Formations lesson for May 24: Esther Takes a Risk
Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville
May 11, 2009

Formations lesson for May 24: Esther Takes a Risk

Formations lesson for May 24: Esther Takes a Risk
Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville
May 11, 2009

Focal Passage: Esther 5:1-8; 7:1-8:2

Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind
exceeding small;
Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness
grinds He all.

— Friedrich Von Logau (tr. Henry W. Longfellow)

An insomniac king with a beautiful love interest; palace
intrigues, comic twists and dramatic reversals; a slapstick mixup of
Shakespearean proportions; an arch-villain who gets his just desserts — it
doesn’t get any better than this.

Esther melts Xerxes’ heart when she enters, unbidden, into
his court. He knows her concern must be serious and offers whatever she asks,
even half the kingdom. Instead she invites him to bring Haman to dinner, twice.
She has a lot of buttering up to do. As for Haman, he’s overjoyed at his
apparent good fortune (5:1-9).

But out in the street Mordecai again refuses to do
obeisance. Haman is livid. Power, wealth, status — nothing matters as long as
this Jew defies him. Egged on by his wife and friends, he constructs a gallows
for Mordecai (5:9-14).

That night the king, unable to sleep, rereads the legal
notices in the paper (better than counting sheep?). “Did we ever reward
Mordecai for disrupting that assassination plot?” The answer is no. When Haman
comes to ask permission to carry out the hanging, Xerxes asks his question
first: “How to honor a faithful subject?” Certain that it’s all about him,
Haman suggests an over-the-top appreciation ceremony which the king orders him
to carry out — for Mordecai (6:1-11). Irony, anyone?

Stung by the humiliation, Haman forgets all about the second
banquet and must be collected by the king’s men. There Esther makes her
startling pronouncement: Haman! He’s the villain who is threatening her and all
her people (6:12-7:6).

The king storms out in a rage. Returning to find Haman
literally flung across Esther begging for mercy, Xerxes mistakes it for an
assault on his queen. A servant notices the new gallows outside. How convenient! “Hang him on that”

Esther gets Haman’s house and Mordecai gets his job,
symbolized by the king’s ring, formerly on Haman’s finger. Next to the king,
two Jews are now the most powerful people in the land (8:1-2; remember Joseph
and Daniel?).

It can seem like forever. The innocent suffer while the
wicked go free. But sometimes — not always, but sometimes — the chickens come
home to roost. The evil a person intends toward others becomes his own undoing,
and justice prevails.

More than eight years have passed since Vashti was deposed
(1:3, 2:16, 3:7). Meanwhile God, unnamed, stands patiently waiting, having
placed the advancement of His divine purposes into the hands of two ordinary
people. Imagine that.