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Sleepless in Susa and Rain on the Parade

Esther 6

Copyright © 2006 Jeremy D. Myers

 

A ship that was hailed as the unsinkable ship—“a ship that even God couldn’t sink” according to one headline—sank on its maiden voyage. We all know the story of the Titanic.

 

Spiritual leaders who say “That could never happen to me” fall into sexual sin. We have heard it happen over and over again.

 

National political leaders who can never admit they’re wrong are disgraced in the public eye. We have seen it in congressman and presidents.

 

A harbor that was considered invincible and was run by men looking out for personal advancement in their careers is attacked and demolished by a Japanese attack force. We have all heard of Pearl Harbor.

 

A space shuttle blows up only 73 seconds after take off because a group of top managers would not listen to the warnings of some lower level engineers. We all remember the catastrophe of the Challenger Space Shuttle.

 

All of these cases—and countless others—have proved the truth of Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

 

Pride. “It thrust proud Nebuchadnezzar out of men’s society, proud Saul out of his kingdom, proud Adam out of paradise…proud Lucifer out of heaven.[1]

 

The downfalls of the proud are amazing. Today we will see another one.

 

As we continue to study the story of Esther we see the beginning of one of the most amazing downfalls of a proud person that is recorded in Scripture. The most amazing part about it though is that while God’s name is never mentioned, we can see His hand at work through the whole account.

 

So far, in Esther, we have seen King Xerxes, a proud and foolish king make some poor decisions and lose his queen.

 

Later, the king began feeling bad that he had deposed his queen, so he had a beauty pageant to get a new queen. The result is that a young Jewish girl named Esther became queen. She also happened to be the niece of a man named Mordecai.

 

Mordecai was a lowly public official in the capital of Susa, and had saved the life of the king from an assassination plot. However, there was another man in Susa who hated Mordecai—Haman the Agagite. Haman hated all Israelites and came from a long line of Israelite enemies. He wanted everyone to bow to him. But Mordecai the Jew did not. Haman became so enraged that he set out to destroy all the Jews living in Persia. And by way of a bribe to the King, he set in motion some events that would do just that.

 

Mordecai learned of the plot, and persuaded Esther to embark on a “Mission Impossible” to persuade the king to intervene for her people. In chapter 5 we saw her begin her mission, but it seemed to us that she missed several key opportunities to make her request to the King.

 

And at the end of chapter 5, we saw that while Esther was preparing to ask the king to spare her people the Jews—and we are hopeful that she will somehow be granted her request—Haman was intent on killing Mordecai. He had a gallows built 75 feet high, and was going to go to the King early in the morning to ask that Mordecai be impaled on it. Then he could go to the banquet with a good mood.

 

So even if Esther got what she wanted from the King—the deliverance of her people—it would be too late for Mordecai.

 

But we are forgetting one thing. Although God is not mentioned in the book—His work is evident everywhere. There are no coincidences with God. While we think Esther has delayed too long—she is operating exactly within God’s timetable.

 

When we think Haman built the gallows—it is because God wanted them.

 

But I am getting ahead of myself. The action begins today in 6:1.

 

1That night the king could not sleep. So one was commanded to bring the book of the records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.

 

There are two parts to chapter 6. I have entitled this first part “Sleepless in Susa.” Susa, of course, is the royal city that the king was living in, and on this night, he could not sleep. I just find this amazing! “The entire course of history for the Jewish nation was changed because a pagan king could not sleep.”[2] What does Proverbs say? “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (21:1).
 

The king wanted to sleep, but we see here in verse one that he could not, and so he orders that the history books be brought in and read to him.

 

Now some of us are thinking—“Yeah, read some history. That’ll put you to sleep real quick.” But these were not just any history books, these were the history books of his reign. These were the accounts of what he had done, and all the glorious battles he had won and all the wonderful buildings he had built and so on. We know that historiographers were attached to the Persian court and attended the monarch everywhere he went.[3] They wrote down everything he said and everything he did.

 

The king, being proud and arrogant himself, probably wanted to drift off to sleep hearing how wonderful he was as a king. But we see in verse 2, that God—the keeper of Israel who neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psa 121:4) and who is not mentioned here but is obviously present—had something else in mind.

 

2And it was found written that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, the doorkeepers who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus.

 

Now Xerxes had been king at this point for over 12 years! Do you know how many volumes would have been filled by the king’s historiographers in twelve years if they were recording almost everything he did and said of any importance? We’re looking at a lot of history here! But of all the texts that could have been selected, the librarian pulls this one from the shelves to be read to the king! What a “coincidence,” right? No, God is obviously at work when the librarian picks this part of the histories.

 

Do you remember the account the history is talking about? In chapter 2, Bigthana and Teresh, who of the kings officers had developed a plan to assassinate the King, but Mordecai had learned of it, and had reported it to the king. And remember, chapter 2 did not tell us that Mordecai had been honored for this.

 

Remember, when we looked at chapter 2—this seemed like an insignificant part in the story—unnecessary to include—but now we see why the master storyteller included it! It plays a huge part in this chapter.

 

Maybe Mordecai was a little hurt by being overlooked after saving the life of the king, but remember, if you ever do something that deserves recognition, and you are forgotten—God sees what was done—and He will reward you in His own time—which is always perfect. Honoring Mordecai would have been good before—but honoring him now will be twice as good. Look how this happens for Mordecai in verse 3.

 

3Then the king said, “What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?”

And the king’s servants who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.”

 

Normally the kings were very disciplined in rewarding those who protected or served the king in such a way, and so this was a major oversight for the king to have failed to honor Mordecai.

 

Now apparently the king is sitting there in bed, trying to figure out how to honor Mordecai, when he hears someone enter the outer court.

 

4So the king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace to suggest that the king hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him.

 

Why has Haman come so early? Haman had arrived to ask for the death of Mordecai.

 

5The king’s servants said to him, “Haman is there, standing in the court.”

And the king said, “Let him come in.”

6So Haman came in, and the king asked him, “What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?”

 

In other words, I have someone I really want to honor—what should I do?

 

Now Haman thought in his heart, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?”

 

Haman is so proud he can’t imagine why the King would want to honor anybody but himself. After all, he has just the day before been to one banquet, today he is attending a second. Convinced that he is the only one the king would want to honor, Haman presents the king with another way to further stroke his own ego.[4]

 

7And Haman answered the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, 8let a royal robe be brought which the king has worn, and a horse on which the king has ridden, which has a royal crest placed on its head.

 

Haman requests that the man whom the king wants to honor be treated like royalty. Now normally this would be a breach of Persian Law, but in special circumstances, the king would allow it. Haman was lusting after respect.[5] What he requests here and in verse 9 is like someone today getting the chance to fly around in Air Force One. Let’s look at verse 9. Haman is continuing…

 

9Then let this robe and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that he may array the man whom the king delights to honor. Then parade him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!’”

 

He’s going to be sorry he said this later. Can’t you just see it? Haman is thinking “The gods are smiling on me today! I have come to ask for the life of Mordecai, and now the king wants to honor me above everybody else! And then later I get a private banquet with the King and Queen. What a great day this will be!”

 

I know Haman is the villain in the story, but you just have to feel sorry for him sometimes, don’t you? He’s digging his own grave here and doesn’t even know it. We know what the King is about to do, but Haman doesn’t and we just have to watch Haman create his own downfall.

 

It is interesting to note that what Haman craves here is the same thing Lucifer craved—both wanted to receive the honor that was due the King. Haman wanted to receive the honor due a king; Lucifer wanted to receive the honor due the King of Kings.[6] Scripture again tell us though, that honor is only received by giving honor to whom it is due (1 Sam. 2:30). Haman and Lucifer sought honor for themselves. And both fall from their proud position.

 

Haman’s fall begins in verse 10.

 

10Then the king said to Haman, “Hurry, take the robe and the horse, as you have suggested, and do so for Mordecai the Jew who sits within the king’s gate! Leave nothing undone of all that you have spoken.”

 

Can you imagine the look on Haman’s face?

 

Now this second part of the chapter, I have entitled “Rain on the Parade.” Haman had been expecting a day that was full of his own glory—he was thinking he was getting a parade in his own honor, and look what happens. Mordecai—whom Haman hated, whom Haman wanted to impale on a gallows 75 feet high, whom Haman set out to destroy all the Jews because Mordecai would not bow—this Mordecai was honored instead of Haman. And it gets worse in verse 11.

 

11So Haman took the robe and the horse, arrayed Mordecai and led him on horseback through the city square, and proclaimed before him, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!”

 

This couldn’t happen to a couple of more deserving guys.[7] Mordecai deserved what he got. So did Haman. This kind of turn around can only come from God.

 

Haman was the one who had to lead Mordecai through the city proclaiming “this is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!” What a bad day for Haman. Mordecai, whom he hated, had to be honored by Haman at the very time he had planned to supervise Mordecai’s execution![8] How humiliating. Again, Scripture tells us that God is the judge, he puts down one and sets up another (Psa 75:7).

 

And we can be sure that, unlike Haman, Mordecai did not let this promotion go to his head.[9] We can be sure that there was no boasting from Mordecai. He did not force under threat of death for all the citizens of Susa to bow before him. He carried his honors well.

 

Most of us, myself included, might be tempted to gloat as Haman led us around town on the kings royal horse. Many of us would be tempted to say something to Haman—something like “How do ya like me now, Haman? One more time around the block, Haman. A little slower, Haman. Shout a little louder, Haman.” But we can be sure that Mordecai did not fall into such a trap.

 

Verse 12 picks up when the procession was over.

 

12Afterward Mordecai went back to the king’s gate. But Haman hurried to his house, mourning and with his head covered.

 

Of course Haman cannot now ask for the death of Mordecai. All of Haman’s plans are beginning to unravel.

 

This is very ironic. “Earlier, Mordecai had publicly grieved over his people, now Haman privately grieved over his own humiliation.

 

When Haman left his wife in the morning he had been elated. Now, the bottom had fallen out from under him.”[10] Let’s see how his wife and friends respond.

 

13When Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him, his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish descent, you will not prevail against him but will surely fall before him.”

 

They see it as clearly as we do. Haman’s downfall has started. And here they give the reason why. They say it is because Mordecai is of Jewish origin. They knew that Jews were the chosen people of God and since this God is working behind the scenes. Haman will surely come to ruin because he cannot stand against God—which is what he was trying to do.

 

Of course, while God has not forsaken his people Israel, they will play an important role in events to come—the church is currently the people of God—and all attempts to destroy Christ’s church will also come to ruin. What did Christ say? “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” God always protects His own.

 

And the chapter ends with verse 14.

 

14While they were still talking with him, the king’s eunuchs came, and hastened to bring Haman to the banquet which Esther had prepared.

 

Just when his wife and friends make this dire prophecy, the king’s eunuchs arrive and hurry Haman off to the banquet. We know what is coming. His destruction is nearly complete. But Haman does not know this. Yet I am sure he is dreading the banquet. When it rains, it pours, and it is definitely raining on Haman’s parade. He’s wondering what else can go wrong today.

 

So Haman is escorted off to his banquet with Esther and the King,

 

There are two primary lessons from chapter 6, one from the example of Haman and one from the example of Mordecai. The first, from Haman is to watch out for pride in your own life. Be careful to fend off pride.

 

Maybe the best way to watch out for pride is to note what sort of things reveal pride. I came across a little printed form the other day with a rather intriguing title: How to Be Perfectly Miserable. And it goes on to list a few things you can do that will not only make you perfectly miserable but also keep you that way. All of these things are indicative of pride in your life. If any of them are present in your life, watch out, because pride comes before a fall. There are 15 of them.

 

1. Think about yourself.

2. Talk about yourself.

3. Use the personal pronoun “I” as often as possible in your conversation.

4. Mirror yourself continually in the opinion of others.

5. Listen greedily to what people say about you.

6. Insist on consideration and respect.

7. Demand agreement with your own views on everything.

8. Sulk if people are not grateful to you for favors shown them.

9. Never forget a service you may have rendered.

10. Expect to be appreciated.

11. Be suspicious.

12. Be sensitive to slights.

13. Be jealous and envious.

14. Never forget a criticism.

15. Trust nobody but yourself.[12]

 

So the first lesson from the example of Haman is to beware pride in your life. I am convinced that pride is at the root of all sin. All sin is a result of thinking you know better than God, or that God doesn’t understand your particular situation. Pride is at the heart of sin and pride always results in destruction.

 

The second lesson, from the example of Mordecai, is seen in the amazing set of coincidences in this chapter. One coincidence by itself is not too amazing, but so many can only point to the hand of God. In fact, we have a string of seven coincidences here—and it is interesting to remember that “7” is the number of perfection in God.

 

1. A king cannot sleep.

2. On the night he cannot sleep, Haman is planning Mordecai’s death.

3. The king asks for history to be read to him when there were many other things he could have asked for.

4. Of all the books that could be chosen, the one talking about Mordecai is read.

5. The king notices that Mordecai was not honored.

6. Just as the king is wondering how to honor Mordecai, Haman enters the court.

7. The king asks Haman how to honor Mordecai, without naming Mordecai.[13]

 

All of these events lead to Haman’s downfall and Mordecai’s honor. God is definitely in control. There are no coincidences with God; there are only tiny miracles.

 

How about you? Does it ever seem God is absent in your life? Just think for a moment about all the tiny miracles in your life.

 

“Consider the chain of circumstances that led to your own conversion to Christ. How did you meet and marry your spouse? Why are you living in the place you are now? What circumstances led you to your job? God’s care and protection for his children seldom come by mighty miracles, but constantly…with the unfolding circumstances each day, as one thing leads to another.”[14]

 

Even how God takes care of your own children. We don’t know 90% of the little coincidences that God works out which protects our children from harm.

 

So today, you may be asking, “Where is God in my life?” If you want to see Him, First, check to make sure there is no abundance of pride in your life, and secondly, look at the tiny miracles that reveal God directing your steps.


 

[1] Henry Smith, BIWIN, pride.

[2] Missler, 53

[3] Missler, 53

[4]  Deffinbaugh, 7.

[5]  Missler, 55.

[6] Deffinbaugh, 8.

[7] Missler, 56.

[8] Missler, 56.

[9] Armerding, 74.

[10]  Missler, 57.

[11] Biwin, pride.

[12] Biwin, pride.

[13] Bush, 419.

[14] Jobes, 160.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Copyright © 2006 TILL HE COMES

 

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