Esther 2:5-7 - A Surprising Christmas Text (Sermon Outline)
Our text is found in Esther 2:5-7,
Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite, 6 who had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away. 7 He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.
Did you see that in this text we have a reason to celebrate Christmas?
This is our fifth sermon in the book of Esther and we are just now being introduced to two of the most important individuals in this story: Mordecai and Esther.
Introduction to Mordecai
Our text begins with these words, “Now there was a Jew in Susa whose name was Mordecai”.
Mordecai lived in Susa.
Mordecai was not visiting Susa on a business trip.
He was not vacationing for a few weeks when he gets caught up in the drama of this story.
Mordecai, who was by descent a member of the household of King Saul, was not there as an ambassador on behalf of the Jewish people.
Mordecai lived in Susa. This is a Jewish man whose ancestors had been carried away into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar and he had never returned home.
It appears that Mordecai worked within the government in Susa. We often find Mordecai sitting at the kings gate where business was often done.
Esther 2:21- In those days, Mordecai was sitting at the kings gate.
Esther 3:2 – And all the kings servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him.
In Esther 2:11 we also see that Mordecai had access to the court of the haram where he would check in on Esther. We read, “And every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her.”
Until chapter four Mordecai always had access into these places. The reason that this changes in chapter 4 is because Mordecai learns that there was a plot to destroy the Jews.
When he heard this he did not rush into the palace and frantically demand to see the king.
He tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went into the midst of the city and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry. Then in Esther 4:2 we read, “He went up to the entrance of the king’s gate, for no one was allowed to enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth.”
Mordecai limits his access into the palace to grieve and mourn over this evil plot. When Esther hears that Mordecai is distressed and is dressed in sackcloth she sends him some clothes so that he can come in, but he would not accept them (4:4).
I find this humble display of lament refreshing to consider. We have seen so few examples of this by the characters of this story when things became difficult. In this moment Mordecai does not do something irrational and unwise like we have seen done time and again. For example,
In Esther 1 the king becomes angry and deposes Vashti and decrees that he will never see her again.
In Esther 1 the kings officials overreact.
In Esther 2 some men, Bigthan and Teresh, become angry and sought to lay hold of King Ahasuerus and assassinate him. (2:21)
In Esther 3 the king promotes Haman and he becomes angry with Mordecai so he plots to kill all the Jews (3:5-6).
Introduction to Esther
We are also introduced to Esther in our text today. We read, “He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.”
Although God had blessed Esther with great beauty we also see that life had been difficult for her. At some point her parents had both died and she was left alone. Yet, God provided for her by placing her in Mordecai’s home. Mordecai loved her as if she was one of his very own daughters.
Esther will be a refreshing character for us to consider from this point on in the book.
Esther will prove that a woman can be submissive and stunning.
Esther will prove that a woman can be dazzling and non-dominant.
Esther will prove that a woman can be powerful and pious.
Esther will prove that a woman can be gorgeous and God-glorifying.
Esther will prove that a woman can be lovely and loyal.
Esther will prove that a woman can be other-oriented and not self-oriented.1
Mordecai and Esther will be a breath of fresh air in this story. Yet, the fact is, in Mordicai and Esther we will see that God uses sinful people to deliver His people from a terrible situation.
Mordecai and Esther were living in Susa because they had not obeyed the LORD’s clear commands that the Jewish people were to return to Zion. For some reason they liked living in a pagan country, rather than, in the promised land. They had been…
commanded by God to return, they had been given permission to return by the gentile kings, and they had been given resources and safe passage to return. Yet, here they are in Susa!
The Jews who had returned to Israel struggled in many ways. Jed Hass writes about the Jews who had returned, “The people (who returned to Israel) had great intentions, motivation and support in rebuilding their faith and rhythm of worship. Yet, their time away from God’s Word, their waning interest in living according to God’s Law, and their lack of generational and cultural discipleship left them broken and discouraged.”2
If these Jews who were obedient to return to the promised land struggled then we can be certain that those who did not return would face their own set of struggles.
This is what we see happening in the book of Esther. Yet, God will deliver his people from harm.
When you read in the Bible about the Jews who returned you see that God provided great spiritual leaders to help His people. He raised up men like Ezra, Nehemiah, Joshua, Haggai, Zechariah, etc. Contrast these great godly men of faith with those that we have seen ruling over the Jews who did not return. We have not seen great godly leadership from Ahasuerus or those around him. But God will soon change all of that.
God had consistently commanded His people to return
Let’s consider some passages where the LORD instructed His people to return from Babylon.
In Isaiah 48:20 Isaiah says, “Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea, declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it, send it out to the end of the earth; say, ‘The LORD has redeemed His servant Jacob!’ They did not thirst when He led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock; He split the rock and water gushed out. ‘There is no peace,’ says the LORD, ‘for the wicked.’”
This text is full of positive motivations for the people of God to return to Israel.
The proclamation to go out from Babylon is to be done with a shout of joy.
It is to be proclaimed to the ends of the earth and throughout the whole kingdom.
The LORD will deliver them as He delivered His people from Egypt.
Notice that hey are to flee quickly. They are to immediately obey the LORD’s command. If they stay, they will not experience peace. “Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea...‘There is no peace,’ says the LORD, ‘for the wicked.’”
Consider Jeremiah 50:8-10, “Flee from the midst of Babylon, and go out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as male goats before the flock. For behold, I am stirring up and bringing against Babylon a gathering of great nations, from the north country. And they shall array themselves against her. From there she shall be taken. Their arrows are like a skilled warrior who does not return empty-handed. Chaldea shall be plundered; all who plunder her shall be sated (fully satisfied), declares the LORD.”
This text is full of practical motivations to flee from Babylon. Those who stay will find themselves facing an invader from the north who is described as a ‘gathering of great nations’. (Gospel thought: If they stay there will be a day in which they won’t be delivered from the calamity. However, in the book of Esther we see that God delivers His people from other calamities. So too, God is merciful to all but if they remain in disobedience they will eventually be judged with no mercy.)
Similarly, inJ eremiah 51:6 we read, “Flee from the midst of Babylon; let every one save his life! Be not cut off in her punishment, for this is the time of the LORD’s vengeance, the repayment He is rendering her.”
The prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah could not be more clear. When the door opens they should go. When the opportunity comes they should not delay. When the opportunity comes they should flee and escape!
Lastly, let us consider Zechariah who prophesied just before these events that take place in the book of Esther. He said, “Run, say to that young man, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it. And I will be to it a wall of fire, all around, declares the LORD, and I will be the glory in her midst.” (4-5)
Then in the next verse we read of a negative motivation to return to the LORD, “Up! Up! Flee from the land of the north, declares the LORD. For I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heavens, declares the LORD. Up! Escape to Zion, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon.” (6-7)
Zechariah pleads for God’s people to flee from Babylon. The LORD had two motivations for the Jews to return.
First, He wanted them to return so that they would not be destroyed while in the foreign nation.
Secondly, He wanted the Jews to return because He had promised to provide a savior for all people from the Jews within the Promised Land. (3:8-10)
Mordecai and Esther were lost in the midst of a huge gentile kingdom. They made their home far from the promised land but God never forgot about them. God never forget about His people that remained scattered throughout the entire Persian Empire. (Gospel Thought: God has not lost sight of you in this vast gentile world. God will still work for you and through you even in your sin and weakness.)
Throughout the scriptures, God consistently displays His sovereign power and wisdom as He uses sinners to accomplish His will.
As remarkable as this is, there is one thing that must be said.
To save sinners God needed to provide a perfect and sinless representative.
To redeem mankind God would need a special Servant who had no sin.
God could use Mordecai and Esther to save his people from certain calamity and death, but to save their souls God would have to provide a unique savior. He would have to raise up the promised King, Priest, Prophet.
In Zechariah 3 God shows us that He would do just that.
Joshua, the High Priest for God’s people, is seen standing in heaven before God.
He stands before the Judge of the universe wearing dirty clothes.
And to make this moment even more tense, Satan stood at his right side to accuse him.
Remarkably, God rebukes Satan and does not allow him to make even one accusation.
Joshua stands before the LORD in dirty and soiled clothes but the LORD says, “Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” (2)
You see, all who are saved have been redeemed from the fire.
All who have ever been shown mercy by God have been plucked from a hopeless situation.
It is impressive that God saves His people from Babylon. But how much greater is it to consider that every person that the LORD grants life has been saved from hell.
In Zechariah 3:4 we see that the LORD then removes Joshua’s filthy garments and says to him, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”
After Joshua is stripped of his filthy garments new clothes are given to him. Gospel Thought:
Consider Mordecai as he stood at the king’s gate in sackcloth and ashes. He is unable to enter through the gate in that attire. Yet. He refuses to receive the new garments from Esther.
There are some things that only the LORD can provide. There is no salvation and sanctification in the Kingdoms of this world. One cannot enter God’s kingdom while in Persian clothes.
To come into His kingdom we must have had our iniquities taken away and now be clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
After these things Joshua is told to keep the ways of the LORD so that he can rule over the LORD’s house and have charge over the courts. (3:7)
In these things we realize that the LORD must provide a better High Priest than Joshua if sinful people are to be saved. Joshua is not the promised Christ. He is a sinner like Mordecai and like us all.
God can be merciful to Joshua because of something He would do in the future.
Therefore, the LORD says in 8b-10, “Behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.”
At Christmas we remember the fact that God has provided the Savior of the world – Jesus Christ. Jesus alone is able to remove the iniquity of his people in a single day (the day of His death on the cross). God did not, nor could He, choose a sinner to accomplish this. Instead, He sent His Son from heaven to come to this dark and sinful world to accomplish it.
This week I was in Bob and Cindy Peterson’s house and they have a beautiful Christmas tree. I asked if the tree was real and Cindy said, “When you are married to a man who works in the timber industry the tree has to be real.”
In a similar way, those of us whose faith are set upon Christ, remember that the manger scene really happened. We know that Jesus faithfully obeyed His Father as He died on a real tree. We know that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and He is our faithful High Priest. We know that Jesus Christ is the tree of life that we come before to have life.
All of us, like Mordecai and Esther, have been carried away into captivity by sin. And if the LORD had not sent His Son Jesus Christ we would still be in captivity. We have learned today that not only does God use sinners to accomplish His will, but He comes to sinners in the most amazing way to save them. This is what we celebrate at Christmas.
Can you say that you will truly celebrate Christmas this year? The LORD is calling all people to return to Him. Have you made the journey to see Jesus, Immanuel – God with us, the Lamb of God, the One who saves His people from their sins? This is the greatest gift that we could receive this Christmas season.
1Dr. David Thomas, Exposition of the Book of Esther, Message 1, p.1
2The BIG3, Session One, pg.3