Pentecost 15 September 13, 2020
511, 508:1-3, 507, 505
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen. +
“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” So Mordecai went his way and did according to all that Esther commanded him.
Dearly Beloved Fellow Believers,
A young woman who had recently been instructed in the Christian faith was talking about the tremendous difference the Gospel had made in her daily life. She said that before coming to know her Savior in the Word, she would be going about her daily routine and would wonder to herself, “Why are we even here?” She had a good life, a home and family, yet still she had this feeling that something was missing. She wondered whether there was any purpose to her life—indeed, whether there was any purpose to human existence, at all.
We need to know that our life has some purpose. Some find it in their home and family life. Some find it in their work. Some find it in doing charitable work. But you and I have a greater and higher sense of purpose for our lives than can be found in any activity of life, by itself. In the Scriptures God teaches us that our life in this world is no accident, that He knew us in His Son Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world. He tells us that He chose us in His Son in eternity to be His own forever. He tells us that He has a plan for our life, that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) He assures us that there is a divine purpose to our life: it is that we should be “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:6)
How do we serve such a high and noble purpose as that? God Himself has made us living examples of His grace. He has redeemed us by the blood of His own Son and adopted us into His own family. And He has made us His instruments for spreading His saving Gospel in the world.
Yes, God has noble work for us to do. He has given our lives a high purpose. This is taught in today’s text from the Old Testament book of Esther as we consider the theme: “For Such a Time as This”
The book of Esther isn’t often used for preaching. That in itself isn’t unusual; there are other books and portions of books of the Bible that don’t lend themselves for use as sermon texts. One unique feature of Esther among the books of the Bible is that the name of God appears nowhere in the book. That is surely unusual and not what we would expect, but it isn’t quite as strange as it sounds. Even though the name of God is not spoken by Esther or Mordecai, the main characters in the book, the presence of God with His people and His activity in behalf of His people are everywhere presupposed in what they say. We often do the same thing in our everyday speech. We may say, for example, that we are thankful for our blessings. We mean that we are thankful to God, but we may not use His name, confident that others will understand what we mean.
The history recorded in the book of Esther took place after the return of God’s people from the Babylonian captivity. Many of the Jews had returned to Jerusalem and Judea to rebuild the city and the temple. They were there to fulfill their purpose as His chosen people, that from them the Christ would come into the world to fulfill the divine promises spoken by the prophets.
Though many of the Jews had returned from the captivity, many of them still remained scattered throughout the Persian Empire. Among them was a young woman named Esther. She was a woman of exceptional beauty and grace, so much so that when the Persian queen Vashti fell out of favor with the king and was removed from her office, Esther was chosen to replace her.
What an extraordinary thing! A young Jewish woman whose great-grandfather had been brought to this foreign land as a captive had now been exalted to the position of queen. This was no accident, of course; this was the work of God. He is the one who had given her exceptional beauty so that she was noticed by the king’s servants, and so that “she obtained grace and favor” in the king’s sight more than any of the other women who were brought to him (Esther 2:17).
Esther’s experience was unusual; not everyone gets to be a queen. But the fact that this was God’s doing shows us that our place or position in life is likewise God’s doing. If you get a job, it is God who has given it to you. If you are put into a position of authority where you have people working under you, it is God who has placed you there. If you are a parent with children to raise, it is God who has given you that responsibility. If you have a lot of wealth—or even just a little wealth—it is God who has given it to you.
Positions of authority, power, and wealth tend to make people proud. We too may look at ourselves and say, “Look what I have accomplished.” Or, “look how high I have risen with my hard work and my cleverness.” We should work hard and make good use of every gift God has given us. Yet let us humbly recognize and acknowledge that God has put us where we are and that all we have is from Him.
God also had a purpose for exalting Esther to the position of queen. He foresaw a plot against his people. It was a vast and very ambitious plot to destroy the Jewish people throughout the empire. It was the idea of a man named Haman, a spiteful reaction to a slight by Mordecai, Esther’s cousin who had brought her up after the death of her parents. Mordecai was a devout man who refused to bow down to Haman after the king had given him the highest rank among the nobles. Haman was a man whose pride knew no bounds. He convinced the king to issue a decree that the Jews throughout his empire should be killed on a certain day. The decree was sent to every province, and when the Jews learned of it they responded with fasting and weeping, and many lay in sackcloth and ashes, signs of penitential humility before God.
Mordecai also went to the square in front of the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth and crying out with a bitter cry (Esther 4:1). When Esther heard this she sent him clothes so that he wouldn’t go about in sackcloth, but he wouldn’t accept them. Then she sent a messenger to him to ask him the reason for his behavior. Mordecai gave the messenger a copy of the king’s edict to show to Esther and to ask her use her access to the king to intercede for her people. She sent back a reply that she could only go to the king when she was called, and that hadn’t happened for some time. It was the law that if anyone came into the king’s presence without having been called, they would be put to death, unless the king held out his golden scepter. In other words, if Esther went to the king with her concern, she would be risking her life.
Mordecai’s reply is the verse that is our text. Now we might have expected Mordecai to say something like this: “You’re our only hope, Esther; if you don’t intercede with the king for your people, we are doomed.” But he doesn’t say that. Instead he says that if she didn’t act, deliverance for her people would arise from another place. The deliverance of the Jewish people didn’t depend on Esther or anyone else; God would surely deliver His people, because God had promised that the Christ was to come from them. But Esther would be sinning against God if she didn’t use the position that God had given to her and the opportunity to help her people. Esther acted in faith; she risked her life and went to the king. He didn’t have her put to death. She was able to counteract the plot against her people.
Now you and I have not been called to live in a king’s palace or to influence men of great worldly power. But He surely has a purpose for each of us with the place where He has put us and gifts He has given to us. We should ponder and take to heart the question that Mordecai addressed to Esther: “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” For such a time as this. You and I have likewise been called to a certain time in history. The Lord has given us the saving Gospel, the message of the cross and the resurrection, the message of forgiveness and salvation. He has opened our hearts to believe it and has given us the blessings of it. He has also called us to proclaim it in our age. We often talk these days about what evil times we live in; yet this is our time of opportunity to spread the gospel to the people of our age by our offerings, our prayers, and our personal witness.
Now if we don’t do it, the Lord will raise up others who will. Deliverance will arise from another place. The Gospel isn’t dependent on us. But we will have missed our opportunity.
For us, in the positions the Lord has put us, proclaiming the gospel doesn’t involve risking our life, but it does involve sacrifices of various kinds—money, time and effort, involvement in things that take us out of our comfort zone. Yet God has raised us up and brought us to this time and place not to take it easy, not to be comfortable, not to play it safe, but to be bold and act in faith—to give, to speak, and to act. May God help us to share His Gospel for such a time as this. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.