Revive Our Hearts Podcast

An Evil Plan Is Hatched

Leslie Basham: The murderous villain in the story of Esther didn’t make God nervous according to Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Haman who thought he was so great was just a bit player in a cosmic battle. He was nothing. I mean, he was just a tiny speck of dust in the whole scheme of things, and God can flick him away in a moment when He’s ready to.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, June 12. Ephesians 6:12 says we’re not in a struggle against flesh and blood. Instead there’s a huge spiritual war being waged in heavenly places. Many times we’re unaware of it, but every now and then God gives us glimpses of the reality of spiritual warfare. Perhaps today will be one of those days for you. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: Well, if you’re following along with us in our study of Esther, and I hope that you are, not only listening to the radio, but also reading the book on your own. We’re coming to the place where the battle is heating up. I encourage you as you read the book to look for the battle between two kingdoms—the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God. The battle between Satan and God ultimately.

We’re seeing that intensifying battle in this story. If you’ll think about your life and this world and the era in which we live, you can see that battle around us on many fronts too. This book will give us some hope and courage to know how to face that battle.

We’ve seen that Mordecai is a Jew who is the king’s official sitting in the city gate. He is the adopted father of the new queen, Esther, who’s also a Jewess. She’s married to King Xerxes or King Ahasuerus—same man. Different translations say it differently.

Haman is now the enemy who has entered the scene. He is God’s enemy. He’s the enemy of God’s people. He’s an Agagite descended from the Amalekites who have been for centuries enemies of the Jews and God has said, “I’m going to blot out the Amalekites from the earth,” but the Amalakites have said, “We’re going to blot out God’s people from the earth.”

Now Haman and Mordecai I don’t think are realizing what we can see looking back on it. All they know is that Haman has risen to number two position in the land. He is the prime minister of the land. He’s been exalted. He’s been elevated. He’s a ruthless, power-seeking, power-grabbing man, and he knows that he wants everybody to bow down and worship him. Mordecai will not bow, will not worship because he will not bow toward God’s enemies.

So there’s this conflict between these two men that is intensifying, and we see it getting even hotter in verse 5 of chapter 3. “When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was filled with fury.”

Have you seen the anger earlier in this book? Remember King Xerxes got angry when he was under the influence of alcohol, and that’s when he deposed his first wife, Queen Vashti. We saw these two guards who got angry at the king and tried to assassinate him and Mordecai uncovered that plot and those men ended up on a stake.

Now we see Haman, when he doesn’t get his way, when he’s not worshiped as he wants, he is filled with fury. He’s enraged. This word fury or wrath in some of your translations is a violent anger with a desire to get even. “I will make you pay.” His response, as anger always does, exposes his heart.

When you get angry with your kids, it’s not your kids who are making you angry. It means you’ve got an angry heart. There’s wounded pride. There are unfulfilled expectations maybe towards your mate. There’s some way that you are responding in the pride of your heart that is causing you to respond with anger.

This angry reaction. It’s everywhere today. Road rage. People angry at their mate, angry at God, angry at life. It’s showing something about the condition of their heart. All the way through this book you see that when people who have position or power or influence or wealth, when they’re threatened, when they don’t have it the way they want it, they tend to get angry.

On the other hand, Mordecai and Esther react differently, and I asked you to look for contrasts between these two sets of characters. They have nothing to lose. So in times of adversity, they respond in humility, in brokenness and making appeals. You don’t see them getting angry though they certainly have reason that they could have.

So Haman is angry. He’s filled with fury at Mordecai. He wants to get back at him.

But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus (verse 6).

Now Haman’s not the only one who’s ever gone after all the Jews. King Herod did in the first century when he tried to kill all the Jewish baby boys. Of course, in more recent times the one who was so known for this was Adolph Hitler and the holocaust, which Hitler called the final solution of the Jewish question.

I want us to remember that the battle is not really between Haman and Mordecai. They are merely symbols of a collision at a far deeper level between two kingdoms, between God and Satan himself.

Remember in your world that your husband is not your enemy. Your boss is not your enemy. Some family member who has wronged you, some evil person, your boss, your roommate, your professor at college—these people are not your enemy. The real battle in our world today is between Satan and God and people are lining up on one side or the other. These conflicts are actually inspired by a battle between Satan and God himself.

Now the kingdoms of this world—man’s kingdoms—they rely on weapons of worldly power, human laws, human decrees and military might. That’s how they get their way. But the kingdom of God isn’t accomplished in that way. It doesn’t win in that way. The children of the kingdom of God wage and win the war with weapons like humility, prayer, fasting, sackcloth and ashes, reliance on God.

So the passage goes on to tell us,

In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur (that is, they cast lots) [that’s the Babylonian word for lots] before Haman day after day; and they cast it month after month till the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar (verse 7).

Haman called in his astrologer friends and said, "Cast lots." They used the casting of lots to determine what is the best day to execute this genocide. It was a common way of making decisions in ancient times.

These people were superstitious. They believed their lives were determined by fate or by chance. But we know from the Scripture that God determines the outcome of the casting of lots. There is no such thing as chance.

Proverbs 16:33 says we may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall (paraphrased). God was controlling the outcome of what seemed to be chance or superstition or fate. God was determining it. In God’s providence—have you heard that word before?—the dice fell to a time, a day that was 11 months out.

What if the dice had fallen to the next day or the next week? There would not have been time for the Jews to prepare for a counter-attack, time for Mordecai or Esther to act, but God was determining the outcome of the lot. It fell according to His will. There is no such thing as chance. Everything in this world falls under providence. God determining how things fall.

Haman who thought he was so great was just a bit player in a cosmic battle. He was nothing. I mean he was just a tiny speck of dust in the whole scheme of things and God can flick him away in a moment when He’s ready to. And God did as we’ll see as the story unfolds.

Satan is called in the Scripture the Prince of this World, but I want to remind you that no matter how powerful he is, he is not all-powerful. He is no match for God. God always gets the final say. Sometimes in your world it looks as if Satan is winning and, in fact, God does let him win some skirmishes, but in the end God will prevail.

I don’t know how to say it any better or differently, but I feel like I need to keep saying it because we need to keep being reminded of the fact that our circumstances and the people around us do not control our lives. Ultimately God does.

So Haman conceives the plot and then he goes to the king for backing and authority to implement it.

Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, "There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them” (verse 8).

Like Satan who’s the ultimate enemy of God’s people, Haman uses deception to accomplish his murderous purposes. Remember John 8 tells us that Satan is a murderer, and he’s a liar, and that’s what Haman was. He slandered the Jews to the king though you notice he didn’t tell the king who these certain people were. Just there are some people who are a threat to your power.

Now the historians tell us that to the contrary, Jews lived law-abiding lives and they made positive contributions to the Persian society as God had told them to do in the land of their captivity. They were good citizens. They were upstanding citizens. But Haman says, “There are these people, and they might want your throne,” is what he’s suggesting. “You’re not secure as long as these people are around. You need to get rid of them.”

So he says in verse 9,

If it please the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay 10,000 talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king’s business, that they may put it into the king’s treasuries.

Haman appeals to Xerxes on the basis of greed and financial profit. Ten thousand talents of silver would be millions and millions of dollars in today’s U.S. dollars. A historian of that era, Herodotus, said that 10,000 talents of silver was equivalent to two-thirds of the total annual revenue of the entire Persian empire. Two-thirds of their entire revenue.

Now Haman, I assure you, did not have that much money. He may have been a wealthy man, but I think it’s obvious he was planning to use the plunder from the Jews to pay back the king’s treasury. So this offer was lucrative to Ahasuerus in light of the fact that just recently he had been defeated by the Greeks. That had been an extensive battle, and he sees the opportunity to recover some of that loss.

So we see Haman abusing power, abusing authority, abusing influence, abusing it to oppress the Jews and to destroy lives.

How many of you have ever watched the movie Fiddler on the Roof? Most of you. Remember the name of the town? Anatevka. You remember at the end of the story when this tension comes to a climax? This takes place in 1905 in Russia under the Czars, and you remember at the end of the story how the people are forced to leave their home, to leave the hometown where they have grown up? They are sent out of the kingdom.

This is one of a series of what we call in history pogroms, that are organized persecutions or sometimes massacres against helpless people. The term pogrom usually applied to a tax on the Jews in the Russian empire in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, but it’s a term that can be used to apply more broadly.

I remember in World War II, November of 1938 was known as Kristallnacht—the night of the broken glass. Throughout Germany and Austria gangs of Nazi youth broke windows of Jewish homes and businesses. They burned down synagogues and looted them. A hundred and one synagogues were destroyed. Nearly 7,500 Jewish businesses were destroyed. Twenty-six thousand Jews were rounded up, arrested, and sent to concentration camps. Jews were attacked. They were beaten. It was a massacre, a slaughter, an onslaught against the Jewish people.

That’s really what we see happening here in the book of Esther. So here in chapter 3, verse 10, we pick up.

The king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews.

Now we’ve seen Haman’s name before in the text. We’ve seen that he was an Agagite. We knew that he was the son of Hammedatha, but now there’s a new phrase added: the enemy of the Jews. That’s what he has become.

And the king said to Haman, "The money is given to you, the people also, to do with them as it seems good to you” (verse 11).

Get rid of this problem. You take care of it. Now the signet ring that the king gives to Haman is like having the king’s signature. If you have the signet ring, you have the authority to act in the king’s name. The king gives his total authority and power over to Haman not realizing that his own wife is a Jewess and that he has just signed her death sentence.

Now, of course, Haman doesn’t know this either, but God knows it. Always but God. We read, as we think about Haman getting this authority, in Revelation 13 speaking of the anti-Christ, and I think Haman is a picture of that as we said earlier. The beast was allowed to make war among the saints and to conquer them for a period of time. Authority was given over every tribe and people and language and nation.

Remember that sometimes God allows power to be given into the hands of ungodly people, into the hands of the enemies of His people. I want to tell you Hitler could not have power if it did not come from God. Now, we cannot in our human reason begin to comprehend or explain or understand why God would do this.

But we know that God is righteous, that He is overcoming sin in this world, that He is redeeming this prodigal planet, that He is establishing His kingdom. Sometimes in order to make that happen, God allows authority to be given over from Satan to these wicked rulers on the earth. But remember they take their orders from Satan. But ultimately, Satan cannot do anything that God does not give him permission or freedom to do. They’re subject to His control.

So verse 12, Esther, chapter 3,

Then the king’s scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and an edict, according to all that Haman had commanded, was written to the king’s satraps and to the governors over all the provinces and to the officials of all the peoples, to every province in it’s own script and every people in it’s own language. It was written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king’s signet ring.

It seems to be so final, so ultimate that there is no hope. But God, right?

Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province by proclamation to all the peoples to be ready for that day. The couriers went out hurriedly by order of the king, and the decree was issued in Susa the citadel (verses 12-15).

So this horrific decree, this edict is written and established. So let it be written. So let it be done. It’s sent throughout the nation and it’s an edict to kill, to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day and to plunder their goods. As many as 15 million Jews were living scattered throughout the Persian empire at that time. This is a decree to annihilate every last one of them, young and old, women and children because Mordecai would not bow to Haman.

You see here this casual disregard for human life, including those who are most defenseless—women and children, young and old. We saw it earlier in Xerxes’ treatment of women and in his quickness to issue a decree to exterminate an entire human race—a minority race. This is characteristic of a worldview that does not recognize that God is the creator and the giver of life. Life is not precious to those who do not worship a creator.

But by contrast you see Mordecai and Esther who did place huge value on human life. You see Mordecai’s care for his orphaned cousin, how he adopted her, cared for her as his own daughter. You see how he valued the king’s life though he was a wicked king and exposed the plot to assassinate the king. Then you see an Esther and Mordecai that are concerned for the lives of their own people.

When the tables are turned later in the book and they have the opportunity to take vengeance on their enemies and their oppressors, notice that they only acted in self-defense. They did not kill women. They did not kill children. They only killed those who attacked them. A whole different view of life.

Now Haman’s words to Xerxes earlier on in this chapter I think describe the feelings and the intentions of many powerful, godless people in our day. What did Haman say? “There’s a certain people scattered abroad who’s laws are different. They do not keep the king’s laws and it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them” (Esther 3:8, paraphrased).

Listen, there’s been a long line of people throughout history trying to wipe out the Jewish race, but there have also been many efforts to eradicate Christians from the earth because they are followers of Christ and Satan hates Christ. Satan the serpent is always seeking to destroy Christ and His offspring. The Roman Empire was known for its ten waves of persecution against the church from the time of Nero to Diocletian.

In our day, even in our culture, in less overt ways sometimes, I believe we are witnessing a concentrated effort to eliminate the presence and the influence of the people of God who refuse to bow down to this godless world system. There’s an anti-Christian movement in this culture. You can talk about God all you want, but don’t lift up Christ as Lord.

We hear about these culture wars in the public square. You hear about the school boards that are debating over the inclusion of intelligent design and the teaching of the origin of life and some of these debates. You may think what does it matter? What’s the issue?

The issue is that Satan hates Christ. Satan’s followers are seeking to eradicate the name of Christ from this earth. Sometimes they do it under the name of religions, such as Islam. That’s a little more obvious. Sometimes they do it in more subtle ways under secularism or under Hollywood’s mantle trying to rid the planet of references to and worship of Christ.

The onslaught is coming. Now I can tell you that Christ is victor. We know that. We know that the final chapter has been written. We know that Christ will prevail, but the question is are we prepared to face the onslaught between now and the time of Christ’s final coming to reign and rule on this earth?

It should not take us by surprise or catch us off guard. We need to be prepared for that. If you read history—and that’s why it’s so important to study history and to study the Scripture because you see that this is a concerted effort and plot and strategy and plan of the evil one. So whether his name is Haman or Herod or Hitler or some of our modern day persecutors of Christ, the goal is still the same: to defeat God, to defeat Christ.

So this powerful edict is issued and it goes out throughout the entire Persian empire. Death to all the Jews. It seems so final. It seems so hopeless. The Jews have no way to defend themselves against this pogrom, against this annihilation. There’s no way of escape.

But God. But God is still God. God is still sovereign. God is still the king over all the earth. All the Xerxes and Hamans and Herods and Hitlers of this world merely take their orders from Satan who ultimately takes his orders from God. God is still king. God is still ruler. He is accomplishing His purposes, and He’s choosing and using people amazingly like you and me today to be a part of fulfilling His purposes and bringing about His kingdom on this earth.

Leslie: My role in the kingdom of God is important. That’s one of the points I’ll remember today. Your role is important too.

At Revive Our Hearts we invite women to open up to all that God has for them. We invite women to glimpse the beauty of godliness and letting that beauty shine in the world. Well, for three days women from across the country will be getting away from their routine to focus on God and His purpose for them. We invite you to join with them at True Woman ’08.

The lineup of speakers is solid—some of the best teachers on biblical womanhood we could find. The workshop leaders are wise and speak out of their life experience on topics that matter to you. The worship leaders bring a sweet spirit along with a lot of musical talent. We want you to be there too. Get more details on True Woman ’08 at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Flip on the TV and you’ll find plenty of people who want to amuse you. How many people want to help you appropriately grieve and mourn? Tomorrow hear why we need both joy and tears when we pick back up with the story of Esther. Tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Little Boy: Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries and my mommy is a true woman.

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