Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah - Session 1

Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah - Session 1

Scripture: Esther 3:1-9
Sermon: Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah - week 1

Scripture: Esther 3:1-9
Sermon: Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah - week 1

After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite,  elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. 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.

Then the royal officials at the king's gate asked Mordecai, "Why do you disobey the king's command?"  Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply.  Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai's behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew.

When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged.  Yet having learned who Mordecai's people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way  to destroy  all Mordecai's people, the Jews,  throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.

In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the first month, the month of Nisan, the pur  (that is, the lot ) was cast in the presence of Haman to select a day and month. And the lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar. 

Then Haman said to King Xerxes, "There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs  are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey  the king's laws; it is not in the king's best interest to tolerate them.  If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king's administrators for the royal treasury."

-Esther 3:1-9

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Power, Pride and Anger
She Reads Truth

I sit in my family room nestled under a blanket on my couch, thinking about this chapter in Esther and how uncomfortable I am with implications of evil. Power, pride and anger are a dangerous combination.

I had the honor to spend time with a woman who survived the Rwandan Genocide. She told me the story of how she was hidden in a small bathroom with 15 others for several weeks. Power, position, prejudice, and a long-standing grudge between the Hutus and Tutsis' ended with the death of over 800,000 lives. Her encounter with God and His protection is what got her through those dark days of evil.

Charles Swindoll wrote in Esther, A Woman of Strength and Dignity, "If we allow anger and our grudges to fester, if we make plans for revenge, we will quite likely end up doing horrible things to others and ourselves."

I wish this statement were not so true, but we don't have to look far to see that revenge birthed in anger leads to destruction. It ends up hurting all involved, and the outcome is never what we planned.

Enter the dynamics between Amalekites and Israelites-a vivid example in Scripture of how the dangerous mixture of power, pride and anger puts God's people at considerable risk. Haman was a descendent from the Amalekites who had a long history of racial hatred for all Jewish people. He was extremely arrogant, and when he was put in the position of high power, he lorded over others. He was enraged when Mordecai, a Jew, refused to bow down to him. His anger and malice led him to an irrational decision-to manipulate the king into issuing a decree to mercilessly eliminate all the Jews. Mordecai, on the other hand, continued to worship the one true God, even in dangerous circumstances. The author of Esther starkly contrasts the hearts of the two men.

Swindoll writes, "No one is born with grudges. Prejudice is not a packaged deal that comes with birth. It's something we learn; we're trained in it. We're not born hating. We must be taught to hate." Haman was taught his power gave him the right to hurt those he hated. 

Mordecai was taught that God alone is all-powerful.

What have you been taught about power and pride, and how have others influenced your actions? It is humbling to consider how easily we are swayed to regard others as less than ourselves.

We are all born into sin and have the propensity to act out in evil ways. The more life we live, the more we are influenced by our culture, our upbringing, the people around us and our personal experiences. Our anger flares when our pride is challenged, and sometimes grudges and deep-seated bitterness get the best of us. We can so easily tear one another down instead of build each other up. I admit this is true of me-there are times anger has gotten the best of me. I haven't taken down nations, but I have crushed the souls of those I love.

Oh, but there is Good News! We have hope through Jesus. God's Word is truth and His promises give us confidence that we have been made new. Like Haman, we have the potential to do evil, hurtful things; but in Christ, we can be vessels of God's mercy and grace. My son said it well one day after we watched a Disney movie: "Mom, there is always good and evil, but good wins." God wins!

We live in a fallen world where good and evil collide. We read about it in history books, see it on the news that streams 24/7, and we encounter it in our daily lives. It would be so easy to stay paralyzed and hopeless on the couch, hidden under this blanket. God's promises give us the hope to get up off the couch, get on our knees and pray, to believe God can work through us to spread His gospel of grace and peace to a prideful, hurting world.

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Lord, my heart beats independently of you too often, and I end up on the couch hiding under a blanket.  Help me onto my knees to pray for you to work through me to spread your gospel. Amen.

PEACE, HOPE, JOY & LOVE Stream from the Manger! Come and See!