“The Good Fight” Esther 9:1-16 August 12, 2007
SI: In this chapter we finally get to the battle between the Jews and their enemies.
They had months to prepare, they knew this day was coming.
When it came, they fought with all their strength and defeated
everyone who hated them and who had tried to destroy them.
So let’s read this story, and see what it teaches us about the Christian life.
INTRO: Several word pictures the Bible uses to describe the Christian life.
It is compared to biological growth.
Bible talks about Christians being infants, young men, fathers.
Maturing from drinking milk to eating meat.
Compared to farming. Sowing, reaping, wheat and tares.
Waiting for spring and autumn rains.
Branches of the vine bearing fruit.
Called a race.
Run in such a way as to get the prize . . .
Run with perseverance the race that is set before us . . .
But most common word picture of Christian life is warfare.
You see it over and over again.
We are involved in a great war between kingdom of darkness and light.
We are soldiers in the Lord’s army, fighting against sin.
We’ve been given weapons for this fight, and orders to follow.
Christ is our captain and he is leading us into battle.
Yes, there is peace in the Christian life.
Peace with God, peace of conscience, peace in death,
peace that passes understanding.
When you put your trust in Jesus,
you get peace in lots of places where you once had conflict.
But the opposite is also true—you have conflict where you once had peace.
You have sinful attitudes, idols, selfishness, pride—that didn’t bother you once.
Now they bother you. You hate those things about yourself.
And the more you grow as a Christian, the more you hate them.
But you are tempted to go back to those things—and often do.
And that is a continual fight.
You have conflict with the values of the world.
At one time you accepted them without question.
But now those values are the opposite of what you stand for—
but part of you still finds them appealing—so there is another battle.
And you have a conflict with the devil that is different.
Although he hates all people, saved and unsaved because made in image of God.
He has an intense hatred for believers.
He tempts you to sin. He wants to drag you back to your pre-Christian pains—
so that doubt, fear, and guilt dominates you.
His weapons are lies. And fighting them is very hard.
That’s the picture the New Testament paints—
Think of this passage in Ephesians that we read, and others.
What about the Old Testament?
In Old Testament, we often see actual battles—like this chapter in Esther.
And many others—remember study about 2 years ago on great battles?
When Israelites fought their enemies, that was spiritual warfare too.
Hebrews 11 gives us the key.
“By faith the saints of old became strong in battle,
and routed foreign armies, and conquered kingdoms.”
In other words, when the saints of old went into battle—it was a fight of faith.
It was spiritual warfare that required the same trust and obedience
that your own fight against sin and temptation requires.
The methods have changed since the coming of Christ.
The New Testament age is different from OT in form.
But the underlying spiritual principles are the same.
So we can look at battles, like this one in Esther,
and see, in some intense ways, parallels to our own experience.
And if we pay attention, listen to the Holy Spirit—
and draw those parallels to our own lives, this battle in Esther
can give us tremendous help.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed—as the old saying goes.
So let’s look at this passage, see what it shows us about
the fight of the Christian life. I have three headings, will give as we go.
MP#1 Evil days
The whole Christian life is a fight, but there are some evil days.
And the way you handle those evil days will shape your life for years to come.
The evil day in this story was the 13th of Adar.
That was the day Haman had decreed that the Jews could be murdered.
We had a Friday the 13th last month. For some people that’s considered unlucky.
13th of Adar was supposed to be a very unlucky day for the Jews.
But it turned out to be a bad day for the enemies of the Jews.
And that’s because there is no such thing as luck—there is only God’s providence.
He sovereignly arranges all things for his glory and the good of his people.
As we have seen over and over in Esther, the Lord working behind the scenes.
But the Jews still had to prepare for that day and fight.
If they hadn’t prepared and fought, outcome would have been very different.
Wouldn’t have been totally destroyed, but would have been severely weakened.
There would have been lots of grief and doubt instead of celebration.
It would have taken them years to recover.
So they prepared for the evil day that they knew was coming.
Did all they could to get ready militarily and politically.
In Ephesians 6, the Apostle Paul says:
“Therefore, put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand.”
In one sense, Paul says, the whole Christian life is a fight—every day.
But there are also evil days. And you must prepare for them.
What are evil days? Let’s think of some other biblical examples.
The day King David saw Bathsheba bathing was an evil day.
It was a day of temptation.
And there may be an evil day when a particularly violent temptation
hits you at an unexpected moment—maybe sexual, maybe something else.
The day Job lost his wealth and his children was an evil day.
It was a day of loss.
And there may be an evil day when you suffer such a great loss
that it has the potential of shaking you to the core—even shaking your faith.
The day when the Peter was questioned by the servant girl was an evil day.
It was a day of trial.
Remember how Jesus described what was about to happen to Peter?
“Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.”
There may be an evil day in which you face a trial of your loyalty
to Christ or to the church.
This is what is sobering about evil days.
Even though we know that God is sovereign, and that he preserves us—
he preserved David, and Job, and Peter—their faith did not fail.
If you are not prepared for evil days, you will suffer repercussions
that will hurt you for years to come. And their may be other people
whose souls are damaged or even destroyed by your fall.
We don’t have time to go into those repercussions—can read about them yourself.
I want to focus on the positive example that we see in this passage.
You can prepare for the evil days.
Just like the Jews prepared for the 13th of Adar.
And even though you still have to fight, and suffer some blows,
you will not fall, you will stand and emerge victorious and stronger than before.
Paul says you prepare by putting on the armor of God.
And then he lists the armor of God—
helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith.
Armor of God simply the benefits and privileges of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Putting on the armor—appropriating those benefits and privileges.
Getting to know Gospel truth so well, that they become more than
just intellectual knowledge, but it sinks down into your heart,
and animate and strengthen you.
Years ago, before Cullman, was in the home of a family who had lost their son.
Death was sudden, violent—it was an evil day.
Although they were grieving deeply, I watched the father talking to people
who were coming by to offer their consolation. He was encouraging them.
Gospel truths, hope of eternal life were so real to him.
That’s because he was prepared. Lord used that preparation as a channel of grace.
MP#2 Entangling sin
In the Christian life there are some sins that are especially hard to deal with—
they require special determination and ruthlessness—entangling sins.
One thing that bothers liberal Bible scholars about Esther is her
that the edict be extended for one more day in
so that the Jews will have one more day to kill their enemies.
And also, her request that the bodies of the ten sons of Haman be hanged.
It seems so cruel and vengeful.
It wasn’t. This was a war of self-defense.
Esther knew that in the capital city, there was still a pocket of enemies
that had to be dealt with for the security of her people.
By hanging Haman’s sons, she we actually giving them a warning—
leave us alone, if you come against us, you will be destroyed.
And in the bigger picture, the Lord was working out his saving purposes
his judgments through
But I want to use Esther’s ruthlessness toward her enemies to draw
another parallel to the Christian life.
Just as there were pockets of enemies in
that required more fighting before they could be destroyed—
in your life there are particular sins that must be ruthlessly attacked.
John Owen: “I’ll leave sin alone when it leaves me alone.”
Writer of Hebrews speaks of entangling sins, older versions, besetting sins.
Idea seem to be that in each life, there are particular sins that pull us down.
What is an entangling sin for one person, might not be for another.
But a Christian can’t leave them alone, have to fight until they leave you alone.
No easy formulas or shortcuts—instead, Bible uses some violent words
sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed which is idolatry.”
Notice that putting to death your earthly nature is something
you are commanded to do. You have to fight. God gives you the power.
Christ death is your death—sinful nature has been put to death—you kill it.
Three questions I want to ask you. Think about these.
1. What are your entangling sins? Do you even know?
You have to go deeper than outward behavior.
It’s not just lying, or cursing, or overspending or the things you do over
and over that are bad and cause problems in your life.
You have to get to the underlying sins.
What are the sinful imaginations, jealousies, resentments, idolatries and lusts?
If you can’t answer those that question, aren’t serious about the fight.
2. What are you doing to kill and cut off these sins?
Matt. 5 “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
You have to have a strategy. My battle with moles—starving them out.
If your entangling sin is anger. Comes out in hateful words to spouse, children.
Fits of rage. Come to realize anger is at God for not giving you life you want.
Or that you don’t have control you crave—how are you going to kill that?
What are you going to do before you walk in the door after work?
What Gospel truths are you going to press home? And how?
Very practical matters. A visible reminder. A card on dashboard.
“Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate, entrusted himself to him who judges
I know a Christian man who has stolen things, knows it is a temptation.
Every day he prays Ephesians 4:28
“Let him to steals, steal no longer, rather let him work with his hands,
doing something useful, that he may have something to share with those in need.”
3. What are you going to replace these sins with?
Essential part of the battle against entangling sins.
Have to be replaced with the opposite.
Stealing has to be replaced with working and giving.
Fits of rage have to be deliberately replaced with acts of love.
When get home from work, you kiss wife, ask her about day—
instead of taking your anger out on her.
You have to work this out for yourself.
Essential part of fighting entangling sins.
Don’t neglect this fight. If Esther had—no end of trouble later.
Don’t leave sin alone until it leaves you alone.
MP#3 Enervating victories
I’m sorry that I used this word enervating. Please forgive me.
It’s a weird old word.
But I had two points that started with the letter e—
evil days and entangling sin—I just had to have another e.
I usually don’t care—but for some reason it meant a lot to me this time.
Enervating means the loss of physical, spiritual, or moral strength.
So an enervating victory is a victory where the winner loses strength.
The passage warns us that in the fight of the Christian life
you can win a spiritual or moral victory—
and then handle the victory so poorly, that it ends up like a defeat.
I want to point out an interesting detail in this story.
There is a phrase that is repeated three times about the Jews.
“But they did not lay their hands on the plunder.”
Any time something repeated three times, important.
Why didn’t they lay hands on plunder?
On one level, good politics. Proof they were killing in self-defense.
That certainly contributed to the good view people had of them.
But there is a deeper and more interesting reason.
This is a reference to King Saul, way back in 1 Samuel 15,
and something that he did 400 years before Esther.
God had commanded Saul to destroy the Amalekites.
They were enemies
of God and
God said, destroy them completely, and take no plunder, destroy plunder.
That was important because this was God’s judgment.
Saul won the victory, defeated them—but kept the plunder, spared King Agag.
Does that name ring a bell in Esther?
Haman was an Agagite. Descendant of Amalekites, line of Agag.
Because of Saul’s failure after the victory, God’s people
threatened again 400 years later by this old enemy.
So this time the Jews decided—we are going to do this right.
When we win the victory, we will take no plunder—doing it God’s way.
Will be tempting, but we won’t ruin this victory by dishonoring God.
There is a parallel in the fight of the Christian life—often see in the bible.
After spiritual and moral victories,
after prayers are answered,
mountains climbed, rivers crossed—
There is a great danger of a spiritual or moral fall.
Many examples, Elijah, Peter, David again.
Remember reading something a minister I know once wrote.
Man in church who taught adult Sunday school for years—lots of good things.
Another man joined church, more talent, more intelligence—started teaching.
His class grew, other man’s shrunk.
Could not say—God has given me great success in Sunday school.
Now, it is time for people I’ve taught to be taken to another level.
He wanted the spoils—wanted the continued attention.
He did not take it well. Became so angry and bitter, he left the church.
This is the danger of victories that God gives us, even spiritual and moral ones—
we think that we’ve done it. Because, of course, we’ve had to fight and struggle.
But we forget that it was only possible by the power of Christ.
So when the victory comes, or enter a time of peace and prosperity—
very vulnerable to pride and sense of entitlement.
So what’s the solution? How do you prepare for victories?
Because you will have victories in the Christian life.
When they come how to you keep from responding poorly, being dragged down?
Has to be by looking at the cross. Seeing all Jesus has done for you.
And frequent communion with him.
That way, when you do win a victory, will know it only came by his strength,
and it cost him greatly to give you that strength—
and that will fill you with gratitude and humility.
When you were a child, did parents ever help you with school projects?
Know parents have different opinions on this. Mine did.
Remember making A on science project my dad and I had worked on.
Even though I was just in 6th grade, loved dad enough to know—
couldn’t have gotten that A without him. That made me happy and humble—
even in victory.
Walking closely to Christ, will make victories—even this week, stepping stone
to greater victories, rather than occasions for prideful fall.
CONC: Fight the good fight.
There are evil days, entangling sins, enervating victories—
but the Lord in his goodness has told you about these things—
and has given you all you need, all the Gospel armor to win.
So let’s come to the Table, commune with our Captain in the fight—
be strengthened for the work of this coming week.