Introduction: The Bible warns: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, this he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7). Through Esther’s faith and the pride of Xerxes and Haman, God reveals seven lessons on the benefits of faith and the consequences of a life of sin.
First, Esther put her faith in God. God responded by supernaturally causing Xerxes to promise to grant Esther’s request. Sowing the seeds of faith in Jesus will also reap His reward of eternal life. Second, Esther acted with humility before Xerxes. She reaped God’s grace and her honor. Sowing through humility also reaps God’s reward of honor and grace. Third, Xerxes lived a life of pride and self-love. This caused him to reap his own spiritual blindness to the evil that he helped to create. Sowing the sins of pride and self-love also leads to a person’s spiritual blindness. Fourth, Haman revealed his prideful heart when he sought to have everyone bow before him. He reaped his own downfall. Sowing the sin of pride also leads a person to reap their own downfall. Fifth, Haman showed unforgiveness to Mordecai. He later reaped unforgiveness for his sins. Sowing the sin of unforgiveness also leads to a person’s inability to reap God’s mercy. Sixth, Haman committed the sin of pride in seeking public honor. He reaped his own shame and humiliation. Sowing the sin of pride also ultimately leads to a person reaping shame and humiliation. Finally, Haman sowed the seeds of death when he judged the Jews and tried to kill them. He reaped his own judgment and death. For a non-believer, sowing the seeds of the flesh ultimately causes the person to reap God’s judgment and an eternal death.
God prepares Xerxes’ heart to grant Esther’s request. Immediately after Haman experienced the humiliation of having to publicly proclaim Mordecai’s virtues, he was brought to a feast where he would meet his doom. At the feast, God showed that He had prepared Xerxes’ heart in advance with his offer to grant Esther’s then unknown request: “1 Now the king and Haman came to drink wine with Esther the queen. 2 And the king said to Esther on the second day also as they drank their wine at the banquet, ‘What is your request, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your wish? Up to half of the kingdom it shall be done.’” (Esther 7:1-2). This was Esther’s second banquet in only 24 hours (Esther 5:3-9). God used the gap in time to cause Xerxes to experience insomnia. God then caused his scribe to read a passage from royal records regarding Mordecai’s virtue in exposing a plot to kill Xerces (Esther 6:1-2). This in turn led to Haman being forced to honor Mordecai when Haman wanted to kill him (Esther 6:3-11). This sequence of divinely orchestrated events was important in preparing Xerxes’ heart. Now, Haman could not point to Mordecai as an excuse for his deceitful, genocidal order.
Esther’s faith sowed the seeds of life for her people. Out of faith, Esther risked her own life. In return, her faith reaped God’s salvation for all the Jews: “Now I say this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows generously will also reap generously.” (2 Cor. 9:6). For several reasons, Esther showed courage in her faith. First, the penalty for Esther’s decision to approach the king was death unless he pardoned her (Esther 4:11). Second, to plead for the Jews, she would need to admit that she concealed her Jewish identity from Xerxes (Esther 2:20). Third, once a Persian king issued an edict, it could not be changed (Esther 1:19; Dan. 6:8, 12). For her to succeed, she would make Xerxes break his own law. Fourth, based upon how he treated Queen Vashti, Xerxes did not have a great respect for women (Esther 1:10-12, 16-21). Fifth, Haman was Xerxes’ most trusted advisor, and Haman had already convinced Xerxes that there were a group of people who posed a threat based upon their alleged refusal to submit to Persian law (Esther 3:8-10). Sixth, Haman could have pointed to the false accusations that Samarians had made to Xerxes about the Jews’ alleged plot to rebel and create an independent state after rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 4:6). Finally, to succeed in proving that Haman had deceived Xerxes, she would make Xerxes look weak and foolish. Thus, for many reasons, Esther showed incredible faith in her actions.
God showed that He controlled Xerxes’ heart. Xerxes knew that something was wrong with Esther for her to risk death by approaching him in this manner, and he had ignored her for 30 days (Esther 4:11). But rather than asking her about her feelings, he assumed that any problem could be solved with money. This was his third offer to her of “Up to half of the kingdom” (Esther 7:2) He made the same promises the day before when Esther first approached him unannounced at his court “Up to half of the kingdom it shall be given to you.’” (Esther 5:3). He also made this same offer at the first banquet the day before: “Up to half of the kingdom it shall be done.’” (Esther 5:6). These repeated promises was evidence that God had influenced Xerxes’ heart to grant Esther’s request before she ever made it: “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Prov. 21:1) He controlled every Persian king.
God uses His sovereignty to fulfill His promises. Although Esther showed faith and acted at the critical moment, it was God who supernaturally controlled the events to save the Jews: “The Jews were spared, not because Esther and Mordecai (or any other Jews) were righteous, but because God was faithful to His covenant with the Jews. As clever as Esther’s dealings with the king and Haman may seem, our text clearly shows us that God was at work bringing about the deliverance of the Jews.” (Robert Deffinbaugh “Sleepless in Susa (Esther 5:1-7:10)”. “It is He [God] who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.” (Dan. 2:21). Even when evil reigns, do you still trust in God?
You never need to fear when you are doing God’s will. Xerxes’ triple confirmation of his offer to Esther was a confirmation that God was in control, and Esther did not need to fear: “The LORD is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Ps. 118:6). “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31). “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Is. 41:10). “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7). If you are doing God’s will, you never need to fear.
Sowing the seeds of faith will reap the blessing of eternal life. Xerxes could only make figurative offers to Esther. Through God’s providence, his heart was prepared to save the Jews and give them life. In contrast, Jesus offers eternal life for those who profess Him as their Lord and Savior (Jo. 3:16). Moreover, while Xerxes offered material gifts in an attempt to placate people, Jesus offers an abundant eternal life in Him (Jo. 10:10).
Esther humbly petitions for the Jews to be spared from annihilation. After God prepared Xerxes’ heart, Esther pleaded in humility for his intervention to stop the Jews’ genocide: “3 Then Queen Esther replied, ‘If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my request, and my people as my wish; 4 for we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, killed, and eliminated. Now if we had only been sold as slaves, men and women, I would have kept silent, because the distress would not be sufficient reason to burden the king.’” (Esther 7:3-4). Esther’s choice of words were no accident. She first quoted from Haman when she stated that her people had been “sold” (Esther 3:9; 4:7). She then referenced Haman’s public order when she said that her people would be “destroyed, killed, and eliminated”: “Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces to annihilate, kill, and destroy all the Jews, . . .” (Esther 3:13). Yet, Xerxes still did not know who she was referring to because he never bothered to ask which people Haman planned on destroying.
Esther petitioned in humility and reaped grace and honor. This was the second time that Esther approached Xerxes in humility. At the first banquet, she also spoke to him in humility (Esther 5:8). More importantly, she approached God in humility with a three-day fast (Esther 4:16a). Because of her humility, she received grace from both her king and the King of Kings. She has also been forever immortalized as a hero for her faith.
If you act with humility before God, you will also reap grace and honor. Jesus humbled Himself as a servant. He then died an agonizing death on the cross (Phil. 2:8). He calls upon you to respond by serving Him in humility (Prov. 8:13; Ps. 75:5; 94:4). Those who show humility before God will be exalted in heaven: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11; 18:14). “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,” (1 Pet. 5:6). “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (Ja. 4:10). “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (Ja. 2:5). Are you honoring and praising Jesus as He deserves?
Haman reaped the consequences of his greed. Out of greed, Haman tried to profit from his attempted genocide of the Jews. He reaped his own destruction because of his greed: “ . . . the treacherous will be caught by their own greed.” (Prov. 11:6).
Xerxes shows his ignorance of the genocidal order that he authorized without questions. Xerxes then demonstrated his spiritual blindness when he asked who was responsible: “5 Then King Ahasuerus asked Queen Esther, ‘Who is he, and where is he, who would presume to do such a thing?’” (Esther 7:5). Without asking which people Haman wanted to exterminate or the details of their offenses, Xerxes previously agreed to a full genocide (Esther 3:10-11). Xerxes was supposed to care for all his subjects. But the planned murder of an entire race did not raise even a remote level of interest in him. And agreed to profit from this mass murder under his name (Esther 4:7). “The attempted massacre had been authorized with the full knowledge and consent of the king, who yet ignores utterly his own share of the responsibility. Great and noble ends are at times brought about by the instrumentality of unholy men, blind instruments in a purpose whose end they understand not.” (Ellicott’s Commentary on Esther 7).
Those who sow the sins of pride reap spiritual blindness. Xerxes’ inability to see his role in Haman’s order showed how his pride and self-love had blinded him: ‘“ . . . The arrogance of your heart has deceived you,’ . . . declares the LORD.” (Jer. 49:16). Those who live with pride and self-love will also reap spiritual blindness: “28 The Lord will smite you with madness and with blindness and with bewilderment of heart; 29 and you will grope at noon, as the blind man gropes in darkness, and you will not prosper in your ways; but you shall only be oppressed and robbed continually, with none to save you.” (Dt. 28:27-29; Ex. 10:21). “We grope along the wall like blind men, we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at midday as in the twilight, . . .” (Is. 59:10(a)). “By day they meet with darkness, and grope at noon as in the night.” (Job 5:14; 12:25; 38:15). “They wandered, blind, in the streets; . .” (Lam. 4:14(a). “The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” (Prov. 4:19). If you feel conceited or prideful, repent. Then serve others in need to develop compassion and love for others.
Esther exposes Haman as the enemy of the culprit. Having now realized that he had manipulated Xerxes to unknowingly order the queen’s death, Haman became terrified: “6 And Esther said, ‘A foe and an enemy is this wicked Haman!’ Then Haman became terrified before the king and queen.” (Esther 7:6). Haman was first introduced as “Haman . . . the enemy of the Jews.” (Esther 3:10). Satan had filled his prideful heart (Acts 5:3). Here, his evil heart was finally exposed: “Esther exposed the truth about Haman - that he was not a faithful servant of the king, he was instead an adversary and enemy, more interested in his own fame and status than the benefit of the king. Haman never imagined that Esther was a Jew; now he stood before the king being rightly accused of plotting the murder of the king’s wife. Now the wisdom of Esther’s strange request to invite Haman to these banquets can be seen; it maximized the impact upon both the king and upon Haman himself.” (David Guzik on Esther 7).
There is no sin that you can hide from God. When Esther exposed Haman, it was comparable to when the prophet Nathan exposed David’s sins of adultery and murder: “You are the man” (2 Sam. 12:7). “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, watching the evil and the good.” (Prov. 15:3). “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Heb. 4:13). “But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out.” (Nu. 32:23). Is there any sin that you are trying to hide?
Those who sow the sins of pride will reap their downfall with their sins exposed. God first exposed Haman’s sin of pride as part of his downfall: “A man’s pride will bring him low, . . .” (Prov. 29:23). “You have plowed wickedness, you have harvested injustice, you have eaten the fruit of lies.” (Hos. 10:13a). “According to what I have seen, those who plow wrongdoing and those who sow trouble harvest it.” (Job 4:8). His pride then led to his destruction (Prov. 16:18). If you are feeling prideful, repent of your sins.
The unsaved will be repaid according to their deeds. Haman reaped the consequences of his sins: “For the Son of Man . . . will then repay every man according to his deeds.” (Matt. 16:27). “Who will render to each person according to his deeds” (Ro. 2:6). “ . . . for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Gal. 6:7-8). “According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it.” (Job 4:8). “For they sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; it yields no grain. Should it yield, strangers would swallow it up.” (Hos. 8:7). “He who sows iniquity will reap vanity, and the rod of his fury will perish.” (Prov. 22:8). Are you planting seeds of sorrow or joy?
Haman’s pleads to Esther for forgiveness and mercy without a response. After failing to show Mordecai forgiveness or mercy, Haman pleaded for Esther to show him mercy: “7 The king then got up in his anger from drinking wine and went into the palace garden; but Haman stayed to beg for his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that harm had been determined against him by the king.” (Esther 7:7). Because Haman was unwilling to show forgiveness or mercy to Mordecai and the Jews, he was unable to receive it.
Those who withhold mercy will not enjoy God’s mercy. Jesus warns that you must forgive others to be able to receive God the Father’s forgiveness: “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:14-15). “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” (Mk. 11:26b). Is there anyone that you need to forgive?
Those who reject Jesus’ forgiveness will one day tremble in fear like Haman. Like Haman, those who reject Jesus will one day tremble in fear when He reveals His true identity to them: “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,” (Phil. 2:10; Ro. 14:11). “And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’” (Rev. 5:13). “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (Ja. 2:19).
Forgive those who have hurt you. As a role model for all believers, Jesus forgave those who crucified Him while He hung on the cross dying a painful death. ‘But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’” (Lk. 23:24(a)). Just as Jesus forgave those who hurt them, you too are called upon to forgive those who have hurt you: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7). “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” (Lk. 6:37). “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” (Prov. 19:11).
Forgiveness should be granted liberally and often. Esther could have said that Haman’s sins were too big to forgive. Yet, Jesus warned that you should grant forgiveness liberally and often: “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” (Matt. 18:21-22). If someone has committed an unforgivable sin against you or a loved one, Jesus still calls upon you to forgive. When you forgive the unforgivable, you will also release your pent-up pain.
Haman is led away with his head covered for punishment. After demanding that Mordecai bow to him, Haman bowed before Esther in what Xerxes saw as an assault: “8 Now when the king returned from the palace garden into the place where they had been drinking wine, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was. Then the king said, ‘Will he even assault the queen with me in the house?’ As the word went out of the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.” (Esther 7:8). “Just as he fell on the couch where Esther was reclining to plead for his life, the king walked in. A Targum adds that the angel Gabriel pushed Haman as the king entered the room! Angrily he accused Haman of attempting to molest the queen even while she was with her husband.” (Frank Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 1, 2 Kings, 1, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job (Zondervan Publishing House 1988) p. 826). Haman sowed the seed of pride by seeking to have all bow before him. He reaped shame and dishonor.
Haman was forced to bow to a Jew after wanting to kill a Jew who refused to bow to him. Haman reaped what he sowed. He after demanding that others bow to him or die, he was now forced to bow so that he would not die: “When pride comes, then comes dishonor; . . .” (Prov. 11:2). “The evil will bow down before the good, and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.” (Prov. 14:19). “The Orientals reclined on couches at their feasts (Amos 6:4-7). Haman, in typical Near Eastern form, probably grabbed the feet of Esther, kissed them, and begged for forgiveness. Such action would explain why the king interprets Haman as about to ‘molest’ Esther. The irony here is that Haman, who had demanded that Mordecai bow before him, was at the feet of the Jew Esther. In this verse the character of the three protagonists is brought out. Haman was a prideful man with a cowardly heart. The king was easily influenced and weak in spite of his appearance of power. Esther was courageous and steadfast.” (Mervin Breneman, The New American Commentary, Vol. 10, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (B&H Publishing Group 1993) p. 349-350). If you are prideful and cruel, your actions may also lead to shame.
Xerxes ordered Haman’s execution with the gallows that he built for Mordecai. Out of pride, Haman ordered Mordecai’s public death. Yet, he reaped his own public death: “9 Then Harbonah, one of the eunuchs who stood before the king, said, ‘Indeed, behold, the wooden gallows standing at Haman’s house fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai who spoke good in behalf of the king!’ And the king said, ‘Hang him on it.’ 10 So they hanged Haman on the wooden gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai, and the king’s anger subsided.” (Esther 7:9-10). “Harbonah” was one of Xerxes seven most trusted advisors (Esther 1:10). Haman previously ordered the gallows to be guilt for Mordecai’s execution (Esther 5:14). He built the instrument of his own destruction.
God will judge Satan and his followers. Because God is just (2 Thess. 1:6), He will one day judge all sin: “He has brought back their injustice upon them, and He will destroy them in their evil; the LORD our God will destroy them.” (Ps. 94:23). Haman was one of the world’s many evil anti-christs. During the day of wrath, Jesus will come to judge the nations and His enemies (Joel 2:1; Rev. 8-9; Is. 11:4; 63:1-6; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; Rev. 9:6; Ps. 110:4-7). Satan and his demons will be judged in the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20).
Those who sow evil acts will reap judgment. Haman sowed the seeds of death and reaped his own destruction. Those who reap the sins of pride, covetousness, anger, murder, and other sins will reap what they sow: “One who sows injustice will reap disaster, and the rod of his fury will perish.” (Prov. 22:8). “For they sow wind and they harvest a storm.” (Hos. 8:7a). “His harm will return on his own head, and his violence will descend on the top of his own head.” (Ps. 7:16). “A wicked one is ensnared in the work of his own hands.” (Ps. 9:16b) “The righteous one considers the house of the wicked, bringing the wicked to ruin.” (Prov. 21:12). “The house of the wicked will be destroyed, . . .” (Prov. 14:11a). “The LORD will tear down the house of the proud, . . .” (Prov. 15:25a). “The house of the wicked will be destroyed, . . .” (Prov. 14:11a). “One who digs a pit will fall into it, and one who rolls a stone, it will come back on him.” (Prov. 26:27). “One who returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.” (Prov. 17:13). “One who digs a pit will fall into it, and one who rolls a stone, it will come back on him.” (Prov. 26:27). “For the one who sows to his own flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, . ..” (Gal. 6:8).
Those who reject Jesus’ grace will be judged according to their deeds. For those who reject the free gift of Jesus’ grace at the cross, they will be judged according to their own evil deeds: “He will pay back the evil to my enemies; destroy them in Your faithfulness.” (Ps. 54:5). “He has brought back their injustice upon them, and He will destroy them in their evil; the LORD our God will destroy them.” (Ps. 94:23). “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” (Matt. 16:27). “For He repays a person for his work, and lets things happen in correspondence to a man’s behavior.” (Job 34:11; Ro. 2:6). “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to reward each one as his work deserves.” (Rev. 22:12). Most would not like to think of themselves like Haman. Yet, without Jesus, ever person faces the judgment. “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” (Ro. 2:5).
Be an Esther to others. The story of Esther, Xerxes, and Haman should cause every person to ask which role they are playing. Like Esther, are you acting with faith in God and taking personal risks to help others in need? Or, like Haman, are you prideful, greedy, attention-seeking, and unforgiving towards others? Or, like Xerxes, are you a spectator who only cares about yourself and winds up being manipulated by others? Also like Xerxes, are you spiritually blinded to the suffering of people around you?