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The Scriptorium

Lessons from History

Does anyone learn them? Do we? Esther 6.1-14

Return from Exile: Esther 6-10 (1)

Pray Psalm 2.11, 12.
Serve the LORD with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

Sing Psalm 2.11, 12.
(Agincourt Hymn: O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High)
Rejoice with fear in Jesus’ grace, and worship before His exalted face!
Beware His anger and judgment grim. How blessed are all who rest in Him!

Read and meditate on Esther 6.1-14.

1. What did the king learn from the records of the chronicles?

2. What did he instruct Haman to do?

It is a truism of history, explained by Georg Hegel, that the only lesson of history is that nobody ever learns anything from history. Our text for today both confirms and refutes that truism.

I’m not sure the best time for reading history is when you can’t sleep (v. 1). But that’s better than not reading history at all. Even history on audiobooks—read by someone else—can yield beams of insight (v. 2) and prompt us to meaningful action (v. 3). What the king learned from his late-night history lesson was that he needed to redress an oversight and reward a faithful servant (vv. 4-10), thus refuting Hegel’s observation.

Meanwhile, to be ignorant of history—as Haman certainly was (cf. v. 13)—is to be condemned to repeat the mistakes of it, as philosopher George Santayana explained. Imagine Haman’s chagrin when all those glorious honors the king was setting out before him were to be bestowed, not on Haman (as he supposed) but on Mordecai, his archenemy! If only Haman had known about the history of the Jews and how God always overthrows those who seek to destroy them, he would not have ventured on the scheme he’d come to the palace to lay before the king (v. 4). So Hegel was right in this case, and Santayana as well.

God rules every aspect of history. He raises up kings and sets them down. He does all things in history according to the counsel of His will. He works all things together in history for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. He is bending the arc of history toward the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, and He has set His people amid the current of history to guide the world safely through to eternity.

If we learn this from history—beginning with the history set forth in Scripture—we’ll be less likely to fall captive to self-interest and more likely to avoid the mistakes of history and enjoy surfing its Sturm und Drang until it breaks on the shore of the new heavens and new earth, where even now Jesus is preparing a campfire and a banquet.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162.
Haman, a man “hoisted on his own petard”—a phrase coined by Shakespeare in the play Hamlet—a schemer scuppered by his own scheme.

Historically he pre-dated Shakespeare, but he certainly could have read Solomon, to alert him to the dangers of toying with God’s people. Proverbs 16 covers the characters and plot line of this story:

Haman: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (vs. 18).
“The LORD has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of doom” (vs. 4).
“Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; though they join forces, none will go unpunished” (vs. 5).
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (vs. 25).

Mordecai: “Righteous lips are the delight of kings, and they love him who speaks what is right” (vs. 13).
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (vs. 32).

Esther: “Commit your works to the LORD, and your thoughts will be established” (vs. 3).

Ahasuerus: “It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, for a throne is established by righteousness” (vs. 12).
“In the light of the king’s face is life, and his favor is like a cloud of the latter rain” (vs. 15).

God: “The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD” (vs. 1).
“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (vs. 33).

The Observant People: “How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver. The highway of the upright is to depart from evil; he who keeps his way preserves his soul” (vv. 16, 17).

This story, humanly created, would be classified a tall tale.
But because we know God orchestrated everything written,
we read it as truth, in awe of His awesome care for His Own:
“That night the king could not sleep.”
He asked for history bedtime stories.
The Mordecai situation was read.
What was done for Mordecai?
“Nothing has been done for him.”
Haman the horrible just happened to be in the outer court.
“What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?”
Haman misreads the situation badly.
Mordecai is honored.
Haman’s family deems him undone—hoisted on his own petard.

This fact, too, is hard to believe. Yet, again, it is orchestrated by God, and is true:
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness,
but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish
but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3.9).

Lessons from history worth learning.

For reflection

1. Does God need us to accomplish all His will? But He is pleased to use us in doing so. How should we respond to that?

2. How can you discern the will of God for your daily life?

3. Whom will you encourage today to continue in the will of God?

When Mary the mother of our Lord considered the greatness of this divine ordering, she sang in her song of praise, “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.”
Rabanus Maurus (780-856), Explanation on the Book of Esther 9

Pray Psalm 2.1-10.

Our world is engaged in a tumultuous rebellion against God, and you will experience this, to one degree or another, every day. Call on God to keep you focused on Jesus, exalted in glory. Ask Him to help you be a steady navigator in the current of history to guide others safely to shores of grace.

Sing Psalm 2.1-10.
(Agincourt Hymn: O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High)
Why do the nations vainly rage, conspiring together from age to age?
Earth’s kings and all of their counselors stand against the Lord and His Right Hand:

“Now let us cast His yoke below, His Kingdom authority overthrow!
Throw off His Law, reject His Word; no more be governed by this Lord!”

The Lord in heaven laughs in wrath at all who embark on this cursèd path.
His angry Word to them is plain: “Yet shall My King in Zion reign!”

Proclaim the message far and wide, that God has exalted the Crucified!
From heav’n He sent us His only Son, Who has for us salvation won!

To Christ the Lord be given all who humbly embrace Him and on Him call.
Be wise, be warned: His judgment comes to break the prideful, sinful ones.

T. M. and Susie Moore

Two books can help us understand our own captivity and lead us to seek revival and renewal in the Lord. The Church Captive asks us to consider the ways the Church today has become captive to the world. And Revived! can help us find the way to renewal. Learn more and order your free copies by clicking here and here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available free by 
clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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