/ Christus Victor / Gentle Reformation

The Irony of Sin

On the night before his meeting with King Xerxes and Esther, Haman, in accordance with the counsel of his friends and wife, had a seventy-five foot tall gallows built exclusively for the neck of Mordecai, the faithful Jew who would not bow the knee in his presence.

Through the cunning of Haman, an edict had already been sent forth, spelling the demise of the Jews. The outlying provinces were to “kill and annihilate all the Jews- young and old, woman and little children- on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods” (Esther 3:13 NIV). It was a time of great mourning and weeping and fasting for God’s people. They were going to die.

One can almost picture Haman in his bed, listening to the sound of sawing and hammering, as the immense gallows were being constructed. One can imagine him replaying the image of Mordecai standing alone amid a sea of bent knees, refusing to pay homage to him. He no doubt pictured the obstinate Jew swinging in the noonday light, noose cinched tightly around his neck. He no doubt imagined what he would say before the onlookers, how he would humiliate Mordecai and satisfy the cravings of his vengeful soul.

The irony is that the very gallows built for Mordecai would be used against him. When the king learned of Haman’s plot through the courage and faith of Esther, Harbona, one of the king’s eunuchs, said, “A gallows seventy-five feet high stands by Haman’s house. He made it for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king” (Esther 7:9 NIV). Pleased with the suggestion, the king declared, “Hang him on it!” And as the Scriptures report with dripping irony, “So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai” (7:10).

God loves to reverse the schemes of the wicked.

So far as human history is a contest between two kingdoms, it is a tale not unlike that of Haman. At the very center of God’s dealings with Satan, the Serpent’s most potent designs are turned against him. One might say that history creaks with the sound of a taut rope swinging in the wind of God’s providence. Satan fashions a noose for the neck of God’s glory, but is himself hung on it; he digs a pit, but is made to fall into it.

The place where all this culminates is the cross.

Think of the so called power of autonomy. By stepping outside of God’s will, men and demons believe they are the masters of their own destiny, that they can thwart the plans of God, even if ever so slightly. Picture a raised fist, a clenched jaw. “I will not participate in your ways!"  Such is the bitter cry of the sinful heart.

But here is where the Lord is pleased to turn such autonomy on its head. Noting the ironic twist, we read in Acts Act 4:27-28:

“For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”

Such is the folly of autonomy. It does not purchase what it promises. God used the very means of rebellion- the very thing that should have upset His plans- to accomplish His plans. In this we see humiliation more greatly heaped upon the kingdom of darkness. One of their chief weapons was turned on them, thereby embarrassing them, even mocking them.

In this vein, I love how F.F. Bruce, while commenting on Colossians 2:15, describes the irony:

“The very instrument of disgrace and death, by which the hostile forces thought they had Him in their grasp and had conquered Him forever was turned by Him into the instrument of their defeat and captivity. As He was suspended there, bound hand and foot to the wood in apparent weakness, they imagined they had Him at their mercy, and flung themselves upon Him with hostile intent. But, far from suffering their assault without resistance, He grappled with them and mastered them, stripping them of all their armour in which they trusted, and held them aloft in His mighty, outstretched hands, displaying to the universe their helplessness and His own unvanquished strength."

[If you would like to explore this concept further, see chapter 9 of my book, The Weakness of God and the Overthrow of Satan. It can be found here: Satan's Awful Idea PDF Version.]