The Lord’s Message: God Is at Work: God Is on Our Side

The Lord’s Message:  God Is at Work:  God Is on Our Side
Date:  July 30, 2023
Where:  Tilghman United Methodist Church
Scripture Reference:  Esther 8: 1-8, 11-12

            Today, we are wrapping up the book of Esther.  I must admit that I had not done any extensive study on this book until I started preparing messages for it.  The Lord kept opening my eyes increasingly to knowledge found in this book.  I hope that I was able to pass on some of that knowledge to you.  I hope by having this knowledge that you may grower closer to God and understand that God is at work in all of us. 

            If you came in here this morning thinking, I am not sure that God is at work in my life.  I am dealing with a lot of problems.   As soon as I get over one problem, another pops up.  I feel like I am playing whack-a-mole.  Well, if that is you today, I have good news.  God is at work in your life.  Queen Esther, Mordecai, and the Jews know how you feel.

            Let us pray. 

            When we ended last week with the story of Esther, Haman was impaled on the pole that he set up for Mordecai.  As we open to Esther chapter 8, the estate of Haman has been given to none other than Mordecai.  (Esther 8:1-2) How the tables have turned?  This is all because of God at work. 

            But there is still a problem.  The edict that Haman had King Xerxes put into effect to annihilate the Jews.  King Xerxes is oblivious to the danger that Queen Esther, Mordecai and the Jews are still in.  That is why Queen Esther makes the bold move of going to see the king.  Once again, putting her life in danger.  Look at verses 3 & 4.  If you remember when Mordecai was upset with the law, put on sackcloth, and covered himself with ashes, Queen Esther was concerned that the king would have Mordecai killed.  She sent clothes out to him.  This was because the king did not want to deal with bad problems.  Now, Esther comes in sobbing, pleading, and falling at the king’s feet.  The king could have easily had Esther killed.  God moved the heart of this king to compassion.  The king extended the golden scepter to hear Esther’s plea. 

            Her plea is found in verses 5 & 6.  After hearing Esther’s plea, the king decides since he can’t revoke the original law, that a new law must be written to counteract the previous law.  Guess who writes the new law?  Mordecai.  Look at verses 9 & 10.  Haman, the enemy of the Jews, had written the previous law because he was upset that Mordecai would not show him respect.  Mordecai is now writing a new law to counter act Haman’s law.  God is at work.

            In verses 11 & 12, we have the new law.  The law is quickly carried out on couriers on the royal horses. (Esther 8:14).  The people’s reaction to this new law is found in verses 15 & 16.   When the day arrived for Haman’s law and Mordecai’s law to go into effect, the result was a stunning victory for the Jewish people.  Look at Esther 9:1-4.  God is at work.  It is a good thing that God is on the side of the Jewish people. 

            The Jewish people celebrate this victory of God over evil as The Feast of Purim.  The name Purim comes from casting lots. (Esther 3:7) A group of stones with different marks on them would be tossed and the pattern would give the meaning.  A priest usually did this.  This was not unique to the Medes and Persians but was also done by Israel.  In Joshua 18:10, Joshua cast lots to determine which tribe would be in which area of the Promised Land.  When a violent storm arose and was about to swamp the boat in Jonah 1:7, the sailors cast lots to determine who was responsible for this raging storm.  Proverbs 18:18 tells us that the reason for casting lots was to settle disputes. 

            The Feast of Purim is not one of the three feasts that God commanded the Israelites to celebrate.  In Exodus 23:14-19, those three festivals are:  Festival of the Unleavened Bread (Passover), Festival of the Harvest (Pentecost), and the Festival of the Ingathering (Feast of the Tabernacles).  The Feast of Purim is one that is not celebrated by many Hebrews today.

            If it were to be celebrated, according to the book: The Feasts of Israel by Bruce Scott, it would be celebrated in two ways.  The adult version is celebrated with a heavy drink of wine.  So much so that one cannot tell the difference between the saying “cursed be Haman: or “blessed be Mordecai.”  The family version is something like Halloween, where adults and children dress up like the people in the story.  Purim plays are presented.  In Israel, there are parades with Purim floats and marching bands.  There is a joyous time for all.  In both, the scroll of Esther is read in the synagogue and every time the name of Haman is read there is loud booing, stomping of feet, hissing, whistling, and the spinning of a noise maker called a gregger.  The idea is to blot out the name of Haman with so much noise that the name will never be heard of again.  At home, a special holiday meal is eaten in the afternoon.  This meal is plentiful and festive.  A dessert is served called a Hamantashen.  Hamantashen is a three-corner filled pastry with poppy seeds, prunes, and other fruit.  It resembles Haman’s hat.  It is customary to share the food by sending over pots to friends and neighbors. It is also customary to give alms to the poor. 

            What should we have learned from the Book of Esther?  First, God will use any one and everyone to carry out God’s plan.  It is does not matter what country you are in or whether you believe in God or not.  God used the king to carry out His plan.  God used Esther and Mordecai to carry out His plan.  Esther was an orphan exile.  Mordecai was an exile.  The king was naïve about how God was using him.  God loves everybody.  Everybody is made in the image of God.  As believers we are called to love everybody.   Everybody is important to God.  No one is out of God’s realm of love.  As Paul says in Galatians 3:26-28, there is no difference in the body of Christ. 

            Second, God answers all prayers.  Esther and her attendants, Mordecai and all the Jewish people in Susa fasted and prayed for three days.  God answered their prayers.  In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus says you do not have because you do not ask.  As the body of Christ, we should be people of prayer if we want to see God’s will be “done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

            Third, God is always at work even when we do not see Him.  God does not take a vacation.  God’s phone is not busy, and God will never put you on hold.  God may say wait or no.  God is always as work.   We just need to have faith and trust in God.  Amen. 

August 7, 2023 5:15 am