Sunday, January 28

Enter the Lists: A Quote from Mark Dever

. . . about the story of Esther. It includes a list--a list that shows us that sometimes nothing tells the true story like a list.
You may have heard the proverb, "Large doors swing on small hinges." The course of history is often determined by the smallest particulars. This story of Esther is filled with crucial happenings that might have looked like chance to anyone observing the events at the time, and perhaps they looked that way to you. After all, the book explains the Feast of Purim, which comes from the plural Hebrew word for "lots" or "dice." And the roll of the dice gives a random outcome, right? If you think so, then to you this book will be nothing more than a really remarkable story of how all this stuff just seemed to happen. What stuff?
  • Esther just happens to be Jewish, and she just happens to be beautiful.
  • Esther just happens to be favored by the king.
  • Mordecai just happens to hear the plot against the king's life.
  • A report of this just happens to be written in the king's chronicles.
  • Haman just happens to notice that Mordecai does not kneel down before him and he just happens to find out that Mordecai is a Jew.
  • When Haman plots his revenge, the dice just happen to indicate that the date for exacting revenge is put off for almost a year! (What does Proverbs 16:33 say? "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.")
  • Esther happens to get the king's approval to speak, but then she happens to put off her request for another day.
  • Her deferral happens to send Haman out by Mordecai one more time,
  • which just happens to cause him to recount it to his friends.
  • They, in turn, just happen to encourage him to build a scaffold immediately!
  • So Haman just happens to be excited to approach the king early the next morning.
  • It just so happens that the previous night, the mighty king could not command a moments sleep,
  • and he just happened to have had a book brought to him than recounted Mordecai's deed.
  • He then happened to ask whether Mordecai had been rewarded, to which his attendants happened to know the answer. Simply consider for a moment the fact that Mordecai happened not to have been rewarded for having saved the king's life. How unusual this must have been! Someone who saved the king's life never rewarded? I wonder if Mordecai ever chafed under that: "Doesn't he realize what I did for him?" Well, it all just happened.
  • Anyhow, Haman happens to approach the king just when the king is wondering how Mordecai should be honored.
  • Later on, the king happens to return to the queen just when Haman happens to be pleading with Esther in a way that can be misconstrued.
  • The gallows Haman built for Mordecai just happens to be ready when King Xerxes want to hang Haman.
I could keep going. Is that how you read the story of Esther—as so many happenstances and lucky coincidences? Apart from believing that God actively and sovereignly rules over our world, the book of Esther becomes a mere celebration of Mordecai's wisdom and Esther's courage, and, most of all, simply chance and luck.

But, friend, if you are a Christian, this is not how you should read this book. I assure you, this is not why it was written. This book was written to show that God himself acts to achieve the total defeat of his foes and the safety of his people.

From The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Kept by Mark Dever, pages 455, 456.

Update, Tuesday, January 30: The Blue Fish Project has several posts on the book of Esther.

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