Esther 4:1-17

Opening Prayer Thoughts
Praise God
Praise God for his life-changing mercy and grace. Praise God for the hope of new life in Jesus Christ for all eternity. Ephesians 2:1-10. 
Acknowledge Sin
Acknowledge and confess the sin of sometimes being complacent in our interaction with God through his Word. Ask God to give us a daily hunger for him and his Word. Psalm 63:1-3, Matthew 5:6.

Please ask the Holy Spirit's help as you come to his Word.
Please read – Esther chapter 4:1-17
Notes prepared by Rev. Johnny McCollum, Milford RPCI.

Esther 4:1-3.  Disaster.
What a wretched scene: sackcloth, ashes, and a cry that could curdle blood. Yet this scene was not an exception; Mordecai's heart was one of many that had been broken by Haman's wickedness. Surely it shouldn't have been that way? That's what some would have you believe. There are many "Christian" preachers and authors who specialise in telling their audiences exactly what they want to hear. "Just have faith", they say, "and life will be good. If your faith is strong, you'll reap the reward." The God they proclaim is like an upgraded Santa Claus: just do enough to reach the nice list and he'll make your wishes come true. But what if your job prospects don't improve? What if your family problems or your health issues get worse? What if life as you know it turns completely sour? If it happened to Mordecai, it can happen to you. There are two possibilities and they're both too awful to contemplate. Either God has failed you, or you have failed God. Either you don't trust God enough, or God's not worthy of your trust. Whichever it is, there's not much reason for hope. The Book of Esther shows us a third option. The almighty God doesn't exist for our comfort; we exist for his glory. The all wise one has a plan that is beyond our understanding. Those "prosperity preachers" don't like to admit it, but sometimes God's plan involves sackcloth, ashes, and unspeakable pain. Is that what you've been called to face? There is a purpose behind even your bitterest tears: the glory of God himself. Mordecai walked the valley of the shadow of death so God's name would be magnified in his eventual rescue. Not every Christian is called to a comfortable life, a productive life, or even a long life. Every Christian is called to display the glory of Christ, and to cherish that glory above all else. That's what the gospel is all about (2 Corinthians 4:4). Your tears can be part of that glory.
Esther 4:4-14. Destiny [Part 1].
The situation was hopeless. The date had been determined; the decree had been dispatched. Before the year was out, every Jewish man, woman, and child would be wiped from the face of the earth. An optimist might have protested that it isn't over until it's over. A realist would have responded that the holocaust was sure to go ahead as planned: Haman's cunning and the king's ego ensured that there could be no turning back. "But!" the optimist might say, "maybe someone can sway events. Two Jews still have a voice within the regime." A realist wouldn't have gotten his hopes up. Mordecai's heroism had been forgotten while some other girl was warming Esther's side of the bed (v11). There was no room for optimists in Susa. However, there is always room for faith. Mordecai was both a man of tears and a man of trust. He knew that the optimists were clutching at straws. He knew they were sticking their heads in the sand. Yet he also knew that hope was not completely lost. Read v14 and you'll see what I mean. Notice especially the two key words: IF and WILL. Mordecai had a plan up his sleeve (v8), but no guarantee that it would even get off the ground. Sure, Esther might manage to get the king's attention, but that involved a big fat IF. Yet, even if she didn't step forward, Mordecai had no doubt that "deliverance WILL arise for the Jews" (v14). Of that much Mordecai was certain. How did he know this? Because it was their destiny. Not destiny in the fuzzy Hollywood sense; destiny in the concrete biblical sense. The Jews may have had an enemy who had resolved to destroy them, but more importantly they had a God who had pledged himself to protect them. God wasn't finished with his people. Tomorrow we'll see some of the anchors that kept Mordecai from being swept away. For now, just keep this in mind: as one of God's people, you have a destiny to remember.
Esther 4:14. Destiny [Part 2].
Do you remember what we saw when we began the story of Esther? God is never mentioned in the book, yet his fingerprints are all over it. It doesn't take a forensic scientist to see those fingerprints in v14. Mordecai was far from a blind optimist, yet he was surprisingly confident about the future. Since he wasn't one for wishful thinking, what could possibly lie behind this verse? It must have been faith. Mordecai would have known many of God's promises from the Old Testament. He knew that one of Abraham's offspring would be a blessing to all the nations (Genesis 12:3). He knew that one of David's descendants would rule wisely and forever (2 Samuel 7:16). He knew that the Saviour was coming to triumph over evil and he knew that this Saviour would be from the Jewish line (Genesis 3:15). He also knew that those promises had not yet come to fruition. Mordecai knew that God's people had a destiny. He knew that God is faithful to his word. The details were murky, but the principle was clear: deliverance will come. When God makes a promise, he never throws in the towel. There's a lesson in this for us. So often, aren't we tempted to despair? We need to understand that the Jews of Esther's day and the Christians of today need exactly the same antidote: we need to remember our destiny. When we see the weakness of the church and the power of our opponents, we need to remember our Saviour's promise: the gates of hell will not prevail against us (Matthew 16:18). When we agonise over our sin and abandon hope of ever making progress, we must remember that Christ's grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). When we are repulsed by the world around us and feel we just can't go on, we must remember what God has in store (Revelation 21:4). Will you follow in Mordecai's footsteps? Don't despair and don't lose hope. You have a destiny to remember.
Esther 4:12-17. Dilemma.
"I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened." Those were the despairing words of Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings. Frodo's terrifying mission required a journey into the very heartland of evil, into the fiery bowels of Mount Doom. An agonising death was the most likely outcome. That was Frodo's dilemma. I'm glad it wasn't me. As Frodo fretted, his dear friend Gandalf responded. "So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us." The message was simple: it's an awful predicament to be in, but all you can do is resolve to do what's right. JRR Tolkien may well have had Esther in mind as he wrote that section of Lord of the Rings. The parallels are uncanny: Esther had a terrifying task before her. She was to go to the very nerve centre of the empire in a bid to save her friends. If she didn't go, evil seemed certain to triumph. If she did go, there was every chance she would lose her life. What a dilemma! It's far from certain that Ahasuerus would be pleased to see her. To show up uninvited would be to take her life in her hands. History tells us that Ahasuerus had executed people for less. Esther wished this had never happened. I'm just glad it wasn't me. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations we can't escape from. Sometimes the circumstances are utterly beyond our control. The only thing we can control is how we will respond. Like Esther, we face the dilemma that has tormented God's people through the ages: will I walk in God's ways or will I play it safe? God tells us that if we follow him, we will not be put to shame (Psalm 25:3). Esther was about to put this to the test (v16). Will you do the same?
Esther 4:14 - Decision WHY?
Why did those men snatch me away from home? Why was I poked and prodded and violated over and over again? Why am I trapped with no way out? WHY? No doubt this young, vulnerable Jewish girl agonised over that question. Have you wrestled with it too? Why is my boss so unreasonable? Why did the car break down when I'm least able to afford it? Why has my blood test come back positive? Why is my treatment not working? Why was that loved one taken from me? WHY? If you're agonising over that question, be encouraged by today's verse. First of all, be encouraged by what Mordecai doesn't say. He doesn't claim to have all the answers. Perhaps as you consider the painful circumstances you find yourself in, you can't find answers either. That doesn't mean you're not spiritual enough; it means that God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Secondly, be encouraged by what Mordecai does say. He may not have all the answers, but he does see the big picture. God hasn't been taken by surprise. Perhaps with hindsight you'll see God's workings clearly; perhaps you'll never get the answers that you crave. God doesn't owe us an explanation, yet, in his grace, he tells us all that we need to know. The key question isn't "WHY?". It's "WHO?". Whose fingerprints are over every page of this book? Whose plan endured when Esther's life was turned upside down? Who stands behind the scenes of your life, carefully ordaining every twist and turn? Who has pledged himself to his people, guaranteeing that all things work together for their good? (Romans 8:28) The covenant-keeping God. Esther's God. Your God. Grasp that and see suffering differently. It's not taken away, but you can look at your agony with fresh eyes. What might God be accomplishing through it? What fruit is he cultivating within you? How is he demonstrating the gospel to your unbelieving friends? Perhaps you've been called to suffer for such a time as this.

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 2:4-5 – “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses”

Truth for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 2 – What rule has God given to direct us how to glorify and enjoy him?
Answer – The Word of God, which consists of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how to glorify and enjoy him.
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