Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: If God controls everything, then our job is just to be mindless robots. Right? Well, not according to Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Trust in God’s providence does not mean that you always sit back and do nothing and just wait for things to unfold as they will happen. There is a time to be silent, but there also is a time to speak.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Tuesday, June 17.  

If you’ve been following our series on the book of Esther, you know that yesterday we covered the book’s most famous verse. Mordecai sent a message to Esther still inside the palace walls, telling her something had to be done. The Jews were facing a serious crisis. Mordecai said, “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

Nancy: Today we pick up in chapter 4, verse 16, and we see Esther’s response. She sends back this reply to Mordecai. She 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.

So there’s been this back and forth between Mordecai and Esther, with the messenger going back and forth from Esther’s palace to Mordecai, who is outside the city gate in sackcloth and ashes. All the Jews are weeping and wailing and mourning, and now Esther knows that she has to do something. So she purposes in her heart that she will act, but she doesn’t act right away. First she says, “We need to fast.”

By the way, as I read that verse, I think of the contrast in the previous chapter, chapter 3, verse 15, after this evil edict was sent out, it says the king and Haman sat down to drink. They went to feasting and partying, but Esther, when she hears this news, says, “Now is not a time for feasting and partying. Now is a time for us to be earnest, to be fervent in seeking the Lord, and we’re going to do that with fasting.”

Keep in mind that the Jews had already been fasting, many of them, we learned earlier in this chapter, but Esther says, “I’m going to join you in that fast, and we’re going to intensify this effort of saying ‘no’ to food, so we can turn our hearts toward the Lord.” She says, “I’ll join you, my attendants will join you. This is a serious matter.” She’s saying. “It’s not something we can take lightly.”

I know the text doesn’t explicitly state that prayer was involved with this fasting, but I think there’s no doubt that it was. They were fasting for the purpose of turning their hearts toward God. They were desperate, and I believe they were asking God for courage, asking God for wisdom and direction, asking God to grant them favor with the king, to turn the king’s heart, to supernaturally intervene, because they knew that was what it was going to take, that nothing else would do. This was a situation that could not be solved through ordinary means.

It’s just amazing to me, again, how God used this crisis to rally, and, could I say, to revive the hearts of His people. When they had nowhere else to turn but to God, that’s where they turned.

As you think about situations in your life that need to be confronted, action needs to be taken, something needs to be said, you need to do something about a situation in your home, in your church, in your community, in your kid’s school, action needs to be taken. But can I say, this story suggests that it’s not always right to just dive in and do it. Sometimes you need to stop, and always you need to seek the Lord first. Wait on Him. Ask God for His timing.

Do what Esther and her companions did, and what she called all the Jews to do. Humble yourself. That’s what they were doing with fasting. Fasting is a sign of humiliation, humbling ourselves, acknowledging our need for God. Stop and seek God’s direction, seek His favor in the situation. Get others to seek God with you, as Esther did. This was corporate fasting, corporate prayer, corporate repentance, corporate humility. She knew she did not dare face this situation alone.

There are times when I say to my assistant, “Can you contact my praying friends?” She knows who that group is, who that list is. These are people who have said, “We want to be a part of your prayer force, your intercessory band.” I’ll say, “I’m heading into a recording, or heading into a speaking situation, or there’s something going on in the ministry, can you just get our praying friends to pray.” I know I can’t be handling this alone, that we need to be handling this together.

This was no longer a time to hide their identity as Jews. This now was a time for all God’s people to identify who they were and to join together in this battle.

It’s interesting to me that she says, “Gather all the Jews to be found in Susa.” As I’ve studied this passage and the commentaries on it, I understand that there could have been as many as a half-million Jews living in the capital. Imagine if all of those Jews gathered together to fast and to pray and to seek God’s intervention in this crisis.

Imagine if all of God’s people today, in your community, in your church, in our nation were to gather our hearts together, to get desperate for God to intervene, to stop what we’re doing and to join together in fasting and in praying for God’s purposes to be fulfilled.

Fasting. You know, as we started the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, actually just before we started it, I’d been challenged to take up this ministry, and I’d been praying and seeking the Lord, along with other people, for about 18 months. I was coming to the belief that this was something God wanted us to do, but I wanted to be really, really sure that this was not somebody else’s great idea, that this was not my idea, but that this was God’s idea. I knew if God was in this, then God would give the grace to fulfill this calling, and I knew that when times got hard, I knew they would, and as in fact they have at times, I knew I had to know this was God’s direction, that we didn’t just jump into this.

So before we made the final decision to go, to start, to start recording, I took an extended time of fasting, praying, seeking the Lord. It was during that time that God used His Word. I can still remember the day, where I was sitting, and the passage of Scripture that God used in the midst of that time of praying and fasting, as I was seeking Him, and God made it clear, “This is what you’re to do.”

It’s interesting. In that first year as I felt many times that I was under a tsunami, I felt there were times I was going to drown for sure, but never once in the hardest moment did I ever doubt that I was where God wanted me to be, because I knew. We had sought the Lord; we had prayed; we had fasted, and God had made that clear.

So as you think about situations that you may be facing, where you need to confront a son or a daughter who is making wrong choices, a mate, a boss, a friend, a situation in your school that you need to go deal with, something in your church that maybe you’re concerned about and you think, “I need to go talk to the pastor about this.” Can I suggest that there are times that you fast and pray before you go? Seek God’s direction. Seek His heart. Seek God’s timing. Ask God to give you the right wording, and then go.

That’s exactly what Esther did, as we continue in verse 16. She said, “Then I will go to the king.” When? After we have fasted and prayed. Not just jumping in. Not just barging into the king’s quarters, but first going into God’s quarters, first going to the throne of grace and saying, “Oh, God, we cannot do this without You. Show us what to do. Give us the courage.” She knew she needed to go, but first she knew she needed to get God’s action, God’s direction, God’s intervention on her part.

So she says,

Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish. Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him (verses 16-17).

So Esther resolves, “I’m going to the king, after we go to the King, capital K.” Let me remind you here that submission to God’s sovereignty and trust in God’s providence, as we’ve been talking through this whole series, does not mean that you always sit back and do nothing. There is a time to be silent, but there also is a time to speak, and Esther has discerned this is the time to speak; this is not a time to be silent.

So she resolves to go to the king. She knows the cost may be great. You remember what we’ve talked about earlier in this series about the kind of man Xerxes was, this king, this man she’s married to. He was a hot-tempered man. He easily flew off the handle. He was impetuous. He’s the kind of guy who acted and then thought, so “Off with your head,” and then figure out if we did the right thing.

She knows that the moment she steps across the threshold into his room, except in the unlikely event that he would hold out to her his golden scepter, she knows that there would be an automatic sentence of death at that moment. She knows that, but she has come to the point of total abandon and surrender to God’s purposes. “If I perish, I perish.”

This is a life and death matter, and she’s saying, “I’m willing to lay down my life to be the woman God wants me to be in this situation. I don’t have to survive. I do have to do what’s right.”

I think about the apostle Paul who, in Acts chapter 20, verse 23 says, “The Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead” (NLT). Not “I know people will receive my message” or, “I know there will be people that will build great churches after I come.” “The one thing I know is that suffering lies ahead. But,” he says, “my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus.”

You know why? It’s not about Esther. It’s not about Paul. It’s not about you. It’s all about God’s kingdom purposes in this world.

I received an email just a couple of days ago from a woman. It was really touching to me, and it so illustrated this passage. She referenced a testimony we had aired earlier on Revive Our Hearts about a mother who made a major decision that required major sacrifice, and now this woman who had heard that testimony on Revive Our Hearts wrote and said,

My challenges are much more every day, but what is at stake is just as powerful. I am faced with, "Will I do what I want to do to satisfy myself in this moment? Or will I be obedient and trust God who has promised the best for me? Will I live for the moment and what feels good? Or will I believe that my life is a small part in a much larger drama that will last for eternity?”

Humanly speaking, you put yourself in Esther’s sandals. This is a hopeless, impossible situation, and she knows that. So as she went in to the king, she had to have this clear sense of mission. “I’ve been brought into the kingdom, into the palace for such a time as this. She has these words of Mordecai ringing in her ears, so she has a sense of destiny, “I was made for this moment.” That gives her faith. That gives her courage, and a willingness to sacrifice her life, if need be, in this cause. “If I perish, I perish.”

So chapter 5, verse 1 tells us,

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.

Notice that Esther prepares to face the king. She puts on her royal robes. I don’t think that’s a minor detail. She puts on her best clothes. She does not put on her bathrobe and slippers. She gets ready to meet the king. She wants to eliminate any possible distraction. She wants to be as attractive as possible. She wants to be as prepared as possible. She wants to be appropriately dressed, and she approaches him on the basis of relationship. This is not just any commoner coming into the king. This is his wife. This is the queen, and she has to trust that he will receive her on that basis, though he certainly doesn’t have to.

You can just imagine, as you try to put yourself in the scene, that, as she comes into the courtroom, or into the king’s palace, undoubtedly they were not alone. Haman was probably in there, being the Prime Minister, or very possibly in there. The king’s courtiers and his officials and those who were doing business with him, this was a man’s world. There were undoubtedly a lot of people in there.

You can just imagine, as Esther dares to step into that room, maybe this shocked silence that comes over all the people around. They’re holding their breath. “What is going to happen?” They know this king. They have seen him fly off the handle. They have seen him say, “Off with your head.” They know what he can do. They know his anger. They know that she has not been called for 30 days. Apparently she’s not in his favor as she once was. “What will the king do?”

They all know this is a high-risk moment, and so, with that drama, you kind of hear the drum roll here. Verse 2, "When the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight." Whew! Just this huge sigh of relief. Esther had courage, but don’t tell me her heart wasn’t beating a thousand miles a minute. 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.

Ladies, this is high drama. This is amazing. Humanly speaking, it’s amazing. But what we’re seeing here is what Scripture tells us in Proverbs 21:1, "The king’s heart is in the Lord’s hand" (paraphrased). God turns it. God turns his heart any way He wants it, as He turns the rivers of water. God granted her favor with the king.

So Ahasuerus, King Xerxes, this king, he’s mercurial; he’s unpredictable, but he is not outside of God’s control, and that’s true of the worst despots and tyrants in history. It was true of Hitler, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, and it’s true of those little mini-tyrants who may be a part of your life. The king’s heart is in the Lord’s hand.

The golden scepter was a symbol of the king’s power, his favor, his authority, his protection. Proverbs 16:14-15 tells us,

A king’s wrath is a messenger of death, and a wise man will appease it. In the light of a king’s face there is life, and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain.

So Esther has sought the Lord. She’s gone in wisdom and courage and now the king’s face speaks life. He gives her favor. The king, chapter 5, verse 3, says to her,

What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.

In no way can we liken King Xerxes to God. There are virtually no similarities between the two, but I think we can say this as we read this passage: In this moment we have a little glimpse of the fact that God has granted us favor, grace, to come into His presence. He has shown us favor. He says, “Come to My throne of grace. Tell Me what you need. Come and ask, and it will be granted.”

So Esther says in verse 4, “If it please the king, let the king and Haman come today to a feast that I have prepared for the king.”

Earlier in this series I referenced the VeggieTales version of Esther, and as I said earlier, it’s a cute story. It bears not a whole lot of resemblance to the biblical account, and you may want to be careful how your children are learning Scripture stories. It’s better they learn it from the Bible, which is where the facts are.

But in the VeggieTales version, the suggestion is made that Esther, at this moment, lost her nerve, that she went in anticipating asking the king to spare their lives, but she just chickened out at the last moment. I guess that’s possible, but as I study this text, I really don’t think that’s the way it happened at all. She says, “Come to the feast I have prepared.” I think she went in knowing what she was going to do, that God had given her this wisdom, this strategy.

So, verses 5-8, the king says,

“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."

There are two levels taking place here. On the divine level, I think what is happening is that God is restraining Esther from speaking what is on her mind, because there’s another piece, as we’ll see in the next few sessions, that has to fall into place first, but Esther can’t see that happening.

On a human level, what is happening, I think, is also remarkable, and that is Esther’s restraint. When I study the book of Esther, when I think of her story, that’s one of the things that most stands out to me, and I think the reason it so stands out to me is because it’s so unlike me.

Here is Esther in a crisis. This is an enormous emergency situation, but she doesn’t blurt out what’s on her mind. She’s not alone in the throne room. She knows, or God has helped her to know, that it’s not the right time; it’s not the right place; it’s not the right setting, so she’s patient. She’s strategic, not manipulative, but strategic and wise in her approach.

I think of how many times I face situations where I just know something needs to be said; I know something needs to be done. So I march into somebody’s office, or I pick up the phone and make a call, and immediately I just say what I’m thinking. What I’m thinking may be right, but it’s not the right time.

As you think about approaching your husband, approaching your boss, approaching your roommate, approaching one of your kids about an emergency or a crisis situation, consider our proclivity as women to just dump, to blurt it out. Think about how often that way doesn’t work, and you say it, and you say, “Oh, I wish I had waited. That wasn’t a good time.” That’s the value of seeking God first, thinking before you speak. She’s amazingly restrained, self- controlled.

So she invites the king to a banquet—not once, but twice. Remember it’s a known fact that Xerxes loves banquets, and she’s thinking of that. She’s being sensitive to him and to the Lord, allowing God to move in and to create the circumstances that would prove to be Haman’s undoing.

Let me suggest here, too, that when you’re dealing with the king, or the important person in your situation, make sure you pick your battles. Remember that Esther had not approached the king in 30 days. Undoubtedly in that month period there were a lot of other things that she might have wanted to discuss with him, but she didn’t. She waited for the one thing that really mattered. Could I suggest that if you approach your king, your husband, your boss, your pastor about every trivial concern in your life, when it comes time for you to have a genuine crisis, they may tune you out. They may not be listening. So keep perspective.

That doesn’t mean that you don’t talk to your husband about insignificant things, but as women we tend to want to talk about everything, and can I say, not everything needs to be talked about? Pick your battles, ask God to show you when it’s time to speak, what should be brought up, and when you want to bring up something about the way your kids are being raised, or things about their lives. Don’t bring up everything. Ask God to show you what to bring up, when to bring it up.

And kids, I could say the same thing with your parents. Don’t bring up every issue. Not every issue needs to be brought up. Ask God to give you wisdom, to give you direction, to give you timing, to give you restraint, and to help you be wise and strategic as you approach your king.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been pulling very practical applications from the story of an ancient Persian Queen. The story of Esther will help you trust God in all sorts of day-to-day matters.

I hope you’ll read the book for yourself during Nancy’s series, Esther: God’s Woman at God’s Time, and I hope you’ll use the study booklet our team put together called Esther: The Exiled Queen.

The booklet was inspired by Nancy’s teaching and contains a lot of quotes from her. You can spend some time reflecting on Nancy’s words at a comfortable pace. Esther: The Exiled Queen will draw you deeper into the story, help you understand it better, discover new things for yourself, and make it part of your life.

We’ll send you the booklet as our thanks when you make a donation at ReviveOurHearts.com. You can also call 1-800-569-5959.

If you ever have trouble catching information like that, I hope you’ll sign up for the Revive Our Hearts Daily Connection. It’s each day’s program in an email with key quotes from Nancy, links to audio, transcripts, and special offers. If you’re in the car, or have your hands full while listening to the radio, you can know that all the program information is waiting in your Inbox. There’s no scrambling to write information down.

To sign up for the Revive Our Hearts Daily Connection, you do need to remember this address: ReviveOurHearts.com.

We’ve been hearing about the wicked character Haman. Tomorrow we’ll look at the motivations behind his murderous plot. It will help you and help me examine our own motivations.

Now Nancy is back to pray that we’ll have God-given boldness just like Esther.

Nancy: Lord, thank You for the extraordinary courage that You put into the heart of this otherwise ordinary woman. Thank You that You can put courage in our hearts. Help us to seek You, to get Your direction before we barge into situations. Before we speak, may we speak to You. May we get Your heart, Your timing, Your clear leading, and may we have the courage to say, “I will go and do what needs to be done. My life does not matter to me. What matters is that Your will be done, and that Your kingdom come.” May it be done this day, I pray. 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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