31/1/2018 - Pastor Young
Our series, "Esther Uncut: The Unseen God" has shown us repeatedly that God is present, working, even when we cannot perceive Him. But what do we do when we know He's there, but we don't understand His ways?
On Sunday, an example of such a time as this came with the destruction of the enemies of the Jews. How can we hope to understand what's happening here?
When we began the series, one of the details that we highlighted was Haman's ancestry.
Haman is an Agagite, or a descendant of Agag. Agag was king over the Amalekites, and he makes his appearance in 1 Samuel 15.
The political landscape of 1 Samuel 15 is very different from the book of Esther. Whereas in Esther, the Jews are living in exile and have integrated themselves into Persian culture, in 1 Samuel 15, the Jews have their own nation of Israel, and even have a king in Saul.
So who were the Amalekites? Historically, they were the first nation to try to destroy the people of God. At this time, the Jews were journeying to the promised land, and as the Amalekites were defeated by them, God made a promise that He would war with Amalek from generation to generation (Exodus 17:8-16). The promise continued into a command in Deuteronomy 25:17-19, where the Lord told the people to remember how Amalek attacked them as they escaped Egypt, killing those that were lagging behind (typically this would be women and children), and exhibited no fear of God. God gave His people time to rest and recover in the land, and told them that afterwards, they are to wipe Amalek out completely.
After His people settled in the land, the command therefore came to King Saul to wipe out the Amalekites. He was to take none of the plunder, but rather to completely devote to destruction everything. The story concludes, unfortunately, with Saul failing in upholding God's command, as he allows Agag to live, and keeps the best of the spoils.
Besides violating God's command, this was a problem because of the Amalekites' history of continuing violence against the Israelites. We see it again and again in their attack at Hormah (Numbers 14:45), and when they join with the Moabites and Midianites to war against the Israelites (Judges 3:13, 6:3). After Saul's disobedience, the attacks continue with another group of Amalekites (further proof that Saul hadn't carried out the Lord's commands), with a raid on Ziklag (1 Samuel 30) that resulted in the abduction of women and children.
In the closing chapters of Esther, as Pastor Tim mentioned on Sunday, we see an incredible reversal. Haman's evil plot to completely wipe out God's people is reversed, and God saves them. The Jews strike out at their enemies, and wipe them out, even making certain that they take no part in the plunder (Esther 9:10, 15, 16). Where Saul had failed, the people in Esther's time succeeded, bringing a resolution to an entire history of divine warfare.
Now, none of this makes it any easier to understand the result of what happened. Many died. Questions can be raised about the way the central characters in Esther conduct themselves. And naturally, we will ask questions of God. Did God know that they would be evil, and that they would continually attempt to destroy His people? Is the outcome that eventually takes place the best possible one?
As we complete the series on Esther, however, our questions may not be fully answered. But we must recognise that our inability to fully comprehend God's commands is natural. We serve a God who is infinite and all-powerful, whose ways are higher than our ways. If we truly believe, we must also believe and be willing to trust God when we do not understand.
Let us trust in what we do know and understand in order to trust when we don't know and understand. We know that God's redemptive promises are true, and that they protect us, as they did Esther and Mordecai (Genesis 12:3). We know that He works in the miraculous and the mundane alike, as seen in Exodus and Esther. And we know that Jesus has come, making a way for us to be faithful covenant partners with God despite our failures and our lack of understanding.
Therefore, we can say with the psalmist in Psalm 66:5, "Come and see the wonders of God; His acts for humanity are awe-inspiring."
Trusting in faith with you,