“For Such a Time As This” – Part 3
By Pastor Hal Mayer
As we conclude our study of the story of Esther, we come now to the most thrilling part in which the lessons of the deliverance of God’s people mirror the deliverance of the remnant. Through this amazing story God reveals to us the principles of the final crisis and the means by which He will deliver His people. Let us remember that there is a higher law that rules the universe. No human law can contradict the laws of heaven without disaster. No one in the universe knows this better than Satan. God continually turns Satan’s efforts against God’s people against himself. We stand in awe as we watch light come out of darkness, hope come out of despair, faith come out of discouragement, and strength come out of weakness.
But before we begin our study, let us ask God’s presence to be with us. Our Father in heaven, it is in Jesus name that we come to you today seeking your blessing on our Bible study. We need your Holy Spirit to discern your leading and your working in the shadows. We want to have faith, and we sense that the story of Esther will help us understand the principles of faith in time of trouble. We are coming up to the final crisis, and we want to learn the lessons that will steady us when under assault. We want to learn the principles that will encourage us to hang on when all seems lost. We want to have a vision of the mighty God of heaven who is able to deliver from the worst difficulties. So please send us your sweet spirit to show us wonderful things out of your holy book. In Jesus name, Amen
As we begin, I would like to turn your attention for a moment to a very interesting passage in the Bible. It is found in 2 Corinthians 13:8. Please turn there if you can. The scripture says “For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” It is a law of heaven that even the efforts of God’s enemies will actually help the cause of Christ. If you are persecuted because you are faithful to the truth, it is good, because it makes you strong in faith. If you are treated with injustice by your fellow believers, you will benefit, and God’s cause will benefit. That very injustice is the means that God uses to establish and mature your influence.
Over the last two messages we have studied the principles of the great controversy in the story of Esther, and we have discovered that Esther specifically represents the remnant people. The story is a type, or an illustration of the final crisis in the great controversy, but we also see key elements of the overall controversy. For example, we have a woman who was dethroned for her disobedience. We have another woman that takes her place, representing different stages of God’s church. There is one man who represents God the Father. We have another man who represents Christ and one man that represents Satan. In the story we see the sanctuary message, the time of trouble, the antichrist, the Sunday law, the death decree, and many other details. But most importantly, we have studied the big picture, the large principles of the great controversy such as the character of God’s church, loyalty to God vs. loyalty to Satan, true worship vs. false worship and God’s guiding hand behind the scenes.
If you fear the future, today’s message is for you. If you are worried about the outcome of difficulties in your life, today’s message is for you. If you have painful relationships and conflict in your church or home, this message is for you.
The moment of crisis had come. The death decree had been issued against the Jews. Esther knew that she had an awesome responsibility to expose the conniving Haman. It was a dangerous mission. For three days Esther fasted and prayed for deliverance along with all her people. Do you think that in the time of trouble the remnant will be doing a lot of fasting and praying? That is one of the reasons for times of trouble. They are designed to bring us closer to Christ and our Father in heaven. The great time of trouble such as never was, is going to bring the remnant people into such a close connection with God that they will be ready to enter the pearly gates.
On the third day, Esther put on her royal apparel. Spiritually speaking, God’s people must put on their royal apparel if they are going to have deliverance. This royal apparel is the character of Christ’s righteousness. God’s remnant people individually must do this, but as a consequence, the whole church, that is, those that are left after the great shaking, will collectively have it on as well. It is at the darkest hour when God’s people shine with the greatest beauty of character.
The scripture says that Esther stood in the inner court of the king’s house. “When the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre.”
What a powerful and fitting symbol of God’s attitude toward His people. He loves His church. He is always anxious to hear from her. He wants to help her and encourage her. The same is true of the repentant soul. Those that come unto God will receive an extended scepter of welcome. What a precious illustration this is of the love of God. If there is anything that our Father in heaven wants more than anything else, is for sinners to come a ask for forgiveness and mercy.
Let me read to you from the 6th volume of the Bible Commentary, page 1072. ”The salvation that Christ made such a sacrifice to gain for man, is that which is alone of value, that which saves from sin—the cause of all the misery and woe in our world. Mercy extended to the sinner is constantly drawing him to Jesus. If he responds, coming in penitence with confession, in faith laying hold of the hope set before him in the gospel, God will not despise the broken and contrite heart. Thus the law of God is not weakened, but the power of sin is broken, and the scepter of mercy is extended to the penitent sinner.” (Letter 1f, 1890)
Verse 3 “Then said the king unto her, What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom.”
It was the custom in the Oriental culture for the king to grant a request before the request was made as a matter of courtesy. But doesn’t it strike you that this is also typical of our Father in Heaven? Does He not know our needs and our requests before we ask Him? Isn’t He willing to grant them (according to His knowledge of what is best for us) even before we utter them? And most of all isn’t He ready to grant forgiveness to the repentant sinner even before He asks? All He is waiting for is the sincere request.
Ahasuerus knows that Esther wants something, and that she has not come to see him on ordinary business. This is a most unusual request. King and queen did not usually dine together. However, this request was delivered in person, and at great personal risk. Furthermore, Esther invited another man to come with them to the banquet – the prime minister. This urgent matter must concern something of great importance to the state. Already, once, Esther had warned the king of a threat to his life and throne. He dare not refuse to comply with her request for his own good. But his curiosity had several hours to run riot and intensify itself. This was not just a banquet for mere pleasure of entertainment. At the feast, he asks her a second time what she desires. He is not really prepared for her answer.
Verse 6 through 8. “And the king said unto Esther at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? even to the half of the kingdom it shall be performed.” Esther answers, “If I have found favour in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition, and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do to morrow as the king hath said.”
Now Ahasuerus’ curiosity is really intense. He knows that this is not an impulsive request on Esther’s mind. This is well considered. He can hardly wait to hear what Esther wants. Why is she going through all this effort to get his attention. Hasn’t he already told her she can have up to half of the kingdom? What’s more, Esther had broken the law to come and see him. This could only mean a pressing emergency. But why was she delaying her request?
What do you think motivated Esther to offer a second feast to the king and Haman? No doubt Esther wanted to heighten the curiosity of the king, and perhaps he would be better prepared thereby for the great shock that she was going to lay on him. Perhaps she wanted more time to pray and collect her composure before she voiced her plea.
But this was no ordinary matter. No doubt the Holy Spirit prompted her to wait until the next day to expose Haman, for only God could have known what would happen that very night. Providence had a larger plan.
And don’t you think, amidst all of our plans and purposes, God stands in the shadows ordering events in such a way so as to work out His will and purposes? The remnant has nothing to fear if they are praying like Esther. They may be assaulted on every side, but they are secure in the hand of God, for He is keeping watch above His own.
Mordecai was back in the gate, but no longer wearing sackcloth and ashes. He was confident of God’s deliverance and he boldly defied the law. He could have been conveniently absent, but he was not. Likewise Jesus does not absent Himself from the troubles of His people. He is there with them. The scriptures specifically state that ”Then went Haman forth that day joyful and with a glad heart: but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he stood not up, nor moved for him, he was full of indignation against Mordecai.”
Haman went home and spoke with his wife and his friends and proudly told them his story. Verses 11 and 12. “And Haman told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king. Haman said moreover, Yea, Esther the queen did let no man come in with the king unto the banquet that she had prepared but myself; and to morrow am I invited unto her also with the king.” Haman felt sure that he had the favor of the queen and that this great privilege was going to benefit him. The queen had shown him special favor and he began to feel that his second conspiracy would succeed, especially if the queen suspected nothing.
But Haman’s anger still burned in him. He said, “Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.”
His wife and friends suggested that he build a gallows to hang Mordecai the next day, which was still before the effective date of the death decree. They must have thought that Haman could easily get permission to hang one man. They suggested that it be tall enough to be seen all over the city. Now, this was unusual punishment since the Persians didn’t usually execute people by hanging. This gallows would be made of wood, therefore Mordecai would be hung on a tree, another type of Christ.
Haman had the gallows built and determined to go in to the king early in the morning and ask for the life of Mordecai. He knew he had to act fast because it would become known that the gallows was for Mordecai.
I think the most interesting chapter in the whole story is chapter six. I’m reading now from verse 1. “On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king. And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. And the king said, What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him.”
The king must have been worried about Esther’s reason for approaching him in such an unusual way. He may well have had a sense of foreboding for his own life. After all, Esther had warned him once before, and probably without waiting for a royal summons. Now he realizes that he has overlooked one detail. He has forgotten to do something special for Mordecai.
Just then, though it is not light enough to see clearly, it becomes obvious that there is someone in the court. The servants tell him it is Haman and he is ushered in.
Haman has no opportunity to speak about his purpose before the king asks him the burning question on his mind. “What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself?”
After all, things had been going so well for him. He had been promoted. He was now the prime minister. He was the only other invitee into the queen’s banquet. Who else could the king honor more than himself? Thus were Haman’s proud thoughts. But Haman had a larger purpose in mind, and he saw what he thought was his opportunity.
Haman answers “Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head: And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.”
You need to know that this was forbidden on pain of death. In Persia no one was permitted to wear the royal clothing that a king had worn. This was punishable by death under ordinary circumstances. However, the king could make exceptions in cases where the king wished to show his special favor.
“Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king’s gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken.”
You can almost see Haman’s face turn red and then white. His mouth drops open briefly in shock and surprise. Haman is the noble prince which bestows this great honor upon his worst enemy. Now there is no way he can ask for Mordecai’s life from the king. The king would immediately suspect a conspiracy, perhaps against the king himself. But he dare not disobey the kings command.
You can also imagine the shock that Mordecai receives so early in the morning when Haman’s servants show up at his house and summon him, dress him in the king’s garments, put him on the king’s horse, place the king’s crown on his head, and Haman parades him around the city just as people are getting about their business. You can imagine the chuckle going on inside of Mordecai. Perhaps you can hear the bland way in which Haman carried out his proclamation. “Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour.” “Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour.” This was not a joyful occasion for Haman.
Furthermore, did you notice that Ahasuerus referred to Mordecai as the Jew? Apparently, the chronicles of the king told the nationality and occupation of Mordecai, and the king repeated these to Haman. This flies right in the face of Haman’s accusation against the Jews. He had extrapolated that if one Jewish man would refuse to bow down because of his religion, that all would refuse to do him worshipful homage. Perhaps the king had done the same thing and was now favorably disposed to all the Jews because of what Mordecai had done, thinking that if Mordecai was that loyal, he could also trust the others.
But step back a minute. Think about what Haman suggested to king Ahasuerus. Why would Haman suggest, with himself in mind, that he be paraded around the city on the king’s horse, wearing the kings robes and with the royal crown on his head? Do you think this is coincidental? Is it possible that Haman was planning a coup de tat? Is it possible that Haman wanted to assassinate Ahasuerus and become king in his stead? It is entirely possible that Haman, full of conspiracy, murder and greed, wanted this dignity because he wanted to prepare the people to view him as the next king, the heir apparent. Can you remember in the great controversy any time when Satan wanted to be like the most high God? Of course you can. Let’s read it. Isaiah 12:12-14. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”
Ahasuerus would have had no idea what Haman was planning. But God’s hidden hand of providence was working to bring this whole thing to light so that the king would have confidence in His church and consequently in the God of the Jews. Isn’t that what God is trying to accomplish through His remnant people today? He wants men and women of the world to learn to know and understand the true God. And he wants to use His church to do it. He places the church in trials and in difficult positions to draw attention to them so that they will reveal His character to the world. But do you think God can do this while His church is in rebellion? Certainly not. He has to wait until He has a remnant that will collectively represent His righteousness fully. And when His organized structure refuses to do it, He has to use a remnant of the remnant. Listen to this, “For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return:” That’s from Isaiah 10:22. That doesn’t sound to me like all Seventh-day Adventists are going to do this for Him, does it? I’m afraid that not one in 20 are preparing for the crisis.
Listen to this, “It is a solemn statement that I make to the church, that not one in twenty whose names are registered upon the church books are prepared to close their earthly history, and would be as verily without God and without hope in the world as the common sinner. They are professedly serving God, but they are more earnestly serving mammon.” That’s from Last Day Events, page 172
God knows Satan’s plans and has continually worked to thwart them. He knows fully what we can only dimly know. It pays, brothers and sisters, to trust Him fully, in spite of circumstances and difficulties. We have no fear for the future when our future is in God’s hand.
Verse 12 and 13. “And Mordecai came again to the king’s gate. But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered. And Haman told Zeresh his wife and all his friends every thing that had befallen him. Then said his wise men and Zeresh his wife unto him, If Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him.”
Apparently, Haman had his own cabinet of “wise men” or magicians. These were his counselors. They could see that things were going to turn against Haman.
Verse 14, “And while they were yet talking with him, came the king’s chamberlains, and hasted to bring Haman unto the banquet that Esther had prepared.”
At the banquet, the king can hardly wait to ask queen what is her request. She answers plainly and clearly that she is in mortal danger.
“Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request: For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king’s damage. Then the king Ahasuerus answered and said unto Esther the queen, Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so? And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen.”
Similarly, in the final crisis, God’s church will be in mortal danger and they will plead with Him for deliverance. Listen to this statement from The Great Controversy, page 621.
“The season of distress and anguish before us will require a faith that can endure weariness, delay, and hunger—a faith that will not faint though severely tried. The period of probation is granted to all to prepare for that time. Jacob prevailed because he was persevering and determined. His victory is an evidence of the power of importunate prayer. All who will lay hold of God’s promises, as he did, and be as earnest and persevering as he was, will succeed as he succeeded. Those who are unwilling to deny self, to agonize before God, to pray long and earnestly for His blessing, will not obtain it. Wrestling with God—how few know what it is! How few have ever had their souls drawn out after God with intensity of desire until every power is on the stretch. When waves of despair which no language can express sweep over the suppliant, how few cling with unyielding faith to the promises of God.”
Esther earnestly prayed before entering the king’s palace. She prayed throughout the entire experience. Without prayer, she would not have succeeded. Likewise, God’s remnant people must pray earnestly that God will prepare them for the crisis, and when it comes, plead with Him for deliverance.
Now the king was angry. Who would dare to touch his queen? How could he trust Haman with his own life now? Imagine too how God must feel about the enemies of His church. King Ahasuerus goes out into the garden, and when he returns Haman is pleading with Esther for his life. But Ahasuerus orders Haman hanged on the very gallows that he had made for Mordecai.
Mordecai was not executed, rather it was Haman that found himself on the gallows. And how fitting. It was at the cross that Satan ultimately tried to destroy Christ, but the cross was actually the great victory that will ultimately destroy Satan. The moment Jesus died, Satan knew he was finished and that one day he would be exposed by Christ’s remnant church and eventually die at the hand of Christ. Christ would then assume the full and unchallenged rulership of this world. Watch this.
Chapter 8:1-3. “On that day did the king Ahasuerus give the house of Haman the Jews’ enemy unto Esther the queen. And Mordecai came before the king; for Esther had told what he was unto her. And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it unto Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.”
It is very interesting that Mordecai becomes everything that Haman was and more. The king makes him the grand vizier in his stead, or prime minister. He is now to speak for the king. Haman’s estate is given to Esther, and she places Mordecai over it. In the great controversy, who is it that has the keys to the bottomless pit? Who is set over Satan’s domain when the conflict is over? It is Christ the Mighty One. In the end, Mordecai is a type of Christ who is honored and glorified. Chapter 9:4 tells us that “Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame went out throughout all the provinces: for this man Mordecai waxed greater and greater.” Isn’t Christ, throughout eternity going to wax greater and greater? As we learn more and more, we will praise Him more and more.
Mordecai is given authority to grant the Jews freedom to fight for their lives using the kings ring as prime minister. He also gave them permission to kill their enemies and confiscate their possessions. In Shushan alone there were 500 men killed including the 10 sons of Haman.
Now we come to the last verse of chapter 10. Verse 3. “For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed.”
Isn’t that what Christ is going to do for His spiritual seed, His church? He is going to speak peace to them after their great crisis is over. He is going to be great among them, their hero. And most of all, He is going to seek their eternal welfare just as Mordecai did when he was elevated to be next in command to the king.
I have learned something in my life. After every crucifixion, there is a resurrection. God allowed Mordecai to be humbled in the dust. He was the cause of the death decree. Yet like Christ, when the time of trouble was over, he arose to be stronger and more powerful than he could have ever been had he not gone through the crisis. These things are good for God’s people. A crisis always matures them. They need the final crisis to remove their earthliness and all affections from this world.
Speaking of the time of trouble, Ellen White says, “Yet Jacob’s history is an assurance that God will not cast off those who have been deceived and tempted and betrayed into sin, but who have returned unto Him with true repentance. While Satan seeks to destroy this class, God will send His angels to comfort and protect them in the time of peril. The assaults of Satan are fierce and determined, his delusions are terrible; but the Lord’s eye is upon His people, and His ear listens to their cries. Their affliction is great, the flames of the furnace seem about to consume them; but the Refiner will bring them forth as gold tried in the fire. God’s love for His children during the period of their severest trial is as strong and tender as in the days of their sunniest prosperity; but it is needful for them to be placed in the furnace fire; their earthliness must be removed that the image of Christ may be perfectly reflected.” That is from the 4th Volume of the Spirit of Prophecy, page, 438.
Satan’s plans were counteracted by the hand of Providence. In the end, this is what will happen to Satan in the great controversy as well. His plans will not ultimately succeed. Right now he has to be permitted to play out his agenda both in the world and in the church, but he will be defeated in the end. God’s remnant people must go through a terrible ordeal, but it is for their good and for the eternal security of the universe.
Do you think that God has a place for you in all of this? God’s purpose in giving us the story of Esther is to help us see how we may fit into the great controversy. He has a place for you, my friend. He has brought you to the kingdom for such a time as this. You have a wonderful privilege to work with Christ right up to the time of trouble such as never was. Christ calls you now to be an Esther. He calls you to be part of the remnant of the remnant, so that you can fully represent Him in your character. What a powerful experience awaits you and me. May God help us to be ready for it by preparing now, by obeying Christ’s counsel through His strength and power, by getting the Hamans out of our lives, by consecrating ourselves through prayer and supplication for victory over our sins. We will never be victorious then, if we aren’t victorious now.
Most importantly, the story of Esther is meant for our encouragement during the dark times in our lives. God has a place for us in His work. He has the future settled. He has called us to the kingdom for such a time as this.
Let us pray. Our loving Father in heaven. It is with grateful hearts that we see the amazing overview of your plan to get your people through the final crisis in the story of Esther. Please help us to have faith. Please help us to have confidence that you are able to protect your people. Please help us to have the courage of Esther, and be faithful to our trust and our duty. May we learn the lessons of character now, so that when the remnant goes through the time of trouble such as never was, we will be able to say that we have been brought to the kingdom for such a time as this. Thank you dear Father for Jesus who is keeping watch over His true church, His remnant people. In Jesus’ precious name we pray, amen.
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