delighted woman September 16 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Esther 5-10

From Distress to Delight

In yesterday's Bible study the question was asked, “What’s God Doing?” Sometimes, God doesn’t make sense. We experience serious threats or calamity and wonder, what is going on? How can we turn what is distressful into something delightful? In most cases we can’t but God can.

The theme of the book of Esther is God’s sovereign care and protection of His people. In today's Bible reading, the Jews in Babylon and elsewhere are in trouble. Haman, the chief nobleman, influences King Xerxes (Ahasuerus) of Persia to write an order to exterminate all the Jews in every province—they are a menace to the kingdom.

What are the Jews to do? Unbeknown to anyone in the kingdom except Mordecai and his young cousin Esther, the LORD has providentially placed her in a position of influence—she is queen. Now God will use her “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14, NIV).

Here is a lesson we might learn from this true story: just because we do not see any deliverance does not mean the LORD is not at work. While we are waiting for God to act, we should seek Him. This means that we should read our Bibles for direction and encouragement, pray, fast if we are in distress, seek godly counsel, and act in faith by following His leading.

Mordecai instructs Esther to appeal to the king to change the edict. But how? To approach the king without being invited into his presence can mean her death, and it has been a month since he last called for her. She decides to put her fate into the LORD's hands. But, before she makes her appeal, she, her cousin Mordecai, and the rest of the Jewish people fast for three days. Then Esther puts on her royal robes and approaches the king. When King Xerxes catches sight of her, God touches his spirit so that she finds favor in his eyes. Exercising extreme grace, he holds out a golden scepter for her to touch and tells Queen Esther to ask for whatever she wants.

Esther is wise and astute; she knows her husband the king loves to eat, so she invites him and Haman (his recently promoted official) to a special banquet. The king knows she wants something more, but she keeps him in suspense. His mysterious wife intrigues him. After the banquet, King Xerxes is in a generous mood and asks her again what she wants, assuring her that he will meet her request. Again, however, she is mysterious and invites the king and Haman to another banquet. The king and Haman feel honored. The king is willing to grant Esther’s request, whatever it might be.

Haman is also in high spirits until he happens to see Mordecai, who still pays him no homage. Haman has already determined the destruction of the Jews, but this man galls him. His friends counsel him to build gallows to hang Mordecai. Having determined to do so, he is satisfied and goes to seek the permission of the king. Will disaster come upon Esther and Mordecai anyway? No, God is at work behind the scenes.

That night, King Xerxes cannot sleep. He gives an order to bring the book of records, the chronicles, and they are read before him. In it, he hears that Mordecai reported the assassination plot of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs who were doorkeepers. However, Mordecai was never rewarded for his loyalty.

The same night, Haman comes to the king’s court on another matter—to seek permission to hang Mordecai. Hearing Haman is in the court, the king asks his nobleman what should be done to reward the one whom the king wishes to honor. Thinking that person is himself, Haman answers,

“For the man the king delights to honor, have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king's most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!’”

“Go at once,” the king commanded Haman. “Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king's gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.” (Esther 6:7b-10, NIV)

Mordecai is honored, and Haman feels totally humiliated and defeated. It is apparent that fate or the Jewish god is against him.

The next day, Haman and the king appear at the second banquet Esther has prepared for them. After eating, the king again asks Esther what she wants—anything up to half of his kingdom. Esther finally reveals what is on her heart—she and her people are facing annihilation and the vile Haman is responsible. The king is enraged and leaves the room. Haman, seeing his fate is determined, kneels before Esther, who is reclining on a couch, and begs for his life. When the king returns, he misunderstands what he sees and thinks Haman is trying to assault his wife, the queen. He orders Haman to be hanged on the gallows which he had built for Mordecai.

But what of the order to exterminate the Jews? The laws of the Medes and Persians couldn't be changed. Because of this, King Xerxes has his newly decorated chief nobleman, Mordecai, write another edict. This order, given for the day appointed for the genocide of the Jews, allows them to defend themselves against their enemies. Such great fear is caused by this new edict that many non-Jews became Jews. When the appointed day of destruction comes, there is a great victory for the Jews, and so much so that the new edict is extended for one day. Through God’s sovereignty, He enables the Jews to get revenge upon their enemies. He turns the situation from distress to delight. Although considered one of their minor feasts, today Jews still celebrate this victory, called The Feast of Purim.

Lessons to Live By

  • The LORD can turn our distress into delight. Do we know Him? (more...). Let's make the LORD our refuge in times of trouble.
  • God sometimes frustrates the plans of the wicked and turns the tables upon them when they seek to injure His people.
  • Perhaps God has some of us in a place of leadership “for such a time as this” to help or deliver others from bad circumstances.

Focus Verse

(Psalm 37:4, NIV) “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

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A Look Ahead: God often acts on behalf of His people. He protects them and sometimes Over-rules those in authority so that His will is accomplished. Find out more in our Next Lesson.

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