Whirlwind and Scepter
ueen Esther desired a great thing. Her uncle Mordecai had informed her that there was a decree which had gone out from the king to wipe out all the Jews living in Persia. “And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.” (Est 3:13) What Esther wanted was salvation; she wanted safety for herself and for her family.
The only way this great object could be gained would be through an audience with the very king who had made the decree, but there was also another law in effect at that time: “All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live.” (Est 4:11a)
In this history of the Israelite people, we find a fitting description of the plight of the sinner. When he is truly convinced of his sins, he seems himself worthy of death. Indeed, a decree has gone out from the King of righteousness, “Behold, a whirlwind of Yahweh is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked.” (Jer 23:19) “But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of Yahweh shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.” (Psa 37:20) Again it is written that on the Day that the Righteous Judge appears it will be as it was before the deluge of Genesis, “They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:27)
We see here strong words and dramatic descriptions given of the Holy One of Israel. “Then answered Yahweh unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said, ‘Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?’” (Job 40:6-8) “For our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:29) While Yah does not appear to His friends as a fearsome Judge (1Kings 19:11-13), to those who do not know Him in a most intimate way, He is indeed like a whirlwind of fire. Those who enter His presence with unconverted hearts are swept away by its fury; and yet like a true whirlwind, at its very center there is calm, and there is protection from outside forces.
Those who would draw near to the Holy One must do so completely, they must not begin to walk and then stop or retreat at some point, for “Jesus said unto him, ‘No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 9:62) There is no such thing as being “almost” converted, if we are aware of the true and utter majesty of Yahweh. The closer one comes to the center of the whirlwind, the more force is experienced, and so it is for those who have been given the greatest privileges, the most precious talents, yet refuse to yield completely to the security in the very heart of our Father. In the spiritual world, the closer we come to our Master without yielding a hundred percent, the more condemnation we bring upon ourselves for rejecting the greater light. “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” (James 3:1) “And that servant, which knew his Lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to His will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:47,48)
But, “there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom 8:1) If we are IN Him, truly in Him and dead to self and sin, we are safe from the fire and the fury; at the eye of the storm, at the Heart of Yah, “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Yahweh, only makest me dwell in safety. “ (Psa 4:8) There is Sabbath rest there. When we make that full surrender to Christ, not only condemnation but guilt also is dispelled, for He is the Lord of the Whirlwind: “And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, ‘Peace, be still.’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. “ (Mark 4:39)
Now, of Esther’s salvation, she knew it could only be accomplished in the very One who had decreed her destruction. So it is with those who, trembling, see their only salvation in the One who abhors the sin which condemns them. Nevertheless, like the queen, those who would be saved must place their trust in the One upon the Throne. “Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, ‘Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.’” (Est 4:15,16)
The Law indeed declares that “the wages of sin is death,” (Rom 6:23a) and so we find that any who would bear their iniquity in the presence of the Judge will be destroyed. (Judges 13:22) We read, however, that “the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins.” (Est 2:17a) This is the beauty of grace. Although we deserve death for the sins we have done, and our only salvation is in the One who has justly decreed our destruction, that very King loves us – and if we seek atonement with Him then we, as His Bride, receive “grace and favor in His sight.” In reality, this is accomplished through the Son of Yahweh, and for this reason the entirety of Romans 6:23 reads: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of Yah is eternal life through Yahshua, the Messiah, our Lord.” Truly “it is of Yahweh’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” (Lam 3:22)
Some people have been distressed that the words “God” or “Lord” (in reference to Yahweh) do not appear in the Book of Esther. Some are bothered that there are no prayers mentioned in this history. These are hardly matters for concern, however, when we see the clear spiritual parallels between the actual events and the vital lessons contained therein for every soul that seeks redemption from the curse of sin. King Ahasuerus represents the Almighty, although his motives were nowhere near those of the King of Eternity. Similarly, no feasts, sacrifices, or even prayers to Yah are recorded, because Esther – representing one seeking salvation from the king representing Him – had no works which would win his favor anyway.
This is not a minor point. The principles set forth in this episode of Hebrew history are a subtle but effective rebuke to all forms of legalism. Away with the thought that we must perform rites and rituals in order to wrestle a smile from the lips of One who has already died for us. Such efforts, if undertaken with a desire to gain merit with Heaven, spit in the face of the Son who hung on the Cross in His perfection. Esther made no great displays, she did not offer the king any gifts (for all that she had was his anyway), and she certainly did not present all the wonderful benefits of her queenship before him as a reason why he should spare her. No; rather she fasted – a sign of true sorrow and humility (Psa 35:13, Joel 2:12) – and then she went into his presence.
“Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house. And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre.” (Est 5:1,2) Had Esther performed any wonderful works to please the king, they would have been wasted; had she taken pride in them and come before her monarch expecting a reward, he may not have taken pity upon her presumption. Instead, she came before him in modesty and fear, and found herself the recipient of a love and grace which he had held for her all along.
She did not tarry by the door, she did not hesitate before the throne. Rather she “drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre.” She came right up to the king himself, and took hold of the symbol of that salvation which was offered to her. It is written for us today, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the Throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:16) Have we not the perfect parable here? Let us, like Esther, “draw near” and come indeed to the very center of our Almighty One.
“Then said the king unto her, ‘What wilt thou, queen Esther? And what is thy request? It shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom.’ And Esther answered, ‘If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him.’” (Est 5:2,3) Such love was offered to the queen that, had she desired gold and riches, she would have obtained them; yet Esther’s desire was for a greater thing – life; and this life was found in close fellowship with the king, a banquet. In these last days our Saviour says to us, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20)
Haman (whose name means “Magnificent”) is described this way: “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.” (Est 7:6) We, as human beings, have a “magnificent” adversary and accuser. The highest and most exalted of the angels fell away, and is currently seeking the destruction of those unto whom have been shown Yahweh’s grace. He is never far from us – even during our times of fellowship with our brethren and our Father – even as Haman was present at the banquet of Esther and Ahashuerus. Nevertheless, it was at these banquets that the true nature of the adversary was revealed. “Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen,” and he was condemned to destruction. (Est 7:5-9) The penalty decreed for those who had been accused by the adversary instead fell upon him, “So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified.” (Est 7:10) “He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.” (Psa 7:15)
The queen obtained the salvation she sought; not only for herself, but for those who were dear to her also. The accuser of the brethren was cast down, and came to an end, condemned by the very fellowship which existed between the king and the one who came into his presence. A like invitation is open unto us all today. If we will come unto the One who awaits our surrender, if we will grasp that golden scepter of mercy which is held out to us, we will find peace. If we draw near but do not come up to the throne, if we accept His blessings without a complete commitment, we will be consumed by the fiery fury that is the glory of our Judge. But this is good news: in His midst there is joy, and peace and safety – protection from that once magnificent one who “as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1Peter 5:8)
There is no protection in the world, and there is no security for those who only come part way. Only by letting go of all that keeps us from this most intimate communion can we ever find ourselves free from the burden of sin, guilt and death. Those who have heard the Gospel, those become convinced that Victory over sin is possible, fall into two classes. There are those who hesitate, and there are those who do not.
Some have said, “I am not ready yet. Let me fix my life before I come to Him.” By doing so, they deny the very power which would both repair their temporal concerns, and fit them for life everlasting. In the meantime, worldly and compromising “Christianity” leavens them. Their ministers, preaching smooth things and saying “peace and safety,” minister unto them only in this capacity: to fit them more certainly for sudden destruction. (1Th 5:3, Isa 9:15,16) When the hesitant Israelite approached our Master with worldly concerns, “Jesus said unto him, ‘Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.’” (Mat 8:22) This is the only way it can ever be accomplished, if we will run to Him, and grasp His mercy today, while the Spirit still calls. We cannot make ourselves ready for Him, we cannot hope to win His favor by our feeble attempts at preparation. No, nor must we believe that our sins are greater than His love for us. It is a great thing to go into the Throneroom, knowing we are worthy of death; yet He beckons us, and our attitude must be as that of Esther. In my sorrow represented by fasting, and just as I am, “so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the Law: and if I perish, I perish.” (Est 4:16b) It is written, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” (John 12:25)
The other class of people who hear the Gospel are such as these: With humble sorrow and godly fear, they accept it in faith. They do not run from their guilt, they do not try to justify their positions. They know that they must be broken on the Rock, or they will never survive to the salvation of themselves, and all those unto whom they in turn bring the message. They know they have nothing to offer, they know that it is only by the Scepter of Mercy that they can survive; and they do it, they enter His full presence – for they have seen the alternative, and if they do nothing they will perish because of the decree: “The wages of sin is death.” They do not delay, either outside of the throneroom or within, for their only true security and sealing is found when they “draw near” and firmly grasp the salvation which is offered free of charge. In the fellowship which follows, at the very heart of Yah, there is the accuser cast down, and there only is salvation gained. The Messiah said, “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Yahshua the Messiah whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)
If this has never been clear to the reader before in its fullness, by the grace of the One who suffered and died for our sakes, I extend an invitation. Do not come part way. Surrender fully, and be born again. Do not hesitate, for “behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2Cor 6:2b) “‘Turn ye unto me,’ saith Yahweh of hosts, ‘and I will turn unto you.’” (Zech 1:3b) Often, often repeated is the message of mercy and colder, colder wax the hearts of those who persist in their resistance. But it need not be that way. All the King truly asks of us is genuine trust, and He gives us the strength we need for all His good pleasure. The Messiah promises, with words which can never fail, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mat 11:28) There is rest, there is Sabbath, there is peace forevermore... when we are at the center of the whirlwind that is our Lord and Savior, and holding firmly onto the staff of His mercy and salvation.
Such sentiments are beautifully expressed in the following hymn, which has recently become one of my favorites (slightly modified to include the names of the Father and Son):
Near To The Heart of Yah
(Cleland B. McAfee, 1903)
There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of Yah.
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of Yah.
O Yahshua, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of Yah,
Hold us who wait before Thee
Near to the heart of Yah.
There is a place of comfort sweet,
Near to the heart of Yah.
A place where we our Savior meet,
Near to the heart of Yah.
There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of Yah.
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of Yah.
May this wonderful experience be shed like an autumn rain upon all who read this, and may you come boldly and unhesitatingly before our Heavenly Father’s Throne.