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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10:45am Service, 2005-02-20

Text: Esther 4:14

I. It is a Truth that Can Sustain and Strengthen Us.

For the past two Sundays, our messages have been focused on the subject of God's sovereignty. This is a very profound subject. It takes us into the realm of what the Apostle Paul calls 'The deep things of God' (1 Corinthians 2:10). But it also has very practical value for us. And it can make an important difference in our lives when it is applied properly.

For instance, devout, godly and wealthy farmer is told that all his oxen and asses have been destroyed by robbers; and not long after that, lightning destroys all his sheep and servants. As if those are not catastrophic enough, even all those who look after his camels are killed and his camels are carried off by bandits. Finally, information reaches him that all his grown up children are killed by a roof cave in. In another scenario, a godly father who has a family with 3 small children discovers that he is dying from cancer. What truth will sustain and strengthen the godly farmer and the godly father at such a time? Is there any hope? What can the pastor tell them to help them understand and cope with their distress? What supreme truth of God's Word can we appeal to that will bring hope and a measure of relief to them?

There is only one supreme truth that can do that - the sovereignty of God! This truth means that God is on the throne of the Universe, that He is controlling and directing all things, working all things after the counsel of His own perfect will. The sovereignty of God is a wonderful truth that sustains and strengthens us in the midst of all our trials. Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher said, 'There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God's Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that Sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all.' Jay E. Adams, the well known author on Christian counselling wrote, 'Knowing that God knows, that God cares, that God hears their prayers, and that God can and will act in His time and way to work even in this for good to His own . . . that, and nothing less than that conviction, can carry them through. And what that hope may be reduced to is: a confident assurance that God is sovereign.' 

II. It is a Truth That Should Humble Us.

God's sovereignty really exalts Him far above every boast or claim of human power and authority. Whenever we puny human beings do things, there are things that are within our control. For example if we plan to have a Gospel Sunday service, we can decide the time, the preacher and the people who are to be invited to come. We can go all out to publicise it and make the most detailed preparations, leaving no stone unturned.

But there are also things that are entirely beyond our control, e.g. the weather - a heavy downpour can wash all our plans away; The traffic conditions on that day - this may be so bad on that particular day that those who want to come cannot get to the place at all; And most of all, the choice of the people who are invited to come - this is totally beyond our control. All these things show us how restricted and limited we are - we must all accept the fact that we can only plan or do things within the existing parameters that limit us. We cannot do all that we please. 

In contrast to this, God faces no limitations at all in doing whatever pleases Him. Things like the weather, traffic conditions and even the will of man are fully beneath His control. The Bible tells us in Romans 8:28 'And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.' This verse tells us that God uses all things to work His perfect will for our lives. He can use people, places, natural situations and customs - even the most ordinary and insignificant things in our day to day life. These are all instruments in His hands at His disposal to preserve us, help us, sustain us, and provide for us.

God's Word tells us that He exercises His sovereignty ever over the wickedness of man. Psalm 76:10 tells us, 'Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.' One case in point is the role that Pontius Pilate and King Herod played in bringing our Lord Jesus Christ to die on the cross. The 4 gospels show that they acted according to their will and their own selfish purposes (e.g. Pontius Pilate gave in to the demands of the people, because he wanted to avoid a Jewish rebellion against him). Ant yet, whatever they did was all determined by God to accomplish His own eternal purpose. Let us look at Acts 4:26-28 'The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done.' Although what these people did was sinful and wicked, God in His sovereignty even used their evil deeds ultimately to accomplish His divine purpose. 

In last week's message, Elder Lim Teck Chye related to us how God disposed the evil plans of the brothers of Joseph who had sold him as a slave to some traders going to Egypt. When God marvelously raised him to the second highest position in the world at that time, Joseph was able to assure his brothers that it was not they who had sent him to Egypt, but God in His sovereignty who had done so. He said to them in Genesis 45:8 'So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and He hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.'

III. It is a Truth that Will Intrigue Us.

One book of the Bible that brings out the wonder of God's Sovereignty to accomplish His purposes better than any other book in the Bible, is the Book of Esther. This book is a very intriguing historical account of what happened to the Jews between 483 BC and 473 BC at the time when they lived under the Persian Empire. 

There the Jews were terribly oppressed by the cruel decree of Haman, an evil man who became the prime minister of the Persian Empire. Haman so proudly assumed that nothing could ever stop his plan to have all the Jews in the Persian Empire destroyed and slaughtered, because it was guaranteed by the sealed decree of the Persian king. But God skillfully ordered all circumstances to turn the tables on him, and in the end, Haman was hanged on his own gallows, and the Jews emerged from being an oppressed people, to being the most favoured people in the empire!

How did this happen? In a very intriguing manner. Firstly, through a very precise timing of events. Esther was made queen just at the right time to lead in thwarting Haman's evil plot. Actually, she would never have become queen if the existing Queen of Persia named Vashti had obeyed the king's command. But because Vashti was removed, there was a vacancy in the Persian court. And out of so many eligible women gathered together from every corner of the Persian empire, Esther was chosen to become the new queen. How did this happen?

Through a second means that God used, and that is: the personal choices or decisions of men. For some reason, The Persian King was so captivated by Esther's beauty that he immediately ended his search for a new queen when she was brought to him. But now that Esther was queen, there was one new problem - she was so cloistered up in the Persian palace, that she did not know what was really happening in the outside world. 

And even when Haman's cruel decree to exterminate the Jews was broadcast throughout the whole empire, Esther still did not know about it. And yet she was able to learn about the horrible decree. How did this happen?

Through a third means that God used, and that is: natural human relationships. It was Esther's close cousin, a Jew named Mordecai who came to inform her about the plight of her own people, but since he was dressed in ragged mourning clothes, he was not allowed to enter the palace. Because of their close relationship, Esther soon learned about Mordecai's mourning, and sent a messenger to find out what had happened. Through this, she was horrified to learn that her people were all condemned to die. 

It was then that Mordecai said those poignant words to his cousin in v.14, 'and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?' He said this to urge Esther to use her influence in the palace to help deliver her own people from destruction. But the odds were still clearly against Esther. Haman the wicked prime minister wielded far greater power in the palace than she did - so what would make the king want to listen to her and not to him? Now, despite all that, God's purpose triumphed once again. How did it happen?

This time God used three unrelated things that worked together in perfect synchrony ' a momentary bout of insomnia, a random selection of a government record, and Haman's own zeal to exact revenge on his personal enemy. On that fateful night, Haman decided that he would build a huge gallows to execute Mordecai and he would get the king's permission to hang him on it early the next morning. 

But on that same night, for unknown reasons, the king could not sleep at all, and so he tried to while away his time by having some past official Persian records read aloud to him. Lo and behold, the particular record that was read to him just happened to be the account of how Mordecai had saved his life from an assassination attempt some years back, and the king had somehow forgotten to reward him for this. Thus the king desperately wanted to have Mordecai honoured immediately. In comes Haman with clockwork precision, with the intention of asking for Mordecai's death, but before he could do so, he is tasked by the king to give Mordecai a very lavish public honouring instead!

With no opportunity now to carry out his own evil plans, Haman had to rush immediately after doing that, to attend a royal banquet with the king and queen, not knowing that his worst fears were about to be realized. At that banquet Queen Esther boldly exposed him as the one who had plotted to kill her people. As the King was shocked and deciding what to do, Haman's plans to hang Mordecai were revealed, and the gallows he had built stood as stark evidence.

And right at that moment, Haman made the most fatal mistake of his life. While trying to approach Queen Esther to plead for his life, he very clumsily tripped and fell right on top of her. It really wasn't his day at all - because everything was clearly working against him. In the end, Haman was hanged on the very gallows that he had built to hang Mordecai. All that remained to be done after that was to neutralize his evil decree to exterminate the Jews. This was not difficult to do at all, since Mordecai now became the King's own natural choice for a new prime minister to replace the former one. That is the gist of the whole book of Esther.

Looking at all this, I am sure you all will agree with me that God's work in the story of Esther is really very intriguing. And what is really amazing about this whole account, is that there is no miraculous of supernatural intervention at all. In fact, the name of God is not found even once in all the 10 chapters of this book. For this reason, some scholars have even questioned if this book deserves to be in the Bible at all. And yet God's unseen hand was very evidently working to bring about the deliverance of His people. The book of Esther teaches a very important aspect of God's sovereignty, one which is important to every one of us today.

This mode of God's working in our lives without the use of any supernatural or miraculous means at all is called Providence. In Providence, God uses the most ordinary means like what we had just seen in the story of Esther - the precise timing of events, the choices and decisions made by men, human relationships, random selections, and even human follies and foibles. Someone once likened God's Providence to a stage production, in which God works entirely behind the scenes. He is not visible on stage as one of the actors, but He is evidently directing everything that happens on stage according to His own script. 

In an age when people are craving so much for miraculous visible manfestations of God's power, we need to realize that it requires much more skill and ingenuity to accomplish something through ordinary means than through using miraculous means. It is easy for God to work a miracle. It can be accomplished in just a moment, because of his unlimited power. He only has to say the word (e.g. 'Let there be light'). But to accomplish the same thing just by using ordinary means poses a greater challenge. It involves a great deal of careful planning and timing of many events and actions, to make them all fit together nicely and fall into place precisely. If just one little event or action falls a little out of place or goes 'out of synch,' the whole plan will fail! 

Providence can easily be compared to a very intricately and painstakingly woven tapestry. When you observe the intricacies of the complex design, you will marvel at how the One who made it had such tremendous wisdom, patience and ability to plan it and execute it! I think it would be right for us to conclude that God's working in Providence really brings much greater glory to Him than His working by means of miracles.

IV. It is a Truth that Should Challenge and Inspire Us.

We can be firmly challenged by the words that Mordecai spoke to Esther in 4:14 'For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?' 

These words form the crux of the whole book of Esther. They teach us of our personal involvement in the whole outworking of God's sovereignty. Dearly beloved, God's sovereignty is not just something to be studied, dissected, analysed and appreciated from the Scriptures or observed in history and world politics, but also something to be known and experienced personally by each and every one of us. It is a truth that must be applied to our own lives.

The words 'who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?' from Esther 4:14 should resonate in our minds whenever we wonder why God has placed us in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. Firstly they ought to give you a sense of destiny - that everything in your life has been carefully planned and mapped out by God to the very last detail, so you can fulfill your mission in life. And you ought to discern God's sovereign will for your life and seek to fulfill it. Perhaps it is His plan to use your life to make a difference in this world. 

Who knows that God may make you another Esther, or another Moses, or Daniel, or Martin Luther, or John Calvin. Everyone whom God has used to make a real difference in this world never ever imagined what their life would accomplish. And who knows what God plans to accomplish with your life?

Secondly the words of Esther 4:14 ought to inspire your praise of God and your testimony of His providence working in your life. When you are able to experience God's working all things together for good to them that love Him, you would want to praise Him more. Over the years at our Tuesday night prayer meeting, I have heard many glowing testimonies of Lifers who personally experienced the outworking of Providence in their lives. The detailed testimony usually shows how God provided whatever was needed at just the right place and at just the right time. 

A brother in our church once testified how his grandchild was born at just the right time - on the very day when his daughter's gynae returned back from overseas, and also after they had settled well into their new home. A sister in our church testified how the Lord granted her desire to come for Tuesday night prayer meeting, despite the fact that she has to teach night classes at a private school - somehow nobody enrolled for the course that was offered on Tuesday! Another brother testified how God preserved him from death from the tsunami waves when he drove along a stretch of road just half an hour before the destruction struck that road. 

And every time we are able to share such a testimony of providential deliverance or provision it brings the reality of God into our experience, and encourages us and others to trust Him much more. Dearly beloved, if you have experienced the providence of God working in your life, please do not keep it to yourself. Share it verbally or in writing, and give God all the praise for it, as it may help to make Him known to the world, as a God who is living, a God who is faithful to all His promises, and a God who is in sovereign control of all things, and worketh all things together for good to them that love Him, to them who are the called according to His purpose! 

Thirdly, the words of Esther 4:14 ought to boost your level of trust and confidence in God, anticipating that He who has begun such a work in your life, will most certainly perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). The sovereign God will see to it that His manifold purposes for His people will never fail. Whatever obstacles there may be, God is able to overcome them through the sure outworkings of His divine providence. And then turn your renewed trust and confidence into fervent prayer.

In the Book of Esther we have seen God's sovereignty working against insurmountable odds to deliver a whole nation from certain extinction. In world history we have witnessed God's sovereignty preserving that same nation against even greater odds, and Israel's resurrection to nationhood in 1948 stands as a testimony to that. What blessed hope and confidence this gives to us to face the seemingly insurmountable odds that we are facing today. 

Dearly beloved, whenever you find yourself lacking in faith, in hope or in inspiration to give praise to God, let your mind meditate on the sovereignty of God, and particularly on how it relates to you personally. And let faith, hope, and praise be stirred up in your hearts through the words of Esther 4:14 'who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?' May God bless these wonderful words to our lives, and for His glory.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25