In the Book of Esther we see the perseverance of the older saint Mordecai, as he … rent his clothes, and went out into the midst of the city… (Es 4:1), and the younger saint Esther as she prepares to risk her life by boldly going … in unto the king, which is not according to the law… (v. 16). They could so easily have preserved their own earthly comforts and benefits, but like Moses spurned the easy enjoyments of this world for the far greater glory of our Father’s heavenly kingdom.
Meanwhile, the pride and fury of Haman is relentless, intense and specifically focused. His rage is almost uncontrollable, he being full of wrath (Es 3:5), full of indignation (5:9) and full of the glory of his riches (v.11). We ought not to forget that Satan forcefully and persistently continues to be the accuser of our brethren (Rev 12:10) and is full of great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time (v. 12).
Whether through religious or political leaders, Satan manifests himself in a variety of guises, perhaps the most subtle and insidious being through certain celebrated preachers whose public words seemingly hold up the biblical doctrine of faith in Christ, but who are in fact … false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ (2 Cor 11:13). As shocking as it may sound, this should be … no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light (v. 14).
Whether in (Mordecai and Esther’s) new-found prosperity, or in (Job or Jonah’s) sudden adversity, Satan will never leave us alone and especially targets us in a time of change or uncertainty, when godly habits and routines might be threatened. May we struggle for the glory and glory in that struggle, being assured that our trials of prosperity and adversity are … for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness (Heb 12:10), knowing that our hate-filled, pride-filled, age-old accuser shall one day be … cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Rev 20:10).
When tired, in turmoil or transition
Satan gets into position,
roaring leonine ambition
thwarting grace his only mission.
Through fatigue, flux or frustration
Satan moves as is his station,
once near God, now no relation
sin’s his rule, retaliation.
Change or charm or challenge comes
Satan is there, hear how he hums,
first sinful depths expertly plumbs
then souls for scrap, he does his sums.
By hook or crook or by the book
Satan’s the bait Christ never took,
for all of us before mistook
Satan as Christ, saved sinners, look!
If whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning … (Rom 15:4) and beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself (Lu 24:27) then we are surely to read the royal love story between Esther and King Ahasuerus not merely as an isolated excerpt in the history of the Jewish people but as a profound and instructive picture of Christ and the church.
Esther, unlike the Queen of Sheba (illustrative of the seeking experience) is described not as one seeking but as one having been brought also unto the king’s house … (Es 2:8), the holy penman of the Book of Esther emphasising how he preferred her (2:9). A Christian, by parallel, is not someone who has initiated a saving relationship with God (although subjectively the seeking experience occurs) but is one who has acted in response to the Holy Spirit’s work within, utterly dependent on this. Christ Jesus reminds us that Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you (Jn 15:6), there being no personal basis for one’s salvation other than the sovereign will of God.
Esther is described as having purified herself with oil of myrrh and with sweet odours (Es 2:12), and that King Ahasuerus delighted in her (2:14) as she obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her (2:15). So too are the prayers of believers described as having ascended up before God with the smoke of the incense (Rev 8:4), the Lord shunning the Vashtian beauty of the world in favour of the rare Christian beauty of a meek and quiet spirit (1 Pe 3:4).
The ‘so’ of So Esther was taken unto king Ahasuerus into his house royal (Es 2:16) speaks of effectual calling. Like us, Esther had her trials, doubts and difficulties but ultimately obtained grace and favour in his sight (Es 2:17). Christian believers find assurance not in their own works but in the ‘he’ of … he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:6). Relief rather than frustration is in the confession that salvation is entirely by grace and through faith; and that not of yourselves (Eph 2:8).
Thank God, for what proud, Vashtian destruction would we wreak upon ourselves if we were but once favoured, to be then left to our own devices.
Oh Lord I pray that this one in my arms
You’d steal away from vicious worldly charms,
that she would see the Holy One alone
the only way her sins for to atone.
Oh Lord I pray that that one in my shake
You’d steal from manmade science’s mistake,
that he would see the Daysman’s living bread
the only way to keep him from the dead.
Oh Lord I pray that that one in my view
You’d steal from this degenerate human zoo,
that she would see the radiance of Him
the only way her dark desires to dim.
Oh Lord I pray that that one in my words
You’d steal away from sharp and spiteful birds,
that he would see the love of God himself
the only way to God being God Himself.
It is remarkable that any of us upon the face of this earth should be reserved, saved, redeemed at all. Perhaps an even more remarkable thing is the way in which the Lord, the Infinite condescends to limit Himself, at least apparently, as He deigns to remind Lot of His command to leave Sodom and Gomorrah in a most fatherly and tender way: Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar (Genesis 19:22).
Knowing what we know about Lot; his compromised life decisions and the subsequent actions of his daughters, we might be tempted to call him a man of little faith. Even Zoar, the place he himself chooses means ‘little’ or ‘small’, perhaps another example of Lot reducing or limiting his own blessings. Even so, the Holy Spirit views him through Christ as just Lot (2 Pe 2:7), righteous man and righteous soul (2 Pe 2:8); if Lot’s ultimate identity is partially concealed in the Old Testament, it is definitively revealed in the New.
The fact, therefore, that the Almighty shows such kindness, such apparent limitation and condescension is deeply comforting. The Lord is saying to all His sheep that He will not and in a sense (reverently speaking) cannot bring this world to an end until He has saved the very last one. As unworthy and disappointing as we often are, like Lot if we are privileged to be of the Shepherd, we are graciously numbered among those who follow him: for they know his voice (John 10:4).
Not you they hate but who you love
the Holy One sitting above,
and so they take it out on you
and yet they hate Him, you in lieu.
Not you they know nor who you know
for He has made you white as snow,
and they are mired within their mess
not knowing they’re in hopelessness.
Not you they see but someone else
but really they’re of someone else,
the harpy’s iceberg, not the ship
lurking, immense, we see the tip.
Not you they love, oh not at all
since they are Adam’s, of the Fall,
and so we were and would be still
if Christ had never left that hill.
A sobering wake-up call it is to remember how unpopular and despised the doctrine of election has been, from the time of Esau and Jacob, to the time of our Lord’s incarnation, to our own days. For where there is any shred of self; self esteem, self congratulation, self righteousness, this doctrine will repel. To many things were the early followers of Christ open, but when that doctrine was clearly spelled out by the God-man himself, from that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him (Jn 6:66).
There is no improving upon one’s human nature, ie. the old man (Eph 4:22). There is no hope in your ‘self’, either pre or post conversion. To think so is to be foolish, to try to add to God’s salvation, endeavouring to be made perfect by the flesh (Gal 3:3). Perhaps it was this grievous error that the Holy Spirit is magnifying with Remember Lot’s wife (Lu 17:32). It was maybe not so much the evil love of a wicked, condemned city which sealed God’s judgement of her, so much as the love of her natural, customary, old life that remained in her. She hadn’t let go of her ‘self’, so that whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it (v.33).
It is this urgent truth which so zealously spurred on the apostle Paul. This is no secondary doctrine or denominational tradition but the very essence of salvation, the litmus test of faith. It is either a) Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9), or b) Salvation is of the Lord but also of self. It cannot be both. The apostle warns us, too, that our freedom from the ‘self’ (or ‘flesh’ or ‘old man’ or ‘human nature’) ought to make us less self indulgent and more spiritually alive to others, so that by love we might serve one another (Gal 5:13), freed now from that fierce, incessant, human battle, be it in the realm of the workplace, the home or even the church.