Chapter 10 in some ways feels like an awkward, unnecessary, little conclusion. What purpose do these verses serve? Are they a waste of breath by God in His inspired Scripture? Well, we all know the answer to that question, of course not, nothing is wasted or unimportant in God’s Word. So why these words? This chapter is a bit of a wake up, a slap in the face, a way of saying that this life is not some panacea, some kind of utopia, some happily ever afterward story. Unhappily life is back to normal, and nothing says life is back to normal more than taxes going up. King Ahasuerus is still king and is doing the things kings do. He is still acting out of self-interest as he imposes another burdensome tax on all his subjects. When Esther became queen back in chapter 2 the king granted a remission of taxes and gave away lavish gifts. So, this taxation is actually a reversal. Yes, the Jews were granted a great life-saving victory over their enemies but they are still under a king who makes their lives more burdensome. He is still mighty in power and in his own selfish desires. Everything has been reversed and yet nothing has changed. He is completely unmoved by all the providential events that have gone on around him. God has been mightily, even if silently, present and at work, yet the king is clueless to all the signs of grace and faith and spiritual power. But there is good news also. Mordecai is second in power and more powerful than ever and has the favor of all his people and he is not acting out of self-interest, he’s looking out for the welfare of his people and seeking peace (shalom).
What do we think when we hear Zephaniah 3? Or to get past the head to the heart, what do we feel when we hear Zephaniah 3? Some of us have a bunch of walls or filters or past experiences that won’t let this text get through. You are good Calvinists, you know your heart is totally depraved, too full of too much sin. God is too great and infinite and you are too small and insignificant to even be noticed by God. You are nothing special, you haven’t done anything great for the kingdom. Some of you think God is mad at you or at least very disappointed. We need to know not just that God loves us, but how much He loves us. I want us to grasp, not our love for God, but God’s love for us this morning.
Winston Churchill once said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.” Mark Twain said, “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Google has changed their motto from “Don’t be evil” to “Do the right thing” Last Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. day. He said a lot of good things in his day. “Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But, conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.” This morning I want to talk with you about doing the right thing when it is neither safe, nor politically correct, nor popular, even when it’s hard, even when it costs. Because the immediate context of my sermon is the issue of abortion, I want to make it very clear that though I want to speak against abortion in the clearest of terms, I want to speak to those who have had an abortion in the most compassionate of terms. If you have committed this sin or helped or forced someone else to commit this sin, and you have been convicted of it by the Holy Spirit, know that the blood of Jesus is sufficient to completely cover and cleanse your sin, if you will truly repent and turn in faith to Him. And if you have done that and still feel guilt and shame, if you have done that and Satan tries to condemn you as a murderer, know that’s not Jesus talking, it’s Satan. Tell him, “Yes, I am a murderer but I stand in good company, with Moses and King David and the Apostle Paul, and one day I will stand with them before the throne of my Lord and Savior who loves me and died for me. In the name of Jesus I am set free.” Remind Satan of that every time he tries to remind you of this or any other sin. We are all sinners here, and I hold out the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not saved by being good, but by the grace of God in Christ Jesus. So we can talk honestly about sin and shame and guilt and know that we are not under judgment and condemnation if we are in Christ. Don’t stay outside in the judgment of God. Come inside to the family of God, the family created by repentance and faith. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
How many of us have trouble remembering things? And how many of us can testify it seems to get worse as we get older? But it isn’t just an age thing. We are all prone to forget some things, events and experiences from our past. In school we are taught so many things and teachers know that there are tricks to getting things to stick in our heads. These memory aids are called mnemonic devices, things that help us remember.
Well, we have now gone through another advent season to properly prepare for Christmas. And we have celebrated it again for a other year, and have been reminded that Jesus Christ has come to be our Savior & Lord. Now that must also cause us to look forward in eager anticipation, in total trust, & in life-encompassing obedience to His 2nd coming. For after all, the fact Jesus came 1st time, as God promised, surely means He will come again a 2nd time, as God also says in Bible. And we if have properly celebrated Christmas by receiving in faith & obedience as our only Savior & Lord at His 1st coming. Then we will be ready for Him when He comes back to take us to eternal glory to be with Him. Th'fore our Lord command in Matt.25:13: “Keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” when He will return.
I have mentioned before the book of Esther is considered to be one of the greatest short stories ever written. From a purely literary point of view it is considered a master piece of writing. Many of the chapters end with cliffhangers, like those TV shows that end with you on the edge of your seat and wanting to come back. Chapter one ends with a deposed Queen Vashti and who would be next. Chapter three ends with the king’s prime minister, Haman, issuing a decree to kill all the Jews in all 127 provinces of the Persian Empire, which throws Susa into turmoil. At Mordecai’s urging, chapter four ends with Esther agreeing to risk her life and approach the king, saying, “If I perish, I perish.” Chapter five ends with Haman building a gallows on which to kill Mordecai the next day. Chapter six recounts a one-day flurry of activity that throws everything into turmoil and chaos. In chapter eight Mordecai is raised to Haman’s position. He can’t revoke Haman’s decree so with the king’s blessing he issues a counter decree allowing the Jews to defend themselves against their enemies. Chapter nine begins in a dramatic way that captures the building tension, what will actually happen on that fateful day. Ten months of anxious waiting. The enemies of the Jews plot, the Jews prepare. What will happen? Will it work? The previous decree cannot be revoked, will Mordecai’s decree have any effect? Both sides have royal law on their side. Will the unseen and unheard from God of the Jews help them? Is He really present? Is God’s providential care a real thing or not? Notice how Esther 9:1 is written. Five clauses piled on top of each other before we get to the object of the sentence. It’s like the writer wants us to see how much was stacked against the Jews, or how close they came to utter annihilation. What actually happens comes after a long string of the most improbable of events. No one could have seen this possibility coming a year ago.
It is my custom on the first Sunday of each new year to challenge and encourage us to devote ourselves to Scripture and prayer. In this text, we find ourselves privy to one of Daniel’s quiet times, one of his moments of personal devotion, when three times a day he would kneel and face Jerusalem. God gives us a glimpse of what it looks like when a Christian is reading Scripture and offering personal heartfelt prayer. We are privileged to have written down for us one of the truly extraordinary prayers of all time, inspired by the Holy Spirit and preserved for our blessing and benefit. This is a prayer worthy of reading and re-reading and meditating on and praying ourselves. We start by asking what prompted Daniel to pray this prayer in the first place?