Day 143: Esther 5-10; For Such a Time as This

Esther and Mordecai

Esther and Mordecai (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every good story has a great plot twist.  The narrative of Queen Esther has one of the biggest plot twists imaginable.  Yesterday we read about Esther’s rise to the position of Queen and how Mordecai, a no name Jew living in the Capital of Persia is active in the saving the king, even though he is given no credit for it.  In fact, a plot is raised against Mordecai and the Jews because of his refusal to bow to a royal officer named Haman.  Mordecai urges Queen Esther to intervene on behalf of her people.  She had been raised to the throne, appointed by God for such a time as this.  Esther fasts and prayers and, even though it doesn’t expressly say it here, trusts God to be with her as she seeks an audience with the King, an audience that could get her killed.  However, by the grace and providence of God, she doesn’t and the King offers to grant any request, one that she will eventually make during a feast for the king the next day.

Haman thinks he has everything going for him.  He has the Jews on the ropes, and has a plan to see Mordecai hanged.  He even thinks he is getting honored by Queen Esther at the feast he will be going to.  Little does he know what is about to take place.  The plot twist though, comes at a rather unexpected time: the middle of a bad night’s sleep for King Xerxes.  This is really the first in a series of plot twists that sees Haman systematically brought from his prideful position to the point of being hung on the gallows he built.  In these events Mordecai is raised to the powerful position, a complete reversal of what was happening.  The Jews are given the authority to defend themselves against their enemies and even gain, through Mordecai, the second in command seat of the Persian Empire.  This is truly an act of God once again showing God’s providence for His people, even in a land that is not their own, far from Jerusalem and the Temple.

Haman Begging the Mercy of Esther, by Rembrandt

Haman Begging the Mercy of Esther, by Rembrandt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We can learn a lot from the narrative of Esther.  Clearly we can see that, though not named, God is faithfully providing for His people, continuing as He always has to uphold the covenant with them.  Also evident is the faith that is had by the Jews in this narrative, and the blessings that are bestowed upon those with faith.  Esther and Mordecai have both clearly set their face towards God, and God honors them because of it.  Yet I think that the most prominent thing that comes out of this narrative is the encouragement for stepping out in faith.  Many times I have encountered a situation that I am not comfortable with, one that I don’t necessarily think that I can do well in.  Whether it is interacting with a stranger or standing up for what I believe in, I often find it difficult to feel as though I can actually do certain things.

However, I don’t believe that I have ever actually faced death in any of these situations.  Indeed, I can’t imagine that an interaction with a friend in which I need to express my beliefs would result in any sort of physical harm for myself, and yet I still fear to do it.  Queen Esther is willing to risk her life for her people, to stand up to the powers that be in the face of a possible death sentence made on the whim of a King in a foul mood.  She is not deterred though.  Esther turns to God through fasting and prayer, and then doesn’t what she has been called to do, what she has been placed there to do.  She has been chosen for such a time as this to save the Jews from almost certain destruction.  I wonder… is there something that you have been chosen for?  Is there something that you need to do or someone that you need to talk to?  Have you been placed in a position to make a difference?  Do not fear!  Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will act!

Day 142: Esther 1-4; Esther the Hebrew Queen

Today we take a step backwards in history, to the time when some of the people of God are still in exile.  The particular dates of the book of Esther happen after the edict of Cyrus goes out allowing the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem, the first wave of people to return to Jerusalem.  The Persian king that is referenced here, Ahasuerus, is actually the Persian King Xerxes I, who reigned over much of the known world.  As we read, from India to Ethiopia.  That is a major chunk of the world today, and as you can see by the map here, a fairly major chunk of the known world back then as well.

The Persian Empire in the Time of Esther Photo Credit:

The Persian Empire in the Time of Esther
Photo Credit:

Though God is never explicitly mentioned in the entire book of Esther, we can very clearly see His hand at work in all of this, once again providentially providing for His people, even in their time of Exile.  The fact that Esther even has a chance to come before the King, much less become queen is indeed an act of God.  Generally speaking, the Hebrew people were despised by other nations.  Remember all the way back to Egypt, when the people had to live in another region of the land because they were Hebrews?  This is why Mordecai instructs her to keep her identity and ethnicity a secret.  So we see that king chooses her and appoints her queen, an act that can also be attributed to God.  As she rises to the throne though, she is not left to fend for herself.  With the help of Mordecai she is able to thwart the assassination attempt on Xerxes.

Xerxes I was a Zoroastrian Persian Shahanshah ...

Xerxes I was a Zoroastrian Persian Shahanshah (Emperor) of the Achaemenid Empire. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The true conflict of the narrative of Esther arises when we meet Haman, a new addition to the court of King Xerxes.  We read that Mordecai refuses to bow down or pay homage to Haman, which makes him angry.  This is a clear example of the Hebrew Mordecai remembering his identity as a chosen member of Israel.  Though he is far from his land, he clearly has not forgotten the God that he serves.  Mordecai’s actions make Haman furious though, leading to the plot to kill all of the Jews throughout the kingdom of Persia.  This is, as you can imagine, a potential disaster for the Hebrew people.  Yet God is so easily thwarted from His plans and promises to His chosen people and Mordecai points this out.  Esther has been chosen for such a time as this, appointed to a position where she can change the course of this evil plot…

Have you ever found yourself in a position like this?  I mean sure, you probably have been selected to be a king or queen, you might not be able to pass laws or issue decrees, but Have you ever found yourself in a position of influence where you can change things?  Correct injustices?  Speak on behalf of those with no voice?  In many ways, Queen Esther could be the face of the growing social justice movement that has become a major player in both Christian circles and in the political arena as well.  We, in the Western Church, find ourselves in some of the wealthiest, most prosperous conditions in the whole of the known universe.  We throw away things that people fight for on a daily basis in 3rd world countries.  I wonder what would happen in the church in America opened its eyes collectively to these issues?  We have resources upon resources.  We are called to reach out to the poor, the elderly, the sick, the lonely, and the lost.  We are called to be the voice of those who have none.  Perhaps we have been appointed to do this work in such a time as this.