Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The One Whom the King Delights to Honour

Part 3 of Turning the Tables

Text: Esther 2:19-23; 5:9-6:14

So Haman came in, and the king said to him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” (Esth. 6:6). 

Do I Matter? 

One of our basic human needs is to have a sense of self-worth. The dictionary defines “self-worth” as “the sense of one’s own value or worth as a person.” [1] When people lack a sense of self-worthy, depression [2] and even suicide can be the result. Without a sense of self-worthy, life doesn’t seem worth living. [3] How can we gain a sense of self-worth without inflating our egos? 

Debra Reid describes Haman as “an egocentric megalomaniac bent on retaliation and destruction if his fragile ego is subject to the slightest provocation.” [4] In other words, he was self-obsessed.

The Great Sin

When Mordecai refused to bow down and pay homage to Haman (Esth. 3:2), Haman devised a plot to kill not only Mordecai but also “all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus” (Esth. 3:6). What caused Haman to want to commit genocide? Pride. Pride has been described as “the ruthless, sleepless, unsmiling concentration upon self.” [5] The person filled with pride will always be looking for ways to get back at people who offend him or don’t give him the recognition he thinks he deserves.

When I mention pride, do you think, “That sounds just like so and so”? Pride is like carbon monoxide (the “silent killer”). It’s deadly, but we often don’t see it in our own lives—though pride is every easy to see in other people’s lives.

In Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, there is a chapter on pride entitled “The Great Sin.” In the chapter, Lewis writes,
We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If every one else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. [6]

An Inflated Ego

Haman occupied a powerful position in the kingdom (Esth. 3:1). But Haman wasn’t content with being powerful; he wanted everyone to know that he was more powerful than everyone other than the king. And when Mordecai wouldn’t show Haman the respect a person of his position was supposed to receive, he couldn’t stand it: “Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate” (Esth. 5:13).

The life of Haman is a perfect example of pride coming before a fall. [7] The king asked Haman, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” (Esth. 6:6). Haman became excited, thinking that the king wanted to honour him. But being honoured by the king would just have inflated Haman’s ego.

I Matter to God

There is a better King who “delights to honor” us. God honours us by making us his children. But this honour shouldn’t fill us with sinful pride. We are not children of God because we are better than others. We are children of God due to what Jesus did for us. Haman was humbled, but Jesus chose to be humbled (“he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” Phil. 2:8). On the cross, the tables were turned. Jesus reversed places with us. “For our sake [the Father] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

We will gain both self-worth and humility when we understand the grace of God. 

I am unworthy of God’s love, but he loves me. The cross proves to me that I matter to God.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride. [8]
“The praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards.” [9] We don’t merely want to be valued by others; we want to be valued by someone we value. Or, as Tim Keller puts it, “We want someone we think the world of to think the world of us.” [10]

[1] http://www.dictionary.com/browse/self-worth
[2] One of the symptoms of depression is feelings of worthlessness (http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cd-mc/mi-mm/ depression-eng.php).
[3] About 10 Canadians per day commit suicide.
[4] Debra Reid, Esther: An Introduction and Commentary, 111.
[5] C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, page unknown.
[6] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 120.
[7] The book of Esther is about reversal of fortunes. The tables begin to turn when the king couldn’t fall asleep (Esth. 6:1). This is the first in a series of “coincidences” that lead to the downfall of Haman and the deliverance of the Jews.
[8] Isaac Watts, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”
[9] J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers, 291.
[10] Tim Keller, “The Man the King Delights to Honor” (sermon).

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