Esther 3:1-6 final sermon outline
Arnold Dallimore wrote a two volume biography about the evangelist George Whitefield. At one point Dallimore shares a prayer that Whitefield had prayed concerning his need for wisdom after his actions had resulted in a fight in which he was hit in the head. Whitefield prayed, ‘God grant that I may behave so, that when I suffer, it may not be for my own imprudencies, but for righteousness sake.’
On another occasion Whitefield asked for prayer from a friend concerning the need for wisdom by saying, ‘O pray, dear sir, that my zeal may be always tempered with true Christian prudence. It would grieve me should I bring sufferings causelessly upon myself. A trying time, perhaps, is at hand. O that I may be found faithful.’
There will be times when godly wisdom is applied to a situation we will achieve peace.
There may be other times, as we will see in our text today, when we will apply godly wisdom to a situation and we will encounter trouble and trials.
In our text we will see that Mordecai disobeys an order given by King Ahasuerus when he refuses to bow to a man named Haman the Agagite.
When Mordecai does this he is confronted by those around him.
Day after day they apply pressure upon him to bow his knee.
When Haman is told about this he becomes angry at Mordecai.
It would not be unreasonable to suppose that Mordecai knew that there might be some repercussions for him when he did this, but he probably had no idea that his actions would involve so many others.
Let us read Esther 3:1-6,
After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, and advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him. 2 And all the king's 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. 3 Then the king's servants who were at the king's gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you transgress the king's command?” 4 And when they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai's words would stand, for he had told them that he was a Jew. 5 And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was filled with fury. 6 But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.(Esther 3:1-6)
This text can be divided into three historical events:
King Ahasuerus promotes Haman the Agagite
Mordecai does not pay homage to Haman
Haman plans evil against Mordecai and the Jews throughout the kingdom
King Ahasuerus promotes Haman the Agagite
We read of the promotion of Haman in verses 1-2, “After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, and advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him. 2 And all the king's servants who were at the king's gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded concerning him.”
After Mordecai had saved the kings life we may have expected to see that he would have been given a promotion, but we see that another man was promoted. This man’s name was Haman the Agagite.
(Gospel Application: Are we surprised that Mordecai is not honored by the king?
Jesus dies for sinners. This act of mercy and love is a far greater act than what Mordecai did for King Ahasuerus; yet people will not often honor Christ. We think that Ahasuerus is acting strangely but he is actually reflecting the sinful unbelief of all of us who are dead in our sins.
Just as God will have to sovereignly work in King Ahasuerus so that he would honor Mordecai, He also has to powerfully work in us so that we will honor the Son in grateful adoration (Esther 6:1-3)
This is the first time that we have heard about Haman. Haman seems to have had access to the king and had impressed him more than any other official. As a result, Haman is exalted higher than anyone else.
Gospel Application: The puritan Jremiah Burrough’s wrote a book called ‘Gospel Worship’. In it he speaks of how a Christian is to draw close to God and continually be in His presence. Burrough’s speaks of two benefits that come from drawing close to God and abiding with Him.
First, he says, “Those who are most familiar with God have greater access to Him. When strangers come into God’s presence, he does not regard them, but when a familiar friend enters, he pays attention to him.”
Secondly, Burrough’s says, “Those who are familiar with God do not fear death. Death is a joy for them, as one divine said while dying: ‘I shall change my place; I shall not change my company.’”1
I mention these things to make these points. First, Haman had greater access to King Ahasuerus so the king had more regard for him than he did for Mordecai.
However, we have seen that Mordecai is drawing close to the LORD at this time. We see this as Mordecai begins to reveal his lineage and his faith in God becomes more evident. Mordecai is drawing closer to the LORD and he will soon be exalted in ways that Mordecai can not yet see and in ways that King Ahasuerus cannot yet imagine.
Question: Do we spend most of our time trying to have our opportunity to meet some influential person, trying to get that raise, get that promotion, or attempting to make something good happen for ourselves; or are we primarily drawing closer to the LORD who can bless us more abundantly than we can imagine?
Secondly, we see that Mordecai and Haman are beginning to look very different in their responses to things.
Haman craves the approval of men and is angered when one man refuses to bow his knee to him.
Mordecai on the other hand, is getting bolder, stronger, more courageous and does not fear men or even his own death.
The promotion of Haman to this position may have been especially difficult for Mordecai because Haman was an Agagite. Agag was an Amalekite king and one of Israel’s great foes. When the Jews were coming into the promised land the LORD had promised to utterly destroy them. (Exodus 17:14)
five hundred years when Saul was king, the LORD had commanded him to destroy all of the Amalekites but he did not put Agag to death (1 Samuel 15:8-9). Now, many years later Mordecai, a descendant of Saul; and Haman, a descendant of Agag, are brought together again except this time Haman seems to have the advantage.
Our disobedience to the LORD can have long lasting ramifications for others. (Hezekiah, Solomon, Adam) Each of us ought to live each day with Proverbs 20:7in mind which says, “The righteous who walks in his integrity – blessed are his children after him!”
Mordecai Does Not Pay Homage To Haman
In Esther 3:2b-4 we read, “But Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage. 3 Then the king's servants who were at the king's gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you transgress the king's command?” 4 And when they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai's words would stand, for he had told them that he was a Jew.”
It is not necessarily wrong for a Jewish person to bow down to honor another person. We see this often throughout scriptures.
Some have said that Mordecai may not have bowed down to Haman because he was a godless and self-serving man. Haman clearly liked to be honored by others (Esther 6:1-11).
It has been suggested that Mordecai refused to bow to Haman because he lacked humility.
Others have also pointed out that in this culture it may have been an act of idolatry to bow to Haman.
Still others say that if Mordecai were to bow to Haman he would be giving honor an enemy.2
When Mordecai made the decision to not bow his knee to Haman everything changed. From that time on he received pressure from the king’s officials. We read, “Then the king's servants who were at the king's gate said to Mordecai, ‘Why do you transgress the king's command?’ And when they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them…”. (3-4a)
In chapter two we saw how Mordecai checked on Esther every day. Esther 2:11 says, “And every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her.” Mordecai knew the importance of encouraging Esther. What a blessing this must have been for her!
Recently I watched a biography about Dwight Clark who played in the NFL and later was diagnosed with ALS. One of the things he appreciated was the support that he received every day from his friends. In the interview he said, “There are a bunch of guys that are checking in on me all the time...Those guys check in a lot. Nobody more than Eddie.”
As Dwight’s illness progressed he and his wife moved to Montana. They had one reason for moving to Montana and away from their home in San Francisco. Dwight wanted to be by Eddie Debartello, the man who encouraged him the most.
If this kind of encouragement can have such a positive influence upon someone, then we see in our text that Mordecai also was learning how this could be used in a negative way. We are told that the king’s officials spoke to him day after day and questioned why he would not bow to Haman.
The actions of these men would have brought great pressure on Mordecai to compromise; but he didn’t. Like us, I am sure that Mordecai wished he could find a different job, a new church, a new neighborhood to live in.
How did Mordecai deal with this situation? He did not listen to them (Esther 3:4 – And when they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them...).
These men spoke to him day after day but Mordecai would not listen to them.
Mordecai could not control their mouths, but he could control what he listened too.
He could not avoid hearing their message, but he did not have to receive it as his own.
He could not avoid their talk but he did not have to let it get to him.
We have three messengers that are continually, daily, moment by moment trying to influence us: indwelling sin, the fallen world, and Satan. We cannot keep these things from speaking to us but we do not have to listen to them. We do not need to obey them.
(You all have probably seen the video of Ray Epps on January 6th 2021 who was whispering in peoples ears right before the riots. That man is a good illustration of these three things: indwelling sin, the fallen world, and the devil.)
We can be like Job who acknowledges the message of the wicked and says, “The counsel of the wicked is far from me.” (Job 21:16)
We can heed the instruction of Psalm 1:1-2, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
Haman Plans Evil Against Mordecai and the Jews Throughout The Kingdom
We read in verse 5, “And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was filled with fury. But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.”
Mordecai’s refusal to bow to Haman angers him greatly. (Haman desires to kill all the Jews!)
The scriptures do not indicate that Mordecai’s actions were foolish or unwise. Nevertheless, his actions will be the excuse that Haman uses to try to kill Mordecai and all the Jewish people.
If an evil plan like Haman’s can be implemented, should any other evil plan surprise us?”
In this fallen and sinful world the most unimaginable sins can be carried out without anyone hardly taking notice of it or objecting to it. (abortion, genocide).
One man’s anger, one man’s pride, one man’s ego is about to start a war of genocide against the Jews. His battle cry will be embraced by many others. (James 4:1-3 -What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.)
BE CAREFUL WHO YOU LISTEN TO!
Do you think that Mordecai was right in disobeying the king?
As I have contemplated these things I have appreciated Isaiah 9:13-16and how it might help us to consider this. This is what it says,
13) The people did not turn to him who struck them, nor inquire of the Lord of hosts. 14) So the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail, palm branch and reed in one day— 15) the elder and honored man is the head, and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail; 16) for those who guide this people have been leading them astray, and those who are guided by them are swallowed up.
In verse 13 the LORD has sent judgment upon the people of God.
This judgment was intended to make the people turn back to Him.
In verses 13-15we see that God is going to cut off from Israel ‘the head and the tail’. He defines these ‘head’ and ‘tail’ in verse 15 saying, “...the elder and honored man is the head, and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail…”.
These rulers, both political and religious, are wicked, unrepentant and prideful. Yet, the people follow these leaders and obey their unrighteous decrees, their idolatry and they accept their false teachings.
The third observation is in verse 16. We read, “...for those who guide this people have been leading them astray, and those who are guided by them are swallowed up.” Notice that these leaders are leading the people away from the LORD and the people are being swallowed up.
There are real consequences if we do not turn to the LORD.
There are great consequences if we continue to be led away from Him!
Question: Is there more trepidation in your heart when Mordecai disobeys King Ahasuerus, or when you considered earlier in this that he was disobeying the LORD?
To be honest, I often felt more trepidation concerning Mordecai disobeying King Ahasuerus than the fact he had disobeyed the LORD.
Could it be that by Mordecai not choosing to bow to Haman he would…
not be led astray
and his faith would not be swallowed up in this pagan Persian Empire?
We have already seen that Mordecai sought to save the king when his life was in danger.
Mordecai is not rebellious
He is not against the authority of the king.
But in this particular case Mordecai was not going to bow his knee to Haman.
The Jews in this story did not blame Mordecai when Haman seeks to kill them. They did not condemn his actions as if they were the result of some foolish action by Mordecai.
Consider how easily they could have done so in this moment!
The Jews blamed Moses for their troubles
David’s men wanted to kill him when they experienced trouble
When I was in the seventh grade my brother and I went to a school where we simply did not fit in. We were from the wrong side of the tracks. I did whatever I could do to simply fit in and remain largely out of the public eye of the other kids. My brother, however, was becoming increasingly more frustrated with how he was being treated. One day my brother was being picked on by a bully and so my brother fought back. He was kicked out of school and all the attention soon turned upon me. When I saw my brother I yelled at him, “Thanks for making my life miserable!”
If I went through that again I would respond differently to my brother. I think that I would go up to him and support him.
Jesus, our elder brother, came into this world and He was not well received. Jesus went on to tell us that all who follow after Him will be treated the same way (John 15:20 – Remember the word that I said to you, a servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.).
We could yell at Him and say, “Thanks for making my life miserable!”
Instead, We can draw even closer to Jesus and His people. We can trust in God’s providence and rest in His wisdom and will.
He will deliver Mordecai and the Jewish people from this situation and He will deliver us too.
1Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Worship, p. 16-17
2Dr. David Thompson, Exposition of the book of Esther, Esther 3:1-6