Posted: 29 Jan 2011 11:00 PM PST
SO HAMAN IS HANGED (ESTHER 7). The details of how this point in the narrative is reached simultaneously attest to the providential hand of God and the narrative skills of the author of this little book. Esther's second garden party leaves Haman completely exposed and utterly defenseless. A few minutes later he falls over himself on Esther's couch, begging for his life, only to find that his actions have been interpreted by the enraged King Xerxes as a crass attempt to molest the queen. Moreover, that seventy-five-foot gallows prepared for Mordecai—the Mordecai whom Haman was forced to honor—now becomes the site for his own execution. The man who wanted to commit genocide is killed.
In hindsight, how easy the operation has been. Despite Mordecai's agonized tears, despite Esther's uncertainty and her call for three days of fasting and prayer, from this vantage point the result seems almost inevitable. Nevertheless, observe:
First, in most of the conflicts in which we find ourselves, not least conflicts about the Gospel and the life and health of God's people, we do not know the outcome as we grimly enter the fray. That knowledge is reserved for God alone. Yet Christian faith is never to be confused with fatalism; the intervention of Mordecai and Esther demanded soul-searching, faith, prayer, and obedience. In retrospect, even their presence in the court and on the fringes of the court was God's preparation, and certainly the outcome was God's doing; but never should our confidence in God's ultimate victory dilute our own passionate involvement, intercession, and insertion into the affairs that touch God's covenant people.
Second, this singular victory does not mean that all the problems of the Jews are over. Rapid perusal of the rest of Esther shows how much farther there is to go. That is utterly realistic. Sometimes we enjoy decisive moments, but even these usually turn out to be mere steps in a much more complicated endeavor. Paul gives his decisive address to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20), but he is realistic enough to recognize the ongoing dangers that await that church (Acts 20:29–31). We have just seen how, under Nehemiah, the wall could be built around Jerusalem, and its completion viewed as a success, and how, under Ezra, revival broke out as the ancient feasts of the covenant were re-instituted—but immediately there were fresh challenges, dangers from new compromises, and hard decisions to be made.
It is ever so. Satan takes no vacations. The moment we are content in this fallen world, the dangers return—not least the danger of over-contentment. Without being contentious, prepare for conflict; without being combative, equip yourself for the "good fight" (2 Tim. 4:7). It will last at least as long as you live.
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