Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Plot Thickens

Leslie Basham: According to Nancy Leigh DeMoss, there’s comfort in knowing that God is in control.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Don’t stay up at night fretting and worrying and trying to figure out, “What am I going to do when I get out of college? How am I going to get a job? What am I going to do about this, or about that?” God knows. God cares. God is going ahead to make preparation. That’s God’s providence.

 Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Wednesday, June 11.

If there’s anything we’ve been learning from Esther, it’s that God has a plan, and He’s working it out. You might find that easy to see when reading a story like Esther’s, but it can be more difficult when you don’t know how your story is going to end.

Let’s listen as Nancy continues her study called Esther: God’s Woman at God’s Time.

Nancy: We’re picking up today in Esther chapter 2, verse 19, and as they say, “the plot thickens.”

Esther is now in the king’s palace and has become actually the queen of Persia. She’s been selected out of hundreds of other women. The king has had favor on her. He has taken this young Jewish girl, probably a teenager—he’s taken her to be his queen.

We’ve read the end of the story, so we know what God was up to. But Esther and her cousin Mordecai, who was her adopted father, had no clue what God was doing. We see that God was working, in His providence, in and through their circumstances.

Now when the virgins were gathered together the second time [these are the women of the king’s harem] Mordecai [Esther’s adopted father] was sitting at the king’s gate (verse 19).

If you’ve read other passages of Scripture, such as the book of Ruth . . . The king’s gate comes in to play there, and Proverbs 31 also talks about the man sitting at the gate of the king. The king’s gate was the place where commercial and legal business was transacted. It suggests that now Mordecai had risen to some position of responsibility. He was one of the king’s officials, and that little detail sets the stage for the story that’s going to unfold here.

Esther had not made known her kindred or her people, as Mordecai had commanded her, for Esther obeyed Mordecai just as when she was brought up by him (verse 20).

Now, this is the second time that little detail is mentioned in this story. When God says something once in Scripture, it’s worth paying attention to. When He says it twice, apparently God thinks it’s important.

Esther trusted Mordecai enough to obey him, to follow his leadership. She didn’t toss out what she’d been taught once she was out on her own. I think that’s an evidence of her wisdom, of her character—the fact that she had respect for authority and for her upbringing and training.

We’ll see later in the book that there were strong feelings of anti-Semitism throughout the empire. So I think Mordecai may have been wise in not unnecessarily making a public issue out of the fact that he and the queen were Jewish.

In those days, as Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, became angry and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. And this came to the knowledge of Mordecai, and he told it to Queen Esther, and Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai. When the affair was investigated and found to be so, the men were both hanged on the gallows. And it was recorded in the book of the chronicles in the presence of the king" (verses 21-23).

Every little detail we just read . . . Those of you who are familiar with the story of Esther, you know that these little details are going to become very important years later. We see divine providence.

What is providence? It’s God’s watchcare over His creation. It’s the fact that God sees ahead what is going to happen. God ordains ahead, and God goes before His people to make provision for those circumstances before we ever get there.

Some of you are worrying, “What am I going to do when I get to be of old age? Who’s going to take care of me? What’s going to happen if my husband’s Alzheimer’s gets worse? What’s going to happen if my children do this?”

I don’t know what’s going to happen; you don’t know what’s going to happen. But God knows what is going to happen, and God has already gone before you to make provision for things that you have no idea are going to happen. You don’t know that your husband is going to lose his job two months from now. But God knows.

So don’t stay up at night fretting and worrying and trying to figure out, “What am I going to do when I get out of college? How am I going to get a job? What am I going to do about this, or about that?” God knows. God cares. God is going ahead to make preparation. That’s God’s providence. You see that at work here.

It’s divine providence, first of all, that Mordecai was in position at the king’s gate. That’s why he was in a position to hear this plot to assassinate the king—God had put him in that position. You say, “Well, the king gave him the job.” That’s what it looks like, but God holds the king’s heart in his hand. God put him in that position; God gave him that job.

It’s God’s providence that this plot came to the knowledge of Mordecai. I mean, don’t think that these two conspirators happened to just tell Mordecai. Mordecai somehow overheard this. How did it come to his knowledge? It was providence. God put him in a place to hear it.

Then we see that Mordecai was loyal to the king, even though he was not a godly king. When Mordecai became aware of the plot, he reported it to Esther. The men were tried, the men were brought to justice, and the plot was averted.

In those days, traitors—when it says they were hanged on the gallows, it probably means that they were impaled on a huge wooden stake or pole. That was the Persian form of capital punishment. The deed was written in the royal records, but at that time—for whatever reason, probably a human oversight—there was no official recognition, no thanks, no reward given to Mordecai for saving the king’s life.

What does Mordecai do? There’s no evidence of bitterness, no evidence of resentment. You see in Mordecai a servant’s heart—that attitude that Jesus describes, in the book of Luke, as saying that we’ve only done what is our duty to do. “I’ve done what I’m supposed to do.”

So he goes back to his job. Mordecai’s good deed was not recognized or rewarded for another four or five years. Can I remind you that God sees, God knows, and God will bring all things to light in His time? You see that theme through the Scripture.

Evil pursues sinners, but to the righteous, good shall be repaid (Proverbs 13:21,NKJV).

The Son of Man will come . . . and then He will reward each according to his works (Matthew 16:27,NKJV).

Then, not now. So much of the reward for the Christian life is not now. So much of our reward, as servants of God and of our families, is not now. The reward is later.

William Penn, who founded the state from which I hail, Pennsylvania, said, “He that does good for God’s sake seeks neither praise nor reward. He is sure of both in the end.”

You will reap what you sow. Mordecai saved the king’s life from an evil assassin when he had the chance, and ultimately, Mordecai’s life was saved from evil Haman’s plot. He reaped what he sowed.

Again, we see that in God’s providence, God was writing the script. Seemingly insignificant, unrelated details were actually all a part of God’s plan to save His people. So it is in your life. Faithfulness will be rewarded. Maybe not now—probably not now—but ultimately.

The ultimate faithfulness that isn’t rewarded now is mothering. Most likely your kids are not, when they’re three and four—or when they’re thirteen and fourteen—going to rise up and call you blessed.

But as you’re being faithful, as you’re doing what God has called you to do, as you’re caring for your kids, as you’re cleaning your house, as you’re preparing meals, as you’re in the workplace faithfully doing whatever God has called you to do, as you’re serving behind the scenes at your church, as you’re doing hidden acts of kindness—there are things you are doing day in and day out that you think no one sees, no one knows, no one appreciates, and no one recognizes.

No one says “thank you.” There’s no reward—and you get tired of it some days, right? Look at this story and remember that God sees; God knows. He records it in the history books of heaven, and He will reward in His time.

Now we come to chapter 3. Verses 1-2 tell us,

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 king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded concerning him.

This is a kingdom that is preoccupied with power and with knowing who’s in charge. And all the scraping and all this bowing just fuels Haman’s ego, his sense of superiority. As we’ll see, it gets him in big trouble.

But verse 2 goes on to tell us that Mordecai, the Jew whom we’ve been introduced to earlier,

did not bow down or pay homage. Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai [these are his co-workers], "Why do you transgress the king’s command?" And when they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai’s words would stand, for he had told them that he was a Jew (verses 2-4).

Remember, earlier in chapter 2, Mordecai had told Esther, “When you go into the palace, don’t let people know that you’re a Jew.” Now it becomes known that Mordecai is a Jew, but there is still not known the connection between Mordecai and Esther. Okay?

So we have Haman, who is now in this battle. We said, when we started out this study, to look for a battle between two kingdoms: the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God. We’re seeing that battle intensify as we see these two men: Haman, who wants everybody to bow before him, and Mordecai, who says, “I will not bow before you.”

Why will Mordecai not bow? Chapter 3, verse 1, tells us that Haman was an Agagite. That means he was a descendant of Agag, who you will remember was the ancient king of the Amalekites. The Amalekites were descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother, and the Amalekites had been enemies of God’s people, the Jews, for centuries.

Let’s just refresh our memories for a few moments about the history of that conflict, because it becomes very important in this story.

In Exodus chapter 17, you remember that the Amalekites attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. That’s where Joshua fought the Amalekites while Moses held up his arms during the battle, supported by Aaron and Hur. At the end of the battle, God said to Moses, “I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven” (verse 14, NIV).

Then Moses affirms that this is God’s intent when he says in that same chapter, “Because [theirs] is a hand against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (verse 16, Amplified Bible).

God says, “I’m going to blot them out completely.”

Then in 1 Samuel chapter 15, years later, God says to Saul,

I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them (verses 2-3, NIV).

God says, “These are My enemies, and you are to destroy them.”

So 1 Samuel tells us that Saul attacked the Amalekites, but he took Agag, king of the Amalekites, alive. Saul and the army spared Agag as a matter of pride. He wanted to be seen as a conquering king, so he didn’t kill the king of the Amalekites as God had told him to do.

So then comes the prophet Samuel who confronts Saul and says,

The LORD . . . sent you on a mission, saying, "Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out." Why did you not obey the LORD? (verses 17-19, NIV)

We see when we come to the story of Esther that choices we make to partially obey God, but not completely obey Him, can have implications generations later. Saul was given the opportunity to represent God in wiping out this evil race of people. He didn’t do it.

Out of his pride, he said, “My way is better. I can be an exception to God’s rule. I can do it my way.” As a result, not only did the Amalekites continue to exist for generations, but they continued to be a thorn in the side of the Jews, and they continued to be declared enemies of the Jews. Remember, it was an Amalekite who ultimately took Saul’s life. Saul spared an Amalekite and ultimately lost his life at the hands of an Amalekite.

This conflict between the Amalekites—or the Agagites, as they came to be known—and the Jews continued over the centuries. There are other references to that conflict in the Old Testament. Now, centuries later, after King Saul, one of Agag’s descendants rises to power and attempts to exterminate God’s chosen people. That’s what the Amalekites had always wanted to do, going back to the book of Exodus.

So now the Jews are threatened with extinction by Haman, an Agagite, because centuries earlier Saul did not finish the job of dealing with God’s enemies.

Let me just tell you, young women and older women, when you don’t deal with your flesh—with your pride, with issues of obedience and self-control in your life—you open up a door, an instrument, for the enemy to have a heyday, not only with your life, but with your children and your grandchildren and for generations to come.

Don’t think that your choices now do not have ramifications down the road. Some of you moms can see that you are reaping in your children. They’re like a mirror, and they show in magnified fashion the issues that you didn’t deal with in your life as a younger woman. Don’t let it go. Obey God, or you will deal with those enemies for a long time to come.

Now, in spite of the fact that Haman has risen to power and is going to threaten to exterminate the Jews, God is still on the scene. God is still on His throne, and God is committed to fulfill His covenant with His people. He’s not going to let His people get wiped out. God is committed to protect the family line of David. God’s committed to fulfill the judgment He promised against the Amalekites. Remember, He said, “I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”

God keeps His promises. It’s been centuries, and it doesn’t seem to have happened, but God will fulfill His promises.

You may think, as you’re living in that difficult marriage or working in that difficult job, “It’s been centuries—well, decades—and nothing’s changed.” God is committed to fulfill His promises. You don’t try and figure out the timeline. Just be faithful to what God has called you to do.

So Mordecai refuses to bow down, to pay homage, because Mordecai is a Jew. It was not against God’s law for Mordecai to honor a human ruler. They were told to honor the king. But the Amalekites, the people represented by Haman, were the sworn enemies of God and of His people. Mordecai said, “I am not going to honor someone who is God’s enemy.”

As I study this passage, I do not believe—and some commentators will disagree with me here—I do not believe this was a personal grudge between Mordecai and Haman. From Haman’s standpoint, it may have become one, but I think it was something much bigger than that. Mordecai was siding with God in the national struggle between God’s people, the Jews, and the Amalekites.

So Mordecai refuses to bow, and that refusal meets with opposition. His peers say to him . . . day after day they speak to him. They try to get him to compromise his convictions, but Mordecai is steadfast. It says he “refused to comply,” verse 4 (NIV).

He refused to compromise his convictions, even under pressure from his peers. Mordecai is driven by strong convictions, by character, by a sense of his heritage, and by a sense of accountability to the highest of authorities—that’s God’s authority.

Again, if I could just single out you younger women—you decide if you fit into that category—you have so many opportunities in this world, pressures to give in to the world’s system, pressures to look like the world, think like the world, act like the world, date like the world, and do it the way the world does it.

I want to say that you need to be a woman of conviction, a woman who sticks to her guns and says, “I’m going to honor God and obey Him. I’m not going to side with the enemies of God, and in so doing bring reproach to the people of God.”

So we have here an illustration of civil disobedience, really. His friends say, "Why do you transgress the king’s command?” And you think of other people in Scripture who transgressed their king’s command: the three Hebrew young men who said to the king, “We will not bow down to your image; we will not worship that image” (see Daniel 3:16-18).

I think of, today, believers who are gathering to pray, gathering to worship in homes, in violation of local zoning ordinances—in other parts of the world, and increasingly in this country—and saying, “We must obey God rather than men.” It’s a tough thing to do. And when you stand for your convictions, you have to be prepared to pay consequences—as there were for Esther and Mordecai—but it’s worth paying the consequences to obey God rather than men.

Now, as Haman’s character unfolds here, I believe he is a type—an Old Testament symbol or picture—of the Antichrist. He’s empowered by Satan, the Antichrist is; we read this in the book of Revelation. He’s given authority by Satan. He’s worshiped. The Antichrist tries to destroy God’s people, and for a while it looks like he wins, but ultimately, all anti-Christ people and forces are destroyed by Christ.

Let me read to you a passage in Revelation 13 that gives this picture of this beast who seeks the worship of the human world. It says,

And they worshiped the dragon [that’s a picture of Satan] for he had given his authority to the beast [and I think Haman was an Old Testament picture of this beast] and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?" . . . Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them” (verses 4-7).

God allowed the Antichrist, the beast, for a time, to make war on His people and, for a time, to defeat them. Now, if you’re in that time, that’s a scary thing.

And authority was given [the beast] over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it [they will bow down] everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain (verses 7-8).

You see the battle here? You see the war? It’s between Satan and God. It’s a battle for worship, and Satan gives authority to this beast and causes the world to worship the beast, to bow down to the beast, to obey the beast. He gives the beast all kinds of authority. It’s a beast that is set against Christ and against God. The battle is between these two kingdoms.

Haman and Mordecai are two little bit-players who represent this great battle. I believe that Satan was behind Haman in the same way Satan entered into Judas when he betrayed Christ—in the same way that when you and I seek to be worshiped, when we have to be right and everyone has to agree with us, we take on characteristics of Antichrist. It’s a serious thing.

Here we have Mordecai, who says, “I will not bow.” Haman, we’re going to see, is enraged. He can’t handle this, because he wants all authority and power to be his.

Again, before we’re too hard on Haman, or the "Hamans" of the world . . . You may think, “Yes, I work for a man who’s like Haman.” You may think, “I’m married to a man who’s like Haman.” Or, “There’s a man in political office in our community who’s like Haman.” They exist everywhere, but I want to ask you to ask this question: Is there any of Haman in me?

  • Am I a controlling person?
  • Am I power seeking?
  • Do I get all upset when people don’t do it my way, when they won’t bow down and crown me king?

Now, we wouldn’t say those words outwardly, but the fact is, in our hearts there is some Haman, and that’s why we need Christ to be crowned and to rule as king in our hearts. And when He’s ruler, then we’ll be able to say “no” to this world’s system, and we’ll be able to be men and women of conviction, even as Mordecai was.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss. She’ll return to pray with us.

We all drift into [Haman]-like attitudes sometimes and need a daily connection with God through His Word and prayer. We’d like to send you a study guide on the book of Esther when you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts. Let this study connect you in a deeper way with the book of Esther. It will guide you through Scripture and follow-up questions, so you’ll understand this rich book better. It would be a perfect tool to use during your quiet time.

Ask for the study guide, Esther: The Exiled Queen, when you call us with your donation at 1-800-569-5959, or go online to ReviveOurHearts.com.

The story of Esther will show you that worldly popularity and power don’t really matter all that much. See tomorrow how quickly those things can crumble, when Nancy picks the teaching back up.

And now, let’s pray with Nancy.

Nancy: O Father, I pray that You would fill us with Your Spirit, that You would make us women of conviction, willing to pay the price to stand alone when everybody else is bowing down to this world’s system, its quest for money and power and sex. O Lord, help us to be different, to stand alone as Mordecai did, and as Esther ended up doing. And, Lord, help us to stand without fear, knowing that we fear no one but You, and that You are the one who reigns and rules, and who will one day rule over all the kingdoms of this world. I pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.

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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