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,
Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a robe of fine linen and purple, and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor. And in every province and in every city, wherever the king's command and his edict reached, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them.
From our text today we will consider how when God elevates His faithful people into positions of influence there will be many blessings that result from this. We will see this in three ways:
Mordecai is promoted by the king.
The city of Susa and the whole kingdom rejoiced when Mordecai was promoted.
The peoples of Persia began to identify with the Jews and believe in the LORD.
Mordecai Is Promoted By The King
Verse 15 says, “Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a robe of fine linen and purple, and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced.”
Remember back to Esther 6 when we saw that Haman was commanded by King Ahasuerus to take Mordecai and dress him in the king’s clothes, put him on one of the king’s horses, and parade him around the city while he shouted, “Thus shall it be done for the man whom the king delights to honor.” (6:11)
This was an amazing act of honor that was bestowed upon Mordecai by the king but I cannot help but notice that in all of this Mordecai never actually saw the king. He wore the king’s clothes but he did not see his face. He rode the king’s horse but did not have a conversation with the king. If Mordecai was a man who liked to boast he could brag about these things. But eventually someone would ask:
“Mordecai, did you get to meet the king that day?” He would have to say, ‘No’.
“Mordecai, did you ever get to see the inside of the throne room?” Again, he would have to say, ‘No’.
But now Mordecai has been introduced to the king. He gets to go into the throne room and see the king face to face. The king gives Mordecai his signet ring and promotes him to the chief of all the officials. Now that he has seen the face of the king everything changes.
He comes ‘out from the presence of the king’ and he is not wearing his normal attire. The days when he wore sack-cloth and ashes are now a distant memory. He is now wearing royal robes with a great golden crown upon his head. He is wearing the king’s signet ring upon his finger (8:2). The first act of honor that the king gave to Mordecai pales in comparison to the second. The first act of honor only lasted a couple hours but this honor will continue and all of the benefits he now has will remain.
Gospel Application: Have you met the King of kings? Do you have a personal relationship with the LORD Jesus Christ? Have you had an encounter with the Redeemer of Israel?
It is possible, like Mordecai, to look like a friend of the King around town for a few hours but not really be the kings friend.
You might ask, “How do I approach the Holy God when I am a sinner?” Mordecai was introduced to the king by Esther and you will need to be introduced to the Father by His Son Jesus Christ. There is no other way to enter into the throne room of heaven. And when the Son brings you into the throne room you are changed. His grace will lavish upon you countless blessings that begin to transform you forever (2 Peter 1:). There is no other mediator between God and man but the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you been to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4)? If you have, then when was the last time that you were there? Going to the throne room and worshiping the LORD Jesus Christ changes us. Jonathan Cruse writes about this in his book entitled, “What Happens When We Worship”, He writes, “True Christian worship shapes us into something for our restoration (as opposed to ruin) because in true Christian worship we actually meet with God.” When we approach God in humility, repentance and faith we are restored; we will not be ruined like prideful Haman was.
After Mordecai sees the king he is given new royal clothes. His old clothes are gone. Similarly, believers are clothed in the righteousness of Christ once and for all. They are not paraded around for a short time in Christ’s righteousness and then seen in filthy rags later. Their righteousness will last because they are not clothed in their own righteousness which is like filthy rags (Is. 64:6). No, a believer is clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ. We are to be clothed in the garb of heaven and not in anything that resembles the garments of this world and its kingdoms. (Matthew 22:11)
The City Of Susa Rejoices At The Promotion Of Mordecai and the Jews celebrated everywhere
Again let us look at verses 15-17 we read, “Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a robe of fine linen and purple, and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor. And in every province and in every city, wherever the king's command and his edict reached, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday”
In this moment Mordecai is experiencing something that Haman could only have dreamed of. Haman wanted to be treated like this very badly. Let’s remember what we saw in Esther 6:11-12. There we read, “So Haman took the robes and the horse, and he dressed Mordecai and led him through the square of the city, proclaiming before him, ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.’ Then Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman hurried to his house, mourning and with his head covered.”
Notice that we are not told how the people responded to Mordecai as he was being honored throughout the city in this way. We are left to wonder what that scene looked like; but notice that when Mordecai comes out from the king’s presence in our text today that ‘the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced.” The Jews were happy, glad, joyful and full of honor. They were not forced to do this; rather, it was a sincere and genuine moment of joy for these people. You get the sense that this moment has far exceeded anything that had come before.
In Acts 11 the gospel had been received by the Gentiles for the first time so the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch to investigate these things. We read in Acts 11:23, “When he came and saw the grace of God he was glad…”.
When a sinner exchanges his sin for the righteousness of God other believers are made glad.
When sinners see the king and are changed the saints are glad and they rejoice.
Friends, there is nothing more beautiful than a humble person who has had the filthy garments of sin removed and Christ’s righteous garments put on. A believer, one who is full of the Holy Spirit and faith (24), can’t help but to rejoice at the sight of this. It does not matter if that person is a Jew or Gentile; male or female; young or old. Similarly, when the Jews see righteous Mordecai they rejoice.
This moment was everything that Haman had wished he would have experienced but he never could. We know that this is the case because the king had to command the people to show Haman honor. We saw this in Esther 3:1, “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. And all the kings servants who were at the kings gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded concerning him.”
The last time that Haman had sent out a decree throughout the land the people of Susa were confused and the Jews wept, lamented, cried out and mourned. But now, there is joy, gladness, happiness, and honor. When that first decree went out the Jews fasted, but now they celebrate together because of what God has done. This brings us to our third point.
The People Began To Identify With The Jews And To Believe On The Lord
Verse 17b we read, “And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them.”
What an unexpected turn of events. We have seen how God has used this trial in the lives of Esther, Mordecai and the Jews to create in them a fragrant aroma of holiness; but now we see that God has used these things for another reason. He has used these events, and the Jews responses to them, to bring salvation to the people throughout the Persian Empire. God is merciful and gracious and so He not only seeks to save Jews but Gentiles too.
In our text today we see that there are many parallels to what we see in the Book of Acts. When the Jews see Mordecai come out from the king they rejoice. Similarly, after Jesus had suffered and was raised from the dead and was seen by His disciples they rejoiced. When they saw Jesus alive they had a hope that could not be quenched by any fiery trial.
We also saw today that not only did the Jews in Susa rejoice upon seeing Mordecai but all the Jews rejoiced when they heard his decree. Similarly, after Pentecost the disciples who had been with Jesus went throughout the land and preached the gospel to other Jews throughout Israel. Many of those who heard the gospel believed the message and responded with great joy and gladness. From that moment on the decree went out that Jesus was the Christ and there is salvation only in Him. The Jews who received this message rejoiced with great gladness.
For a time the gospel was only preached to Jews, but eventually the gospel was preached to the Gentiles and began to spread all over the world. When they heard the Good News they believed the message and received the gift of eternal life. Like the Gentiles in our text, these people became known as ‘Christians’ and remained faithful to the LORD (Acts 11:22-26).
Like the Jews in our story, the church now finds itself in a battle that is raging all around us. But we are assured that the war has been won and the victory has been assured. Therefore, we can rejoice and be glad. Any suffering that we are asked to endure by faith will make us pleasantly fragrant in this world and they will not be able to ignore our faithful witness.
Dr. David Thompson said something that really encouraged and challenged me. He said, “We will never influence the world until we are willing to demonstrate a positive confidence in God and His Word that does not bend. If we give into pressure or if we buckle when things get difficult, we lose our effectiveness to make a great impact.” 2
As we come to a close, let us remember the great mercy of God. Remember Isaiah 47:4 which said, “Our redeemer – the LORD of hosts is His name – is the Holy One of Israel.” He can save the worst of sinners and He can receive the prodigal son who has wondered away and squandered his inheritance. Think of your greatest enemy and know that God can save that person. What is our role in this? Have you approached the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace?
Today, there may be some of whom it could be said, “Behold, they are like stubble; the fire consumes them; they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame.” (Is. 47:14) Yet, with God nothing is impossible! (Luke 2:37) If you come to Christ for mercy you will not be turned away. You will receive eternal life and everything that pertains to life and godliness (1 Peter 1).
Believer, by faith we can walk in such a way that we will influence the world. By faith we can demonstrate a confidence in God and in His Word that does not compromise. When pressure comes we will not buckle under the pressure because God’s grace keeps us and will not allow us to loose the impact that Christ through us can have upon this world. To Him be the Glory. Amen.
1Flowers From A Puritan’s Garden, Charles Spurgeon, p.198
2David Thompson, Exposition of Esther, p. 51