Tony Evans — Seeing the Invisible Hand
What makes the book of Esther unique and unlike every other book in the Bible is that which does not reference God. Every other book mentions God over and over and over again. That is because God wanted to use this Cinderella story and this book to teach you something about him that is critical for your life and mine, because there are many times in our lives when God is nowhere to be found.
There is a theology behind God's invisibility, when he is unlocatable, and that biblical theology is called providence. It is the providence of God.
This book will make no sense other than being a great story read without knowing the reason why it was put in Scripture, and it was put in Scripture to teach you and me about something about God that all of us face. And when you're able to know this truth about God and how he providentially works in history, you're able to move through life even when it's quiet spiritually, because you know even though you don't see him, feel him, or hear from him.
He's pulling the strings behind the scene. You see, the providence of God refers to a subset of another doctrine, so we must set the theology first for you to appreciate the book. One of God's chief theological attributes is his sovereignty.
Sovereignty means his rulership over all of his creation, but underneath the doctrine of sovereignty is the doctrine of providence. Providence, a subset of sovereignty, is a reference to how God controls the steering wheel of history behind the scenes.
In other words, he achieves his sovereignty by his providence. The providence of God is the miraculous and mysterious ways that he intersects and interconnects things in order to bring about his sovereignty. We begin in the days, verse 1, of Ahasuerus, is sitting on his royal throne in verse 2. He calls together in the third year of his reign, verse 3 says, a banquet, a party, and it's a whopper 'cause it lasts 6 months. Ahasuerus' wife named Vashti, verse 9, also gave a banquet for the women in the palace which belonged to King Ahasuerus.
So Queen Vashti took all the ladies while Ahasuerus, Xerxes, took all the men. The men were partying hearty, the ladies were in a different location with the queen, and then he decides that he wants to have a real conclusion to his 6-month gathering, so he calls for a 7-day conclusion to his big party.
"On the seventh day," verse 10, we're surveying, "when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he told and commanded his leaders," verse 11, "to bring Queen Vashti before the king, with her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and to the princesses, for she was beautiful."
So the king calls Vashti, "And let her strut her stuff in front of all my posse. I wanna show her off in front of all my drunken friends," 'cause his heart is merry, he's intoxicated. Verse 12, "But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command delivered by the eunuch."
Then the king became very angry, with his wrath burning within him. It means he got ticked off. "I call you and you don't come. Not only am I your husband, but I'm the king."
Any man ever got ticked off 'cause you told your wife to do something and she refused? Don't raise your hand up in here. She said, "I'm not coming. I'm not gonna display myself in front of a bunch of drunken men."
I don't know how far he wanted her to go, whether he wanted her to disrobe or whatever, but whatever it was she said, "I'm not gonna do that. I don't care who you are."
Oh, Houston, we have a problem, 'cause now the king says to the wise men who understood the times, for it is the custom of the king to speak before all who knew the law and justice.
He looks at what his wife has done, said, "According to the law," verse 15, "what is to be done with Queen Vashti, because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus delivered by the eunuchs?"
What are we gonna do with this woman? 'Cause she disrespected, she dissed you in public, I mean before your boys. She embarrassed you before your posse like that. What are you gonna do about this?
They went on, verse 16, "Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king, but also all the princesses, and all the peoples who are in the provinces of King Ahasuerus." She not only messed you up, she--that woman can ruin your whole kingdom, ruin your whole career.
Well, how she do that? Verse 17, "For the queen's conduct will become known to all the women," mmhmm, "causing them to look with contempt on their husbands, by saying, 'King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in to his presence, but she did not come.'"
The word is gonna get out on this, O king, that you told her what to do, she said no, and we all saw it. And so, here is the problem, king, verse 18, "This day the ladies of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen's conduct will speak in the same way to the king's princesses, and there will be plenty of contempt and anger."
Here is what the sisters are gonna say, "If the pastor's wife could do that to him, I mean if the king's wife could do that to him in public, then our wives are gonna feel like they can do that to us in public. 'Cause if women can disrespect the king, they're gonna think it's okay to disrespect us, so you--and you're gonna create all kind of conflict and fights all along the kingdom, all because you can't control your wife."
Mmhmm, "If it pleases the king, let the royal," verse 19, "be issued by him and let it be written in the laws of Persia, that it cannot be repealed, that Vashti may no longer come into the presence of King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is more worthy than she.
Now you gotta understand the king is drunk, and he's disrespected, and he's listening to his boys, who scared of their wives. So you got all of this stuff happening at the same time, so when the king hears this, he says, "That's good to me, 'cause I'm not gonna diss. I'm not gonna have no woman do this to me, and I'm not gonna have your wives disrespecting you. So, okay, that sounds good to me."
"And when the king's edict," verse 20, "was made and heard throughout all the land, then all the women," verse 20, "will give honor to their husbands, great and small."
King, you gotta set this up so that our women don't disrespect us just 'cause you let your wife disrespect you, 'cause you know we don't need more feminism in the kingdom. We don't need more rebellious women in the kingdom. We don't need more independent wives in the kingdom, and I better lead us along while I'm ahead.
He says, verse 22 of the end of chapter 1, "So he sent letters to all the king's provinces, to each province according to their script, to every people according to their language, that every man should be the master in his own house" amen? We got a bunch of people, men, scared to say amen?
"That every man should be the master in his own house and the one who speaks in the language of his own people." You make it law that the man is king, you make it law that the man is the head and he's the spokesperson for the house. Let's get this thing straight.
King, this is an opportunity to stop this rise of feminism that Queen Vashti could be leading if you let this thing get out of hand. The anger of the King Ahasuerus has subsided, and he remembers Vashti, he remembers the wife that he banned, and what she had done, and what he had decreed against her.
He's coming back tired from fighting, lonely, all this. He remembers her, but the law said you couldn't change it. That was the law of the Medes and the Persians, so they come up with an idea, verse 3, "Let us gather together every beautiful young virgin to the citadel of Susa, to the harem, into the custody of Hegai, the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let their cosmetics be given to them."
We're gonna have the biggest beauty contest in the history of mankind. Every beautiful virgin we're gonna bring for you to scout out who should be your next wife. Verse 4, "Let the young lady who pleases the king be queen in place of Vashti. And the matter pleased the king, and he did accordingly."
Okay, let's watch this. We've got a family conflict. It's got nothing to do with God. We've got a cultural battle between the sexes. It's got nothing to do with God. We've got a law that can't be changed in a secular government. That's got nothing to do with God. We've got a call for a beauty contest involving the virgins in the land. Oh, that's got nothing to do with God.
Oh, but does it? Does it? Because now, beginning in verse 5, "There was in the citadel of Susa a Jew whose name was Mordecai, who had been," verse 6, "taken into exile from Jerusalem with the captives who had been exiled with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had exiled. And he was bringing up Hadassah," which means myrtle, "that is Esther," which means "star," "his uncle's daughter," his cousin, "for she had no father or mother. Now the young lady was beautiful in form and in face, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter."
We've gone from a Gentile king and a Gentile chaos and a Gentile party and a Gentile drunkenness and a Gentile divorce into Mordecai, and the only reason Mordecai enters the picture is he got a pretty cousin.
And this pretty cousin, in form and in face, is now brought to the king's palace because of something she had absolutely no control over: her beauty. That came from her mother and the father, but her beauty got her sent into a secular world, into a pagan world, and into the king's harem wasn't her fault directly.
Verse 6, "So it came about when the decree came from the king and many young ladies had gathered, now the young lady pleased him and found favor with him. So he quickly provided her with cosmetics and food and gave her seven choice maids from the king's palace and transferred her and her maids to the best places in the harem."
You're talking about a spa. Oh, this is a spa treatment like you never thought. "Esther did not," verse 10, "make herself known or her people or her kindred, for Mordecai had instructed her she should not make them known."
Don't tell him you're Jewish. You don't tell him you're Jewish. He's not gonna fool with no Jewish woman 'cause you're a slave girl. You're Cinderella, you're a slave girl, and if he finds out--why would he give her that advice? Why would he tell her not--"Don't tell him you're Jewish, so he does keep you in the harem"?
"Every day Mordecai walked back and forth in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and how she fared." All right, the plot thickens, "Now when the turn of each young lady," verse 17, "came to go in to King Ahasuerus--" Okay, it took a year, but at the end of the year it's now Esther's turn. Stay with me here.
It says, "The young lady would go into the king in this way: anything she desired was given to her to take with her from the harem to the king's palace. In the evening she would go in and in the morning she would return."
So you get the picture. She spends the night with the king with whom she is not yet married. Deuteronomy 7, verse 3 and 4, you weren't to marry the unbeliever and you weren't to have sex before marriage. So you've got this happening outside of God's ideal, and because it's happening outside of God's ideal, he doesn't put his name on it.
So his name is not found there. Because it is happening outside of his ideal, he stays in the background, but he's still the puppet master. One, because she might not have had any control of going back home since she was under Mordecai. She may have been taken to the king's palace outside of her control simply because of how she looked.
"Now when it was Esther's turn," verse 15, stay with me, "she came in to the king, she did not request anything except Hegai, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the women, advised. And Esther found favor in the eyes of all who saw her. So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus to his royal palace in the tenth month which is in the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of the reign. Then the king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the other virgins, so he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti."
She was different than all the rest, and he recognized that difference, and he made her his wife. So there was something about how girlfriend was raised, that even in this situation she was different.
"While Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate," now that means he worked for the king. Sitting at the king's gate means be employed by the king in some level position. "Two of the king's officials," verse 21, "from those who guarded at the door, became angry and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus."
It was an assassination plot, but the plot became known to Mordecai. Mordecai, sitting in the king's--he overhears a conversation, you know? He tapped their phones, he overheard what they were saying, "And he told Queen Esther, and Esther informed the king in Mordecai's name."
"My uncle Mordecai just told me two of your boys are getting ready to kill you, hubby." "Now when the plot was investigated and found to be so, they were both hanged on the gallows; and it was written in the Book of the Chronicles in the king's presence." That is a big deal. It was written down in the king's presence. That's going to show up again.
Okay, rewind. Can't find God's name. We've been through two chapters, and we're gonna go through eight more, and you will not find his name. His name is not there.
He promised, "I am going to cover the Jews, I'm going to protect the Jews. Even when I judge the Jews for their disobedience, I am still gonna fulfill my covenant with the Jews. Jews, I want you all to go back to Jerusalem now that they've given you the freedom from Persia to go back." For whatever reason Mordecai stays.
Esther, being raised by Mordecai, has to stay, as well. You're going to see Satan show up next week because he wants to destroy the Jews. Because God has promised not to have the Jews destroyed, he has to have a plan in place to keep his promise even to the Jews who didn't go.
So what the puppet master does is he sits back behind the strings, and he allows King Ahasuerus to call a party. He allows him to drink till he get drunk. He allows the king to call his wife in to show herself off. He allows his wife to get rebellious. He allows the leaders to say, "You can't have this happen, O king, in your country 'cause it's gonna mess up the social standing of men and women in the kingdom."
The king then has to pass a law for the respect of all the husbands by the women. Then God the puppet master sits behind the scenes in order to pull the string. So the king becomes lonely for a wife. All of a sudden it dawns in the minds of the servants of the king, "Why don't we have a beauty contest so that we can show you the pretty girls in the kingdom, so that you can find a pretty wife for yourself?"
It's just by chance, luck, happenstance, and fate to be a Jewish girl who is pretty as she wanna be. This girl's named Esther. This beautiful child in her s is now snatched from Mordecai and taken into the palace. It just so happens that among the hundreds of beautiful virgins there that this one virgin decides, "I'm not gonna ask the king for anything. I don't know that that's gonna matter, I'm just different from all these other girls."
The puppet master, pulling the strings, lets the king notice, "This child is not like all the other girls who took something, 'cause she didn't want nothing, so this is who I'm looking for. I don't need somebody who just wants what I have. I need somebody who's comfortable with just me."
And even though she had sex before marriage, which was outside of God's will, and even though she married a Gentile, which was outside of God's will, because the whole state of the situation, still being in Persia, was outside of God's will, God had to keep his promise with people not operating inside of his will. Not because he agreed with what they were doing. It was just he had to use what he had to get what he wanted, and that was to fulfill his promise to his people.
And so, when all of this happens at just the time, when the two guys were plotting against Ahasuerus, it just so happened by chance, by luck, by fate, by happenstance that Mordecai just happened to be in a nearby room. Mordecai just happened to overhear the conversation. It just so happened when Mordecai overheard the conversation, his cousin Esther was already situated to get a hearing with the king.
So he said, "Girl, these two boys out here wanna kill your husband. I think you ought to protect your husband." So she goes in and says, "My uncle Mordecai told me to tell you that there are two guys who work for you, who wanna depose you."
They investigated, found it's true, and wrote down in the book "Mordecai," 'cause you're gonna find out later it's during the night when the king can't sleep he opens up the book and finds the name "Mordecai."
His name is only in the book 'cause he was situated at the gate and had a cousin in the palace who had married the king, 'cause she was captured as a virgin and was recognized to be the one. 'Cause, you see, when the puppet master moves, he's behind the scenes.
And even though you don't see is name, even though he can't identify with the situation because he's doing something bigger than you can see, you need to trust him where you are.
And if you're in a situation you shouldn't be in, you need to start following God where you were where, where you are, 'cause God the puppet master knows how to take a mess and create a miracle. He knows how to take repentance and bring about a change, 'cause he is the puppet master. So from now on you should no longer say "the devil is in the details." 'Cause now that you know about the providence of God, you need to now say "God is in the details."