CDPCKL · The Zeresh Prophecy (Esther 5:1-6:14)

The Zeresh Prophecy (Esther 5:1-6:14)


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

Mordecai: “Help us, Esther binti Mordecai, you’re our only hope! Haman is going to use his power as Prime Minister to destroy the entire Jewish nation if you do not beg King Xerxes for mercy!” 

Esther: “Ummmm, you do know how crazy and unpredictable my husband is, right? Why don’t we beg God for mercy instead? Tell all of our people to fast for three days, and then we’ll see how.” 

Mordecai: “…ya. Let’s do that.” 

And now we have the theme music, with footage from the show, and: “skip intro”, *click-click* — 

[1] 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. 

If you remember from last week’s episode, Esther is risking her life here. By Persian law, anyone who approached the throne room without first filing the proper paperwork would be executed — unless the king extended his scepter to them as a gesture of mercy. And this rule even applied to the queen! 

Which some modern readers find a bit hard to believe: why would a king treat his own queen this way? But remember, this is the same guy who got rid of his first queen when she did not come when he called. Who knows what he might do to a queen who shows up when he did not call? 

In addition, he has not called Esther for at least 30 days, which suggests that he has grown a bit bored with her. To make matters worse, Esther has been fasting for 72 hours, which does not improve a person’s appearance — and we know that appearance matters to Xerxes. 

So Esther really does not have much hope of success here. But she does what she can: she dresses up in her official robes of state — to signal that she has some official issue to discuss — and she goes and gets in line with the rest of the supreme court cases waiting to have their matters judged by the king. 

Now, the king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. 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 potong queue and approached and touched the tip of the scepter. [3] Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.” 

Of course, Esther knows he doesn’t mean that: if she actually asked for half the kingdom she would probably just get impaled and Xerxes would sponsor a third season of The Bachelor: Persia. 

Which means Esther has a real problem, because she is actually there to ask for more than half his kingdom: she is there to tell the king that he has made a mistake. 

And most ordinary husbands don’t like to hear that sort of thing from their wives — I know I never have. So now imagine trying to tell the most powerful husband in the world that he has been an idiot! 

[4] “If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.” 

Mmm. That was clever. Now the king knows two things: first, this official issue is so important it requires the presence of the Prime Minister. Second, this official issue is so important it can only be discussed in private — at a banquet, while the king is drunk. Because, if you recall, the Persians always wanted to be really drunk before they made any important decisions. 

And we all know how much Xerxes enjoys getting drunk and making decisions, don’t we! 

And sure enough he says, “Great! Bring Haman at once, so that we may do what Esther asks.” 

So off they go. They eat. And then they start drinking wine, getting ready for the big decision. And the king again asked Esther, “Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.” 

[7] Esther replied, “My petition and my request is this — “ 

And then she pauses. Because Haman is there, the mortal enemy of her people. And how can she speak freely with him sitting there? 

But then we have to ask: why did she invite Haman in the first place? Why didn’t she invite Xerxes alone, and then just tell him directly that Haman has manipulated him? 

…well, let’s play that scenario out in our minds, shall we? 

Esther tells Xerxes, in private, that his Prime Minister is actually corrupt and does not have the king’s best interests at heart. But in order for Xerxes to accept this truth, he will also have to accept that he was too stupid to know he was being manipulated. And history is full of men who refused to reverse a decision they knew was wrong simply because they did not want to have to admit that they were wrong. 

And this process of persuading Xerxes that he was wrong to trust Haman is complicated by the fact that, in Persia, before making any kind of decision, it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice. So even if Esther accused Haman of corruption in private, the king would have to conduct a proper investigation of the charges, and of course Haman — as the Prime Minister — would have a lot of influence over that investigation. And how do you think that is going to turn out? 

Esther has a very delicate task ahead of her. She needs her husband to make a snap decision on this matter, without seeking counsel, and she needs to do this without arousing Haman’s suspicion that he is the target. 

So she invites Haman to dinner with her and the king. And when she pauses here it is not because she is uncertain about what to do next. She pauses because she knows she needs to build up anticipation in both of these men. She wants them both off-balance and eager to hear what she is going to say next. 

And this is what she says next: 

[8] “If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question.” 

And, oh, wow, this is a truly masterful piece of Asian diplomacy right here! Look at how carefully constructed Esther’s invitation is: 

First, she basically says, “when you say ‘yes’ to my invitation, you are also saying ‘yes’ in advance to my request.” And, again, we all know how much Xerxes enjoys a good banquet! 

And, second, she ends by saying, “Then I will answer the king’s question,” as if she is the one submitting to his desires. And we all know how much Xerxes appreciates a submissive woman! 

Now, by accepting Esther’s invitation, has the king really promised to fulfill Esther’s request in advance? No. But the longer she delays, the more interesting and important her request becomes in the king’s mind, which predisposes him toward a positive response when it is finally revealed. 

And, the longer Esther delays, the more interesting and important Haman becomes in his own mind. And we know this because: 

[9] Haman went out that day happy and in high spirits. 

Esther’s plan is working! But then her father Mordecai screws it up: the three days of fasting are over, so he has dressed himself properly and gone back to work in the dewan bandaraya. And when Haman passes through the court, Mordecai still cannot bring himself to show Haman any respect! And so Haman is filled with rage against Mordecai. 

Nevertheless, the writer says, Haman restrained himself and went home. Calling together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, [11] Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. [12] “And that’s not all,” Haman added. “I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. [13] But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.” 

Now, by the standards of scripture, we would say that Haman has some pretty serious heart idolatries. Even by the standards of modern psychology, it is clear that Haman has some kind of narcissistic personality disorder. He is the second most powerful man in the empire! Why should he let the behaviour of one of his co-workers ruin his enjoyment of his success? 

But instead of trying to help the poor guy move toward greater mental and emotional health: 

[14] His wife Zeresh and all his friends encouraged him to continue to indulge himself, “Have a pole set up, reaching to a height of twenty meters, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai impaled on it. Then go with the king to the banquet and enjoy yourself.” 

But this bad advice should not be surprising to us. History is full of women who have encouraged men do things they knew were wrong simply because…who needs the hassle of trying to correct a man? 

Of course, this suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the pole set up. 

And this is meant to be a bit of an ironic joke here, because, by following his wife’s instructions, Haman just broke King Xerxes’ law. What law is that? you may ask. Oh, you know, the law from the pilot episode that says every man should be ruler over his own household. Which just reminds us how hilariously ineffective Xerxes’ law was in the first place. 

Meanwhile, [1] that night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. And this reminds him that Mordecai had once saved his life from assassins. [3] “What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?” the king asked. 

Nothing has been done for him,” his attendants answered. 

And: oh, no! That is terrible news for Xerxes! 

Because — as we learned a couple of episodes ago — Persian kings were very generous in their punishments and in their rewards. For good reason! Generous punishments help encourage loyalty, and so do generous rewards. If word gets around that a king is not as generous as he should be, his servants might start looking for another king who will reward them properly. 

So this really is a bit of an emergency for Xerxes! He needs to quickly prove that he is a good and generous king or else, next time there is an assassination plot against him, his courtiers might not bother to report it. 

But remember, in Persia, before making any kind of decision, it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice. 

So [4] the king said, “Who is in the court? Who is out there that I can ask for advice?” 

Now by this point it is very early in the morning, so ordinarily the dewan bandaraya would be empty. But wouldn’t you know it, Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about impaling Mordecai on the pole he had set up for him. He is so excited about following his wife’s advice that he has come to court early, so he can be the first in queue. 

So the king’s attendants peek out through the doorway and answer, “Oh! Haman is standing in the court.” 

Bring him in,” the king ordered. 

And [6] when Haman entered, the king asked him, “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?” 

Now Haman thought to himself, “Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?” 

Um, hello! Narcissist much? 

[7] So he answered the king, “For the man the king delights to honor, hmmm, let’s see…Oh! I’ve got it! [8] “Have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. [9] Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!’” 

And the king says, “Go! Do it! For Mordecai the Jew.” 

[11] So Haman got the robe and the horse and led Mordecai on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!” And [12] afterward Mordecai went back to work. 

And, really, what just happened here was an act of God’s mercy upon Haman. 

Because, look: the reason Haman asked for this special treatment was because he could not ask for a promotion. A promotion would mean asking to replace Xerxes as king! — which would definitely get him impaled. 

But by asking to wear the king’s robe and ride the king’s horse, really Haman was asking to be treated as if he is equal to the king. 

Now, Xerxes clearly has some narcissistic personality issues of his own, including more than a hint of paranoia. So if Xerxes had actually applied this request to Haman himself, it is almost certain that as Haman rode through the streets of the city with everyone bowing down before him, Xerxes would have watched that and suddenly thought to himself, “Hang on a second! This guy is actually a threat to me! He is out there drumming up popular support for a takeover!” — which would definitely have gotten Haman impaled as soon as he got back. 

God has done what Haman’s wife Zeresh and all his friends should have done a long time ago: God has stopped Haman from indulging his delusions of grandeur, and probably just saved his life! 

But is Haman grateful? No he is not: 

Haman rushed home, with his head covered in grief, [13] and told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him. 

And do they take responsibility for the part they played in encouraging his narcissism? No they do not: 

His advisers and his wife Zeresh said to him, “Wow, buddy, bad luck for you! Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him—you will surely come to ruin!” 

It’s almost as if they are saying, “Oh, when you said you hate ‘that Jew Mordecai’ we didn’t realize you meant that Jew Mordecai, the one who is of Jewish origin! Everybody knows it’s a mistake to have a Jew as your personal enemy! What were you thinking, dude?” 

[14] While they were still talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared. 


And now music plays, credits roll, ”next episode in 3…2” *click* 

Every week we like to ask what we are supposed to learn from the episode we just watched. And that is a really good question! What just happened here? And what does it have to do with us? 

Well, the pilot episode of this limited series showed us that people in absolute power are absolutely hilarious. Scary as hell! but also hilarious, because really they cannot even control themselves, much less the destiny of an empire. 

The episodes that followed did get dark pretty quickly, but today’s episode has brought us back to the ironic hilarity of that first episode and reinforced it: Xerxes and Haman might be the most powerful men in the world, but they are easily played by their desires and by their wives! 

Ultimately, however, they are being played by God. 

But when I say they are being played by God, I am not saying that God is toying with them. As we learned last week, God works through the free will of human beings to bring each person to points of crisis in their lives. And each point of crisis is actually a merciful wake-up call, a chance for these tyrants to lay down their selfish pride and entrust their lives to the one who created them. 

For instance, Xerxes experienced a crisis in the pilot episode: his tyranny got him into trouble. But instead of realizing this, and using gentleness to gostan and undo the damage, he simply applied more tyranny to resolve the situation. And that act of greater tyranny is now driving him into another, greater crisis — though he does not know it yet. 

Then Mordecai experienced a crisis in Episode Two: his disobedience got him into trouble. But instead of realizing this, he continued on into a greater disobedience in Episode Three, which drove him into another, greater crisis, which led to Esther’s crisis in Episode Four! — and she was the first person in the book to actually respond properly, with repentance and faith. And her example finally led Mordecai to say, “Oo, ask God for help! What a good idea. Let’s try that.” 

In the same way God led Haman — and Haman led himself — into crisis: his selfish ambition got him into trouble. Haman just wants to be respected by his colleagues. Like Xerxes, Haman thought he could use power to force people to respect him — but then he discovered that forcing people to bow down is a hollow victory. Now, that moment was Haman’s chance to realize that the best way to get people to respect you is to actually act in a respectable way! but instead he pressed on: he made plans to apply even greater power to the situation — which led directly to an even greater crisis, an even greater humiliation than he ever thought possible. He thought he was going to finally force Mordecai to bow down before him; but now he has just spent the whole day bowing down before Mordecai, and calling the whole city to bow down before him! 

Haman craves respect. That obsession, that false worship, is actually bad for him. So God, in his great mercy, is making sure he receives the opposite, in hope that Haman will wake up and give thanks to Mordecai’s God for saving his life and perhaps even his soul. 

But it sure looks like Haman is going to waste this crisis just like Xerxes wasted his crisis back in the pilot episode. I guess we’ll find out for sure next week — so make sure to come back for that. 

So last week we confirmed that God works through the free will of human beings. 

Well, this week we have confirmed that God also works through what we call “coincidences”, random events — like Queen Vashti finally deciding to say “no” to her husband’s tyranny, or the fact that Esther was beautiful and lived .8 kilometers from the palace, or Mordecai just happening to overhear two assassins plotting against the king, or the king suddenly being unable to sleep, or Haman showing up unexpectedly early for work… 

So, in light of this new information, our application this week is going to be a development of our application last week. Our application last week was, basically: learn to recognize when God has let our sins drive us into a crisis, and when this happens, do not waste it: repent! Our application this week is, basically: learn to recognize when a ”coincidence” is actually God’s hand at work, God’s voice speaking; and when he speaks in this way, make sure to listen! 

And this application is really related to another question that most of us have asked at some point: how can I tell what God’s will is for my life? 

How can we tell what God’s will is for our lives? 

Well, this is one of the great lessons of the Book of Esther: how to interpret odd coincidences, random events. Because that is what the characters in this book are having to do. 

See, Mordecai and Esther lived 1000 years after the Exodus. The Exodus was a time of miracles and prophets and amazing signs and wonders, because the Exodus marked the birth of God’s nation, and birth is always miraculous. But in the Book of Esther God does not use miracles to accomplish his will: he uses coincidences, which are then interpreted through the ancient memories of the Exodus. That is, essentially, what Esther did last week: she realized her people were in deep trouble, she remembered that God has delivered his people in the past when they cried out to him, and she concluded that it was God’s will for her to cry out to him. 

We live in the same situation today. We live 2000 years after Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ ministry was a time of miracles and prophets and amazing signs and wonders, because that time marked the rebirth of God’s nation as Jesus’ nation, the Church — and birth is always miraculous. But today, God does not use widespread miracles to accomplish his will anymore: he works through coincidences and random sins interpreted through the ancient memories of Jesus’ ministry — memories that were written down for us here in the bible, God’s Word. 

Now, I want to pause and make something clear: yes, God still does miracles today, he has always performed little individual miracles throughout history. 

But there are only two times in history that God has used widespread, amazing, undeniable miracles seen by thousands of people all at once: first, during the Exodus, and second, during the birth of Jesus’ Church. 

Now the bible does tell us that, as the final Judgement approaches, we should expect a third time of miracles and signs and wonders — but they will be Satanic signs and wonders, designed to deceive people who want to be deceived. So the bible warns us to be very careful when it comes to depending on signs and wonders for our faith. 

Basically what this means is that the age of widespread miracles is over, because the time of birth is over. This is the age of slow, steady growth as Jesus’ Church comes to maturity. This is the age of “coincidences” interpreted through God’s Word. 

So how can we learn how to interpret coincidences through God’s Word? 

Well, today, ironically, it is Haman’s wife Zeresh who teaches us how! 

At this point in the book, Zeresh actually understands God’s will better than anybody else, better even than Esther did at the end of last week’s episode. Last week, Esther ended by saying, “If I perish, I perish.” She believed God could save her people, but she wasn’t sure he would save her people. But this week, Zeresh looked at her husband’s sudden humiliation and she said, “Oh man, I know what is going on here: God is getting ready to stomp you, buddy!” 

Now, how did Zeresh figure out what God’s will was for Haman’s life? Easy: she interpreted these coincidences through God’s Word! 

But how did Zeresh know God’s Word? 

Well, let’s retell Haman’s story from Zeresh’s perspective: 

About three or four weeks before this point, Haman came home from work in a bad mood because this guy named Mordecai was refusing to bow down before him. Why not? Because Mordecai is a Jew. Apparently, 1000 years earlier, the Jewish God had promised that he was going to completely wipe out Haman’s people, because they had attacked and murdered Mordecai’s people when they were at their weakest point, just after they had escaped from slavery in Egypt. And, 600 years earlier, Mordecai’s ancestor Saul had almost completely wiped out Haman’s people! leaving only a handful of survivors. 

So, okay: now that Haman knows that Mordecai and Mordecai’s God are the mortal enemies of Haman’s people — and, now that Haman’s people are in power again while Mordecai’s people are once again at their weakest point — Haman decides to finish the job his ancestors failed to do 1000 years earlier: he is going to wipe out Mordecai’s people. Haman calls in his bomoh, he consults his gods — using dice — he picks an auspicious date, and he seals the fate of the Jewish people. It is impossible for him to lose! 

But today, when Haman comes home once again in a bad mood, and tells his wife about his sudden, unpredictable, terrible fall from power into humiliation…Zeresh looks back at that 1000 year-old curse and realizes that Mordecai’s God is going to win. Until now she thought, “Meh, obviously the Jewish God is pathetic! He can’t even keep his people from being enslaved all over again! Obviously our gods are stronger.” But today, when she looks back over the chain of coincidences that got Haman to this crisis point, she realizes that Mordecai’s God has been at work from the very beginning. He has even been controlling the random rolls of Haman’s dice, letting Haman set himself up for a great fall. And she tells her husband exactly what she thinks — possibly for the first time in their marriage. 

Sometime in the conversations of the last weeks, Zeresh learned that Mordecai’s God had pronounced a curse on Haman’s family line. She knew God’s Word, even though she did not believe God’s Word had any power. Now events have proven that God’s Word has power: the ancient curse is going to be fulfilled. Zeresh has become a true believer! — but not a convert to Judaism, not a worshiper of the True God. At this point she is like the demons that Jesus met during his ministry: she believes in God’s power, but she does not believe in his mercy to those who repent. So she preaches the Bad News to her husband, but she does not preach the Good News, because she does not know the Good News. 

Well, brothers and sisters and friends, this is still how God reveals his will for our lives. We are supposed to do what Zeresh did: pay attention to the random events of life, and interpret those events through God’s Word. 

Now, granted, this is easier sometimes than it is other times. Sometimes God’s commands in scripture are very black-and-white, and when we disobey those commands, the “coincidences” that follow speak very clearly. 

Here is an example from my own life: when I was a youth in Indonesia, there was a House of Adult Entertainment in the next town, and it was a legal establishment, permitted by Indonesian law. So one day a friend and I, both of us Christians, decided to go and see what it was all about. We knew what God’s Word said about such things, but we were sixteen and we were narcissistic idiots: we did not believe that God’s free will was greater than ours. Besides, my friend’s parents were out of town for a few days, we had his house to ourselves, it was a perfect opportunity for us to exercise our free will without any interference. 

Well…God interfered. He started by putting a series of gentle “coincidences” in our way: first, another friend, who was not in on our plans, dropped by and just would not go home. So we waited and waited…and eventually he got bored and left. And then, wouldn’t you know it: we had no money! But no worries: my friend’s dad had a safe full of cash and my friend had the combination. But no, wait, he had forgotten the combination. Or his dad had changed it. But did we give up? No we did not. We scrounged around the house, stole money from his older brother and sister, found his mom’s bowl of petty cash, and then we were ready! We got on his motorcycle and off we went. 

We made it as far as the front gate. Suddenly his back tyre went flat — boom. And when we got off to look we found a giant nail driven through his tyre, in one side and out the other. 

Now, my motorbike was right there in the yard, in perfect working order. We could have pressed on. But in that moment we looked at each other and we both knew, without saying a word, that God had spoken: “Next time, boys, that spike is going through your heads.” So we went back inside and sat down, and as we reviewed the events of the evening we realized that God had actually been speaking to us for hours, warning us not to do what we were planning to do! So we went to bed and never tried that stunt again. 

We could have been angry at God for over-riding our free will. Instead, we saw his severe mercy at work: our sin could have cost us our lives and our souls, but instead it only cost us the price of a new tyre. That “coincidence” saved us both by bringing us back to our senses, bringing us back to repentance. It was obviously not God’s will for us to visit such a place! even if it was legal according to the law of the nation. 

And I am obligated by God’s Word and God’s Spirit to warn us all that it is very very dangerous to press on in situations where God’s Word and God’s guiding “coincidences” have been very very clear. As we were told last week: See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God!” Because once we have become hardened by sin’s deceitfulness, it is very hard to recover from that. And once God’s spike moves from our tyre to our temple…it is impossible to recover from that. 

But those black-and-white situations are really quite easy to interpret. You have to be sixteen or a very stubborn narcissistic fool to ignore those clear signals! Most of the time, though, when we are asking, “What is God’s will for my life,” we are not dealing with such black-and-white issues. We want to know: should I follow this career or that one? Should I marry or not? If I marry, who should I marry? 

So how are we supposed to answer those kinds of questions? 

…in the same way, actually: by paying attention to the “random” events of life and interpreting those events through God’s Word. 

So, as a test case, let’s look at the question of who to marry. God’s command in this matter is really very simple: make sure you marry a Christian. As long as you marry a Christian, you are living within God’s decreed will. 

But: which Christian should we marry, and when? 

This is where God’s “random coincidences” are designed to guide us into wisdom. This is where we need to begin to ask these common-sense questions: What language do I speak? What culture do I come from? What Christian tradition am I part of? Even more basically: do I have a job? Am I emotionally and mentally ready to pursue a marriage relationship? 

And as we try to sort through these “coincidences” and what they might mean for who we should seek to marry, the wisdom of our Christian community is absolutely essential, because our friends and older counsellors are going to see things that we cannot see. 

In short: God works through ”coincidences”, and those coincidences need to be interpreted through God’s Word. When a question is black-and-white, right or wrong, that interpretation can be done individually: each one of us should be able to look at a situation, then look at God’s Word, and then say, “Oh, I know what God’s will for my life is right now!” But when a situation is more grey, neither obviously right nor obviously wrong, then the interpretation of coincidences through God’s Word requires a community of wise Christians who are committed to one another and to us. 

When our Christian community speaks through God’s Word into those situations, God’s voice is speaking; and when God speaks to us in this way, we need to make sure to listen! — because that is God’s will for us. If we refuse to listen to God’s Word, God’s coincidences, and God’s community…then we are really asking for trouble. 

Now, I know this can be frustrating. All of us, at one time or another, have received counsel from our parents or our Christian community that we did not like. And that is usually when we pray and say, “Come on, God! Just speak to me directly! Give me a miracle or a dream, a voice in the night or a prophet who will just tell me, ‘Thus saith the Lord!’ and I will do what you say!” But God’s Word tells us that God just does not ordinarily work in that way during this age of slow, steady growth to maturity. 

And the reason God does not ordinarily work this way is for — at least — two reasons: first, the history of God’s people tells us that, even when God speaks directly and clearly, many times we don’t like what he says and we disobey him anyway! — and that path almost always ends with a spike through our heads. Second, just because we hear a voice in the night or a prophet who says, “Thus saith the Lord!” this does not guarantee that the voice or the prophet comes from God, and the history of God’s people tells us that we are very easily led astray by such things, instead of doing the hard work of learning God’s Word and seeking out a healthy, godly community. 

And as we have discovered today, having a community that has the courage to say “no” to our sinful, narcissistic patterns is really a blessing from God. Haman did not have this, and his community actually helped drive him into disaster! and then abandoned him when the crisis arrived. But a truly Christian community will tell us the truth, and call us to repentance, and keep on calling us right to the very end. That kind of community is actually what we want — more than a miracle or a dream or a voice in the night! — even though, sometimes, we do not feel like we want it. 

But let me close today with this Good News: even when we ignore our Christian community’s advice in these more “grey” areas of life, even when we insist on prophets and mystical voices in the night, this does not mean that God is not at work in our lives. Remember, he works even through our stubborn sins to drive us into crisis so that we might turn and seek his face and finally live in his presence. 

So, for instance, if our community tells us it would not be wise to marry the Christian we are hoping to marry, and we go ahead and marry them anyway, well…we did obey God’s Word by marrying a Christian. But very likely our marriage will be a difficult one, filled with crisis after crisis, until finally — through a divorce or some other extremely traumatic experience — we are finally able to repent and say, “Oh, how I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors, and now I am in serious trouble!” 

Those moments of crisis, when they come, are God’s will; those moments are God’s mercy, our Heavenly Father’s voice calling us to cry out for mercy. But to know this we must learn to interpret those “coincidences” through God’s Word. For — as we are going to discover over the next couple of episodes — God’s Word tells us that God always, always answers those who cry out to him from the depths. 

That is our gospel. That is our Good News. Let us hold on to it! 

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