“Esther And God’s Providence        Esther 9:17-10:3               August 19, 2007


SI:  We’ve come to the end of the book of Esther. 

The exciting action and drama is over—

   Esther ends with an explanation of the origins of the Jewish feast of Purim—

   which commemorated God’s deliverance and the victory of the Jews over Haman.


INTRO:  I saw a billboard with a playing cards, poker chips, and pair of dice.

What do you think it was advertising?

   It was advertising a casino in Tunica, Mississippi.

Those objects on the billboard, cards, chips, especially the dice

   are symbols of gambling, games of chance.


You probably don’t think of dice as a biblical symbol—

   but that’s exactly what we find in this chapter.

Book of Esther ends with an explanation of the origin of the Jewish feast of Purim.

   Says that the name comes from the Persian word for lot or die—pur.

   Then the Jews added the Hebrew plural ending im to make it Purim, dice.


Why was this name chosen for this feast of the Old Testament church?

   Because Haman, the enemy of the Jews had cast the lot,

   he had rolled the dice, to pick the luckiest day for the destruction of the Jews.

Remember that?  Back in chapter 3.  Lot fell on 13th of month of Adar.

   But the Lord reversed fortunes that day. 

   He destroyed Haman and all the enemies of Jews.

   And He lifted his people to positions of honor and power.


How did the Lord accomplish that reversal?

   He didn’t do miracles like he did in Egypt.

   Didn’t send 10 plagues and part the Red Sea.

   Instead, he worked through a series of events to accomplish his purposes.


Think of those events in the story of Esther.

   Some unusual, like Xerxes getting drunk, deposing queen, choosing another.

   Some ordinary, like night Xerxes couldn’t sleep, so read record of his reign,

   Some were people making bad decisions—like Esther hiding her identity,

   and others were people making good decisions, like Esther speaking to the king.

None of them were miracles.  They were just the stuff of life.


But all of those events were orchestrated by God,

   to accomplish his purposes—to raise his people and to glorify his name. 

That’s why the Jews called this feast Purim—not just because Haman threw dice—

   but as a way of saying—our Lord controls the throw of the dice.


This way of God working not through miracles,

   but through the events of life is called his providence.

God’s providence is his sovereign direction of everything,

   for his own glory and for the good of his people.


Every event, big and small, unusual and ordinary—

   even the decisions and actions of people, good and bad

   even your decisions and actions, are planned,

   guided, and used by the Lord. 


The book of Esther is a great illustration of providence.

Charles Spurgeon, great 19th century Baptist preacher said this:

   “The Lord intended, by the narrative of Esther’s history,

   to set before us a wonderful instance of His Providence . . .

Then Spurgeon tells us why—what’s the spiritual benefit?

   so that when we had viewed it with interest and pleasure, we might praise His name and then

   go on to acquire the habit of observing His hand in other histories, and especially in our own



I hope you have viewed the story of Esther with interest and pleasure—I have.

   So on this last study, let’s look at the big lessons about God’s providence,

   so that we can praise him and learn how this applies to our own lives.


I have three points—will give them to you as we go.

MP#1  God’s providence can only be seen with eyes of faith.

One of the distinctive features of the book of Esther is that God’s name

   is never mentioned.  There is not a single theological comment.

   Never told, and the Lord was angry with Haman.

   Or, and the Spirit of the Lord was on Esther.


And the Lord is not even referred to indirectly.

   Not told that the Jews prayed or worshipped or gave thanks.

Even in this last chapter as they are celebrating Purim,

   not told that they gave praise to God for this deliverance.

   It’s all about the feasting and arrangements to celebrate in the future.


One commentator I read said that when you first read this chapter

   you can almost imagine the Jews with t-shirts that say:

   “Esther is the Reason for the Season.”

She and Mordecai get all the attention, even at the end.


But we know this is not a secular book.

The Old Testament church recognized it as inspired.

   That means the Holy Spirit himself directed the writer of Esther.

   So the omission of God is intentional.



Because this is what life really looks like.

   You can’t see God.  He is invisible to you.

   All you can see are things happening in your life and in the world—

   and everything that happens has a natural cause or explanation.

Esther just looks like a political story.

   It’s exciting, it has some twists and turns—

   but it’s no more dramatic than political stuff that has happened before or sense.

Everything that happens can be explained in ordinary terms.


What does it take to see the Lord at work in this story?  Eyes of faith.

   That’s what Esther does for believers when they read it—

   it trains you to see God’s providence in Esther’s life and in yours.

And that is absolutely essential for growth and happiness as a believer.


I have a friend who told me about a time when he and his family

   just scraping the bottom of the barrel financially.

They had no money, the checkbook was empty, bills were due,

   and he felt this crushing weight.  There was nowhere to turn.

He and his wife sat down, and looked at everything and it seemed impossible.

   They prayed, they asked the Lord for help.


Then, later that day, the checkbook statement came in the mail,

   his wife sat down to balance their checkbook—

   she came out with tears in her eyes and said, “I made a mistake last month.”

He said, “Oh, no.” 

But she said, “No, it’s not what you think, we’re $600 dollars to the good.”

   And then he began to weep with gratitude.


You can easily explain the causes of that event.

   It was not a miracle.  It wasn’t even unusual—

   like if he had walked outside and found $600 in the street.

It was just a simple mistake she had made and

   the bank statement set it right, that’s what bank statements are for.


But as believers, they saw God’s providence, began to trace it back.

   They saw that it was the Lord who had them at this financial place in life.

   It was the Lord who directed her mistake.

   It was the Lord who sent the bills that made them panic.

   It was the Lord who led them to pray on that day.

   It was the Lord who sent the bank statement that afternoon.

   It was the Lord who let her to find the $600 mistake to the good.


And seeing his providence led them to praise him more, trust him more,

   face future crises with greater calm and assurance,

   and become stronger in their faith.

Could they have missed those things?  Of course they could.

   Even as Christians, might have had blinders on eyes so that they just said—

   “Whew!  Glad that worked out.” 

But because their eyes were open, they saw the Lord, and got greater blessing.


How do you learn to see God’s providence in your life? 

   Obviously you have to pray.  If don’t pray, won’t see when Lord works.

But another huge thing, it’s being around Christians who see God’s hand,

   talk about it, it’s the fellowship of believers, life of the church, stories of lives.

   Purim feast a time to talk about God’s providence.  You must too.

MP#2  God’s providence even includes your sins and failures.

Esther ends with Esther and Mordecai serving the Lord in the Persian government.

   Esther is queen in the full sense of the word.

   She is no longer just a pretty plaything for King Xerxes.

She comes and goes to court, she helps her cousin write laws.

   And an interesting little detail, easy to miss, verse 29,

   she is identified for the first time as Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail.

No longer is she in any way trying to hide her identity,

   but she claims her heritage, and this is more than ethnic,

   she is claiming her identity as one of the people of God.


This is amazing considering our first introduction to Esther back in chapter 2.

   Back then she was doing everything she could to hide her identity.

Esther was not even her real name, it was Hadassah, her Hebrew name.

   She took the Persian name Esther, probably variation of Persian goddess Ishtar.

   She followed her cousin Mordecai’s advice to a fault—tell no one who you are.

She did everything to fit in to the values and culture of the palace.

   Essentially won a beauty and sex contest to get the attention of the king.


Just contrast Esther with Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. 

   They were also Jewish exiles in a pagan court.

   But remember their stand? 

Made it clear, we will faithfully serve the king of Babylon

   only as far as our consciences and the law of God allows.


Esther did the exact opposite.

And for five years she settled into a life of pagan luxury in the palace,

   all the while denying her identity.


But you remember the turning point—the crisis of Haman’s edict.

   Mordecai came to her and said, you have to do something, have to go to the king.

   She didn’t want to.  Too many risks.  Liked her life.

But the issue was forced.  She had to make a decision.

   Mordecai said: 

   Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this? 


And he was right.  Esther came to royal position through sinful choices,

   and yet, through God’s providence he used her where she was,

   in ways that she never could have imagined.

What this shows us is that for believers, there is no Plan B for your life.

It is impossible for you to mess up so much that God cannot use you

   in the very places your sinful choices have taken you.

He doesn’t do that by excusing your sin,

   or by making it good, or by removing the consequences.

He does it by providentially working through the consequences

   to bring about his purposes, and use you in ways you could never imagine. 


In my first sermon, back in June, told you about a man I knew in Ft. Lauderdale.

   Grew up in a Christian home, had a godly father, professed faith.

   But told his dad he was going to law school, because wanted to get rich.

Do you remember?   Dad told him, Son, you can serve Christ in any calling.

   But getting rich is not a worthy life goal for a Christian.

   If you go into law for that reason, will lead to a lot of unhappiness.


Son didn’t listen.  Went to law school to get rich.

   Got out, did very well—but at some point God got his attention.

   Saw the foolishness of chasing wealth. 

   Repented of the years he had wasted.

But the Lord in his providence began to use him where he was—

   he didn’t leave law, stayed in it, made it his goal to serve Christ, not money.

   Lord took that rebellious, ungodly decision, used for good in his life.


He can do the same for you.  No matter what you have done.

Think of how often we get to see this in the church.

   Believers who say, I hate what I did, I would give anything to go back

   and change the past, I’ve got scars for life—but oh, how he Lord has used this.

The people I’ve been able to minister to who are in the same boat,

   the conversations that have opened, the experiences of grace.

   Truly, it is impossible for me to see my life any other way.

God has providentially used even this sin to bring be close to Christ

   in ways that I could never have imagined.


Be comforted by this.  But also be warned.  This is no excuse for sin.

   For committing it or staying in it.  God’s providence also means that there

   are points of decision—just like Esther—where God forces the issue.

Decision you make will have eternal consequences.

   Do not ignore him if he is calling you back, if you do ignore him,

   can have no confidence that all things will work for your good.

MP#3  God’s providence has a purpose—the good of his covenant people.

One of the most loved verses in the whole Bible is Romans 8:28.

   “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him

   who have been called according to his purpose.”

In one word, what is that verse about?  Providence.

   All things—good things and bad things, big things and little things,

   ordinary things and unusual things—God works for the good not of everyone—

   this is not a promise for all people that things will work out—

   but for those who love him, who he loved first by calling them.


At the end of Esther, we see things working out for the good of the Jews.

   Enemies are defeated, they are celebrating, joyful, honored.

   Esther and Mordecai are working for them in the palace.

In fact, things are better for the Jews than they were before.

   The terrible threats of Haman were not only removed,

   but God’s people were lifted up—and their faith increased.


But in one very significant way, the situation for the Jews had not changed.

   They were still in the Persian empire, Xerxes still on the throne.

   He was just as erratic and cruel as ever.

   What was there to keep him from deposing Esther and Mordecai just like others?

Or what would happen to the Jews when Esther and Mordecai die?


When you ask those questions, you realize that the end of the story of Esther—

   as good as it is, is not really the end—it’s pointing to something else.

Think the key is in verse 22, when the good the Jews experienced is described

   as “relief from their enemies.”  That is the word “rest.”

   Many Bibles translate it that way, “rest from their enemies.”


That’s a very significant word—it’s a loaded word in the Bible.

   Rest is shorthand for the final goal of salvation that God has planned

   for his people.  What rest means is that we fully partake of everything

   that Jesus Christ has done for us through death and resurection.


We will rest completely from all of our work,

and we enjoy the blessings of his work.

   We will rest from the fight against sin. 

   We will rest from the attacks of the devil.

   We will rest from struggle of living in a fallen world.

Rest is another way of saying heaven, the consummation of our salvation.

So the purpose of God’s providence—

   the good that he is working for us in all things is that final good.

   It is our glorification—our full rest in Christ and then end of all sin.

That’s very significant because it means that in the short term,

   the good providences that you experience are just appetizers

   for the ultimate good—the real rest in Jesus Christ.

They aren’t the final banquet—the Lord is still working that out.


If you don’t understand this, will never truly grasp doctrine of providence.

   Will think that it is just about this life, just about things we can see.

Lord is working things out in the here and now—finances, relationships—

   but that’s not where his providence is heading—

   it’s heading toward the ultimate good of his covenant people.


I’ve told you many times of man who had great influence on me during

   our time in Florida—Al Rodenhouse.  Godly Dutchman from Grand Rapids.

He was a man who delighted in God’s providence—

   spent hours with him, told me stories of his life, God worked things out.

But he always looked beyond the good providences, to the greater good

   that God was doing for his people.


Told me story of time purchased orange grove in central Florida.

   Around same time, approached about counseling ministry.

   Will commit the profits from grove to this ministry.

Year by year, God’s providence in the orange grove.

   One year, ministry needed more money—a freeze, but his grove spared—

   so there was a big profit that year.

And then, this is how it ended, a terrible freeze, the grove destroyed.

   That was the same year, church decided ministry had run its course, closed doors.


Al was just as delighted in telling me that story about the destruction

   of his orange grove as he was telling me about the year they made a killing.

For Al, God’s providence had an even bigger purpose

   that reached beyond the immediate ups and downs of finances,

   and success of his orange grove—it was the good of his covenant people.


Reason he was certain of that, knew behind all things, Jesus Christ,

   lived and died and rose again, interceding, and preparing great things.