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Saint Esther

Esther 2:5-11,16-18,3:1-5,8-11,4:1,5,13-5:6,7:3-6,9-10,8

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Wednesday after Holy Trinity
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Wed, May 25, 2016 

First of all, we need to establish the setting for this book of Esther.

The villain is a man named Haman, who is an Agagite.  This means that Haman was a descendant of Agag, an Amalekite King from First Samuel fifteen.

What is an Amalekite?  They are one branch of the descendants of Esau.  They wickedly attacked the Israelites as they traveled through the wilderness after their liberation from Egypt.  Their unprovoked attack was not a frontal assault, but a cowardly ambush of the weak and the stragglers.  God gave Israel victory over the Amalekites and said that they were under His curse.  They were to be destroyed by Israel when they came into the Promised Land.

But the people failed to completely destroy Amalek.  Later, God commanded King Saul, son of Kish, to destroy them, but Saul failed as well.  Although he killed many, he spared Agag, King of the Amalekites.  The prophet Samuel had to step in and kill Agag.  Other Amalekites survived, apparently including some of Agag’s children.

In our story, Haman is part of a remnant of the Amalekite population, and a descendant of Agag.  Haman was surely raised to hate Israel, as his people had hated them for centuries.  Perhaps Haman hated them particularly because his line should have been royal kings if not for Israel.

So Haman was more than ready to take offense when Mordecai failed to bow down to him, and more than ready to seek bloody vengeance.

Add to this the fact that Mordecai is of the lineage of Kish, father of King Saul, who killed many Amalekites, and defeated Agag, leading to his death. 

We are not sure if Haman knows that Mordecai is related to Saul.  Whether or not he knew, we see here in this story a renewing of an ancient battle, a feud that lasted many centuries.

More than that, we have here a picture of the eternal struggle of church versus antichurch.  From the time of Cain and Abel, there have been those who thought they were the true spiritual people, the true rulers and wise men.  They resent and reject the church of God, and persecute it any time they can.

This is a good story for us.  We need to recognize that there are forces in the world that hate us simply because we are the Church of God.  Deep down, their hatred is bloodthirsty, itching for violence.  We can see this now in many parts of the world.  They will slander us and call us haters.  Their fiery desire to persecute the Church is fueled by the ancient serpent.

We should not be surprised by this.  But pray all the more fervently that God would defend His poor, weak Church.

God is not mentioned in the book of Esther even once.  Yet He is there, moving events for His people.  There are no obvious miracles here.  Yet His hand is behind everything that transpires.  He allows His people to be endangered, yet He will keep them safe.  For this is the Covenant people through whom Messiah will come.  He will not let them be wiped out from the earth.

So also His hand is in your life.  His defense of His people is sure and certain – even when our enemies are gathered to destroy us.  He will protect His Beloved.  Even if you must die for the faith, you know that you are safe with Him, through Christ your dear Lord.

In the story of Esther, Haman goes to the Emperor Ahasuerus, also known to history as Xerxes.  This sets the events in the mid-fifth century BC, in the land of Persia.  Many of the people of Israel were living there after being taken into captivity by Babylon centuries earlier.

Here we find Esther, a timid, young Jew, crowned Queen of the most powerful man on earth.  She is placed into a position where she can influence the Emperor, and thus save the Jews from the destruction that Haman has planned for them.

But Esther is no brave, strong heroine.  She would not satisfy the feminist conception of a female lead in a story.  She is fearful and weak.  She hesitates and at first refuses to do anything about the crisis coming upon them.  Later, she hesitates to bring up the real issue before the Emperor, and has to try several times before she gets enough courage to plead to him for help. 

In her fear, we see that she is a sinner who is not the fearless bastion of virtue.  She is just a young woman in a difficult position, overwhelmed by the circumstances of life.

We can sympathize.  This is why God shows us His saints even in their weak times.  Do not look for immaculate, perfect saints.  You also are a saint, like them, cleansed by holy Blood.  You are like Esther, often timid, often weak.  Yet you are forgiven and holy in Christ.

So if we take this story and say, “You too must be brave and heroic when the time demands it, or else!” then we have missed the point.  As Mordecai said, “If you do not save us, God will raise up someone else to do it.” The pressure is not on you to do the right thing or the whole world will collapse.  And there is forgiveness for our failures, lest we think that we have forfeited salvation because of our weakness.

But there are times to do the right thing, whatever the pressure.  When it is time to confess Christ, we should not be ashamed of Him.  We should not deny the One who suffered so much for us.  Should we hesitate to put His Name on our lips, even if it should cost our lives?  He purchased those lives at great cost to Himself.  How could we deny Him?

Yet we are still cowardly, deep down.  We would rather not speak.  We would rather not create a disturbance or draw attention to ourselves.

May the Lord strengthen us to do what we cannot by our strength, and forgive when we falter.

Esther is more than only an illustration of what a weak sinner is like.  She also is a picture of Christ.  Her mediation for her people before the King shows us our dear Lord Jesus who intercedes for us with His Father.

How often would we have been destroyed, if not for the intercession of Christ?  Especially, He mediated for us when we were still enemies of God.  By His atonement, He reconciled us to the Lord, and made us safe under His Cross and Resurrection.

Our enemy, the devil, plotted to have us destroyed.  He constantly is seeking ways to snatch us away from the Father.  At one time, he accused us even before the Father’s throne.  “Look at them!” said satan.  “They are lawbreakers and rebels against you!  They must be destroyed!”

The Father could not truthfully dispute that.  We are lawbreakers and rebels against God’s Law.  Yet He found the one way to satisfy justice in His Son, so that we could escape divine judgment.  Christ fell under the sentence of death, but we went free.

Now we are like Esther in that we are the beautiful Bride of the King.  We are not beautiful in our own works or our own efforts.  No, our true beauty lies in the glory and holiness of Christ placed upon us at Baptism.  This is the true beauty treatment, the washing of purification that removes every spot and blemish from us in God’s sight.  We could not make ourselves lovely, but Christ has made us a fitting Bride for Himself.

We are now the Bride who comes into His presence, bold to seek His mercy and aid, even though we have broken His law and deserve death.  We should not have the right to come before the most holy King of kings and Lord of lords.  But He loves us and accepts us and cannot be angry at us.  He has erased all wrath against our sin by His Blood.

That is why He will not fail to help us against our enemies.  How could He let the forces of darkness destroy us when we are His Beloved, His dear Bride, close to His heart?  Our Lord will not let evil have its way, although He may seem to delay.

The ultimate deliverance from evil will also surely happen.  Our Lord is also ready to finally welcome us into the royal Throne Room, which is the heavenly Holy of Holies.  Our true glory, the glory of His image that He has placed upon us, shall shine out before angels and saints.  Then we shall see the Most High King and His Father and His Spirit, the one true God.

All blessing and honor to this great Lord who has preserved His people in their distress.  Amen.

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