The Davidic Covenant

I. Introduction

We’re going to get into 2 Samuel 7 today and discuss God’s covenant with David and the building of His temple, but we’re going to lay some groundwork first and describe what a covenant is and how many they are in the bible.

First, while the properties of a covenant sound like a promise, an agreement, a contract, a covenant has far more significance. A promise is a declaration from one person that he or she will or will not do something. You can say, “I promise to do something,” and you can even say, “I promise to do something if.” Promises should be ironclad. In reality, they’re not. I’m sure everyone in this room has had a promise given to them and then be incredibly disappointed when that promise was broken. I’m equally sure, if we’re going to be honest, everyone in the room has also given a promise that they didn’t keep. We tend not to remember those because we have an excuse, but a promise is a promise.

You know what irritates me in the movies? Some guy is rushing off to war or fighting an impossible battle or called on to do something incredibly dangerous and life threatening. Something like, “Here, your job is to take this giant tongue depressor and make Godzilla say ‘aaaah’ by running into his mouth.” And his girlfriend says, “Please don’t go!” And he responds, “I promise I’ll come back.” Either that is a promise that is completely out of his control and he has no business saying that, or it’s a movie spoiler because now we know he’s going to survive.

Then there is the agreement. If you do this, then I’ll do that. “Can you pick up the kids after school? I’ll make dinner if you do.” “You can borrow my car if you fill it with gas.” It’s two sided, requires something from both people.

Then there’s the contract, a legal contract. Your apartment lease, your mortgage, your student loan, your car payment. Even your phone bill. This is like an agreement, but if the agreement fails, there are repercussions spelled out in advance. “You agree to pay the following amount for your car every month by the 5th of the month. If it is not paid by the 5th, then a 10% penalty applies. If it is not paid by the 10th, we will repossess your children.” That sort of thing.

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Covenant encompasses many of the characteristics of a promise, agreement, and a contract, but it goes further. In the bible, a covenant is a spiritual agreement and has the following characteristics –

  1. A covenant is pure and righteous
  2. A covenant considers the benefit of the other person instead of one’s self
  3. A covenant is based on love
  4. A covenant is permanent

A contract is an agreement; a covenant is a pledge. A contract can be broken, a covenant cannot. You sign a contract, you seal a covenant.

Marriage should be covenants. That’s how the Lord intended them, as a covenant between a man, a woman, and God. We treat them like legal contracts, though. But I think that’s a completely different bible study.

So the bible itself is a covenant document. It is how God has chosen to reveal to us His plan to redeem us and give us eternal life. Within the bible, there are seven major covenants. Each covenant can be either conditional or unconditional; it can be specific to a single nation or it can be general. Conditional covenants are based on certain obligations and prerequisites; if the requirements are not fulfilled, the covenant is broken. Unconditional covenants are kept regardless of one party’s fidelity or infidelity.

II. Seven Covenants

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A) Adam (The Adamic Covenant), symbolized by the ground of the earth. This covenant comes in two parts –

  1. Edenic (innocence), Genesis 1:26-30; 2:16-17. The Edenic Covenant is general in nature and outlined man’s responsibility toward creation and God’s directive regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God was the party of the first part; newly created man was the party of the second part. It regulated man’s dominion of the earth and presented a simple test of obedience. The penalty was death and condemnation for Adam and his descendants.
  2. Adamic (grace), Genesis 3:13-19. The Adamic covenant includes the curses pronounced against mankind for the sin of Adam and Eve. Satan’s tool, the serpent was cursed, women’s status was altered, the earth was cursed, spiritual and physical death resulted. But it wasn’t all bad, it also included the first promise of a future redeemer that would crush the head of Satan.

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B) Noahic Covenant, Genesis 8-9, symbolized by the rainbow. This covenant is between God and Noah specifically, and also with humanity in general. After the Flood, God promised humanity that He would never again destroy all life on earth with a Flood (see Genesis chapter 9). God gave the rainbow as the sign of the covenant, a promise that the entire earth would never again flood and a reminder that God can and will judge sin. It has nothing with the LGTBQ movement, they’ve corrupted a covenant symbol from God for their own selfish pleasures.

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C) Abrahamic Covenant, Genesis 12, 13, 15, 17, 18, symbolized by the stars. In this covenant, God promised Abraham. that He would make Abraham’s name great, that Abraham would have numerous descendants, and that he would be the father of a multitude of nations. God also made promises regarding the land of Israel. God also promised that the families of the world will be blessed through the physical line of Abraham, which is a reference to the Messiah, who would come from the line of Abraham.

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D) Palestinian (Deuteronomic) Covenant, Deuteronomy 30:1-10, symbolized by the Sabbath. This unconditional covenant noted God’s promise to scatter Israel if they disobeyed God, then to restore them at a later time to their land. This covenant has been fulfilled twice, with the Babylonian Captivity and subsequent rebuilding of Jerusalem under Cyrus the Great; and with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, followed by the reinstatement of the nation of Israel in 1948.

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E) Mosaic Covenant, Deuteronomy 11, symbolized by the Two Tablet of the Law. This conditional covenant, specifically for the Old Testament Jews, promised the Israelites a blessing for obedience and a curse for disobedience. It consisted of the Ten Commandments, social judgements, and religious ordinances. Over 600 commands, 300 positive, 300 negative. Much of the Old Testament chronicles the fulfillment of this cycle of judgment for sin and later blessing when God’s people repented and returned to God.

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F) Davidic Covenant, 2 Samuel 7, which coincidentally are our bible study verses for today, symbolized by Jerusalem. This unconditional covenant, found in 2 Samuel 7:8-16, promised to bless David’s family line and assured an everlasting kingdom. God promised unconditionally to put a son of David on the throne, but only the righteous son would reign for eternity. While David’s son Solomon ruled over Israel, he failed to keep God’s commands. Only David’s descendant Jesus was the true and faithful Son deserving of the everlasting throne of David.

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G) The New Covenant, Jeremiah 31:31-34, symbolized by the Passover Cup and Bread. The covenant of unconditional blessing based upon the finished redemption of Christ. It secures blessing for the church, it flows from the Abrahamic covenant, and secures all covenant blessings to converted Israel, including those of the Abrahamic, Palestinian, and Davidic covenants, and all who comes to God’s Only Son through faith. This covenant is unconditional, final and irreversible.

Seven Covenants. Seven is God’s number of perfection. We can either rest, like He did, or back up to #6 and spend some more time on the Davidic covenant. Since I already put these slides together, I say let’s look at the Davidic covenant in some more detail.

III. Davidic Covenant

The establishment of the house of David is an integral part of God’s master plan to fulfill the promise made in Genesis to defeat the enemy and crush the head of the serpent. So far, God has brought His people out of Egypt and has given them a good land. He has driven out their enemies, making His presence known by winning battles the Israelites couldn’t win on their own.

But because of their sinfulness in the days of the Judges, God was angered and delivered them into the hands of their enemies in fulfillment of the Mosaic covenant. When Israel repented, Psalm 78 tells us that God came to their rescue. God set His servant David as the shepherd of Israel, and as the Servant King on the throne.

The Davidic Covenant represents one of the most significant moments in God’s plan for the people of God. Psalm 78:67-72, makes it clear that the placement of David on the throne was a major milestone in God’s plans for redemption and was essential to the establishment of God’s rule in Israel.

He rejected the tent of Joseph; he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loves.
He built his sanctuary like the high heavens, like the earth, which he has founded forever.
He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.

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The succession of the Davidic kings under the Old Covenant was a preillustration of the unbroken eternal reign of the Lord Jesus, who, even now, reigns at the right hand in heaven. So let’s take a look at the Davidic Covenant, its explanation and its meaning for us today. We’ll begin with 2 Samuel 7:1-3,

IV. The Davidic Covenant’s Explanation

Now when the king lived in his house and the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.”

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The Davidic Covenant took place between King David and God, when King David made plans to build God a house of cedar. The kingdom of Israel was at rest from their enemies, and David pours the thoughts of his heart out to his faithful prophet Nathan. He says, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains.” David sensed the incongruity of living in an impressive palace while the Ark of God was still in a tent. I mean, if David was in a palace of cedar, then surely God’s ark ought to be in a palace! David’s humility and his love for the Lord moved him with the desire to bring about a change and he shared that desire with Nathan, his friend, his prophet. And Nathan, perceiving the king’s sincere motivation, gave his blessing on the project. Nathan said, “go and do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”
In verses 4-7, we see the Lord’s gracious response.

But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”

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The same night that David shared this with Nathan and Nathan instructed him, “Go and do it, the Lord is with you,” the Lord came to Nathan and instructed him to put a question to David. God said, “Go and say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD,’ Are you the one who should build Me a house to dwell in?”

Now, look at how good and wise our sovereign Lord is in the way He sends these words to David. God gives these words to David from the mouth of Nathan and not from another prophet, so that the reputation of Nathan would not be impugned. I mean, what would it have been like, if God had sent another prophet to tell this to David. It would have appeared that Nathan had spoken falsely. But God is good, and He allows Nathan to be the one to deliver this news. Just think how perplexing it would have been to David to have had Nathan tell him one thing during the day, then another prophet shows up and says not to do it. The Lord’s wisdom and kindness are seen in the way that He delivers this message to David. David is not confused, and Nathan’s reputation is not damaged.
In fact, we later find out from the lips of David’s son, Solomon, that the Lord told David that He was pleased with what David wanted to do. 1 Kings 8:18-19,

But the LORD said to my father David, “Because it was in your heart to build a house for My name, you did well that it was in your heart.”

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Solomon tells us that the Lord told David that He was pleased with the desires of his heart. Then, in 2 Samuel 7:6, the Lord reminds David of an important spiritual truth. He says,

“For I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt, even to this day; but I have been moving about in a tent, even in a tabernacle.”

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Stop for a moment and think how profound those words are. First, they point to God’s willingness to identify with His people. If His people must travel in the wilderness in tents, God is going to be there with them. The sovereign God of Israel is not removed from His people, He is near to His people, and He even shares in their humiliations. Is this not a foretaste of Christ’s tabernacling with His people? And yet, you see it here in the sovereign God of Israel.

Secondly, these words emphasize God’s continual presence with His people. He is not distant or unconcerned. He is near. He is in the midst of His people. And our glorious Lord Jesus Christ would one day show forth beyond all human expectation, the extent of God’s commitment to be with His people, as John tells us in John 1:14, that

“He was made flesh and He dwelt, He tabernacled among us.”

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In 2 Samuel 7:8-11 the covenant which God inaugurates with David is explained and established.

Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.

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The Lord surpasses Himself in blessing David. He reminds David that it was He who chose him and made him ruler, telling him in verse 8, “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.”

God has been with David, He has given him victory over His enemies. God is the one who has made David great, He is the one who will continue to make David great. The Lord reminds him in verse 9,

“And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.”

Furthermore, God says in verse 11 that He will establish His people in their own land, and He will give them rest from their enemies. And ultimately, that the Lord Himself will build David a house.

“From the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.”

Notice that Nathan tells David “God will make you a house.” There is an intentional play on words the Hebrew language. David begun this passage by saying that he wanted to build a house for the Lord. Of course, by that, he meant a temple. In Hebrew, the word for house (bayith), can also mean palace. Interestingly, the word for temple and house is the same word for dynasty in Hebrew. And so there is a play on words going on here. David says “Lord, I want to build you a house,” meaning a temple, “because it is not right for me to be in a house,” meaning a palace, “and You dwell in a tent.” And God replies, “David, you will build Me a house?” meaning a temple. “No. I will build you a house,” meaning a dynasty.

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On one hand, you had a king building a house of cedar for God; good intentions and well-meaning heart. On the other hand, you have the Creator of the Universe wanting to build a house for you that is not limited to time or geography. Which one has a bigger vision? From the time that God saw David in the pasture tending sheep as the youngest of 8 boys, God saw beyond the pasture. God saw a dynasty, a lineage, a bloodline that would change history for all time.

The Lord was not speaking of building David a house of cedar. He was speaking of building David a dynasty. That is something Saul wanted but did not get.

Saul wanted Jonathan to sit on the throne and God told Saul that Jonathan would not sit on the throne of Israel. But now God is saying to David, “David, your sons will sit on the throne of Israel.” So, the Lord says, “You will not build Me a house, a temple, but I will build you a house, a dynasty.” He would establish David and his seed after him, as the monarchs of the people of God.

V. The Davidic Covenant’s Establishment

2 Samuel 7:12-17

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.

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With these words we have the formal inauguration of God’s covenant with David, though the word “covenant” is not found here. Other passages explicitly state that this was a covenant inauguration. For instance, in Psalm 89:3-4,

I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to David, My servant, your seed will I establish forever and build up your throne to all generations.

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You will also find similar wording in Psalm 132. The covenant promises a number of blessings to David:

  1. First, his own flesh and blood will occupy the throne. “And when thy days be fulfilled and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, and I will set up thy seed after thee which shall proceed out of your body, I will establish his kingdom.” This is no small promise, given the political instability of the near east kingdoms of David’s time, or for today for that matter.
  2. Secondly, David’s heir will fulfill David’s desire by building a house for God. “He shall build a house for My name.”
  3. David’s heir will stand in unique relationship to God. God will be his father, and he will be His son. Nathan proclaims this amazing word, “I will be his father and he will shall be My son.” Now, we who live under the New Covenant and have the privilege of addressing God as our Father, may not be too startled by that statement, but to the Hebrew ear, it would have been unbelievable. Nowhere else in the Old Testament is an individual so clearly designated a son of God. And yet that is the blessing of David’s covenant.
  4. Fourth, David’s heir may experience punishment for sins, but he will not be cast off like Saul. Look at that second phrase in verse 14, “when he commits inequity, I will correct him with the rod of men and strokes of the sons of man.” On the surface, that looks very negative. However, in the context of Saul having been cut off, that is actually a very positive thing. God is saying, “If he stumbles, and he will, I will not cut him off like Saul. I will discipline him, but I will not cut him off.” This of course, proved important in the days of Solomon’s disobedience as well as for many of the kings of Judah.
  5. Fifth and finally, God makes the astonishing promise that David’s kingdom will last forever in verse 16. “Your house, your kingdom will be established forever before Me. Your throne will be established forever.” David’s dynasty is without parallel in the ancient near east in length of duration. His house ruled Judah for over four hundred years, far longer than any of the ruling families in the Northern kingdom.
    The promise was not that the lineage of David would reign for a long time, but that it would reign forever. That leads the prophets of the Old Testament to say that this Davidic promise would only be fulfilled in the Messiah. That, of course, is exactly how the New Testament interprets it. This reign is ultimately fulfilled in the reign of the son of David, Jesus Christ and His eternal messianic rule. The succession of the Davidic kings under the Old Covenant was a type. It was a shadowy figure. A pre-illustration of the unbroken eternal reign of the Lord Jesus, who, even now, reigns at the right hand in heaven. This promise finds its ultimate fulfillment in the reign of Christ.

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VI. The Davidic Covenant’s Meaning Today

The mission of the church today is to submit ourselves to the Son of David who now rules invisibly from heaven until He puts every enemy under His feet. And, our mission is to announce the good news to people in every neighborhood and every nation that they can be happy subjects of Christ’s kingdom forever if they transfer their allegiance from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of Christ.

To put it another way, personal holiness means learning the attitudes and customs of a new kingdom: the kingdom of Christ. And personal evangelism means telling people that the rightful king of the world against whom they have rebelled is willing to grant amnesty to all who return and live under His rule. Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the eternal King of the world will come from heaven and establish a reign of joy and righteousness and peace over all his loyal subjects forever and ever. And until He comes, the worldwide mission of the church is to extend complete, free, universal amnesty to people from every nation.

Here is a parable from our Lord recorded in Luke 19:11-27 –

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While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’

When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done. The first appeared, saying, ‘Master, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.’ The second came, saying, ‘Your mina, master, has made five minas.’ And he said to him also, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?’

Then he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’ I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.”

Jesus compares Himself to a nobleman who has gone to a distant country to receive a kingdom and then return. The distant country represents heaven, and after receiving the kingdom of Heaven, the nobleman will return. Jesus Christ, a descendant of David, will not sit upon the throne of David until His second coming to earth.

Israel was not prepared to receive the Messiah when He came to earth the first time. Will we be prepared when He comes to earth the second time and establishes His Kingdom? Isaiah 55:1-3 says,

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.”

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The very mercy and faithfulness that guarantees David an eternal kingdom will guarantee you all the joy and righteousness and peace of that kingdom. It is a promise made by God. God is saying to you this morning: “if you will come to me empty-handed and hungry, willing to receive what I give, then I will write for myself in your presence a job description and bind myself with an oath to treat you forever with the same mercy and faithfulness that I have demonstrated in my covenant with David.”

Hear the call of the Lord Jesus Himself in the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22:16,

I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.
Come to the Son of David, come to the King of Kings, and He will sign with His own blood your personal copy of the job description He has written for Himself- to be God to you. And He will give it to you as an eternal covenant, never to turn away from doing you good.

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The choice is yours. What will you do with God’s covenant promise?

To God be the glory. Amen.

Step Out in Faith

 

Introduction

 

Moses is dead.

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I hope this didn’t come as a shock to you.  It’s been in the news for almost 3500 years.

Moses was preceded in death by his forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who were given the following promise in Genesis 13:14-17 –

The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever.  I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.  Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”

The Lord will give Abram the Promised Land, but it came with a caveat.  Genesis 15:13-16.

God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.  But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.  As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age.  Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”

If you’re reading your bible chronologically, Jacob’s brothers threw him in a well, he was taken to Egypt where he became Pharaoh’s Vice President, and eventually Jacob’s brothers and their father Isaac relocated to Egypt because of a great famine.  And they liked the neighborhood so much, they stayed in Egypt for 400 years, fulfilling the first part of this prophecy.

But it turned out to be a trap.

Slide5.JPGPharaoh enslaved the Israelites living there. Then the people cried out and the Lord heard their calls, and the Lord raised up Moses to free His people.  In Exodus 3:7-9, God tells Moses it’s time to complete this prophecy,

The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.  So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.  Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them.

Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”

The Lord then freed them from Pharaoh.  The Israelites left Egypt after Passover, crossed the Red Sea, collected the Ten Commandments, they did not pass God, and the Lord brought the Israelites into a covenant relationship unto himself.  But then the Israelites created idol worship in the form of a golden calf because they are a stiff-necked people.  To once again purify His people, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years while the old, rebellious generation died off.  Including Moses.

The year is approximately 1400 B.C., maybe 1370 B.C.  Moses has just passed away at the ripe old age of 120 years old and buried at the top of Mount Nebo in Moab.

And then I went down the rabbit trail.  Sometimes I get so caught up in interesting information that has nothing to do with the lesson, and I learned a great deal about Moses.  Which isn’t important to today’s lesson because…

Moses is dead.

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But in the past when I’ve gone down the rabbit trail, some of you have told me you like coming with me in case we catch a rabbit, so I’m going to share a view things I learned about Moses.  First, Moses is dead.

We know that because of Deuteronomy 34:5-7,

So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.  And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day.  Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated.

Before he died, there were some odd facts –

  • Moses probably stuttered.  Exodus 4:10, Moses said, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”
  • Moses led the Exodus when he was 80 years old.  I’m doing the MS150 at the age of 58 and it doesn’t seem like such an accomplishment when I think of how old Moses was.
  • Moses was scared of snakes.  In Exodus 4:3, the Lord tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground.  It turned into a snake and Moses ran away.
  • Moses had leprosy for probably 3 seconds in Exodus 4:6. The Lord gave it, and the Lord took it away.
  • During the Exodus, Moses’ wife and sons were not with him.  He sent them to live with his father-in-law.  His wife and sons returned to him after the Exodus at the base of Mount Sinai, Exodus 18:7.
  • Most Renaissance statues of Moses depict him with horns like a bull.  Here is Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses.  This is because of a terrible translation of the original Hebrew.  Exodus 34:29 says when Moses came down from Mount Sinai his face shown, like with rays from the sun.  But the Latin translation from the Hebrew used a word that could also mean “horned,” as if on a bull.  So for centuries, Moses was shown with horns.

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So these are the interesting things about Moses before he died.  But then after the death of Moses – because, after all, Moses is dead – came these odd facts –

  • Michael the archangel and the Satan fought over the body of Moses.  Really.  Jude 1:9, “But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”Slide17.JPG
  • Moses was resurrected before Christ.  In the Old Testament, we know that Elijah was taken up to heaven, bypassing death.  And we know that Moses died, according to Deuteronomy 34 which we just read a few moments ago.  All other old testament righteous Jews went to paradise or “Abraham’s bosom” and they wait for the second coming of Jesus, but Moses was resurrected and appeared with Elijah before Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17:2-3.  There was a whole ‘nother rabbit hole of the differences between sheol, hades, hell, heaven, and the lake of fire that I also went down at this point but if we want to finish before the Methodists, I’m going to have to wrap this part up.Slide18.JPG
  • One last thing, I think there’s still one more task for Moses.  In Revelation 11, there are two witnesses that prophecy of the tribulation.  Most scholars believe these are again Elijah and Moses because of the miracles they perform in Revelation and that the last chapter of the Old Testament, Malachi 4:4-6, mentions Elijah and Moses together in the end times.  And I did not go down the Revelation rabbit hole because I’ve peeked down that hole and it’s a very long, long, long rabbit hole.Slide20.JPGSlide19.JPG

So after finishing these 3 rabbit holes of Moses, Hades vs Hell, and the book of Revelation, where were we?  Oh yes.

Moses is dead.

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In the book of Joshua we see a new generation of Israelites, poised at the edge of the Jordan River, preparing to cross into their new beginning and take possession of the land. The Promise is about to be fulfilled.  But who would lead them?  Somebody new must take the place of Moses to lead the people to the Promised Land.  There was one young politician that was a possibility, named Bernie Sanders, but since he was only in his 20’s at this time, he was considered too young and inexperienced.

 

Joshua

 

So who led them into the Promised Land?  I’ll give you a hint.  We’re studying the book of Joshua, so the new leader is… Joshua.  Joshua is first introduced to us as Moses’ assistant in Exodus, and in Joshua 1 we see he is now the leader of the people, and the Lord now speaks to Joshua in the opening verses of Joshua 1:1-4:

Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.  Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.  From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory.

And the Lord gives Joshua specific instructions for taking possession of their new land in the next 3 verses, Joshua 1:5-7:

No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.  Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.  Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.

God had kept His promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses.  Abraham’s children may have numbered in the millions already, and they were on the brink of entering the Promised Land.  And now, the Lord will use Joshua to lead the Israelites to take possession of the land.  The Lord affirms that the time is now for Joshua to step out in faith, to step into His new purpose, and to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.

To take the first step toward this new beginning, Joshua believed the Word of God.  Joshua trusted the promises of God.  And Joshua’s belief determined his behavior. He was ready for the next step, to step out in faith across the River Jordan.

Let’s have a short show and tell about the River Jordan.

Slide24.JPGIts Hebrew names is נְהַר הַיַּרְדֵּן‎ Nahar ha-Yarden; the river runs 156 miles north to south through the Sea of Galilee and ends in the Dead Sea.  Despite the old song that says the river is deep, the river is wide, the Jordan River is neither; the river is about 30 feet across and six feet deep.

Here’s a before and after picture when Diane and I went to Israel.  This is before being baptized in the River Jordan…

…And this is after being baptized.  Now, both of us had already been baptized earlier in our Christian life, but neither of us wanted to pass up the opportunity to get baptized in the same water that Jesus did.

Apparently there are no baptisms allowed except in designated areas, so be forewarned.

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So up until this time, the Israelites had been wandering in the wilderness, led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, eating manna day in and day out. The time had come for them to step out in faith, step into the purpose and promise of God, and take the land that He promised them.  It was time to cross the River Jordan.  But are they ready for their next step?

 

Set Our Eyes on Him

 

The first step for Joshua and the people were to make sure their eyes were set upon the Lord.  Joshua 3:1-4,

Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and he and all the sons of Israel set out from Shittim and came to the Jordan, and they lodged there before they crossed.  At the end of three days the officers went through the midst of the camp;  and they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God with the Levitical priests carrying it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it.  However, there shall be between you and it a distance of about 2,000 cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.”

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Joshua rose early – maybe not as early as I do.  I like to say that I don’t mind waking up at 4:20am, but it comes so early in the morning.  Anyway, Joshua rose early and ordered the camp to move alongside the Jordan River and camp there for three days.

As the tribes of Israel traveled through the wilderness, each tribe had an assigned place and an assigned order in the march. Since they had never come this way before, Joshua tells the people they would follow the Lord.  The Lord will lead the way and guide them.  The people were to remain 2,000 cubits behind, which is just over ½ mile.  In metric units, that’s about 400 centipedes.  Joshua wanted them to stay back so everybody could see the ark.  If they crowded too close, only a few in the front could see it.

In Exodus 25, God provides instructions for building the ark of the covenant and verse 22 explains God’s presence:

There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.

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To the Israelites, the ark symbolizes God’s presence.  God tells the priests to carry the ark and lead the people.  God is saying, “I am with you.”  God is letting them know that if they focused on Him, He would carry them into the Promised Land.

 

Set Ourselves Apart

 

Joshua 3:5-6,

Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”  And Joshua spoke to the priests, saying, “Take up the ark of the covenant and cross over ahead of the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went ahead of the people.

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This was both an order and a promise.  Some of God’s promises are unconditional; they require only that we believe them.  Other promises are conditional; certain conditions must be satisfied before the promise is met.

Joshua was making sure the Israelites’ hearts were ready for the next step through consecration.  This was a process of bathing and changing clothes.  It was symbolic of getting prepared for a new beginning.  Before setting out on the Lord’s direction, the people had to be prepared.

Joshua understood that following the Lord successfully required preparation, a recognition that God is holy and lives should be properly prepared for the work ahead.  This would allow the Israelites to prepare for a new life with the Lord.

 

Step Out in Faith

 

Joshua 3:7-8,

Now the Lord said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you.  You shall, moreover, command the priests who are carrying the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’”

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It was the responsibility of the priests to carry the ark of the covenant and go before the people as they marched.  But there was still an obstacle in front of them – the River Jordan, which was wide and deep.  After freeing the people from Pharaoh and giving them the Ten Commandments and proving manna in the wilderness, does God still provide miracles?

Joshua 3:9-13,

Then Joshua said to the sons of Israel, “Come here, and hear the words of the Lord your God.”  Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will assuredly dispossess from before you the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Hivite, the Perizzite, the Girgashite, the Amorite, and the Jebusite.  Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over ahead of you into the Jordan.  Now then, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man for each tribe.  It shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off, and the waters which are flowing down from above will stand in one heap.”

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Living faith always leads to action, and action always requires a first step. Joshua reminds the people that they serve a living God who is able to do abundantly more than they can even imagine.

 

Step Into the Promise

 

Joshua 3:14-17,

So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off.  So the people crossed opposite Jericho.  And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan.

Most of the year, the Jordan River was about thirty feet wide, but during flood season, the river could overflow its banks and expand to about a mile wide.  For three days, the Israelites camped beside the river, watching the impassable waters, hearing the rush of the river all hours of the day and night, not knowing how they were going to cross.  It was a tremendous obstacle.

But God’s plan was simple.  God said, “Set your eyes on me.  Consecrate yourselves.  And trust Me.”  As the priests led the way by stepping out in faith into the waters, the Lord responded with a miracle, stopping the flow of water.  With each step, the water rose up, many miles away.  Commentators say Zarethan was 30 miles upstream.  God made a wide path for His two million Promised Land people to take their next step.

We see in verse 15 that the feet of the priests were “dipped in the edge of the water” until they were standing on dry ground in the middle of the river. It was the smallest of steps, but it was enough to begin a mighty miracle. Through the obedient feet of the priests, stepping out in faith and into His promise, the way was opened for them all to move forward.

 

What Does It Mean?

 

The Israelites crossed the River Jordan and camped at Gilgal where they erected a stone memorial to commemorate God’s deliverance of the Promised Land.  After instructing the people to focus on the Lord and consecrate themselves for a new beginning, Joshua instructed the Levite priests to pick up the ark of the covenant and step into the River Jordan.  When they did, like the parting of the Red Sea, the water stopped and allowed the people to cross.

So what does it all mean?  Can we learn faith and obedience from Joshua?

First, we should focus our eyes on what the Lord wants from us.  In the familiar story from Matthew 14, Jesus walks on the water.  Peter is a lot like all of us, I believe.  We, too want to be like Christ.  So Peter calls out to Jesus and says, “Let me walk on the water, too!”  And he does.  But then he takes his eyes off Jesus and immediately begins to sink.

The world tells us that we should be rich.  Or powerful.  Or successful or beautiful or funny or outgoing or anything.  This is not the word of the Lord, and it distracts us from Him.  And we help the world by filling our minds with junk.  Xfinity and Netflix, Youtube and Hulu and Disney and a thousand other distractions.  When our eyes are on the world, they are not on Christ.  And when our eyes are on Christ, they are not on the world.

Then, like the Israelites, we prepare ourselves for our New Beginning.  We consecrate ourselves.  But most of us, me included, spend way too much time holding on to our old life.  We have a new beginning in Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says,

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Yet when we walk outside of the church doors, I bet our neighbors and coworkers see more of our old life than our new life.  I have already entered into eternity with Christ Jesus, yet I’m still dragging around my earthly possessions, still gossiping about others, expressing indignation and unforgiveness over the slightest infraction.  Who am I?  Am I still in the world?  Or have I consecrated myself for the One who purchased me with His blood?

Prepare ourselves by filling us with the Word every day and putting on the whole armor of God.  Be prepared for the day that God has given us.

Once I’m focused on the Lord’s will and dedicated myself to His purposes, it’s time for me to step out in faith.  An important observation about our study of Joshua 3 is that the water didn’t first stop, and then the people crossed.  Oh no, they had to step into the water first, then the water stopped.  God is capable of every miracle imaginable, but he wants us to trust Him.  Step into the water, and trust God that He will act.

It is time for us to get our feet wet.  Many of us are still sitting by our River Jordan, watching the river flow by and waiting for some sort of sign it’s time to step up.  But God will never show us the way if we’re not going anywhere.

So until we are willing to step out in faith and step into the purpose and promise God has for us, our new beginning won’t be in the here and now, this very minute, our present.  Our new beginning will only be in our future. It’s a waste of this very minute of time, this very breath that the good Lord gave us.

But if we focus on the Lord, remove earthly distractions, and take that first step in faith, God will stop the river, He will part the sea, He will move the mountains, He will slay the giants, and He still the storms.

If only there was some song that captured the essence of stepping into the River Jordan in faith…

Step out in faith, sanctified and focused, and see the miracles God will do.

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If only there was a song that captured stepping into the River Jordan in faith…

Are we in? Focus, Get Prepared, and Dive in. And All God’s people said…

To God be the glory. Amen.

King of the Darkest Night

I. Introduction

We are nearly finished with the Old Testament studies for this year. The Chronological Bible has brought us from the Garden of Eden to our study of Esther today. Through it all, God’s people have continually rebelled against the Lord, but the Lord remains faithful to His people.

But the Lord has continually warned Israel that disobedience leads to captivity, and the people of Jerusalem have been in captivity, primarily in Babylon, but Chris taught us last week about Daniel’s prophecy that the Persian empire is rising. Not to free Israel, but to defeat Babylon in accordance with Daniel’s prophecy. And now the people are in captivity under Persia. But through all this, God has not forgotten His people.

II. Background History

We going to need more than our thirty minutes together to recap the book of Esther. The history, the life lessons, the imagery, the symbology in Esther is amazing. I encourage you to read this story in its entirety to see God’s faithfulness.

We have a movie today to review, full of twist and turns, love and betrayal, good versus evil. There’s a large cast of characters with many conflicting motives. Let’s talk about the book itself. The book of Esther is a historical novella, intended to teach the Jewish people of the history and significance of the feast of Purim. The book is interesting for what it does not mention. It doesn’t mention God, or the Law, or the Torah, or Jerusalem. It’s a story. A story of a simple Jewish girl and her uncle and how they live by faith in a hostile land.

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Both lived in the ancient kingdom of Persia under the king Ahasuerus, probably from 486-465 BC. Persia at this time was huge; the book of Esther, chapter 1:1, says it included 127 provinces. Modern countries which were once part of the Persian Empire include northern Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, Jordan, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Abkhazia, Chechnya, Ossetia regions, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Egypt, parts of Libya and Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, parts of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of Kyrgyzstan.

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That’s a huge swath of civilization. And somehow a simple Jewish girl in exile become the Queen of Persia and saved her people from genocide.

Well, you can’t have a soap opera without a cast of characters.
The good:

Mordecai the Jew. He’s the son of Jair, tribe of Benjamin. He lives in Susa in the center of Persia. The Talmud records his name as Mordechai Bilshan, and he’s also mentioned in Ezra 2:2 and Nehemiah 7:7 as one of the exiles who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple under the Persian king Cyrus. We know that was in approximately 537 BC, which means Mordecai is about 64 years old. Interestingly, the Talmud also lists Mordecai as a prophet who prophesied in the second year of King Darius, and also lists Mordecai as a direct descendant of Kish who is the father of the 1st king of Israel, Saul.

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In Esther 2:7,

“And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter.”

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So, Esther is actually Mordecai’s cousin, though Mordecai is the much older of the two, and since he adopted Esther as his own daughter, he’s also her uncle.

We also have Esther who is called Hadassah. She’s a Jewish orphan girl. Esther is her Persian name, Hadassah is her Hebrew name. Mordecai forbids Esther to reveal her nationality and family background, so when she’s around Persians, she’s Esther. She’s described as beautiful and having a lovely figure.

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The king of Persia is Ahasuerus, which is a weird name. Ahasuerus is a Latin word which is derived from a Hebrew word. Other translations begin with a Greek word and is translated Xerxes. Both are right, but since Ahasuerus is so hard to spell and pronounce, I’m going to call him Xerxes.

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Queen Vashti. Traditional Jewish teachings about Vashti describe her as wicked and vain, the great-granddaughter of Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. She’s married to Xerxes.

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Attendant-guy. He doesn’t actually have a name, unless it’s Harbona from Esther 7:9. But we need him to be an extra in our movie, but he doesn’t get his name listed when the credits roll at the end.

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III. Scene 1, Esther 1. The Old Queen is Vanquished.

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As our story of Esther opens in Esther 1:1, Ahasuerus, I mean Xerxes, is holding a massive celebration. And I mean massive. It is a celebration that last 6 months long. The sole purpose of the celebration was to demonstrate that Xerxes had a lot of money and could party for 6 months. And at the end of the 6 months of partying, Xerxes isn’t done. Xerxes then throws a banquet in an enclosed garden of his palace for his closest friends and advisors. There are wall hangings of the finest linen, couches made of gold and silver, on floors made with marble and mother-of-pearl. And it says in verse 8,

“By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink with no restrictions, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.”

So at the end of this week long binge, Xerxes is completely drunk. He nudges his friends, “Man, my wife is hot. You guys want to see her? Hey, attendant-guy, whatever your name is, fetch my wife Vashti. Tell her to wear her crown.”

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Vashti is in the palace. She’s been holding her own banquet next door at the same time. The attendant-guy shows up and says to Vashti, “The Great and Powerful Xerxes summons you to the enclosed garden of drunk men. PS. Wear your crown.” Vashti says, “I don’t think so.”

So attendant-guy goes back to Xerxes and says, “Vashti says no.” And the king is mad. He’s furious that Queen Vashti won’t come parade before his drunk buddies wearing her crown. He asks his drunk friends what they think he should do, and they say, She can’t tell you ‘no,’ you’re the king. If this gets out, no wife will ever appear before their husband. On demand. Wearing a crown.”

I’m thinking that week-long drinking binge isn’t the best environment for making serious decisions. It’s clear from the context that Xerxes wasn’t trying to complement his wife, but to show her off as a trophy to his drunken friends. After she refuses, king Xerxes doesn’t lash out at her but instead looks for a way to manipulate the law of the land to punish her and redeem his pride.

Pretending he’s helping all husbands in the kingdom, Xerxes banished Vashti from ever seeing Xerxes again, and her position as Queen will be given to somebody else.

Exit Vashti, stage left. End Scene I.

IV. Scene 2, Esther 2. The New Queen is Appointed.

Slide12.JPGAs we move into chapter 2, Xerxes recovering from his hangover. One his advisors suggests that Xerxes should hold the world’s first Ms. Persia contest and then Xerxes can select whoever he wants. All of the beautiful young virgins throughout the kingdom are to be brought to the palace and given spa treatments until they’re ready to see the king.
Enter Mordecai and Esther. Esther’s taken to the palace and she placed in the trust of the king’s eunuch who takes special care of her. She’s provided with beauty treatments and special food and 7 girlfriends to take care of her, while Mordecai checks on her daily. He cautions her not to reveal that she’s a Jewish orphan. After a full year of beauty treatments, she’s taken to King Xerxes, who likes what he sees. Xerxes says, “Hey, attendant-guy, whatever your name is. Get this girl a crown.”

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Esther is made Queen of Persia. A simple Jewish orphan, now in the palace with a crown on her head. An incredible turn of events for her.
You know, we’ve been talking about how God equips us today for today, and the story of the faithful Jewish orphan girl demonstrates God’s gifts. Through a series of “coincidences,” Esther was elevated to a very high status, the Queen of Persia. How did she arrive here? Through submission to her faith, submission to her cousin who was her acting father, and because of her inner and external beauty. Her beauty was a gift from God, and like all gifts, we are entrusted by God to use it wisely, for His glory alone, in obedience to Him. The old Queen Vashti, we’re told, was very beautiful on the outside. But she was not going to use her God-given beauty to further God’s purposes, so she was removed, and Esther became queen. Esther has both external and internal beauty.

And Mordecai? He’s exactly where God wants him, too. During his daily visits to see Esther, he overhears a plot to assassinate the king. He passes the news to Esther who in turn reports it to the king. Mordecai’s courageous actions are recorded in the king’s diary in the presence of the king, Mordecai is given credit for thwarting an assassination, and he’s a hero. We’re supposed to be good citizens, for all governments serve at Gods command, and Mordecai is faithful to God. But by doing the right thing, Mordecai gains some unwanted attention. Up to now he’s been happy as just a simple Jew living in exile.

V. Scene 3, Esther 3. The Dark Side.

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In Chapter 3 of Esther, the plot thickens, mwahaha. Enter the villain of our lesson, Haman. In Esther 3:1-2,

After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles.

I’ve always wondered about this. Chapter 2 ends with Mordecai foiling the assassination, and Chapter 3 begins with “After these events,” and Haman is honored. Is it because Mordecai was a Jew? Was it because Haman took credit?

This is ominous. Haman’s father was Hammedatha the Agagite, which means he was a descendant of Agag the king of the Amalekites. The Amalekites were a tribe from Canaan who have constantly been harassing the Israelites throughout history, from the Exodus out of Egypt throughout the reign of David. In Exodus 17:8-16, around 1440 B.C, just after Moses struck the rock and the water flowed, the Amalekites attacked the Israelites. Joshua led the battle against the Amalekites, and Moses stood on top of a hill with his arms raised in glory to the Lord while Aaron and Hur held his arms up. When the Amalekite army fled, Exodus 17:14-16 says,

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

 

Slide15.JPGThese are the Amalekites from whom Haman is descended. Then, 400 years later around 1040 B.C, the book of 1 Samuel chapter 15, Saul is commanded by the Lord. This is the same Saul from whom Mordecai is related. 1 Samuel 15:1-3, it says,

Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ “

God commanded Saul to put all of the Amalekites to death, but Saul gets this idea to spare King Agag of the Amalekites and keep the sheep and cattle and fat calves and lambs. The Lord was trying to protect Israel by ordering Israel to destroy the Amalekites, and the Amalekites kept coming back and attacking Israel.

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Now, another 500 years pass, and now we find Haman, an Amalekite and descendent of Agag, has been elevated to a position of power in the kingdom of Persia where the Israelites live. This is really bad news for the Jews like Mordecai and Esther living there.

King Xerxes orders all the royal officials to bow down and pay honor to Haman. Mordecai refuses to bow down. Now, it’s not against Jewish law to bow down and give respect. The Jews bowed down before their own kings in other books of the bible, like 1st and 2nd Samuel and in 1st Kings. And Mordecai also almost certainly bowed down to King Xerxes or he wouldn’t be alive.

Some scholars believe that one reason Mordecai would not bow may be that as a descendent of Agag, Haman would believe he was divine or semi-divine, a god. Mordecai would certainly not bow down before another god. Other scholars believe it was simply because Mordecai would not bow down before an enemy of God, an Amalekite who hated Jews.

Haman was enraged that this one man would not pay homage to him, and when Haman found out Mordecai was a Jew, he wasn’t satisfied with just killing Mordecai. No, Haman decided this would be his chance to destroy all the Jews. A religious, ethnic cleansing.  Verse 8-9,

Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will put ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury for the men who carry out this business.”

Haman could not come right out and tell King Xerxes he wanted to kill all the Jews. Xerxes would know that the Jews were loyal subjects; Mordecai had himself saved King Xerxes life. So Haman mixes in half-truths… a “certain” people. They’re… “different.” They don’t… “obey.” You shouldn’t have to “tolerate” them. By laying out an incomplete picture with half-truths, Haman was able to convince the King that these “certain people” should be killed, and King signs the death warrant.

Persia was a big empire, and this ethnic cleansing could not happen immediately. Haman decided the annihilation would occur in the twelfth month of Adar, about a year away. All the royal secretaries were summoned, and the decree was written in every language of Persia and then distributed to all the governors in all the provinces. The Jews have a year to live.

VI. Scene 4, Esther 4. If I Perish, I Perish.

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Mordecai is troubled. By refusing to bow down before Haman, he had set in motion the destruction of all of his people within the year. Esther 4:1 –

When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.

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Part of this was a public display against the orders of the king, but most of it was probably genuine grief. He’s going to die. All of his loved ones are going to die. All of the people of his faith are going to die. Verse 2,

But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it.

Apparently they had some sort of dress code and Mordecai was not allowed inside. Verse 3,

In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.

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All of the Jewish people are scared, mourning, praying, crying. Mordecai sends a message to Esther, who’s protected inside the palace. Mordecai tells Esther to go to the king and beg for mercy for the Jews.
This is a terrifying request to Esther. As queen, Esther did not have a husband/wife relationship like we understand it today. Esther was a servant of the king, and she could only appear to him when summoned. The law was strict – if you crash the king’s party, you die. There was a possibility that the king could hold out his golden scepter and your life would be spared. But whatever relationship Esther and the king had, it was not currently in the best of conditions. Esther had not been summoned by the king for 30 days. She was certain that to appear before the king would mean her death.

How do we understand God, who created us and everything we see? Do we decide who He is, and then assume God will do our will? Or do we decide to be obedient and try to understand what God wants? Do we stay safe, keep silent, avoid taking risks? Or do we try to be obedient?

Fear not. God’s got this. God’s will be done, whether we obey or not. We can choose to participate, be a spectator, or deny Him altogether, but we cannot thwart God’s will. God sees history all at once, past, present and future. God creates us for a purpose and plants us right where we are. Your job, your family, your pretty face, your intelligent brain, your feelings, your money, your talents have all come together for this one instant, this one instant that will never occur again. In another minute, in another hour, this moment will have passed.

Mordecai knows all this. Esther is exactly where God put her. God removed Vashti and placed Esther as queen. She had every resource she needed to do God’s will. But will she do it? Will she risk everything given to her to do what God wants her to do? God had given Esther so much. God gave her external beauty, and it was her beauty that gave her and her alone access to the king. Would she put her beauty on the line and risk death? God gave her position – she was queen and had access like nobody else. Would she put her position as queen on the line and risk death? Esther also had her inner beauty and love for her people. Most important, Esther had the entire kingdom of heaven behind her. She had everything she needed, but would she risk it, or would fear hold her back?

Mordecai delivers at this point one of the most memorable lines of the bible. He tells Esther that God will accomplish His purpose, nothing she does or does not do will change that fact. If Esther will not do it, the God will save His chosen people another way. Esther’s choice is whether she is going to participate in God’s plan and realize that her entire being, her beauty and position, was orchestrated by God, and God will accomplish His will through His obedient people. Mordecai also tells her that if she’s trying to save her own skin, she’s probably going to lose that, too. She’s a Jew – if the Jews are eliminated, that includes her. She cannot save her own life. All she can do is choose to be obedient, or not.

Mordecai says in verse 13-14,

“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

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The entire purpose of Esther’s life had come to a point of decision. Her entire existence had a purpose. What was more important, being queen, or being the liberator of the Jews? God will not fail to keep His promises or fall short of His purposes, therefore, the deliverance of the Jews was certain. God had made Esther queen so that she could deliver His people. God places people exactly where they can serve Him.
And here’s how to be faithful, Esther’s response to Mordecai is equally as famous as his question in verses 15-16 –

Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

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“If I perish, I perish.” Jesus says that his follower should not store up for ourselves treasure on earth, and that includes our very lives. And Jesus also says not to fear the ones who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Jesus holds our soul in the very palm of His hand, and nobody can snatch us away. As Christians, we are free of death so that we may live, and Esther’s response to the fear of losing her life is perfect. If I perish, I perish.

VII. Scene 5, Esther 5. Rise of the Queen

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Despite the decrees of the land and the fear of death, Esther dresses in her finest royal robes and enters the inner court of the palace in front of the king’s hall. And much to Esther’s surprise, the king is glad to see her. King Xerxes holds out his golden scepter, and Queen Esther approaches. And the king says, “Are you wearing a crown? That is so cool.”

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No seriously, he is so pleased to see her, the King tells Esther to ask for anything, and the king will give it to her.

Queen Esther bats her long lashes at Xerxes – actually, that part isn’t in scripture, but it’s easy to imagine it being true. She bats her eyes at Xerxes and says, “Would you like to come over to dinner tonight? I’d like to ask my favor of you over a nice candlelight dinner. Just you and me…. And Haman?”

And the king I’m sure is like, what? Haman? Sure. Why not. Let’s have dinner tonight. Somebody fetch Haman.

Haman’s should be having a good day. Scripture says in the latter half of Esther 5 that as soon as Haman sees Mordecai at the King’s gate, still sitting in sackcloth and ashes because of that dress code, Mordecai doesn’t rise for Haman, doesn’t bow to Haman, isn’t afraid of Haman. And Haman is filled with rage. And he is still filled with rage when he gets home.

Haman’s family and friends are there and Haman gets the invitation to the queen’s banquet. And Haman starts bragging. Look at all my wealth. Look at all my power. And I am the only person invited to have dinner with the King and Queen. But while Mordecai defies me, I will never be happy.

Haman’s wife says, just ask the king to hang him. You’re buddies, he’ll do that for you, right? And Haman smiles a wicked smile.

Haman erects a huge pole outside his house. Verse 14 days it’s 75 feet tall, and that’s like twice the size of a Texas pine tree and even bigger than the egos of most politicians! I mean, it’s huuuge. And when the king tells Haman it’s ok to hang Mordecai, he’s going to hang Mordecai high on this pole outside of his own house.

VIII. Scene 6, Esther 6. A Sleepless Night.

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Scene 6 opens with the King unable to sleep. I like to think the King is excited about his upcoming dinner date with his queen, Esther. And Haman. Apparently attendant-guy or somebody like him writes down everything that happens in the king’s life. Kind of like keeping a diary, but somebody else fills in the pages for you.

Do you remember all the way back to Scene 2 where Mordecai overheard about the plot to assassinate the king? The king is reading his own diary like it’s some sort of murder mystery novel and reads about this guy who saved his life. And the king says, did we give this guy a gold medal or something for saving my life? And attendant-guy says, nope. We didn’t do diddly squat for him. Diddly squat is the ancient Hebrew.

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So the king says, I need some ideas on how to honor this guy Mordecai. Who’s hanging around in the lobby? Haman, bring him in. Hey Haman, if I wanted to give somebody some special recognition, what do you think I should do?

And Haman thinks, “Wow, the king is thinking about me.” And Haman says, “A parade! A parade with horses and a special robe and trumpets and stuff!” And the king says, “Great idea! Haman, go get a fancy robe and throw a parade for Mordecai!”

And Haman does what the king says, but you know it just rotted his socks to put a fancy robe on Mordecai and parade him around the city. And after the parade, Haman rushes home and cries, I think. But he doesn’t get to cry long, the king’s eunuchs arrive to take Haman to that fancy schmancy dinner with the King and Esther.

End Scene 6.

IX. Scene 7, Esther 7. The Dark Side Destroyed.

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Scene 7, the banquet. The king is there. The queen is there, batting her eyes. Haman is there, grumpy from the parade he had to throw for Mordecai.

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The king and queen gaze longingly into each other’s eyes. And the king says, have you thought about what sort of present you would like?
Esther says, “There is a decree that all my people will be killed. Every one of us! Please spare me!”

Then verses 5&6, I think the King had no idea that there was a decree that would kill all the Jews,

King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who is he? Where is he—the man who has dared to do such a thing?”
Esther said, “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!”

The king immediately has Haman arrested, and then attendant-guy says, you know, there’s this huge pole, taller than two Texas pine trees, just outside of Haman’s house. Verse 9b-10,

The king said, “Impale him on it!” So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided.

X. Scene 8, Esther 8-10. They All Lived Happily Ever After. The End.

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Scene 8, they all lived happily ever after. The king gave Esther everything that Haman owned, Mordecai was given a place in the palace, and Haman’s order to destroy the Jews was revoked. The feast of Purim was established to memorialize the Jews rescued from certain death and destruction.

Even though God was not mentioned in the book of Esther, God’s hand was evident in the saving of His people. Even in captivity in a foreign land, God protected His people.

We, too, are protected, though we live in a foreign land. 1 Peter 2:11 calls Christians “foreigners and exiles” as we live in our pagan society. But God has not abandoned us here. His protection surrounds us, and God asks us to trust in Him for that protection.

And there’s still a huge pole that’s been erected, taller than two Texas pine trees, that saves us and destroys the enemy. Christ hangs upon that tree, defeating death and taking on our sins so that one day we too, live in eternity, happily ever after.

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The End. Or should I say, It is Finished.

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To God be the glory.