By: Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
(Sabbath, 26th Nov. 2011)
A Woman of Faith Changes the Unalterable Law of a World Empire!
Have you been told you can’t change a bad situation because it has always been so? Do they say a curse runs in your family and so your marriage will never work? Have you been ‘forewarned’ that your line of business is prone to debts and failure? Do powerful forces stand in your way? And do all this overwhelm you with a sense of helplessness?
Such situations of seeming impossibility call for one solution: the application of the law of faith! If you think your situation is so bad to yield to the law of faith, consider the case of Queen Esther.
By a remarkable course of events miraculously set in motion by God, Esther, a young Jewish lady in exile in Persia, became the queen of Persia, married to King Ahaseurus.
Meanwhile, the Medo-Persians were probably the greatest legalists in history. Their law reigned supreme. Once passed and promulgated, it was unalterable, even if obnoxious and draconian (Esth. 1:19-20; Dan. 6:8, 12, 15).This made their law a deadly tool in the hands of wicked men, as Haman, a vile character in the book of Esther, came close to using against the Jews, then living under Persian rule.
In the story Haman, the Prime Minister of King Ahaseurus, developed implacable hatred for the Jews because Mordecai, a mere security man at the palace in Shushan and a cousin of Queen Esther, would not bow to him as the other royal servants did because he was a Jew (Esth. 3:4). For refusing to do obeisance to him, Haman hatched a wicked plot not only to get rid of Mordecai, but also to exterminate all his kind—the Jews! Exploiting his influence with the king, Haman had a decree issued in the king’s name and with his consent and sealed with his ring that all the Jews, young and old, be killed on the 13th day of the 12th month, Adar.
When the decree was proclaimed with emissaries dispatched to all provinces of the realm for its execution it on the said date (Esth. 3:13), Mordecai sent a copy of the decree to Esther and commanded her to go to her husband the king "to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people" (Esth. 4:8 ESV). Much as Esther was willing to go to the king to intercede for her people, another unalterable Persian law stood in her way: no person could of their own accord enter the king’s presence without having been summoned by the king, and the penalty for breaking this law was death, unless the king held out his golden sceptre to the ‘intruder’. So Esther sent word to Mordecai: ‘"All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days”’ (Esth. 4:11 ESV).
At Queen Esther’s reply, Mordecai did not throw up his hands in despair. He sent back an answer to Esther in a somewhat defiant but hopeful tone: ‘"Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’" (vv. 13-14).
Fired up by Mordecai’s answer, Esther this time replied with confidence in God and a readiness to defy the unchangeable law of Persia: "’Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish’" (vv. 15-16). On hearing this, "Mordecai … went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him" (v. 17).
It was the unalterable law of Persia versus the law of faith!
As the story goes, Esther duly appeared before the king un-invited on the third day of the fast, and the sacrosanct, unchangeable law of Persia was publicly humiliated with flourish: Not only did the king hold out his sceptre to Esther who lovingly and submissively touched its tip, he also asked her to make whatever request she desired. "Even if it is up to half of the kingdom, it will be granted to you" (Esth. 5:1-3).
In response, the queen requested the presence of the king and Haman at a banquet she had prepared for His Majesty. But at the banquet Esther wouldn’t still make known her request to the king but deferred it to the next day at another banquet prepared for the king and Haman (vv. 4-8).
In the meantime, Haman was over the moon! He went home with the latest news of his glorious exaltation in the kingdom: of all the king’s officials, he now dines with the king at special banquets prepared by the queen! His was a soul swollen with pride and bliss—except that this poor, insignificant Jew at the king’s gate put such a damper on his joy with his insolence! Haman began to rant, but his wife Zeresh cut him short. She had just hit on a brainwave that would appease the troubled soul of her husband: "Make a wooden gallows, fifty cubits high and tomorrow speak to the king that Mordecai may be hanged on it. Then go in merrily with the king to the banquet. And the thing pleased Haman, and he caused the wooden gallows to be made" (vv. 9-14).
But while Haman went to bed contented with macabre thoughts of seeing his great enemy dead by the next day, the king had the worst night of his life. Sleep refused to come to him. So he commanded that the official records of the kingdom be brought out and read to him, perhaps there might be something in there to calm him down (6:1). And what was written there about Mordecai who had been earmarked for death by Haman in the morning?
"And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus" (v. 2; cp 2:21-23).
Wondering what might have been done to reward Mordecai’s loyalty, the king asked the servants attending on him, "What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him" (v. 3).
Just then Haman entered the outer court of the palace coincidentally to seek the king’s permission to have Mordecai hanged, and the king had him called in. The urgent matter for which the king called Haman was, "What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour?" Conceited Haman, thinking that the king intended the honour for him because he deserved it more than any other, answered: "For the man whom the king delighteth to honour, Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head: And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour’" (vv. 4-9).
A sumptuous reward of honour suggested by Prime Minister Haman, and the king did not pooh-pooh it. But Haman would be completely flabbergasted and devastated by what the king would say to him next: "Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king’s gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken" (vv. 10).
And who was he to challenge the king’s command? So Haman who came seeking Mordecai’s death ended up serving as his ‘temporary servant’ and herald proclaiming before his sworn enemy , arrayed in royal clothing and riding on the king’s horse, "Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour" (v. 11).
After the parade of enemies in reversed roles ended, Mordecai returned to his post at the king’s gate. "But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered. And Haman told Zeresh his wife and all his friends every thing that had befallen him. Then said his wise men and Zeresh his wife unto him, If Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him" (vv. 12-13).
While they bemoaned the misfortune that appeared to be heading Haman’s way, palace officers arrived to "bring Haman unto the banquet that Esther had prepared" (v. 14). It was a dinner that foreboded evil, not good, for Haman.
It was at this banquet that Queen Esther, in making her request, begged for her life and that of her people, as she reported the wicked intentions of Haman to the king. Boiling with rage at Haman, the king got up and went in to the palace garden, while Haman out of desperation threw himself down on Esther’s couch to beg her for pardon, but the king interpreted that to mean an attempt on his fair queen. At that instant, the doom of Haman was sealed, as the king said in alarm: "’Will he force the queen also before me in the house?’ As the word went out of the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon. So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified" (7: 1-10).
What befell Haman that day merely foreshadowed what was to befall the enemies of the Jews in all the realm of Persia on the very date they had fixed to annihilate the Jews in the Persian empire. Because the law of Persia was unalterable, a counter decree had to be issued not cancelling the annihilation but the Jews changing places with their enemies—they as the destroyers and their enemies as the victims.
And that required another act of faith by Esther in defiance of Persian law: she had to appear before the king without his express permission as before. Again, the law of faith prevailed over the otherwise unalterable law of Persia: the king held out his sceptre to the queen and wholeheartedly granted her request to reverse the Haman-sponsored order in favour of the Jews (chapters 8 & 9).
"All things are Possible to him that Believes"
It’s high time believers realized that we have not been called to live according to the principles of this world (Col. 2:8) but to live by faith. As the apostle Paul put it: "We live by what we believe will happen, not by what we can see" (2 Cor. 5:7 Easy-to-Read Version ERV).
This is the crux of the law of faith. The prevailing situation we want changed, reversed, or done away with is not what we look at and act on; it’s what we don’t see but know God is capable of bringing it to pass that we regard and act on! In other words, living by the law of faith is saying ‘yea’ when all others using just their five senses, without the ‘sixth sense’ of faith, say ‘nay’.
Thus Esther was determined to make an impossible situation possible through sheer faith in God. It was not according to the law (of Persia) to appear before the king without having been invited by him, but Esther did change that law in her situation.
However, Esther was not the first believer to apply the principle of faith in the face of intractable problems that seemed to defy all possible solutions. Moses’ parents won a place in the Bible’s Hall of Faith (Fame) because they, by faith, defied Pharaoh’s order that all Hebrew male babies be killed, and the child Moses survived and thrived in Pharaoh’s court in breach of the king’s order: "By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict" (Heb. 11:23 ESV).
In yet another defiance of a royal edict by faith, Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah defied King Nebuchadnezzar’s order to eat the same (abominable) food he ate, and they excelled more than all the other palace youths who ate the king’s food (Dan. 1:4-17). When the same king Nebuchadnezzar later ordered that all peoples bow in worship of his golden statue, Daniel’s three friends again defied his order to the point of being cast into a furnace of blazing fire, and they were not hurt at all (Dan. 3). The power of faith was in evidence: it drew God’s presence to His people in their hour of need, and they were saved. The LORD says in Psalm 91:15: "He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him".
Then came perhaps Daniel’s greatest test of faith: he had to choose between praying daily to Yah his God and obeying the newly enacted Persian law that forbade anyone from making a petition to a deity or man for thirty days or he/she would be thrown into the lions’ den. That too, in the tradition of the Medo-Persians, was an unalterable law. Living by the law of faith, Daniel chose to defy the anti-prayer unalterable decree of Persia sponsored by his enemies, and God delivered him from the maws of the lions–shut tight by an angel! In the end, Daniel’s enemies took his place in the den—and were mauled and eaten up by the lions—while God was glorified and Daniel prospered more and more (Dan. 6). Surely, faith brings deliverance and honour to God.
But the power of faith to overcome all problems and obstacles is not limited to just the difficult ‘man-made’ situations such as Esther and Daniel faced. Faith is equally able to defy natural law, as the Lord Jesus demonstrated in raising Lazarus from the dead after four days in the grave (John 11) and in walking on the sea (Matt. 14:25-33). When Apostle Paul and his fellow voyagers suffered a ship-wreck on the island of Malta en route to Italy, he also defied natural law when he, by faith, shook off a venomous serpent that had viciously bitten him and was totally unhurt (Acts 28:1-6).
The overall lesson is that nothing is able to stand in the way of faith. Indeed as Christ says in Mark 9:23, "all things are possible to him who believes". He mentions "all things" because with faith, the range of possibilities available to us is infinite!
So, what does normal natural law say about the awful situation you find yourself in? What appears to be impossible to improve or change in your life? Does the doctor say your sickness is incurable? Does a ‘soothsayer’ say your fate is sealed and all your family and friends agree with him?
Now is the time to operate by the law of faith, which is to operate above the ordinary thinking and ways and approaches of the unbelieving world. When Ahaz, the king of Judah, and many Judeans sought the military support of Assyria, the then regional superpower, in response to the military alliance formed against Judah by the Syrians and the northern kingdom of Israel, the LORD spoke to the prophet Isaiah "with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the LORD of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread" (Isa. 8:11-13).
This is Yahweh’s own word to you–"fear not their fear"! With Him, NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE (Luke 1:37; Matt. 19:26). Thus your problem may be fixed and unmovable like a monolith sitting firmly and securely on the ground, but with faith in God the reality is far different: the mountain has been removed and thrown into the sea, and it will be so (Mark 11:22-24).
This is how faith works: it’s not what you see that counts; it’s the existence of things you cannot see. This is what faith is all about (Heb. 11:1). So, like father Abraham, live by the law of faith, not wavering in faith but fully persuaded that what God has promised is a reality to be manifested in your life (Rom. 4:20-21). Amen!