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The Book of Esther #7
The Book of Esther
Speak up
Esther 7:1-10
 
Did you ever have a problem so big and imminent that it was impossible to avoid?  The truth is, most all problems are that way. No matter how we might want to, it doesn’t do us much good to run from them.  Most problems, if they are really a problem, must be dealt with. 
 
In the first six chapters of Esther we discover that the queen has a big problem.  As a Jew, she and her people are threatened with annihilation. And she is the only one who is in a position to do anything about it.
 
Twice now, the king has asked her what was troubling her and had declared to her that whatever she needed or wanted would be given to her. And twice now, she had kept her mouth shut about her real need and what she wanted to say.
 
Part of the reason that she had remained silent about her problem was timing. She was waiting for the perfect moment. But another big part of the reason she avoided the issue was because of plain old fear. A third opportunity for her to voice what she really needed to say was now here.
 
Everything within her said, “Run away. Keep your mouth shut. Don’t get involved.” And if she had depended on human logic or wisdom, she probably would have listened to that voice in her head.
 
But there was another voice that was learning to acknowledge and that voice was guiding her to speak up and do what was right no matter what the consequences were.
 
Have you ever been there?  Have you have been in situations where you really felt like you needed to say something, but you found yourself struggling with whether or not you should?
 
You saw something going on at work that you suspected was not right. Is it your place to say something? What will the consequences be if you’re wrong? What will the consequences be if you’re right?
 
You’ve heard yelling and screaming from the neighbor’s house. It sounded like the husband was abusing his wife or children, but you didn’t want to make waves for them. After all, how could you be sure of what was going on?
 
Your friend is unsaved. You know it. There is no doubt. You really want to say something to him, but you don’t know if now is the right time. So you keep putting it off, telling yourself that there will be a better time. But what if the perfect moment never comes?
 
In chapter 7, we come to Esther’s moment of truth, how she faced it and what the outcome was. I want to tell you the story and then draw from it some principles for knowing when to speak up and how to deal with consequences.
 
 
 
1. The Revelation
 
Things had been going pretty rough for Haman. You will remember that through a series of events, he got himself elevated in the kingdom. 
 
But Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, had refused to bow and honor him like everyone else was doing, partially because of pride and partially because of a long-standing feud between their ancestors. 
 
Haman becomes so outraged he encourages the king to issue a decree ordering that the Jews be annihilated and now the Jews are living under a death sentence. 
 
In the meantime, the king discovers an injustice in regard to Mordecai.  Mordecai had actually saved the king’s life and nothing had been done to reward him for doing it. 
 
So when the king asks Haman what should be done if the king wanted to honor someone he was pleased with.  Haman, thinking the king is talking about honoring him suggests he be allowed to wear the king’s clothes and ride his horse and be paraded through town. 
 
So the king orders Haman to do all that he has suggested for Mordecai.  So when we get to chapter 7, Haman has spent the morning chauffeuring his enemy around town and announcing how the king had honored him. 
 
 
 
And to make matters worse, when he went home for lunch, instead of getting comfort from his wife, she had prophesied his doom. And now, he was at the banquet prepared by Queen Esther.
 
He was probably thinking, “What’s going to go wrong here?”  And just about the time that he was starting to calm down and get his blood pressure back to a reasonable level, the king asked his question of Esther for the 3rd time.
 
Verses 1-2
 
Ahasuerus must have been getting frustrated at this point. He knew that something serious was on Esther’s mind, but he couldn’t get her to reveal it.
 
Maybe Ahasuerus should have tried the method that one father found to be successful.
 
A very short boy wanted so badly to play basketball. He even told his dad that he wanted to become a pro when he was older. Knowing that his son would never be able to play the game, the dad asked the local coach if there was anything he could recommend to make the boy taller.
 
"You might take him down to the museum and put him on the old torture stretch rack," the coach said. Several weeks later the coach asked the father if putting the boy on the stretch rack had helped.
 
"Well, it didn’t make him any taller, but he confessed to several things that I never knew."
 
 
Pain can make you reveal information, and fear can make you conceal it. There was plenty of fear to go around in that place. Esther sat across the table from the two most powerful men in the world. One was her husband. He had a temper, and he had done some pretty rash things in the past because of his temper, including banishing his first wife from the kingdom. 
 
The other man was her enemy – the one that had created the problem that she was being asked to reveal. Why did Esther invite Haman to the banquet? It seems to me that it would be easier to accuse him if he was NOT present.   If things went badly and the king did not act favorably toward her, Haman might turn his anger on her.
 
The text doesn’t tell us why she invited him, so all that I can do is offer some suggestions. Maybe she wanted to stare her fears in the face. Maybe she wanted to make sure that when the truth came out, Haman would be in place where he could not escape the wrath of the king. I don’t know why she invited him, but the fact is that he was there, and he was a source of great fear for her.
 
Esther’s heart was probably in her throat. She knew the consequences of speaking up. If she did not receive her request, she was condemned to die having revealed that she was a Jew. If she was successful, her words would bring rescue for her people.
 
The consequences of us speaking up for Jesus are high too. Our life doesn’t depend upon it, but someone else’s may.  It may determine whether or not they go to heaven. 
Staying silent is much easier and safer for us. But it is necessary for them that we give up our silence.
 
This was Ahasuerus third and probably final pitch. He wasn’t going to keep making the same offer. Esther may have intended to tell him what was going on the night before but chickened out.
 
Though she delayed, Esther followed through on her promise to inform the king.
 
verses 3-4
 
She just spilled it all.  She let it be known who she was and to what nationality she belonged. The reason that provoked her to risk her life was not just the rescue of strangers but the rescue of her own people.
 
She told the king how desperate the situation was. She wasn’t going to bother the king unless it was a life or death situation. She could handle being a slave, but she couldn’t handle annihilation.
 
When the king discovered “what”, then he wanted to know “who”.
 
verses 5-6a
 
Did you notice that Esther wisely made no accusation against the king even though it was the king who had signed the order and indicated his agreement with Haman to get rid of the Jews?
 
Esther’s quarrel was not with her husband. He was not the one who had devised the plan. He was not the one who held hatred for the Jews.
He was not her enemy. He was the one who had been manipulated by a cunning trickster.
 
That’s where we sometimes get confused also.  The person that you are having a disagreement with, the one that has created the problem that is forcing you to speak up is not the enemy. The enemy is not your spouse, your child, your co-worker or your neighbor.
 
Your enemy is the devil and every problem and confrontation we have to deal with is initiated by him.  And once we understand that, it will alleviate some of your fear, and it will help you to attack the problem rather than attacking the person.
 
Esther had revealed everything. Now, all that she could do was to sit back and see what kind of reaction her husband, who just happened to be the king of the world, was going to have.
 
2. The Reaction
 
Esther did not know how the king would react to her information. He could easily fly off into a rage. After all, it was because of Ahasuerus’ rage that Esther had the opportunity to become queen to begin with.   
 
And now she has just accused the king’s most trusted servant and in reality, the king as well, by association. After all, the king had elevated Haman and had signed off on his evil plan. What would the reaction be to her information?
 
Haman’s is the first to react
 
verse 6b
Imagine what was going on inside Haman. Whatever he was eating probably got stuck in his throat, and he probably spewed his drink all over the place.
 
The king had a different reaction.
 
verse 7
 
The king must have been shocked and outraged by Esther’s revelation. Someone threatening my wife? Someone making my honey upset by making threats on her life? Esther knew how to grab the king’s attention.
 
If someone was threatening the life of my wife, it would certainly grab my attention! But instead of acting immediately to come to the defense of his wife or to discipline Haman, the king walked out of the room into the garden.
 
Why did the king walk out of the room? Some have suggested that it was to gain control of his temper. But he had never tried to control his temper up to this point. As the king was walking around in the garden, he may have been contemplating the fact that he had inadvertently almost caused the death of his wife.
 
This would have been the second time that a not well thought out ruling from him had cost him his wife.  And he had lived to regret that decision, ir you will remember. 
 
But I think that the main reason he went into the garden was to try to assimilate this new information, make sense of it and decide what to do about it.
Two opposing philosophies were competing for his attention and loyalty. Esther was queen of the nation and his wife. Haman was the prime minister of the entire empire and his most trusted servant. Who was he to believe? Who was he to listen to?
 
Believing that the king had already decided his fate, Haman figured that there was no point talking to him and trying to get him to change his mind.
 
verse 7b
 
Haman figured that Esther, being a female, was more likely to be compassionate toward him. He who wanted respect and was so proud found himself begging and groveling at the feet of a woman – a Jewish woman – when his life was at stake.
 
I’ll bet he made all kinds of excuses.  “If I had only known, I would have never…, It was the way my momma raised me.  Daddy whipped me when I was little.  It’s society’s fault.”
 
He knew that his life was on the line, so he was willing to do whatever it took to secure his rescue.
Have you noticed that much of the story of Esther rests on the right people being in the right place at the right time?
 
For instance, Mordecai was in the right place to overhear the plot against the king’s life back in chapter 2.
 
Haman was in the right place at the right time to suggest the way of honoring Mordecai and to be the one who carried out that honoring in chapter 6.
Esther, being the queen was in the right place at the right time for when the Jews were threatened with extinction.
 
And here, there is one more instance of perfect timing.
 
verse 8
 
Ahasuerus may or may not have already decided to destroy Haman. If I believed that someone was plotting my wife’s murder, I certainly wouldn’t leave the two of them alone together, especially right after she made her accusation against him.
 
I assume they were alone or else someone would have stopped him from getting so close to Esther. Even if the charges were untrue or not believed, the charges alone were enough for Haman to be motivated to murder.
 
Up to this point, neither Ahasuerus nor Haman had known that Esther was a Jew. Ahasuerus might have been willing to excuse Haman’s actions based on his ignorance. But once he saw Haman falling all over his wife, there was no more room for debate about Haman’s fate.
 
3.  The Result
 
verse 9-10
 
Harbona was quick to volunteer information useful in the disposing of Haman. Obviously, Haman had made some enemies around the kingdom.  Proud people who crave unearned respect usually do make enemies.
Harbona must not have liked Haman very much, especially not now that he discovered Haman’s attack on the queen. Remember that everybody who knew Esther loved her.
 
Somehow Harbona had found out about the gallows and who they were intended for. It was kind of hard to hide the gallows. They were 75 ft. tall. They would have attracted quite a bit of attention. As people came by, they would have asked the purpose of the gallows.
 
Harbona was also quick to point out that the enemy of Haman, Mordecai, was a friend to the king. This implied that Haman was not only guilty of threatening the queen but of committing treason against the king. Whoever was against the king’s friend was against the king.
 
With this new information on top of what he had already heard, the king knew exactly what to do and gave instructions accordingly.
 
The very gallows that Haman had built were the instrument of his destruction. If this book was just a work of human literature, we would call this sequence of events an example of irony or poetic justice.
 
But since this is a record of things that actually happened, we know it to be a fulfillment of God’s promise.  Whatever you sow is what you are going to reap.
 
 
 
That brings us to the end of this portion of Esther’s story. Haman, the enemy of Esther, Mordecai and the rest of the Jews is now dead. The king’s fury has subsided, but there is another problem looming for the king.   
 
The unchangeable law, the law that he had signed, still says that all Jews had to die. That included his wife, Queen Esther, and his loyal servant, Mordecai.
 
How was he going to fix that? More about that next week. For now, let’s see what we can learn from the events of today.  How do we know when is the right time to speak up?
 
1. Assess the Situation
 
Two things in regard to that:  First, you have to decide if the situation that you are facing is desperate enough to warrant the potential consequences of the information that you are about to reveal. Sometimes, because something just really does not need to be said, it’s better just to keep your mouth shut.
 
I heard about some dear lady who was visiting the church for the first time. The pastor was shaking them out at the front door after the service. They happened to be having a dinner on the grounds that day, and the pastor invited the rather stout visitor to stay.
 
The lady said, "Your church is wonderful. I’m certain the food is delicious, but I don’t know if I ought to stay and eat. After all, I’ve just lost a considerable amount of weight.”
From behind the lady, the preacher’s boy said, "Hey, look back here, I think I found it."
 
Esther spoke up because she knew the situation was desperate. Without her intervention at that moment, her people were doomed to die.
 
Then the other thing is timing.  We ought to look for the right moment. There will never be a perfect moment, but the Spirit of God will guide us in the right moment. 
 
When it was time to speak up, Esther spoke up. Remember, this opportunity was a result of Esther’s spiritual preparation.  It was not off the cuff.  She had fasted; she had prepared the banquet.  She had thought it through.  She had prepared herself.  And she initiated the meeting. The king didn’t come to her. She had to go to him.
 
Norman Cates shares the story of a guy who prayed this prayer every morning: "Lord, if you want me to witness to someone today, please give me a sign to show me who it is."
 
One day he found himself on a bus when a big, burly man sat next to him. The bus was nearly empty but this guy sat next to our praying friend. The timid Christian anxiously waited for his stop so he could exit the bus.
 
But before he could get off, the man next to him burst into tears and began to weep. He then cried out with a loud voice, "I need to be saved. I’m a lost sinner and I need the Lord. Won’t somebody tell me how to be saved?"
He turned to the Christian and pleaded, "Can you show me how to be saved?" The believer immediately bowed his head and prayed, "Lord, is this a sign?"
 
God can make the right moment obvious. 
 
So first of all, assess the situation.  Second,
 
2. Determine Your Motivation
 
Ahasuerus didn’t care about the Jews, but he cared about Esther, and Esther cared about the Jews. So he made the Jews a focus of his attention. The king only came to the defense of the Jewish people when he found that it was in his best interest to do so. He did not care what happened to the Jewish people until he discovered that someone he cared for cared for them.
 
People are motivated by different things. Lou Little, the former football coach at Columbia University, had a guy on his squad who didn’t play very well, but who had a spirit that lifted the morale of the entire squad. Little was proud of the boy and marveled at how he and his father would walk arm and arm around the campus after the football games.
 
The boy’s father died unexpectedly and after he returned from the funeral the boy asked if he could play in the game on Saturday. He said he wanted to play for his father. The coach thought he would let him start the first few minutes, then replace him with a regular player. But to the surprise of every one, the boy played the entire game. He played 60 minutes of inspired football.
After the game the coach sought him out. "What got into you out there?",he asked.
 
The boy replied, "Do you remember how my father and I used to go around arm-in-arm? He didn’t want people to know, but he was totally blind. This afternoon was the first time he ever saw me play football!" The boy had a new motivation, and it changed his actions dramatically.
 
When you are faced with a decision about whether or not you should speak up about something, check your motivations. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Are you doing it to make yourself look good, to hurt somebody, because you just can’t keep a secret, to protect yourself?
 
Whether or not you have chosen to speak up or keep quiet, make sure that your choice comes out of the right motivation.
 
3. Conquer Your Reservations
 
Esther spoke up in spite of her fears.  Stanford Research Institute was studying the differences in vocational perceptions. They devised a short but succinct test. The first to be tested was an engineer. The researchers asked him: “What does two plus two make?” The engineer simply said, “In absolute terms: four.”
 
After making their notes and dismissing him, they called an architect. To the same question, he responded, “Well, there are several possibilities: two and two make four, but so does three and one -- or two point five and one point five -- they also make four.
So, it is all a matter of choosing the right option.” The researchers thanked him and made their notes.
 
Finally, they called an attorney. When he heard the question, he looked around slyly, asked if he could close the door for privacy, and then came over close, leaned toward them and said, “Well, tell me, what would you like it to be?”
 
We’re afraid of making someone mad or hurting someone’s feelings. And that’s where faith comes in. Faith says, “I’m going to believe God that the truth, spoken in love, is always going to be the best way for me to handle any situation.” Just make sure that what you speak is the truth and not just your opinion.
 
4. Control Your Expectations
 
Ahasuerus did not respond right away.  Things may not immediately achieve the results you thought they would.  Not everyone gets saved the first time you share the gospel. 
 
Not every bad relationship is healed right away just because someone speaks the truth in love.  But remember, if you have been led by God, He is up to something on the other side of the situation as well.  
 
 
5. Trust God for Confirmation  
 
Once you present the truth, trust God to provide other evidence to confirm that what you have said is the truth.
 
The God who caused Ahasuerus to walk back into the room just as Haman was falling all over his wife was further evidence that what she had accused him of was the truth.  God can bring situations and events into the situation to confirm that what you have said is reality.
 
God can change seemingly unchangeable people and situations. No one is beyond His reach, and nothing is impossible for Him.
 
In December 1994 syndicated columnist Bob Greene told the inspiring story of Rob Mouw. Rob played on the soccer team in his senior year at Wheaton Christian High School.
 
In the final seconds of a big game against favored Waubonsie Valley, with his team behind by one goal, Rob was dribbling the ball in front of him, running at full speed toward the opponent’s goal.
 
Just before he shot the ball, though, he caught sight of the scoreboard. The clock read 00.00. But like any good athlete, Rob shot the ball anyway, and it went in for a goal. The referee signaled that the goal counted, and the game finished in a tie.
 
The Wheaton fans cheered. The Waubonsie Valley fans cried that time had run out. Bob had a choice to make. He could say nothing and avoid a loss. After all, it was the referee’s job to decide the calls, not his. Or Rob could do what was right.
 
Rob asked the referee whether the official time was kept on scoreboard or the referee’s stopwatch. The referee said the scoreboard time was official and then ran off the field.
Rob went to his coaches and explained that just before his kick, he had seen zeros on the scoreboard clock. Since he hadn’t heard a whistle, he kept playing. But his goal was late, and he didn’t think it should count.
 
His coaches agreed, and so they went over to the opposing coaches, explained what had happened, and conceded victory to Waubonsie Valley.
 
Bob Greene ended his article with this quote from Rob Mouw: "Every time in your life you have an opportunity to do right, you should be thankful. For a person to know what right is and then not to do it, that would be a sin. To have won the game – I mean, really, who cares?
 
Doing the right thing is more important. It lets you have peace."
 
Let’s pray
 

 

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