Esther Goes Before The King - Esther 5:1-8
One time our church was about to go out to the square to do evangelism. I was telling a new couple what they could expect. I gave them too much information because at one point the ladies face became red and she began to fall backwards onto the couch in my office. Afterwards this it took awhile for her to decide that she still wanted to go out with us. Once we arrived, however, God used her in an amazing way. She was filled with the grace of God and displayed great poise, love, peace and courage.
This story illustrates what I would like to focus on in our text today. Last week we looked at how Mordecai, the Jews, and Esther reacted when they heard about the decree that Haman had sent throughout the Persian Empire. The decree was sent out to ‘destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children’.
How would you have responded to this? Would you have become overwhelmed with fear? Would you have fled? Would you have fortified your home? Would you have grabbed your firearm? Or would you have torn your clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes and cried out to the LORD?
When the Jews heard the decree they turned to the LORD and today I would like to focus in on the grace that comes from such a response.
In Isaiah 35:3-4 we see a picture of what this type of grace looks like. We read, “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God. He will come and save you.”
The Jewish people have been profoundly effected by this decree. But when they responded by turning to the LORD there was real grace given, real strength applied to their hearts and they were given real courage.
Like Isaiah, we need to preach to others, ‘Be strong, fear not! Behold your God. He will come and save you’. We need to preach to ourselves, ‘Be strong, fear not! Behold your God. He will come and save you.’
Our text this morning is found in Esther 5:1-8. We read,
On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king's palace, in front of the king's quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace. And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. And the king said to her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.” And Esther said, “If it please the king, let the king and Haman come today to a feast that I have prepared for the king.” Then the king said, “Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther has asked.” So the king and Haman came to the feast that Esther had prepared. And as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king said to Esther, “What is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” Then Esther answered, “My wish and my request is: If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my wish and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come to the feast that I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said.”
What is it that gives Esther success when she goes before the king?
There is no doubt that when Esther went before King Ahasuerus she was prepared. We see this in Esther 5:1 when we read, “On the third day Esther put on her royal robes…”. She had prepared herself spiritually through prayer and fasting for three days. She had prepared herself physically to see the king by putting on the royal robes.
We also see that Esther had a plan and a petition ready for the moment when the king would invite her up to his throne. Esther had planned to invite the king and Haman to a banquet that she had already prepared for them. In these things we see two evidences of Esther’s big faith and hope in God. She planned for the best outcome and came ready with a petition. She also had already made preparations for the feast so that the king could say, “Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther has asked.” These things show us Esther’s confident faith in God and in His ability to save.
There is no doubt that all of these things were important for Esther to find favor with the king and to ultimately save the Jews. Yet, do these things answer the question, ‘What is it that gives Esther success when she goes before the king?’
Today’s sermon will seek to celebrate the fact that it is our faith in God and His grace that ultimately achieves victory. If the grace of God were not given to Esther, and if she did not receive it and apply it, none of these other things would have been effective.
The grace of God that is seen in the life of an individual who is in these circumstances is an incredible thing to witness. Let me give you an example of what this sort of grace might look like.
Elizabeth Elliot was the wife of Jim Elliott who was martyred along with four other missionaries in Ecuador. His death left behind his young bride and their very young child. After her husbands death Elizabeth chose not to return home from the mission field. This decision concerned her parents and her in-law’s. They thought that Elizabeth was not taking care of herself and that she was not grieving in a healthy way.
When they confronted her, Elizabeth began to question herself. How was she coping with this so well? Why was she determined to stay on the mission field and fulfill God’s call? Was she in denial? Was she doing what was best for her child?
She prayed to the LORD and began to ask Him if she was doing something wrong. Elizabeth could see that most people did not respond to things the way that she had been. Her response did not seem to be ‘normal’ or ‘typical’. Most people would have picked up their baby and returned to the states.
The LORD began to show her that the reason that she was not grieving the way that most people expected was because He was giving her His grace. The LORD was giving to her His strength and courage. The LORD was providing her with His comfort. Elizabeth was walking by faith in God concerning all of these things.
Ever since I heard this testimony I often find myself looking at people who are in trials, who are experiencing tragedies, and those who are walking through tribulation; to see if they are acting differently than I might expect because of the grace of God that is in their life. When you see grace working in someone it is beautiful! There testimony is like that of Paul, “The Lord stood by me and strengthened and defended me!” (2 Timothy 4:16)
Another example of this grace is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Verse 13 says, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”
Believers can respond differently in difficult situations because our faith is tied to the hope we have in the sovereign control of God. William Carey, the old Baptist Missionary to India, once said, “If you embrace and rest in God’s sovereignty, you will expect great things from God and attempt great things from God.”1 This is exactly what we will see Esther do in our text today.
Last week we saw in Isaiah 22 that the Jews who are confronted with dangerous trials by fleeing, fortifying their homes, and by grabbing their firearms. In these moment, so few turn to the LORD and embrace by faith God’s mercy and grace. Because of this we are often startled by people who are responding differently because of the grace of God that is in their lives. At first glance, we may think that these people have a problem. We may think that they are in denial. We think that they are in shock and we begin to wait for them to act normal.
I believe that because Esther has been praying and fasting for three days that the LORD is going to give her many divine graces. I would like to point out some reasons why it would appear that Esther is operating in divine grace.
Let’s begin by establishing the context. Last week in Esther 4:4 we saw that Esther was ‘deeply distressed’ when she heard that Mordecai was lamenting. We saw that she was: ‘overcome with distress’, ‘exceedingly grieved’, ‘seized by great fear’, ‘great anguish’, ‘tremble greatly’, ‘very upset’, ‘full of consternation’.
It is important to remember that this reaction was because she had heard that Mordecai was in the city square lamenting. Things will only get worse from this point on as Esther began to learn the details concerning this evil plot.
She has not yet heard about the 10,000 talents of silver that has been offered to the king by Haman to implement this plan.
She does not yet know the full extent of this plot which would engulf every Jewish family in the empire.
She does not yet know that the king had authorized this with his own signet ring and implemented it with his authority.
Esther does not yet know that Mordecai wants her to go to the king and plead for the Jewish people.
This request by Mordecai would scare and intimidate Esther because if she were to go in to see the king without being called by him she could be killed. We read in Esther 4:11, “All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live.”
At this point, Mordecai confronts Esther about a false hope that she may be tempted to think. He says to her, “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish.”
In response to all of this Esther says, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Even in these last words we see the grace of God at work, ‘If I perish, I perish’. By faith Esther embraces the LORD’s will even if it will lead to her death, ‘If I perish, I perish’.
In chapter two we tried to imagine the struggle that Mordecai must have experienced when she was taken to the palace at the decree of the king. This moment, however, would be far more challenging for Mordecai. He is telling her to go to the king even though she might die. Mordecai command Esther to do this because he is backed into the corner. He does not do this because he fears for himself. This command comes from faith that God will use Esther to deliver the people. We read last week in Esther 4:14, “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place…”.
Then we see that Esther commands Mordecai to gather all the Jews in Susa to fast with her for three days before she goes in to see the king. Chapter four then ends with these words, “Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.”
Mordecai does not think that fasting will be a fruitless spiritual exercise. Mordecai does not think that this will be a waste of three valuable days in which they could flee, fortify, and grabbing their firearms. No, Mordecai goes and does this immediately. And as a result, we will see that God responds to Esther and the Jewish people in a wonderful way.
As our text begins we see that we are given a lot of little details that may not seem all that important. We read, “On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king's palace, in front of the king's quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace…”.
The first detail that we see is that Esther takes action on the third day as was determined between her and Mordecai. She does not act to soon; neither does she delay in going to the king. Her response was without procrastination. It reminds me of Abraham when he set out early the next morning to go sacrifice Isaac on the mountain that God would show him. (Genesis 22:1-8) Abraham and Esther’s faith in God produced obedience to the Word of the LORD without procrastination or delay.
The second detail we see is that Esther put on her royal robes and stands in the inner court in the palace. The word for ‘royalty’ is used three times in verse one. Esther puts on her ‘royal robes’, the king sits on his ‘royal throne’ in the ‘throne room’. One commentator said, “Esther is entering her other world, the kings territory. As she does, she enters cautiously and dresses appropriately.”2It is not the clothes that she has on that will give Esther confidence in this moment. It is the grace of God that helps Esther to enter confidently into this environment. It is the grace of God that allows all of us to enter into the throne room of the Sovereign God to find favor with God. (Zechariah 3:1-5)
The third detail we see is that Esther stands in front of the king’s quarters while the king sat on his royal throne. From this vantage point Esther can clearly see the king and his royal throne. One commentator writes, “Now we know from carvings found at the ancient palace at Persepolis that behind the throne of Ahasuerus stood a Median soldier with a huge axe.”3 Despite seeing this scene Esther stands before the king. God’s grace can protect Esther and give her favor with the king. It is the grace of God that allows us into the presence of the King and this grace provides us with peace and protection.
We are given many details about this moment but notice what details we do not given. We are not told that Esther continues to be ‘deeply axious’, ‘overcome with distress’, ‘exceedingly grieved’, ‘seized by great fear’, that she is ‘in great anguish’, ‘trembling greatly’, that she is ‘very upset’ and ‘full of consternation’. We may think she would be under these circumstances but we would have to assume this to be the case.
We are not told that she tossed and turned all night over the past few days. We are not told that she arrives into the throne room with bloodshot eyes. We are not told that she fretted over this moment and hesitated to stand before the king. We are not told that Esther hid off to the side when she went into the kings presence. We are not told that she tried to inquire to see if the king was in a good mood that day. She and the people prayed and fasted and trusted in the sovereignty and providence of God.
Isn’t this encouraging. Let me draw two applications from this. First, a faith that will embrace the grace of God can remove deep anxiety, great distress, overwhelming grief, crushing fear and gut wrenching anguish. Secondly, a faith that will embrace the grace of God does not have to micromanage every detail; it can simply act in obedience. We so often try to micromanage everything and try to plan everything out perfectly to the littlest detail. But if we will turn to the LORD in prayer and embrace God’s grace by faith He will guide our steps and prepare the way.
The forth detail that we are given is that Esther stands in the court of the king. A faith that embrace the grace of God can stand up in all sorts of terrifying circumstances. A faith that embraces the grace of God stands like a soldier ready for battle. Consider these words of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6,
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore...”.
The grace of God was helping Esther and she was embracing it by faith at every step in this process. She has been deeply troubled, but she is now being given boldness, courage, peace, strength, patience, wisdom, discernment.
There is so much we could continue to say but we do not have the time. But let me leave you with this picture from our text. Let’s consider a detail that is given in Esther 5:2. We are told that the king holds out his scepter and that ‘Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.’
Do you see the grace of God in these nine simple words. First, we are told that Esther approached the king. She does not shout to the king from a distance just in case the king’s disposition should change. No, she approaches the king properly, calmly, confidently, courageously.
Secondly she touches the tip of the scepter. We are not told that Esther’s hands trembled as she touched the scepter. She approaches and reaches out with a steady hand. She reaches out with a hand which is held steady by the grace of God. She brings herself to the throne by faith. She reaches out her hand by faith. Esther’s faith has embraced the grace of God throughout this process and she will continue to do this throughout this letter.
Let me end by reading Psalm 2 and encouraging us to approach the King of kings by faith to receive grace in our time of need. Most will not do this but we must. We read,
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
We have seen Mordecai, the Jewish nation, and Esther approach God and take refuge in Him. They ‘Strengthened their weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.’ Our text today has spoken to each of us saying, “Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God. He will come and save you.”
1David Strain, Esther, p. 124
2Reid, Esther, p.106
3Strain, Esther, p.123