Sermon Text: Esther 6:1–7:10
Preacher: Pastor Brian Sauvé
The Cosmos At Chiastic Center
So this morning, God willing, we’ll make our way through the sixth and seventh chapter of the story of Esther. While you’re turning there, I’d like to tell you a story about my dad that I did not ask permission to share, so Dad, if you’re listening… sorry.
When my dad was in school—I think it was high school, he was in a wood shop class where you could pick basically any project and make it. This was in the days before the US Government stole all of our freedom in the name of safety.
I’m not kidding, every project that my dad has from this class, and we still have a handful of them, are weapons. Like, “Hmmm, let’s ask a group of mostly male 14 to 17-year-olds what they would like to make. Maybe a nice armoire? Nah, I’m making a billy club.”
The billy club is actually pretty sweet. Good use of a lathe, in my opinion. But this story is actually about a more advanced weapon: the crossbow. In answer to your question, yes, my dad was literally allowed to make a real, working crossbow in his public high school.
So he made this crossbow, got it all put together, and what comes next, guys? It’s not going on the wall. This isn’t a decoration. No, you make a crossbow to go and shoot stuff you’re probably not supposed to shoot.
So, here was the problem. My dad had made the crossbow, but he didn’t have any bolts for it. So what do you do? Guys, what do you do?
The correct answer is that you turn something that is in no way intended to be shot at high speed out of a crossbow into a crossbow bolt and you see what happens—pretty much anything generally straight and pointy will work.
The object at hand that my dad found was a throwing dart from a dart board. So he loaded it up, pointed it down the hall, and pulled the trigger.
Now, it’s unclear in the family legendarium exactly what happened next. We’re not certain if this was a ricochet or if it got caught in the string and jerked back, but the next thing my dad knew was that he had a throwing dart buried as deep as it could go in his own neck.
That’s the moment in the story where you tell all of your brothers (who, let’s be honest, are standing there waiting their turn with the crossbow), “Don’t tell mom!”
Congratulations, you’ve just shot yourself in the neck with your own crossbow, somehow. That’s basically what God is going to do to Haman this morning in Esther chapter 6 and 7, but on a much grander scale.
The whole point of this text is the whole point of this book and therefore the whole point of this sermon—and I’m going to give it away right here up front—is that the Lord delights to turn the schemes of his enemies onto their head and use their very attempts to destroy God’s people to redeem, deliver, serve, and even exalt them.
We will see this pattern threefold: Here in chapters 6 and 7 with Esther, Mordecai, and the people of God in Persia—the pinnacle of the book. Then in Christ and his cross. And finally, we will see this same pattern at work in our own lives as God’s people.
Here’s where we are as we pick up in the story of Esther in chapter 6. The people of Israel are in exile from the Promised Land because of their sin and unbelief, in exile in the empire of Persia.
And they are in mortal danger, her in chapter 6, because the pagan king, Ahasuerus, has decreed that the entire people are to be wiped out and plundered on a certain day that year. He gave this command at the bidding of an even more wicked man, a descendant of the historic enemy of God’s people—the Amalekites—a man named Haman. Haman hates the Jews because he hates Mordecai, a Jewish man who refused to pay him homage.
But through God’s providence, even in the midst of a series of extremely wicked and sexually perverted events, Mordecai’s adopted daughter, Esther, is the king’s wife.
Now, for the first half of the story, Esther and Mordecai really hid out, tried to conceal their identity as part of God’s people. But the Lord graciously brought them to repentance, to full and risky identification with that people, culminating in what we looked at last week.
There, in chapter 5, we saw Esther risk execution by going before the King uninvited in order to make an appeal for the lives of the Jewish people. However, she has been very crafty.
She knows that the king is an egotistical man, and that any hint of public disrespect will set him off. Now, what could be more “disrespectful” to that kind of guy than his wife coming to him publicly and basically saying, “Your order to kill the Jewish people is evil. You need to take that back”?
So instead of doing that, she gets crafty, and tries to set herself up for success as much as possible, to go out of her way to honor and display respect for him publicly. She’s doing all she can, but the reality is, as we walk away from things in Esther 5, it is a tough sell to believe that there is really any hope that she can change his mind. In fact, the author of Esther intensifies that feeling that she is certain to fail by leaving us in chapter 5 with Haman offended at Mordecai again and doubling down on his plans to destroy him and the Jews, even going so far as to have a huge stake set up to impale Mordecai on.
So that stake is casting a shadow over us as we walk into chapter 6. Things seem hopeless. So what we need to have in our minds as we get into the first section of chapter 6 is simply: How on earth could this thing turn out for the salvation of even Mordecai, let alone the entire Jewish people!
So far, Esther’s plan seems to be to invite Haman and the king to dinner! Let’s see what the Lord does.
Exaltation & Humiliation
Verse 1, and as we read, you’re going to notice a whole lot of “just so happens” kind of turns of fate:
“On that night the king could not sleep. [So remember, she’s had him over to dinner, but didn’t tell him her request, but asked him for a second dinner the next day. And so now, in God’s providence he can’t sleep. Maybe he’s wondering what Esther wants?] And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. And it was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. And the king said, “What honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” The king's young men who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.” And the king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king's palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for him. And the king's young men told him, “Haman is there, standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him come in.” So Haman came in, and the king said to him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” And Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?”
Do you see the trap that the Lord is weaving closer and closer around Haman? Again, God may not be mentioned by name in this book, but that is just supposed to help us see his invisible hand working through providence. So far, we have this:
The king so happens to have insomnia.
The king so happens to respond by asking for the royal records to be read.
They happen to turn to the page where Mordecai’s good deed was recounted.
It just so happened that Mordecai had the opportunity to perform that good deed, and the heart to do it, even for his enemy.
The king so happens to ask who is in the court.
Haman so happens to be in the court.
Haman’s mind so happens to be on the destruction of Mordecai and just so happens to mistake the king’s request to concern himself.
And Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set. And let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king's most noble officials. Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.’” Then the king said to Haman, “Hurry; take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king's gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.” So Haman took the robes and the horse, and he dressed Mordecai and led him through the square of the city, proclaiming before him, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.”
Then Mordecai returned to the king's gate. But Haman hurried to his house, mourning and with his head covered. And Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.”
Haughty Haman—the very embodiment of genocidal, satanic opposition to the people of God—forced to humiliate himself before the city, parading his enemy Mordecai through the square and crying out his honor.
Now, there is still a whole lot in the narrative to be solved. The Jewish people are still under a decree of genocide. We still don’t know whether Esther’s plan will work. But this is the moment when the trap is sprung, and the Lord begins to unravel the enemy’s plots.
In fact, the very bones, the very structure of the book of Esther tells us this. The story is crafted into what you may have heard called—if you ever took an advanced Literature or poetry class—a chiasm.
The word chiasm is built around the Greek letter chi, which is shaped like the letter X in our alphabet. And it simply refers to a literary device, usually in poetry or narrative, where the author emphasizes important elements in the story by they way the story is arranged.
So the way that it works in Esther is that elements from the first half of the story are mirrored in the second half. One example is that the story starts with the exaltation of Ahasuerus in the context of two feasts.
At the very end of the story, that will be mirrored in the splendor of Mordecai in the context of two feasts. The whole story is shaped like that, like an X that folds around a central point.
What is that central point in Esther? Because when you find a chiasm, usually the most important point, the point the author wants you to see as essentially the most important moment in the story, is where the lines cross, the center of that X. And this moment—Haman’s humiliation and Mordecai’s exaltation—is the center of this chiasm.
What that tells us is that whatever theme we find here at the crossing of the lines, at the center of the X—that is likely to be the mega-theme the author would have us see.
What is that theme? I told you right up front: The Lord delights to use the very schemes of the enemy to destroy God’s people to actually exalt his people. He delights to display his glory by making the enemies of God’s people lead them through the public square, shouting their honor.
However, at this point in the story, the stake outside Haman’s house still casts a shadow over Mordecai. Let’s see what the Lord does with it, verse 1 of chapter 7,
“While they were yet talking with him, the king's eunuchs arrived and hurried to bring Haman to the feast that Esther had prepared. So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther.”
So here’s the feast that Esther planned, remember, her attempts to put her request to the king to save the Jews in the most favorable possibly light. And it’s crafty, but it is about to work in a way that again shows us that Mordecai and Esther aren’t the heroes of this story—God is; God, working providentially behind the scenes to prosper their plans. Verse 2,
“And on the second day, as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king again said to Esther, “What is your wish, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king.” [See how crafty she is being in the over-the-top display of respect to the king?] Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has dared to do this?” And Esther said, “A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen [Again, who did she highlight as the enemy—Haman or Ahasuerus? Haman!].
And the king arose in his wrath from the wine-drinking and went into the palace garden, but Haman stayed to beg for his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that harm was determined against him by the king. And the king returned from the palace garden to the place where they were drinking wine, as Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was. And the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?” As the word left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman's face. Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Moreover, the gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, is standing at Haman's house, fifty cubits high.” And the king said, “Hang him on that.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the wrath of the king abated.”
Now, the Jewish people are still under the genocidal decree. We will see how the Lord resolves that in our final week in the book next week. But I want you to see the shape of this story with me—that shape we saw at the center of the X—is not just an interesting plot device in an interesting story. This isn’t just a cute story about getting back at a bad guy who got what was coming to him. No, this is the very shape of the center of the biblical story. See it with me:
The people of God rebel against God. In his mercy, God warns them, pleads with them, and when they refuse to hear, exiles them and sells them into the hands of their enemies—in this case, Persia.
Those enemies rise up in pride: “Look at my power! Their God couldn’t keep them from being conquered!” And those enemies plot and rise up to destroy God’s people.
God uses the plotting of those enemies like a birch rod to chastise his people and call them to repentance—to bring them to the point where they see their sin, see their need, and cry out with the realization that they can’t save themselves.
God then uses the very schemes of the enemies to destroy themselves. This is what it means when the prophet Isaiah promises the people of God in Isaiah 54, that no weapon formed against them will prosper.
God delights to turn the schemes of enemies onto their head and use their very attempts to destroy God’s people to deliver them, serve them, and even exalt them.
The Cosmos & The Chiastic Center
This is the shape of the entire biblical story. That story, whispered about here in Esther, is shouted on the cross of Christ. What was Jesus doing on the cross? He was using the very plotting of the serpent, of the enemy, to crush him. It was promised all the way back in Genesis 3:15, that Christ, the virgin-born Seed of the Woman, would crush the serpent’s head, even as he himself was bruised in the heel in the process.
What is the cross? The cross is the salvation of the world, the salvation of a world sold under sin, captive to the serpent, and in love with darkness. The cross is the forgiveness of our sin—and glorious is that truth! But it is also the moment when the Serpent’s head was crushed, the enemy of God and his people.
The cross is the foot of Jesus coming down on the head of the serpent who plotted his destruction.
The cross is Satan and fallen mankind building a great stake in the ground on which to pierce and hang the Son of God, only to find themselves hanging there instead.
When Jesus, as Paul put it, became sin on the cross, that we might become the righteousness of Christ—that is what you’re seeing. The Son becoming an embodiment of sin and death and all of the things holding you and the world captive, in order that those very enemies might be destroyed through death.
When Jesus rose, he left those old enemies crushed, battered, bloodied, and defeated in the grave. And he rose, exalted, glorified, vibrant with new creational life and ready to give that life to his freed, forgiven, and befriended people.
No weapon formed against the Son of God or the people of God can prosper, because we worship a God who delights to use their very attempts at evil to destroy evil. And listen: He is doing that for you, all the time, with every aspect of your life, from here into eternity.
Romans 8:28, Enstoried
I told you that we would see the pattern of Esther’s story enfleshed on the cross, and then in our own lives. We see this through the unbreakable promises that God has given us.
God has promised you, Christian, that he is doing what he did to Haman to every single enemy that would come against you, to every single particle of suffering that would come into your life.
Esther is nothing less than the promises of God in Romans 8, enfleshed in the story of history. Listen to the promises he has made you and guaranteed in the blood of Jesus,
“…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Do you know what it means that in all of those things he listed, we are more than conquerors? What things? Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, slaughtering. We are more than conquerors, because a conqueror might defeat an enemy, but our Lord hasn’t merely defeated sin and death and suffering—he has enslaved them to serve us.
This is the promise to you: In Christ, God will make your enemies into your servants. He will force them to parade you through the square on the way to exaltation. “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!”
He will take very word of slander uttered against you for the sake of Christ, and he will use that word of opposition to bless you—like he did when Balaam tried to curse Israel, only to overflow in blessing.
It means that every illness you have, from the common cold to pancreatic cancer, can’t do anything but serve you, even if it kills you. Even if it wastes away your earthly tent, it can’t touch your life.
It means that every circumstance and instance of suffering in your life, suffering that seemed meaningless and extravagant, has a collar on its neck, and God is holding the other end of the leash, and he is making it work for your good. He is working all things together for your good.
I can’t tell you today how he is doing that. I’m not sovereign or all-wise or all-knowing—but the Lord is. And he knows. And he has promised.
So let me leave you this morning with three words, three sentences, that begin with the word “therefore,” meaning, “In light of that promise:”
1. Therefore, repent of any particle of trust that you have misplaced in any other savior or exalter.
There is no other god that can deliver you from your own guilt, from death itself, and from every enemy. Nothing else can bring you into the glory for which you were made—the glory of a creature renovated in the image of Christ, a new creation in the new creation, at peace with God and walking with God forever. Your heart is a restless thing until it finds that rest and that glory.
2. Therefore, when you look out into the world and feel like you’re confronted with an impenetrable wall of wickedness, don’t fear.
That power is vapor.
That strength is temporary, illusory, and no match for the power of God and his Kingdom—look what he did against the might of the Persian Empire with nothing but an old man and young woman? And we haven’t even gotten to chapters 8, 9, and 10!
3. Therefore, enemies of the Lord take notice.
Every knee is going to bend to Jesus.
Haman was brought low, in fact just as the prophets promised, the entire might of the Persian Empire was brought to nothing. All the empires of earth are like dust that blows away in a stiff breeze before Christ—the stone that topples kingdoms and becomes a world-redeeming mountain.
The Communist Party in China, terrified of the power of the gospel and therefore doing all it can to stop the advance of God’s Kingdom through the Chinese church—is going to bend the knee to Jesus, and Jesus is using their feverish attempts to imprison and crush that church, right now, to exalt them. Just wait.
Every so-called prophet of the LDS Church, preaching a different gospel, every Instagram influencer, enticing people to worship themselves and live for their own glory, every pornographer spitting on the image of God, every opponent of God’s church, every abortion-clinic escort, every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, every power and every principality will be brought low before the Lord and his Anointed.
As Jesus exhorts us in John 16:33, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.”