Esther 8:15-17 - God's Amazing Redemption
The puritan Thomas Manton wrote, “The rose is not so sweet on the tree as it is in the still.” The ‘still’ is the process through which the rose is transformed into a beautiful perfume. The rose smells good on the tree, but it smells far better after it has gone through the furnace and it is distilled into a fragrant perfume. In the book of Esther we have seen God put Esther, Mordecai and the Jewish people through this distilling process.
For example, because of their sins they had been taken away from the Promised Land by the Babylonians and exiled throughout the kingdom of Persia. The Jews that we are learning about in the book of Esther are those very people who had been exiled to this far away land.
God spoke about these things in Isaiah 47:6 when He spoke through the prophet Isaiah saying, “I was angry with my people; I profaned my heritage; I gave them into your hand…”. The hand that God had given His people over too were the Babylonians. We see this in Isaiah 47:1, “Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; sit on the ground without a throne O daughter of the Chaldeans!”
Isaiah 47 is an entire chapter in which the LORD is speaking about the judgment that is going to come upon Babylon. This judgment is going to happen because although the LORD used them as the instrument of His judgment upon His people the Babylonians were ruthless and merciless in their treatment of the Jews. We read in Isaiah 47:6, ““I was angry with my people; I profaned my heritage; I gave them into your hand; you showed them no mercy; on the aged you made your yoke exceedingly heavy.”
Even though the Babylonians gave the Jews no mercy and their yoke was exceedingly heavy, God preserved His people. Even through these things God has used this to create a sweet fragrance in the lives of His people that have otherwise would have remained dormant. This fragrance is the fruit of God’s grace that works in His people and preserves them through times of trial and suffering.
However, in Isaiah 47 there is no hint that such a process would be accomplished in the Babylonians when they are judged for their sin. Their time of judgment would not produce a fragrant smell; rather, they would smell like the smoke of judgment without mercy. We read in Isaiah 47:14, “Behold, they are like stubble; the fire consumes them; they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame.” Take heed of those last words, you cannot deliver yourself from the power of the flame. God alone has to save a person from the flames of eternal judgment. We cannot save ourselves. As it has often been said, “The only thing we bring into our salvation is our sin. God must do the redeeming and the saving.”
When God judges the Babylonians they do not turn to the LORD, but they say to themselves, “I am, and there is no one besides me” (Is. 47:8,10). They would not turn to the LORD, but they would rely on their own wisdom, “You felt secure in your wickedness; you said, ‘No one sees me’; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray…” (47:10). In their time of judgment they will turn to their gods and to their sorcerers, “Stand fast in your enchantments and your many sorceries, with which you have labored from your youth…” (47:12)
As a result of this hardness of heart and sinful pride we read these sobering words in Isaiah 47:3, “Your nakedness shall be uncovered, and your disgrace shall be seen. I will take vengeance, and I will spare no one.” Consider those last words, “I will take vengeance, and I will spare no one.” What hope is there for the Babylonians? What mercy is there for them if we are told that the LORD will spare no one?
There is hope for those who will turn to the LORD before that day of judgment. There is mercy available even to the Babylonians if they will repent from all of these things and turn to the one true and living God. Look at Isaiah 47:4, “Our redeemer – the LORD of hosts is His name – is the Holy One of Israel.” Let me make two observations about this verse.
The LORD is the Holy One of Israel. He is perfect in holiness, righteousness and justice. He is set apart from all other things. In Him is no sin, no fault, no wickedness, no blemish. The LORD is set apart from all other created things. He is holy; we are sinners, He is righteous; we are unrighteous, He is perfect; we are imperfect, He has life; we are dead in trespasses and sins.
The God of Israel is a redeeming God. He redeems, buys back, pays the debt of sinners. There is no other redeemer by which men are saved. And when the LORD redeems someone He does it in a just and righteous way. The LORD glorifies His name in displaying His mighty power by saving His people from their sin. He alone is the giver of eternal life.
I have stressed all of this because in Esther 8:17 we will find that not only is God continuing to save His people the Jews, but He is also acting to save others throughout the kingdom of Persia through all of these things. What an amazing Redeemer we have in the LORD! The LORD seeks to save sinners Jew and Gentile alike (Isaiah 49:6)
Let me share with you what Spurgeon wrote about concerning what Thomas Manton had said about the rose in the still. He wrote, “Some of us owe more than we can tell to the furnace, the anvil and the hammer. They have been the making of our lives under the guiding wisdom of the great Worker’s hand. We cannot enjoy the process while we undergo it; but the results are such that we are ready to fall in love with the suffering.” He continues by saying, “O rose, were it not for the furnace, thine essence had not made fragrant the robes of queens; but now art thou in king’s palaces, and a drop of thy soul’s inmost wound is of more worth than gold.”1
Since Esther 3 we have witnessed how God has used the furnace, the anvil and the hammer in the lives of God’s people to produce in them something beautiful. Without God’s grace these things would crush them; but in God’s people the Holy Spirit uses these adversities produce unexpected results. We have watched as Esther, Mordecai and the Jews have humbled themselves before God and lamented. They have cried out, fasted and worn sack-cloth and ashes. We have watched how God’s invisible grace has strengthened them and given them courage. Through all of this they would have said with Spurgeon, “We cannot enjoy the process while we undergo it; but the results are such that we are ready to fall in love with the suffering.” (Surely this was a view that the apostles and Paul held.)
In today’s text we see that although there is still a battle to be fought against the enemies of God the Jews are filled with happiness, gladness, joy and honor. In fact, among all the peoples of Persia there is now a desire to not just be with the Jews in this moment, but to be counted among them and to declare themselves to be Jews. Remarkably, the suffering has produced a fragrance of grace that is drawing the Persians to the LORD. If this is the case, should we not for this reason fall in love with godly suffering?
Our text this morning is Esther 8:15-17,