Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Petitioning the King

Although, the Old Testament events are actual history, they are also parables, and since the central character is God, we can look at Old Testament events as parables about God and the Kingdom of God.  Our reading from Esther this morning is a great example (Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22).

Characters: the king represents God, Queen Esther represents us, and Haman represents who?  The devil?  Ungodly man?  Let's say the World, the Flesh, and the Devil: the temptations that we face every day.  We won't really get into Haman's role here.

The first thing we learn from this passage is that God is the initiator.  Esther 7:2: the king again said to Esther, "What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled."  The king spoke first.  God speaks first.  As we talked about last week: God is always previous.  We tend to think of us asking for God first, but God has put the idea into our heads.  We look at Jesus walking on water, and we think that Peter telling Jesus to command him onto the water, too, means that the whole relationship process with God is up to us to initiate: “Jesus, command me onto the water with you!”  But the idea wouldn't have occurred to Peter had he not seen Jesus walking toward him first.  Likewise, we don't think of a relationship with God until we see God coming toward us, asking us, as he asks Esther, “What is your petition?”

Some may say that Esther invited the King to her dinner, which puts the initiation back in Esther's, and subsequently our, hands.  However, we must always remember that the King picked Esther to be his queen.  We could say that he “elected” her.  Likewise, the King elects us to be part of his kingdom.  Once again, the initiation falls into the king's hands.

The second thing we learn is something we usually consider a throwaway statement: even up to half of my kingdom.  Dude!  God just offered us half of his kingdom!  Why would we not take that?  In fact, that is EXACTLY what we, in our fallen states, would choose. Our sin-depraved selves would always choose the material possessions and power that this world offers over anything else—even our own lives. That is the predicament we are in!

But Queen Esther does not respond that way.  She passes the test.  We, too, must pass the test, if we are to enter God's kingdom, and choose something other than worldly things.  Esther chooses life.  Verse 3: Then Queen Esther answered, "If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me.”  She is pleading for her life.  We, too, when asked by God what our petition is, must respond with “everlasting life.”

Let's look at some other examples.  Here is first Kings 3:5: “At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.”  See the similarity?  One, God initiates.  Two, the sky is the limit on what we can ask for!  What does Solomon ask for? “Give to your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.”  Wisdom.  And from scripture we know that Wisdom is Christ; 1 Corinthians 1:24 says, “Christ is the power of God and the Wisdom of God.  Knowledge of Christ is also everlasting life.  As it says in John 17: “This is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”  Wisdom and knowledge of God are everlasting life.  Essentially Solomon asked for life.

In 2 Kings 2:9 Elisha asks for a double helping of God's spirit.  Here is another who passes the test, and instead of asking for wealth and riches and power, Elisha is asking for God's spirit.  The Holy Spirit, Wisdom, and Everlasting Life are all bound and wrapped up in each other.

So, Esther asks for life.  She describes her situation thus: “For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated.”  This is the human condition she is describing.  We have sold ourselves into the enemy's hands and our destination is destruction, annihilation.  Everlasting death.  Esther says that if we had merely sold ourselves into slavery, we would still have peace.  We are slaves to sin.  We are slaves to unrighteousness, but that's not the problem.  The wages of sin is death.  If we were merely slaves on this earth and then continued on to everlasting life, that would be okay.  But, as we stand, our paths lead to everlasting death.  And in the meantime, we are slaves.  We think we have liberty when we are not following God, and that following God then restricts us.  We instinctively reject following God.  But the truth is that we are slaves NOW.  We have no liberty NOW, and when we follow God, he liberates us.  We are freed from slavery.  It's as if we were purchased by someone we thought was a slave master, but when we fall into his hands, he immediately frees us.  However, we are too scared to choose God, because he appears to be a slave master.

So, take your pick.  The way out of this slavery that leads to everlasting death is one of three things: either Wisdom or Spirit or Everlasting Life.  All of those things are wrapped up in Jesus Christ.  So take your pick: Jesus or slavery.  It sounds like a reasonable choice, doesn't it, and yet we will choose slavery all of the time.  God is the one who walks to us on the water and asks us the question, “what is your petition?”  Otherwise we would never desire to choose life, and we would remain slaves to death forever.

Turn to Christ, and as it says in that final verse in our Esther reading, we will gain relief from our enemies—the world, the flesh, and the devil—and our days will turn for us from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; and we should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.

Rejoice the Lord is King; Again I Say Rejoice.