Text: Esther 9:1-19, Psalm 34:1-10
“on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.”
– Esther 9:1b, ESV
Preschool Sunday school teachers are my heroes. If you’ve ever tried to explain the Gospel to a child, you know why. Relaying the greatest story to the next generation is such a privilege! But it can also be surprisingly… tricky. Suddenly you are asked to define every single word. The “Christianese” we’ve become comfortable using is new information to little ears, and platitudes or generalities aren’t allowed. Without missing a beat, their little voices demand, “But what IS that?”
What is sin? What is grace? Who is God? What is forgiveness? (That last one is much easier when the child in question has a sibling or BFF, am I right?)
We grownups find comfort in the familiar, so it’s natural that we’d slip into generalizations— repeating words and phrases though our hearts may have what they really mean.
Mercy runs a broad spectrum of meaning in our day-to-day—from the whispered prayer of “have mercy” when we see the latest tragedy on the news, to the flippant, Uncle Jesse-style “have mercy” when we spy an amazing piece of 7-layer chocolate cheesecake. (Any “Full House” fans in the house? That’s 90’s sitcom for you younguns among us.)
But mercy—true mercy—has a definition. It is unmerited kindness and help for the desperate.
Mercy is not an emotion or general attitude toward a person or situation—mercy is action. It is bringing relief, giving help, offering a much needed exhale to the soul who’s anxiously holding her breath.
When we are desperate for rescue from the deepest, darkest pit, suddenly the concept of mercy doesn’t feel so vague. In the context of desperation, mercy is specific, necessary, vital. Mercy has a face, a voice—mercy has hands and a name.
At this point in Esther’s story, her people are there at the bottom of the pit. They stand facing death—utter and brutal annihilation. But Scripture tells us that on the very day when they are to be destroyed—at that exact moment—they receive mercy. They are rescued.
The victims become the victorious. Their day of destruction becomes a holiday.
The mercy that descended on the Jews that day is not the good-feeling kind we pray for in passing or a generality we struggle to explain to a child. No, it is vivid and tangible and real.
Friends, that mercy is the Gospel. That mercy belongs to us! It may not be the most kid-friendly version—to say we’ve been snatched from the hands of death, saved from an enemy who wants to destroy us—but it’s the true version.
From the everyday mercies we can see—finding the exact dollar amount needed for the week’s groceries in our account, or seeing a crystal-clear scan where a mass of fear used to be—to the millions of mercies we’ll never know this side of Glory… The merciful God of Esther is the merciful God of you and me.
He is the God who descended to take on our flesh, who rescued us when nothing else could (John 1:14).
He is the God of grace and deliverance, bringing unmerited kindness to sinners in ways so specific our hearts could not handle the full sight of it (Lamentations 3:22-23).
God has turned our destruction into a holiday! May we worship Him with renewed awe and thanksgiving, giving Him back the life He has saved.
I sought the Lord, and He answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
- Psalm 34:4, HCSB