CDPCKL · A Strangely Selective Outrage (Esther 2:19-4:2)

A Strangely Selective Outrage (Esther 2:19-4:2)

Bong-bongggg… 

Last week, on “Echoes of a Far-Away Country”: 

King Xerxes of Persia: “Oh, I am such a loser! Who knew the Greeks would resent being invaded so much? I am so angry right now I swear could just impale somebody!” 

The king’s personal attendants: “Uh, your royal highness…” 

Xerxes: “WHAT?!” 

Attendants: “Ummmmm…have you heard about this new reality show? It’s called The Bachelor: Persia. And it stars you sleeping with hundreds of — no, thousands! — of beautiful young virgins. Oh, and look! You have a new match .8 kilometers away. Her name is Esther, she has a beautiful face and a — how do you get this thing to rotate? — yes, a lovely figure. She likes piña coladas, long walks on the beach, and submitting to absolutely everything the men in her life tell her to do. Doesn’t she sound more fun than impaling somebody …?” 

Xerxes: “Hmmm, yes, bring her in. But bring in all the other matches also! I don’t want to settle too quickly, I’d like to play the field for a while first, develop some points of comparison…” 

Then we have a shot of Mordecai, Esther’s adoptive father: “Oh, I am such a fool! If only I had obeyed God and moved back to Jerusalem when he told me to! Now I have lost Esther, I have lost everything!” 

And now here’s the theme music, with footage from the show: Xerxes speeching, men fighting, Xerxes chasing terrified girls around a bedroom — remember, this show is rated 18+ — and that iconic shot of a guy twitching on the top of a very tall pole, and, ah! There it is: “skip intro”, *click-click* — 

[19] When the virgins were assembled a second time 

A second time? What does that mean? 

Nobody knows. 

Some scholars think that, after Xerxes’ reality show was over, the losers were brought out of the harem and paraded before the court one last time so they could meet and congratulate the winner — but if that were true, why did the writer still call them virgins? 

So other scholars have suggested that Xerxes’ enjoyed his role in The Bachelor: Persia so much that he sponsored a second season. After all, we know from another source that he was kidnapping 500 beautiful boys every year, so adding 500 beautiful girls a year to the shopping list would not really cost very much more, there is always a discount when you buy in bulk… 

At any rate, 

[19] When the virgins were assembled a second time, Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate. 

Which means he was some kind of important official in the king’s court. 

In those days the “gate” leading into the palace was actually a huge hall, a dewan bandaraya full of clerks and lawyers and judges, all conducting the business of the empire. 

And some scholars believe this detail is mentioned here because this was actually a promotion for Mordecai — a promotion that Esther pulled some strings to get for him from her new position as queen. 

[20] But — even if she did get Mordecai this promotion — Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up. 

The writer is continuing to develop Esther’s submissive character for us. He wants us to know that, even though she is now the Queen of Persia, the most powerful woman in the world, the power has not gone to her head. She is still honoring Mordecai as her father, obeying his instructions even though she is well out of his reach. 

[21] During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. [22] But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. [23] And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were impaled on poles. 

Impaled on poles? What does that mean? 

…it means exactly what it sounds like it means: a very slow and uncomfortable way to die, a very popular public execution in the ancient Persian empire. And just one more reason why the Book of Esther is rated 18+, Not Suitable For All Audiences. 

All this was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king. 

And another ancient historian tells us the Persian kings were very generous with their rewards as well as their punishments. If you betrayed them, you got impaled. But if you proved your loyalty in some amazing way, as Mordecai has just done, you could expect some amazing benefits to come your way, usually a promotion: governor of some great province, or perhaps even a Prime Minister position! 

And that is why, [1] after these events, King Xerxes honoredHaman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. 

What is going on? Mordecai just saved the king’s life! Where is his promotion? And who is this guy Haman? Why does he get to be a Prime Minister? What has he done? 

Well, apparently Haman has done some serious royal butt-kissing. We can tell because: 

[2] All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. 

Normally, if a Prime Minister is actually a good, honorable man, the other parliament members will treat him with the honour he deserves. The fact that Xerxes has to command everyone to kneel down and honour Haman means that Haman was not honoured by his colleagues. 

But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor. 

[3] Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Hey, why do you get to disobey the king’s command? We hate this guy also! Why do we have to kneel when you don’t?” [4] Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply — though eventually, apparently, Mordecai did explain to them why he was refusing to kneel: because he was a Jew. 

But this leaves us wondering what being a Jew has to do with it. In the bible we often find God’s people bowing down before kings and officials and even honored guests, it is not as if God has a law forbidding his people from showing appropriate honour to other people. So how does Mordecai being a Jew explain anything? 

The answer is found in the names: Haman is the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite: he is descended from Agag. Who was Agag? Agag was a king who attacked King Saul’s people about 600 years before this. 

Who was King Saul? He was the first king over God’s people Israel. He was from the tribe of Benjamin, and his father was a man named Kish. And just last week Mordecai was introduced to us as a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish: Mordecai is descended from King Saul. 

King Agag’ people hated God and God’s people, and tried to wipe them out several times. In response, God had commissioned King Saul to wipe out King Agag’s people instead, as an act of divine judgement. But Saul disobeyed and allowed some of Agag’s people to escape, and because of this God actually took the kingship away from Saul. 

And so now, 600 years later, Mordecai is determined to redeem his ancestor’s dishonour, he is determined to succeed where his ancestor failed: when he finds out that Haman is descended from the ancestral enemy of God’s people, well! — he may not be in a position to wipe out Haman, but at least he can resist Haman’s unjust promotion. 

This is what Mordecai meant when he told his colleagues he cannot bow because he is a Jew. 

Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated. 

Because if Mordecai gets away with disrespecting Haman, they want to disrespect Haman also! 

But [5] when Haman saw for himself that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. 

Which suggests that Mordecai was at least smart about his rebellion: he stood behind a pillar or something whenever Haman passed through the court, and got away with it until Haman started paying particular attention. 

And, then, after Haman confirms that Mordecai is descended from the mortal enemy of Haman’s ancestor, well…then Haman scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes. 

Hundreds of years earlier, King Agag’s people tried and failed to wipe out King Saul’s people. In response, King Saul had tried and failed to wipe out King Agag’s people. Now the descendant of one of Agag’s people has decided to finish the job. 

So, [7] in the twelfth year of King Xerxes — nine years after this story began, five years after Esther first became queen — in the first month, the month of Nisan, the pur (that is, the lot) was cast in the presence of Haman to select a day and month. And the lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar. 

Now, what is Haman doing? What is this “pur” that he is casting? 

The pur were, basically, dice: little clay cubes with letters or dots on them. And by asking questions, casting these dice, and then reading them, people in the Persian empire thought they were communicating with the gods, finding out which day would be the “lucky” day to accomplish something. 

Apparently the Persian gods have just told Haman that the best time to wipe out the Jewish people is 11 months from now. 

Okay. But Haman is clever. He knows that revenge is a dish best served cold, with the real reasons hidden behind all kinds of false advertising. So: 

[8] Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them.” 

And this is a very ironic accusation. Because it is true that the Jews generally lived according to strange religious rules: they refused to eat certain kinds of food or wear certain kinds of clothing. They were weird people! But Mordecai — the true target of Haman’s vengeance — is so good at fitting in, so good at breaking all of God’s laws, that nobody even knew until now that he was a Jew! 

Haman goes on: [9] “If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king’s administrators for the royal treasury.” 

That amount is approximately 1/3rd of the empire’s annual revenue! So if Haman is serious, then he must be a very, very wealthy man, he is like the Jeff Bezos of Persia or something. 

[10] So the king — who lost a lot of money trying to conquer Greece — took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. [11] “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman, “and do with the people as you please.” 

Basically, Xerxes is saying, “I accept your money, and I give it right back to you to do what you need to do.” He does not even ask for the name of these terrible “enemies of the state”! 

Worst. king. ever. 

But by this point we are not even surprised. In the pilot episode Xerxes was manipulated into doing something stupid by his seven “wise” men. In Episode Two his personal attendants manipulated him into molesting a bunch of girls. So it makes sense that the biggest butt-kisser in the empire has no problem now manipulating him again. Xerxes has all the power in the world! — itty-bitty thinking-space. 

[12] Then on the thirteenth day of the first month the royal secretaries were summoned. They wrote the whole thing out: how on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month everyone in the empire who wanted to would be allowed to murder their Jewish neighbors — young and old, women and children — and steal their stuff. And these instructions were written in the name of King Xerxes himself and sealed with his own ring. 

So [15] the couriers went out, spurred on by the king’s command, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.

That is how out of touch Xerxes is. He wants to be called “the Great” like his father and grandfather, he wants to stabilise and extend the empire he has inherited, he wants to Make Persia Great Again — but he does not even know what a destabilizing effect his stupidity is having just .8 kilometers away, outside the walls of his palace. He is inside drinking and partying while the seeds of rebellion start growing in the city all around him! because these citizens have to be thinking to themselves, “Hey, if Xerxes can suddenly decide to wipe out one ethnic group for no apparent reason, how can we be sure he won’t do it again next year to one of us?” 

But Mordecai is not out of touch: [1] When he learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. 

Haman’s triumph is complete. 

He could have denounced Mordecai directly to the king and gotten him impaled right away. But he didn’t — perhaps because Mordecai was such an obviously good and loyal servant of the empire. Why take the chance that Xerxes might remember how Mordecai actually saved his life from assassins? That could make Xerxes wonder which side Haman is really on. 

So instead, Haman disguised his plans, played on the king’s fears of rebellion, and planned a genocide that makes no sense to anyone! — except Mordecai. Mordecai sees right through the layers of deception to the truth: this decree is his own fault. If he had just knelt down before Haman, his people would not be in danger of genocide. 

But it is interesting to notice that, even after this great gesture of rebellion against Haman and against Persian law, Mordecai falls right back into his old habits: 

[2] He went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. 

And there is an extremely painful irony at work here: 

All his life, Mordecai has been careful to avoid breaking Persian law, even if it means breaking God’s law. He thought that, by disobeying God and doing his best to fit into Persian culture, he could preserve his family’s future. Instead, in Episode Two, his disobedience cost him his family’s future. 

Okay. Fine. Lesson learned. So here, in Episode Three, Mordecai finally decides to stand up and publically take God’s side against an ancient enemy of God’s people — and now his obedience has just cost him his people’s future! 

After which he reverts back to being a good, law-abiding citizen who cannot break the rules… 

But, hang on a second, let’s pause and make sure we understand this flow of events: when Mordecai hides his true identity, he loses his daughter. But then, when he reveals his true identity, he loses his people! 

How is this fair? We understand that disobedience to God’s will results in negative consequences. But shouldn’t obedience result in good consequences? 

…but maybe we should ask this question: was it God’s will for Mordecai to stand up and make this symbolic gesture of defiance against the ancestral enemy of God’s people? Or was Mordecai actually continuing in his disobedience? 

Let’s think it through: 

On one hand, it is true that God had commanded King Saul to wipe out King Agag’s people. God had promised he would be at war against Agag’s people from generation to generation until they were all gone. 

On the other hand, the writer of this book does not even hint that God wanted Mordecai to revive that ancient war at this time — especially not in such a symbolic fashion! I mean: if Mordecai had publically challenged Haman to a duel or something — “Your fathers killed my fathers, prepare to die!” — that would be one thing, right? But to just quietly disrespect Haman behind his back and then refuse to explain why for the longest time…this just does not seem like a very God-glorifying approach to resolving this “justice issue”.

Besides, don’t we find the timing and the target of Mordecai’s sudden passion for social justice just a bit convenient? Sure, Haman is the enemy of the Jews, the writer says so right here in verse 10. But he is also the guy who got promoted to Prime Minister while Mordecai got passed over. So this is not just political, it is personal. 

It is also interesting to notice that, when Mordecai pretends he is not one of God’s people, it advances his career. But then, when he finally admits that he is one of God’s people, it also has the potential to advance his career! — at least, that is what his colleagues thought he was doing: making some kind of power-move against Haman. 

But on the other hand, Haman is clearly a corrupt, power-abusing tyrant. Surely it must be God’s will for Mordecai to use his high position to resist Haman, perhaps even remove him? In fact, wouldn’t Susa Province be better off if Mordecai was Prime Minister instead of a godless man like Haman? 

Well…there are at least two problems with that kind of thinking: 

First, this part of the world has already had a godly Prime Minister. 70 years earlier a man named Daniel had been a Prime Minister in the Persian empire, and he was an amazingly godly man. But what difference did his faithfulness make, really? Was the Persian empire transformed by Daniel’s godly rule? Apparently not! — judging by King Xerxes’ godless performance so far. 

Second, Mordecai is not a godly man! He is a “nice” guy, sure; a good man, generally speaking — but he does not have Daniel’s faithful character. He has a track record of compromise, and even his sudden righteous “outrage against injustice” here is just a bit selective and self-benefiting. So: 

On the other hand, it would be a mistake to assume that a man who has been consistently unfaithful to God at a lower level of authority would suddenly become faithful when promoted to a higher level. 

In short: there is no evidence that Mordecai was obeying God in his one man Bersih Rally here. Which means this terrible result is actually a fair consequence for Mordecai’s disobedience. Basically, the details of how Mordecai disobeys have changed, but his heart has not changed: he is still just as self-preserving and career-driven as he was five years earlier when he lost Esther. 

Last week, Mordecai’s disobedience and pride condemned his daughter to a pagan marriage. This week, the same disobedience and pride has condemned his people to genocide. 

 

But before we pass too heavy a judgement upon Mordecai here, we really should admit that we are a lot like him, aren’t we? 

When Mordecai received a clear specific command from God to go back to Jerusalem, he ignored it because it did not benefit him. But when he was passed over for promotion, and his place given to a corrupt godless man, suddenly he remembered all the vague generalized commands of God about the need for social justice, and then he was full of righteous outrage. 

It is so often the same way with us. We love to be seen to be faithful in the big, public things, right? especially in this age of social media where it costs us nothing to “like” some page or post about some issue that will also — conveniently! — make us look good in some way. This is such a common activity now that we even have a name for it: “virtue signalling”. But when it comes to obedience in the little, obvious, practical things like “love your neighbor”…that kind of obedience is much more difficult, isn’t it? 

But before we pass too heavy a judgement upon ourselves, we really should realize that we are not unique. According to scripture, all of God’s people have always struggled with this, and God has always been frustrated at us about it. 

Here is an example from the Old Testament, from the Book of Isaiah, that we actually read together today during our Prayer of Confession: the people come to God and say, “Look at how wonderfully publically religious we are! We are fasting and praying, we are virtue signalling all over the place here. So why won’t you let us conquer the world?” And God says, “Come on, are you serious? Sure, you’re super religious, and yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers! Why would I trust you to rule the nations fairly when you can’t even rule your employees fairly?” 

And here is an example from the New Testament, where Jesus says this: “Woe to you hypocrites! You make sure to publically give a tithe from every little thing in your garden, you love virtue signalling every day on social media. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness.” 

What God is pointing out in these passages is that, all too often, the parts of his law that we love to follow are the parts that are more symbolic, more theoretical, less important to him — while we leave the more practical, clear and foundational commands undone. Because, like Mordecai, we assume that obedience in “big” issues — like resisting Haman — must surely be more important than obedience in “little” issues — like moving the family back to Jerusalem. 

And this tendency even changes the way we read God’s commands in scripture. For instance, when God says, in Isaiah, “loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, set the oppressed free!” we often read this and say, “There! See? God wants us to publically resist tyrants like Haman. God wants us to go into politics and transform the nation from the top down through our godly rule!” 

But if we read the very next verse in Isaiah, God tells us exactly what he means when he says he wants us to loose the chains of injustice: “Share your food with the hungry. Provide the poor wanderer with shelter. When you see the naked, clothe them. And above all: do not turn away from your own flesh and blood! 

God is saying, “Hey, it is wonderful that you all want to be godly Prime Ministers, I do wish every nation on earth had a godly Prime Minister. But may I make a suggestion here? Start by being godly parents first. Start by being godly spouses. Start by being good neighbors. And then we’ll see how!” 

But when we hear those clear instructions, like Mordecai, we often go, “Mmmm, yeah, but is that really effective? Better I should make some noise where it can really make a difference!” 

So this brings us around to our application for today. Every week we like to ask what this is supposed to mean for us, what difference God’s Word is supposed to make in our lives. So let’s do that now: 

It is clear, at this point, that we all have a problem. Last week we realized that, like Mordecai, we all tend to think we know better than God how to care for our families. This week we have realized that, like Mordecai, we also tend to think we know better than God how to care for larger social justice issues. Now, our Father keeps telling us that, if we prioritise obedience at a local family and community level, this will result in greater obedience at a national level. But we keep ignoring him because we are convinced we already know better how to redeem society — ! 

How can we break this pattern of disobedience? 

Well, so far in the Book of Esther, we have learned that human tyranny and disobedience is driven by pride which is actually rooted in our insecurities. We have learned that, if we can resolve our insecurities, our pride and disobedience will begin to melt away. 

So what is the core insecurity that drives us to this tendency to neglect the more important local matters of the law and focus instead on the big society stuff that we cannot possibly have any control over? 

Simply this: in our core, we are afraid that no one is actually in control of the big stuff. That is the fear the pilot episode actually left us hanging with: who exactly is running the Persian empire here? Xerxes is obviously a clown. His seven “wise” men are idiots. Haman is obviously corrupt. Is God paying attention at all to what is going on down here? 

Now, the answer, obviously, is yes. God is paying attention, and he is in control. But it does not look to us like God is in control. Because — like all little children — we assume that if our Father was really in control our lives would be nothing but promotions and prosperity. Like all little children, we fail to understand just how often the negative aspects of our lives are actually consequences of our own disobedience. And, like all little children, we also fail to understand that God’s plan to redeem the nations operates on a scale of hundreds and thousands of years. We want immediate results! When we do not see immediate results, we assume God is not paying attention and we decide it is up to us to take control of the big stuff. 

So this is the first step in breaking our pattern of insecurity and pride leading to disobedience: we must believe that God really is in control of the big stuff. 

Okay. But where is this belief supposed to come from? Is this supposed to be some kind of blind faith for us? 

No. Our faith is supposed to come from our examination of the evidence. And here is some really good news for us all: there is literally thousands of years of evidence for us to look at! evidence that proves God really is in control of the big stuff, that he has a plan for resolving the tyrannies and injustices of our world. 

For instance, going back once again to this passage from Isaiah where God’s children complain about how he is not letting them conquer the world, God answers them first by saying, “Skip the  virtue signalling! Instead, loose the chains of injustice and set the oppressed free by feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the poor, taking care of your families!” But then, just three chapters later in the Book of Isaiah — which we also read together today for our Promise of Forgiveness — God says this: “You know what? Nemind: I am going to come to proclaim good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” 

Basically God said, “I am in control of the big stuff. You don’t believe me. So, to prove it to you, I am going to come down there myself and accomplish what you cannot.” 

And that is exactly what he did. We know this because that passage from Isaiah is the same passage that Jesus preached his first hometown sermon from. He stood there and declared, “I am the fulfillment of this promise. I am the Son of God sent to earth to do what you could not do. I am here to take control of the big stuff, to stand up against injustice and tyranny and transform the nations!” 

But now, here is a key question: how did Jesus accomplish this? 

He did it by being obedient in the little things, all the little local things we overlook in our great ambitions to change the world. He fed people. He clothed them. He healed them, with his hands and with his words. He lived and preached the Good News that there is another kingdom in the world where everything is backwards: where strength is actually weakness, where weakness is actually strength, where big is little and little is big, where the tyrants are silly, and the powerless are loved by God — 

And then he died. He submitted to the greatest injustice of all, so that through his death true justice might be established and all the nations of mankind transformed. 

But Jesus’ death was really just the beginning of the evidence of our Father’s control over the big stuff. First, he raised Jesus back to life to prove his control over Death. And then, from that little seed of life and justice planted in the Roman empire, a new kind of nation began to grow: a nation of people drawn from every nation, a nation that first transformed the Roman empire from the inside-out, and then — when that empire died — exploded outward in every direction to transform all the empires of mankind. 

That nation, God’s nation, is Jesus’ Church. Over the last 2000 years Jesus’ Church has filled the world with the knowledge of God. God’s people really have conquered the nations and transformed them: more and more there is a global consensus on the nature of human rights, on the wrongness of tyranny and slavery, and all of these ideas are actually God’s ideas, taught by God’s Word, lived and preached by centuries of Christians who focused on obedience in the “little” things that are actually the most important things. 

So here is our application for today, this is the first step we must take to break our pattern of disobedience: look at this evidence and believe that God is in charge of the big stuff so that we do not have to be! Mordecai had an excuse for his pride and unbelief: he lived before Jesus at the lowest point in the history of God’s people. But we have no excuse at all for not believing the truth, because we live after Jesus and we have 2,500 more years of evidence than Mordecai did. So: let us believe! and let this truth burn our insecurities away. 

And — now that we have been relieved of the burden of controlling the big stuff that we cannot possibly have any control over — this means we can relax and move on to the second step we must take to break our pattern of disobedience: let us purposefully adopt our Father’s priorities. Let us no longer rely on our human wisdom to tell us what is important and what is not. Let us instead search God’s Word together, allowing God’s Spirit of Wisdom to guide us into obedience to the “little” stuff that is actually the “big” stuff. 

And as we search God’s Word, this is going to be our guiding principle: the clearer parts of scripture explain the less clear parts. When interpreting scripture, always let the clearer parts interpret the less clear parts! 

Now, I know this sounds theoretical, but actually this is a very practical principle. When Christians and churches get off track, this often happens when we ignore God’s clear commands and become obsessed with his more abstract commands. 

For instance, that is the mistake Mordecai made today! He had a very clear and direct command from God: “Go home to Jerusalem. Help rebuild the temple” He also had a more general and theoretical command from God: “Corruption in government should be resisted.” Instead of obeying the clear and direct command, Mordecai tried to obey the more theoretical one. He failed to realize that the very best way for him to resist corruption in the Persian government was by resigning his position, moving to Jerusalem, and helping rebuild the temple, so that God’s plan of redemption for all corrupt governments could be moved forward. 

So this is our commitment as a church: we are going to let the clearer parts of scripture explain the less clear parts. There is a lot of debate today about how Christians are supposed to engage with politics and social justice issues and all that. Debate and discussion is good! But as we participate, we must resist making Mordecai’s mistake: working on a very theoretical sociological national level while ignoring the clear and direct commands of God. It is just like Jesus said: it is good for us to engage in the “big” stuff! — as long as we do not neglect the “little” stuff. Little stuff like…husbands, love your wives. Fathers, raise your children to love the Lord. Everybody: submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. You know: the “little” stuff that actually transforms the world from the bottom-up, from the inside-out… 

Brothers and sisters, it is really not that complicated: should we obey the more general and theoretical, big-picture commands of God? Yes! But the way we actually do this is by obeying the simple, clear, and direct commands, just like Jesus did. 

 

Now, in closing here: I said a few moments ago that Mordecai had more of an excuse for his unbelief than we do. That is true. But Mordecai really did not have much an excuse either. Even at that time, there was already at least 1000 years of evidence that God is in control. 

And the writer deliberately included a piece of that ancient evidence here in this episode. We find it in verse 12, when we are told that this terrible decree of genocide was published on the thirteenth day of the first month. 

To us, that date just sounds like…historical trivia. But for the ancient Jewish people, that date is just one day before the Passover. 

The Passover was a feast that the Jewish people celebrated on the fourteenth day of the first month of every year, a feast designed to remind them that God had once delivered their ancestors from genocide in Egypt 1000 years earlier. 

So, in one sense, for this new genocide to be declared one day before their feast celebrating their previous escape from genocide…sounds like the cruellest kind of coincidence. 

But, in another sense, this “coincidence” is also the quiet voice of God saying, “Don’t worry! Remember, I have delivered you from genocide before. I will do it again.” 

That was God’s whispered promise to Mordecai and his people 2,500 years ago. That is still his promise to us today. So let us eat and drink together now, and remember our redemption through Jesus Christ. 

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