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Worship Series: Bible Stories
Worship Theme: Love At Any Cost
- CW 436: Jesus, Shepherd of the Sheep
- Change My Heart, Oh God
- CW 497: This Is My Will
- Holy, Holy, Holy
- Lamb of God
- CW 332: Go, My Children, with My Blessing
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Message: Love At Any Cost
Pastor Jon Enter
What are you not doing that you know you should? Who are you not helping in your life but you know you could? Today we are talking on Love At Any Cost. When God places us into a position to serve, to help, to do and to give…He expects us to show love without counting the cost. Why does God expect that? Because He can give us even more than we give to others.
To illustrate this truth my mind was drawn to the amazing story of Esther in the Bible. Today’s sermon is going to be a bit different than most. Most Christians know Esther is a book of the Bible but really don’t know the story. So I’m going to tell it to you. As you listen, hear how God is positioning Esther to do something big, something bold, something that could cost her everything she had. And hear yourself in her story. God has positioned you to do something big and bold and costly in His Name.
Are you ready for Bible story time? It’s a great one! Here we go…
Esther lived about 500 years before Jesus was born. She was born during the time of the Jewish dispersion. What that means is in 586BC the Babylonian army led by King Nebuchadnezzar came into Israel and conquered the land and then deported the best and brightest of Israel to the four corners of the Babylonian Empire. Esther wasn’t born yet but her grandparents or great-grandparents were part of that crowd dispersed throughout the empire. Eventually the Babylonian Empire was conquered by the Persian Empire. King Xerxes was the king of that Persian Empire who overthrew the Babylonians.
King Xerxes one day decides to gather his most important government officials and his old college drinking buddies and throw a party. A massive party. An epic party. The purpose was for Xerxes to show off how wealthy he was after becoming the most powerful man on the planet. There’s food, drinks, dancing and he parades through that ballroom everything he owns—the biggest show and tell party ever! The party lasted 180 days! If you’re like me you’re thinking, “My party would last 180 seconds”!
During the party, Xerxes gets drunk. With a 180 day party I’m guessing a lot of people got drunk. Well, King Xerxes starts bragging to the party goers about how beautiful his wife, Vashti, is. “My wifffe is ssso preeety.” (Said with a slurred voice) Then he gets an idea. “Why am I bragging about this? I can show my drinking buddies how hot my wife is.” And so he sends a message to Queen Vashti. “Hey babe, remember that outfit you put on when you went to glamor shots at the mall? Get that outfit on, your hair done up, your make up on and then come down here.” She gets the message. And for reasons unknown to us, she declines the invitation. Huh, right? It’s a history mystery!
She said, “No.” That was an act of incredible bravery because in her day in her culture no wife ever said, “No” to her husband and no one ever said, “No” to the king and she did it in front of all the officials. This created a crisis. When Xerxes sobers up, he calls his cabinet together. Not only did the queen wife say “No” to her king husband but being the queen she was setting an example for the kingdom. They were very concerned other wives would follow her lead and say “No” for some reason to their drunken husbands’ requests. So they stripped her of her crown and banished her.
Now they need a queen so they sent out officials throughout the Persian Empire to find the most beautiful women and bring them back to the capital city of Susa. Those women went through a year of training and beauty school. They all got to spend a night with King Xerxes—I’ll let you figure out what that was all about—and whomever he liked the most becomes the next queen. Sounds like a reality show: Miss Universe meets The Bachelor meets Persia’s Got Talent. A very specific talent that the king is looking for.
Several hundred women are brought into Susa and put through the yearlong process to possibly become queen. One of these women is Esther. Now Esther was a Jewish girl and her parents died when she was very young. She was raised by her older cousin, Mordecai. When the official took Esther away to join the haram Mordecai warned her not to let anyone know she was Jewish. She followed his advice keeping her heritage a secret. As it turns out, Xerxes fell head over heels in love with Esther. She was beautiful. She was dignified. She was respectful. She was intelligent. He married her and so Esther became the queen of the Persian Empire. She goes from orphan Jewish girl to the most powerful woman on the planet.
While all this is going on, Mordecai gets some bad news. There is a Persian official named Haman who was a rather important official; so important people were supposed to bow before him. Mordecai refused since he only bowed down before the Lord his God. Haman got so furious about this disrespectful action he made it his mission to kill not just Mordecai but all of the Jewish people. Haman went to Xerxes and poured on the charm, “Oh great, benevolent king…blah, blah, blah.” He convinced Xerxes the Jewish people are a threat and so a day is set within the Persian Empire. And on that day it became legal to kill any Jewish person and take their possessions as your own. Great deal for the people of the land not Jewish.
Mordecai finds out about this, goes to Susa the capital city and sits outside the city gate in sackcloth and ashes. There were some attendants of Esther who were trustworthy and knew who she really was and her connection to Mordecai. When Esther found out that Mordecai was in mourning, she sent an attendant to find out what happened. “Mordecai told him everything that had happened… for the destruction of the Jews. He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation…and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.” (Esther 4:7-8)
Mordecai lays out all the evidence, sends a message back to her, “Help us Esther-wan-kenobi, you’re our only hope!” Esther hears this plea for her to go the king to beg for the lives of the Jewish people and she gets a pit in her stomach, that terrible feeling you have when you know you should do something but you’re not sure how it’s going to turn out and you’re guessing it’s not going to be good for you. When you know, “If I do this, it’s going to cost me something.” That one. That feeling. It hits Esther.
This is why. She sends back this message. “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives.” (Esther 4:11) Mordecai is asking Esther to put her life on the line and go in unannounced and tell the king he was wrong when he issued the edict to kill the Jews.
Esther doesn’t like this plan at all: ONE: there’s the--you die if you barge in to see the king. TWO: Esther was queen was because the last queen didn’t know her place. THREE: Esther told Mordecai this: “But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.” (Esther 4:11) “I don’t think he has been sleeping alone at night and I haven’t seen him in 30 days. So not only would I be out of line but I might be out of favor with the king. You are asking me to risk too much.” She didn’t want to do it.
What are you not doing in your life that you know you should? Who are you not helping but you know you could? What has the Lord placed on your heart to change in your life but the cost of that change has been too much?
When Mordecai heard her response he warned Esther just because she was the queen her life would probably not be spared. Then Mordecai turns positive in his message to Esther. “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) The Hebrew word for “come” in this verse is a passive verb showing Esther was not active in making this happen. Mordecai was telling her that she was missing the grace. She was missing God’s grace. She was missing how God specifically positioned her in order to be able to do something. Esther was passive. The action was on God. You can clearly see God’s guiding, loving hands working here placing her in a position to be able to do something…a something that could dearly cost her.
What big thing can you do in the Name of the Lord for someone you know who is hurting or in need? What big thing can you do in honor of the Lord at our church? How has the Lord uniquely blessed you or gifted you to be a blessing to others? Who knows but that YOU have come to the position you are in your life right now for such a time as this? The Lord knows. And you know.
Jesus has blessed you! He has lovingly gifted you. You do not deserve to be treated the way you are by God. None of us do. Sin separates us from God. In fact God tells us in Isaiah 59:2, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you.” Our sins created a barrier between us and our perfect, holy and righteous Lord. It’s a barrier we cannot remove or even chip away at. We don’t deserve God’s love. We don’t deserve God’s blessings. We don’t deserve God’s protection. And yet we are!
Do you see how God has lovingly positioned you and blessed you? “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” (Psalm 103:10) Just think how your life could’ve or should’ve turned out with the choices you’ve made. Scary, isn’t it?! Look at where your life is now. That’s grace! That’s God’s love! That’s God’s forgiveness! That’s God positioning you in a place you don’t deserve to be so that you can be a blessing to others as He has been to you.
That’s the place where Esther found herself. Mordecai encouraged her not to be self-focused with the blessings God gave her. Mordecai didn’t want Esther to think, “Now that I’m queen I have to hold onto that position. Now that I have influence, I have to hold onto that position. Now that I have wealth, I have to hold onto that wealth.” So Mordecai said, “What if you were brought to this place to do something bigger than yourself in honor and thankfulness for what your almighty Lord has done for you? What if you were put in this position to leverage everything you have for something more important than just you?” Esther thought about it, prayed and sent back this message. “I will go to the king even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16)
500 years later, Jesus gave you similar words to live by. “For whoever wants to save their life, will lose it but whoever loses their life for Me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35) Jesus warns you if you want to make this life about you, about your wants, about preserving your wealth, about making life easy and comfortable for you…then your focus will be on you and not Jesus and you’ll lose it all. But if you lose what you have in honor of Jesus, if you love others in Jesus’ Name and it costs you something, then you’ll keep your faith and focus on Christ. What has God placed on your heart to do for others and to do in Jesus’ Name at Salem Lutheran? How has God positioned you for such a time as this to make in impact in this world in God’s Name? Amen.
Read Esther chapters 5-10 to hear how the Lord saved the Israelites through Esther’s boldness to leverage what God gave her to be a blessing to others!