Part 1: The Exegetical Paper
Sentence level observations
For the time we have been in this world, I believe that most of us have come across the story of Queen Esther, a girl who was taken to King Xerxes palace and rose to the ranks to become a Queen. Esther bravely worked to save her people from the cruel plans the enemy had against them. Looking deep into the story in the book of Esther, there are many amazing things to learn. The book reveals outstanding truths across the ten chapters and serves as a great revelation on the Mighty works of God for the sake of his people regardless of the deep troubles they may be engraved in. The book of Esther is one of the two books in the bible apart from Ruth that is named after women. In addition, the book of Esther, other than the book of Song of Songs, does not mention the name of God across the chapters. However, across the book, the sovereignty, caring, and loving of the Almighty God is evident across the chapters. The book of Esther is focused on the time when the racial hatred was inflicted towards the Jews. They were a minority in Persia for years, which contributed to their subjection to racial hatred.
The Historical-Cultural Context of your Passage
The book of Esther has four main characters that are mentioned across the chapters. The first one is King Xerxes, the king of Persia who reigned in his palace in Susa. The King banished Queen Vashti from his presence after she turned down his summon. As a result, the search for a new queen took place across the region. The second character is Esther who among other girls of Harem was taken from their homes to come and live in the palace. Although she was a Jew, Mordecai advised her never to reveal her identity and family background and she obeyed. In the long run, God favored her and soon she was the queen. The third character is Mordecai, Esther’s older cousin. He adopted her after she lost her parents, raised her, and ensured that she was safe even after she went to live in the palace. As a government official, Mordecai’s report saved the life of the king when he reported the assassination plot against him and saved his life, which made the King recognize his loyalty. The fourth major character is Haman who is the descendant of king Agog and hated the Jews. The king gave him a seat of honor because of his lust for power but he had pride and hatred for all those who did not bow down to him. When Mordecai refused to bow down to him, he plotted revenge against the people of God and devised to kill all the Jews. From the book of Esther, there are wisdom and truths that people can learn and use them to build their trust and faith in God.
Whenever Mordecai communicates with Esther, he maintains his faith to God . in Hebrew, deliverance is hatstsalah, and is defined as “rescue”. He is telling her that even if she doesn’t speak up for her people, they will be rescued in some other way. The second part of his statement is a warning. He says, “…but you and your father’s house will perish.” In the commentary for this verse in the ESV Study Bible it states that Mordecai is implying that their family will “be punished for Esther’s refusal to act. God is apparently the one who will punish them…” From this portion of the verse alone, it seems as though the author is assuming a presupposition of faith of the reader. Is it possible that the author made no direct reference to God because the story was directed toward a Jewish audience?
The fact that Mordechai tore his clothes, wore sackcloths and ashes, went in the midst of the city, wailed loudly and bitterly, and went as far as the king’s gate despite the fact that no one was allowed to enter the kings gate clothed in a sackcloth, shows that it reaches a point where we need to act so that our plea can be heard. If it were not for his actions, maybe the people would not have been delivered or the deliverance could have taken longer.Therefore, trusting in God, believing in Him, and acting bravely determines the path our tribulations will take. As Christians, we should not be oppressed and sit back and watch but instead, we need to act in all matters pertaining our personal lives, family, national, or global while maintaining trust and faith in the Lord.
In the last part of the verse Mordecai suggests that this crisis may be the very reason that Esther has “come to the kingdom”. The Hebrew word for come is nag’ and one of the definitions listed that I found to be most interesting was “to befall” (of fate). The word fate, in the English dictionary, is defined as “the development of events beyond a person’s control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power”. The next word in the verse that is worth noting is kingdom. The Hebrew word is malkuwth. The definition of malkuwth is royalty or royal power. One could interpret this as saying that Esther’s new royal power was her determined by a supernatural power.
“Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will as fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish,’”
Even though the life we are facing today may be different from what Esther faced, the similarity is that we live in fear and uncertainty just like Esther. The future may seem unclear or dark and the past may have broken us but God still places us in a strategic position of influence with a great purpose in His mind. Therefore, we have to trust Him because in most cases the difficult moments we face or the situation we are in are not solely about us but about Him and about the bigger plan He has for his people. As Christians, we need to trust him, pray, fast, and follow his lead for He shall never leave us nor forsake us.
God Turns Trials into Blessings
The first lesson that people can learn from the book of Esther is that only God can turn trials into blessings. Therefore, there is no need to doubt the ability of God because everything is possible with him regardless of the situation one is facing. From chapter one to ten of the book, power and miraculous works are evident all over the chapters and in every word. In the story, there is constant redemption in the life of Esther, a story that speaks volume to the lives people live today. Things in Esther’s life did not go as she expected despite the fact that many would focus on her beauty and her royal position as a queen while forgetting where she came from. Esther was an orphan who had suffered a lot even at her young age. Even after rising to become a queen, Esther still faced difficult times. Her people, the Jews, continued to face destruction and tragedy to an extent that she felt alone. Even though she encountered a trial after another, there is still hope that is present in the whole story hence the powerful thing about the book.
The story affirms that God is ever at work even though we may not be seeing the whole story but just the prevailing situations. However, God knows the whole story and he has proven to be Alpha and Omega in all situations. Even in times of trial, uncertainties, and lost hope, God sets a stage for great things to happen“…And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this. This is a clear indication that God’s blessing surpasses our troubles and always His goodness shines all through, and that is his nature and how he works.
God gives strength to people He wants to carry his Assignments
The third thing that is evident in this book is that when God asks us to do something, he gives us the strength to do it. That means that obedience is vital when it comes to doing what the voice of the Lord commands us to do because it can determine the life of many generations to come. In most cases, we may not be fully aware of how our actions and faithfulness works in powerful ways around us. Therefore, we should not live in fear and run away from his guidance despite our unpreparedness for the assignment. The reason is that when God decides to use us, he equips us for the assignment and paves a way where we may not be expecting through his power because his grace is sufficient and he covers us from behind and leads us through the assignment.
When Mordecai sent Queen Esther the message about the grave danger their people were facing, she had several options. She could have chosen to keep quiet, save herself, turned the other way, or just believe the best will happen.The good thing is that they both knew that God had placed Esther in that position for a reason and had a great purpose with her. Esther was wise; she took a stand and never feared or worried about it for God was by her side. She prayed and fasted and asked her people to do the same. Her willingness to act and follow God’s lead saved the lives of the Jews, and the fact that she was ready to lose her life in the process shows her commitment and belief in God’s lead.
Deliverance & Position
Our prayers, voices, and actions matter and Deliverance is God’s
The second aspect that is evident in the book of Esther is that our prayers, voices, and actions matter and God always delivers us from our tribulations through people he places in the position of authority. Due to our voice, prayers, and actions matter before God, we are free to choose to live with kindness and grace. This shows that as citizens, we can choose to get involved in, be the voice, be engaged, and be the people to make the difference in our nation and the world at large. Esther knew that her actions mattered while Mordechai also knew that his voice mattered and through their obedience and wisdom, God saved his people. Mordecai had a belief that even if they would not find the help they needed through Esther, God would still help them during the hard times. Mordecai’s faith that God would send help in a different way and trust in God’s power shows that life and our positions in life are not all about us but about what God does through those who are in power. This is a good reflection of what people are facing today. However, the book ascertains that most of the tribulations we go through can be due to a lack of faith and understanding the power of God and what the Lord is capable of doing. Despite the hardships, God heard the prayers and the cry of his people delivered them. It is evident from the book that “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish…”
The happenings of this book demand that we have faith that God may help us to be willing to pray, fast, and wait for His guidance and direction and ensure that we work on the wisdom he has given us. Besides, the book tells us that we should be ever faithful and pray for those in authority because we may need someone to stand in the gap when the people are being oppressed and persecuted by those in power. In addition, the book requires that we may be brave to discern and speak with wisdom and at the same time have the heart of compassion and love. Besides, it requires that we ask God to help us be strong and follow His voice even though it may be something that is not popular in our culture because in some cases he works contrary to our expectations.
“1 When Mordecai learned all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city and wailed loudly and bitterly. 2 He went as far as the king’s gate, for no one was to enter the King’s gate clothed in sackcloth.”
God can bring great favor and blessing on our lives, even in hard places.
God has favored and blessed his people in hard places that most of us cannot believe. Often when He blesses and favors us, we are sure of feeling animosity from other people. When we live in a dark world like salt and light, we should be sure of attacks against us. Most of the times we will face battles and struggles that we do not even know the root. Luckily, we have God who will cover and protect us through His blessings and favors throughout our life. God’s protection is very strong that no darkness can penetrate. God’s protection and favor were upon Esther from the time she was in the palace. The Bible tells us that she even received favor from all the people who were around her, besides she was blessed greatly by God to the point of her being made the queen. Esther also had favor from the King; the time when she asked to go into the presence of the King without being asked would have led to her death.
“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…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. Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.”
The great favor also made Esther to be allowed to carry out a plan that was to save her people. King Xerxes was ready to go to the banquet twice while prepared for himself and Haman. God’s purposes were being set; Haman was to face his demise soon and the Jews are saved. From this, we can deduce that we can receive protection that is beyond the understanding of the world around us when we dedicate our lives to God through His son Jesus Christ. However, it is not a guarantee that will be free from trials, we will face them, but for us, in times of trials, we will be under the blessing and protection of God.
God is forever faithful to lead us and fight on our behalf.
God is forever faithful. Sometimes He needs our patience and other times He grants us our needs quickly. The important thing is recognizing what He needs from us and going as per His Spirit and His Leadership. His time is always the best time; even if we might start to feel forgotten, or when things are not going our way, or even if His timing is different from our timing. He is always at work, though most of the time this is beyond our vision. God’s time lays out all the crucial plans at the best time. It is intricately woven into the purpose and stories of our lives and not thrown together or haphazardly. Mordecai and Queen Esther went through critical days while working for the people, but they carried out everything in God’s glory and their plans happened at the best time. And in the end, all the enemies of the Jews were destroyed. “No one could stand against them, because the people of all other nationalities were afraid of them.”
The plan of killing the Jews had been stopped, and the fear of Gods was all around. The whole land was now aware of the reputations of God to a point where “many people of other nationalities even became Jews because the fear of the Jews had seized them.” When we have God in our presence, our enemies cannot come near us; rather they will flee. God’s power can neither be destroyed nor thwarted; He is with us, covering us, carrying us, and guiding us every time. We should remember that He is forever faithful to fight our battles for us; and therefore, we should follow His lead and believe that His timing is the best. However, we should pray to Him to help us know when to be patient and when to speak for ourselves and others. God is always on our side, and He will never neglect us when we face challenges. His power will always come to our rescue, and His mercies and faithfulness new each day.
Humility is key. Pride is a trap.
Esther’s story is a good lesson here; pride is a trap and can be a reason for our demise. In the Bible, people had to decide whether they were to live with humility or pride. Individuals who chose integrity and humility before God conquered all the hard circumstances through his power and grace. Individuals who walked with pride faced defeat. Esther was already in high places when Mordecai informed her of the evil plan plotted for the Jews. Esther was already successful and very powerful, but she cared about her people, never turned her back on them, and was there to support them when they were in need. Esther showed humility in her caring act. She considered the needs of other people before her needs and never thought highly about herself, though she had enough to be proud.
While Esther chose humility, Haman chose pride. Haman was out to destroy other people and better himself. He destroyed those who did not bend their knees for him. God turned back the evil plans of Haman to him and destroyed his life. Mordecai was honored, and the Jews saved.
The book Esther teaches us as Christians and believers that we must be decisive as evident in the last verse of the book. “Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.”
The verse and the whole books tell us that when God gives people power or places them in authority in life it is never about them but about Him. Every action and all aspects of their lives should, therefore, point to Him and His truth. Throughout our lives, we must decide and our decisions lie in whether we take pride in life or our accomplishments and what God has bestowed on us or take the path of humility and allow God shine through our deeds and lives. As for the case of Mordechai and Esther, the key was “Less of me, more of Him.” Because they were willing to be obedient and stay humble before God, He used them to save his people from destruction. Therefore, it is good that we follow God’s lead, listen to his voice, and act in the wisdom he has bestowed in us.
Furthermore, the sovereignty of the Almighty God is evident in the book of Esther despite the fact that God is not mentioned across the book. As a consequence, whenever we encounter trials and trouble, we should be assured that God works for our situation in us on our behalf and on behalf of all those surrounding us no matter how difficult the situations are. In all things that we go through, we must understand that God is on the throne and nothing is beyond his powers. God cares for us, loves us, and he knows all the tribulations we are going through even when no one does.
The main theme in the book of Esther is the life-changing truth that God is Sovereign. He reigns all over us and nothing can take him by surprise. There is no place in the book we read about God but it is evident that He is in control over his people. He raised those who were faithful to act and in the end, he saved his people. Even though spiritual darkness may try to blot the existence of power and truth amongst believers, God is ever in control and holds the final victory. God is above all powers of darkness and therefore, we should fix our eyes on him and He will never leave or fail us at the time of need as long as we obey his voice and act according to his lead. Above all, we should know that our acts and prayers mater before him. Therefore, prayer and fasting should be part of our lifestyle even though it may not be part of our culture.
Exegetical idea is a complete sentence that summarizes the major idea of a passage and tells the subject and the object of the passage.
Homiletical ideas are statements that are treated unconsciously and considered as an exaggeration.
The purpose of this sermon is to use the book of Esther with a special focus on chapter 4 of the book to unravel the works of God in people’s daily lives. Just like Esther, people are facing hardships, trials, and tough times. However, the difference is brought about by the difference in their trust and believing in God as Esther did. Therefore, the sermon seeks to make people understand that above all challenges that they encounter in the world today, God has a great purpose for them and they need to act as Mordecai because God has placed people in authority like Esther to intervene in their situations. Therefore, prayers, actions, and fasting matter in our daily lives for they are the key to God’s deliverance.
This sermon focuses on the themes listed below:
Art Scroll Series Megillas Esther, The Answer Is by Rabbi Chagai Vilosky published by Mesorah Publications, Ltd. Brooklyn, NY www.artscroll.com
Mobilereference, . (2007). American standard bible. Place of publication not identified: Mobilereference Com.
The Megillah, The Book of Esther Tanach Series – Mesorah Publications, ltd.
Constable, Dr. Thomas L.. “Notes on Esther.” Soniclight.org. www.soniclight.org/constable/notes/pdf/esther.pdf (accessed March 15, 2013).
“Esther.” In ESV Study Bible, 849-863. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008.
“Fate.” Dictionaries, Oxford. Oxford Dictionary of English, 2nd Edition. 2 ed. Oxford University Press, 2010.
Hamilton, Victor P.. Handbook on the historical books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2001.
Strong, James. The new Strong’s exhaustive concordance of the Bible: with main concordance, appendix to the main concordance, topical index to the Bible, dictionary of the Hebrew Bible, dictionary of the Greek Testament. Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1996.
Tull, Patricia K. Interpretation: Esther and Ruth. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.
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