As you recall from last week's study, Mor-dek-AH-ee's refusal to bow in worship to Haw-MAWN prompted Haw-MAWN to devise a plan of genocide. He would have all the citizens of the Persian Empire take up arms against the Jews, killing them to seize their property.
Through a messenger, Mor-dek-AH-ee told his adopted daughter, Queen Esther, that she was in a position to try and stop this. Although Esther knew that it would probably mean her death, she agreed to approach the king about the matter. But first she told Mor-dek-AH-ee to have all of the Jews in Shoo-SHAN to fast for three days, and she and her maidens would do the same.
The order of business in the Persian throne room was that anyone who entered unannounced, without being called for, was immediately put to death by the guards at the door. The only exception to this rule was that if the king immediately extended the golden scepter in his hand toward the person, they would be allowed to live.
The king's scepter was more than just decoration. In fact, it historically represented a nations power to practice capital punishment, to put people to death.
This helps to understand the prophecy which Jacob spoke over his son Judah. In Genesis 49, he proclaimed,
Gen. 49:10 "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples."
Judah was described as holding the scepter, this symbol of dominion, authority, and capital punishment. In fact, Judah did not lose that scepter until 30 AD, when the Roman Empire stripped the Jewish Supreme Court of the right to administer the death penalty to its citizens. The priests were horrified, for they thought that Shiloh, a title of the Messiah, meaning "one who brings peace," had not yet come. Of course, Shiloh had come. Jesus was already preaching publicly, proclaiming peace.
It is interesting to me that this law affected the process of Jesus' trials after He was arrested for blasphemy. The Jews had to bring Jesus to Pilate, the governor. Pilate didn't want anything to do with this religious squabble.
John 18:31 Pilate therefore said to them, "Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law." The Jews said to him, "We are not permitted to put anyone to death"
In Esther's day, the scepter was in the hands of King Akh-ash-vay-ROSH. And had he not extended it to her, she would have been put to death.
The king knew something must be troubling Esther, for she would not have come uncalled like this without something urgent. But instead of laying out the terror the Jews were facing with the law to go into effect within the year, she invited the king and Haw-MAWN to a banquet.
I don't know why Esther planned a banquet. Maybe she was procrastinating - putting off the confrontation as she gathered courage. Maybe it was because she hadn't eaten for the last three days! But regardless of the reason, the king knew that the banquet was the setting for her real request, for he asked her, "What is your petition?"
But she again postponed the confrontation, and invited the two of them to a second banquet the next evening. I don't know why she did it this way, but she could not possibly have orchestrated such a perfect response from Haw-MAWN that night...
Haw-MAWN was pretty full of himself that night. After all, he'd just had a private dinner with the king and queen. But all of that seemed to immediately fade when he saw Mor-dek-AH-ee at the gate. He was sitting there, and didn't even get up when Haw-MAWN passed by.
He was so incensed that when he got home, he had all of his friends and his wife ZEH-resh gathered together as he bragged on and on about his money and influence, about his privilege and position. But then he confessed that none of this could satisfy him when he saw Mor-dek-AH-ee refusing to pay him homage.
I don't want us to miss this point by skimming too quickly past this. Haw-MAWN had everything that so many people are striving for in this life: riches beyond belief, a soaring career, unlimited power and influence, people bowing down to him, and tons of friends. But one guy's attitude was all it took to rob him of his happiness. He had everything he'd ever wanted, but still couldn't hold onto any satisfaction. That reminds me that it is folly to seek happiness in these things. No matter how rich you get, you will never be satisfied. No matter how much your career takes off, it will only take a small thing to rob you of happiness. No matter how many friends you have, it'll only take one person to steal your stability. You should not be looking for satisfaction or joy in the things of this world, because they are so easily stolen, and will disappear in a moment.
No, only the Lord can satisfy your soul completely and unchangeably. Only He can give you joy in spite of circumstances. As Jesus said,
Matt. 5:6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."
ZEH-resh and all of Haw-MAWN's friends suggested that since he had all of this influence with the king, why didn't he just have a huge gallows constructed and then ask the king's permission to hang Mor-dek-AH-ee on it? It sounded like a simple enough plan. After all, Haw-MAWN had been so focused on his plan to destroy all of the Jews because of Mor-dek-AH-ee, that he had missed the idea of simply having Mor-dek-AH-ee killed in the meantime! Thus, he had the gallows constructed.
But what happened next was a "God thing."
It "just so happened" that night, the king could not sleep. Looking to be bored to sleep, he called for the book of the Chronicles of the King to be brought and read. Ask any high school student... nothing puts you to sleep quicker than a history book!
In this case, the history book "just so happened" to be turned to the page detailing the specifics of the recent thwarted assassination plot. As we saw in chapter two, Mor-dek-AH-ee had overheard Big-THAWN and TEH-resh, two of the eunuchs that guarded the door, plotting in anger to kill the king. He'd reported it, but had never been rewarded for the good deed.
When the history book simply went on to the next event without specifying what reward Mor-dek-AH-ee had received, the king asked what had been done for him. This was an injustice which must be rectified immediately! "Who is in the court," the king demanded. It "just so happened" that Haw-MAWN was on his way to ask the king about putting Mor-dek-AW-ee to death.
Haw-MAWN was called into the king's chamber and asked what should be done for the man the king desired to honor. Thinking that it was for him, but playing it cool, Haw-MAWN suggested an exaltation like had not been seen before. He was certain that he was naming his own reward. But imagine the surprise waiting for him...
Oh, the humiliation Haw-MAWN must have felt as he paraded Mor-dek-AW-ee through the streets! The man that he wanted dead was being exalted!
When Haw-MAWN got home, he told everyone what had happened. Their response was inspired:
Esth. 6:13 ..."If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish origin, you will not overcome him, but will surely fall before him."
Even the Persians knew then what we cannot convince the world of today: you cannot oppress the Jews and expect to prosper. God has told Abraham and His descendants,
Gen. 12:2-3 ...I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
For the last four thousand years, nation after nation has found this to be true. Haw-MAWN's friends and family knew what had happened to the Egyptians, the Amelekites, the Philistines, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and so many more. You cannot come against God's people without retaliation from God. One day, the Palestinians, the Europeans, and the United Nations will discover this. Indeed, one day every nation on earth will pay the price for attacking Israel, God's chosen people.
Having lost track of time, Haw-MAWN was rushed to Esther's second banquet. At dinner, the king again asked what Esther's petition was.
Esther said that her petition was for her life. Her request was for her people. No doubt this initially confused the king greatly, because he did not know that she was a Jew.
As the king added anger to the alcohol in his system, he stormed out of the room in a rage. Haw-MAWN was begging for his life on the couch where Queen Esther sat. It was a terribly compromising position to be in, for when the king walked back in, he accused him of assaulting the queen. Haw-MAWN was immediately arrested.
Khar-bo-NAW, one of the eunuchs who silently watched over the dinner and this entire scene, couldn't help but offer some information to the king at this moment: "Last night, Haw-MAWN had a large gallows constructed. He was going to hang Mor-dek-AW-ee - the man who saved your life - on it." The king thought that poetic justice would be served by hanging Haw-MAWN on his own gallows.
This is the way that God often brings about justice. Just as David prayed,
Ps. 9:15-16 The nations have sunk down in the pit which they have made; In the net which they hid, their own foot has been caught. The LORD has made Himself known; He has executed judgment. In the work of his own hands the wicked is snared...
Prov. 26:27 He who digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him.
This was proven out as Haw-MAWN was hung on the gallows which he had constructed.
Esther and Mor-dek-AW-ee were both blessed financially and positionally because of this. But while the end result of these events sounds like a "happily ever after story," we must not forget that the decree of King Akh-ash-vay-ROSH could not be repealed. The month of Adar was approaching, and on the thirteenth, all of the inhabitants of the Persian Empire would rise up against the Jews to kill them and seize their property.
We will leave that as a cliffhanger for now, until we finish the book next week.