Last year, I had the privilege of preaching through the book of Esther at Roosevelt Community Church. The sermon series was such a reminder of God’s sovereign hand at work behind the scenes and his providential care for his people living in exile. The tagline that we said repeatedly to sum up this great book was “God is active even when we don’t directly see it.” Our lead pastor, Vermon Pierre, was on sabbatical for a couple of months, so he allowed me to preach this narrative to our congregation. (So big shout out for churches that allow their pastor to take sabbaticals for rest, refreshment, and nourishment. Also, big shout out to pastors entrusting the pulpit to younger preachers to equip and edify the body of Christ.)
Through prayer and help from the Holy Spirit I mapped out the series in 11 sermons. I titled it “Tracing the Fingerprints of God,” because I was struck by the providential fingerprints of God throughout the book. I define a fingerprint of God as those things you fail to understand in the moment, but with hindsight, see clearly as God’s working. For instance, Esther becoming Queen in Persia is a fingerprint of God.
Though it’s odd for a Jewish orphan woman to replace Queen Vashti (Es 2), it’s not till later in the book we see the full significance. This position allowed Esther to play a major role in saving the Jewish people from destruction. I’m sure she did not know what God was doing when allowing her to become Queen, but looking back, there is no mistaking why he sovereignly allowed this to happen, for the redemption of His people. What a great fingerprint!
Here are three things I learned from preaching through the book of Esther:
God is truly in control over everything
Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens, and he does as he pleases.” Yahweh is fully and truly in control from every aspect of life even the things we do not understand. In Esther, we see how he is sovereign over Esther becoming Queen (Es 2), Mordecai discovering the plot (Es 2:19–23), and Mordecai challenging Esther to go to the King (Es 4:14). God is even sovereign over King Ahasuerus’ insomnia (Es 6), which leads him to listen to the story of Mordecai foiling the plot of two eunuchs against the king. The king then wanted to honor Mordecai, which eventually leads to him replacing Haman as the second in command in the kingdom. God is in the details! All of these are fingerprints of God.
Systemic injustice has historic roots
In Esther 3, there is an intriguing story between Mordecai and Haman. Essentially, we see the reality of how systemic injustice occurs. It happens in three movements.
- Systemic injustice occurs when there is a certain disdain for a group of people (Es 3:1–6). Haman hated Jewish people. His hatred was rooted in historical tension between the descendants of Agag and the descendants of Saul (Ex 17:14–16; 1 Sam 15:32–33). As an Agagite, Haman’s lineage was linked to Agag.
- Systemic injustice occurs when a person (or people) abuses power and authority (Es 3:7–11). Haman was second in command in the kingdom. He has access to the King and advocated for a Jewish Holocaust way before Nazis in Germany. His prejudice towards Jews led to his abuse of power.
- Systemic injustice occurs when laws harm a certain group of people tremendously (Es 3:12–15). After the king agrees to permit this future massacre, Haman put this into an edict—what we would refer to as an executive order. This threw the city into confusion.
Systemic injustice still occurs today, and we see the same steps for its inception and execution.
God cares and loves his people
In the book of Esther, we see that God cares for and loves people. He set a plan in motion to save his people from their enemies. Esther goes to the king to intercede on behalf of the Jewish people; she reveals Haman’s wicked plot, and he is thwarted. In chapter 8, God uses Esther as a representative to save the Jewish people through a new edict.
An intriguing question: could Esther be a type of Christ? Could she be foreshadowing the great salvation that we see in Christ Jesus? Throughout the Holy Scriptures, God uses all sorts of people for his ultimate glory, and these mini-narratives of salvation point to the greater deliverance at the cross. God cares and loves his people—so much so he gave his only begotten son (Jn 3:16).
The book of Esther is amazing! It’s a great book for pastors to preach and teach through. There are so many different things that I’ve learned and I encourage pastors to prayerfully consider preaching through it. I’m confident their congregations will be encouraged by the heart of God. His name is not directly mentioned, but he is always active even when we don’t directly see it.
John Talley III serves as the Executive Pastor of Mission & Vision at Roosevelt Community Church in downtown Phoenix. He serves on the Executive Leadership Team of the Surge Network, a movement of local churches putting Jesus on display in Arizona. Also an adjunct professor at Arizona Christian University, he graduated from Grand Canyon University with a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies and Phoenix Seminary with a Master of Divinity with an emphasis in Biblical & Theological studies. He, his beautiful wife, Celeste, and their daughter reside in Phoenix, AZ.