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The Providence of God

The Providence of God


This chapter, concerning the history of a pagan nation, is inserted in the
Word of God for a very definite purpose: to teach the providence of God.

We will see as we study that God is working throughout these ten chapters
for the benefit of His people, the Jews, and that Esther and Mordecai relied heavily on fasting and
prayer to turn the tide of events.

Have you ever realized that you, too, have come to the kingdom for such a
time as this? I want you to meet a special woman whose one heart and voice can still be heard across
the ages, calling women to a special place and purpose for this hour.

You might think or ask, “Can one woman really make a difference in her
community, in her country, and in her world?” God’s answer is “Yes!”

Esther’s story will become our story as we understand that God is calling
you and me to be powerful intercessors who stand in the gap. The Lord is ready and able to use each
of us to change history and save many lives. As we study the events, we’ll not only learn the amazing
parallels between her time and ours, and though she never left her home, through her bold
intercession before the throne, she changed the course of history and through her determination, God
used her to save the Jewish race.

How one woman’s intercession changed the world:  Esther changed her world
when she had the courage to ask for the impossible.

You can read the story of Esther in a few minutes, but it took years to
unfold. Have you ever wanted God to act in a few minutes, but it took years instead?

We begin today with Chapter 1 and you will understand when we get started
that it is a story that could not be told at a better time than this particular time and I pray that
God will bless our sharing time, not only this morning, but the entire time as we study the Book of
Esther.

This is a beautiful story and in some ways the Book of Esther is one of the
most remarkable books in the Bible. There is not a Divine title or a noun or a pronoun that refers to
God in any of the chapters of this book, yet the heathen king is mentioned over a hundred times
(192). The book of Esther is also unique in the sense that prayer is not mentioned one time in the
book. I suppose if we find “God” is not mentioned in this book, then it wouldn’t make much sense if
“prayer” was mentioned either. The book is unique also, because it is never mentioned in the New
Testament, not even a casual reference to it, and yet the book tells about the superstitions of the
heathen and the king who was pagan, who ruled over the known world.

It’s also an unusual book, for it is named for a woman, and there are only
two books as such in the Bible—Esther and Ruth. The Book of Esther fascinated me as I read and
studied about the way God used her.

She surely is a reminder to all of us women everywhere, who name the Name
of Jesus Christ in faith, believing that there is no limitation to what God can do in the life of a
woman who is totally yielded and committed to the Lord.

If you have your Bible and you would like to read along with me, the Book
of Esther is between Job and Nehemiah. Let’s ask the Lord to bless our time throughout our study of
the ten chapters.

The Apple of God's Eye

Throughout time people have attempted to destroy the nation of Israel, the
“apple of God’s eye”—why? Because from the Jews came the covenants, the promises, the Law, and the
Messiah—salvation for the world.

While a remnant from Judah returned to the land promised to Abraham and
Isaac and Jacob, other Jews remained in the cities of their captivity. Some were welcomed as members
of their community, but others were despised and hated. Some were even targeted for extermination.

Esther tells us of the inauguration of a feast which has endured over 2,000
years because one woman who, for the sake of her people, was willing to say. “If I perish, I perish.”

Esther is a story that was divinely inspired. It reveals the sovereignty of
God, although God is never mentioned in this book, nor is prayer, but you will find that God is
working behind the scenes to protect and preserve His children, on every page. Although God and
prayer are not mentioned, there was fasting, and prayer and fasting go together. The Lord is behind
the scene, directing in providence, every step, and God spared His covenant people, Israel. Esther
was an instrument of Divine grace to preserve the race through which the Savior of the world was to
come.

If you were to look at a modern day map, you would find the setting of the
Book of Esther in the land that we know as Iran. Before March of 1935 Iran was known as Persia. Many
people think of Persia today only in terms of Persian rugs, known for their beauty and their quality.

Any of you who have followed recent events in the Middle East know that
that region is very wealthy, because of its oil. Persia is a very important country in Biblical
History.

In the 2nd chapter of Daniel there is a very important outline of world
history, when Nebuchadnezzar was king over Babylon. He was a ruthless dictator. He is referred to in
the Book of Daniel like this, “Whom he would he slew, and whom he would he set up, and whom he would,
he put down.” When Nebuchadnezzar ruled, there was only one vote that counted and that was his…sorta
reminds us of the one who has tried to succeed him in modern times.

In the U.S. Report some time ago, Saddam Hussein has often thought
of himself as the modern Nebuchadnezzar. He is rebuilding the hanging gardens of Babylon and on the
walls of the New Babylon, which he has constructed, he has Nebuchadnezzar’s name emblazoned right
next to his own. They said that he has had pictures taken of himself in a chariot similar to the
chariot that Nebuchadnezzar used to drive around during his time in Babylon. Saddam Hussein is the
same type of dictator that Nebuchadnezzar was, “whom he will, he will slay and whom he will, he will
set up and whom he will, he will put down.”

The book of Esther is very important. If you study Old Testament History it
is easy to trace what happens to the people of Israel through the years of captivity.

Remember when Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and took the captives away
to Babylon? These were taken away: Daniel, Shad- rach, Me-shach and A-bed-ne-go and seventy others
along with them, and then ultimately the whole nation. They moved them to Babylon and they were in
captivity for seventy years. Later, 10,000 were taken.

The Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Malachi and other Old Testament prophets
record what happened when a very small number of those captives returned to Jerusalem.

Under Ezra and Nehemiah, some 50,000 returned to rebuild the temple and to
rebuild the walls. But the question is often asked, “Where are all the rest of them?” By the time the
captivity had ended, many of the Jewish people who were in Persia didn’t want to go back; seemingly,
they had adjusted and became comfortable.

So there’s only one Book in the Bible that gives us any insight about their
life in Persia, and that’s the book of Esther that we’re going to study. The Book of Esther is very
important because it opens up a whole area of Jewish History we would know nothing about if this book
was not included in the Old Testament.

We’re going to see what happened to the Jews who stayed behind in Persia.
The Book of Esther tells us how the Jewish nation was rescued from extermination.

The Book of Esther is a modern day parable of many of the Jewish problems.
There was a man, and we shall meet him shortly, whose name was Haman and it was his determination to
totally exterminate the Jews. There were many who tried at various periods, in history, to get rid of
the Jews; among them were four that I can think of: Haman, Herod, Hitler and Hussein.

It has been reported that Saddam Hussein has increased money for the
relatives of suicide bombers from $10,000.00 to $25,000.00. Since Iraq increased its payment, 12
suicide bombers have successfully struck inside Israel, including one man who killed 25 Israelis,
many of them elderly, as they sat down to a meal at a hotel to celebrate the Passover. The families
of three suicide bombers said they have recently received payment of $25,000.

Haman was the persecutor at this time and when the Book of Esther was
written, he tried to destroy all the Jews that were left in Persia, under King Xerxes.

In the Book of Esther, we are once again confronted with Satan’s hatred for
the Jew.

There is a key verse that explains the purpose of Esther in all of this,
and before we look at the first chapter, I want to show you the key verse, and it is, in my
estimation at the very core of the theme of this Book. It is chapter 4:14:

"For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time,
then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy
father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a
time as this.”

God raised up Esther, planted her significantly in Persia, under King
Xerxes, when there was a man by the name of Haman, who would obliterate her people, and God used
Esther to save the people of God from being annihilated.

And as we shall see, she was faithful to the challenge God laid before her.
Now the first chapter is a preliminary to the actual story. The first chapter explains how Esther got
involved in the government in the first place. Chapter 1:1-12 describe the regal dinner and verses
13-22 describe the royal divorce.

We want to read Chapter 1, and as you read with me, and understand before
we get into the actual plot of the story, how it is that Esther, an unknown Jewish woman, ever got
into such a significant place/position at all. And if you read and ask God to help you understand
each verse, then He will reveal His Word to you and you will understand how that happened.

Now, it came to pass in the days of
A-has-u-e-rus, which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty
provinces, that in those days, when the King A-has-u-e-rus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which
was in Shu-shan the palace, in the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and
his servants; the power of Persia and Me-di-a, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before
him: when he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many
days, even an hundred and fourscore days.
Esther, Chapter 1:1-12

People who have studied history believe A-has-u-e-rus’ real name was Xerxes
the First. In secular history, you can trace him back to this period of time.

The purpose of this regal dinner described in these first four verses was
to bring together his chief and leaders who were closest to him in preparation for going to war
against the Greeks. This gathering (which we have read about in these first four verses) lasted 180
days and at the end of this gathering, (verse 5) there was a banquet that was held out in the
beautiful gardens of the palace, and this lasted for seven days.

And there was much drinking and everyone was allowed as much wine as he
wanted. These verses that we read reveal the wealth and the luxury of the oriental court.

The reason for this lavish party is clear. King Xerxes wanted to win the
whole support of his military campaign to capture Greece and be the ruler over all the then known
world of that day.

If you read secular history at this particular place you understand that
Xerxes was simply trying to accomplish in his day what Hussein is trying to accomplish in our day.
What Hitler and Joseph Stalin tried to accomplish in their day, Xerxes tried in his day, wanting to
be king over the whole world, and his next feat was to conquer the Greeks.

So he brought all of his friends together and he wanted to show them that
if they would join him in this war against the Greeks, that he had enough wealth to fund the war. So
he brought out all the great treasures of his kingdom and he put on this lavish 180 day feast,
followed by a seven day dinner in the gardens that ended in nothing but a drunken orgy.

Verses 5-8
And when these days were expired, the king made
a feast unto all the people that were present in Shu-shan the palace, both unto great and small,
seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace; where were white, green, and blue
hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the
beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble. And
they gave them drink in vessels of gold (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine
in abundance, according to the state of the king. And the drinking was according to the law; none did
compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according
to every man’s pleasure.

Now these verses describe an additional seven days following the 180 days
just celebrated. They moved out into this beautiful garden and when you describe all this beauty and
wealth, you don’t have any trouble understanding that the king would not have any trouble financing
any war he wanted, or so he thought. He had made quite a display to his friends, and they were now
really hooked on his ability to become the next ruler of the world.

And they were all getting very happy about this time, drinking as they were
allowed, all they wanted, and they were feeling no pain, when we come to the second half of the
chapter and the regal dinner is followed by the royal divorce.

Verses 9 -12
Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the
women in the royal house which belonged to King A-has-u-e-rus. On the seventh day, when the heart of
the king was merry with wine, he commanded Me-hu-man, Biz-tha, Har-bo-na, Big-tha, and A-bag-tha,
Ze-thar, and Car-cas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of A-has-u-e-rus, the king,
To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes
her beauty: for she was fair to look on. But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s
commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.

Now remember there were two parties going on at the same time. All the men
are at one place and the women in another place. In that particular culture, it was not proper for
men and women to drink together and after all the men get good and drunk, he wanted these men to see
how beautiful his wife was.

THE BEAUTIFUL WIFE AND DIVORCE

So he sends his servants over to go get Vashti so all these men could see
her beauty and when they told her, this lady said, “I’m not going.” This is the king “whom he would
he slew, and whom he would he kept alive.”

She had probably sorted this out in her own mind, and had good reason for
not going. She knew that at this time the men were well under the influence of wine. And she knew
that if she went she would place herself in a very poor position. She also knew the law of the land:
that it was not proper for an unveiled woman to be in the presence of men, and she was trying to keep
her understanding of the law.

It was the custom for women to be heavily veiled and she would have to be
unveiled to show all those men her beauty and she knew that the king was not the only one whose heart
was merry with wine, by that time, and she didn’t want to put herself in that position.

Verses 13-15
Then the king said to the wise men, which knew
the times, (for so was the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment: And the next unto him
was Car-she-na, She-thar, Ad-ma-tha, Tar-shish, Me-res, Mar-se-na, and Me-mu-can, the seven princes
of Persia and Me-di-a, which saw the king’s face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;) What shall
we do unto the queen Vash-ti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the
king A-has-u-e-rus by the chamberlains?

Now he’s the king and before he knows what to do, he has to get his
thinking men (his brain trust) together. No doubt the king is embarrassed. Everyone knew something
was wrong. Now, remember, they’re gathered together to decide whether or not they are going to follow
this guy into war against Greece and he is not man enough to tend to his wife! Notice this decree:

Verses 16-22
And Me-mu-can answered before the king and the
princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to
all the people that are in all the provinces of the king A-has-u-e-rus. For this deed of the queen
shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it
shall be reported. The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she
came not. Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king’s princes,
which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath. If it
please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of
the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus;
and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she. And when the king’s
decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the
wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small. And the saying pleased the king
and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan: For he sent letters into all the
king’s provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after
their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published
according to the language of every people.

And he divorced Vashti and she was never seen again in his presence. So
Memucan (a hen-pecked man for sure) I don’t think he wanted to go home until this decree was sent
out!

Now, you will understand how that got Esther involved in this story because
she is not in the first chapter at all. It happened when Vashti was divorced; they decided that they
would run a contest to see who would be the next queen and they brought all the most beautiful women
of the provinces, and Esther was chosen, and she was placed in the position of responsibility and
authority because of the circumstances of the first chapter.

In the second chapter Esther was available to God to be His person in the
time of need. God loves to lead us, even when we are not aware of His leading. Sometimes when we look
at our lives and we don’t understand, we wonder what God is up to, but I always take courage in the
verses in the New Testament that remind us that God has a purpose in what He does in the lives of
those that love Him.

Every thread that is woven in the fabric of our lives is part of the
ultimate tapestry that some day we will view before Him in glory. In the plan that God has for our
life, there are no mistakes.

God has always had a people. Nebuchadnezzar learned that God’s people
couldn’t be burned (Daniel 3); King Darius learned that they couldn’t be eaten (Daniel 6); Haman
learned that they couldn’t be hanged (Esther 7).

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