Sheila Houlston - Esther

When we started reading, we all know about the book of Esther, about the King's banqueting and about when he called his wife, Queen Vashti, and wanted to show her to his drunken friends. She refused to come and because of that, she lost her place. Then they decided to look for another Queen and all the beautiful young girls were called. Then Esther was chosen and I thought to myself, "What are we reading all this for? What is it all about?"


But I realised that this is God working in the background. God is setting the scene, in those first chapters. He's setting the scene and He's making preparation for something that He alone knows is going to happen. We don't know the future. You don't know, and I don't know. Not one of us in this tent knows what is going to happen even in the next few moments, in the next few days, the next week, or the next year. Mordecai and Esther and the King and the people, they didn't know what was going to happen in the future, but God did! God was busy working and setting the scene. You know God promised when He brought them out of Egypt that He would send an angel before them. As we read those chapters, we see that He went before them and He made a way where there was no way. He went before them and He made a way through the red sea and then, when it was necessary, He went behind them.


You know, God goes ahead of us when it is necessary, because He knows the future. Sometimes we wonder when we sit in a convention like this and we hear things. We wonder, "Now I wonder why that was said?" But maybe later on in the year, you see and understand that God knew what was waiting, and He knew that you needed this thing. That's why that thing was said at convention. God knows what is awaiting all of us. I liked what someone once said, "Don't worry about tomorrow because God is already there!" God IS already there, and I could see that in the book of Esther. God was already in the future and He was setting the scene because He knew what was coming.


We heard this morning about paintings and I had a picture in my mind when I thought about Esther. Sometimes you walk into a home, I don't know if you see it in this country, but sometimes you walk into a home, you see a picture on the wall and when you get a little closer, you see it is made up of lots of little pieces. It is actually a puzzle, a puzzle that has been made up of lots of little pieces and when all the pieces have been put into place, it makes a beautiful picture. I haven't really done puzzles but I have watched people do them. Most of the time, from what I have seen, they first do the framework then they make the background and then they start working inward. They pick up a piece and it doesn't really mean anything, looks insignificant and they look for a place for it. Then sometimes, as the puzzle goes on, some little pieces are so important. Isn't that like our lives? Aren't our lives made up of little happenings, little happenings, and some of them are so insignificant, and some of them are so important?


These little happenings, these experiences that come, we wonder, "Well what are they all about? Where does this fit into the picture? What is God trying to work into my life? What is it all about?" God has a picture and He has a plan for all of us and piece by piece, little by little, these experiences come because God is working something. So it was in the time of Esther, those little happenings. That time with the King and his banquet and Vashti and Esther, then Haman when he hated Mordecai and he built that scaffold because he wanted to hang him on it - you know the story. It was all these little pieces and Esther and Mordecai didn't know what was coming. They wouldn't have understood those little happenings but, piece by piece, God was working. Then came that terrible time when Haman persuaded the King to send out that decree that all the Jewish people, all the people of God should be put to death on a certain day. That must have been a terrible, terrible time. Can you just imagine it! Try to just live into it now, that this law has been made that on a certain day, every child of God will have to be put to death. Can you imagine how they would feel?


They were people in captivity. They were scattered and they couldn't raise an army themselves and they couldn't save themselves; they couldn't help themselves. They must have felt terrible. They must have felt, "All is lost, everything's finished. All we can do is just to pray." Sometimes we have experiences like that, too, when we just feel we can't help ourselves.


We're in the experience and all is gloom and disaster at the end of it. We just don't know which way to turn or what to do. We cannot help ourselves and all we can do is to pray. They prayed, and I'm sure they prayed earnestly to their God. This is what was very lovely to me. We know how God did deliver and how God did change everything. Those people would have said afterwards, "God heard our prayer." Do you know something? God had already made provision to answer their prayers before they ever even felt their need of praying. He'd been working, setting the scene, putting Esther in the place where she could be used. He'd been making all the provision because He knew the future. Before they even prayed, you could say that He answered their prayer. That was really special to me. He's the same God that's working in our lives, the same God. He knows what's in front of all of us. We wonder why this is happening and why that is happening, but just remember this, that we needn't fear the future because God is already there. Before we even pray, God has made provision. He has already made a way of escape even before the experience comes.

I thought of it, too, when we were reading the book chapter by chapter each week. When that decree came out, it would have been as if they had entered into a terribly dark tunnel, wouldn't it, a terribly dark tunnel where they wouldn't be able to see a way through or a way out. It's quite a while since I have traveled through a tunnel, but I know I never enjoyed it. In a train, when you get to a long tunnel, you go into pitch darkness and it's not a nice feeling. But it's a wonderful feeling when you begin to see a little ray of light and you know that you're coming to the other end and there's light at the end of the tunnel. I remember one woman saying in her experience, a very dark experience, "Oh, if only I could see a little ray of light." When we come into these tunnel experiences, we might feel inclined to just sit down and just want to die. When you can't see a way out and you can't see a way through, you just want to sit down and give up, don't you? That's just how it is sometimes, but when we get into these dark tunnels, we must remember that a tunnel has another entrance, it's got a way out. All we've got to do in those experiences is just keep going on. Just keep walking. Just keep praying and reading. Just keep moving, that's all. Don't sit down and give up, because at the end of the tunnel there is a light. You know what it is like when you come out of a tunnel? Everything has changed. It's a complete new scene. That big mountain in front of you with the tunnel where you went in is now behind you and it's a new future. Everything's different when you come out of the tunnel.

In this experience of Esther, Mordacai and the Jewish people, it was wonderful to me that in a moment God just changed everything; He just changed everything. That wicked Haman, the scaffold that he'd made for Mordecai, he was hanged on it himself. Those who were going to kill the Jews, the Jews had the authority to kill them. Everything was changed, and only God could do it. God was faithful, and as we got towards the end of this book, I just thought of the little pieces of the puzzle. We were getting to the last few pieces and there the picture was becoming clear. As those last pieces were being put into place, it was becoming clear. Do you know what I thought to myself? "Well, if I were to put a caption or a title to this picture, I would just call it, 'God IS faithful to His chosen.'" God is faithful to His chosen, in His dealings every day.


He's faithful in His promises, He's faithful in delivering and He is the same God today that we're dealing with. That meant such a lot to me now recently as we read those chapters, that this same God who undertook for His people in such a wonderful way. He's my God and He's your God and He doesn't change. If He was faithful to them, and they were in captivity because of their disobedience, He was faithful to them and He'll also be faithful to us, faithful to provide a way of escape where there was none. He had known the future and He alone knew what was happening and He made provision. He'd set the scene and before the people even knew what was happening, He'd made provision for them. Before they'd even prayed, He'd made provision to answer their prayer. Isn't that wonderful? This faithful God that we serve...I'm just so grateful that God IS faithful.


He's faithful to me, He's faithful to you. He was faithful to those of old and He'll be faithful to us in the future, if only we just have the faith to trust Him. So often we allow these fears to rob us of our peace, don't we? We fret and we worry and we shouldn't, because the One who was faithful to those of old will also be faithful to us today.


When I was at home recently, the Elders decided that they would study the book of Esther. In my heart of hearts, I felt that I don't really feel like studying Esther. But, you know, I really enjoyed that book so much and it has done something special for me. I feel that having read the book, all I can say is that "God is faithful, God is faithful to His chosen."