Sermon September 26, 2004 : Christians and the affairs of Cesar (Esther 4:13)

Posted in Sermons
  • Presenter: Dr. Roberto Miranda | Translator: Dr. Roberto Miranda
  • Length: 49:45
  • Date: September 26, 2004
  • Location: Congregation Lion of Judah, Boston MA

Now let’s go to the word of the Lord in the Book of Esther. I’m going to read a couple of verses from there. Book of Esther. Let’s go to chapter 4, verse 13. It’s a passage that we have heard many times in different kind of contexts, I want to apply it somehow to the theme that God has placed in my heart this morning.

Let me translate loosely from the Spanish here. It says: “…. Then Mordecai asked that they would respond to Esther, that whey would give this message to Esther: It says, “do not think, Esther that you will be able to escape in the House of the king more than any other Jew, because if you stay silent in an absolute sense in this time, relief and liberation will come from some other place for the Jews, but you and your house and the house of your father shall perish, and who knows if you have come to the Kingdom for such a time as this.”

Lord in a very delicate topic we commit ourselves to you and to your wisdom and to your council. Guide us now as we deliberate on your word. May it be with your blessing father. Deliver us from going beyond what we have a right to speak about, that we might speak in a way that is pleasing on to you.

It’s the first time in 20 years of ministry in this church that I dedicate a sermon to this topic and to my shame I should say perhaps. I’ve never, I’ve spoken many, many times about the involvement of the church in the culture, in the community, but I haven’t dedicated one full sermon to that topic and particularly to participating in a voting process and so on and so forth.

I guess one of the reasons why I’ve never really dedicated one sermon to that in particular is because my sense of God’s calling to the Christian to participate in the secular process, I think should permeate every aspect of our lives so I’ve integrated into my sermons all the time and I believe that the life of our church reflects that sense of commitment to the greater culture, the participation to the community.

But I do believe that in the times that we are living in, where everything is so polarized and so defined and positions are becoming extremely well delineated and at the same time there’s so much confusion in the air, it bewhos us to be a little bit more deliberate about how we speak about these things and we need to be very clear and very focused and provide God’s people with guidance, at least with as much light as we have access to. You know that means that we may make some mistakes but I have never believed that you should refrain from action or counsel simply because your understanding is limited. I believe that morally we’re compelled to speak out and then to commit ourselves to the grace of God and if we have urge and pray that God will straightened our path, but we cannot refrain from speaking and from expressing the views that we have access to.

7:19 I think we have to do it with humility, with a certain kind of tentativeness and not presuming to speak for God, aware of our limited understanding and I know that you would receive my word with that kind of discretion and ability make your own judgments of what’s the truth of what I’m speaking about. I think that’s why it’s so important to know the word of God. Because I can make a mistake from the pulpit, I can be swayed by all kind of self interests or my own identity as a human being but the word of God is eternal, the word of God is unshakable, the word of God is totally objective. I think that some people have tried to make it less than objective and they have in our efforts I think to accommodate ourselves we have made the word of God seem conditioned by history, by culture, and it does have elements of culture and history, of course it does, but I think that truths that our displayed in the word of God are absolute, objective, reliable, unquestionable and once we discern those truths then its our task to obey them and to submit to them.

9:17 You know, we have to understand that once we have ascertained what the word of God declares then we have no right as people who have submitted ourselves to that word, to question it. For that word is beyond and above us. We are inside of it not it inside of us. I think a lot of the controversy that we have in our time, particularly in the USA in this time that we’re living in, ultimately revolves about that key question. What do we do with the word, with the Bible, its teachings? What do we do with these moral underpinnings of our culture that have been prevalent for hundreds and hundreds of years? Do we question them? Do we believe that they are for our time and for yesterday and they will be for tomorrow as well? Do we believe that they are absolute? That they can govern our decisions and our moral deliberation or do we have they faculty, do we have the freedom to handle God’s word in a different way and to decide what it is that we want to believe according to the criteria that we believe are even superior to the word of God, supposed objectivity or knowledge of history or language or culture and so on. And somehow that these things can impinge on the word and allow us then to extract from it what we feel we can or not. Or do we simply submit to is as a whole and simply receive and let it guide our lives and our decisions? Even when they are not palatable or attractive to us.

11:53 You know the first I think we can say with a lot of clarity today and I think that we’ll all agree with this is that the church of Jesus Christ, the people of God are called to be involved in history, in the conduct of daily affairs of our society that we live in.

Jesus said we are in the world, we are not of the word but we are in the world. And we sometimes so involved in thinking that we’re not off the world, that we forget that the other part is that we are in the world. Jesus also said “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”. Sometimes that dictum of Jesus that give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s has been interpreted to mean somehow, while we spiritual people will simply dwell on the spiritual round and let the secular being deals with Caesar. I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant.

There’s another passage where Jesus says: do not owe anything to anybody. If you owe somebody honor, give them honor; if you owe somebody obedience, give them obedience. I think in that sense…. I think God has established social systems, He has put in humanity the need for order and for living in community and there is a social order that God has allowed and He has delegated that upon humanity and that would be Caesar realm and God respects that realm.

Our job is to discern what is Caesar’s realm and then we have to move in that realm but then also God has established eternal principles, and spiritual principles and those principles also interact with Caesar’s realm and our job is also to discern what are those spiritual dimensions and then we have to also attend to those, and we have to give to each what belongs to each. So at one time, we have in our identity as citizens, we have to participate as citizens, and in our identities as members of the Kingdom of God we have to participate as members of the Kingdom of God. Let’s right now abandon, let’s give up this artificial idea that somehow there’s an absolute break between the spiritual real, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of humanity or the human realm. There’s no such thing, they’re both interrelated and we are called to participate in both.

16:06 Now, there’s another important thing which is: when the claims of Caesar in the world of politics and human morality or whatever human realm we’re talking about, are in contradiction with the claims of Jesus Christ, the word of God, the Kingdom of God, as believers in Jesus, as people who have submitted ourselves to the Kingdom of God, we are compelled to put priority to the place of Kingdom and then we are put in a position that with fear in our heart and with great trepidation we have to say to Caesar: I will not obey and I will not follow your demands.

Do you remember the story in the Book of Act when the members of the Sanhedrin wanted to prevent Peter from preaching the gospel and Peter said: I’m sorry, I can go only so far but I have to obey the commandments of God more than the commandments of men. There are times, there are times when there will be such situations but whenever we can and when possible we must obey the laws of the land, as long as they do not contradict higher laws of the spirit.

I think believers choose rebellion as a last resource or attitude. Our disposition is more to participate and to respect the laws. Now, when those laws come in contradiction with the principles of the Kingdom of God then we, with fear and trembling, we say “No”, because I think that there’s a lot of people in our world who have a rebellious disposition, and I think the nature of much of modern society is more towards rebelliousness and questioning than to acquiescence and respect.

I think for the child of God it should be the other way around. Our prevalent modality should be respect and obedience to the law and only as a matter of last resource, rebelliousness. But the modern mind is so full of itself and of it’s so intoxicated with reason, likes to question everything, because that’s the nature of reason, to inquire, to question, to confront and so then the natural modality of the carnal mind, the mind that has not been touched by the spirit, is one of confrontation and questioning of everything and resisting everything. I really believe that it should be the other way around. Questioning things in that militant sort of way, that lack of innocence that is so typical of the modern, rational mind, it’s not of the child of God. We are called to be innocent, really. But with an innocence that is extremely discerning because it is the innocence of the spirit of God, that discerns all things. I think the discerning activity of the child of God is also penetrated by innocence by love, by assuming good motivation in others, but it also is very penetrating because it is the eyes of God looking at reality. The Bible says that the spiritual man discerns all things, judges all things.

21:1 We must discern things, we must question things and we must be involved in the affairs of mankind. We must respect the laws and then question the laws only as a matter of last resource and resist only those things that are contrary to the Kingdom of God. There will be times when we will have to break the laws if they are against the Kingdom of God.

Daniel was not only citizen but also a participant in the political system and when the king asked them to refrain from praying to God and asked them to pray to another God, the king himself, Daniel said: I will not do that. I will only obey the Lord and I will only pray to the Lord. And here’s a man who was part of the system but he also had a lot of integrity. This is why I think it’s important to vote and to be a part of the system that we are in, because I think God has called us to obey and the system can only function well if we allow our voice to be heard. I really believe that voting is part of respecting the law, it’s part of giving that aspect to Caesar that is of Caesar. It’s not an optional thing. We cannot neutral.

23:40 In the Book of Esther we see a situation, it was a polarized, it was an urgent situation. Esther had to make a decision: do I participate in this situation or do I simply take cover under the fact that I’m the queen and just allow things to proceed as they are going? You know the story: a decree had come from the king that established that all the Jews in the land had to be destroyed, had to be annihilated. You know the hatred against the Jews is not something of the twentieth century, it’s being going on for thousands of years.

Why? Because there are a spiritual principles involved here. It was part of the system this law; Jews are going to be destroyed, they have to be annihilated. Esther, in the beginning, didn’t do anything. Now, her uncle who was up there and knew the situation, he was asking the Lord to provide a solution. And, he says: Esther, you have to do something, you have to participate. You have to get involved. So he says to Esther: If you don’t participate, if you don’t do something given your position, God will probably in his mercy will send some other source of relief because he is God and he’s sovereign over his people and he will not allow his people to be annihilated, but number one, you will have probably lost the great moment of glory for yourself and you might be one the first to go as well before this thing is over, so don’t think that just because you’re in a position of power you are going to escape, cause you are Jewish and sooner or later they will find out who you are, so you have to become involved and, he says, who knows.

And he adds these words: And who knows if you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this. Mordecay being a man of understanding, even thought he was an ignorant person, education wise, but he said: Maybe, my niece with her beauty and her gifts and her charisma has been put in that position because God has a purpose in history and he wants to use her to bring deliverance to the Jewish people.

A beautiful aspect of the Book of Esther is that it’s not a book like the Book of Exodus, for example, that has incredible manifestations of the power of God and His action in history, it’s a very sober kind of book in that sense. The power of God, the person of God doesn’t appear anywhere in an obvious sort of way. Actually some people wanted to prevent the Book of Esther even from being in the Bible because it doesn’t mention God directly. But the presence of God is everywhere acting within history. Sometimes God will act supernaturally in a natural sort of modality. He will use natural means to carry out supernatural means. So sometimes we will be the agents of God’s action and God’s will in the world. Sometimes we will have to be the hands of God, the mind of God, the voice of God, and God will use us to carry out his supernatural design in history.

29:19 I think that my whole point is that you and I are Esther in this time, in such a time as this. It’s important to dwell on that moment “for such a time as this”. It was a time of urgency that Mordecay was speaking of. It was a time of urgency, it was a time of great danger. Everything was at stake, there was no time to lose, there was no time for new answers or too much finessing of the facts, it was a time for action.

Just like Martin Luther said during the Reformation: “…this is why I believe and I cannot believe anything else, so help me God”. This is where I stand, and you have to then decide a course of action and go for it.

I think we have come to a crossroad in this country in Westerns cultures as a whole. How are we going to live, what are going to be the postulated that are going to found our world’s views. Right now decisions are being made in the human realm that are going to affect us for, perhaps, centuries, certainly decades. It is an urgent time. We have to discern the times as Jesus said. This is the time, it’s not just about gay marriage or homosexuality or cloning or abortion.

These are simply illustrations of much deeper, far reaching principles that are being processed by humanity. These are simply condensations of a deeper essence that deals with much far, much more far reaching principles that govern human existence. And just as these have come up, others will come up in time. So all they are is merely expressions of something much deeper, a matrix which explains and which supports all the deliberations of the human race right now. So we must be more concerned about precisely the process than about the particular expressions of that process. That’s what the discernment really is at this time. My question always is: how do my decisions and my participation in society affect this process that we are living in? How do I advance it or hold it back? How does my voting and my political participation affect that process? Because if I can affect the process, all the specific manifestations of that process will take care of themselves. I think there are two world views, I wish I had more time to discuss this. There are two world views that are in competition with each other.

34:16 There is one conception of the word, one view of the world, which is secular, it’s historical in orientation. It is rational. It places mankind at the center, that’s why it’s called humanist. The word humanism is a word that goes back, it has a long history, back to the sixteen century, The Enlightening and it is this idea it’s not just God’s consciousness, but it’s man’s consciousness. That’s what the Renaissance did, the whole Enlightening thing was about. Let’s no longer live by revelation or by the dictates of the church or of the Bible, which I think had it’s elements of validity in it, but it just enthroned man, reason, inquiry and we have been drinking of that elixir for many centuries and it’s been increasing and in it’s influence in human kind. That’s one world view, ultimately that’s what it comes down to, I think.

35:33 That second world view, and I know that I am here, being somewhat simplistic, but that second world view that is one that it’s essentially fearful of God and of fear, has a fear of God. It is God orientated. It does live, I think a lot by revelation and it sees human understanding with a certain kind of skepticism. It’s aware that human understanding can add a lot of values but it is skeptical because they know that it is limited. So there’s a sense of essential humility towards reason and there’s a respect for the word of God and for the revelation that we have in the word of God. I think the orientation of the second world view is more towards the eternity and the spirit than to history and time and space, and now and reason, and in the human understanding.

It’s two essences, two essential orientations of reality. That I think is what is at stake at this time. I’m not here to tell you, you’ve got to vote for the Republican Party or vote for the Libertarian Party or vote for the Democratic Party, but I’m here to ask you to tell you though, that as a Christian as a person who gives priority to things of the spirit, you must ask yourself: the party the I’m voting for, the person that I’m voting for, that candidate at state level of the community level, at the federal level, which of those two essential views of life do they seem to respond to? Try to discern with your spirit not just for specific little things. Which of these two views is being strengthened by a particular candidate? Do they reflect an essential fear of the word of God in the sense of respect and are they rooted in the spiel of scripture, in the revelation received through the word of God? Do they advance the interests of the Kingdom of God? Do they have that essential respect for the church of Jesus Christ? Do their positions advance to things that are dear to the church? Such as the morality that we have been taught by the word of God, not the definition of men out there, but what the word of God is saying. Is their first love for God and for his kingdom and how do they express that, and how do the decisions that they make affirm or not the interests of the Kingdom of God and church of Jesus Christ, because you cannot separate one from the other.

Sometimes I hear this discrepancy between social justice and other spiritual things, and people accuses of being one issue orientated. And they say: well, these people are concerned about social justice and that’s important too, I agree with that. But if that concern for social justice is in contradiction of deeper principles of the spirit, let me tell you, no matter how socially conscious the candidate or the government is, their efforts will be condemned to failure because they are in contradiction with deeper principles of the spirit. History justifies what I’m saying amply. We will not benefit from socially conscious, well intentioned candidates, who are in contradiction with the dynamics of the spirit and I think American history justifies that kind of statement. Sooner or later the house will fall apart because if the Lord does not build the house, then the laborers built it in vain. If the Lord does not guard over the city, then the guardsmen exercise vigilance in vain.

No matter how many good intentions they may have towards us, Hispanics or African American or ethnic groups, they may have it in the heart of heart. They may want to do good to us but in the end they will not be able because they don’t have the power, because power only comes from God ultimately. So I don’t judge a candidate whether he wants to benefit me or my people, I judge him whether he wants to benefit the Kingdom of God. Because if he benefits the Kingdom of God then God will lead him to the right positions and ultimately even if they make mistakes, somehow it all will work out for the best. Never elect the candidate if it’s for your interest. I think our interest is more spiritual, eternal, Biblical, kingdom oriented. And even if in the short run I lose, I know that in the long run I will win, because that’s the way God works. Judge your candidates by principles. Don’t judge them by charisma either or by how well they speak or how reasoned their arguments are, judge them by their heart. Judge them by their spirit. Judge them by their attitudes, discern the totality. Don’t judge simply by rhetoric from the outside

43:01 I praise the Lord that Esther took her responsibility seriously and she took a great risk. She confronted the king. She risked her life and she spoke truth to the king. The king heard and the king changed his way. As a pastor I hate to be confrontative, but sometimes we have to be confrontative. Esther, I marvel at her decisiveness. Read the whole book and you’ll see how she spoke about payment, and this woman was not afraid of anything. She took an unpopular position. She confronted evil. She was straight about it. It doesn’t sound too loving the way in which this situation resolved itself, in the end there’s death and conflict in order to save the Jews. Many times we will have to be in conflict with people that we love.

I think in hard times, in times of great conflict we have to be decisive, we have sometimes to be conflicted out of love, we have to stand our ground and we have to be clear and we have to go where we need to go and we may not have everybody on our side, but we must stand with what we know is true and let everything else fall where it may. Esther was that kind of woman, and this is the time where we are fighting for our lives, as people ascribed to a certain view of God and of the human race, and the destiny of the human race and how society must live and we must be firm, we must stand our ground, we must discern the spirit and we must look a things in eternal terms.

There’s one thing that I want to leave with you is that, that we must be a part of this time, we must participate, we have no right to not do it. I just want to make sure that our church does its part in this whole process. I want to discharge my responsibility as a pastor that I help you to make a decision.

I can only urge you, register at least. We’ll take all this thing to stand into the right place and we’re going to try to help you as much as possible in the next few weeks. It may be weltering, confusing, threatening to you if you’ve never done it before but we want to help you.

Let’s pray for a moment and let’s ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance here. If I disturbed you, that’s good I guess. We ask for your wisdom, Lord. We ask for an ability to discern the muses of the spirit in those great sweeps that they are moving in this time, like those hurricane masses that are moving right now in Florida, father. There are huge masses of understanding that are moving, and competing and clashing in the spiritual atmosphere and we ask for wisdom to know how to separate one thing from the other. We pray for wisdom father, for this nation, for its people as we make crucial decisions may your kingdom be affirmed, may your kingdom be advanced. Father, may the man of the your choosing be the one to gain power. We leave that in your hands ultimately. We don’t even know, ultimately, what it is that you want, father. So we do pray that it will be done. Change our hearts if you need to Lord and give us understanding and give us wisdom, and give understanding to George Bush and to Mr. Kerry as well father, give understanding to both these candidates, to their parties as well and Father, may justice and love and truth prevail in this nation. Give us your wisdom and we thank you in advance, Father. We give you all the honor and all the glory.

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