Esther 5-6                       “The Accept Her Scepter”


            Let me start with a quick recapitulation of the story thus far in the Book of Esther. She has become the queen. Haman had become the head of state beneath the king.  Haman wants to kill all the Jews because one Jew, Mordecai Esther’s Uncle, will not bow down and worship him. Haman has tricked the King into issuing an edict asking for the killing of all the Jews. The Jews now know of the edict and have begun preparing their souls for their own death by wearing sackcloth and sitting in ashes–which is a sign of public mourning for the day.

            Last week we heard that Uncle Mordecai was able to send a message to Esther through the courageous eunuch named Hatach. Mordecai asks Esther to go into the king’s throne room and ask the king to rescind the edict, thus saving the Jews. Esther realizes that going into the throne room without an invitation can mean death. However, she understands that she has to do it to save her race. She then fasted for three days and nights with no food or water to prepare for going to the king. That is where we pick up the story now.


            This is almost a romantic moment in a way. You see, Esther does not actually enter the throne room of her king and husband. She very cleverly lets herself be seen as she is in the forecourt. Picture someone just shyly peeking into our worship service from the narthex. Oh, this is not just any person peeking in from the narthex, it is my wife! Why is she peeking in from the narthex? Let us assume that I have not seen her for a month, as the bible says Esther had not seen the king for that length of time. What am I going to do? Of course, I am going to be happy to see my wife again. Even if I am preaching at the moment, I am going to invite her to come into the nave so that I can be with her again.

            We do have a little bit of interesting language here in the Hebrew that I want to point out as it adds color to the story so nicely. We read that “Esther won favor.” That is a measly not so great translation. The term here in the Hebrew is “nasah khen benaw.” Literally this means that “in his eyes she lifted charm or enchantment.” He really got a lift out of seeing her. The light in his own eyes was charmed by her visage. There be something sparkly happening here!


            Back in the time of the Persian Empire, the king would hold out a golden scepter as a way of inviting someone to come into parlance with him. The person would approach and touch the scepter. That means that he or she is receiving the grace of counsel with the king.

            I was thinking how great it would be if everyone had a golden scepter. Right now, we really do not know if approaching another person is welcomed or not. We do not know if we will be found to be acceptable. Honestly, that is one of the scariest parts about living life. It is like putting yourself out there for others to judge. That can be when applying for universities or for your first job. Or, maybe you are about to ask someone to marry you and start a family. The absolute worst is asking someone out on a first date. The king and Esther have never really ever had a first date, come to think of it. This is the first time that Esther even hints at wanting to spend time with the king.

            Now, the thing about the golden scepter is that one must actually get relatively close to the king in order to touch the scepter. You cannot do it from across the room. It forces you to be very personal very quickly. And, once you are up close and personal, the golden scepter allows for only one conversation to take place. No one else but the person who is touching the scepter is supposed to be saying anything. In Bible Study on Tuesday, Melissa reminded us of the Native American practice of passing the stick. Only the person holding the stick may speak. That reminded me of when I counsel couples, I have in the past given the couple a piece of floor tile which they must pass back and forth in order to speak–Only one person can have the floor at a time. When we have meetings, we follow Robert’s Rules that states only one motion can be entertained on the floor at a time.

            Honestly, I am not gifted with that ability to hear and listen to two conversations at once. I have to leave that up to God. God can listen to all of our prayers at all at once. When I am in a room where multiple conversations are going on, it just all sounds like bees buzzing around the hive. It all becomes indistinguishable jabbering to my ear. Am I the only one who has this issue I wonder? So, if I had a golden scepter for myself, I would hold it out to one person and say, “I am fully listening to you now with no other conversations going on.”

            I have to compare this idea with the ministry of Jesus. Everyone was always crowding around trying to touch him or be touched by him. Jesus touched and healed lepers. The woman with the hemorrhage touched Jesus and was healed. Jesus told his disciples to go out and ask to be taken into people’s homes in order to share the Word. Honestly, christianity has always been better shared with a whisper, close and personal, rather than a shout from across a busy and noisy room. But, Jesus was God, so he could handle both, I suppose.

The golden scepter also always allows you to speak, to express yourself. So it was in Christ’s ministry that he allowed his disciples to speak, to ask questions, to wonder and figure things out on their own. What a great model for the church this has become. We all get to question things and know that our voices are welcomed and appreciated. I find it frustrating and problematic when churches do not hold out the golden scepter and welcome others to be fully heard and understood.

Back in Los Angeles when my wife and I were serving the church in Westwood, we had two women who would come into the back of the sanctuary and sit down quietly and listen to the music and the sermon. That is not unusual is it? However, these women were muslims from Iran. And, we did the best we knew how to accept them and be open to them. They stated that the local mosques were run by Palestinians or Saudis and that they were not welcome there as Persians. Yet, they felt welcomed into our Christian fellowship. And, this did make me wonder how exclusive faith can be.

This last summer Helen and I were at a wedding of one of our exchange students from years ago. We were in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and the wedding was a Hindu affair at the Hindu Temple. We were asked to be in the processional and to come up afterwards and add personal blessings over the couple. Again, someone really held the golden scepter out for us, and it was so appreciated and wonderful.

You know, in the Middle School bible club some of the students have asked if we could hear more about Jesus in his younger days–like when he was in middle school. The only text we have is of when Jesus was in the temple at twelve years of age. I said to the other leaders, well, “Other stories of Jesus do exist. The best telling of Jesus' childhood is in the Quran in fact. But, there are other Eastern Orthodox Christian stories too.” It is perfectly okay to hear these other stories and at least acknowledge that they exist.

King Ahasuerus is about to hear a different story than the one he had been fed by the evil Haman who wants death and destruction of all Jews. The king is about to learn that he married a Jew. He is about to remember late at night how the Jew Mordecai had saved him from treachery and should be honored. It is good and right to hold out the golden scepter! Hear people out! We might be able even to stop a war or two that way. Maybe stop a genocide! I think that God would find that pleasing and honorable.


We do have an interesting plot complication in the story of Esther going to the king to save her people. She does not tell Ahasuerus right away. She sets out a banquet of wine that gets him and Haman drunk. Yet, she does not right away expose Haman. Instead she says that she is preparing another banquet the following night. Now, the Jewish Midrash on this says that she must have felt that Ahasuerus was too drunk to even remember if he rescinds the edict, and that could definitely be a problem. So, Esther wants him completely sober when she talks with him. That makes good sense. However, evil can act very quickly at times.

Haman already has a plan to hang Mordecai that day. So, even though it is late and King Ahasuerus is completely drunk, God prompts him to have a bedtime story of the chronicles of his kingdom. In this time, he hears once more of how Mordecai had saved his life from two treacherous slaves. God prompts his heart to ask how Mordecai had been honored for doing this. The answer is that he had not been honored at all.

King Ahasuerus calls Haman in to ask him how best to honor a man in the kingdom. Haman in his usual narcissistic mode believes that the king is going to honor him. Instead, Haman is told to put royal robes on Mordecai and lead him on a royal horse around town. Haman never even gets a chance to ask the king to hang Mordecai. Haman had already had the gallows constructed and all. I am sure this ruined his day!

In all of this we see God’s hand. If Esther had been more diligent in asking for a royal reprieve for the Jews, then this whole story of honoring Mordecai would not have been necessary. At first I saw in this the theme of not wasting a day when God’s work is at hand. But then, I thought that the humiliation of Haman leading Mordecai around the capital must have also been part of the plan. It is like in those Western movies when the sheriff says “Death is too good for that varmint.” Haman had to suffer his indignation.


Did any of you wonder why Haman did not go to the King, touch the golden scepter, and then explain that Mordecai was the one for whom the giant gallows had been built? Evil never seeks the golden scepter in this world. Evil is always conniving and dissembling.


In this world I hope that we as followers of Christ will extend that golden scepter, to be accepting of what others have to share with us, to allow for the truth of the matter, and to offer grace. Amen.