Esther Chapter 6 Bible Study: The sleepless king and providence of God

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Bible Studies in the Book of Esther

Esther Chapter 6: The sleepless king and the providence of God

by I Gordon


We saw in the last study that everything is reaching an exciting climax and before the day is out, someone will be a goner. Mordecai despises Haman and wants him removed from the kingdom's decision making. Haman hates Mordecai and wants him swinging on the gallows he has just had constructed for that purpose. So he plans to get up early in the morning and go to the king to suggest that very idea. On the same day, Esther is throwing a banquet to expose the wicked schemes of Haman before the king. And speaking of the king... well, he doesn't have a clue what is going on and is just looking forward to some tea and scones at the banquet. Something has got to give!

But as all these threads start to weave themselves together into a good old fashioned birds nest, what is interesting is seeing the providence of God in all of this. You see, Esther is the only book in the Bible where God is not mentioned! And yet, as we shall see, He is not far from the scenes! The actors may be strutting around on the stage but the director is still calling the shots whether they know it or not! Let's have a look at how this will unfold and how it relates to the providence of God.

I hate it when ya can't sleep... or is there a purpose? 

During that night the king could not sleep so he gave an order to bring the book of records, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. It was found written what Mordecai had reported concerning Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs who were doorkeepers, that they had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus.  The king said, "What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?"  Then the king's servants who attended him said, "Nothing has been done for him." (Esther 6:1-3)

Now you will know from the introduction and the previous study that everything is set to come to a head 'tomorrow'. So it is fair to say that if anyone couldn't get a good night sleep right about now it would be Esther. Well, or Mordecai. Well, or Haman. Actually, take your pick really. All three would have had a lot on their mind and counting sheep isn't going to ease their minds of the importance of the coming day. It is make or break time. In fact, of all our actors in this story, the only one that should be sleeping well is of course the king himself. He is blissfully unaware of the events that are about to unfold and right about now he should be deep into REM sleep dreaming of other kingdoms to conquer. I say 'should be' because we read that 'on that night the king could not sleep'. Of all the nights it just had to be this night that he couldn't sleep!  [1]  Whatever he tried failed... hot milk before bed... camomile tea... counting to 1000... nothing happening! So, what do you do in such a situation? Well you have the book of records read before you that's what. If that won't put you to sleep nothing will! So the king had his servants read to him from this book. Clearly if he can't sleep then no one should!

And what exactly did they read on this very important night? Good question! Well, they read the story of how Mordecai had saved the king from two assailants who sort to end his life (as recorded earlier in Esther 2:21-23).  [2]  It was also mentioned, in answering the question of the king, that nothing had been done to reward Mordecai for this act of courage.  [3]  

The often unseen hand of God

Let me just state the obvious here. This has the fingerprint of God all over it! He is the one who kept the king awake. He is the one who put the thought in his mind to have the book of records read. He is the one who directed the king's eunuchs to choose the story concerning Mordecai to read. The invisible workings of the Almighty God are pretty amazing! Now don't just think that that was something that God 'used' to do either. God is still in the business of setting up circumstances and meetings in the lives of His believers today. Have you experienced that in your life? Have you seen the invisible hand of God in your life working on your behalf?  [4] 

And in comes the self consumed one

So the king said, "Who is in the court?" Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king's palace in order to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai on the gallows which he had prepared for him. The king's servants said to him, "Behold, Haman is standing in the court." And the king said, "Let him come in." So Haman came in and the king said to him, "What is to be done for the man whom the king desires to honor?" And Haman said to himself, "Whom would the king desire to honor more than me?" Then Haman said to the king, "For the man whom the king desires to honor, let them bring a royal robe which the king has worn, and the horse on which the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown has been placed; and let the robe and the horse be handed over to one of the king's most noble princes and let them array the man whom the king desires to honor and lead him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him, 'Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.'" (Esther 6:4-9)

Poor old Haman! (Well, not really but just for a sec put yourself in his shoes...) He has this plan to hang Mordecai so gets up nice and early, brushes his teeth, and scuttles off to get to the king before all others to make this request known. 'The king loves me and has exalted me above all others' he thinks to himself. 'He won't refuse my request for Mordecai's head' he assures himself. Well, he may have got up early but what he didn't reckon on is the God of Israel who doesn't sleep and was actually speaking to the king right throughout the night! Oh what terrible timing for Haman. I feel really sorry for him (ok, not true.) But let's not get ahead of ourselves... So Haman comes in and the king wants to know what should be done to the man that the king wants to honour. Of course, in Haman's mind there is only one person that would qualify as the one whom the king wants to honour. 'Um, that will be me!' he thinks to himself and obviously comes up with an over the top answer to the king that involves the following:

  • The one honoured should be displayed as royalty wearing the kingly robe, riding the royal horse, wearing the royal crown.
  • The one honoured should be paraded through the streets and in the city square for the admiration of the people.

Let me tell you christian that if you serve the Lord faithfully in this life then that day will come. The day will come when you are publicly displayed and honoured and praised by God Himself. But don't set your heart on it in this life! There is something of Haman in each of us that because of pride, desires the honour and admiration of our peers here and now.  [5]  But now is not the time for such things. If God so chooses to honour you now then fine, but in actuality all honour should now be reserved for Jesus.  [6]  Your attitude, and mine, should reflect the words of this great hymn (my favourite actually):

True focus - Be thou my vision!

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, the first in my heart,
 Sovereign of Heaven, my treasure Thou art.

 High King of heaven, Thou heaven's bright Sun
Grant be its joys after victory is won
Great heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
 Still be Thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

I've forgotten... What does pride come before? 

Go at once, the king commanded Haman.  "Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew  , who sits at the king's gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended." So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, "This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!" Afterward Mordecai returned to the king's gate. But Haman rushed home, with his head covered in grief, and told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him. His advisers and his wife Zeresh said to him,  "Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him--you will surely come to ruin!"  While they were still talking with him, the king's eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared. (Esther 6:10-14)

Oh boy! Wouldn't you have just loved to be a fly on that wall? If you were a fly that day (with good hearing), I believe you would have been able to audibly hear the 'thud' as Haman's heart dropped with the kings words. Of course, had he been a reader of Solomon (a truly wise man) he would have done well to read some of the following proverbs:

Before his downfall a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before honor. (Pro 18:12) 

It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to seek one's own honor. (Pro 25:27) 

Now, in regards to Haman, I can't vouch that the first part of that last proverb was a weakness of Haman's, but the last part certainly was. But alas! Haman was too busy being wise in his own estimate to have spent time reading true wisdom. And so his worst fears have been realised. Can you imagine the fake smile (to hide the inward grimace and clenched teeth!) as he has to put the royal robe upon Mordecai and lead him in honour and praise through the streets of the city! As difficult as this is for Haman, it is nothing compared to the fear that would be rising within his heart knowing that Mordecai is now honoured and revered by the king. But maybe he can count on a plan or some wisdom from his wife? Well, maybe not. Upon arriving home, she not so delicately informs Haman that his downfall has now begun and, to put it succinctly, he is now ruined! Argh, thanks honey.

Conclusion - there is a way that seems right....

While I've been having some fun with this, it is difficult to read this story without thinking of the condition and ruin of mankind in general. How many spend their life seeking their own fame, fortune and glory only to find that being consumed by such things leads to their own downfall and eventual doom? How many are like Haman not realising that the day of ruin is so close?

Pro 16:25 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

As mentioned a few times, Haman is a type of the fleshly nature and by extension, the natural fleshly orientated man. For such a person, everything revolves around the here and now and there is no wisdom seen in living for the life to come  [7]  . But as Jim Elliot said so well - 'He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.'

Who is wise? He will realise these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them. (Hos 14:9)

Well, we shall see what will become of Haman in the next study for there is still a banquet to be had. Maybe Haman can use his influence to turn the tables of Mordecai? Maybe the Queen is still on his side for she has invited him to the banquet? Or maybe not as we shall soon see!

[1] ↩  McGee writes:  'This night that the king could not sleep was the most eventful night in the history of the empire because it is the turning point in the Book of Esther. Have you noticed that God uses the little things to carry out His program? Years before in Egypt God brought together a woman's heart and a baby's cry when Pharaoh's daughter found the baby Moses in the Nile River. By this He changed the destiny of the nation... On this particular night the servants just happened to turn to a certain place in the minutes. Did I say happened to turn? Little things are beginning to pile up and reveal God's hand in the glove of human circumstances. God is moving. He is overruling. It was no accident that Esther became queen. It was no accident that she presented herself to the king and found favor in his sight. It was no accident that he accepted her invitation to a banquet. Now he is unable to sleep, and it is no accident that the servant began to read at a certain place.' 

[2] ↩  This itself is amazing in the natural and shows the hand of God again. History records that the Persian kings were meticulous in their records. The king up until this stage had reigned for 12 years. Anything during that time could have been read out. And what is read? Well, something that will have HUGE implications for what was about to transpire that very day. It is for this reason that J. G Bellet (as quoted in the Believers Bible Commentary) writes of  '. . the wonderful interweaving of circumstances which we get in this history. There is plot and underplot, "wheels within wheels," circumstances hanging upon circumstances, all formed together to work out the wonderful plans of God.' 

[3] ↩  Just as a side note, I like the fact that Mordecai didn't bring up his good deed or ask for a reward at all. He did what he needed to do and left it at that. And do you know what? His deed was recorded in a book and at the appropriate time he was well rewarded (as we shall see). The thing I like about this is that it is the same for us. We don't need to make a big deal concerning what we do. It doesn't matter if nobody else knows about it. God does, and he is a documenter. Everything is written in His books and every true deed will be rewarded on the day when the books are opened. Check out this great passage from Malachi 3:16-17:  'Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name. "They will be Mine," says the LORD of hosts, "on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him." ' 

[4] ↩  It is normally quite easy to see the hand of God in some good things that have happened in your life. What about the not so good things? I had an accident a few years ago that split my left eye open and I permanently lost all sight in that eye. I have no doubt that God allowed this to happen. I'm not saying he caused it but He certainly allowed it so His hand was still in it. The fact is that when it comes to believing that God is working things out for our good, we need to accept that He does this with all things. That doesn't make all things 'good'. This world has so many injustices and sinful things that sometimes happen even to God's strongest followers. Not all things are good in and of themselves. But God can and does work all things for our good.

[5] ↩  This is probably seen best in those that are very 'religious' - both in Jesus' day and our own. Jesus' day had the Pharisees whose love of the limelight and their own honour inspired the following words of Jesus:

 Matt 6:1-5 'Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites,  for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.' 

The Pharisees may not exist today but their spirit certainly does. Do us both a favour... don't seek your own honour and praise please!

[6] ↩  Just continuing this theme, in this life we should 'be devoted to one another in brotherly love' and  'Honour one another above ourselves.' (Rom 12:10) Now and in eternity we should obviously honour Jesus for  'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.' (Rev 5:12-13) 

But as you go through different hard experiences in this life and serve the Lord faithfully, rest assured that you too will be honoured at the return of Jesus.  'These (trials) have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Pet 1:7)  As Jesus said  'My Father will honour the one who serves me.' (John 12:26) and as Paul noted 'each will receive his praise from God.'  (1 Cor 4:5)

[7] ↩  But God is honoured to be called the God of those that can, through faith, see that which is still to come. And through seeing what is to come, live today in the view of eternity. As it says in Hebrews of the ancient men of renowned -  '  All these people were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.  (Hebrews 11:13-16)