Who Knows?

by LA UBF   08/24/2008     0 reads



Who Knows? 

(The Biblical Use of Position and Time) 

Esther 1:1-10:3 

Key Verse 4:14 

"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" 

Tonight we would like to think about how the Lord leads his servants to fill the right positions at the right times to fulfill the purpose the Lord has in mind. 

The book of Esther is not a mere melodrama. Jewish tradition celebrates the victories described in this book with a feast called Purim. The word Purim comes from the word pur which means "lot". The word "lot" connotes an accidental luck. But when anyone is in the Lord, nothing happens to him or her accidentally, for God is the God of providence. The same holds true of all the events that are described in the book of Esther. In the Book of Esther we do not find the words "God" or "the Lord". Because of this many question whether or not the turn of events described in the book came from God. But despite the lack of references to God, the Scriptures testify that there is no accident in the Lord. Before sending the Israelites into exile to Babylon, didn't the Lord say through the Prophet Jeremiah, "I know the plans I have for you, the plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jer 29:31)? Plus, as Daniel is a witness, the most high God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men. By the time Esther became the queen of Persia a lot of Jews were still living in exile. Ezra was one of them. Nehemiah was another. And many were yet to return to Zion. It is important for us to ask, then, such questions as: "What plan or plans did the Lord have?" And, "What are the specifics of the Lord's plan or plans?" It is important for us to ask these questions and find answers to them, for this understanding will help us to gladly participate in the Lord's will. What then are the ways in which the Lord practically fulfills the purpose of his will? The key verse we just read, particularly, the two words "position" and "time" stand out to answer the question. God fulfills his purpose by placing his servants in the right positions at the right times, so that when the need to protect and provide for his children arises, the Lord God will effectively punish those who need to be punished and reward those who need to be rewarded. This is like an experienced football coach assigning the right player to the right position at the right time, so that the team would come out victorious. With this in mind, let us consider the book of Esther in two parts. 

Part I. So he set a royal crown on her head. 

In many places of the Bible we see the Lord God using his own people to protect and provide for his people. In other words, "people" constitute an important part of his plan. We see the Lord God doing the same thing in serving the interests of his children. 

Practically then, in case of the people of the day of Esther, the Lord made all different positions within the empire, such as the position of the Persian Royalty, which is at the top, or the position of a gatekeeper, which is at the bottom. Then the Lord manned the positions with people fit for them. In the book of Esther, in order to protect and provide for his people, the Lord God came up with two positions: the positions of prime minister and Queen, and he filled them with Mordecai and Esther, respectively. 

Mordecai, being a Benjamite (the tribe which produced the first king of Israel, Saul), understood the importance of a position, especially the position within a royal society. Being an alien, he did not qualify for a high ranking government position within the empire. In the U.S., if you are not a naturally born citizen, you are not qualified to run for the Presidency. Likewise, if you are a recent immigrant holding an F-1 visa, you cannot apply for a government position, such as the governorship of California. Let us think about Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example. Being an immigrant, he knew full well that unless he beefed up his status, he would not be able to get into the high society of this nation. So he worked hard to build his status and reputation. So from day one of his arrival he worked hard. Knowing that Americans pay attention to looks, he started working on his body. He then began a career as an actor. He soon secured celebrity status. Then he married a Caucasian woman, Maria Shriver, a woman connected to the family of John F. Kennedy. Then, at the right time, he ran for the governorship. Now he is working as a governor. 

In Mordecai's case, since he did not have any "connections" within the high society of the new empire, what did he do? He went to the king's gate. In the book of Esther the expression "king's gate" is repeated ten times. It was by frequenting to the king's gate that Mordecai ended up rising all the way from the rock bottom to the highest position below that of the Emperor.   God does not create positions at random. He makes them and fill them all according to the meritorious system he set up from before the creation of the universe. The Apostle Paul explains the same concept, somewhat in a limited way, in 2 Timothy 2:20-21, "In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work."

In Mordecai's case, he understood the importance of positions within a government. He knew where the power comes from. As he was keenly aware of who the Lord uses, he faithfully commuted to the king's gate. And he did it almost religiously. The Lord found him worthy. So at the right time the Lord caused a few rebels to plot against the king. Mordecai overheard their plans and quickly foiled them. One thing led to another until finally Mordecai rose to the position of power. 

Such is the case with Esther being chosen as queen. From a human perspective all of the events (Queen Vasti getting deposed, the beauty contest, a Jewish girl being admitted to a Gentile harem only to be chosen as a beauty queen)that led up to her being chosen as queen may seem like a series of accidents. And this Miss Persia was a Jewish girl who in turn was being escorted to marry a Gentile king! What a tragic turn of events! But from God's perspective, his purpose was not to promote a marriage between a Jewish girl and a Gentile king, but to create a position from which the Lord God desired to fulfill his plan to prosper and not to harm his children. 

Mordecai understood this so he challenged Esther saying, "And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" Here "such a time" refers to the time when the enemies of God's children arose determined to harm them. In fact, Haman breathed out to not just harm them but to completely decimate all the Jews within the empire. The Bible notes that Haman is an Agagite, the descendants of Agag, the king of Amalekites. Traditionally, the Amalekites, being the descendants of Esau, were hostile to the descendants of Jacob. While the Israelites journeyed to the Promised Land they became weary and thirsty by the time they reached the area called Rephidim. Then the Amalekites came out to attack them. Moses asked Joshua to go out and fight them. During the fight Moses held up his hands in prayer to the Lord. As long as Moses' hands of prayer were up, Joshua was winning. But as he lowered the hands of prayer Joshua was losing. So Moses had to stick his hands up to the sky all day long. His hands grew so tired that they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up, one on one side, one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven" (Exodus 17:14). Without exception, by the time the Israelites were about to make a new beginning, Haman, the Agagite, arose to finish off the holy seed. God foresaw this in advance, prepared necessary positions, and manned them with his servants, such as Mordecai and Esther. By positioning his people at the right positions at the right time, the Lord God fulfilled the plans for his children: the plan to prosper them, and not to harm them. 

In our own generation, the Lord God has the same plans and purposes for his children. In order to fulfill his plans, the plans of prosperity, the Lord God creates and fills positions with servants of his choice, and he does all this according to his time schedule. 

II. If I perish, I perish. 

It has been said, "When the purpose is not known, abuse becomes inevitable." A lot of people look for a position of honor. But not all of them go for or roll into a privileged position with the full knowledge of the purpose of the position. 

Esther was one of them. Of course, due to the King's edict she was forced to participate in the beauty contest. After getting chosen as Miss Persia she became the first lady of the Persian Empire. But at first she did not know the purpose of her position. Yet thanks to Mordecai's challenge, she came to realize why the Lord led her to that position, that is, to save the people of the Lord. After much prayer with fasting, she went for the challenge saying, "If I perish, I perish." Her statement reminds us of the basic truth that each and every position comes with privileges and responsibilities. In her case, the privileges included the privilege to have access to the inner court where the king runs the empire. The use of the privilege came with risks, even the risk of losing her life. But she did not sit on her responsibilities. Queen Esther approached the king without securing prior approval. Then, at God's right time, she pleaded with the king saying: "If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life--this is my petition. And spare my people--this is my request. For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king...For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?" (7:3-4; 8:6). 

Many people think that serving God's purpose is a losing business. But nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, the exact opposite is true. In Esther 4:14, Mordecai challenged Esther saying, "[I]f you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" 

According to Ecclesiastes 3:1, there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:7b then reads, "a time to be silent and a time to speak." For Esther the time to be silent was over. The time to speak up came. She stood up, and spoke on behalf of her people. 

Even though the time for God's people to rise and speak has arrived, it is not always easy for them to speak up. In the case of the Apostle Peter, as he stood up and proclaimed that Jesus is the Christ, surprisingly a lot of people repented and believed in the Lord. But as the Holy Spirit started working, the devil also started working. The religious leaders arrested the apostles and put them in jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. "Go, stand in the temple courts," he said, "and tell the people the full message of this new life." Peter obeyed and the gospel kept spreading. 

On one occasion, as the Apostle Paul preached the gospel in the city of Corinth, many Jews opposed Paul and became abusive. Paul became afraid, so he kept silent. But one night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city." Likewise, although Esther became afraid, she accepted Mordecai's challenge: she disclosed her identity as a Jew and spoke up on behalf of God's people. 

In the same way we are called to come out of the closet and identify ourselves as Christians. As shepherds and missionaries, we need to stand on Jesus' side and speak for the gospel of Jesus. At first glance it looks like a losing proposition to positively serve God's purpose. But if we forget the purpose of our position as God's servants and just indulge in the privileges for our own self-seeking purposes, we will all perish just as the devil is out there to destroy all that are self-seeking. If, however, we boldly stand up and serve the Lord's purpose, even risking our lives, then, the Lord will bring about relief and deliverance not just for our sheep, but for our families as well. Otherwise we ourselves will perish along with all who are going to perish. 

Now, here are a few questions for everyone: What is your position in a church, at work, or at school? Remember that a position is not limited to a job or a location. Holding a certain view point, or taking a stand on one side or another can also be seen as a position. What position or positions are you holding to as a Christian? In a church organization, there can be many positions and these positions come with many different titles. Are you an usher, an elder, a shepherd, a janitor, or a Sunday school teacher? Are you a lay-person? If so, what is your job or career? Why do you think the Lord put you in that position? What are the duties and responsibilities, not just as carnally minded people describe them but as the Lord might have in mind? And what do you do with your time? Mordecai said to Esther, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” What does this challenge mean to you? 

One word: And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this? 


Class Exercise: 

1. Before sending the Israelites to Babylon, through the Prophet Jeremiah the Lord said to them: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the __________ I have for you, plans to __________ you and not to _________ you, _______ to give you _________ and a ________." 

2. Mordecai had brought up Esther because ______________________________________. 

3. Esther became the Queen of Persia before Ezra and Nehemiah had returned to Jerusalem. 

True ( ) False ( ) 

4. Mordecai found out about the plot of the two officers of the king to assassinate the king; he reported the plot to the king. 

True ( ) False ( ) 

5. King Xerxes honored Haman, the _________, the _________ of all the Jews. 

6. All the royal officials at the king's gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, most likely because: __________________________________________. 

7. Mordecai said to Esther, "Who knows but that you have come to royal __________ for such a ________ as this?" 

The end