The Great Role Reversal
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 25, Jun 2019
Scripture Reading: Esther 5:1-9
‘Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house. And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre. Then said the king unto her, What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom. And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him. Then the king said, Cause Haman to make haste, that he may do as Esther hath said. So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared. And the king said unto Esther at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? even to the half of the kingdom it shall be performed. Then answered Esther, and said, My petition and my request is; If I have found favour in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition, and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do to morrow as the king hath said. Then went Haman forth that day joyful and with a glad heart: but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he stood not up, nor moved for him, he was full of indignation against Mordecai.’
The recurrent theme of the book of Esther is the unseen hand of YHWH. The evaluation of people on this planet more often than not is different from God’s assessment. Ahasuerus’s favor of Haman, making him a powerful man in the whole of the Media Persian Empire, is so different to that of God’s opinion of him. I was talking to Jason Santos concerning the recent concluded election, for senators, congressman, governor, mayor etc. He told me that Philippines ’s election is more of a popularity contest than any other thing; if you are the more popular movie star, the richer tycoon, usually you win the election. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. Man may hate you but God does not see you that way. You may be surprised that God loves you. The unseen hand of God can be seen as a form of blessing and protection but also a source of affliction and punishment. The purpose of this sharing is to show God’s continual presence in our lives and working behind the scene especially a life that is given up wholly to do the will of God. God’s invisible hand is especially there when a life works in tandem with God’s purpose to mold human history, And it is this unseen hand of God that brings about the Great Role Reversal. God’s presence is shown in his invisible hand in the post-exilic period. We too who live in the 21st century must recognize the invisible hand of God manifested in our personal lives, family, church, nation and even the world. We can identify with the book of Esther because Esther started the Gentile period in human history and we are still living in the Gentile era. The nations of these world doesn’t’ know God and yet unknowingly God works behind the scene to move history and people according to his purpose. Believers must trust by faith, not sight, that God is with them and for them because of His promises in His book! What does the invisible hand of God do?
1. Esther Finding Favor
Esther 5:1-2 “Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house. And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the scepter.”
This Gentile King, who doesn’t know God or acknowledge God was sitting on his royal throne opposite the entrance to the palace. Around him were his court attendants dressed in all of their finery. Imagine the color! In addition to that were the awning of the tapestries, the gold and silver and marble of the throne room. The King was probably conducting state business when Esther stepped in.
You must remember that prior to this incident, Esther had been fasting for three days and three nights without food and water. That is a power fast. The mentioning of the third day implies that Ester took off the sackcloth and ashes of fasting and she put on her royal robes as she approached the king. Esther takes action on behalf of her people by visiting the king uninvited. The king had not seen her for more than a month. Esther in a way violates court etiquette at the risk of her life because the situation is urgent. Obviously, Esther being willing to risk her life by coming without being summoned meant that something was gravely wrong. The state of affair causes her to act and God’s unseen hand came into play. It is the invisible hand that is behind this favor shown to Esther. When the King saw the Queen standing in the court, she found favor. He held out the scepter and Esther touched the scepter. Favor is another recurring theme in the book of Esther. When the child of God walks with God and does God’s bidding, the favor is displayed. The bible says that Jesus was in favor with God and man. Well Jesus came only to do the will of the Father and that is why favor is displayed. The same thing is happening to Esther. The scepter being extended to Esther is a sign of acceptance at the Persian Court. The King showed his favor by using an Oriental idiom of exaggeration. We remembered Herod’s use of the same Idiom in Mark 6:23. ‘Giving half his kingdom’ is an idiom and not a literal statement. Esther was wise in that she invited the king, including Haman to a banquet. Esther has a plan for getting the answer she desires – first she has to woo the King before making her formal request. She has already made preparations for her planned request. Maybe some of you here has an urgent request from God; you have to woo your Savior. You have to do something like Esther. First you recognize there is such a thing as the unseen hand of YHWH. Secondly you must understand that as a child of God, when you serve God there is the favor of God. Thirdly you must woo our Savior. If you understand the Old Testament correctly, commonly before God performs a miracle for a certain people or an individual, he ask for a sacrifice; he asked Abraham for a sacrifice, he asked Gideon for a sacrifice, he asked the whole nation of Israel for a sacrifice during the Passover. You need to woo God. You have to please God. Even though we have favor with God we need to woo our YHWH. Like Esther maybe you need to fast for 3 days and 3 nights, you need to prepare yourself in cleansing and purification. You need to put on the robe of righteousness like Esther who put on the royal robe. We are told that ‘Esther put on her royal apparel’ which means that she put on the finest that she had. It means that she looked the best that she could. In fact, if I may use the common colloquialism of the street, she knocked the king’s eyes out! I tell you; she was lovely. Esther had prepared herself, so should we. You need to commune with God as Esther invited the King for a meal; actually, the meal was done twice. We need to please our YHWH, by our lifestyles, by our communion and relationship. We woo God not for salvation of our soul but for a request. Usually Persian kings ate alone, possibly joined from time to time by family or someone from the seven special families. For Esther to invite the Persian King for a private meal was unusual, and to also invite Haman would have been highly unusual. Why she did this is uncertain but her fasting and prayers brought faith and the unseen. Of course, the Persian King knew that something was troubling Esther and again the King repeated his promise that whatever her request it will be performed. Esther again invited the King to the second banquet and then she will disclose the request. Note the response of King Ahasuerus; ‘it will be done’. Twice the King said ‘it will be done’. The king promises a positive response before he even knows the request. There is a seriousness in this remark. It has already been shown that his word becomes the law of the land. When we woo our Savior, when we are in favor with God, whatever our request, it shall be done. Because God’s word is the Law of the Land. This book of Esther had been emphasizing the Law of the Medes and Persian (remember it was the Law of Medes and Persian that got Daniel into trouble), I want to emphasize the Law of God. God has never changed. It is as true now as it ever was. That is Gods law. It is immutable. He could not change that without changing His character. When we are in favor with God, it shall be done.
2. The Anger of Haman
Esther 5:9 says, “Then went Haman forth that day joyful and with a glad heart: but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he stood not up, nor moved for him, he was full of indignation against Mordecai.”
Haman just came out from the first banquet full of joy but when he saw Mordecai, his countenance turned to indignation. Some bible commentator says the word ‘indignation’ is too soft a word to describe Haman’s attitude. Esther 5:9 is a follow up on Esther 3:5 ‘And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then Haman was full of wrath.’ There is the interchange of words used to describe Haman’s anger. Some bible translator says Haman was ‘being filled with rage’, the KJV says ‘then was Haman full of wrath.’ These are all very strong words. It depicts an irrational hatred affected by mood swings. Haman’s hatred is demonically controlled. That is what anger will do to you. Haman is depicted as rapidly moving from elation to fury! (another word for anger) John Piper says anger tells on us. Anger exposes you. He quoted that if we find ourselves angry about getting snubbed, the problem might be that we love ourselves too much. In today’s culture, anger seems to become an overwhelming part of our cultural, political and personal rhetoric. Anger leads to murder, battering of wives and children, crimes of any kind. The problem with this irrational, mood swing anger is that our personal sin can incite anger even more easily than the sins committed against us. Do you suddenly manifested anger towards someone just after you had committed a sin. The first mention of anger in the bible is the excellent example of Cain towards Abel. Cain grew hot with anger. His anger led him to murder. The bible has more examples of human acting in anger:
Levi and Simeon angrily wipe out a city
Saul, in rage, tries to kill David and even his son Jonathan
Even Moses’ anger causes him to miss entering the Promised Land
When preparing this message, God was telling me about the hatred of Haman. Look at the irrational anger of Haman. Haman was joyful after coming out from Queen Esther’s first banquet but when he saw Mordecai, he was full of indignation against him. Haman is seen up and down, up and down. He became a type of restless evil, human cunning. That is what anger will do to you. He reminded me of Satan roaming up and down. But even this anger of Man was thwarted by the unseen hand of God. I want to talk to some of you that is filled with tremendous anger toward another. Prov 25:28 says ,’As a city broken through, without a wall, is the man who cannot control his temper.’ The bible says ‘those who continue with fits of anger will not gain salvation.’ Or is there anyone filled with rage against you? Is some person in dealing with you is often angry? The bible says that Mordecai ‘did not stand up or tremble before him.’ Mordecai has no fear of Haman. Firstly, you must not be like Haman filled with rage against someone. Secondly do not fear anyone that has anger towards you. I want to talk about anger this morning. When the bible says ‘Haman was filled with anger’ the verb expresses Haman’s hatred. The first point: when dealing with people, we must not succumb to anger. Our irrational anger will be our undoing. The second point: our enemy’s irrational anger will be his undoing. The great role reversal will occur because of Haman’s anger, hatred, wrath. That is the danger of anger. I have seen people with tremendous anger against me. He experienced a role reversal. There was chaos in his family. He was forbidden to attend his church. He lost all his power and authority. And he was exiled for months. Isn’t that what happened to Haman. How about Saul, his rage against David caused his downfall and God reversed their role: David became King instead. So, don’t succumb to anger. Because God can cause a role reversal. Look at Satan, he is so angry with human. One day there will be a role reversal. He will be subordinate to human whom he is filled with wrath and hatred.
3. The Great Role Reversal
This book, like the Bible itself is filled with shocking role reversal. Joseph imprisoned because of the wrath of all his brothers became Prime Minister of Pharaoh and all his brothers had to come and bow down to him. David whose home was once the Cave of Adullam because of the rage of Saul, took the throne of Saul and became King of Israel, Daniel in the Lion’s den was preserved and all his enemies were instead thrown into the Lions’ den. Let’s see how this role reversal comes about for Mordecai.
Esther 6:1-9 ‘On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king. And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. And the king said, What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him. And the king said, Who is in the court? Now Haman was come into the outward court of the king’s house, to speak unto the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him. And the king’s servants said unto him, Behold, Haman standeth in the court. And the king said, Let him come in. So, Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself? And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delighteth to honour, Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head:
What can be more coincidental than the night before the second Banquet with Queen Esther, that King Ahasuerus couldn’t sleep and he decided to do some reading and he came across the deed of Mordecai. King Ahasuerus couldn’t sleep because God doesn’t’ want him to sleep. God uses the little things to carry out His program. Years before in Egypt God brought together a woman’s heart and a baby’s cry when Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby Moses in the Nile River. By this two things YHWH changed the destiny of the people of God. A supposedly unimportant thing occurred at the Palace of Shushan – the king could not sleep. I have seen many times in my life, God uses seemingly unimportant thing to execute his great plan for us. Here now we are going to see the unseen hand of God beginning to move. The role reversal is beginning. On this particular night the servants just happened to turn to a certain place in the scroll. Did I say happened to turn? Little things are beginning to pile up and reveal God’s hand in the glove of human circumstances. God is moving. He is overruling. It was no accident that Esther became queen. It was no accident that she presented herself to the king and found favor in his sight. It was no accident that he accepted her invitation to a banquet. Now he is unable to sleep and it is no accident that the servant began to read at a certain place. The king has become aware of Mordecai’s service and lack of reward from an event several years previous. It is amazing that the king was having read to him such odd events. Mordecai was identified as the Palace Guard and he prevented the assassination of the king himself. Man can never comprehend God’s actions. God’s ways are beyond our understanding. History and our individual lives are not without plan or purpose. This invisibility of God is a sharp contrast with the idols of our days. I speak to those of you who are still worshipping or believing in idols. The idols cannot help you. They are made of stones, woods and metals. But worship this powerful unseen God whose ways are unbelievable and He has a plan and purpose for you if you worship him in Spirit and in Truth. The wonders and actions of God are present but He is unseen. YHWH is the unseen hand of this world. He is known by
a. His acts
b. His revelation
c. And by faith
Let’s study this very unique event. The Anchor bible mentions that Mordecai’s lack of reward would have reflected badly on the king. And who is in the court at that time? ? It was Haman. He hadn’t slept too well either. These circumstances reveal the providence of God. In the shadows God is keeping watch over His own. Although these people are out of the will of God, in the land far away from where God wants them, they are still not out from under His direct leading. These providential dealings could not have been accidental.
I personally believe that there is no such thing as coincidences for a child of God. Everything happened for a purpose. Haman had apparently come early in the morning to request the impaling of Mordecai. What an irony. Haman’s early arrival shows his intense and continuing hatred of Mordecai. He is there to get permission to kill Mordecai and hang him high. He wants to display the punishment of Mordecai for all to see. Haman apparently had spiritual advisors who used divination for him. He said this in Esther 5:13, ‘Yet all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the King’s gate. Haman’s hatred was stronger than all the wealth and power that the king had given. I want to warn any of you. If you have hatred towards anyone, especially a child of God, YHWH will cause a role reversal. Also I want to speak to some of you. The devil or your enemy may want to destroy you but our YHWH will reverse the role. Haman was hanged on the very gallows he built for Mordecai. This is a valid psychological insight on what a root of bitterness will do to a human heart. Haman had prepared gallows for his enemy. He planned for his enemy’s downfall. His gallows was fifty cubits high. A cubit is the distance from a man’s longest finger to his elbow, about 18 to 20 inches. We know from history about two different cubit measurements; one about 18 inches and a longer cubit as the official one for construction. This would have made the gallows about 75 to 85 feet high; higher than the columns of the king’s palace. It is said that gallows is actually a sharpened stake used by Persian to impale people. The gallows would have been much taller than any structure in the city. A 75 to 85-foot gallows certainly shows the extent of hatred and planning of Haman and his advisors. Haman just want to shame, destroy and annihilate Mortdecai for all to see. But the unseen hand of God would not allow it and instead shockingly reverses the roles of Haman and Mordecai.
Mordecai assumed the role that once belonged to Haman. The victim has become the victor. Let’s study in detail this role reversal. Haman was himself hanged on the gallows he built. He himself was shamed and publicly displayed for all to see. All his children were killed. All his properties became properties of the King. He lost everything. Haman was so rich. He was the billionaire of today. But he lost everything. This is what anger will do to a man. And what about Mordecai?
‘Esther 10:2-3 says, ‘And all the acts of his power and his might, and the declaration of the greatness of Mordecai whereunto the king advanced him, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the King of Media and Persia. For Mordecai the Jew was next unto King Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed.’
The greatness of Mordecai was mentioned and please take note the bible says the king advanced him. This Gentile King advanced him. YHWH will use the worldly people to advance you. The unseen hand of God will advance you if you please him. Mordecai the Jew was next unto the King Ahasuerus. He was second in command. He was great among the Jews. Mordecai was accepted by the Jews. Mordecai seeks the wealth of his people. He constantly speak peace to all his seed. YHWH was not mentioned because firstly the book is written by Mordecai and he is under the command of a Gentile King. Maybe it is not wise for him as a powerful man to mention YHWH in the Gentile period. But that does not mean that YHWH is not with him. There is again the constant theme of the unseen hand of YHWH. Today there is not one nation that is truly a Christian Nation. We are living in the Gentile period. It is very sad that there is no nation that calls themselves Christian. Only the Nation of Israel is considered the people of God. Yet there is so little mention of YWHH because of the pressure of the Gentile nation. Yet we cannot deny the unseen hand of YHWH. What I am trying to say is that we may live in a world that has no place for God. But that doesn’t’ mean God is not with us. The unseen hand of God can advance you and make you great. Of course, not great for your own glorification but that you will seek the welfare of God’s people. That you seek the peace of your people. Are you accepted by God’s people because you love them and seek their welfare? Are you great among your own people? God told me recently that the clean (those who live right with God) will get stronger and stronger. Are you sure there is such a thing? Job 17:9 ‘The righteous will keep moving forward, and those with clean hands becomes stronger and stronger.’ This is what the unseen hand of God will do.
How about Haman? A man that is filled with hatred and always wanted to thwart the plan of God and seek the destruction of God’s people. What Haman is doing is mischief. Esther 8:3 says, ‘And Esther spake yet again before the king, and fell down at his feet, and besought him with tears to put away the mischief of Haman the Agaite, and his device that he had devised against the Jew.’ The Agagite is related to Agag, the King of the Amalekites. There are people that wants to do you mischief. There are people that wanted to do mischief to this church. God will not allow it. God spoke to me recently that the triumph of the wicked will be short. Job 20:5 says, ‘That the triumph of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite is for a moment. Haman was the second most powerful man in the whole of the Media Persian Empire but he was removed. God showed me in Job 20:6 concerning wicked people that is filled with hatred for you. It says, ‘Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds. He may climb all the way up to the top but it will come crushing down. Job 20:26, ‘the increase of his house shall depart and his goods shall flow away in the day of His (God’s wrath).’
Mordecai assumed the role that once belonged to Haman. The Victim has become the Victor.