Miles to go...

I have miles to go... please pray each day for the next leg of my Biblical journey!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Day 36: A White-hot Hatred

Esther 6:6-10

New Living Translation (NLT)
Humiliated, Haman is forced to honor Mordecai
So Haman came in, and the king said, “What should I do to honor a man who truly pleases me?” Haman thought to himself, “Whom would the king wish to honor more than me?”So he replied, “If the king wishes to honor someone, he should bring out one of the king’s own royal robes, as well as a horse that the king himself has ridden—one with a royal emblem on its head. Let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. And let him see that the man whom the king wishes to honor is dressed in the king’s robes and led through the city square on the king’s horse. Have the official shout as they go, ‘This is what the king does for someone he wishes to honor!’” 10 “Excellent!” the king said to Haman. “Quick! Take the robes and my horse, and do just as you have said for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the gate of the palace. Leave out nothing you have suggested!”


We're going to step back into history just a tiny bit. I really wish the canonize Bible was in chronological order, but it's not. And although I do have a chronological Bible, it's a NKJV instead of an NLT, and when I'm reading as much per day as I have to during my 90 day commitment, I need the ease of the NLT. I'm not backtracking very much though. Just a little. King Xerxes reigned during these events. He was the father of King Atexerxes, who was king who graciously allowed his cup-bearer, Nehemiah, to quit his job and return to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. So what you read about today happened before what you read yesterday.

Now, Xerxes was king over Persia, and had just recently banished Queen Vashti from the kingdom for having refused to come entertain his guests one evening during a six-month long celebration. He was a little intoxicated when he followed the advice of his counsel and sent her on her not-so-merry way, but after a while, he moved on and became quite content with his new bride, Esther.

Esther was a Jewish orphan who had been adopted and raised by her elder cousin, Mordecai. Along with many, many other girls throughout the kingdom, she had been ripped from her family during the round-up to find a new girl worthy to replace Vashti as queen. She was very beautiful, very demure, and had quickly become the favorite of the eunuch who was in charge of all the harem girls. After a year of royal schooling, she was chosen by Xerxes, and became queen. Mordecai kept tabs on how she was doing. He did have some sort of low-ranking job at the palace, and was able to communicate to the girl he'd raised through her personal eunuch.

The Prime Minister of the land, Haman, was second only to the king, and he utterly despised Mordecai. Every day, Haman would come and go, and as he would pass the palace gates, his hatred would grow towards the Jew who refused to bow down to him. As his hatred grew, it expanded beyond just the man who didn't show the proper respects, and soon encompassed the entire Jewish race. So he decided to put a permanent end to the thorn in his side, and asked the king to issue a decree allowing the annihilation of all the Jews.

When Mordecai learned of this, he went into mourning and dressed in burlap. Esther couldn't bear to see him like this, and sent her eunuch to find out what the deal was. Mordecai relayed the message to her, along with a request that she speak to the king. I'm sure she wanted to, but it's not like today when a wife can just sit down and discuss things over dinner with her husband. Even the queen was forbidden to go see the king without an invitation, and he hadn't asked her to come to him in over a month! She knew if she went to him, there was a 50% chance that he might extend his royal scepter to her and allow her to speak. There was also a 50% chance that he would not. And if he did not, the penalty was instant death.

So the eunuch took that information back to Mordecai, and he responded by saying that perhaps it was for this very reason that God put her in the position she was in. That was a sobering thought for the young queen. So she mulled it over, and then asked that Mordecai have all the Jews in Susa (the city where the palace was located) to fast and pray for three days, and she and her servants would do the same.

At the end of the three days, she gathered up her courage, and went to see her husband. Mordecai was right. God had allowed her to become queen for this very moment, and as the palace guards drew their swords to slay her, Xerxes reached his scepter out and invited her to come closer. Can you imagine her relief? Whew! He asked her what she desired, and she invited him to bring Haman and come to dinner at her place that evening.

Neither the king nor Haman were aware that she was Jewish, much less that she was related to Mordecai. They were just happy to be there. Especially Haman, it seems, who later returned to his own house bragging to all his family how he had been singled out to dine with the royal couple.  He was such a conceited jerk anyway, and thought that he was indispensable to the king. The only down side to the whole evening had been when he left the palace, and had to walk past that despicable Jew. At his family's urging, he decided to sharpen a 75' pole for Mordecai's benefit, and planned to ask the king's permission to impale his nemesis.

Meanwhile back in the palace, King Xerxes was having trouble sleeping. There's nothing like listening to a little history to put one to sleep, right? So he ordered someone to come read to him from the historical records of his reign. Little did he know that God was the one who caused his insomnia that night, or who opened the historical record to an account of one low-ranking Jewish servant who had foiled the plot of two former eunuchs who had intended to assassinate the king.

When morning came, Haran arrived at the palace ready to request the death of Mordecai. But he was interrupted by the king, with a conversation that went something like this:

King: Good morning, Haman! Hey, I have a question. If I wanted to honor someone above all else, how would I go about it?

Haman: (thinking surely the king must be wanting to know how Haman, himself, would want to be honored, since he was naturally the only logical choice.) Well, King, I think you should dress the guy up in your royal robes and parade him around on a horse that you've personally ridden!"

King: Hmmmm, great idea! Now do me a favor, go get some of my robes and one of my horses, and do exactly that for Mordecai, the Jew who sits at the palace gate!

Haman must have nearly wet his pants. How could this have happened? Why on earth would the king want to honor that sewer rat? And why did he have to open his own big mouth? Now he was going to be so humiliated, having to do this for the man he hated most of all in this world. But he did as he was told, and then cried to his wife about it later. Despite the disappointment of the day's events, I imagine he was feeling a little cheerier when he headed to the Queen's palace for a second night of being honored at her table.

Over drinks that evening, the king asked again what it is that his beloved queen is wanting. He was willing to give her anything her heart desired, up to half of the kingdom. And then she dropped the other bombshell. She simply wanted his majesty to spare her life, and that of her people because they'd been sold to the slaughter house, so to speak. Dismayed, the king demanded to know who would so such a horrible thing.

You could have heard a pin drop. The silence in that moment must have been deafening, before she quietly replied, "Haman is our adversary and our enemy."

The king exploded in a rage, and Haman went pale as a ghost. Xerxes stood up from the table and stormed out into the garden. I guess Haman started begging Esther for his life. She wasn't listening, though, and finally in desperation, he threw himself towards the sofa where she was sitting. It just happens that at that moment, the king came back into the room, and totally misconstrued Haman's action, and thought that He was trying to assault her. One shout is all it took for the king's bodyguards to rush in and throw a cloak over Haman's head, signaling his doom.

Then Harbona, one of the king’s eunuchs, said, “Haman has set up a sharpened pole that stands seventy-five feet[a] tall in his own courtyard. He intended to use it to impale Mordecai, the man who saved the king from assassination.” “Then impale Haman on it!” the king ordered.  So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai, and the king’s anger subsided. Esther 7:9-10

See, this is what happens when your hatred for someone burns completely out of control! It clouds your judgment, becomes an obsession, and you self-destruct. Especially when God has anything to say about it. And if you're hating one of His own, you can be sure He has something to say.

Oh, and by the way, Mordecai was promoted from a low ranking gate person to the new Prime Minister, all Haman's property was given to the queen, and the Jews were given permission to fight back and kill anyone who was to attack them on the day decreed for their annihilation. Fight back, they did! And with God's help, they defeated their enemies.

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