Looking for Hope

Good morning and welcome to Greenbrier Church online. We so thankful that you have chosen to spend today with us in this format. Spending Easter in an online setting was difficult, but today seems more so. I am not sure if it’s because this is another day that we typically spend with our families, or that the quarantine has gone on a lot longer than we originally thought or hoped.   

Back on Easter Sunday I was sure that our quarantine would be lifted by now and we would be able to be back together. We had even discussed having multiple services if the amount of people allowed in the building had to be limited. So even though the building wouldn’t have our usual crowd, we would be able to gather and celebrate our relationship with God and how our mothers have helped shape our faith.

Today, we find ourselves in very much the same situation we were in during our Easter celebration. Yet, I find hope in the fact that even though we are separated we are able to be together in our desire to worship God and that we are joined in spirit. 

I was thinking this week about how much time we have been spending with our families, and how what started as a blessing can often times become a bit tedious. A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend from another state and they were laughing as she was sharing how they were honestly a bit excited that we were going into quarantine. She said that her family is constantly running from one event to the next, that it was so difficult to get everyone in the same room. She said at first this was a huge blessing for her. All she wanted was to be able to sit at the table for a meal, or spend some time around a fire in the back yard. But, after 4 weeks of all of this family time, she was feeling like a failure as a mom, because all she wanted was for her family to leave her alone.

Today, there may be some of you, especially some mom’s who share those feelings. Maybe like our video this morning, you have found yourself asking if God is paying attention. Does God see you, is He aware of what is happening?

I want to take you to another story this morning, and once again we are going to find ourselves in the Old Testament. Our text this morning is going to be found in Esther 6, but let’s get our footing of what has been going on in the book before we read our text this morning.

Esther is one of those stories that seems to invoke a wide range of views. There are those who see Esther as a kind of Disney Princess Story, while there are those who see Esther as a story often underbelly of human depravity. And there are those who are somewhere in between.

Most people are not comfortable with the story, and if they do talk about it they want to camp out in the 4th chapter. When Mordecai convinces Esther to approach the King using the phrase for such a time as this, or Esther’s response if I perish, I perish; that’s some great stuff. But there are also some things that leave us scratching our head. For example God is never mentioned in the story, not even once.

In the beginning often book we are introduced to King Ahasuerus (if you are using the Hebrew) or Xerxes is you are Greek. Xerexes is a bit easier to say, so I’ll use the greek. We are introduced to a Persian King who was interested in everyone thinking how wonderful and rich he was. The book starts with a party he was throwing. But not just any party, it lasted, 180 days. And when his six month party was over he decided to add one more week.

In the middle of that last week, Xerxes either listened to the wrong people, was trying to show his power, or as the bible says he had been drinking much wine. (Esther 1:10). Vashti, the queen, was banished from the kingdom.

Four years pass before we get to chapter 2 and Xerxes is convinced to find a wife by going into all of the provinces, kidnap the young pretty girls, and having a contest to pick out the new queen. This is where we first meet Esther and her cousin Mordecai. And while the story is about Esther, I want us to focus on Mordecai.

In chapter 2 we learn that Mordecai works at the city gate. One day he overhears two men planning on assassinating the king. We are not told why they wanted to assassinate him, maybe they were mad that he made them eunuchs, maybe they had family members who were rounded up for the competition and where now forced to live the rest of their lives in the royal harem. Or maybe they just wanted the King dead. But they were talking about their plan, and Mordecai overheard them and then passed that information on to Esther, who told the king and gave Mordecai credit for uncovering the plan. King Xerxes wrote that down in his big book of how great Xerxes is, and forgot about it.

When we get to chapter 3 we are introduced to Haman, when Xerxes promotes him to a position of power. Haman loves Haman, and now he is second in power and ego to only King Xerxes. If his new position didn’t stroke his ego enough, the king declared that everyone had to bow down as he passed them. And everybody did … well almost everyone. in Chapter 3:2 we find out that Mordecai refused to bow down or show him respect.

Haman doesn’t care that 10,000 people are bowing, he becomes fixated on the one guy who won’t. And in an effort to show his power, he convinces the King to not only kill Mordecai, but to kill all of the Jews throughout the entire empire. But Haman wants to add extra pain. He not only convinces King Xerxes to eliminate the Jews, he wants then to dread their deaths for a whole year. He is going to make the nation wait a full 12 months for this day of purging.

They sent out notices throughout the entire kingdom stating that on this day you can massacre, kill, and eliminate all the Jews, children and old men, women and babies. After you kill them you can loot their goods. Haman even uses the king’s signet ring, so according to the law of the Meeds and Persians, this is going to happen.

Now if you are a Jewish person and you’re hearing this, you’ve got to be thinking, God has abandoned us! We thought when we were released to go back to Jerusalem, that things would get better. But now this??? If you are reading the book of Esther for the first time, this is where you expect to hear God’s name, you expect God to show up and part the red sea, or send a few plagues down on Persia. But that’s not what happens. And we are reminded that even when we cannot see God, He is still there.  When things take a sudden turn for the worst in your life like they did in this story, please know God has not abandoned you. Don’t conclude that God is absent.

Chapter 4 is the part of the story that we like. It’s the part that we write Bible classes and sermons about. Mordecai is mourning. When Esther send her servant to go find out what is happening, Mordecai not only tells the eunuch everything that had happened, he also told the eunuch to ask Esther to go to the king and intercede and plead for her people.

Esther tells Mordecai that she will go before the King, even through it may cost her life. But before she goes Mordecai and all of the Jews need to pray and fast for 3 days.

That leads us to chapter 6. The chapter begins by letting us know that King Xerxes can’t sleep. So, instead of listening to a podcast of a sermon, he opts for a servant to read him a passage out of the Big Book or how great I am. The Servant grabs one of the book and begins to read. In a neat little coincidence (and I don’t believe in coincidences) the attendant grabs the book that tells about the assassination plot to kill King Xerxes.

The King was getting a bit drowsy, but now he is wide awake. Somebody wanted to kill me? Who foiled the plan? What was his name?  Mordecai.  Was this man ever honored? And the attendant looks at it and says, Not yet. Xerxes says, well the sun is coming up, and today is the day. They hear someone out in the court and in another wonderful coincidence, which I don’t believe in, Haman is invited to come talk with the king.

Haman is clueless about so many things. He doesn’t know that Mordecai is related to and raised Esther. He doesn’t know the queen is Jewish, and he has no idea about the kings sleepless night. He just knows that he has this great plan to get rid of the one person who is the continual thorn in his side. Let’s pick up the story in verse 6: When Haman entered, the king said, "What would be appropriate for the man the king especially wants to honor?"

Haman thought to himself, "He must be talking about honoring me—who else?" So he answered the king, "For the man the king delights to honor, do this: Bring a royal robe that the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crown on its head. Then give the robe and the horse to one of the king's most noble princes. Have him robe the man whom the king especially wants to honor; have the prince lead him on horseback through the city square, proclaiming before him, 'This is what is done for the man whom the king especially wants to honor!'"

"Go and do it," the king said to Haman. "Don't waste another minute. Take the robe and horse and do what you have proposed to Mordecai the Jew who sits at the King's Gate. Don't leave out a single detail of your plan."

So Haman took the robe and horse; he robed Mordecai and led him through the city square, proclaiming before him, "This is what is done for the man whom the king especially wants to honor!"

Remember that Haman is in love with himself, he immediately thinks, The king must want to honor me. After all I was invited to a banquet with him and the queen last night and I am invited to another one tonight. And I want to look good for tonights party, so if I could wear some of your clothes. I mean they are the best clothes. And if I could ride on your horse, I mean I have a benz, but you have a Rolls Royce.

Oh yea, and let’s add a little glory, a little ego. have one of our, I mean your noble men tell folks how great I am. I mean after all Haman might not be family, but today he’s going to be royalty.   

King Xerxes, who has the assassination plot fresh in his mind says, That's a great idea, I want you to do that for Mordecai the Jew. And Haman starts twitching. What??? Are you sure? and to add insult to injury Xerxes says you be the one who… Shout it as loud as you possibly can. I want people to know that I’m honoring him.

Now, for a moment I want you to imagine that you are a Jew who is living in Persia. In the past week you have learned that there has been a decree passed throughout the land that in a year your neighbors can kill your family and take all of your belongings. Then 4 days ago, your entire community fasted and prayed for God to show up in a big way. I would imagine that you were praying for a red sea moment, or maybe a few plagues. You had been praying for God to show His power, you wanted to feel the wind in your face as you witness the water parting. You wanted to experience the water being turned to blood, or see the frogs fill the streets, homes, bathtubs, and beds. YOU have been praying that God would show up, and now……

You hear sometime in the street. There is a commotion, someone is making an announcement. You go out and stand in your doorway and see Haman, the one responsible for the death edict, walking Mordecai the Jew, through the streets. And not only is he leading Mordecai. Mordecai is dressed in the kings clothes, riding the kings horse, and Haman is commanding people to honor the man whom he wants to kill.

At that moment, would you have a little hope? For the first time in days would you begin to experience a little bit of peace? Would to believe that God is indeed watching what you are going through and in fact He is pulling the strings. This is not a red sea moment, but don’t overlook the hope and peace that God is pouring out in the lives of His children at this moment. Once again we see God whispering to His people, I see you and everything is going to be okay.

In our lives there have been times when we gain hope because God shows up in a big way. We like those moments, we long to see God send down fire from heaven. But anyone who has spent time with God understands that usually He speaks in quiet moments. In those quiet moments, God calls us to get close to Him. In those quiet moments, God takes away our fears, wipes away our tears, and gives us hope.

Life is hard for everybody, but it’s much harder for some than for others. Claiming Jesus as our Savior does little to change that. Nothing in the Bible promises us a free pass merely because we are followers of Christ. Yet even though we are broken people dealing with the pain of living in a broken world, we live in hope.

Peter writes we have a living hope that will never fade or fail. (1 Peter 1:3) I know that we are looking for God to do something big, we are begging God to show His power right now. We all want God to part another sea, or calm another storm. But Peter reminds us that we have a living hope that is anchored in the past, because Jesus rose from the dead, continues in the present, because Jesus is alive, and will endure throughout the future, because we have been promised eternal life.

Our living hope is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. When Christ walked out of the tomb, hope was born. A new and living hope. Because death was defeated, quietly in the darkness of a garden, we have the hope of eternal life. We have the hope of abundant life now. We have the hope of heaven. There is hope for the lost, the lonely, the desperate, and the wicked. Because Jesus is alive, all things are possible. Because Jesus is alive we can gather together in hope.

That’s what is so attractive to me about the table. Every week the sermon leads to the table because the tables are a holy place. Whether you are here in this building, or off sight at your home, or in another location, the table is a holy place. Not because we are taking the emblems, not because it is one of the few times in our week that is un-rushed. The Table is a holy place because it is a quiet place where we meet with God. And if we are willing to be quiet, to not rush it, and to allow God to do what only He can do, we have a chance to experience the hope and peace that God pours out in the lives of His children. 

I pray that on this mothers day, as you make your way to the table, you will be able to hear God remind you of living hope that is made possible through His love and compassion.

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