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Thursday, June 16, 2011

What Good Is a Woman? Lesson 7

 Read Esther Chapter 7.

Esther makes her intercessory appeal in the first four verses. Compare the situation and the reasoning in her intercession for the Jews with that of Moses in Exodus 32:8-14. (See Hebrews 7:25.) 
 For what crime are the people in danger of annihilation? (See Exodus 32:8 and Esther 3:8.)
 How firm does the judgment seem? How is it deflected?
 Why does Esther say she would not have complained if her people had been sold into slavery? Consider Romans 9:21.
 What kind of problem does each intercessor argue that annihilation of the people would cause for their king?

God is, of course, sufficient in Himself, but consider what "problem" or "lack" would have resulted if He had not redeemed His people. (See Ephesians 1:22,23 and 5:25-27 and 1 Peter 2:9.) (Matthew Henry says, "Christ as Mediator would not be complete if he had not a church. How could he be a king if he had not a kingdom?")

Compare "adversary and enemy" Haman's pleading for his life with the pleading in Matthew 8:28-32 and Luke 8:30-31.

More irony: relate the intentions and downfall of Haman to the predictions of Genesis 3:15.

Would Esther have been technically correct if she had told Ahasuerus that he was the one who was going to destroy her people? From whom does Christ save us?

     If Esther is to stand as a type of Christ, it may be useful to compare her to one who is commonly so described: Moses. Christ is "able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25). Moses makes intercession for his people in Exodus 32:8-14, and Esther makes her appeal in 7:1-4. The situations and the reasoning of the intercessors are comparable.
       In Persia, the Jews are in danger because "they do not keep the king's laws." It may not be true, but the king believes it. In Exodus, the offense is all too real. The Hebrews have "turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them." The substance of the charge, ignoring their king's law, is the same, and judgment seems sure. God tells Moses to "let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them." With authorization from Ahasuerus, Haman has set the date for destruction of the Jews.
       In both cases, a personal plea from the intercessor deflects the wrath of the ruler. The LORD proposes destroying the people and making a new nation from Moses, but Moses declines, apparently willing to stick with the original chosen people. Esther now clearly identifies herself with her people, including herself in the group to be annihilated. When she says "If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given to me at my petition, and my people at my request," her intercession seems more personal than that of Moses and thus a little more like that of Christ.
       Neither intercessor claims that the people are innocent, but each rather puts their destruction in terms of loss to the king. Moses specifically reminds God of His promise to multiply Abraham's descendants and to give them the promised land. He also details the "public relations" disaster of allowing the Egyptians to say that God  led His people out of the country only to kill them. Esther uses the less clear statement that "the enemy could never compensate for the king's loss." She may be implying that the Jews are actually such productive citizens that the loss of their services, commerce and revenues would be greater than the loot Haman promised. She does seem to acknowledge that the king has a right to do as he wishes with his subjects, even selling them into slavery. This idea resonates with Romans 9:21. "Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?"
       The Triune God is sufficient in Himself and cannot be said to "need" anything or anyone, but there is a sense in which He would have lacked something if He had destroyed all of sinful man instead of redeeming a people for His own possession. Ephesians 1:22,23 shows that the church "is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." In Ephesians 5:25-27, He wishes to cleanse the church of sin "that He might present her to Himself." In his commentary on Ephesians 1, Matthew Henry says, "Christ as Mediator would not be complete if he had not a church. How could he be a king if he had not a kingdom?          
       In this chapter, Ahasuerus shows once again that, while he has god-like power, he certainly lacks God-like wisdom. His question in verse 5 about who would dare to destroy the Jews suggests that he does not even remember his agreement with Haman. It is interesting that Esther names Haman as the "adversary and enemy," even though the king is ultimately responsible. This oddity nevertheless squares with our salvation in Christ. He has called us "out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9), rescuing us from the influence of the devil, but He also "delivers us from the wrath to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10), that is, the wrath of God.
       Haman now sees that his time is up. In his pleading, he takes on another sort of demonic role. As he flings himself across Esther's couch, he resembles the demons who cried out to Jesus, "Have You come here to torment us before the time?" and begged Him to let them enter the herd of swine (Matthew 8:28-30). They thought they had a refuge in the pigs, but the animals plunged into the sea. Haman may have thought he could find refuge in Esther's lap, but the ploy only guaranteed that the king would show him no mercy.
       Suggestible Ahasuerus hears Harbonah describe Haman's gallows and orders him hanged on it. "The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; let them be caught in the plots which they have devised" (Psalm 10:2). Haman has snapped at the heel of God's people, and now, through the courageous work of Esther, his head is crushed. "Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms...?" (Isaiah 14:16).

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