Esther 2:1-23

Opening Prayer Thoughts
Praise God
Praise God that he is in Sovereign control of all things. That there is nothing in heaven nor earth beyond God’s knowledge and authority. Proverbs 16:33, Colossians 1:16-17.
Acknowledge Sin
Confess the sin of leaning on one’s own understanding, and not trusting in the Lord fully.

Please ask the Holy Spirit's help as you come to his Word.
Please read Esther 2:1-23
Notes prepared by Rev. Johnny McCollum, Milford RPCI.
Esther 2:1-4.  Not a Cinderella Story.
It's a well known and well-loved story: a poor, downtrodden girl, with a heart of gold, auditions to become a princess. She meets her Prince Charming, is plucked from rags to riches, and they both live happily ever after. That's the story of Cinderella. It is not the story of Esther. Sure, there are some similarities, at least on the surface. But, if we allow the story to be "Disneyfied", we're going to miss one of the key lessons of Esther: God works in our awful circumstances. Chapter 2 picks up the story 4 years later. We know from history that Ahasuerus had suffered a humiliating military defeat, so perhaps he was feeling sorry for himself. Perhaps he remembered the times that Vashti was able to cheer him up... and then regretted his rash, wine-fuelled decision. So, after sitting down with his advisors, he had a new plan: Vashti couldn't come back, so he'd better get a newer, better model. So, the word goes out: the King is looking for a wife! The qualifications? Beautiful. Young. Virgin. Doesn't that tell you all you need to know? Don't let Disney cloud your vision: this isn't Prince Charming looking for a Belle of the Ball; this is a much less pleasant scenario. These girls weren't met by a fairy godmother with a shiny glass slipper; they were met by soldiers with pointy steel spears. These teenage girls were ripped away from their families and forced into virtual slavery; doomed to become real life Barbies, taken from their box when the king wants to be entertained. I promise, we'll see a glimmer of hope tomorrow. But for now, we need to see just how sleazy this contest was. This true story tells us something about God: he is with his people in the midst of pain and despair. It's not a Cinderella story; it's something so much better.
Esther 2:5-11.  "There was a Jew in Susa"
We've already seen that this story is full of heartache, drunkenness, and immoral deviancy. It features some truly reprehensible characters; and God is nowhere to be seen. Yet, his fingerprints are all over it. Verse 5 alerts us to this with six simple words: "There was a Jew in Susa". God may not be mentioned in the book, but his people are! God will not sit back and watch disaster unfold. We're introduced to two of the story's main characters, and they're both God's people. Esther is a beautiful young girl, possibly only in her early teens. Her parents have both died, and so her cousin, Mordecai, is bringing her up. These are six surprising words. The Jews had been taken into captivity because of their rebellion against God and many of them had found themselves in the Persian Empire. Yet, years before Ahasuerus took the throne, God, in his mercy, had moved King Cyrus to allow the Jews to go back to Jerusalem. You would expect a God-fearer to jump at the chance to return to the promised land that God had given his people. Yet, here are Mordecai and Esther, not in Jerusalem, but in the heart of idolatrous Persia. Why are they there? Surely, they'd be better off in Jerusalem? Even their names raise awkward questions, since they're based on the names of false Persian gods. I'm not looking to bash either Mordecai or Esther. Yet, this introduction does raise some awkward questions. Are these two people paying the price for the poor decisions of their families? Were those who came before them drawn in by the world? Is moral compromise the reason why Esther and Mordecai find themselves here in Susa, rather than the land God gave his people? This story is a messy one. Living in exile often is. And yet, in the midst of the mess we see a glorious phrase. "THERE WAS A JEW". God never abandons his people, no matter how messy their situations may get.
Esther 2:12-18.  The Winner Is… Ionians, Parthians, Caspians, Phrygians.
With so many languages and cultures, life must have been confusing in the harem in Susa. Libyans, Medians, Phoenecians, Cilicians. Yet Ahasuerus wanted the best and he had a whole empire to chose from. Arians, Arabians, Armenians, Assyrians. Young girls from 127 provinces, all compelled to vie for the King's affections. Who would he pick? Nobody knew! There can't have been much to choose between the "contestants". They were all young. They had all been snatched from their homes. Most importantly, they were all beautiful; they wouldn't have been there if they weren't. An elegant Egyptian? A lovely Lydian? A pretty Pamphylian? With a judge this unpredictable, it's probably better not to guess. Yet, don't forget those six key words from v5. "There was a Jew in Susa". Don't forget that Esther was one of those who was taken. Sure, she was just one pretty face in a sea of pretty faces. But already she was standing out. Hegai was already impressed. Now it was the King's turn. Let's not downplay what verse 15 involved. No doubt Esther was scared. No doubt she felt defiled. Perhaps her pillow was drenched with tears or perhaps she was too terrified to cry. But one thing is for certain: this young Jew was the winner of this tragically sleazy contest (v17). Esther didn't know it yet, but there was a storm on the horizon. The very survival of God's people was on the line. They could certainly do with a friend in high places, and against all the odds, that's exactly what they got. Why Esther? Why not one of the many other girls? Because God had a plan. Esther may have been Ahasuerus' choice, but more importantly, she was God's choice. He's the one who's truly on the throne. "The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will." (Proverbs 21:1)
Esther 2:19-23.  Watch Where the Camera Zooms.

For those of you in the UK, have you ever seen Casualty on TV? If you haven't, you're not missing much. It's a drama set in a busy hospital as the medics deal with the injuries that come their way. What I find interesting about Casualty is the sheer predictability of the storylines. Is that man climbing a ladder? You can be sure he's going to end up in the Emergency Department. Is that car's tyre looking a little frayed? You can be sure the car will crash before the credits roll. You can foresee these disasters because there is a writer behind the scenes. Every detail is carefully designed in order to weave the story together. The writer has a plan, and these small details bring that plan to fruition. If the camera zooms in on a balding tyre, you'd better believe that it's central to what the writer has in store. Esther chapter 2 finishes with the camera zooming in. Not on a wonky ladder or a balding tyre, but on a rather dry looking history book (v23). Mordecai the Jew had become Mordecai the hero as he gallantly saved the King's life (v22). You would expect his life to be completely transformed as Ahasuerus lavished him with gifts. You would expect a prompt promotion and a princely pay raise. You would expect a bigger house and a better life. If the King wants to survive the next time, he'd better reward the one who saved his skin. So, what did Mordecai get? Nothing at all. No knighthood. No bonus. Not even a measly thank you card! Perhaps he spent months eagerly waiting for the recognition he deserved until eventually he gave up. His actions appeared to be in vain. But not so fast! The camera zooms in on this dull looking book. God, the master planner, has got something up his sleeve. We'll have to trust him and wait patiently to see what he has in store. Isn't that always the way of faith? (Proverbs 21:1).

Sing with joy in your heart to God.
Psalm 139A. Link to the words. Link to it being sung.

Memory Verse.

It is a privilege to lay into our hearts and minds the light and truth of God's Word. 
Ephesians 2:4 – “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,”

Truth for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 107 - What does the conclusion attached to the Lord’s Prayer teach us?
Answer –  The conclusion attached to the Lord’s Prayer (which is, For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever, Amen) teaches us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power and glory to him. And in testimony of our desire and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen.
This is taken from where you will find proof texts.
Thank God for whatever is on your heart.

Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley
Minister, Ottawa RPC