As we soar from the ten-thousand foot view of Esther, zooming in on chapters 3 and 4 today, we see God’s chosen people, the Israelites, dispersed throughout the Near East. Some have returned to their destroyed city of Jerusalem and some, like Esther and Mordecai, still live under enemy rule; Babylon had fallen to Persia, currently being ruled by King Xerxes.
Strangely similar to her predecessors in the book of Daniel, God had given Esther favor in the court of the enemy King. The king’s right hand man, Mordecai, however, did not view Esther’s people in the same favor. We know from earlier narratives in the Old Testament that Mordecai and Haman came from a long line of enemy nations, Haman being a descendant of the Amalekites. King Saul over Israel defeated King Agag over the Amalekites back in 1 Samuel 15, and Haman’s anti-Semitic sentiments set the potential tragedy in motion. Haman’s pride is hurt when Mordecai refuses to bow to him at the king’s gate. Haman is filled with fury, discontent to seek revenge from Mordecai alone and begins his plot of genocide.
Seeing already from King Xerxes lavish parties and hot temper in chapters one and two, we now see Haman leverage his knowledge of the king’s protection of his pride and enjoyment of his wealth to get his edict into place. He uses vague and untrue accusations against the Jews living throughout the kingdom, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them,” Esther 3:8-9.
Xerxes takes the bait and gives his signet ring to Haman, “the enemy of the Jews.” While the two raise a glass to their newly signed death decree, the city outside is thrown into confusion.
Mordecai laments, tears his clothes, and wears sackcloth and ashes. He cries loudly in the middle of the city, joined by a great mourning among the Jewish family in every province over which the king presided. And now comes the quandary of the young Queen: what to do between facing a communal death sentence over her entire people or a personal death sentence for appealing to the king? Die if you do, die if you don’t.
Mordecai counters her dilemma without comfort: “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:12-14
And the resplendent queen’s mind is made up.
What is revealed about ageless God in this plot – thicker than Shakespeare? We believe the Word of God to be living and active, yes? (says Hebrews 4;12, yes we do!) What does this anonymous author intend for God’s people, then and today, to see of Him?
- He will complete His purposes regardless if nations and authorities bow their knee to Him or not. We see Him preserve His covenant throughout enemy reign. In fact, though its been yours and my only experience living mostly under a national rule of freedom to worship, I might argue that is historically unique instead of expected.
“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will.” Proverbs 21:1
“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers make counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed… He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” Psalm 2:1-2, 4
- He sovereignly sets position for His glory at His chosen time and place… While God is not explicitly spoken of in this rare story, we know Who is the giver of Esther’s crown. He is the author of history, and He is the author of me and you. His is to establish or tear down at His sovereign choice.
- …ours is to obey or disobey. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. While we see beacons of hope in stories of God’s preservation like Esther’s harrowing finish (come back for the rest of the week!) to her story, like the bizarre appearance of Christ in the blazing furnace with Sharach, Meschach, and Abednego, ours is not the end to tell, but the call to obey. Esther considered her life not her own. Her three predecessors said the same:
- His outcome is secure. Mordecai believed the promises of God to keep His people. He knew deliverance would come from some form, whether or not Esther chose to participate. Her response? Desperately seek the face of God collectively from her people through a fast before she acted. Oh God, how I hope I follow in turn. Not acting hastily as though my actions should get ahead of God’s leading, neither shying away in fear when He has clearly led. Mordecai’s certainty of God’s deliverance undoubtedly nudged Esther from potentially attempting to bow out of action, and his certainty became hers. Let God’s certain outcome become our certainty as well, dear friends.
Whether Esther sat on the throne hundreds of years before the birth of Christ or you sit as queen of your own smaller domain, know that you are purposed by God who is high over our earthly matters, ordained precisely for this date and time, for His influence through you. Though we may lose all in this life, we will be on the winning side for all of eternity.