The “Feasts” Series #5
“FEAST OF PURIM”
TEXT: Book of Esther
INTRO: There are close to 7 billion people on the face of the earth, and just in America there are about 306,000,000 people! In this sea of humanity can one person make any real difference? Does God take notice of you? Is your life of any important value? To each of these questions the Bible says a resounding YES!
History is full of how one person made a difference in a nation, a state, a city, or even the world! History is full of people God worked through; people just like you and me. There were two requirements by God to be used by Him to do something significant;
1. Believe on Him!
2. Be available to Him!
God is at work ... you are important! You can make a difference in this world, in your state, in your city, in your home, etc.
ILLUS: Helen Barrett Montgomery (1861-1934) was both a reflection of the gains made by Baptist women in the 19th century and a precursor of change in the 20th century. A licensed minister, social activist, author, and lecturer, she published a translation of the Greek New Testament and was the first woman president of the Northern Baptist Convention (1921-22). Her lifelong work for missions included world travel and the presidency of the Woman's American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, and her support of ecumenism led to her involvement in the establishment of what has become the World Day of Prayer. -- "The Baptists," Christian History, no. 6.
The only book in the whole Bible that never mentions God by name is the book of Esther, yet no other book shows more clearly how God was at work in the lives of a few individuals who turned to Him, and they were used in mighty ways. A couple of Godly people made a difference in the life of an entire nation!
PROP.SENT: The Bible teaches us that God will use even one person who is willing to trust Him and be available. It is with such people that God can change an entire nation, an entire family, or whatever ... He still is looking today for “Esthers” and “Mordecais;” those like them who trust the Lord and are willing to be available to do His will! They made a difference with God, and so will you!
I. DARKNESS & GLOOM! Esther 3:8-15; 2:12-19
A. Great Catastrophe! Esther 3:8-11
a. It was tough times!
b. Life was anything but smooth!
2. Now because of the jealousy and hatred of one man towards another man who was Jewish, things would get worse!
a. Mordecai was a Godly and faithful Jewish man and a hard worker.
b. Haman hated Mordecai because he was so good!
c. His hatred caused him to not only plot Mordecai's death but to also destroy everyone like him! (All Jews!) Esther 3:5-6
3. The other person in this story is Esther ... a real beauty, outwardly and inwardly, who also was Jewish and related to Mordecai … but this was unknown to the king at the time!
a. Look at her attitude! Esther 2:12-19
b. She had many reasons to complain … but didn't ... she would do what she could where she could.
c. She set her heart to love the unlovely!
d. She could have felt insignificant and unimportant, even “used” ... blaming God for her rotten life and her people's captivity ... but she didn't.
(1. She could only see the King on certain occasions, the first time took over a year of beauty treatments!
(2. Just think how unimportant she could have felt, especially with all the other wives this guy had!
4. Yet, God is able to take all these difficult circumstances and still do something wonderful!
ILLUS: When complimented on her homemade biscuits, the cook at a popular Christian conference center told Dr. Harry Ironside, "Just consider what goes into the making of these biscuits. The flour itself doesn't taste good, neither does the baking powder, nor the shortening, nor the other ingredients. However, when I mix them all together and put them in the oven, they come out just right."
Much of life seems tasteless, even bad, but God is able to combine these ingredients of our life in such a way that a banquet results. -- Greg Asimakoupoulos in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.
B. Godless Command Esther 3:12-15
1. Finally the decree comes ... “destroy all the Jews!” Haman's hatred finds expression – a decree by the way that could not be stopped once given! The laws of the Medes and Persians were such that no law made could be repealed … done to prevent the making of thoughtless laws normally. This was official policy of the Mede-Persian Empire; once a law was made, there was no going back on it! (See the following verse in Daniel, Daniel served under the Medo-Persian Empire as well): Dan 6:8 “Now, O king, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered -- in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”
2. The date was set by casting a lot (called “Purim”) ... the date fell on the 13th (if the month began on Sunday it would have been Friday the 13th!)
3. This godless command allowed for the killers to also get all the plunder from the Jews! (Note the reversal from King Saul’s day; he was supposed to have killed all the Amalekites – Haman is an Amalekite!)
4. The Jews were about to lose everything ... their lives and their goods! What could be worse, or go worse for them?
5. God however is not restricted by man’s evil ways … and He does not forget those who turn to Him for help.
ILLUS: In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells about an incident that taught her the principle of giving thanks in all things. It was during World War II. Corrie and her sister, Betsy, had been harboring Jewish people in their home, so they were arrested and imprisoned at Ravensbruck Camp.
The barracks was extremely crowded and infested with fleas. One morning they read in their tattered Bible from 1 Thessalonians the reminder to rejoice in all things.
Betsy said, "Corrie, we've got to give thanks for this barracks and even for these fleas."
Corrie replied, "No way am I going to thank God for fleas." But Betsy was persuasive, and they did thank God even for the fleas.
During the months that followed, they found that their barracks was left relatively free, and they could do Bible study, talk openly, and even pray in the barracks. It was their only place of refuge. Several months later they learned that the reason the guards never entered their barracks was because of those blasted fleas. -- John Yates, "An Attitude of Gratitude," Preaching Today, Tape No. 110.
II. DETERMINATION & GODLINESS Esther 4:1-3, 12-16
A. Good Cause Esther 4:1-3
1. This evil was not the direct result of sin in these Jewish lives, therefore their cause was a good one to fight for!
2. Where do you begin to fight?
a. Where they did ... on their knees! This the starting point of “spiritual warfare!” Esther 4:1-3
b. Everyone began to pray among the Jews! Esther 4:3
3. Prayer is the roadbed for determination!
ILLUS: It is our business to see that we do right; God will see that we come out right. -- Donald Gray Barnhouse in Revelation. Leadership, Vol. 1, no. 2.
B. Good Conscience Esther 4:12-14
1. Because none of this was the result of any evil they had done ... it was time to trust God!
2. What would be out of their control would be in God's control ... this is usually the way God works; what we can do for our self He will expect us to do, what we can't, He will!
ILLUS: After their long and weary exile in Babylon the people of Israel were set free to return to their own land. Spurred on by Nehemiah, they began to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. This aroused the hostility of the pagans around them, who threatened to undo their work. The people of Israel took two essential steps: they prayed to God, and they posted a guard day and night. Even as they prayed for God's protection and help, they did what they could. They knew that prayer is not a way to avoid responsibility, it is not a shortcut to success without effort. -- Ron Klug, Bible Readings on Prayer. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 6.
3. With a good conscience Esther must gamble her life for all of the Jews!
C. Good Courage Esther 4:15-16
1. Time for more prayer before acting … not just praying after problems, something we too often do!
a. Could one little gal make a difference in the life of the nation?
b. YOU BET!
2. What a brave gal ... a good cause and a good conscience basted in prayer produced good courage!
a. We need not fear Satan's schemes if we have a clear conscience.
b. God was already at work behind the scenes, it was just not yet evident to God's people ... this is so often true when our conscience is clear and we are facing a mess!
ILLUS: Two books that offer a number of excellent stories that can be used as illustrations are those by Paul Aurandt: Paul Harvey's the Rest of the Story (Bantam) and More of Paul Harvey's The Rest of the Story (Morrow). Compiled originally for Harvey's nationally syndicated radio series, the stories are built around the surprise ending format.
One of my favorites is the one about West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice, Nebraska. Normally all of the good choir people came to church on Wednesday night to practice, and they tended to be early, well before the 7:30 starting time. But one night, March 1, 1950, one by one, two by two, they all had excuses for being late.
Marilyn, the church pianist overslept on her after-dinner nap, so she and her mother were late. One girl, a high school sophomore, was having trouble with her homework. That delayed her, so she was late. One couple couldn't get their car started. They, and those they were to pick up, were subsequently late. All eighteen choir members, including the pastor and his wife, were late. All had good excuses. At 7:30, the time the choir rehearsal was to begin, not one soul was in the choir loft. This had never happened before.
But that night, the only night in the history of the church that the choir wasn't starting to practice at 7:30, was the night that there was a gas leak in the basement of the West Side Baptist Church. At precisely the time at which the choir would have been singing, the gas leak was ignited by the church furnace and the whole church blew up. The furnace room was right below the choir loft! -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 252-253.
3. Esther and Mordecai were determined to do the godly thing!
III. DELIVERANCE & GOD! Esther 5:9-14; 6; 7; 8; 9:1-28
A. God's Call Esther 6; 8
1. To the King:
a. It was no accident the king could not sleep that night! Esther 6:1
b. It was no accident that the king requested a bed-time story be read to him that night! Esther 6:1
c. It was no accident that the king chose to hear stories about his own reign over the kingdom. Esther 6:1 (things that happened 5 years earlier!)
d. It was no accident that the story chosen for that moment was when Mordecai had previously saved the king's life! Esther 6:2
e. It was no accident that the king asked if anything was ever done to reward Mordecai for this! Esther 6:3
f. It was no accident that Mordecai hadn't been rewarded earlier than at this time for what he did, although for Mordecai when it happened it must have seemed like he wasn't properly thanked for it at the time! God had kept the reward for the right moment, which isn't always right when we think! Esther 6:3
g. It was no accident that Haman just happened to be in the palace that night and no one else was available for the king when he wanted someone important! Esther 6:4
h. It was no accident Haman's own pride cost him his life! Esther 6:6-7:10
ILLUS: Shortly after Dallas Theological Seminary was founded in 1924, it almost came to the point of bankruptcy. All the creditors were going to foreclose at noon on a particular day. That morning they met in the president's office with Dr. Chafer for prayer that God would provide. In that prayer meeting was a man by the name of Harry Ironside. When it was his turn to pray, he prayed in his characteristic manner: "Lord, we know that the cattle on a thousand hills are Thine. Please sell some of them and send us the money."
While they were praying, a tall Texan with boots on and an open collar stepped up to the business office and said, "I just sold two carloads of cattle in Ft. Worth. I've been trying to make a business deal but it fell through, and I feel compelled to give the money to the seminary. I don't know if you need it or not, but here's the check!"
A little secretary took the check and, knowing how critical things were financially, went to the door of the prayer meeting and timidly tapped. When she finally got a response, Dr. Chafer took the check out of her hand. It was exactly the amount of the debt! When he looked at the name, he recognized the cattleman in Ft. Worth, and turning to Dr. Ironside said, "Harry, God sold the cattle!" -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 419.
2. Now God through the king calls for all Israel to defend herself ... God would be with them but they still would have to also fight! Esther 8:11-15
a. Rejoicing broke out among the Jews! Esther 8:16-17
b. God would vindicate righteousness ... He still does today!
c. Many others joined the Jews "suddenly" when it became obvious that God was on their side! Esther 8:17b READ!
B. God's Conditions Esther 9:1-17
1. The Jews did some important things that brought success:
a. They gathered themselves together for the battle! Esther 9:2
b. They didn't try to fight alone or separate!
c. The church could learn from this today!
2. They only killed those who attacked them … no others! They didn't seek revenge on their enemy ... just righteousness! Esther 9:5-10
a. Note: they killed only armed men!
b. According to Esther 8:11 they were permitted to kill even the women and children of the enemy, BUT they didn't! They had compassion on them!
ILLUS: Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging one makes you even with him; forgiving it sets you above him. -- Anonymous. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 1.
3. They even refused riches though they were permitted to keep the “plunder.” Esther 8:11, read also Esther 9:10,15,16
a. 3 times it says they left the plunder ... which was permitted them!
b. For whom do you think the plunder was left? – They no doubt left the plunder for the widows and children of their enemies who they had been permitted to kill but didn't!
c. They were thus ministering unto their enemies, so they wouldn't starve or be poor. In that culture particularly, women widowed and children left fatherless were in danger of destitution without some means of helps.
d. Their attitude here is important! It was the same attitude of their leaders: Mordecai and Esther!
e. Is it any wonder God was pleased to deliver them! With this kind of attitude of compassion toward even enemies God would not ignore His people and their need!
C. Great Celebration! Esther 9:18-28
1. The day that was marked to be tragic for them became a day of great blessing!
a. Rather than their being fearful ... their enemy was fearful of them! Esther 9:2-3
b. They had a reputation of faithfulness to God! Esther 9:2-3
c. God has the way of turning horrible things into joyful things!
ILLUS: Happinessce Jones is a renowned concert organist and teacher at Baylor University. Several years ago she played the first full concert on the new pipe organ at the Crystal Cathedral in California, which cost over $1 million. At the age of sixteen she was a piano major at the University of Texas. A sprained wrist interrupted her promising career as a pianist. For six weeks she could not touch a keyboard. Not wanting to waste the time, she decided to learn to play organ pedals with her feet, and a new career was born. "God has a way," she relates, "to get your attention and say, 'Hey, I have something better for you to do."' -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 273.
2. This "bad" day became a "glad" day! Esther 9:22
a. It became a national holiday!
b. It was to be celebrated every year!
c. They were to tell it to their descendants and have them celebrate it; annually!
d. They do this today, reading the book of Esther and mentioning the 10 sons of Haman all in one breath (just the 10 sons), indicating that God destroyed the 10 evil sons at one moment!
3. It was 3 fold:
c. The giving of presents to each other AND THE POOR – this giving to the poor may support the action of their leaving the plunder for the widows and children of their enemies! Esther 9:22b
CONCLUSION: The “Feast of Purim” is evidence of God's faithful care for us as His children … one godly life in a nation can make a difference! It was a celebration of God’s power over their enemies, and of God’s power in the life of a couple of people. Can one person with God make a serious difference in this world? YES!