Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Time to Celebrate

Leslie Basham: In the book of Esther, Mordecai and the other Jews had reason to mourn, and then they had reason to celebrate. Nancy Leigh DeMoss points out that we have a reason to celebrate, too.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Doesn’t it seem kind of strange that some Christians should live all their lives down in the dumps, under the circumstances? You’ve got to ask, “What are you doing there? Where’s the gladness? Where’s the joy?” Christ is our Mordecai. He is our Deliverer!

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Tuesday, June 24.

The book of Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time to weep and a time to laugh. Do you have this balance in your life? We weep over the lost and over our own sin. At the same time, we need to joyfully celebrate God’s forgiveness and goodness. Today Nancy Leigh DeMoss invites us to celebrate as she continues in a series called Esther: God’s Woman at God’s Time.

Nancy: If you’ve read reports about the end of World War II, you remember that news traveled fast. On May 7, 1945, Germany officially surrendered to the Allies, and the 8th of May—the next day—was declared “Victory in Europe Day”—“VE Day.”

That announcement set off wild celebrations all around the world—singing, dancing, partying, parties in the streets. Some 500,000 people thronged the streets in New York City. You may have seen the pictures there in Times Square—just this great outpouring of emotion.

It was “Victory in Europe Day.” The war wasn’t yet over in the Pacific. Japan didn’t surrender for another three months. But people knew that victory was at hand. So the word traveled quickly and the celebrations broke out.

In Europe when Prime Minister Churchill announced the end of the war in England, for the first time since the war began, church bells rang out all over England. There was celebration everywhere.

Well, that’s a little bit the picture that came to my mind as I was reading Esther chapter 8. We see what happens now that Haman has been hanged. The wrong man is out of the palace. Mordecai is in the palace.

The old edict to annihilate the Jews cannot be revoked, but the king has given Mordecai permission to issue a new edict saying that the Jews can come together and defend themselves on this date that was to be their destruction day. Now they will be able to defend themselves.

Though the battle hasn’t happened, the people are thrilled. They’re excited because they know that their victory is soon to be at hand. They know that there is hope.

So we see in Esther chapter 8 verse 15:

Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king [having just received permission to issue this new counter edict] in royal robes of blue and white with a great golden crown and a robe of fine linen and purple.

By the way, this is quite a contrast to the way we saw Mordecai dressed at the beginning of chapter 4 where he was dressed in sackcloth and ashes; he couldn’t even come in the gate of the king’s palace. Now he’s wearing the royal robes.

Haman had connived and schemed to get these things. Remember, he tried to get them when he thought he was going to be honored. “Let somebody wear the king’s robes.” He never got what he wanted, but Mordecai, who never sought to have these things, received them as an unexpected gift. Again, it’s just a reminder that God brings down the proud, and He lifts up the humble.

As Mordecai went out from the presence of the king (continuing in verse 15), “the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced.”

We saw the city of Susa earlier in a state of confusion, in panic and uproar. But now the city is shouting and rejoicing. This is the capital city of the Persian Empire where there were perhaps as many as a half a million Jews living.

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 (verses 16-17).

V Day! Now, the war hasn’t been finished. They haven’t even fought the battle yet against their oppressors. But now that this counter edict has been issued, they know there’s hope. So out of that hope comes springing forth joy and gladness and celebration. Exuberant celebration broke out throughout the entire vast empire.

Up until this point there’s been very little reason to celebrate. But now there is great cause for gladness and joy and rejoicing.

Chapter 8, if you remember, began with Esther weeping, going before the king, pleading on behalf of her people. “How can I bear to see my people’s lives taken? How can I bear to see them destroyed?” She’s weeping before the king.

As we’ve said, all the tables are turned. The Jews are rejoicing and celebrating.

There’s a psalm that comes to mind as I read this passage. Let me read to you from Psalm chapter 30.

I will extol you. O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit (verses 1-3).

It was as if they’d been resurrected by the way to new life. I mean, their lives were done, over, until God brought in this hope.

Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (verse 4).

And then verses 11-12 of Psalm 30:

You have turned for me my mourning [my grieving, my sorrow] into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with me gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

You see that progression? It was true, not only of the Jews, but it’s true of God’s people. We see here the transforming power of the Gospel, the Gospel of Jesus Christ that turns paupers into princes. Those who had received a death sentence have now been let out of prison. Those who were condemned are now exalted.

Mourning has been turned into dancing, fasting into feasting, confusion into rejoicing, darkness into light, sackcloth into royal robes. Isn’t that what the Gospel does for us?

We were condemned to die. We were prisoners. We had no hope. We were without God, without hope in the world. And then God in due time, in the fullness of time, sent Jesus Christ to this world, gave Himself as a sacrifice, the offering for our sin, and now has resurrected us to new life in Christ.

What should be the outcome, the result?

Celebration! Singing! Delight! Gladness! Joy! No, the battle is not over. We still live in this flesh. We still have indwelling sin. We still have to deal with it. But we know the outcome. We have hope. We have a means of victory.

The joy and the gladness at this point in Esther’s story is an expression of faith. Haman’s decree is still in effect. But now the Jews know they have a way out. They have hope!

I can’t help but ask as I read this story and I read Psalm 30 and I see the joy that comes, the thanksgiving, the praise, the celebration when prisoners have been set free. I have to ask, “Where is the joy? Where is the gladness? Where is the shouting? Where is the rejoicing? Where is the celebrating? Where is the partying among God’s people today for the right reasons?”

Instead, you look around and if you get the mail I get, if you see the letters I see, and talk with many of the people I talk with, what you find far more often among believers is depression, discouragement, bondage, fear, gloom and doom.

I know we’re not in heaven yet. The final celebration is not yet come. It’s not for now. It’s for then. And we still live in a fallen world. We still have to deal with our flesh. We still have to deal with the enemies of Satan and this world. Those are serious things. Not every moment—yet—is for partying and celebration.

But by the same token, doesn’t it seem kind of strange that some Christians should live all their lives down in the dumps, under the circumstances? You’ve got to ask, “What are you doing there? Where’s the gladness? Where’s the joy?”

Christ is our Mordecai. He is our Deliverer! He has written and signed and sealed an edict that says you can have victory over the law of sin, victory over death. He has issued a decree that spells our freedom.

Don’t you think there should be some joy? Shouldn’t there be some gladness? Shouldn’t our churches be places where there is joy and gladness?

You look at the average church today—and I speak a lot so I get to see people’s faces. They look like they missed the city morgue, and they landed in the church. I mean, like they’re drinking lemon juice.

You look at some Christians and you think, “I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy whatever it is that they have.”

I’m not talking about pasting a superficial smile on your face or always being giddy. We still live in a very troubled world, and there are lots of things to be heavy-hearted about. My heart is often heavy over world circumstances and the condition of the church and the need for revival today.

But we shouldn’t be living in this bondage to depression and discouragement and fear. Christ our Mordecai has given us reason to celebrate, reason to have joy and gladness.

You compare what’s happening now in chapter 8 of Esther to the first edict that was issued. That first edict brought confusion and consternation. Now the news that justice has prevailed brings great joy and celebration.

And I’ll tell you what else it also brings. It brings the conversion of many foreigners who were gripped by fear because of what they had just seen.

Verse 17 tells us, “And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them.”

So the tables are turning in an amazing way. We come today to chapter 9, which takes place, according to the way historians, Bible scholars have calculated, on March the 7th, 473 B.C., 473 years before Christ on March 7.

Esther chapter 9, verse 1:

Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out.

Which command and which edict is that? That’s Haman’s edict. That’s the one that says the Jews will be destroyed and annihilated.

On that very day.

How did they arrive at that day? Do you remember? They had cast lots. Haman had cast lots. He was superstitious. He thought it was a matter of chance. He consulted his astrologer friends and they said, “This is the most propitious day.”

That was eleven months earlier they had cast those lots. But the Scripture says the Lord determines the outcome of the lot. And in fact, that’s what had happened.

So now that day has arrived. We’re coming to this great climactic moment. What will happen?

Again, sometimes we don’t look at the Scripture with sufficient wonder because we’ve read these stories over and over again. We’ve heard them since we were little. We forget what it was like to have been living in these stories.

But we’re reminded as we read a story like this that our stories where we don’t know the outcome, God does know the outcome and He’s orchestrating it. And it will be a good outcome ultimately.

So now it’s the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the thirteenth day. The king’s edict to destroy the Jews is about to be carried out.

On the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred (verse 1).

The reverse occurred. Only God! God’s name may not be in the book of Esther, but God’s fingerprint is everywhere, God’s image, God’s presence. The reverse occurred. The Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.

This was an utter impossibility, but God had made it possible. With God all things are possible.

So even though Haman was dead, there were still many people who wanted to harm the Jews. This has always been the case in the history of the world since the days of Abraham. There have always been those who wanted to attack God’s people.

Someone asked on an earlier break, “Why? Why would people want to do that? Why would they have such hatred toward God’s people?”

Ultimately I think the answer is that people hate God.

  • They don’t want God to rule over them.
  • They want to be God.
  • They want to be their own God.
  • They want to run their own lives.
  • They want to rule the world themselves.
  • They don’t want to bow to God.

So in order to get at God, they always try to get at the apple of God’s eye. That is the Jewish people, the chosen people of God. And the people of God who are believers in Jesus Christ will always be the objects of hatred and venom and attack.

So when it happens, understand that is part of living in a fallen world. There are those who want to gain mastery over the people of God. But now the tables are turned. The Jews gained mastery over their enemies, those who would have destroyed them.

The Jews, remember, are a small minority. They may have been as many as 15 million people, but they were scattered throughout the Persian Empire, which was a vast empire stretching from modern day Pakistan to the northern Sinai peninsula—Ethiopia and Sudan and Egypt. Fifteen million Jews scattered throughout this empire with a possible population of 100 million people.

This was a miraculous intervention on their behalf. God was fighting for His people. And God fights for you. God doesn’t always win the battles the way we would like Him to win them, but He is always ultimately victorious.

So verse 2:

The Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm.

As we read through this chapter, notice the way the attackers are described. They’re described as the enemies of the Jews. They’re described here in verse two as those who sought their harm.

No one could stand against them, for the fear of the Jews had fallen on all peoples. All the officials of the provinces and the satraps and the governors and the royal agents also helped the Jews, for the fear of Mordecai had fallen on them” (verses 2-3).

Is this a change in circumstances or what? Mordecai had feared no one but God, but now others are afraid of him.

I thought how different that is from the way it is in the Christian world sometimes today. So many Christians today live in fear of the culture and are so afraid of being overcome by the culture. It should be the other way around.

There should be such an evidence of the presence and the power of God in His people that the culture is afraid of God and afraid of us—not because we’re cruel or mean or vindictive, but because they see the power of God.

Isn’t that what Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 14:25 where he says when an unbeliever comes into your church, if you’re functioning the way you should as a New Testament church, it says, “He will fall on his face and say, ‘Truly God is in this place’” (paraphrased).

How often do we see that happening in our churches? Instead we spend our time cowering in fear from all the attacks of the lost world. We’re on the winning side, ultimately. Our victory is secure, and we need to go in that confidence.

For Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces, for the man Mordecai grew more and more powerful (verse 4).

I thought of that being kind of an Old Testament picture of Christ—not that Christ grows more and more powerful but that His fame is spreading. He is going to be loved and worshiped and adored. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

The Jews struck all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and did as they pleased to those who hated them (verse 5).

This was defensive. This was not an aggressive war. This was not a vengeful or a private vendetta. They’re defending themselves in this controlled response against those who would seek to destroy them.

In Susa the capital itself the Jews killed and destroyed 500 men and also killed Parshandatha and Dalphon and Aspatha and Poratha and Adalia and Aridatha and Parmashta and Arisai and Aridai and Vaizatha (verse 6).

You say, “Who in the world is that, and why are all those names there?” Look at verse 10.

The ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews.

In the Hebrew text of this text, the names of Haman’s ten sons (you can’t see this in the English Bible) are arranged visually in the shape of a gallows. It’s a picture of what happened to them.

On the feast of Purim, which we’ll talk about in the next session, when the Jews celebrate their victory over their enemies the Persians, they read the book of Esther through from start to finish. The reader reads the ten names of Haman’s sons in one breath, like I just did, to signify that the ten sons all died together.

In destroying those ten sons of Haman, the Jews finally carried out the orders that God had given to Saul hundreds of years earlier. They fulfilled God’s clearly revealed intentions regarding the destruction of the Amalekites.

That very day the number of those killed in Susa the citadel was reported to the king. And the king said to Queen Esther, "In Susa the citadel the Jews have killed and destroyed 500 men and also the ten sons of Haman. What then have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? Now what is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what further is your request? It shall be fulfilled."

And Esther said, "If it please the king, let the Jews who are in Susa be allowed tomorrow also to do according to this day’s edict (verses 11-13).

"Give us one more day to finish the job. There are still enemies who want to destroy the Jewish people."

And let the ten sons of Haman be hanged on the gallows.

So the king commanded this to be done. A decree was issued in Susa, and the ten sons of Haman were hanged. The Jews who were in Susa gathered also on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and they killed 300 men in Susa, but they lay no hands on the plunder (verses 13-14).

You see that three times in this text. They were authorized to plunder, and in fact Saul, hundreds of years earlier when he did battle against the Amalekites, did keep some of the plunder. But this was not an aggressive war. This was a war of self-defense against their enemies, so they didn’t touch the plunder. They weren’t trying to get rich off their enemies.

Now the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also gathered to defend their lives, and got relief from their enemies and killed 75,000 of those who hated them, but they laid no hands on the plunder.

So the killing was limited to one day in all the provinces, two days in the capital, and then they stopped. They killed only men; whereas, the edict against them had authorized their enemies to kill men and women and children and young and old.

They were lining themselves with God against His enemies. We’re reminded that we have some enemies—the flesh, the world, the devil—and we are engaged in a battle. God calls us in the name of Jesus Christ to do battle, to do war, knowing that the day is coming when the triumph of Christ will be complete over all His enemies.

If you want to read about it, read the book of Revelation. There are two main themes in the book of Revelation. One is worship, but the other is war. There is war against the enemies of God. Those who set themselves, declare themselves to be God’s enemies, God will do war against them.

We join in His name, not to be warlike, not to attack people who don’t agree with us, but to do battle against our sinful flesh, to do battle in the spiritual realm against Satan in the name of Jesus, and to resist this world system that has set itself against God.

That is part of the Christian life—being a warrior, being a soldier, being involved in the name of Christ—not hating people, not being ruthless, not plundering people, not being rude, not making ourselves offensive to people. But saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ and in the name of His cross, we want to see Him be victorious.”

And He will be in eternity over all His enemies. Every knee will bow; every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11, paraphrased).

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss helping us keep our focus on Jesus while we live in a hostile culture.

The book of Esther has all the elements of a great story—character development, action, subplots, foreshadowing. As we’ve seen, its setting is very important. The story of Esther wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t set in a land hostile to the things of God.

Well, know we’re living as strangers in a strange land, and we can learn a lot from the book of Esther about living for the world to come.

We’ve developed a booklet that draws insights from the book of Esther about living in a hostile environment. It’s called Esther: The Exile Queen. You can order a copy when you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts.

We hope that we’re providing a moment of hope in what often might seem like a hostile day. We’re able to provide solid Bible teaching for women because some of our listeners give generously.

You can donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959. Be sure to ask for your copy of Esther: The Exile Queen when you contact us.

A lot of times we celebrate in order to forget. We entertain ourselves to forget our problems. Tomorrow we’ll see how fulfilling it can be to celebrate in order to remember. I hope you can be back with us for Revive Our Hearts.

 Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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