The Kingdom in Exile
Where do you feel most at
“and having acknowledged
that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” Heb 11:13
“But our citizenship is
in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” -
Heaven is our true home. When we understand that this world is not our home, we start living differently. When you travel to different places we try to replicate the place that is home to us. If heaven is our home and we are exiles on the earth, how can we bring the kingdom of God- Heaven to earth?
In the coming weeks, we will look at the stories of different people from the OT who stewarded and championed the kingdom of God in exile. Today, we are looking at the life of a young girl who was orphaned at a young age and was being brought up by her cousin. Any guesses?
Esther is one of only 2 books of the bible where God's name is not
mentioned, (the other is Songs of Solomon). As we move through this world,
it can feel like that- God is not mentioned, and no one acknowledges him or
honours him as God. Though God’s name is not mentioned, as we will see in
the book of Esther, his hand is all over it. He manifests himself as
providence - the coincidences, the favour, the sleepless nights, the
reversal of fate.
This is the story of a young girl who prevents genocide in the nation of Persia. I believe that the book of Esther can give us a prophetic strategy for our time as a nation. So when confronted with injustices in our schools, workplaces, neighbourhoods and cities, how can we respond? How can we be salt and light in a hostile environment?
We start in Persia with an
ego-maniacal king who has surrounded himself with wicked advisers. One day, partying
with his friends and after getting drunk, he calls his wife to come so he can
show her off. When she said no to this degrading request, he divorced her and
threw her out of his house. When he starts missing her, his advisers tell him
to have a beauty contest and pick his favourite. He likes the idea.
Then enters Mordecai, who enrolls his cousin-daughter(Esther) into this beauty contest! Amongst all the other beauties Esther stands out and wins the favour of the chief Eunuch. Favour is a manifestation of God’s goodness. Though God's Name is not mentioned, his hand is manifest. When you ask yourself, why was I picked for this role, why am I asked to travel to this country or given this opportunity, remember that favour is one of the ways God manifests his goodness. But also, favour is how God sets us up.
When she is presented before that king, he is bowled over! Esther is made queen! This is the best case scenario, they hacked the system, and they can both live comfortable lives.
But then there is a twist in the story and enter Haman. He is as narcissistic as the king if not more. When Mordecai doesn’t bow down to him as the rest (because Mordecai is a good Jew) - he takes it upon himself to not only destroy Mordecai but his entire race. There is an edict to kill all the Jews, the king gives him the funds and his signet ring (his authority). Things seem hopeless.
This is where our life as a Christian becomes real. When we stand up for God, refuse to do as instructed. Wait a second, I thought this was a secular country. What's happening?
When this happens we can react in one of 2 ways-
- Revolt: “When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry.” - Esther 4:1 ESV
- Recede: “When Esther's young women and her
eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed. She sent
garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but
he would not accept them.” - Esther 4:4 ESV
All of us fall somewhere in this spectrum when we see injustices and atrocities in our nation. But there is another way. In Luke 1, Zechariah the priest prophecies that Jesus came to guide our feet into the path of peace.
4 P’s for Peace
- Partnership - across ages, cultures, locations
Mordecai sends word to Esther educating her about all that is happening and with a challenge. “Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, "Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"” - Esther 4:13-14 ESV
Mordecai and Esther are from different generations, genders, and currently, social status. But what is happening here is not just friendship, it is partnership.
Mordecai does 3 things: he educates Esther, he shares his burden, and he challenges her. Do we have partnerships like that in our life? In the church?
This is what Mordecai would say to us today. “Don't think that in your cushy job and attending church on Sundays in a cosmopolitan city, you will escape any more than the pastors who are being beaten and arrested and chased in some of the cities. If you keep silent at this time/ if you shrink back, relief and deliverance will rise for the Christians in India from another place, but you and your family will have missed something. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”
“"Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish."” - Esther 4:16 ESV
partnership with God.
Prayer and fasting are the most potent yet underused weapons in our arsenal. It
is not a way to arm twist God, but is a way to display that you are serious
about his business. It is setting ourselves apart for him. Illustration of praying for
Ralphy. Fasting is a bow for the arrow
Application: come for the monthly prayer every month. Fast and pray.
“On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king's palace, in front of the king's quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace. And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.” - Esther 5:1-2 ESV
Irreverence and disrespect will not win peace. “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.” - 1 Peter 2:17-18 ESV
This is different from
people-pleasing. People-pleasing is for our sake, it's about what you can get
out of them - whether their approval or favour. That's what Haman was doing-
it’s hypocrisy. But Esther showed true humility, she served the king and honoured
Our posture of honour exhibits our trust in God. There are times we need to be forceful but never disrespectful!
“Then Queen Esther answered, "If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king." Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, "Who is he, and where is he, who has dared to do this?" And Esther said, "A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!" Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.” - Esther 7:3-6 ESV
We can discuss and pray and postulate, but at some point we just have to take action. It involves risk and vulnerability. Esther had to expose who she was in order to ask for the lives of her people to be saved. She could have lost her life.
Phil 3:10: that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
We are called to participate in the sufferings of Christ.
Application: What are some of the practical things that you can do in your sphere of influence? Start with yourself, your neighbourhood, your classrooms and workplaces. Because there is great reward for the risk.
“For Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur (that is, cast lots), to crush and to destroy them. But when it came before the king, he gave orders in writing that his evil plan that he had devised against the Jews should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows.” - Esther 9:24-25 ESV
There was another man who left the glory of heaven and was exiled to a lowly place on earth- with the target on his back from the moment he was born. But he lived a blameless life - partnering with fishermen and tax collectors, frequently getting away to pray to his father in heaven, in a posture of a humble servant, obedient, to the point of death, even death on a cross.
But in a reversal of fate, rose from the grave on the third day, defeated sin and death forever. The very cross that was his death has become life for us. Today, we are called into a partnership with him.
How we handle our influence in this generation, will either perpetuate the atrocities and immorality that we see today or it will put an end to it. As we partner with those outside our comfort zones, as we pray and fast, as we humble ourselves in obedience and as we readily participate in the sufferings of Christ. Because the harvest is plenty and the reward is great!
And one day when the king of kings and the lord of lords returns, the evil plan of the enemy will return on his own head and he and the sons of darkness will see eternal damnation. But for those who trust God and obey his commands, there is eternal life.