Esther 3:7-15 The Sermon For 1/30/22
Let me begin this morning by letting you know that a more full exposition of this text has been posted on our Community Church web-site should you want to read it. This morning, however, I have chosen to only emphasize a few particular things from this text. Our text this morning is found in Esther 3: 7-15,
In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur (that is, they cast lots) before Haman day after day; and they cast it month after month till the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. 8 Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king's laws, so that it is not to the king's profit to tolerate them. 9 If it please the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay 10,000 talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king's business, that they may put it into the king's treasuries.” 10 So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews. 11 And the king said to Haman, “The money is given to you, the people also, to do with them as it seems good to you.”
12 Then the king's scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and an edict, according to all that Haman commanded, was written to the king's satraps and to the governors over all the provinces and to the officials of all the peoples, to every province in its own script and every people in its own language. It was written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king's signet ring. 13 Letters were sent by couriers to all the king's provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. 14 A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province by proclamation to all the peoples to be ready for that day. 15 The couriers went out hurriedly by order of the king, and the decree was issued in Susa the citadel. And the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was thrown into confusion.
Our text ends with these shocking words in verse 15, “And the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was thrown into confusion”. This short description contrasts…
the grief, shock, confusion, bewilderment, despair and chaos of the people in Susa;
with the aloofness, callousness, detachment, indifference, unresponsiveness and unsympathetic and haughty disposition of the king and Haman as they sit down to drink.
This scene reminds me of the scene that Jesus speaks of when He tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)
The order that Haman has just sent throughout the land is first decreed to the people of Susa. The people are confused and bewildered by this command:
Jews and Gentiles are both shocked,
men and women are found grieving in the streets,
the young and old are confused,
the rich and the poor are perplexed,
slaves and free persons are thrown into confusion by this unexpected command.
The verb that is translated ‘was thrown into confusion’ is used two other times in scripture.
In Exodus 14:3 it is used by Pharaoh who believes that the children of Israel will be trapped and entangled in the land as they are attempting to leave Egypt. In that moment, Pharaoh pursues the people of Israel as he seeks to overcome them in their confusion and distress. He pursues them to his own demise when he encounters them at the Red Sea when the LORD delivers His people.
Similarly, in our text Haman sits down with the king to drink believing that he has cut off any way of escape for the Jewish people. Haman believes that he has entangled the Jews and that there will be no escape for them. In his pride he has plotted against the people of God like Pharaoh did and it will lead to his own demise.
The second time that this verb is used is in Joel 1:18 where we read, “How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.” Then in Joel 1:20 we read, “The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.”
Similarly, in our text we see that the city of Susa was thrown into confusion and began to groan. This decree has threatened the life of every Jew and threatens to take all of their possessions, wealth, and goods as plunder. So while the king and Haman sit in the palace and begin to drink their wine, the Jews begin to turn to the LORD for deliverance.
Proverbs 28:27 describes something of what should have been done in this moment by the king. It says, “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.”
Haman has promised to give the king 10,000 talents of silver as a bribe to implement this evil plan. He does not spend this money on the poor; rather, he spends it to impoverish a people and to implement a plan of genocide.
Most commentators have tried to convey the amount of wealth that Haman has promised to the king by showing that this was probably around half of the wealth that the king enjoyed through tax revenue each year.1Some have even estimated that this amount would be two-thirds of the annual revenue.2
Another way to put this into perspective is to consider the story that is recorded in 2 Kings 15. The king of Assyria came against Israel to conquer them but the king of Israel paid Pul a thousand talents of silver to get him to withdraw from the land. Haman has offered two-thirds more to King Ahasuerus to kill the Jews, than Israel’s king offered to save Israel from Assyria.
Haman hides his eyes to what is going on right outside the palace gates. This decree will upset the whole Empire but it will not matter. If the king and Haman are not moved by the grief of the people in their own city, they will not be moved by the grief throughout the kingdom. We see this going on right now in America, Australia and Canada all assemble in protest but the rulers seem to not take notice. These things remind us that the first thing we ought to do is humble ourselves and seek the LORD.
Proverbs 29:26 – Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the LORD that a man gets justice.
Only God will be able to save the Jews and He has already been working to accomplish this long before the decree went out.
This last verse in our text is meant to cause us to grieve, to ache, to lament, and to cry out against this wicked decree and the unjust plot. We are supposed to do what Haman and the king are not doing. We are supposed to hear the cries of the Jewish people and turn to the LORD concerning all similar injustice going on around us.
What was the plan that Haman had gotten the king to sign off on?
We can read it in verses 8-9, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king's laws, so that it is not to the king's profit to tolerate them. 9 If it please the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay 10,000 talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king's business, that they may put it into the king's treasuries.”
Notice how Haman tries to avoid any specifics as he talks to the king:
“There is a certain people”. What people?
“They don’t keep the kings laws”. Which laws don’t they keep? We have already seen how King Ahasuerus responded to Vashti who broke just one of the kings laws. This accusation is sure to invoke a response from the king.
Haman presents the Jewish people as a nameless threat, a faceless people, a hidden cancer within the kingdom.
Haman presents the Jewish people as rebels, as lawless people, a barbarous nation within the kingdom, as non-conformists, dissenters, extremists, malcontents, and radicals.
Haman presents the Jews to the king as lawless rebels, an unruly people who are a potential threat against the kingdom. He presents them as an anarchistic nation within the kingdom who needs to be eradicated immediately.
The king does not ask any probing questions. He i snot the least bit cautious about allowing Haman to destroy this people within his kingdom. King Ahasuerus seems so flippant about how his power is used against others. He does not investigate any of these accusations as he had done when there was a threat made against his life by two of his guards in Esther 2:23. We read, “When the affair was investigated and found to be so, the men were both hanged on the gallows. And it was recorded in the book of the chronicles in the presence of the king.”
What does the decree that was written by Haman say that has caused the people to be thrown into confusion?
We read in verses 13-14, “Letters were sent by couriers to all the king's provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. 14 A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province by proclamation to all the peoples to be ready for that day.”
The wicked commands of Haman are sent out to all of the satraps, all the governors, all the officials and all the people throughout the whole land. Haman instructs them that they are to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day. They are to plunder their goods and take everything as their own spoils.
The decree has gone out to the people.
Many wept in utter bewilderment because they knew the Jews.
They lived next to the Jews. They worked alongside the Jews. They are friends with the Jewish community.
Others immediately, began to make preparations to obey the king like the couriers did in Esther 3:15 when we read, “...couriers went out hurriedly by order of the king”.
In that moment, on that very day, the governors, satraps and the officials hurried to obey the kings command concerning the Jews.
With this in mind, consider the words of the puritan John Flavel. He says, ‘How long does an idle word, or foolish jest, stick in men’s minds, and become an occasion of much sin in them? The froth and vanity of your spirit, which your tongue so freely vents among your vain companions, may be working in their minds when you are in the dust, and so be transmitted from one to another... And thus may you be sinning in the persons of your companions, when you are turned into dust.’3
Flavel is warning us that the words that are spoken, and the decrees that are made, because they have long lasting effects. They not only produce sin in our own generation but they may cause the next successive generations to sin.
One example of this is Israel’s first king, Jeroboam. He set up sinful places of worship because he did not want them to return to Jerusalem. That one wicked sin continued throughout all of Israel’s history. When Assyria came and overthrew them because of these sins we read these words, “The people of Israel walked in all the sins that Jeroboam did. The did not depart from them, until the LORD removed Israel from His sight, as he dad spoken by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day.” (2 Kings 17:22-23)
Flavel continues in his book saying, “After men have passed their particular judgment immediately after their death, because after this, multitudes of sins by their means will be committed in the world, for which they must yet be judged to a fuller measure of wrath.”
What a heavy weight of responsibility Jeroboam bears concerning the false worship of Israel. What a liability that he has to accept long after he had died.
Flavel is reminding us that Haman, and all like him, will be judged for his angry words, his abusive words, his malicious words; but he will also be held accountable for the sins that others committed when they acted upon those commands. He will bear some responsibility when his commands were used as an excuse to perpetrate great sins against God and humanity!
When King Ahasuerus finds out later about the details of this plan he will kill Haman for this plot against the queen and her people. Flavel is reminding us that more terrifying than this is the fact that Haman will have to face the LORD and He will be judged for the destruction that these commands brought about upon others even after he is dead. (Read Esther 7:10; 9:1-11, 16)
But some might say that because of what God is going to do in delivering the people of God that Haman’s judgment will not be as severe. At first it may seem that way, however, the Law of God judges the heart.
If you hate someone you have already murdered them.
If you coveted their possessions you have already plundered their goods.
If Haman’s words were able to influence any heart against someone else and prejudice them against another he will receive a fuller measure of wrath.
Oh, how careful we need to be concerning two things. First, we should determine not be led astray into evil by the multitude of men who are like Haman and Jeroboam.
We should so discipline our minds in the Word of God that we are not carried away by them and their godless and wicked commands and instructions.
Secondly, we ought to consider this text today and watch very carefully the words that come from our own mouths. We must consider the scriptures that warn us of the folly of our mouths. Like, Proverbs 18: 2, which says, ‘A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his own opinion.’
Or consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:36 when He says, ‘I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word that they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.’
We are often told these days that politicians, judges, pro-athletes, and CEO’s that they want to leave a legacy. They want to speak up and be on the right side of history by embracing things that are so clearly against God and Scripture.
So many go to work every day to push their own agenda and to influence this culture against God and against His expressed will. With every passing day the legacy that they desire to leave to future generations will condemn them more and more.
The laws they pass condemn them more and more.
The verdicts they render will condemn them long after they are gone.
The deals they make at the expense of others will condemn them.
They ought to tremble at the very thought of such things.
Truth is, we are all easily prone to commit two great sins.
We so easily sin with our mouths.
And we so easily sin when we listen to others and do what they say.
The good news is that these sins can be forgiven. These sins can be removed by Christ. The LORD can change the heart of each of us so that our mouths are used for His glory and for the edification of others.
It begins with a heart that believes upon Christ and confesses that Jesus Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9)
It continues with a heart that continually returns to God in confession of its sins to find forgiveness (1 John 1:9)
Our tongues are used as they were intended when we worship the LORD and encourage our neighbor in the things of God (James 3:1-12)
By turning our hearts and our tongues to doing these things we will not only be a light of God to this generation, but for the ones yet to come. My office is filled with books of men who have died so long ago; and yet, their words comfort, encourage and strengthen me in my faith. If they will receive their reward in heaven for the cup of cold water that they may have given to refresh men, how much more will they be rewarded for the words they spoke and the things they wrote that have refreshed our souls in the LORD. I am grateful for all such people, those dead and those alive, whom the LORD used to refresh myself and others in the truth.
Consider the following things to help us in this endeavor of using our tongues to the glory of God.
When I have a problem with another person, I will go to that person promptly and privately.
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. Matthew 18:15
When individuals have a problem with me, I want them to come to me privately and I will be open to them when they come.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:2-3
When someone has a problem with me, and comes to you, send that person to me. I'll do the same for you.
Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. Ephesians 4:25
When I am wondering if someone has a problem with me, I will go to them and ask promptly.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24
I will be careful to not assume what others are thinking and feeling.
Test everything, hold on to the good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21
I will not speak for others in regard to what they are thinking or feeling.
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16
I will honor others by treating personal information and private conversations as confidential.
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4
I will refrain from all gossip and slander by only speaking that which edifies and builds up others.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
1The Message of Esther, David Firth, pg. 66
2Esther, Debra Reid, p.93
3John Flavel, Sinful Speech, p.16-17