Justice Tawa Baptist Church by MikeJenny

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									Scripture:
Esther 5:9-7:10

Title:
Justice

Structure:
 Introduction
 Esther 5:9-14
 Esther 6:1-14
 Esther 7:1-10
 Conclusion

Introduction:
A baker came to suspect that the farmer from whom he bought his butter was
serving short weight on his order
   - So for an entire week he carefully weighed the butter at home and sure
      enough his suspicions were confirmed
   - Feeling irate he had the farmer arrested

A court hearing was scheduled without delay
   - “I assume you use the standard weights when measuring out your
     goods?” the judge asked the farmer sternly
   - “As a matter of fact, I don‟t,” said the farmer calmly
   - “Then, how do you do your measuring?”
   - “Well, when the baker began buying butter from me, I decided to buy his
     bread” explained the farmer
   - “And I measure out his butter by placing his one pound loaf of bread on
     the other side of the scale”

This is an example of justice
   - Justice is when someone gets what they deserve, exactly
   - And the best way to measure what someone deserves is by how they treat
       others
   - The baker had no cause to prosecute for he received measure for measure
       what he gave to the farmer
This morning we continue our series in the book of Esther, picking up from
chapter 5, verse 9
   - Up to this point the story has been pretty unfair for many of the characters
   - Vashti, Mordecai and the Jews have all been treated badly
   - This week though things start to change as some of the injustices are
      reversed

Please turn with me to Esther chapter 5, verse 9
   - You can find this on page 500 in the first half of your pew Bibles

[Read Esther 5:9-7:10]

May God‟s Spirit help us to see God‟s justice in this Scripture

Esther 5:9-14
God‟s justice is poetic
   - Poetic justice is when someone receives a fitting consequence for their
      own actions – and this often happens in an ironic way
   - In Roald Dahl‟s book Charlie & the Chocolate Factory it was poetic
      justice when Augustus Gloop fell into the lake of chocolate while
      drinking from it
   - In Jane Austin‟s novel Pride & Prejudice, it was poetic justice when Mr
      Whickam ended up having to marry the flighty & irritating Lydia
   - And in J.R.R. Tolkien‟s trilogy, Lord of the Rings, it was poetic justice
      when Gollum finally got his hands on the ring (his „precious‟) and then
      fell into the fires of Mordor where they were both destroyed

There is something ironically comical and satisfying in these scenes of poetic
justice – as there is in the passage we just read from Esther

Haman feels happy and in a good mood when he leaves Esther‟s first banquet,
that is until he sees Mordecai sitting at the entrance to the palace
   - A more literal translation of verse 9 (of chapter 5) says that Mordecai
        neither rose nor trembled before Haman
   - Indicating that Mordecai showed no fear and this made Haman furious

But Haman manages to control his anger
   - He goes home, invites some friends around, asks his wife to join them
     and then proceeds to boast about how rich he is, how many sons he has,
     how the king had promoted him to high office and how much more
     important he is than any of the other officials
   - Haman entertains delusions of grandeur – he is a megalomaniac
   - Somewhat ironically he also adds that Esther has prepared a banquet for
     no one else but the king and him and he is invited back tomorrow
   - Little does he know what Esther has planned

Haman finishes his self-glorying by saying…
  - “But none of this means a thing to me as long as I see that Jew Mordecai
    sitting at the entrance of the palace.”
  - So his wife and friends suggest that he build a gallows 22 metres tall and
    ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it
  - Now 22 metres is a long way up
  - I‟m guessing it would be more than twice the height of this auditorium
  - And the point of making the gallows that tall is so that everyone in Susa
    could see Mordecai‟s body hanging from it
  - Haman doesn‟t just want to kill Mordecai – he wants to publically
    humiliate Mordecai as well

Haman thought this was a good idea so he had the gallows built
  - At this point we note again Haman‟s overconfidence
  - Just as he had set a date for annihilating the Jews before speaking to the
    king, so too he builds the gallows before asking Xerxes

Esther 6:1-14
If you‟ve been following Shortland Street lately, then you‟ll know how Penny
(aka Paula Sinclair) has it in for Scotty
    - Paula has been secretly trying to poison Scotty
    - At one point she managed to make Scotty unconscious then she tried to
      burn his house down while he was still in it
    - But Scotty was saved by coincidence
    - His girlfriend Tracey (who had been away on holiday) came back at just
      the right moment to put the fire out and get Scotty to hospital

Last Friday another coincidence happened at just the right moment
   - The doctors hadn‟t been able to figure out what was causing Scotty‟s
     sickness but as it transpired someone else came into ED with arsenic
     poisoning, which made Maxwell think to check Scotty‟s blood for
     various toxins
   - And what do you know – it turns out that Scotty has trallium poisoning
   - Now, it would be fair to say that Scotty is not out of the woods yet
   - In fact he is in the boot of an old Mercedes
   - However, as coincidence would have it, his girlfriend Tracey happens to
     be ex-police and she is doing some detective work of her own
   - So there is hope for Scotty

Coincidence – it is what writers often use to put a twist in the plot and reverse
the characters‟ fortunes
   - Shortland Street of course is fiction
   - But they say that truth is stranger than fiction
   - Real life often has some quite uncanny and ironic coincidences

Frederick Buechner once said…
   - Coincidence is just God‟s way of remaining anonymous
   - And it would seem that the more ordinary (and less spectacular) the
      coincidence the more anonymous God means to remain
   - We encounter just such a series of ordinary coincidences in chapter 6,
      verses 1 & 2 – the literary centre of the book – which reads…
   - That same night the king could not get to sleep, so he ordered the official
      records of the empire to be brought and read to him. The part they read
      included the account of how Mordecai had uncovered a plot to
      assassinate the king…

We note at least three very mundane coincidences in these verses…
  - First coincidence – the king could not sleep
  - (one wonders whether this was because of the noise made by the
     carpenters who were building Haman‟s gallows)
  - Second coincidence – the king asked for the official records of the empire
     to be brought and read to him
  - Now why would the king do this? He could have asked for one of his
     concubines or a nice glass of warm milk to help him sleep
   - But he doesn‟t, instead he asks for the official records, which is sort of
     like asking for someone to read you meeting minutes in the middle of the
     night
   - Third coincidence – the part of the official record that is read includes an
     account of how Mordecai saved the king‟s life by foiling an assassination
     attempt

When the king learns that Mordecai has not been rewarded for this
  - He asks, Are any of my officials in the palace?
  - Coincidence number four, Haman is here, waiting to see you

Ironically Haman is there to ask the king if he can have Mordecai hanged, while
the king wants to ask Haman how to honour Mordecai
   - But neither of them is aware of what the other is thinking
   - It is a comedy of errors

When the king asks Haman, what should I do for someone I wish to honour
very much?
   - Haman assumes the king is thinking about him so he answers…
   - “Order royal robes to be brought for this man – robes that you yourself
      wear. Order a royal ornament to be put on your own horse.
   - Then get one of your highest noblemen to dress the man in these robes
      and lead him, mounted on the horse, through the city square
   - Let the nobleman announce as they go: „See how the king rewards a man
      he wishes to honour‟.

It‟s interesting that Haman does not recommend money here – he already has
that
    - Nor does he recommend a promotion – he is already the highest ranking
        official under the king
    - Haman asks to be treated like royalty – to wear the king‟s clothes and ride
        the king‟s horse
    - This suggests to us that Haman has designs on the king‟s throne

In his eagerness to reward Mordecai‟s loyalty the king doesn‟t realise what
Haman has in mind, so Xerxes says to Haman…
   - “Hurray… and provide these honours for Mordecai the Jew.
   - Do everything thing for him that you have suggested.
   - You will find him sitting at the entrance of the palace.”

This verse shows us that the king still does not realise which race of people
were to be exterminated by Haman‟s edict
   - You may remember that Haman did not specify this when he raised the
      matter in conversation with the king
   - And clearly the king has not seen a written version of the edict either,
      otherwise he would know that Mordecai was going to be killed and so
      publicly honouring him would be inconsistent, not to mention pointless

The king is in the dark
  - Without realising it he has just saved Mordecai‟s life and served Haman
      with a little poetic justice in the process

The irony is sweet, because God did not need to do very much at all
  - Haman actually did more than anyone else to bring this shame on himself
  - Had Haman not been so anxious to get the king‟s permission to hang
      Mordecai, he would never have been on hand at just the moment the king
      was asking for an official

We are reminded of Proverbs 29, verse 3…
  - A man‟s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honour
  - Haman is brought low, while Mordecai gains honour
  - Not that I imagine Mordecai particularly enjoyed the experience
  - It must have seemed like a very empty and inadequate consolation prize
     when faced with the genocide of his people
  - We note (in verse 12) that Mordecai went back to his silent sackcloth
     vigil at the palace entrance after this charade
  - While Haman covers his head in embarrassment

And things don‟t improve for Haman after this
  - When he goes home and tells his wife and friends everything that
      happened to him, they say…
  - “You are beginning to lose power to Mordecai. He is a Jew and you
      cannot overcome him. He will certainly defeat you”
  - I imagine that went down like a cup of cold sick
   - Why didn‟t they tell Haman this before?
   - A day earlier they were advising Haman to build a gallows for Mordecai

Ironically though there is prophetic truth in what they say
   - Like when Balaam‟s donkey spoke
   - Or when the Roman centurion said of Jesus at his crucifixion, „Surely this
      was the son of God‟

You know, when it comes to coincidences we need to find the middle way
  - It probably doesn‟t help us to read God‟s hand into every little
     coincidence that happens
  - By the same token it can be quite nourishing to our faith to consider the
     ordinary ways in which God interrupts our lives to guide us in a particular
     direction and to serve his purpose
  - I reckon one of the joys of heaven will be discovering the many ways that
     God used us to save others without our awareness

Esther 7:1-10
God‟s justice is poetic
   - Through some very ordinary coincidences God manages to reverse
      Haman‟s and Mordecai‟s fortunes – all within the space of 24 hours

Quite often with cases of poetic justice we find an element of the blindside
  - In the radio play War of the Worlds, the alien invaders were not
      conquered by military might
  - Their undoing was a lack of immunity to the common cold virus

Or, to take an example from history – the thing that Al Capone was finally sent
to jail for was tax evasion.
    - Al Capone was not charged for his illegal and violent MOB activities
    - He was blindsided by an accountant for not paying his tax

Haman also is blindsided, at Esther‟s second banquet

Chapter 7 begins with the king asking Esther – what do you want, tell me and
you shall have it, up to half my kingdom
   - We see here how Esther‟s patience pays off
   - This is the third time now that the king has asked Esther what she wants
   - The king is so eager to discover Esther‟s request that he makes it easier
     for her, promising to grant her request even before he knows what it is

And Esther cuts to the chase, saying…
  - “If it please your majesty to grant my humble request, my wish is that I
     may live and that my people may live
  - My people and I have been sold for slaughter… we are about to be
     destroyed, exterminated”

A number of things to note here
   - Esther is truthful without beating around the bush
   - She is clear and incisive, she does not bury the lead
   - She goes directly to the point – I want to live and I want my people to live
     – we‟ve been sold for slaughter…
   - Esther knows she has to make her point quickly because Haman is in the
     room – she needs to get the truth across before he has a chance to wriggle
     out of it

The other thing to note is Esther‟s courage – she identifies herself with her
people
   - Which is a brave thing to do because up till this point neither king Xerxes
      nor Haman realise that Esther is Jewish

Having heard the heart of the matter the king wants Esther to fill him in on the
details, so he asks…
   - “Who dares to do such a thing?”
   - To which Esther replies, “Our enemy, our persecutor is this evil Haman”
   - Notice how Esther says our enemy, our persecutor
   - She aligns herself with the king
   - She depicts Haman not only as the enemy of the Jewish people but also as
       the enemy of the king

You see, Esther treads a thin line here
  - She needs to accuse Haman explicitly without implicating king Xerxes
  - So she words her reply in such a way that saves the king from shame and
     lays the blame squarely on Haman‟s shoulders
   - Which makes it easier for the king to distance himself from the decision
   - Esther demonstrates a high level of diplomatic skill
   - No longer can we think of her as merely a trophy wife

Haman has been blindsided and he is terrified
  - The king leaves the room in a fury and goes out to the gardens for a
    breather
  - He now realises that Haman has deceived him and he needs to figure out
    what his next move should be
  - Meanwhile, Haman throws himself on Esther‟s couch to beg for mercy

We note the reversal in this scene
  - Previously the king had commanded all the officials to bow to Haman
  - Now Haman bows to a Jewish woman

As coincidence would have it the king re-enters the banquet hall at just the right
moment to find Haman falling on Esther‟s couch
   - And he jumps to conclusions, saying…
   - “Is this man going to rape the queen right here in front of me, in my own
      palace?”
   - The king no sooner had said this than the eunuchs covered Haman‟s head
   - And when one of the eunuchs pointed out that Haman had built a gallows
      for Mordecai, the king gave the order…
   - “Hang Haman on it!”
   - So, with poetic justice, Haman is hoisted on his own petard – hanged on
      the gallows he had built for Mordecai – humiliated before everyone

Proverbs 26, verse 27 “A man who sets a trap for others will fall into it himself”

But the poetic justice doesn‟t finish here for we note the final blow to Haman‟s
life actually comes by way of a false accusation
    - Haman was sentenced to death for attempting to assault the queen, when
       in fact he was only begging for mercy
    - Ironically, this injustice fits Haman‟s crime perfectly
    - Because he had sentenced the entire Jewish race to death based on a false
       accusation
Haman‟s undoing (from the blindside) provides a note of warning and of hope
  - It is a warning to not be over confident, not to rely on our own plans too
    much, but to remember God‟s overarching redemptive purpose
  - Haman‟s undoing also provides hope because it shows us that ultimately
    evil is not in control
  - Evil may appear to gain the upper hand for a while but God can very
    easily and quickly reverse the circumstances so that evil destroys itself

Conclusion:
I imagine everyone here is familiar with the golden rule, do for others what you
want them to do for
    - As I reflect on that rule I think of God‟s justice
    - God‟s justice is poetic
    - Sometimes it is a slow train coming but eventually God‟s justice does for
      us what we do for others
    - God takes the measure we use for others and applies it to us
    - Which means that it is not God who condemns us – we condemn
      ourselves by our own words and actions

The good news is that, as well as being just, God is also merciful and gracious
  - If justice is about what we deserve, then grace is about what we don‟t
      deserve
  - Jesus is the agent of God‟s grace
  - Jesus came to save us from what we deserve
  - In Jesus, God‟s justice & mercy are one

								
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