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January 19, 2020

God's Providence

What does Providence mean to you? How is God in control? In the book of Esther, we see God's Providence. Listen or read to find out why.

Mike Gerhardt, 01-19-20, Esther #1 God’s Providence Read Esther 1:1-22 Introduction: Name a Bible book where the name of God, Lord or Jehovah never appears. Where prayer, worship, or sacrifice is not mentioned? The shortest book in the Older Testament is Obadiah and the first chapter mentions God six times. Read 2 Chronicles 36:15-21. The Assyrians devastated the land and took the exiles into captivity. It wasn’t long until Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, that Daniel served, was given to his son Belshazzar. It was he who saw the writing on the wall and was slain that night by Darius the Mede, leading the Persian Empire after his father King Cyrus. The story of Esther begins about 483 BC about 55 years after Zerubbabel led the first group of exiles back to Jerusalem under King Cyrus. But now Ahasuerus has the throne. He is persuaded to send the rest of the Jews back to their land. Their return will not be completed until his son Artaxerxes’ reign. Ezra and Nehemiah returned to their land to rebuild the walls and to restore the temple. The Jews found great freedom in Persia. Many people remained in Persia even after given freedom to return to Jerusalem.
Providence is the theme of one orphaned girl named Esther. What do you think of when you hear Providence? Rhode Island? Do you live near a city name Providence? 26 in the USA. Providence is the protective care of God as a spiritual power. Our founding fathers capitalized Providence to refer to God. One reason for the book of Esther was to give the returning exiles hope, joy seeing God’s Providence as well as the reason for the feast of Purim which Jews still celebrate. There are five main characters in this narrative. Esther was also known as Hadassah, King Xerxes, Queen Vashti, Esther’s Uncle Mordecai, and the villain of the story Haman the Agagite. First, we meet King Xerxes. The KJV uses the transliterated name Ahasuerus. No matter what you call him he was an unrestrained, unchallenged, power-hungry king. His grandpa Cyrus founded the dynasty, his dad king Darius expanded it by killing Belshazzar and taking the Assyrian Empire over including Daniel as a leader. Xerxes’ celebration showing off all his prized possessions lasted 180 days. He throws a special 7-day banquet for men & dignitaries. Feasts are a major part of Esther, ten in all.  All were invited to the banquet at the Citadel. Xerxes like those who ruled before him acted like a god. He was worshipped by his people. As powerful as he was, I am reminded of the words of another king, Solomon who wrote Ecclesiastes 8:8 No man has power over the wind to contain it; so, no one has power over the day of death. No matter who you are or what position you have, one day you and I will die as Hebrews 9:27 tells us: Just as it is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. But this king did not take note of that verse. Instead, the wine flowed, and the men got drunk. Talk about an OPEN BAR! Wine is not a proper drink for kings as Proverbs 31 tells us. Proverbs 23:29-35: Who has sorrow? … Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red when it sparkles in the cup when it goes down smoothly! In the end, it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?” Ask yourself if have a problem with alcohol? Ask if you could abstain for six months? If you can’t, you may have a problem. While Xerxes was drunk, high with spirits he ordered Vashti to join his party. He wished to show off another of his possessions, the beautiful Vashti. He wanted her to be paraded out to display her beauty for the men to see wearing her crown.  Some commentators would say she was ordered to wear ONLY her crown and display her nakedness. Queen Vashti was throwing her own banquet for the royal women. The eunuchs came with a request from the king. Maybe she did not wish to leave as a gracious host, or she was tired of being treated as a possession. Whatever reason, she refused to come and her refusal cost her everything. Some think Vashti may have even been pregnant at that time. So, she refused the request from the most powerful man on the earth. The king was stunned by her public refusal. He turned to his wise men for counsel. Men like Daniel and those who went to see the baby, Jesus. Conflict Resolved. Xerxes listened to their advice. History tells us he was a puppet with several of his chiefs pulling the strings. After consulting the astrologers, Memucan proposed a decree. They advised him to depose Vashti and make her a public example to the entire nation. What did they fear? They feared that women would follow Vashti and rebel. In other words, they were afraid the women would start standing up for themselves. The King’s edict banished Vashti. The Persian postal system was perhaps the finest in the ancient world. It operated somewhat like the old pony express, with fresh horses and riders waiting at various points along the route. The king hoped that his decree would strengthen the men in their homes. Whether it did or not, nobody knows. We do know that he later regretted his decision. Although God is not mentioned in the text, His powerful intervention in the events of history cannot be denied. God’s purposes will be accomplished. The theme of the book is told in 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? The same can be said for us, if we do not rise up to share the gospel, salvation may not come, and people will perish. For such a time as this. We are here to bring the Good News to this area. As we study this book, we will see the attributes of God as he directs the circumstances of history for the glory of His Name. Xerxes is arrogant, prideful, and ignorant. He owns many things but does not know how to manage any of them. He is easily swayed by opinion and not by what is right.  Are we like Xerxes? Ask yourself if you have a greater love for God than the things of this world?  Ephesians 5:22-28 tells husbands to love their wives like Jesus loved and sacrificed for the Church. How do we treat our beloved wives? Can we improve? Conclusion: We at times can’t see the work of God until we see the invisible. The materialist doesn’t believe in anything that they cannot physically see. Do they believe in love? That immaterial but very real attribute is part of the unseen world. So is God’s work, real but unseen. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart…So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Hebrews 11:1-2 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. God’s unseen sovereign rule is assumed at every point in Esther. Hopefully, the unseen hand of God will be clearly seen in your life also as you trust in Jesus alone.