Providence In the Form of a Woman
What is your favorite book of the Bible? The one that you most connect with? Are most inspired by? Gives you the most comfort?
For me it is John, although Acts is also high up on my list…and Romans is pretty impressive.
Anybody choose Esther? Anybody know anyone who would choose Esther?
As a quick aside…if you heard someone was named Esther…how old would assume the person would be? Today the name is probably no more popular than the book. ☺
Yet it is a tremendous read–a short book that has all the makings of a great story…intrigue, courtyard intrigue, surprise twists, beautiful women (good and bad), and a happy ending…
[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]
[ Summarize the story–Xerses, Queen Vashti, Mordecai, Esther, Haman ]
From a theological sense it is a really an odd book…
As John MacArthur notes in his Study Bible:
“The most obvious question raised by Esther comes from the fact that God is nowhere mentioned, as in Song of Solomon. Nor does the writer or any participant refer to the law of God, the Levitical sacrifices, worship, or prayer. The skeptic might ask, ‘Why would God never be mentioned when the Persian king receives over 175 references? Since God’s sovereignty prevailed to save the Jews, why does He then not receive appropriate recognition?'”
No mention of God…does He exist in the book?
Before we answer that question…
Who wrote Esther?
Unknown…some popular choices are Mordecai, Nehemiah, and Ezra…but there is no way to be sure…
When was it written?
Again, no way to be positive…but based on what I’ve read it would be late 5th century B.C…with the latest possible date (per John MacAthur) being 331 B.C.
Why was it written?
At a minimum it explains why Jews celebrate Purim…perhaps after our discussion you’ll have some other ideas…
Back to the earlier question…it has no mention of God…does he exist in the book?
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (Eleventh Edition) defines “providence” as:
1 a often cap : divine guidance or care
b cap : God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny
Using those as a working definition, let’s turn to Esther, chapter 4…
[ Read from Bible ]
[ Focus on 4:14 ] “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
What do you think Mordecai would provide “deliverance…for the Jews from another place?” Well, “who” do you think Mordecai thought would provide deliverance…?
Wiersbe’s Exository Outlines on the Old Testament:
“God’s name is nowhere seen in this book, but God’s hand is nowhere missing! He is ‘standing somewhere in the shadows’ ruling and overruling. As you study the book, note the following evidences of God’s providential workings: (1) Esther being chosen queen over all the other candidates, 2:15–18; (2) Mordecai discovering the plot to kill the king, 2:21–23; (3) the casting of lots for the day to destroy the Jews resulting in a date late in the year, giving time for Mordecai and Esther to act, 3:7–15; (4) the king’s welcome to Esther after ignoring her for a month, 5:2; (5) the king’s patience with Esther in permitting her to hold another banquet, 5:8; (6) the king’s insomnia that brought to light Mordecai’s deed of kindness, 6:1ff; (7) the king’s apparent lapse of memory in 6:10–14, that led him to honor one of the Jews he had agreed to slay; (8) the king’s deep concern for Esther’s welfare, when he had a harem to choose from, 7:5ff.”
Is God in the book of Esther? How do you know?
By His providence!
Getting back to defining providence…W.W. Wiersbe in “Be Committed” quotes a better definition in my opinion:
“Then Dr. Strong added this wonderful sentence: ‘Providence is God’s attention concentrated everywhere” (p. 420).”
Providence throughout Scripture
Although God’s providence is show throughout all Scripture…and God has made it clear that He, overall, is in control:
Eph 1:11 “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,”
Dan 4:35 “all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; “
Romans 8:28-30 “28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for ithose who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined lto be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
Paul, a special case of providence…
Paul explains his conversion…after explaining how he used to persecute the church…Acts 26:12-18:
12 “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me lin the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles–to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive tforgiveness of sins and ua place among those who are sanctified vby faith in me.’
What is a goad?
[ Sharp, pointy stick/instument to drive stubborn animals ]
Easton’s Bible Dictionary:
Goad — (Heb. malmad, only in Judg. 3:31), an instrument used by ploughmen for guiding their oxen. Shamgar slew six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad. “The goad is a formidable weapon. It is sometimes ten feet long, and has a sharp point. We could now see that the feat of Shamgar was not so very wonderful as some have been accustomed to think.”
In 1 Sam. 13:21, a different Hebrew word is used, dorban, meaning something pointed. The expression (Acts 9:5, omitted in the R.V.), “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks”, i.e., against the goad, was proverbial for unavailing resistance to superior power.
Paul’s conversion is a glimpse of how God does what is needed to show providence to someone individually, and to the world overall…
What was the “goad” that Mordecai used with Esther?
[ Mentioned how she’d be next if she allowed the Jews to be killed. ]
Both Paul and Esther are good news for us…if God didn’t give up on them…He won’t give up on us just because we are rebelliously stubborn…
What “goad” does God need to use with you?
“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b)
Last week we spoke about inclusivism, how God is not dependent on anything to accomplish His purpose, and that He desires all people be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). However, we also know we are specific called…commanded…
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Don’t you have some great things you know about God that you want to shout from the mountain top?!
What goads are you kicking against? Will you be as easy to convince as Esther was (and say, “If I perish, I perish”) or will you need to be knocked off your horse and blinded like Paul?
Will you accept God’s providence? Are you willing to part of God’s providence for someone else?
Or are you going to be like Haman, and God’s providence will have to move you out of the way…?