The book of Esther was on my mind today. This is what I got from it - all extra-biblical comments are my own.
For those of you new to the Word, it's a book about yet another madman wanting to annihilate the Jews.
In every generation someone gets the same idea (hmmmm; who could be behind that? It just reeks of brimstone, doesn't it?) In our day anti-Semitism seems to be popping up all over. The evil one hates the fact that Redemption came through the Jewish people. HATES it. And continuously tries to make them pay.
Anyway, in the Book of Esther, Hamaan is the villain. He is wealthy and presumably healthy, but wisdom is far from him.
He is also very prideful. When he gets the king to decree people should fall down before him and, in essence, worship him, one man doesn't .
He is a Jew.
"I am the LORD thy God, thou shalt have no other gods before me" is enthroned in the heart of Mordecai, and he will not bow to another. Not physically. Not mentally. And certainly not spiritually. It makes me wonder where all the other Jews are. It seems fear induced all the other Jews in Shushan to submit.
Anyway, Esther is a remarkable book - remarkable because it is the only book in the Bible that doesn't mention God - not once - even though His fingerprints are all over it.
Hamaan, inch by inch, worms himself into the king's confidence - so much so that the king gives him, essentially, the keys to the kingdom - in this case, his signet ring, with which every royal decree must be signed. And Hamaan uses it.
Besides his "worship me" decree, he asks the king if he can get rid of a group of ne'er do well folk in his kingdom that nobody likes anyway. And he offers to pay a substantial sum to replace any possible loss of income to the kingdom. Note, however: he does not actually name the people and, because he has the king's trust, the king doesn't ask.
Now, in secular history, from Herodotus, we learn that the king has just fought a costly war against Greece that he lost - at Thermopolae and Salamis- hence, the kingly coffers are low. And the good king loves luxury and showing it off. He ruled from India to Ethiopia and gave a party that lasted for 6 months (!) for all the princes and dignitaries and servants of his vast empire. They ate lying down, on couches of silver and gold, and the flloors of his dining hall were paved in red, blue, white and black squares of marble, with hangings of linen and purple velvet hung by silver rings from marble pillars. The amount of money that must have cost staggers the mind. His expensive failure of a war came just after the party, so after a war that had done nothing but drain the royal treasury, money sounded good. (The loss of income and taxes to his kingdom would have far surpassed even the large amount Hamaan dangled in front of the king, but Hamaan wisely concealed the details - and the king didn't ask.)
Hamaan's pride was so important to him that because of one man refusing to worship him, he wanted to wipe out every one of not only his family but of his people.
When Esther invites only the king and Hamaan to her dinner, his buttons pop off his chest. Not only does the king dote on him, his queen evidently does, too! He must have thought he was pretty hot stuff - invincible.
That dang Mordecai was the fly in the ointment. And he still had several months to go according to the time indicated by the dice he rolled to determine the most auspicious date (God's fingerprints) before the Great Annihilation. How would he ever stand to wait that long?
So in the midst of bragging to everyone he could brag to, he voices his discontent.
Now we see the fingerprints of another place (rhymes with "bell.")
One of his "friends" suggests he nonchalantly build a gallows six stories high (75 feet or 50 cubits) and the next morning (meaning his servants had to work all night long to build it) ask the king to hang (impale) Mordecai on it (an added perk would be everyone in the city could see it and know not to mess with Hamaan!)
I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for that conversation:
" Ummm, oh kingliveforever, there's this guy that bugs me, your favorite pal, and I'd like to eliminate him from my life - would that be ok?"
"So, do you want me to have him executed or tortured or what?"
"WOh! That's a tough one. Let me see...." furrowed brow, tapping chin with one finger, "Wait! Someone built a gallows 6 stories high in my front yard last night - wouldn't that be perfect? I can use that!"
But, alas, Hamaan never gets to have that conversation.
Because during the long night while his servants built the gallows, the king couldn't sleep," either ( it would be hilarious if the reason the king couldn't sleep was the sound of all the hammering and yelling it took to build the gallows!)
Anyway, the sleepless king wanted something read to him so he could sleep (God's fingerprints again) Something boring. Let's see....I know! Read the chronicles of the kingdom!
And there, buried in the boring day-to-day stuff of the kingdom was this little gem: (Fingerprint) Mordecai overheard a plot to kill the king, and stopped them just in time.
"Wow! I don't remember that! What did we do for this loyal, trustworthy servant?"
"Nope. Nothing. Nada. Zip,"
So while the king pondered this (Fingerprint,) Hamaan arrives in the court, bright-eyed and bushytailed, to ask if that loyal, trustworthy subject could be staked to his gallows.
The king is pondering, pondering, pondering and can't come up with anything big enough to reward Mordecaih
"Is anybody in the court this early?" he asks. (Fingerprint)
Sure enough, Hamaan is - and the king brings him in to ask him what he thinks.
Hamaaan's pride flares like a match tossed on gasoline. "Who else but me could he possibly be thinking of," pops into his mind and honors galore parade themselves before him.
So he comes up with this unbelievably ego-stroking experience, paraded through the city so everyone would realize how important he is!
Oooooh! Maybe he could even ask the king to make Mordecai do it before he hangs him! Perfect!
Only it's not for him. (Fingerprint!)
It's for (cough gag barf) Mordecai, his arch enemy (not really, but Hamaan has been chewing on this a loooong time. To him, Mordecai is the enemy.)
So Mordecai rides thru town, his donkey (considered a royal steed - appropriate, no?) being led by the guy who has been seething about him and plotting against him and talking him down and the whole city knows it. I'll bet more than one person had to turn away to laugh at the mighty Hamaan.
What a blow to his pride! He covers his head (a sign of mourning) and runs home to tell his cronies what that rat Mordecai did to him today (never mind it was his own doing!)
At this point, I thought, Who else but God could have come up with such a precise hit? So I said to God, "Good job, LORD!"
Immediately He came back with "I know" - with the intonation a guy uses when they're smirking about something wonderful they did.
I laughed out loud
Then Hamaan has to get ready for the dinner with the queen - his humiliation fresh in his mind. His ego badly needs this honor.
instead, things go from bad to worse. When Esther (the king's favorite) reveals she will be executed, too, because of none other than Hamaan, the king is so furious he gets up and marches out to the garden to cool off a bit. Meanwhile, Hamaan is so terrified he falls down on his knees onto the couch Esther is on to plead for his life. To the king, it looks like he's gotten so bold he's trying to make out with the queen - or worse - while his back is turned.
Hamaan is done for.
Meditating on this later, I realize the servants have all been carefully watching Hamaan get his. They've seen Hamaan puff himself up and, as folks with that mindset often do, I suspect he treated the servants as being so worthless that they were only alive to do his will, nothing more. I don't think he treated them well.
Why do I think that?
When the king comes back from the garden, they already have an executioner's hood ready and the first thing they do is tell the king that Hamaan built an enormous gallows in his front yard last night to impale the very one who had saved the king's life!
I was still smiling about the LORD saying "I know" when He got serious with me. He showed me that, altho with time and distance it's sort of funny, that humiliation was an act of mercy.
This was Hamaan's wake up call. If he had thought about it instead of taking offense and listening to the suggestion to build the gallows, he would have realized what those same friends told him after he was embarassed: now that it's started, you're going down. (my paraphrase)
He had one last chance to think about his actions, one last chance to change his ways, one chance to wonder about Mordecai and where his courage to bow only to his God came from.
One chance to see beyond the humiliation to salvation.
I sobered up quickly.
I spent the next amount of time asking Him to show me if there's something in my life that is sticking in my craw, just like Hamaan, something that is festering instead of bringing it to Him to deal with.
And there was.
Something so inconsequential I couldn't believe I wasn't dealing with it - a moment of hurt feelings, a stray word, a look. Nothing important. Simply ruffled feathers.
So I ended up thanking him for my own wake-up call. And I share here the main thing I learned:
Nothing is too small to bring to God, nothing. If something is big enough to irritate me, to hurt my feelings, to upset me, no matter how slight, I need to bring it to my Papa and deal with it head on.
Because if I ignore a tiny little crack like that, it will, over time, cause more and more "tiny little cracks" and lead to a habit, an attitude, a hyper-sensitivity that has no place in the life of a child of the King.
And that, dear friends, bears the fingerprints of God.