Fingerprints of God: Lessons from the Book of Esther

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


Preaching Through Exodus: A Q&A with Pastor Chris Newkirk

For many pastors, expositing an entire Old Testament book like Exodus can feel daunting. Chris Newkirk, Pastor of Whitton Avenue Bible Church in Phoenix, AZ, recently did just that. We sat down with him to ask seven questions about his church’s experience walking through Exodus. We hope this Q&A encourages you to preach through entire Old Testament books to bless your congregations and show them the Christ-centered narrative thrust of all Scripture.

Phoenix Seminary: How long did it take you to get through Exodus? 

Chris Newkirk: Our church family walked through the book of Exodus verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter over the course of 39 sermons. We spread those over a year and a half, using the natural narrative breaks of Exodus to preach various, shorter New Testament books.


PS: Why do you like to alternate between OT and NT books in your preaching? 

CN: At Whitton we have a deep commitment to preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). This is not only the pattern that we see in Paul’s ministry it; naturally flows from our doctrine of Scripture. So, even in what we choose to preach, we aim to teach our congregation that the entire counsel of God’s Word (‘All Scripture’) is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Furthermore, by alternating between Testaments and even genres within those Testaments, we hope to train our people how to read their own Bibles faithfully and give them an appetite to do so.


PS: What did you find to be the central message of Exodus?

CN: Although Exodus is a relatively long and quite diverse book, the central message that we returned to throughout our study was simply this: God sovereignly saves a special people for his own glory.


PS: What did preaching through Exodus teach you about God? 

CN: As with every book in Scripture, Exodus is all about God. He is the hero and the focus of each and every section. Therefore, we learned a tremendous amount about God. Exodus contains two of the most explicit passages of God’s own self-disclosure: Exodus 3:14-15 and Exodus 34:6-7. Yet, even more broadly than the explicit self-revelation passages, Exodus shows us that God is the singular, sovereign, supreme God of the universe. He is the God who makes and keeps covenant with his chosen people. He reigns over creation itself (the Red Sea, the plagues), king’s hearts (Pharaoh), salvation (the Exodus, Passover, Sinai), and even the smallest details that we might otherwise call coincidence (Moses’ being found by Pharaoh’s daughter but then reared by his own mother on Pharaoh’s dime). We also learn a tremendous amount about God’s holiness and redemptive plans through the commands, laws, and tabernacle in the later chapters of Exodus.


PS: How did your people benefit from hearing Exodus preached weekly? 

CN: First of all, our church family loved our study of Exodus just as they had when we walked through Genesis the years before. We constantly heard good feedback on what people were learning, how they were being encouraged, and how they were applying what they had learned. One man came up after our final sermon and said, “So, when do we start Leviticus?” – what a blessing to a pastor’s heart. By God’s grace, the congregation not only benefited from studying one book, they learned core truths and biblical stories that are vital to understanding every other part of Scripture. People learned to see and cherish Christ. They learned what it looks like to love God and their neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39). And, people were drawn to rest in the hope that God is working to not only create a people but to dwell with them in a restored and better Eden.


PS: Any tips or recommendations for those considering preaching through Exodus? 

CN: First off, DO IT! Pastors tend to shy away from preaching consecutive exposition through larger Old Testament books. But, it is worth it and, if preached faithfully, your people benefit greatly.

Second, preach the entire thing. Although it is fine to preach sections of books, ultimately, our people are most blessed and benefited when we let Scripture speak for itself. Our people are grown and stretched as we preach not only the sections that seem to us to be relevant but the whole narrative. After all, our hope and prayer is that God’s people would read their Bibles devotionally just like we are modeling in our preaching.

Third, preach Christ. One of my mentors tells a story about how, after preaching an Old Testament text, a member came up to him and said “That was a great synagogue sermon.” The point was clear, where was Christ? Pastor, you don’t have to get creative or do interpretive ‘off-roading.’ Christ is rich and ever present in Exodus—its themes, typology, doctrines, and theological trajectory. Show your people Christ in all the richness of Exodus, and they’ll be richly blessed.


PS: What commentaries, articles, podcasts, or other resources helped you prepare to preach Exodus?

CN: A two commentaries that proved really useful in our study were John D. Currid’s 2 volume commentary set and T. Desmond Alexander’s commentary 

I also consider Philip Ryken’s Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory and Tony Merida’s Exalting Jesus in Exodus to be very helpful resources for expository preaching.


Dr. Newkirk is the lead pastor at Whitton Avenue Bible Church in Phoenix, Arizona. He has been involved in vocational ministry for 15 years, in Oklahoma, Louisville, Kentucky, and Washington D.C. In addition to pastoring, Dr. Newkirk has earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Reformed Theological Seminary, and he teaches adjunct at Phoenix Seminary as part of our Ministry Apprenticeship Alliance program.