We’re going to be spending some time in the Old Testament Book of Esther. Most of us, including us preachers, don’t really know what to do with the Book of Esther. It’s an interesting book with some pretty colorful characters and an intriguing plot that has all kinds of twists and turns. It’s a true story and a very important piece of Jewish history.
If it hadn’t been for Esther, there might not be a Book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah probably would not have gotten to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. In fact without Esther, Israel might have been destroyed as a nation. But if you’re not a student of Jewish history, you might be tempted to ignore the Book of Esther completely.
God’s presence, God’s love and grace; His wisdom, His protection and His power are all brilliantly displayed through the entire Book of Esther. But Esther is the only book in the Bible that never mentions God’s name. So why are we bothering to study it? I can think of two reasons.
(1) Jesus said:
“You diligently study the Scriptures (specifically the Old Testament) because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” (John 5:39)
They “testify about me.” We’re going to be taking a closer look at the Book of Esther over the next several weeks because, like every other Book in the Bible, The Book of Esther points us to Jesus. It tells us about Jesus. The Book of Esther is all about Jesus.
(2) The second reason I’d like us to be studying Esther is:
“From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures (specifically the Old Testament) which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” (2Timothy 3: 15-16)
The whole Bible, including the Book of Esther, has been inspired by God. Esther gives us wisdom to recognize our need for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. And it’s vital for teaching us, for correcting us and showing us how to live a life that is pleasing to God. It’s designed to equip us for whatever God is asking us to do. Its’ message is relevant to the needs of the world we’re living in today.
Throughout the book, God is teaching His people about their relationship to Him and their purpose as His people. He’s teaching them about His perfect plan of salvation and deliverance that was coming through Jesus, the Christ; their promised Messiah.
But first, let’s take a look at the historical background of this story. As the Book of Esther begins, the nation of Israel has been conquered, taken off their land and forced to live in Babylon for 70 years. Ancient Babylon is modern day Iraq. Israel was living in what is now called “Iraq” for 70 years. After 70 years, Babylon was conquered by Persia, (now known as Iran.)
Finally, Cyrus, the king of Persia gave the Jews permission to return to Israel. Most of the Jews decided to stay in Babylon. They had no Temple there, so they couldn’t worship the Lord or offer sacrifices for their sin, but their life was so much easier and more comfortable for them in Babylon.
The city of Jerusalem had been destroyed. They felt there was nothing to go back to. God was not pleased with their decision to stay in Babylon, but the Book of Esther shows how God continues to protect and care for His people even though they choose to live in voluntary exile.
Let’s begin to get acquainted with the personalities in this Book.
Esther 1: 1-2 “This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa,”
King Xerxes was the king of a very large Kingdom. The capital city of his Kingdom was the city of Sousa. We’re going to see how God was able to use Xerxes to accomplish His will for His people.
Esther 1: 3-4 “and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all of his nobles and officials… For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty.”
For six months, King Xerxes displayed the opulent wealth of his Kingdom and the splendor and majesty of his Empire. He gave a few select people a brief glimpse into his world, into his palace and into his lifestyle. Nothing else on earth even came close to matching it. There was more beauty and more wealth on display than the human mind could even imagine; more than anyone else’s eyes had ever seen. Nobody else lived the way King Xerxes lived or had the things he had.
We ain’t seen nothin’ yet. God and Heaven are far greater than anything this world has ever seen or any human mind could possibly imagine.
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2: 9-10)
God displayed Himself and the magnificence of His Kingdom through Jesus Christ. For the three brief years Jesus was on earth, He taught us that God’s Kingdom was like a mustard seed; like a treasure hidden in a field; like a net thrown into a lake that caught a large number of fish.
He healed the sick. He raised the dead and caused the blind to see. For three years, through Jesus, God graciously and lovingly gave us a brief look into His world, into His palace and into His lifestyle. Those who wanted to hear it could hear it and those who wanted to see it could see it.
Lord willing, we’ll come back to this next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s Word with Pastor Buj.