Esther’s Story…Part 2 (Chapters 2-3)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
As I mentioned last time Mordecai is my cousin, although he’s so much older than I am that he actually remembers life in Jerusalem before the Babylonians destroyed it. When my parents died he took me in and raised me as his own. Our age differences made him seem more like a grandfather to me than a cousin and I loved and trusted him completely.
As soon as news of the King’s search for a replacement Queen was made public, Mordecai convinced me to enter the competition and sent me to Hegai, the man in charge of the King’s harem. Hegai took a liking to me right away, recognizing that there was more to me than just a pretty face and pleasing figure. He arranged for me to have extra beauty treatments and a special diet, assigned 7 maids to look after me, and gave me the best apartment in the harem.
Mordecai had warned me not to reveal my nationality, so I didn’t keep to the “kosher” diet or other unique traditions of my people while in the harem. (My “Jewishness” was something else hidden in my story, at least for the time being.) Somehow, Mordecai was certain I would be selected from among all the candidates to be the next Queen of Persia, even though at this point the King didn’t even know I existed. I guess he thought that if my Jewish heritage became known, it would hurt my chances in the competition.
As I reflect on Mordecai’s certainty, I’m reminded of the debate in your time over predestination vs. free will. The King was going to exercise his own free will to make a random selection from among all the girls in the competition, but my cousin already knew what his decision would be and had made sure I was available and prepared.
When you chose to accept the Lord Jesus as your Savior, you were exercising your own free will, but God, Who sees the end from the beginning, knew what your decision would be before He laid the foundations of Earth, and made sure there was a place for you in His Kingdom. From His point of view it was predestination. From yours it was free will. Once you understand that God simply knew in advance what decision you would make, the problem goes away.
Before any of the harem girls were permitted to visit the King, we underwent 12 months of beauty treatment with herbs, perfumes, and cosmetics and were also given other training and preparation to make certain we were absolutely our most attractive selves possible. Then, one at a time we would be taken to the King in the evening, returning the following morning to another part of the harem. We would never see the King again unless he specifically asked for us by name. Needless to say, this put a tremendous amount of pressure on each girl since her one night audition would determine whether she would be chosen to live a life of unimaginable wealth and privilege as the Queen of Persia or spend the rest of her days confined in a “gilded cage” with no hope of a normal life.
Every day of that long year, Mordecai walked along the courtyard just outside the harem, checking with officials to find out how I was and what was happening to me. Remember I told you last time that Mordecai is a model of the Holy Spirit in my story. He was watching over me before I was chosen, making sure everything was going all right and that nothing would hinder the success of my audition with the King. In just this way the Holy Spirit watched over you every day of your life, even before you chose to accept the Lord Jesus as your Savior, making sure nothing would interfere with your opportunity to make that choice when the time came.
Finally it was my turn to visit the King, and just as Mordecai had known it would be, the King found me more attractive and more pleasing than any of the other virgins who had been brought to him. He placed the royal crown on my head and proclaimed me Queen of Persia. Then he hosted a huge banquet in my honor. He invited all his princes and nobles, made the banquet day a holiday throughout the kingdom, and distributed gifts to his subjects with royal liberality. It was the kind of day that girls like me don’t even dare dream about.
But you’ve had one just like it. My coronation celebration was a model of each believer’s salvation experience and the rejoicing that took place in heaven on that wondrous occasion when your spirit was united with the Holy Spirit of God. The King of Kings and His Heavenly Host stopped everything to sing and shout for joy! Did you know that the Bible records only five events that are cause for such celebration? They are the creation of the Earth, (Job 38:1-7) the birth of the Messiah, (Luke 2:13-14) the decision to finally unseat Satan from the Throne of Earth, (Rev. 5) the Messiah’s victorious 2nd Coming (Rev.19) and the welcoming of a new believer into the Kingdom. (Luke 15:7) That shows how important your salvation is to the Lord!
Now in those days the main gate of a city was actually a building, constructed as part of the city wall. This building usually became the major commercial and legal center of the city and ours was no exception. It was called the King’s Gate and most of the important men in the city gathered there every day. Mordecai was often there and one day happened to overhear a private conversation that troubled him greatly. Two of the officers who guarded the King’s Gate had become so angry with the King that they were actually plotting to assassinate him!
Mordecai rushed to tell me and of course I informed the King, crediting Mordecai as my source. (In obedience to my cousin, I was still keeping our family relationship secret so I didn’t tell the King anything about that.) When Mordecai’s claim was investigated and found to be true, the two officers were tried and convicted, and hanged on the gallows. The entire event, including Mordecai’s part in it, was recorded in the Annals of the King.
This is an example of the spiritual communications I described last time working properly now that the lines were open again. By placing a queen on the throne the order was restored and warnings of impending danger could come from the Holy Spirit (Mordecai) to man’s spirit (the Queen) to man’s soul (the King) where it could be translated into behavior. Things were functioning the way they should again and peace was the order of the day.
But the sin nature doesn’t give up so easily, and unfortunately can often enlist the soul in its efforts to rule over us. Man’s soul has the power to act autonomously and can take advice from any source. It’s where our freedom of choice, sometimes called agency, resides. Before we’re saved, our soul has only the sin nature to advise us on how to behave, but once salvation has taken place, it’s the role of the Holy Spirit to resist and displace that once trusted advisor. What happened next is another example of the harm that comes from ignoring the promptings of the Spirit and acting on our feelings instead.
One day, for no particular reason, the King decided to honor a friend of his, a noble named Haman. He named Haman to a position of special counselor and made him superior to all the other nobles in his court. Even though Haman hadn’t done anything to deserve this honor, the King required everyone to bow down and pay homage to Haman whenever he passed by. Mordecai was incensed and refused to do so.
Perhaps a little history lesson will help explain the contention that existed between Haman and my cousin Mordecai. Haman was a descendant of Agag, King of the Amalekites, traditional enemies of the Jews. Years earlier, Israel’s King Saul had spared Agag in disobedience of the Lord’s command. The Amalekites had attacked the Jews when Moses was leading them through the wilderness and the Lord had sworn to wipe them off the face of the Earth for doing so. Saul was commanded to carry out the Lord’s judgment. (1 Samuel 15:1-9) By sparing Agag, he permitted the Amalekites to survive and their animosity toward the Jews to remain. Even though the Prophet Samuel killed Agag a few days later, the damage was done. As we’ll see, Haman was determined to show God just whose people would be exterminated.
When Haman learned of Mordecai’s refusal to bow before him, he was furious. Then he found out that Mordecai was Jewish, and this enraged him even more. Not being satisfied with just killing Mordecai, Haman conceived an evil plot to rid the entire kingdom of all of its Jews. Casting lots with his co-conspirators, he chose a day on which all the people of Persia were to rise up as one against my people to completely annihilate us from the Kingdom. Using his new found influence to poison the King’s mind against us, Haman got the King to issue a decree giving his plan the force of law, and promising the Persian people the property and possessions of all the Jews they killed for carrying out this heinous act. Finally Haman pledged 10,000 talents of silver to the King’s Treasury to seal the bargain.
The King, who was already rich beyond measure, replied, “Keep your money, but do with the people as you please.”
Well, as you might guess, the King’s edict put the whole kingdom into a turmoil. Everywhere you went, Jews were wailing and tearing their clothes, throwing dust in the air and wearing sackcloth, and Persians were perplexed by this seemingly uncalled for extermination order. No one knew quite what to do.
Remember, Haman is a model of our sin nature. When our sin nature is elevated above the Holy Spirit in terms of influence in our lives, it immediately works to nullify all the fruits of the Spirit’s regenerative work in us. Both our spirit and our soul suffer anguish, and those around us become perplexed by our contradictory behavior. As the Apostle Paul would later write, “The sin nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sin nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” (Gal. 5:17) So it was between Haman and Mordecai.
In our next episode, Mordecai confronts me with the frightening truth that only I can save my people, and to do so I’ll have to risk everything, my prestige, my crown, even my own life. Little Hadassah, still in her teens, will be forced to confront the most powerful ruler on earth, a man who literally holds the power of life or death over her. My secret identity will become known and I’ll have to count myself among those scheduled for extermination. See you then.