Righteousness demands justice, but through the cross of Christ, God goes beyond justice. Righteousness, to be right with God, to have a healthy relationship with God, requires fairness, but through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God goes beyond fairness.
We have been going through the book of Esther. Esther 8 is a tough chapter to understand, until you look through the lens of the cross of Christ. Take a look at the illustration on the front of the bulletin, I had hundreds to choose from…as I consider it, Esther 8 is like the shadow of the cross, Esther 8 is about justice, fairness, setting things right. Not until we get to Jesus Christ and the cross do we see God go beyond fairness.
When the judge pays your fine and takes you out for a steak dinner, justice is served, yet something wonderful goes beyond justice. The cross is perfect justice, perfect love. My favorite line from the wonderful hymns of faith: sorrow and love flow mingling down.
Esther chapter 8. At this point in the story, Haman has died on the gallows of his own making, and Esther’s life is spared. In the opening verses of chapter 8 the estate of Haman is given over to Esther and then the king’s signet ring that had been given to Haman is placed instead on Mordecai’s hand and Esther appoints him over Haman’s estate. In Esther 8:15, we see Mordecai leaving the palace clothed in royal robes and crowned with gold and joy and gladness break out among the Jews who so recently had been weeping and fasting. But the edict for the Jews to be destroyed still stands.
Esther goes before the king one more time for the king to not allow the edict to stand. The King is sympathetic to the problem, and rather than rescinding the original law, the king invokes another law allowing the Jews in each of the provinces to assemble and defend themselves. A decree is issued, sealed with the king’s signet ring, that effectively annuls the previous decree that sought their slaughter. And so there is great rejoicing among the Jews. The Lord has bestowed on them “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Is. 61:3).
Many see in this a Holy War, sanctioned by God, in order the greater good of the people of God surviving and justice being served. The Jews were innocent and did not deserve death, so they were allowed to defend themselves and protect themselves. Chapter 9 describes the actual war (Esther 9:5-10). Call me a wimp, but I don’t even want to read out loud all the details of what takes place. As much as we love the story of Esther, few people point to chapter 8-9 as their favorite portion of scripture, yet it is here as God’s word.
Justice is served. Although not always pretty. The people of God survive and thrive. The people celebrate. The problem with justice is that there are winners and losers. Those who tried to destroy the Jews got what they deserved, but they are still losers. Righteousness demands justice. There are those who stop with justice, and who can argue? Revenge makes sense. If you throw a rock through my window then you pay for it. There are those who want to be punished, because that is the only way the can relieve their guilt. On Thursday night at Seeds of Hope we talked about a guilty mind and all the ways we try to overcome guilt, justify it, ignore it, one way is to seek punishment so the offense of sin is removed. Justice is served in the book of Esther, the Jews did not deserve death, and they were given permission/endorsement to defend and protect themselves, and the enemies of the Jews were killed. End of story. For many.
God shows us a better way through the cross. We have the advantage of looking back through the cross and seeing the shadow of justice. Justice and beyond. Love and tears flow mingling down. God found a way for everyone to win, for all who accept Jesus Christ, enemies and friends, to find that righteousness. The cross is fair, the cross is more than fair. The way of God is reconciliation to God through the cross. Why is the cross necessary, because justice is served, Jesus dies in our place. The ultimate Holy War, the final Holy War, was the wrath of God that demands justice to be place upon God’s one and only son Jesus Christ. God’s holy war is against sin and evil. It reaches its climax on the cross of Calvary; God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises to redeem the world climaxes in the death of his son as a sin offering. At the cross, the justice and love of God are revealed and reconciled.
The book of Esther solidifies our need for justice, God’s desire for justice to be done. God’s people survive and the enemies are destroyed. But then, in Jesus Christ, God goes beyond justice. The wrath of God against sinners is poured out on Christ, justice is served, the $10 bill from God is attached to the guilty plea, and there is a steak dinner, a celebration. Justice determines who wins and loses, God went beyond justice and found a way for everyone to be win through Christ. Esther is the shadow of the cross, so that enemies are also reconciled to God.
Here is the biggest problem with Esther 8 and the Holy War: as I apply the bible to my life, I try to understand the application of scripture in terms of how I related to the different people. In this Holy War, in which justice is served, the two sides are the Jews and the Persians seeking to destroy the Jews. Although certainly not perfect, in the story, the Jews are portrayed as the innocent ones, doing nothing to deserve a sentence of death. The biggest problem with Esther 8 is that my life, and your life, more closely resembles the Persians, for I am a sinner, and therefore I am the one that when justice is served I am on the losing end. If we stop with justice, which would be fair, I lose, for I deserve to be punished. But praise be to the Lord Jesus Christ, God goes beyond justice. Amen.
We’ve been looking at the shadow of Esther, and look at the cross, God is more than fair, he goes beyond justice. I am using the testimony of the words of a person who becomes a Christian by way of the cross.
I had a pretty good opinion of myself until a friend invited me to take a walk down the Roman Road. He used just a single book in the Bible to open my eyes to my relationship with God, and I haven’t been the same since. He warned me that the trip might hurt, and he was right because he started by revealing my real status before God. Rom. 3:23: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. This is what I’m talking about, if we only have the shadow of Esther, justice, I am on the side of being the enemy of God.
Then I learned of sin’s penalty. Rom 6:23a “For the wages of sin is death…” That’s fairness, that’s justice, righteousness before God demands justice. Sinners cannot stand before a perfect God.
He went on to tell me that God loves me so much he offers an alternative called ‘eternal life’. Rom. 6:23b…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let your ears prick up with the word gift. Sally had a birthday this week. A few months ago she mentioned to the kids that someday she’d like a chocolate necessities chocolate cheesecake. I fooled her. I went to Seeds of Hope on Thursday and said I’d see if there was some leftover baby shower cake from jack and Kizzy I could bring home. When I got home, the children had the cheesecake instead. She was more than pleased. The promise of God is something greater than justice. Something greater than fairness. Something greater than justice. Gift. Grace. The gift of God is eternal life. The book of Esther was fair, justice, life and death, winners and losers. In Romans something greater, even sinners such as me are given the promise of life.
The Roman Road continues. Then he showed me how God provided his son Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for my sin. Jesus took my penalty! Rom. 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. This is the gift we don’t deserve. The judge pins the ten dollar bill on the guilty notice. Justice is served even while the penalty is paid by another. And that other is Jesus Christ.
My friend showed me what I should do to receive eternal life. Romans 10:9 if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Perfection, innocence, is not the requirement to become a Christian. The only requirement is inviting the Lord Jesus Christ into your heart knowing he paid the price. Justice is served, but Jesus paid the price on the cross.
The testimony continues: We prayed together, and I gladly accepted God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus. I asked him if there was anything in the book of Romans that could help me with my new life. He pointed to the beginning of Romans 12: . . Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
He explained that if I gave God first place in my life, other things would work out according to God’s plan for me. I read a lot of the Bible since that day…My life has been transformed. Many verses are underlined in my Bible, but I’ll never forget the Roman Road because a close friend used it to show me the way to eternal life.
Esther is a wonderful book that ends on a note of justice. Justice is fair and right. Yet in God’s unfolding plan of salvation, we discover God goes beyond justice. Through the cross, justice is served by Jesus Christ, and we are given the gift of eternal life. Amen.