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When God waits until the last minute

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Topic Scripture: Esther 5

Thesis: God’s timing is always perfect.

Persuade: To stay obedient to God’s word, even when you don’t see the results.

“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” has a scene which illustrates the theme of this study. The swashbuckling archaeologist in his quest for the lost Ark of the Covenant is standing on a cliff overlooking a large chasm before him. There is a bridge he knows is there, but cannot see, which could take him across the chasm, or lead to his death if he misses. He faces the decision of taking a leap of faith or retreating. He decides to leap out, trusting a bridge he can’t see will hold him and lead to the Holy Grail.

When the chasm comes for you and me, what will happen to us? Will there be a bridge to catch us? An objective, absolutely real bridge? Our culture says, no, that there’s no such thing as absolute truth, or an absolute bridge. Only your bridge and mine. No objective reality, no absolutes at all

But God’s word says otherwise.

One of my favorite faith statements is this song lyric: “When you can’t see God’s hand, trust his heart.” So often we can’t see his hand, and must simply trust that he is there. And when we trust his heart, we see his hand.

Maybe you’re at a place where it seems God’s hand is not with you. You’ve prayed without apparent answers. You’re hurting or lonely, without apparent relief. Your health is in decline; or your job is ending; or your marriage is struggling; or your children or grandchildren are in trouble. It seems that the heavens are silent, that God is asleep. What do you do then? How do we encourage people who are hurting in just these ways?

Let’s learn from Esther 5.

Obey the last word you heard from God (1-2)

Remember the situation: Queen Esther’s uncle/guardian Mordecai has refused to give Haman the idolatrous respect he craves, so he has arranged for the massacre of the entire Jewish population of 5th century B.C. Persia.

Esther is a Jew, though neither King Xerxes nor Haman yet know this fact. She, her maids, Mordecai, and all the Jews in the capital city of Susa have been in prayer and fasting three days, seeking God’s direction and protection.

Now God has clearly led Esther to go to the king uninvited. Unless he holds out to her the golden scepter in his hand, she will be instantly killed for such insubordinate disobedience. Her life, and the future of her people in Persia, hangs in the balance.

But she knows that God has led her to do this. She is stepping off the cliff, trusting God somehow to catch her. And he does.

When you’re up against it and it seems that there’s no answer or future, stay obedient to the last word you heard from God. The last time the Father clearly spoke to you or led you. Step out by such faith, and you enable your Father to answer in power.

In the Scriptures, we find other examples of such faith: Noah built the ark before it had ever rained; the Jews stepped into the Jordan before it stopped; Daniel prayed from within the lion’s den.

Why does God require such obedience of us? It’s not to merit his blessing, or to prove our faith. He wants us to receive what he wants to give, but cannot without our trust.

Indiana Jones couldn’t see the bridge until he stepped onto it. What’s the last word you heard from God? Stay faithful to it—there’s a bridge across the chasm just beneath your feet.

Never get ahead of God (3-8)

Now Esther has her audience with the king. If I had been Esther, I would immediately have blurted out the problem and my request for the salvation of my people. But, Esther knows better.

The king, who hardly knows Esther, must choose her over his most trusted advisor. He must choose a woman over a man. Remember the problem he had with Queen Vashti, and his resolve to “rule” the women of the nation.

Here’s the story:

“Then the king asked, ‘What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.’

“‘If it pleases the king,’ replied Esther, ‘let the king together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.’

“‘Bring Haman at once, the king said, ‘so that we may do what Esther asks.’ So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared. As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, ‘Now what is your petition? It will be given to you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.’

“Esther replied, ‘My petition and my request is this: If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question.'”

Because she waits, preparing the way, the king cannot wait to hear her request and to grant it to her.

In Christian theology, we would say that Esther refused to get ahead of God. Somehow she knew what to do and the timing in which to do it. So will we. It’s not enough to know what to do in the crisis—we must also know when to do it. The Holy Spirit will guide our feet and their speed.

God’s timing is different from ours. Consider these biblical examples: Joseph in Egypt, so he could be 2nd in the nation; Moses for 40 years in the desert wilderness, so he could shepherd his people; Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail, so God could save the jailer; John on Patmos, so he could receive the Revelation.

Where is God “late” in your life today? Don’t get ahead of him—he may not follow.

Never give up on God (9-14)

Now, to heighten the tension even more, we learn of Haman’s further plot against Mordecai himself. Earlier he would not bow before Haman; now he will not rise in his presence (9). The will to power is the basic drive in human nature—seen in Haman as much as any person in literature.

Haman complains to his family; his wife Zeresh and all his friends: They tell him: “Have a gallows guilt, seventy-five feet high, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai hanged on it. Then go with the king to the dinner and be happy. This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the gallows built.”

75 feet high—perhaps off the city wall, thus this distance to the ground. Whatever the circumstances, everyone would see the gallows being built, and the man who would be hanged there.

So now, it’s the night before Mordecai is to die, and the chapter ends. It’s time to give up on God, except that it’s always too soon to give up on God.

The last minute is never too late for God. The angels freed Peter the night before he was to be executed by Herod. When we work, we work; when we pray, God works. It’s always too soon to give up on him.

Conclusion

Obey the last word you heard from God; never get ahead of God; never give up on God. These principles still work today. They are God’s answers to our problems, our hard times, our black nights, when he seems silent and the world tumbles in.

All require faith. In fact, all relationships require more faith than evidence can prove. Can you prove to me that your marriage is good, and that your spouse loves you? Can you prove that you’re my friend, or that I’m yours? We have to have faith to go through surgery, to start our car, to sit in a chair.

You’ll never get to the Holy Grail without the leap of faith. Where is yours today?