, but in Jesus Christ, you and I are clothed in the splendor and the glory of the righteousness of our King… Esther was welcomed into the presence of King Xerxes once, but because of King Jesus, we are welcome into the presence of God continually… Esther prepared a generous banquet for King Xerxes, but King Jesus is preparing a more abundant eternal feast for us… And Xerxes offered Esther half his kingdom, but our King Jesus offers us his entire kingdom.

Come to Jesus today… He is so much better.

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