Did you finish reading chapter 7 and yesterday’s blog and breathe a sigh of relief? I sure did. But, let’s back up for a second… can you imagine the trepidation Esther must have felt as she prepared for the second night of feasting as she planned to reveal her identity and expose Haman? It had to be unbelievably scary. Can you then imagine the relief she must have felt at the king’s response? He believed her and he did something about it! Justice is served and Haman is put to death on the gallows he designed for Mordecai. Vengeance has been executed. The end. Right?
Except it’s not at all the end.
We pick the story up in chapter 8 with a follow-up to Haman’s demise. The king actually gives the house of Haman to Esther and she sets Mordecai over it. Irony at its holiest finest. But, there’s still an irrevocable decree giving people permission to kill Jews in all 127 provinces. Haman may be dead, but the remaining danger is real.
So, though Esther has already summoned incredible courage in approaching the king on behalf of her people, she must do it again:
“Then Esther again spoke to the king, falling at his feet, begging with tears to counter the evil of Haman the Agagite and revoke the plan that he had plotted against the Jews.” Esther 8:3
Yes, again she approaches King Xerxes, and hopes that he will again extend the golden scepter to her and hear another plea. And again, he does just that. This time Esther isn’t just inviting the king to dinner – she has a much more serious and much more personal request to make. She asks for her people to be spared. She continues to be the advocate God has ordained “for such a time as this.”
In God’s sovereignty, the king responds supportively and gives Esther and Mordecai free reign to do whatever they think can help, knowing that the original order cannot be revoked: “… go ahead now and write whatever you decide on behalf of the Jews; then seal it with the signet ring.” Esther 8:8 (The Message)
Mordecai is ready with a plan and he dictates a second order: “The king’s order authorized the Jews in every city to arm and defend themselves to the death, killing anyone who threatened them or their women and children, and confiscating for themselves anything owned by their enemies.” Esther 8:11 (The Message) With this new edict, Esther’s people are able to arm and defend themselves on the same day that Haman’s order called for an attack.
Just as Haman’s message was sent to all 127 provinces in the languages of the people who lived in them, Mordecai’s message is sent by courier to the whole nation. And then, incredibly, Mordecai is introduced to the city in his new position at the end of chapter 8. Celebration ensues, and rightly so! The Jewish nation has been given hope in the place of fear!
“Mordecai walked out of the king’s presence wearing a royal robe of violet and white, a huge gold crown, and a purple cape of fine linen. The city of Susa exploded with joy. For Jews it was all sunshine and laughter: they celebrated, they were honored. It was that way all over the country, in every province, every city when the king’s bulletin was posted: the Jews took to the streets in celebration, cheering, and feasting.” Esther 8:15-17 (The Message)
So, Hopers, what is there for us in this part of Esther’s story? Her courage is obvious in the telling of her story, but as I read it again to prepare for this post, I have been in awe at her persistence in the face of real danger. Not once, but twice she risks her life. Did you catch that? The second time, here in chapter 8, is what awes me. She has already asked a lot of King Xerxes, and he has already responded graciously, but she has to approach him again because her people are still in danger. So, she returns to the king, risking his wrath again, and then asks for more. Again, in God’s sovereignty, she (almost unbelievably!) wins the king’s favor and her request is granted. Her first approach exposed the problem, but this second request is what actually saves her people.
Recognizing her courage in coming to the king twice reminds me of how we are invited to interact with God. Are you fearful in approaching the King? Do you doubt His sovereignty in your life? Is it hard to believe that you can ask for “more”? While there are certainly parallels in Esther’s story and our own, it’s actually the differences that have struck me the most:
I never have to wait to be summoned – I have complete access to God’s throne at all times. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
I never have to wonder if I will find favor – in Jesus all things are yes. “For all the promises of God find their Yes in [Jesus].” 2 Corinthians 1:20
I never have to worry that I will ask too much, or too many times – God has already given me His Son. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32
What incredible promises God has made to us! What incredible realities He has provided for us! The kindness of our King is unmatched, but Esther’s story points our hearts to Him. Which is pretty incredible given that this book of the Bible doesn’t mention God by name at all. But His fingerprints are all over the story of Esther’s life and the story of the Jewish people.
I am so grateful that God sees me. Sees you. Knows our stories. And is using them to point us to Himself.