Esther 5 - A Contrast of Character

Steve Viars January 29, 2000 Esther 5:

- Actor Tom Barrymore once said, “One of my chief regrets during my years in the theater is that I couldn’t sit in the audience and watch me.”
- That is what the Word of God would call pride.
- a smug self-sufficiency
- speaking and acting an ways that promote oneself
- a lifestyle that revolves around me, myself, and I.
- where the greatest pleasure would be sitting around and watching “me.”

- since this is the very opposite of what God would desire, it’s not surprising that God’s Word has a lot to say about pride....and what it looks like....and why it’s bad....and how to avoid it.
- Proverbs 16:18 - Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.
- Proverbs 29:23 - A man's pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.
- John 3:27 - ...A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven.
- 1 Corinthians 4:7 - For who regards you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
- if you were here last week you know that we mentioned the list of seven things that God hates in Proverbs chapter 6, and the very first thing on the list is, “a proud look”.
- The angel Lucifer became the devil because of pride --- he said in Isa. 14:14 - “I will ascend like the most high.”
- It was through pride that Satan deceived Eve when her said that if she ate the forbidden fruit she would be like God.
- William Barclay said that “Pride is the ground in which all the other sins grow, and the parent from which all the other sins come.”

- Can I ask you a challenging question this morning, how are you coming at handling the sin of pride?
- I ask it that way because surely none of would say that we have totally mastered the sin of pride, because as soon as we made the statement, it would be proof that the statement wasn’t true.
- so how are you coming at handling the sin of pride?
1) When someone tries to tell you something, is your response one of humility or is it one of pride?
2) When someone disagrees with you, is your response one of humility or is it one of pride?
3) When your boss gives you instructions, does he or she expect a humble response or a proud one?....a humble look or a proud one?
4) When you are asked to do a menial task, is your response one of humility or one of pride?
5) When you hear something from the Word of God that would require a change in your thinking, or your speaking, or your behaving, is yours a humble willingness to change, or a proud resistance to the Lordship of Christ?

- the reason I’m asking these questions isn’t because your boss called me, or your spouse called me, or you parents called me, or your teacher called me...
- it’s because we have been studying a book that has been providing a series of contrasts between people who know God and people who don’t.
- between people who have a relationship with Him and people who don’t....
- between people who God’s truth and people who don’t....
- it’s a series of contrasts.
- we had a contrast in the quality of family relationships in chapters 1-2
- and a contrast of actions in chapters 3-4
- this morning, we’re going to focus in on a contrast of character....and its interesting how a particular sin comes clearly into focus....would you like to guess which one?
- the sin of pride.
- and the questions at the end of each studies have been pretty obvious....
- after looking at the contrast between those who are living for God and those who aren’t...
- which one do you want to be like?
- which one are you like?
- and what steps would God want to take in response to hearing their stories?

- with that in mind let me invite you to open your Bible this morning to Esther chapter 5.
- Esther is the 17th book of the Bible.
- if you don't have a copy of God’s Word, or if you’re new to studying the Bible....there is a copy in the pew in front of you...and Esther chapter 5 is on page 366 of that particular version.
- The book of Esther occurs right at the end of OT history.
- so Assyria has already risen and fallen
- and Babylonia has risen and fallen
- now the dominant world power is Persia.....
- some of God’s people have returned to Jerusalem with a man named Zerubbabel and have begun to rebuild the city.
- you could read about that in the book of Ezra chapters 1-6.
- many of God’s people are still living in Persia, and the book of Esther is telling what is happening to some of God’s people in that place, beginning around 485 BC.

- now, I know that this book has a lot of unusual names in it, but we’ve been trying to take hope in the fact that there are really only five key characters in the book.
- do you know who they are?
1) King Ahasuerus - king of Persia - a very proud man, with a great amount of power and wealth, but it’s very apparent that he doesn’t know God, and so his life is organized around fulfilling his passions, and magnifying himself...
2) Then there’s his former wife whose name was?....[Vashti]
- that’s the way the book started, with the king haven this drunken feast with his buddies, and he commands Vashti to come out and be put on display in front of them, and she refuses....
- so she’s been banished from his presence and the overall picture is that you have two people who have great wealth and power but they have no relationship with the God of heaven....
- and have no principles for how to make a marriage work...
- and certainly no power or strength to put those principles into practice....
- frankly, its a pretty sad scene
3) The third character is a Jewish man named.....Mordecai.....
4) And he is the older cousin of our fourth character named.....Esther.
- Esther was an orphan, and Mordecai brought her into his own home and raised her as his own daughter.....and at the end of chapter 2 Esther becomes the new queen of Persia.
5) The fifth character is a sinister man named Haman
- and we learned last week that Haman hated the Jews so much that he offered the king a large sum of money if he would allow an extermination of all the Jews, and after casting the Pur [or the lot], it was determined that all the Jews would be annihilated on the 13th day of the month of Adar, which was about 11 months after the decree was issued.

- of course Mordecai, immediately put on sackcloth and ashes and wept for the people of God, and he also encouraged Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jews.
- at this time, the king didn’t know that Esther was Jewish, and she reminded Mordecai that you didn’t just waltz into the king’s throneroom unannounced and invited, and to do so was risking death.
- and Mordecai replied back, "Do not imagine that you in the king's palace can escape any more than all the Jews.  For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?"
- Esther’s response to that was, please gather the people and ask them to pray and fast for me for three days, because I’m going to speak to the king, and if I perish, I perish.

- now it’s with that background in mind that we’re ready to look at chapter 5, where see A Contrast of Character.
- read Esther 5:1-14.
- I’d like to propose to you this morning that from these verses we can learn three points of contrast between those who are living for the Lord and those who aren’t.


I.  Esther’s Courage Motivated Her to Act Decisively.


- what we saw at the end of our study last week was a great thing.
- verse 16 of chapter 4 told us that Esther asked Mordecai to organize the Jewish people of the city of Susa to fast and pray for her for three days....and meanwhile she and the maidens in her court who apparently were also Jewish would do the same....
- that private act of faith, and that private act of dependence on God, and that private act of devotion was wonderful.....
- but, at some point....someone had to step up to the plate....
- someone had to be willing to act....
- someone had to be willing to take a risk....
- someone had to be willing not only to have faith, but also to have works.

- and isn’t it interesting that the person who was chosen wasn’t the one who had the most prestigious heritage or family tree....because this person was an orphan....
- and it wasn’t the one who everyone would have expected to step forward....
- and it wasn’t a male, though you might have expected that in this male dominated culture.

- the one who stepped forward, and performed a great act of courage was a Jewish orphan woman named Esther.
- yes, God had allowed her to rise to royalty for such a time as this, but she was willing to act decisively when called upon to do so.
- I think you and I would do an injustice to this book if we didn’t work hard at trying to understand the kind of courage that was required for Esther to go into the king’s presence in that culture.
- we’re so used to calling our Presidents by their first names, and saying whatever we want to about them [or if we had the opportunity, to them], without fear of reprisal....
- that we can forget what Esther was risking.
- this king has already proven that he is godless, selfish, unpredictable, capable of cruelty and murder.....
- when Esther said in chapter 4, verse 11 - "All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live.”.....
- she was telling the truth....she was literally risking her life.
- and then there’s that intriguing detail, at the end of verse 11, “And I have not been summoned to come to the king for these thirty days....”
- the point here is, I.  Esther’s Courage Motivated Her to Act Decisively.
- now let me ask you a very important question....
- what do you see happening in this text that contributed / or played a part in Esther’s courage?
- can I point out a couple of things?
1) She knew what counsel to listen to.
- when Esther chose to act decisively by going in to speak to the king uninvited and unannounced, who’s counsel was she listening to?
- Mordecai’s....her godly Jewish uncle....who in all actuality had been functioning as her father...
- now let me ask you this....did Mordecai simply tell Esther what she already wanted to hear?
- no...in fact he challenged her to think about what God was doing...
- and he challenged her to take a significant step in order to serve God...
- do you see how this fits in with the topic of courage?
- if you surround yourself with godly people and godly truth, you’ll be much more likely to act in courageous fashion...because you’ll be convinced that while perhaps what you’re doing may be hard, it’s also right...because its what God wants you to do.

- here’s something else that contributed to Esther’s courage....
2) She was willing to act on her faith.
- remember that Mordecai had said to her in verse 14, “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place...”
- that was based on the promises God had already made to the Jewish nation.
- and Esther had to decide, was she going to believe that too....so much so that she was willing to act on it.
- she was truly a woman of faith....
- what a great example of godly courage [fueled by right counsel from the Word of God and a willingness to believe that counsel and act upon it.]

- now I’d like to ask you a question.....
- what about this matter of “courage motivating a person to act decisively” and you.
- could you give similar examples of how you acted decisively in faith even though there was some risk involved?
- or has God placed you in such a situation now, and you’re trying to decide what to do>
- we could ask it this way....Is God looking for contemporary Esther’s?....[men and women who have the godly courage to act decisively for Him even when there’s a risk involved].
- and assuming that you’d agree that the answer to the question is “yes”, are you willing to be that person?

1) Maybe you’re facing a temptation right now, and so far you haven’t handled it very well.
- and you know that you’re going to face that one again....
- why not make a decision today that you are going to act decisively the next time you face that issue....
- you’re not going to fall for that again....you’re not going to go down that trail again...
- and maybe part of the acting decisively means telling someone about it so they can be praying for you....
- and maybe its sitting down with someone and getting some help from God’s Word
- maybe it means sitting down and writing out what you’re going to do the next time that occasion arises, or what you’re going to say....
- but a commitment to act decisively....

2) Maybe its a matter of telling someone else about Christ....
- the Lord has brought someone into your life that doesn’t know the Lord, but they’re really searching....
- and there’s been several opportunities but every time the cat got your tongue, so to speak...
- listen, if Esther could speak for God in the setting she was in, what about you and me determining that we’re going speak for Him in the setting we’re in?

3) For someone else, it might actually be the decision to come to Christ....
- you’ve had some folks talking to you about it....but its hard....
- its hard to admit you need a Savior....
- its hard to turn your life over to Jesus Christ....
- its a courageous step....
- the book of Esther teaches that God rewards courageous steps that are borne out of obedience to His Word.

4) Maybe for someone else, its stepping out into a new ministry opportunity....
- you’ve been offered a teaching position, or you’ve been asked to work in youth clubs, or you’ve heard about a service opportunity with the building....
- maybe its something larger where you’re wondering about serving God on the mission field or in a vocational way here in the states....
- Esther’s courage motivated her to act decisively....
- the genuineness of her faith was proven by the quality of her works.

- there’s another point of contrast we can see in verses 4-8.


II. Esther’s Patience Motivated Her to Act Carefully.


- one thing that ought to strike us about Esther is that we don't see her rushing.
- when Mordecai told her to keep her Jewish heritage a secret until the right time, she did so patiently.
- when Mordecai encouraged Esther to go see the king, she asked that she and the others first fast and pray for three days.
- she actually planned a series of feasts, knowing how much the king liked feasts, and possibly also predicting how Haman’s pride would affect his judgment if he were invited to two in a row.
- if you’re in the habit of writing in your Bible, you might want to circle the first words in chapter 6 verse 1, “during that night”....
- Lord willing we’ll study next week what happened during that night, but God rewarded Esther for patiently waiting in him.

- now you might say, PV, I don't see how these two points go together....first you talk about acting decisively and now you’re talking about waiting patiently....how do they go together?
- the combination varies, doesn’t it?
- sometimes you’re in a situation where its best to be patient and not yet act.
- at other times, you ought to act, and then be patient to see what God is going to do next.
- many times its a situation like the one we’re studying, where there’s actually a mixture of acting, but doing so in a very careful, patient, and orderly way.

- now let me ask you this question, who’s life in the Bible do we especially see that manifested in?
- the Lord Jesus Christ’s.....
- over and over we see Him acting decisively
- He cleanses the temple and drives out the money-changers....
- He teaches the truth even though many are angered by it....
- but at other times there’s great patience....
- mine hour has not yet come....
- we’ll wait until Lazarus dies before going to Bethany....

- that kind of balance is exactly what we’re seeing in Esther.... a willingness to act, but an ability to act carefully.
[could develop -- deacons retreat --- courage, unwillingness to coast or rest on our laurels --- attempting things that can only be accomplished with the help and enablement of God //// but at the same time being careful, waiting on the Lord ---- not wanting to be behind Him, not wanting to be in front of Him.]

- now, let me ask you an important question....what is one of the characteristics that will throw this balance of about as quickly as anything?
- what can stop us from acting decisively when that’s really what God’s Word would have us to do?
- and what can cause us to charge in without first patiently waiting on Him?

- the answer to both questions is what’s illustrated in the rest of the chapter ---- Pride.
- yes, I.  Esther’s Courage Motivated Her to Act Decisively, and II. Esther’s Patience Motivated Her to Act Carefully.
- but friends,


III. Haman’s Pride Motivated Him to Act Foolishly.


- what do we see Haman doing in verses 9-14?
- what is God’s Word trying to emphasize to us?
1) in verse 10, he draws people around him who will fuel his pride.
- remember Esther was listening to Mordecai, even though he was telling her things she didn’t like...or that were cause her to take some tough steps....
- she was humble enough to know she needed truth from outside of herself, and she took it from her godly uncle....
- not Haman, he drew people around him who would already agree with him, and tell him what a wonderful person he was....don’t change a thing....
2) How else is his pride evident?
- in verse 11, what’s he talking about?
- he recounted to them the glory of his riches?
- what’s that mean?....he’s going over it again and again, jest like he’s done before
- he also brags about the number of his sons
- and the end of the verse says that he recounts every instance where the king had magnified him, and promoted him above the others....
- can you imagine having to sit there and hear that speech again?
- someone has said that pride is the only disease in the world that makes everybody sick except the person who has it.
- in verse 12, he brags about how Esther invited him to the feast, and how he’s been invited to another one tomorrow.
- you can hear the pride dripping out of his mouth.

- and again, what does this look like wen we compare it to Esther?
- she had plenty to brag about, but there’s none of that.
- she’s talking about what her responsibilities are before God.
- she’s talking about what she can do on behalf of God’s people.
- she’s focusing on listening to the godly counsel she has received.
- she’s using her position as an opportunity to please God.
- comparing the speech of these two characters is telling indeed.

- do you see what happens to this pride in verse 13?
- there are a couple of critical lessons here.
1) Pride will never be satisfied.
- when a person is living for themselves, there’s never enough praise, there’s never enough compliments, there’s never enough material possessions....
- perhaps the truest words that Mordecai ever spoke are at the beginning of verse 13, “yet all of this does not satisfy me”.

- a second lesson here is that...
2) Pride unchecked will generate malice.
- Haman sees Mordecai at the King’s gate which means that Mordecai still had some position of authority in the kingdom, and Mordecai’s presence fills Haman with rage.
- Warren Wiersbe says of this scene, “His hatred of the Jews in general and Mordecai in particular had so poisoned his system that he couldn’t even enjoy talking about his greatness!...Malice is that deep-seated hatred that brings delights if our enemy suffers and pain if our enemy succeeds.  Malice can never forgive; it must always take revenge.  Malice has a good memory for hurts and a bad memory for kindnesses.  In I Corinthians 5:8, Paul compared malice to yeast, because, like yeast, malice begins very small but gradually grows and finally permeates the whole of life.  Malice in the Christian’s heart grieves the Holy Spirit and must be put out of our lives.”

- all of this pride culminated in a rash decision and a rash act.
- his family members who too had bought into Haman’s hatred and pride suggested that he simply build a gallows, have Mordecai executed, and be done with it.
- so build the gallows today, kill Mordecai tomorrow morning, and enjoy the second feast the rest of the day.
- and of course there’s no time thinking all of this through....
- certainly no counsel from someone who would challenge the plan....
- of course no prayer or consideration of the God or any god might think....
- like Proverbs 28:26 - He who trusts in himself is a fool....

- friends, this story isn’t in the Bible so we’d simply look down on Haman.
- this story is in the Bible se we’d ask ourselves some hard questions...are you ready to do that?
1) Friend, are you more like Esther, or are you more like Haman?
2) Do you find yourself in verses 1-8, or in verses 9-14?
- now, let’s conclude our time by talking about some steps out of this....
- what can we do to both evaluate this area, and work at putting off the sin of pride?

1) It begins by knowing Christ.
- pride is a terrible beast that can only be slain through the power of Jesus Christ
- the best way to not be self-centered is to instead be Christ-centered....
- that process begins with a decision....
- to admit that God is holy and that I’m not...
- to admit that my sin has separated me from God, and that the only way that could be reconciled was through the death of God’s Son
- and then to humbly accept the free gift of salvation the is only available in Him
- friend, taking that step requires humility....have you taken it?

2) Evaluate the kind of counsel you’re bringing into your life...
- are you opening yourself up to counsel from the Word of God....even if it might not always confirm that everything you’re already doing is fine?
- are you faithful in your church attendance, because you humbly want to know God’s truth?
- have you gotten involved in an ABF, and some of the other Bible study opportunities around here?
- pride makes us think we know it all already, humility causes us to want to hunger and thirst after righteousness.

3) How are you doing at being patient when you ought to be patient?
- does you humility cause you to slow up and pray?
- to slow up and ask good questions?
- to slow up and get counsel from godly people around you?
- Haman’s pride caused him to rush, Esther’s humility caused her to wait?

4) Are you decisive in acting when you know you should, even when its hard?
- Esther showed her humility by doing what God wanted her to do, even though it was a difficult thing.
- proud people only do things their way....humble people are willing to them God’s way.

- might say, well, all of this didn’t get Esther and Mordecai very far....chapter 6 is coming!

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video