Esther Chapter 8 Bible Study: The Two Eternal Laws

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Esther Chapter 8 Bible Study: The Two Eternal Laws

by I Gordon


Well, we reached a pivotal point in the story in the last chapter. Haman was unmasked by Queen Esther and exposed for the dirty rat that he was! With Haman now out of the way and Mordecai taking his place, a whole new dawn had arrived for the Jewish people. Yet the issue of Haman's law to annihilate the Jews still remained. In this chapter we will explore the 'two laws' that existed in the days of Esther and their implications and relevance to the Christian life. Let's go!

A changing of the guard

Esther 8:1-4 That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came into the presence of the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her. (2) The king took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed him over Haman's estate. (3) Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping. She begged him to put an end to the evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews. (4) Then the king extended the gold scepter to Esther and she arose and stood before him.

It was a momentous day. Haman was out and Mordecai was in! The king's signet ring, which had been on Haman's wicked bony finger, was now placed upon Mordecai and with it came the authority to rule on behalf of the king. Yay! Now, finally, we could see if the evil that was decreed under the rule of Haman could be surpassed by the good that was available under the authority of Mordecai. Now do you remember who these two men are a picture of? Hmmm... well? Of course you do! Haman is a picture of the fleshly nature in man where as Mordecai is a type of the Holy Spirit. Both claim the right to rule  [1] 

Whose finger is the ring on in your life?

So who controls your life? Haman or Mordecai? Whose finger is the ring on? When we become a Christian there is a 'changing of the guard' in terms of the authority in our life but it is quite possible (and evident in many Christian's lives) to slowly take back that signet ring and start calling the shots once again.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves (again!) for this shall come out quite clearly as this chapter progresses. So getting back to the story, having Mordecai in charge would lead to great rejoicing and profound changes throughout the land. But first there is a certain previous decree to deal with. You remember the decree... that little one that called for the annihilation of all Jews on a certain day. And so we see Queen Esther falling down at the feet of the king pleading on behalf of her people to stop this evil plan of the late, not great, Haman. Surely the king would simply revoke this terrible law now that Haman had been unmasked and, well, dealt to... right? Um, wrong actually! As we shall see, even the king himself couldn't revoke this law!

An introduction to the two laws

Esther 8:5-9 If it pleases the king, she said, "and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king's provinces. (6) For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?" (7) King Xerxes replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, "Because Haman attacked the Jews, I have given his estate to Esther, and they have hanged him on the gallows. (8) Now write another decree in the king's name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king's signet ring--for no document written in the king's name and sealed with his ring can be revoked." (9) At once the royal secretaries were summoned--on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan. They wrote out all Mordecai's orders to the Jews, and to the satraps, governors and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. These orders were written in the script of each province and the language of each people and also to the Jews in their own script and language.

Now how's this for an interesting law... The Medo-Persian law said that once the king had passed a royal decree it could not be undone or annulled... Not even by the king himself!  [2]  We had seen the truth of this even earlier in the book of Esther when the king's wise men said to the king '  Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed  ...' (Esther 1:19) So the king now knows that Haman had evil intentions, yet Haman's law was signed and sealed with the king's ring and cannot be revoked. Oh what is a king to do? Well, pass another law that's what! The first law that was to bring judgement and death to the Jewish race cannot be revoked but there is nothing to stop a second law giving them the chance of life and freedom now is there? So that is what our king does. The king allows Mordecai to write a new law and this is sign, sealed and sent to the farthest regions of the kingdom. One eternal law is joined by another eternal law. Let me ask you a question. Do you know the eternal spiritual laws of which this speaks? 

The two laws and the penalty for sin

This truth in Esther chapter 8 is not written here so that you can become a scholar in Medo-Persian law! It has been placed here by God to remind all who would take the time to enquire about some far greater eternal laws that govern and rule our eternal souls. Big statement I know but I'm not over-hyping it. Here are the eternal laws decreed and sealed with the Heavenly signet-ring.

God's two eternal laws for all mankind

Firstly, let's look at these two laws in regards to the penalty for sin. The first law (as pictured by Haman's law decreeing death upon the Jewish race) was summed up by Ezekiel in the very short and sweet sentence 'The soul who sins will die'(Ezek 18:4) or as Paul wrote in Romans 6:23 'the wages of sin is death.' That is the decree from God and it is set in concrete. It states that the payment for sin is death and this is speaking of both physical and spiritual death. Like the Persian laws of old, this cannot be revoked or annulled, and has been decreed upon the entire human race. That, my friend, is the bad news  [3]  . Now for the good news!

The same King of heaven who decreed the first law has also given one that brings freedom, joy and eternal life! The new decree states that  'that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved'  for ' the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ' (Romans 10:9, 6:23). Just as the Jews were given the second decree that could bring deliverance from the first, so this eternal decree has gone throughout the world so that all who believe may find grace, forgiveness and life!

The two laws and the power of sin

Did you know that there are not only two laws concerning the penalty of sin, but there are also two laws governing the power of sin? This is summed up by the Apostle Paul in Romans 8 where he writes:

Romans 8:1-4 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, (2) because through Christ Jesus the  law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death  . (3) For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, (4)  in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.  

A 'law' is something that is constant and does not change. This could be a governmental law such as 'You must pay taxes!' or scientific laws such as Einstein's law of relativity or Archimedes' law of buoyancy.  [4]  Well in the spiritual world, Paul spoke of two laws that operate as well. 

Two laws for the power of sin

The first is called 'the law of sin and death'. The second is 'the law of the Spirit of life'.  [5]  Both are in operation at the same time and both influence the believer. The first operates through man's fallen nature pulling him down and leading to sin. It is summed up in Romans chapter 7 with Paul saying  "I do not understand my own action for I do not do what I want and I do the very thing that I hate. I can will what is right but I cannot do it." (Romans 7:18-20).  Never forget that this law exists. Without living in a dependency upon the Holy Spirit whom God has given all believers, all that even a true child of God can expect is failure. It is a law. It changes not! It brings sin, failure and discouragement. Don't be surprised when this law operates in you! 

Yet praise God that a second law has been enacted that is more powerful and when taken into account brings freedom from the first law! Like Mordecai writing the new law to grant freedom and liberty to the Jews condemned to die under Haman's law, so God has given a new decree that declares that the Spirit whom he has given believers can and will free them from the bondage of the law of sin and death. Let's look at that in a bit more detail as the story unfolds...

The newer law brought freedom from the old law 

Esther 8:10-14 Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king's signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king. (11) The king's edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies. (12) The day appointed for the Jews to do this in all the provinces of King Xerxes was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar. (13) A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies. (14) The couriers, riding the royal horses, raced out, spurred on by the king's command. And the edict was also issued in the citadel of Susa.

So Mordecai writes the new law and the couriers are mounted on the fastest horses and off they go! They are carrying this new decree to every city and province within the Persian realm. Now remember... this new law didn't cause Haman's previous law to be null and void. That law was still in force and allowed, and encouraged, a day of 'open slaughter' upon the Jews without consequences. This law however allowed the Jews to protect themselves and fight their enemies. There was no time to dilly-dally. The couriers had to get this new law passed by the authority of the king out there pronto!  [6]  Now, what do you think would have happened if the Jews had not believed this second decree from the king? If they had not believed it or taken it into account then they would have remained an easy target for their enemies emboldened by the first law.

In other words, if you don't operate under the power of the second decree you will succumb to the power of the first. Now I don't want to overcomplicate this so let's keep this simple as it relates to our Christian life... You don't have what it takes to live the Christian life in and of yourself. You couldn't save yourself from the penalty of sin and you can't save yourself from the power of sin. Roll up your sleeves, try harder and make new resolutions and commitments as much as you like... by your own will power and strength it will only end in tears. And not happy tears. You can 'go forward' at a church meeting as much as you want but if you are only rededicating more of your own efforts again back to God (probably due to guilt at your last failure) it will not last or bring any freedom, power or joy.

There is a second law in place. And it is something far better than your own efforts! Simply put God has already given the believer His Holy Spirit. He is the engine under the hood. He is the wind in the sails. And while we often think of 'walking in the power of His Spirit' as something mysterious, it can be as simple as saying 'thank you' to God. 'Thank you that you have given me your Holy Spirit to be in me what I am not. Thank you!' Not a pleading for God to give you something  [7]  , but a thankful acknowledgement of what He has already done and will do in you through giving His Holy Spirit to you. That's why, when talking about the Holy Spirit and the means of spiritual life in the Christian, Paul writes:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 Be  joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire  ... May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. 

Conclusion - The result? Joy... Wonderful Joy!

Esther 8:15-17 Mordecai left the king's presence wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen.  And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration. (16) For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor.  (17) In every province and in every city,  wherever the edict of the king went, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them  .

Here we have the conclusion of the matter. Here is the result of the second law going out. Can you remember the reaction of the city of Susa when the first decree went out? Let me help you out with that one.

Esther 3:13-15 Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king's provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews--young and old, women and little children--on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods... Spurred on by the king's command, the couriers went out, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.

In other words the bewildered city had become the joyous city! The fear, confusion and anxiety produced by the first law had been replaced by the joy, gladness and happiness of the second! It is that way when we become Christians is it not? It is the joy that comes when we realise that the sentence of death that hung over our heads has been taken and annulled by the one who died and paid the price for our sin on the cross. And there is joy and thankfulness when you discover that that God has given you His Holy Spirit to be in you, all that He requires of you. So listen again to the second law as it relates to living the Christian life - The law of the spirit of life can set you free from the law of sin and death. It's not about you. It is about Jesus. Thank Him. It may be that you haven't seen the evidence of this yet in your life. Just begin to thank Him anyway! The city of Susa was able to be joyous though they hadn't yet seen the deliverance that was possible because of the second law. That would come, but they could celebrate and give thanks well in advance! You do the same.

And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them  .

Wow! Finally, what a testimony! The gentiles turned to the God of the Jews because of what they had seen. God's work on their behalf, and their resulting joy, proved to be an infectious mix! What can I say in conclusion? What I say to you is what I say to myself - Be thankful people. It won't just affect your own life but could well influence those around you. Non-Christians watch you as they do me. They want to see whether we have something that is real and worthwhile. And joy is contagious! (Argh, grumbling can be contagious as well, as evidenced with the Israelites in the wilderness, but with less desirable results.)

So ask God to show you the reality of His life in you and then step into each new situation in your life thanking Him that He is adequate for whatever circumstances, difficulties or opportunities may come your way.

[1] ↩  Although both take different approaches. The first, that fleshly nature, is loud and brash telling you that you are your own man (or women) and if it feels good do it! The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is gentle, quietly drawing you and reminding you to keep your heart soft towards God and His will.

[2] ↩  Boy, I told you that would be interesting! : ) Ok, hard to hype up an old law it seems. But it is important in the context of Esther 8 because this law called for the death of the Jewish race. And it cannot be annulled! Gaebelin comments:

 'The former decree cannot be revoked; it must stand. Laws made by Persian kings could not be altered or changed. (See Dan 6:15.) A revocation of the edict is impossible and the former proclamation therefore stands. This Persian custom had for its foundation the idea that a "decree" must be looked upon in the light of an emanation from the king as a person with divine authority. But inasmuch as Mordecai had now the signet-ring, which authorized him to issue decrees in the name of the king, he could do anything he pleased and write to the Jews in the name of the king and this second proclamation would also be irrevocable.'

So two laws would be in place at the same time. One calls for the death of the entire Jewish race. The other gives them the ability to find freedom, life and victory over their enemies. Now that is interesting. Especially in terms of the gospel truth it portrays. Do you know which two laws, decreed by the King of kings, I speak of?

[3] ↩  McGee writes '  God cannot save us today by perfection because we cannot offer it. God cannot save us by imperfection because He cannot lower His standard. We belong to a lost race. That is the predicament of humanity. That is the problem of the human family. We like to think that the problem is somewhere else, in someone else's heart, but it is right in our own hearts. Out of the heart proceed all the evil things. The world is polluted. It is not only the rivers and the air; the human heart is polluted. God has to judge. Men are sinners and need a Savior. Many people don't like to hear that. Many churches today have become liberal, and liberalism is based on weakness. The men in the pulpit do not have the courage to stand up and tell people that they are sinners and need a Savior. Of course, it is an unpopular message. All of us would rather be flattered. But it is God's decree, and it stands unalterable. It means eternal death to ignore it.' 

[4] ↩  Of course there are many laws described by great scientific thinkers such as Newton, Kepler, Faraday, Boyle etc... More than likely you have heard of the names but can't exactly define the 'laws' they have discovered. But I bet you can remember that other law given by someone called 'Murphy'. You know the one... Murphy's law - 'Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong!' Yeah well, maybe Mr Murphy was having a bad few days when that one was pronounced. And while we can sometimes relate, best not think of this one when we are talking about constant unchangeable laws!

[5] ↩  Watchman Nee in his book 'the normal Christian life' illustrates these two laws well. He writes:
 One of our great burdens in China used to be the likin tax, a law which none could escape, originating in the Ch'in Dynasty and operating right down to our own day. It was an inland tax on the transit of goods, applied throughout the empire and having numerous barriers for collection, and officers enjoying very large powers. The result was that the charge on goods passing through several provinces might become very heavy indeed. But a few years ago a second law came into operation which set aside the likin law. Can you imagine the feelings of relief in those who had suffered under the old law? Now there was no need to think or hope or pray; the new law was already there and had delivered us from the old law. No longer was there need to think beforehand what one would say if one met a likin officer tomorrow! 

 And as with the law of the land, so it is with natural law. How can the law of gravity be annulled? With regard to my handkerchief that law is at work clearly enough, pulling it down, but I have only to place my hand under the handkerchief and it does not drop. Why? The law is still there. I do not deal with the law of gravity; in fact I cannot deal with the law of gravity. Then why does my handkerchief not fall to the ground? Because there is a power keeping it from doing so. The law is there, but another law superior to it is in operation to overcome it, namely the law of life. Gravity can do its utmost but the handkerchief will not drop, because another law is working against the law of gravity to maintain it there... 

 In just such a manner God delivers us from one law by introducing another law. The law of sin and death is there all the time, but God has put another law into operation - the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, and that law is strong enough to deliver us from the law of sin and death. You see, it is a law of life in Christ Jesus - the resurrection life that in Him has met death in all its forms and triumphed over it (Eph. 1:19, 20). The Lord Jesus dwells in our hearts in the person of His Holy Spirit, and if we let Him have a clear way and commit ourselves to Him we shall find that He will keep us from the old law. We shall learn what it is to be kept, not by our own power, but 'by the power of God' (1 Peter 1:5). 

[6] ↩  In terms of getting the message of the new law out, we (Christians) are like the couriers. We are God's ambassadors. We go out to those around us (and some are called to go to the furthest regions of this world) to give out the message. It is quite possible that the people in the world don't know that there is a law in force that states that 'the soul that sins will die'. But whether they know it or not, it is still a law and come judgement day they will be judged by this law. But as the couriers went out in haste to tell the people of a second law, so that is our mission today. This law, just as a reminder, states that freedom from sin, guilt and judgement is available through Jesus Christ. The two laws are summed up in the one verse of Romans 6:23 'For the wages of sin is death (the first law), but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (the second law).'

[7] ↩  Although if you are going to ask for something, ask for revelation of what you already have and what God has already done. We really do need God's revelation on these things for they are only spiritually discerned. A head knowledge only will be lost. A God given revelation will remain with you. And be thankful! The story is told of a man who found the barn where Satan stores the seeds he sows in the human heart: envy, greed, anger, hatred, lust, and so on. The man soon noticed that Satan had more seeds of discouragement than of any other kind. He learned that those seeds could be made to grow almost anywhere. When Satan was questioned, he reluctantly admitted that there was one place in which he could not get them to grow. "And where is that?" asked the man. Satan replied sadly, "In the heart of a thankful man."