The price of personal integrity
Dr. Jim Denison
Thesis: we will pay a price for our Christian commitment, but God will redeem it
Persuade: to stand for God when you are tested
True character is what you do in private when no one is looking. But you will always pay a price for integrity. We’ll see that fact in Esther 3.
In many places in the world, enormous sacrifice is essential to Christian faith. There are half a million Christian martyrs every year.
There is such life and vitality in Cuban worship and faith, despite the difficulties and oppression many believers face. I spoke with a taxi driver who told me that he now believes in God, though he is not yet a Christian. He said that when he was growing up, anyone who went to church could not find a job or advancement in Cuban society. Atheism was taught in every school (as it still is in many places in Cuba). But the vitality and joy he sees in the Cuban churches intrigues and attracts him. As it does us.
Karl Heinz Walter is the Executive of the European Baptist Federation. At a recent meeting of the Baptist World Alliance he reported a growing form of persecution against Christians in Muslim countries. If these believers will not renounce their faith, the authorities cut off a finger. Then later, another and then another. They do this knowing that these men and women cannot work and may not survive with such disability. But the Christians are refusing to renounce their Lord, whatever the price they must pay.
When he gave this report, thousands of believers in the crowd raised their hands in worship. Fingerless hands.
Where does God call Christians in America today to pay a price for their obedience? Is there someplace he is calling you to such obedience?
It’s been said, “Character is fate.” We’ll see that statement proven by three facts in this study
God’s work is always done (1)
“After these events” (1a)—four years have passed since Esther’s choice as queen. God’s timing is so seldom ours. Note other examples from the Scriptures:
Moses and the Israelites were in the desert for 40 years,
Lazarus was raised from the dead on the fourth day (“he stinketh”).
Jesus was in the tomb for three days.
Now the enemy in the story is named: “King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles” (v. 1). No explanation for his honor is given in the story.
Mordecai deserved honor (chapter 2) but did not receive it; Haman has done nothing worthy of honor, but receives it. The world’s justice is so seldom fair. But know that God’s justice will be done, in this world or in the next, or both.
The Jewish audience understood immediately some fascinating history here:
Agagite refers to Agag, the ancient king of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15). The Amalekites had attacked Israel after her exodus from Egypt; for this fact God told Israel to “blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven” (Deuteronomy 25.17-19).
The first king to wage war against them was Saul (1 Samuel 15). Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin.
Now, 500 years later, Mordecai from the tribe of Benjamin (2.5) will continue the war with the Amalekites.
God’s will and word are always accomplished, even five centuries after they are revealed to us.
In Genesis 49, the dying Jacob says to his sons Simeon and Levi, “I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel” (v. 7). In Joshua 19 we read, five centuries later, that Simeon’s descendants were absorbed into the territory of Judah and Levi’s descendants were dispersed throughout the land, living in 48 towns.
Other biblical examples: Moses, Joshua and the promised land; God’s promise to Paul that he would testify to Caesar in Rome; Jesus’ promise that he would rise from the dead.
When God tells you to do something, do it. For his will is always done, finally. Is he calling you to something in his will today?
Faith requires courage (2)
Now the conflict is joined: “All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor” (v. 2).
This was Mordecai’s consistent commitment: “Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, ‘Why do you disobey the king’s command?’ Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply” (3-4a).
No Jew would worship another person or image, for this was idolatry, the violation of the first and second Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20.3-5).
Refusing to worship others was one of the cardinal principles of the Jewish faith. And it constantly got them into trouble.
Daniel 3.1: “King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.” With this threat: “Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace” (v. 6). Remember the results for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo.
We think of Martin Luther, before the emperor and his court, announcing his decision to continue his Reformation despite opposition and threats. Luther appeared before the Diet at Worms on April 17, 1521. According to a traditional but apocryphal account, he ended his statement before his accusers with the words, “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”
Although every effort was made to induce Luther to recant his theology, in the end the discussions failed over his refusal to repudiate a single sentence from the 41 cited in the papal bull.