THE FALL OF GOD’S ENEMIES

 (TEXT TRANSCRIPT OF THE SERMON PREACHED AT ELIJAH MINISTRIES ON 16th January 2005)

What’s been put on my heart today sort of follows on from last week’s great sermon from PJ on the Amalekites. We learnt last week that :

 Our teaching today is entitled THE FALL OF GOD’S ENEMIES. We have a lot of reading to go through today, and not so much talking; also a lot of history and those of you that have been wanting a fire and brimstone sermon – there’s quite a bit of that as well. Nevertheless, I hope I don’t bore you.

 It’s a study of the book of Esther. The Book of Esther is an amazing book – filled with Drama, vanity, power, romance, deception and intrigue – the kind of stuff that best-selling novels are made of. But far from being a piece of fiction, this book describes a true story, lived and written many centuries ago.

It is a classic example of

 KING XERXES
Our story begins in 483BC, this is 100 years after Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian King had destroyed Jerusalem and had taken the Jews into captivity and it is 50 years after Cyrus the Great defeated the Babylonian Empire and formed the Persian empire. In those days, the Persian Empire extended over 127 provinces or countries and included a vast area, from India all the way to Ethiopia. The King at the time was Ahasuerus – which is the name you will find in the King James Version. Ahaseurus is the Hebrew translation of his better known Greek name – Xerxes – King Xerxes.

The Persian Empire controlled most of the earth and had vast and unimaginable wealth. It’s centre was what we know today as the Middle East - Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia – the epicentre of the Muslim world. Now just as the Amalekites are a type of sin in our lives, so the Persian Empire represents this threat in the last days and Esther’s story is a foretaste of what will happen in the end…

Extravagant banquets
When the Persians wanted to go to war, their custom was to throw an extravagant banquet so that all the important people might attend in order that they could plan the battle strategy – well at least that was their excuse.  King Xerxes was planning on going to war with the Greeks, so he threw a party that lasted 6 months. After that was finished, he called for another feast for the inhabitants of the palace and that lasted another 7 days. The Persians were so wealthy that they drank out of solid gold cups, sat on couches made of gold and silver and their pavements were marble. The King had a queen whose name was Vashti and while the men were having their palatial feast, Vashti threw a banquet for all the women. In his drunken state, Xerxes decided to parade his queen before all the men to boast how beautiful she was, but Vashti refused, probably because she was pregnant at the time. King Xerxes was really angry that she had embarrassed him in front of his men by disobeying him. So, in chapter 2 Xerxes banishes Vashti from the palace, and then collects all the beautiful young virgins in the land together to be kept in a separate palace as his harem, so that he could go through them one by one and choose a new Queen from them. Interestingly, in charge of all the King’s palaces were what the KJV describes as “chamberlain’s” – these were actually eunuchs, men that were castrated by the King in order that they might never have children and be able to rise up against him in rebellion. Rebellion has always been a problem for heathen nations throughout history and it obviously happened a lot in the Persian empire to demand such drastic measures – rebellion in many instances was hardly surprising considering the fact that their leaders were such complete and absolute savages, as you will see….

And even though they were such barbarians, they were still under the complete control and sovereignty of God, who, come what may, will accomplish His own will, in His own time.

Esther 

Now in Shushan, where the Kings palaces were, there lived a Jew by the name of Mordecai, whose family had been taken captive and brought to Persia by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, when he defeated Israel and Judah. Mordecai was a God-fearing man and he had a young cousin who was an orphan and so Mordecai looked after her and brought her up. Her name was Esther. Esther is chosen as one of those to become part of the King’s harem. She was a beautiful woman and having been brought up by Mordecai, she too, was God-fearing. Once in the harem palace, she immediately won favour with the Eunuch in charge of the harem, whose name was Hegai. He gave her 7 maidens to look after her and moved her to the best part of the palace…. Was this luck, or the hand of God at work?

In Ch 2 v 12, we learn that before a girl’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, they had to complete 12 months worth of beauty treatments with oil of myrrh, perfumes and cosmetics. Now some Christian women use this verse as an excuse for buying perfumes and cosmetics and spending ages on their makeup! They say Esther did it, and look where it got her! I just hope my wife’s not listening!

 Anyway, once a girl had been with the King, she would return to a different palace, where she became a concubine – there she would stay, unless she had pleased the King and he would summon her by name. When Esther’s turn came, she won the favour of everyone who saw her, including the King, who immediately made her his new queen…. Now to gain favour with everyone might have been luck, but for one of God’s chosen people, a Jew, to be made queen of a godless, heathen nation – that’s got to be the hand of God at work, determining His own will.

 One day, Mordecai overheard 2 officials planning to assassinate King Xerxes, so he told Esther, who told the King and gave the credit for saving his life to Mordecai. The 2 traitors were hanged and the all these events were written down and documented in the King’s history chronicles.

 Hamman
Then in chapter 3, we see the rise of Hamman the Agagite, where the King makes him 2nd in command of everything. The King favoured him so much that he ordered everyone to bow down and kneel in the presence of Hamman…. but Mordecai the Jew refused to do so. Hamman becomes furious with Mordecai, and after he finds out that he is a Jew, he plots to kill Mordecai and to slaughter all the Jews in Persia. He determines the day of the slaughter by casting Purim or lots – and its on this day that Jews today still celebrate the Feast of Purim, commemorating the events of the Book of Esther.

 So who was this Hamman fellow? Well, we know he was an Agagite. But where do the Agagites come from? Who was Agag? Keep a bookmark in Esther and turn with me to 1 Samuel 15….In 1 Sam 15 and verse 8, we read… And Saul took Agag the king of the……. Amalekites!
Can you believe it…. Those pesky darn Amalekites are back again! We just can’t get rid of them. Besides being an Amalekite in disguise, in it’s end-time perspective, Hamman is also a figure of the anti-Christ, who for the last time will attempt to destroy all the Jews. But the AntiChrist too, will get what’s coming to him, just as Hamman does later on… So, true to God’s Word, the Amalekites return to attack us again, only this time disguised as Agagites. 

 Lets carry on, back to Esther… - Hamman is now so angered by Mordecai that he deceives the King into sending out a decree to kill all the Jews on a specific day and he promises to pay 10000 talents of silver to anyone prepared to do it – by the way, 10000 talents of silver? - that’s 375 tons of silver! Just a small show of how wealthy these Persian noblemen were - Filthy rich. Now the plot thickens… earlier on, in Ch 2 v 10, it says that Esther had kept her nationality a secret, according to the instructions of Mordecai, so her husband King Xerxes didn’t even know that his queen was a Jew. Anyway, after deceiving the King, the King gives Hamman permission to pass a decree that gives anyone permission to slaughter Jews on a specific day, and he gives Hamman his signet ring in order to stamp the documents as official. When Mordecai reads the edict ordering the slaughter of all the Jews, he goes into a state of mourning, he weeps, he tears his clothes, he puts on sackcloth and ashes and goes to the King’s gate to try contact Esther. He tells her through one of the eunuchs what has happened and asks her to go to the King and beg for his mercy for her people the Jews.

 Reading from Esther Chapter 4: 9  And Hatach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai. 10  Again Esther spoke to Hatach, and gave him command to Mordecai. 11 the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that whoever, whether man or woman, shall come to the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his, execution, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden scepter so that he may live. But I have not been called to come in to the king for thirty days. 12  And they told Mordecai Esther’s words. 13  And Mordecai commanded them to answer Esther, Do not think within yourself that you shall escape in the king’s house more than all the Jews. 14  For if you are completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise to the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house shall be destroyed. And who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for a time like this?

Mordecai tells Esther that it is quite likely that God has made her queen for the very purpose of saving the Jews. He also tells her that it is her calling to do what she has to. And how true is this –in  v14 Mordecai says that if she doesn’t deliver the Jews, deliverance will come from somewhere else, and that deliverance will come at the expense of her own salvation and that of her family.

This is a stern warning to all of us - If we are not prepared to do the things that God calls us to do, in His sovereignty and power, He WILL get someone else to do the job instead, and that would be at the risk of our own judgement and destruction. Are you prepared to do what God calls you to do?

Verse 15 … And Esther said to return to Mordecai this answer,16  Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me, and do not eat nor drink three days, night or day. My maidservants and I will also fast in the same way. And so I will go in to the king, which is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.

Fasting and prayer
Here we see God’s answer on how to deal with the attack of the Amalekites – And it doesn’t say that we should go out to the mountain tops, bind the evil spirits, bind the devil and claim dominion on earth! It says that we deal with them by Firstly – following His Word, and secondly by Fasting. And fasting in the Bible always goes hand-in-hand with prayer. If you have an issue to deal with in your life…. Fast and pray. That’s how God wants you to deal with it. And with fasting and prayer, come blessings….

Chapter 5: 1 And it happened on the third day, Esther put on royal clothing, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, And the king sat on his royal throne in the royal house, verse 2  And it happened when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she received favor in his sight. And the king held out to Esther the golden scepter in his hand. And Esther drew near and touched the top of the scepter.

Normally, in Persian custom, if you approached the King without permission, you would lose your life instantly. Here we see the result of fasting and prayer - God blessing His children with miraculous intervention.

Verse 3  …And the king said to her, What do you desire, queen Esther? And what is your wish? It shall be given to you even to half of the kingdom. 4  And Esther answered, If it is good to the king, let the king and Haman come today to the banquet which I have prepared for him. 5  And the king said, Cause Haman to hurry so that he may do as Esther has said. And the king and Haman came to the banquet which Esther had prepared. 6  And the king said to Esther at the banquet of wine, What is your petition that it shall be granted to you? And what is your request? It shall be performed even to half of the kingdom. ….and Esther invites them both to another banquet the next day… Verse  9  … And Haman went forth that day joyful and with a glad heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he did not stand up nor move for him, he was full of fury against Mordecai.

Hamman was so consumed by his hatred of Mordecai, that his blood boiled at the very sight of him. Hatred and bitterness are like weeds with long roots that grow in the heart and corrupt every aspect of life.  Heb 12: 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

James 14: 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have bitterness and selfish ambition, there you find confusion and every evil practice.

Don’t let hatred or bitterness build in your heart. If the mere mention of someone’s name provokes you to anger, you need to confess your bitterness as sin to Jesus, or you’ll find that it will backfire on you, causing confusion, evil practice and ultimately, like Hamman, destruction.

 

Then, back to the story,   … Hamman’s family advises him to build a wooden gallows, which he could use to hang Mordecai on, and he does so.

Ch 6: 1  On that night the king could not sleep, and he commanded to bring the Book of the Records of the Matter of the Days. And they were read before the king. 2  And it was found written that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, the keepers of the door who tried to lay a hand on king Xerxes. 3  And the king said, What honor and dignity has been done to Mordecai for this? And the king’s servants said, Nothing has been done for him. 4  And the king said, Who is in the court? And Haman had come into the outer court of the king’s house to speak to the king to hang Mordecai on the wooden gallows which he had prepared for him. 5  And the king’s servants said to him, Behold, Haman stands in the court. And the king said, Let him come in. 6  So Haman came in. And the king said to him, What shall be done to the man whom the king delights to honor? And Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honor more than to myself?

The fall of Hamman
Now this is absolutely amazing. God causes the King to have insomnia, he calls for the book of records and opens the book right at the spot where Mordecai saved his life. The King calls for someone’s advice on the matter and who should walk in, none other than Hamman himself! Hamman then thinks the King wants to honour him, but ironically, the King actually wants to honour his greatest enemy! Are these all coincidences? I don’t think so... They are more like miracles. … Why?
The God of Israel is Sovereign! Amen? … Hallelujah! ….And He will go to extraordinary lengths to protect His people.

So Haman advises the king on how to honour him, then in verse 10 we read:  And the king said to Haman, Make haste! Take the clothing and the horse, as you have said, and do.. even.. so.. to.. Mordecai the Jew, and Do not fail to do any of all the things you have spoken.

Aiiieeee, Poor Hamman - he must have nearly had a coronary on the spot! Hamman now has to parade Mordecai through the streets shouting his praises. What an ironic twist of events!

Then we go onto Ch 7.

1  And the king and Haman came to the banquet of Esther the queen. 2  And the king said again to Esther on the second day of the banquet of wine, What is your petition, queen Esther, that it may be granted you? ..Onto v3:  And Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. 4  For we are sold, my people and I, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to perish. But if we had been sold for men-slaves and women-slaves, I would have held my tongue, although the enemy could not make up for the king’s damage. 5  And king Xerxes answered and said to Esther the queen, Who is he, and where is the one who dares presume in his heart to do so? 6  And Esther said, The man who is our adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. And Haman was afraid before the king and the queen. 7  And the king, arising from the banquet in his wrath, went into the palace garden. And Haman stood up to beg for his life from Esther the queen, for he saw that evil was determined against him by the king. 8  And the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine. And Haman had fallen on the bed on which Esther was. And the king said, Will he also force the queenbefore mein the house? As the word went out of the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. (A man sentenced to death always got a shroud put over their heads, so that they couldn’t see a condemned man’s face) Verse 9  And Harbonah, one of the eunuchs, said before the king, Also look! the wooden gallows fifty cubits high which Haman made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, stands in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him on it! 10  And they hanged Haman on the wooden gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. And the king’s wrath lay down.

How the tables have turned!  Through fasting and prayer…..

Then in Chapter 8, Hamman’s entire estate is given to Mordecai, and we know how rich Hamman was. Verse 3   And Esther spoke yet again before the king, and fell down at his feet, and begged him with tears to put away the evil of Haman the Agagite, and his plot which he had plotted against the Jews. 4  Then the king held out the golden scepter toward Esther. And Esther arose and stood before the king, 5  and said, If it please the king… let it be written to bring back the documents (a sly plan by Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite) which he wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king’s provinces. 6  For how can I bear to see the evil that shall come on my people? Or how can I endure to see the slaughter of my kindred?

Now what we need to understand here is the fact that in Persian custom, once the King had passed a law, it could NEVER be rescinded or taken back, regardless of how wrong it was. Another law had to be passed in order to reduce the effects of the first law. So even though Hamman had been hanged, the date for the destruction of the Jews was still in force as a decree of the King, which couldn’t be changed.

Then in the next few verses, we see the wisdom of a person who follows God. Hamman had decreed that on the 13th day of the 12th month anyone could kill a Jew and plunder his property and belongings. Now Xerxes allows Mordecai to write his own decree. Mordecai’s decree could not stop Hamman’s because no man could turn the law back. Instead, Mordecai had the king sign a law that gave the Jews the right to fight back and defend themselves.

Verse  16  The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor. 17  And in every province, and in every city where the king’s command and his order came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews, for the fear of the Jews fell on them. …. Amazing….

Then in Chapter 9, we see that when the day of slaughter came, the Jews turned the tables on their enemies. All the rulers of the Provinces suddenly had great fear of the Jews, and instead of attacking them, helped them defend themselves. In the Palace, they killed 500 men and in the rural areas they killed 75000 people and the 10 sons of Hamman. Nowhere did they plunder property or take any spoils, they only defended themselves.

v :17  And on the thirteenth day of the month Adar, and on the fourteenth day of the same, they rested and made it a day of feasting and gladness.

This feast became the feast of Purim, the feast of Deliverance, which is still celebrated by Jews today in February or March, depending on the year. Chapter 10 of Esther then goes on to deal with how God continues to bless Mordecai and how He raises him up to be 2nd in command of the entire Kingdom, while the history books tell us that King Xerxes also got his just reward.

Some history
A little bit of history: Remember at the beginning of Esther, that Xerxes had a 6 month long banquet to plan his invasion of Greece? Well he finally decides to invade and sends his mighty navy to do battle with the Greeks and his huge Tireme ships outnumbered the Greeks 3 to one, but better tactics and faster ships saw the Greeks decimate his entire fleet. 200 ships were sunk. The rest of the Persian army retreated or deserted and the threat of Persian domination was effectively ended. Then, about 10 years later, despite Xerxes best attempts at preventing rebellion, by castration, he was assassinated by his own Chief Minister in 465 BC.

Now remember his first wife Vashti, whom he banished while she was pregnant, well she gave birth to his son, named Arta-xerxes, who took over as King of Persia. And to add insult to injury, Artaxerxes appointed his mother Vashti as Queen Mother and she had considerable influence in the land…. And that basically is the story of Esther…

In this amazing story, we clearly see the hand of God at work in the lives of individuals and of a nation. 2 Jews, 2 of God’s chosen among a multitude of heathen savages, and who got the blessings? He is an amazingly faithful God. Even when it looks like there is no hope in this world, when things just seem to be getting more and more evil, where persecution is rife, know brothers and sisters… that God protects those that are His. Even though we might not understand why things happen, know that God is in control.

Christian persecution
Sometimes our own Christian walks can be extremely difficult, but most of us forget about those Christians in the world who are really under attack. Let me read you a few statistics:

Earthquakes and Tsunami's
Now, consider the Tsunami that has taken approximately 280 000 lives so far, and that figure grows every day. Where did most of the devastation take place? In Indonesia and Sri Lanka. There are many, many stories of Christians who survived the devastation by miraculous means – you can read them every day in the newspaper, and these people all give glory to God.

The facts are:

The truth is, people, that God has not forgotten the attacks and the persecution of His people. The tsunamis are in my opinion (and this is not a prophecy, it’s just an opinion) the tsunamis are an act of God and reflect the judgment of an angry God who has seen the plight of Christian martyrs in this region. The tsunamis are a divine judgment on heathen nations for the persecution and murder of Christians, including Christian children. The Lord avenges His people. The earthquakes and tsunamis are only the beginning of God's wrath against this evil world. And as PJ pointed out to us last week, when God shakes the heavens, things are going to get a lot worse. There is a great tape of PJ’s entitled – what to do when the shaking starts. Well people, the shaking has started… I urge those of you who haven’t heard it, to get it and listen to it, because time is running out.

And the really sad thing…. is that God’s Word tells us in The Book of Revelation that all the destruction and mayhem will only increase their rejection of God and cause them to curse Him even more. Rev 16:11 says: And they blasphemed the God of Heaven because of their pains and their sores. And they did not repent of their deeds.

Yet the headlines in the newspapers read: If there is a God, why would He cause such suffering of innocent people… the press bleats: A loving God wouldn’t do such a thing. Even Pastors deny God’s involvement, that God would never cause suffering of this nature?!  ………

I submit that they don’t understand the Sovereignty of an absolute and Almighty God, who NEVER changes, and who will have mercy, on whom He will have mercy, compassion, on whom He will have compassion.

 I ask them

Turn to 1 Peter 4………reading from v12 - Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you, but rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. If any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because.. you bear this name.

All these people conveniently forget the other facets of a loving and fair and perfect God. It all goes together with the lukewarm church of Laodicea – Surely, God is love, oh thank God for His love, He is full of mercy, grace and compassion (Thankyou Jesus!),…. and He desires everyone to come to their salvation. But everyone has forgotten that He is also the great …..Judge …

In closing, please turn with me to Deut 32…

Deut 32  3Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. 4He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.

Verse 4 says He is the ROCK. Who is the Rock? …….JESUS!

 Verse 16  They provoked Him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger. 17  They sacrificed to devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new ones newly come up, whom your fathers did not fear. 18  You forgot the Rock who brought you forth, and ceased to care for God who formed you. 19   And the LORD saw, and despised them because of the provoking (or Persecution) of His sons and of His daughters. 20  And He said, I will hide My face from them; I will see what their end shall be. For they are a very perverse generation, sons in whom is no faithfulness. 21  They have moved Me to jealousy with a no-god. They have provoked Me to anger with their vanities. And I will move them to jealousy with a no-people. I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. 22  For a fire is kindled in My anger, and shall burn to the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with its increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. 23  I will heap evils on them. I will spend My arrows on them. 24  Exhaustion by famine, and consumption by burning heat, and bitter destruction, and the teeth of beasts I will send on them, with the poison of crawling things of the dust. 25  The sword outside, and the terror inside, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the babies also with the man of grey hairs.

 This was a judgement pronounced on Israel, on His own people. Does God change? No, so don’t tell me that God doesn’t cause suffering of women and children through His judgement, because then you haven’t understood His Sovereignty and His perfect justice. Because they have rejected Him over and over and over, and continued to blaspheme His name, in God’s judgement, suffering is very real.

 

Verse 31  For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges. 32  For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah. Their grapes are grapes of gall. Their clusters are bitter. 33  Their wine is the poison of serpents, and the cruel venom of asps. 34  Is not this laid up in store with Me and sealed up among My treasures? 35  Vengeance and retribution belong to Me. Their foot shall slide in time, for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come on them make haste. 36  For the LORD will bring His people justice; and He shall have compassion on His servants, for He sees that their power is gone, and only the imprisoned and abandoned remain. 37  And He shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted? 38  Who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offerings? Let them rise up and help you; let it be your hiding place. 39  See now.. that I, I am He, and there is no god with me. I kill, and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is no deliverer of My hand.  40  For I lift up My hand to Heaven and say, I live forever! 41  If I sharpen My glittering sword, and if My hand takes hold in judgment, I will give vengeance to My enemies and will reward those that hate Me. 42  I will make My arrows drunk with blood, and My sword shall devour flesh, with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the hairy scalp of the enemy. 43  Rejoice, O, nations, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance to His foes and will be merciful to… His land, to …His people

Are WE  His people? Hallelujah? If you don’t love Jesus, then you hate Him. If you haven’t done so already, ask forgiveness and commit your life to Jesus… today…. love Him and serve Him by reading His Word, following His commandments and by fasting and praying. Your reward will be His promise of eternal life.

Amen and thankyou for your time.