Esther 5 Bible Study: Esther's Prayer and the third day

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Bible Studies in the Book of Esther

Esther Chapter 5: Esther's Prayer and the power of the third day

by I Gordon


We saw in the last Bible study that Queen Esther had, after some initial resistance, obeyed Mordecai and made the decision to go to the king without being summoned. Doesn't probably sound like much of a major to us but in those times it was potentially life threatening! Esther's attitude was one of 'if I perish, I perish' - that is, she was dead to her own desire and alive to the will and instruction of Mordecai. Now we saw that this is the attitude required in our relationship with God. We need to learn, even with baby steps, to obey His will taking each step in faith in the knowledge that He will take care of the consequences.

This study will look at Queen Esther's approach to the king and we'll look at the beginnings of a plan to unseat that nasty character who was exerting an evil influence upon the kingdom... namely, Mr 'rotten to the core' Haman.

Had to happen on the third day! 

Esther 5:1-2 Now it came about on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king's palace in front of the king's rooms, and the king was sitting on his royal throne in the throne room, opposite the entrance to the palace. (2) When the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favor in his sight; and the king extended to Esther the golden scepter which was in his hand. So Esther came near and touched the top of the scepter.

So Esther prepared herself for her king. It is fair to say that she probably spent a bit of time on the dress and hair for she, doing what was unlawful, was completely reliant upon the king's approval. I imagine that she went for the knockout for we read above that she even put on the royal robes. Now note also that it was on the 'third day' that Esther went before the king. This itself is instructive for the mention of the 'third day' in scripture gives us a glimpse of that which is the ultimate fulfilment of the 'third day' references - the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  [1]  So just as Esther went down into a position of death saying 'if I perish I perish' so we see in the scripture above that the king extended his golden sceptre to her and she was granted life and favour!  [2]  All on the third day! Jesus, having gone down into the place of death, was also granted life and favour on the third day as well leading to the greatest event in the history of mankind - the resurrection! There is another picture here for us as believers as well. 

How to approach the true King!

When we approach our King, we too should do so in our royal robes. What do I mean by that? Well, scripture tells us that we have been given the robe of righteousness and that there is a new way open to approach our King today.

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness  , as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10) 

Therefore, brothers,  since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body  , and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

To approach God in the 'robe of righteousness' is the same as the 'new and living way' that is mentioned in Hebrews. It means that when we come to God we do so in the knowledge that we approach a holy God through the righteousness and blood of Jesus Christ. Our own righteousness will fail us time and time again. Jesus' righteousness, given as a gift to the believer, will not fail us. Living in the power of the third day means that we begin to see ourselves in a resurrected Christ. Not just as 'forgiven sinners' but as those that have been given a heavenly exalted position in Christ Jesus having access to the throne of God as righteous sons and daughters of God - a new creation! So let us draw near! Don't hold off. Allow this truth to wash you again, cleansing your guilty conscience, and approach God with a truly thankful heart. The way to the king is open. Esther found grace and favour with the king and so do we!

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need  . (Hebrews 4:15-16)

What would you ask for? 

Esther 5:3-5 Then the king said to her, "What is troubling you, Queen Esther? And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be given to you." Esther said, "If it pleases the king, may the king and Haman come this day to the banquet that I have prepared for him." (5) Then the king said, "Bring Haman quickly that we may do as Esther desires." So the king and Haman came to the banquet which Esther had prepared.

Having found favour with the king, with the golden scepter extended to her, Esther is now given a blank cheque by the king to ask for anything that she likes! Wow! What would you ask for?  [3]  What are the things that you most pray and ask of God? Obviously fame and fortune right? I hope not! What is on your heart most often when you approach the King? We know what was on Esther's heart do we not? She was there before the king to intercede on behalf of her people who had a judgement day coming. That was what motivated Esther into risking her life. She knew that there were people who could perish if she didn't come before the king and change this wicked decree instigated by Haman. In like manner, we should come before the King to intercede on behalf of those that we know have a day of judgement approaching. Prayer changes things!  [4]  Believe it! You show me a man who got saved without someone praying for him and I'll show you a man who isn't saved!  [5] 

So Esther is granted a request... even up to half of the kingdom. I believe that was more a figure of speech that an actual limit so it is just as well that she didn't try it on and ask for half! Well, Esther will reveal her request, but not before having a nice wee banquet with the king and Dr Evil... a.k.a, Haman!

A plan is being hatched... over tea and scones?

Esther 5:6-9 As they drank their wine at the banquet, the king said to Esther, "What is your petition, for it shall be granted to you. And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be done." (7) So Esther replied, "My petition and my request is: (8) if I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and do what I request, may the king and Haman come to the banquet which I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king says." (9) Then Haman went out that day glad and pleased of heart; but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate and that he did not stand up or tremble before him, Haman was filled with anger against Mordecai.

So Esther asked for Haman to come to the banquet and then when the king asks what her request is, she suggests that they have another banquet tomorrow where she will give her request! If I didn't know better, I would think that Esther is pretty scared and struggling to muster the courage needed to finally declare her nationality and expose the awful Haman for what he is! It is a possibility but I think there is a better answer. But let's explore the 'fear factor' just for a moment because it relates to us. We need to remember that Haman was the king's right hand man. The king had exalted Haman himself so there was a huge risk of everything going south for Esther if God is not in this! So she stalls for another day. Maybe you can relate to this when God is asking something of you? Maybe you have felt the call of God to speak or testify to someone and the situation seems outside your comfort zone? Maybe you too have put it off for a while. If so, be assured that God knows we are weak and when instant obedience is not found due to fear, what matters most is that you do still obey. If you need to go away and pray some more and be strengthened and gain resolve for the next meeting then so be it! But do your best to obey the call. Of course, it could simply be that Esther, who had previously come to the place of saying 'if I perish I perish' was not afraid and was abandoned to the will and timing of God. I think this is what the true answer is. It is God that is arranging the events and players in this drama exactly as He wants them and the timing of Haman's 'exposure' is in His hand as well.

Now, Haman is quite chuffed by all of this. 'Lunch with the king and queen one day then dinner the next?' Haman would have thought to himself... 'Who is the man! Oh, that would be me!' So he left very pleased with himself thinking he was just the cat's whiskers! Well, pleased until he saw that... that...that MORDECAI who still wouldn't bow down!

Alright... where's the bucket? 

Esther 5:10-14 Haman controlled himself, however, went to his house and sent for his friends and his wife Zeresh. (11) Then Haman recounted to them the glory of his riches, and the number of his sons, and every instance where the king had magnified him and how he had promoted him above the princes and servants of the king. (12) Haman also said, "Even Esther the queen let no one but me come with the king to the banquet which she had prepared; and tomorrow also I am invited by her with the king. (13) "Yet all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate." (14) Then Zeresh his wife and all his friends said to him, "Have a gallows fifty cubits high made and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it; then go joyfully with the king to the banquet." And the advice pleased Haman, so he had the gallows made.

So we see that Haman, upon arrival at home, once again starts lavishing praise and honour on his all time favourite person - um, that would be himself. Self exaltation and pride of this nature is, well, nauseating to say the least! I bet you wish you were his wife and had to live with that! But Haman can't help himself. It is completely characteristic of the fleshly nature to be self focused and self exultant.  [6]  In fact, pride of this nature has its original in Satan (Isa 14:13-14) and as a prophetic fulfilment it is no surprise that we read of the intense boasting  [7]  of the coming Antichrist (of whom Haman was a type). Well, we will look more closely at the prophetic implications of this book in a later study, but for now please note how this chapter ends. Haman's hatred of Mordecai has reached its limit and at the instruction of his wife, Haman has a gallows constructed to hang Mordecai the next day! Arrgh, does anyone else think that things are coming to a head? We've got Esther (if she can pluck up the courage!) organising a banquet for the next day to declare her nationality and expose Haman's wicked plan before the king. We've got Haman, with his shining new gallows, preparing to go to the king first thing in the morning to ask for the head of Mordecai! Any of the three could potentially be dead within 24 hours and rest assured that someone will perish! Oh who could that be then? I really have no idea! : )

The main take-away - flesh and spirit

Before we end I want to remind you again that this story pictures the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. Only one can ascend to the throne of your heart. But who will that be? Will you live your life with fleshly pursuits dominating your life or will God, through His Spirit, have that place in your life that He desires? In picture form, that is what the whole book of Esther is about and it is also the most important question and lesson that you face in this life.

[1] ↩  The Bible has next to nothing to say about 'the second day' or 'the fourth day' or five or six for that matter. Yet there are 14 references to the 'the third day' - many of which are significant events. Why? Well, because they are all pictures of Jesus Christ in some way who was resurrected on the third day. For example:

Þ The third day of creation saw the first life come to the earth through trees, fruit, seeds and vegetation. New life comes on the third day as a picture of Jesus' resurrection!
Þ Abraham received Isaac back from the place of sacrifice on the third day (Gen 22:4). This signified that life would be returned to Jesus, our sacrifice, on the third day.
Þ Joseph instructed his brothers on the third day on how they could go free from prison (Gen 42:18). When Jesus arose on the third day, other graves were opened and people were no longer held captive in the fear of death.
Þ Israel had to prepare to meet God on Sinai on the third day (Exodus 19:11). This signified that fellowship with God was fully achieved based on the new life, resurrection life, that was accomplished by Jesus' resurrection.
Þ Joshua crossed over into the Promised Land on the third day (Josh 1:11) for all of God's promises are 'Yea and Amen' in the resurrected Christ.
Þ King Hezekiah was sick nearly unto death but God told him that He would heal him on the third day (2 Kings 20:5). This points to the true spiritual healing, the new creation, that came through the resurrection of Jesus.
Þ Jonah was in the belly of the great fish three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17). As Jesus Himself said, this is a clear type of Christ in the heart of the earth between death and resurrection.
Þ The Jewish temple was completed on the third day (Ezra 6:15). Jesus said that if they destroy this temple (speaking of His body) He would raise it on the third day.
Þ The marriage at Cana was on the third day where new wine was brought forth (John 2:1-10). This pictures the new life that came on the third day and enabled salvation to all those that will participate in the marriage of the Lamb!

Like I said, they are all significant because they are types of Jesus Christ and the ultimate fulfilment of 'the third day'. The third day speaks of resurrection, freedom, healing, salvation and new life. So in the Esther 5:1 Esther has given up her will and gone through her death experience saying 'if I perish, I perish'... yet on the third day the golden sceptre is extended to her and she finds favour instead of death. This again pictures Christ going through death and being raised to new life on the third day!

[2] ↩  J Veron McGee writes with his refreshing honesty:  'As the king held out the sceptre to Esther, and she stepped up and touched it, so God holds out the sceptre of grace to us today; and He asks us to come and touch it by faith, accepting what He has to offer. He is not gracious to us because we are beautiful. My mirror tells me I'm not beautiful, and I'm ugly on the inside, too. Sin comes out of the human heart. We hear much about the fact that we should take care of all the pollution - and I am all for it - but I want to start where all the trouble begins, which is the human heart. God is holding out the sceptre of grace to all who will receive His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

[3] ↩  If I were honest, which is not very often : ), I would say that a large part of my prayer life is based around one thing...ME! In short, it is self centred. Not sure about you but I'll let you think about that one. We all have desires and needs - no doubt about it. And it certainly isn't wrong to bring those before God for the Bible tells us to present our requests before Him. But those requests shouldn't just be about ourselves! Far from it. The Bible says that we should delight ourselves in Him and He will give us the desires of our heart... He knows our desires and He isn't a mean God who just wants to keep those things from us. But our job is to focus on the first part of that verse - to delight ourselves in Him and then the second part (the desires of our heart) will come. Although, just as a side note - what you might find is that as you delight yourself in Him, the desires of your heart change! But anyway, our prayer life should have a strong focus on the needs of others. Maybe then we would see more answers to prayer. As it says it James - "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures" (James 4:3).

Ok, it is quite probable that this footnote is really just for me and doesn't relate to you at all!

[4] ↩  Some verses on prayer from the N.T to ponder on! I'll highlight a few things that stand out to me...

 "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we  ask anything according to his will, he hears us  . And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him" (1 John 5:14-15). 

 "Do not be anxious about anything,  but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving  , present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

"...The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16).

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints" (Ephesians 6:18).

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us  with groans that words cannot express" (Romans 8:26).

"Be joyful always;  pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances  , for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). 

 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe  that you have received it, and it will be yours  . And when you stand praying,  if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him,  so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins'" (Mark 11:22-25). 

[5] ↩  Um, might have gone out on a bit of a limb there... slight rush of blood to the head. My proof-reader of these studies (argh, otherwise known as 'Mum') doesn't think that anyone prayed for her leading up to her salvation. Lucky I said 'a man' then aye? : ) So obviously there will be exceptions... but generally when a person is saved there is someone faithfully praying for them behind the scenes. God asks us to intercede for others that they too would have the golden sceptre extended to them. And how great is it to be included in God's work in the saving of a soul?

[6] ↩  A couple of good quote here. Major Ian writes -  'Reading between the lines, and in so many words, what Haman had to say to his friends was this, "Apart from the king, the queen would not let anyone else come to the banquet but myself, and confidentially, between you, me and the gatepost, I do not think she was really enthusiastic about the king being there either! The flesh has an unlimited capacity for self deception when it comes to enhancing its own reputation.' 

McGee writes:  'As you may have noticed, when a man starts bragging, there are usually three areas he talks about. First he boasts about his riches, the money he makes. Then he talks about his fine children - or grandchildren (that's what I do). Then he will generally boast about his promotion and high position. Haman went all the way. He boasted in all three areas. There is another thing that men boast about. They like to boast about being great with the ladies!' 

[7] ↩  See Dan 7:8, Dan 11:36, 2 Thes 2:4, Rev 13:5-6