Tuesday, May 31, 2016

There Are No Coincidences

Part 4 of Turning the Tables

Text: Esther 5:1-8; 6:1-14; 7:1-10




On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king (Esth. 6:1). 


What Are the Odds? 

When you look through old books in a used bookstore, you’ll often find interesting inscriptions inside.

While American novelist Anne Parrish was wandering through a bookstore in Paris in the 1920s, she found a book that was one of her childhood favourites: Jack Frost and Other Stories. She picked up the old book and showed it to her husband, telling him how she fondly remembered reading the book as a child. Her husband opened the book, and on the flyleaf was Anne’s name and address. It was Anne’s very own book! [1]

What are the odds of that happening? We call it a coincidence. The dictionary defines a “coincidence” as “a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance.” [2]

In the book of Esther, several coincidences result in the deliverance of the Jews. But were these coincidences really coincidences? Were these events the result of mere chance, or were these events directed by the unseen hand of God?


I Don't Need a Miracle

Sometimes Christians can feel like God is absent from their lives. They read about the miracles in the Bible, but their lives lack anything miraculous. If that’s how you feel right now, the book of Esther can be an encouragement to you.

  • Though God is hidden in the book of Esther, he isn’t absent. [3]
  • Though a miracle doesn’t occur in the book of Esther, God still does something amazing. [4]

What does the book of Esther say to people who are discouraged about not getting a miracle from God?

God doesn’t need to perform a miracle to do something amazing. 

The working of God in our lives without the use of miracles is called divine providence. The apostle Paul writes, “For those who love God all things [both good and bad things] work together for good” (Rom. 8:28). The ultimate example of divine providence is the cross. The apostle Peter declared to the people of Jerusalem, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). The cross was something very bad, but God used it to do something very good.


Coincidences? I Think Not!

It’s been said that “coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” In Esther 6, a series of amazing “coincidences” take place.

  • It just happened that the king couldn’t fall asleep that night (v. 1). 
  • It just happened that “the book of memorable deeds” was read to the king (v. 1). 
  • It just happened that when the book was read, the person reading the book came to the part that told of how Mordecai had warned the king of an assassination plot (v. 2; cf. 2:19-23). 
  • It just happened that Mordecai had never been rewarded for his good deed (v. 3). 
  • It just happened that while the king was thinking about how to reward Mordecai, Haman walked into the palace (v. 4).
The turning point in the book of Esther is the King’s inability to sleep—a seemingly insignificant event. “By making [the turning point] an insignificant event rather than the point of the highest dramatic tension [i.e., Esther going to see the king (5:1-8)], the author is taking the focus away from human action.” [5] What might seem like an insignificant event to us could be something that God intends to be a turning point.


Capitalizing on "Coincidences"

In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus says that the priest “by chance” walked down the road where the man was injured (Luke 10:31). But the priest didn’t stop to help. When you “just happen” to meet someone, is it just a chance encounter, or did God want you to meet that person for a reason? 

This week, try to capitalize on the “coincidences” of your life. 

____________________

[1] http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1932/07/30/reunion-in-paris
[2] http://www.dictionary.com/browse/coincidence
[3] God is not mentioned once in the book of Esther. This wasn’t an oversight by the author. The book teaches us that we shouldn’t interpret the hiddenness of God as his absence.
[4] A miracle is not merely an unusual and amazing event. A miracle is “a less common kind of God’s activity in which he arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to himself” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 355). “Unlike God’s ordinary providence, his miraculous intervention involves a suspension or alteration of natural laws and processes in particular circumstances” (Michael Horton, The Christian Faith, 355). So a miracle, by definition, is a rare event.
[5] Karen Jobes, Esther, 158.