Esther 5-6: Astonishing Sovereignty
August 23, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
We are coming closer to the pinnacle of this extraordinary narrative. Esther, canny as ever, puts on her royal robes, marking her out with distinction as holding a special position in the king’s eyes (5:1). She stands in his view, and again she wins his favor, and he extends mercy to her so that she is allowed unbidden into the king’s presence (5:2) and does not suffer death as was the custom for those who dared to attend the king without his explicit previous permission.
The king knows that she must have something important on her mind, and so offers to grant her request however large it may be (5:3). Canny again, Esther instead determines to put the king in a yet better mood by inviting him and Haman (her and the Jews’ great enemy) to a special feast (5:4). The king agrees (5:5). At the feast, the king asks once more what is on Esther’s mind (5:6), and Esther once more delays—hoping presumably to put the king in such a frame of mind that he was most likely to be agreeable. She invites the king and Haman to another feast (5:7-8).
Haman is overjoyed (5:9). He is having the special treatment of being in the king’s presence and at this specially prepared feast that he and the king only were bidden to attend. But Mordecai, who has refused to bow before him, is there at the gate as he leaves (5:9). Fuming, he tells his cronies and his wife about his anger, and they advise him to build gallows to have Mordecai hanged (5:10-14).
He agrees to this evil idea out of pure spite and he has the gallows made (5:14). But that night the king cannot sleep (6:1). He has the records of the memorable deeds of his reign brought to him (6:1)—surely the minutes of committee meetings are as good a cure for insomnia as anything. And as he reads, he realizes Mordecai has not been honored for his part in saving the king’s life (6:2-3). He asks who is in the court at that time, and Haman is there because he wants to get the king’s permission to kill Mordecai (6:4-5).
Haman is brought in and asked the fateful question regarding what the king should do to the one he desires to honor (6:6). Haman lays it on thick, every possible way of exalting himself in the eyes of others is brought to bear, thinking that the king must mean to honor Haman himself (6:6-9). Instead, it is Mordecai who is to be so honored, and Haman who must do the honoring (6:10-11).
Utterly devastated, Haman reports this astonishing turn of events—from being out to kill his adversary to having, on the king’s orders, to proclaim the exaltation and honor of his adversary (6:12-13). With a surprising callousness, his wife merely insists, with also clarity of insight, that Haman’s doom must be around the corner if this is the way things are going (6:13).
The lesson? God delights to turn a hangman’s noose into a rescue operation, a cross into a means of saving the world. Your suffering, your pain, are no doubt bad, perhaps even evil; yet it is God’s way to use such things to bring about the salvation of many. His sovereignty is such that not even the darkest deeds of man, not even the most powerful tyrant imaginable, not even the secret plotting of agents moving against us in smoke-filled rooms, designing daggers to thrust into our backs—none of that is beyond his ability to turn to our advantage and his glory.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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