Tuesday, May 17, 2016

If I Perish, I Perish

Part 2 of Turning the Tables

Text: Esther 3:1-6; 4:1-17




“Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish” (Esth. 4:16). 


The God Who Didn't Speak

In the short story “The Adventure of the Silver Blaze,” one of the clues that helped Sherlock Holmes solve the case was “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Inspector Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.” [1]
The dog not barking was an important clue for Holmes. It told him that the crime was committed by someone the dog knew well. [2]

In the book of Esther, there is the curious incident of God. “But,” you say, “God is silent in the book of Esther. The author doesn’t even mention God.” That is the curious incident.

Karen Jobes writes that “the complete absence of God from the text is the genius of the book.” [3] The author of the book of Esther intentionally leaves out any mention of God to show us that even when God is silent, he is still working in the lives of his people. We shouldn’t interpret God’s silence as his absence.


What to Do When God Is Silent

Esther had to make a very difficult decision. She was asked to do something that would put her life at risk. Perhaps she thought to herself, “I wish God would clearly show me what I should do.” But God was silent.

Like Esther, we’re often unsure what we should do. Of course, we have the Bible (i.e., God’s word), but it doesn’t always give us the answers we’re looking for. God is silent. What should we do when God is silent?

Do what you’re convinced is best, and leave the rest to God. 


Haman's Genocidal Plot 

In chapter 3, we are introduced to a man named Haman. Haman was an extremely proud man. The King promoted Haman to an important position (3:1). Everyone who occupied a lower position than Haman was expected to bow down and pay homage to him. And everyone did, except for Mordecai (3:2).

Mordecai’s insubordination caused Hama to be “filled with fury.” Haman was so angry that we wanted Mordecai to be killed. But he wasn’t satisfied with executing only Mordecai. Haman had learned that Mordecai was a Jew (3:4). So Haman “sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus” (3:6). [4]


For Such a Time as This

Mordecai asked Esther to “plead with [the king] on behalf of her people” (4:8). But Esther told Mordecai that “if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live” (4:11). And Esther wasn’t sure that she would be granted access by the king. She said, “I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days” (4:11). Maybe by this time the king had lost interest in Esther.

Mordecai challenged Esther to act by telling her, “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:14). She had not come to be queen by chance. Maybe “all of the previous circumstances of Esther’s life that led her to the Persian throne may have been just for this moment when she can intercede for her people.” [5] But even if Esther didn’t act, God would use someone else to accomplish his plan: “If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place” (4:14). [6]


The Right Inspiration

Finally, Esther said, “Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish” (4:16). She was going to do what she was convinced was best, and then leave the rest to God. After reading the book of Esther, many people will say, “I want to be like Esther!” But if Esther is our inspiration, our enthusiasm won’t last.

Our inspiration needs to be Jesus. Like Jesus, Esther saved her people by identification and mediation. But Jesus didn’t say, “If I perish, I perish.” He didn’t risk his life for us; he laid down his life for us. The cross was an absolute certainty. [7]


Why Are You Where You Are?

We were saved by God’s grace (Eph. 2:8-9) to be his “workmanship” (Eph. 2:10). In other words, God intends for us to do certain things. How would your life change if you believed that you are where you are for a purpose?

____________________

[1] Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of the Silver Blaze,” in The Complete Adventures of and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, 172-87.
[2] I got the idea to use this story from reading Iain Duguid’s chapter on Esther 4:1-17, “The Dog That Didn’t Bark” (Esther and Ruth, 45).
[3] Karen Jobes, Esther (NIVAC), 41-42.
[4] Haman’s plan to kill all the Jews in the kingdom reminds us of what Hitler attempted.
[5] Jobes, Esther, 134.
[6] Is “from another place” a euphemism for God? “This understanding is problematic, for it is not a choice between Esther’s delivering the Jews or God’s delivering them. Rather, it is a question of what human agency God will use to deliver the Jews…” (Jobes, Esther, 133-34).
[7] This thought was taken from Tim Keller’s sermon “If I Perish, I Perish.”