Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Esther: First Person Idolatry

Esther:  First Person Idolatry


When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow or pay him homage, Haman was filled with wrath.  But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him of the people of Mordecai. Instead, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus—the people of Mordecai.” – Esther 3:5-6

Haman was one of King Ahasuerus’ trusted men, and a very wealthy man.  The King decided to promote Haman and make him a prime minister, and set him over the other princes which were on his government level.  Then the King commanded that everyone bow to Haman in reverence.  The word shachah (Strongs H7812) is used for bow, which is to lay prostrate, face down, in reverence.  This act was to show divine reverence, as in worshipping God.  Yet Persian Kings often received this same reverence.    
Haman already loved himself far too much!  His ego must have required a wheeled cart to carry!  The promotion and command from the King were just enough to push him over the edge.  Haman felt worthy to be given the respect of God, to be bowed to as a Persian King, and this caused a problem for Mordecai.      

Mordecai was a man who readily showed respect for authority.  He respected the King enough to save his life from those who planned to kill him (Esther 2:21-23).  But Mordecai could not bow to Haman and be faithful to God.  According to the Levitical laws given to the Jews by God, no man was to bow to another man.  This was worship, and they were only to worship God.  Anything else was idolatry.  And this was what Haman wanted, to be worshiped as God. 
When pride causes us to place ourselves before God it is a form of idolatry I like to call first person idolatry.  It’s placing your desire above the desire of God.  We’ve all done it at some point.  When we stay home from church to do what we want rather than worship God, we are worshipping self.  That’s first person idolatry.  When we choose to keep our tithe rather than give God what is His, that’s robbery (Malachi 3:8) and self-worship.  That is first person idolatry.  When we reject God’s ways for our ways, we push Him off the throne of our hearts, and place our own little behinds there, and that is first person idolatry. 

Perhaps this is why pride is an abomination to God.  Maybe this is why His word says in Proverbs 15:5 (ESV) Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.”  Our God is a jealous God, seeking all our worship, with ALL our heart, ALL our mind, and ALL our spirit.  There’s no room for self-worship in the sight of God.
Mordecai made a tough decision.  He had to break the law of the King to keep the law of God, and he left the consequences of that action in God’s hands.  Daily when Haman would walk by the gates of the King’s palace, everyone else would bow, but not Mordecai.  Haman’s anger flamed within him! He wanted Mordecai dead!  Yet Haman knew that murder was illegal, and would cost him his position with the King.  He also knew the many Jews who lived in the Shushan (capital city) would not stand for him killing Mordecai.  So he devised a plan.

Haman stands before the King and presents his case in Esther 3:8-9 saying, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from all other people’s, and they do not keep the king’s laws. Therefore it is not fitting for the king to let them remain. If it pleases the king, let a decree be written that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who do the work, to bring it into the king’s treasuries.”
Haman lied. A partial truth is a full lie, fully deceiving the hearer.  The Jews did follow different laws, those that were given to them by God.  That much was true.  But there was only one law that the King made that they were not following, which was bowing to Haman.  But Haman withheld that fact, and the name of the people, Jews, from the King.  To assure that the Jews, and therefore Mordecai, were annihilated, Haman sought to make it a law to kill them.  This would make their murder legal, and he himself could kill Mordecai under the guise of assuring that the King’s laws were followed.  He was even willing to pay ten thousand talents of silver to cover the costs of this mission.

This portion of the story parallels King Herod’s actions when Jesus was born.  Herod sought to kill Jesus because He did not want to share the throne, the worship, with Jesus.  He lied to the wise men, telling them to let him know where they found Jesus so that he could go and worship him.  Herod was willing to kill all baby boys from two years old and under just to kill Jesus.  Positions of power often become evil when first person idolatry enters the heart.
King Ahasuerus trusted Haman, which is shown in how he responds to Haman’s request.  He gave Haman his signet ring, a ring that would have had an engraved surface to identify the King.  The ring was pressed into the wax that sealed a document to certify it as having come from the King.  And King Ahasuerus said to Haman, “The money and the people are given to you, to do with them as seems good to you.”  

So Haman’s desires became law.  In Esther 3:13-15 we read, And the letters were sent by couriers into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions.   A copy of the document was to be issued as law in every province, being published for all people, that they should be ready for that day. The couriers went out, hastened by the king’s command; and the decree was proclaimed in Shushan the citadel. So the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Shushan was perplexed.”
The Jews had lived among the Persians for 3-4 generations now after being taken captive into Babylon.  No doubt there were intermarriages and friendships between the Jews and the Persian people.  The Shushan was confused because what the King had signed into law would not only allow the Jews to be killed, but for their possessions to be taken as the spoil of the murders.   This ensured that evil riots would begin and that the people would be killed and their possessions stolen.  Women and children were not spared.  The law was given on the thirteenth day of the first month, and would come to pass on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month. One year and the city that they called home would be in civil war.  And what did Haman do after proclaiming this law?  He sat with the King and drank.  He was fully content to kill thousands of people to kill one man who he felt disrespected him.

Haman’s pride had blinded him to whose people the Jews were.  These were God’s chosen people.  These were the people that He had sent the ten plagues on Egypt to gain their freedom from slavery. These were the people that He divided the Red Sea to allow them to pass over to safety.  These were the people God fed manna and quail in the wilderness.  These were the people who He had given the Promised Land, and caused idolatrous nations to be defeated at their hands.  Did Haman really believe that God would not fight for the Jews again?  Did he believe that God would allow them to be destroyed and all the prophesies of Jesus not fulfilled?  Did he believe he was more powerful than God?

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