*Bridget and her family are unplugging for a few weeks while they do some training, so your Hopers are rotating through to write in her absence. Today, Eve (our regular Saturday Hoper) is wrapping up our week on Esther.
Have you ever been surprised by the direction your life has taken at a specific crossroads? I certainly have. Transferring to a new college halfway through my degree. Meeting my husband. The unexpected death of a friend. A fulfilling job. A failed pregnancy. Financial provision. For better or worse, each of those scenarios has surprised me in some way. Regardless of how they happened or how they ended, in the beginning, they were just unknowns.
Esther’s story is full of unknowns! For most of the story we’re told, she is in the dark, not knowing how things will happen or how they will end. So though it’s easy to read the whole story now and see God’s sovereignty, I wonder how hard it was to live in the story and keep trusting?
In Esther 9, this brave Jewish queen, along with her people, face yet another unknown… An edict designed for their rescue has miraculously been issued, but the one that called for their annihilation is still in play, too.
Matthew Henry describes the tension of these two royal edicts well:
“…one bearing date the thirteenth day of the first month. …another…empowering the Jews, on the day appointed for their slaughter, to draw the sword in their own defence and make their part good against their enemies as well as they could. Great expectation there was, no doubt, of this day, and the issue of it. …The Jews’ cause was to be tried by battle and the day was fixed for the combat by authority. Their enemies resolved not to lose the advantages given them by the first edict, in hope to overpower them by numbers; the Jews relied on the goodness of their God and the justice of their cause, and resolved to make their utmost efforts against their enemies.”
Charles Spurgeon said, “God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.” I’ve always loved this quote and I firmly believe it to be true, but in the midst of huge unknowns, trusting a heart when you cannot trace the hand is easier said than done. Yet, that’s exactly what the Jewish people had to do. And yet again God prove Himself to be the faithful, covenant-keeping God He promised them He would be.
Chapter 9 begins by telling us that on, “… the very day that the enemies of the Jews had planned to overpower them. …the tables were now turned: the Jews overpowered those who hated them!” Esther 9:1 (The Message)
Almost unbelievable, but true! How did it happen?
“The Jews had gathered in the cities throughout King Xerxes’ provinces to lay hands on those who were seeking their ruin. Not one man was able to stand up against them—fear made cowards of them all. What’s more, all the government officials, satraps, governors—everyone who worked for the king—actually helped the Jews because of Mordecai; they were afraid of him. Mordecai by now was a power in the palace. As Mordecai became more and more powerful, his reputation had grown in all the provinces. So the Jews finished off all their enemies with the sword, slaughtering them right and left, and did as they pleased to those who hated them.” Esther 9:2-5 (The Message)
Not only did the Jewish people end up having a royal edict on their side, they also had the help of “all the government officials, satraps, governors, and everyone who worked for the king!” It turns out God’s sovereignty in having Mordecai appointed in Haman’s place (still the biggest twist of irony, right?) was about more than Mordecai’s personal vindication. His rise to prominence with the king actually laid the groundwork for the Jewish people to be saved on the day of their supposed demise!
At the end of the day, 500 men and the ten sons of Haman have been killed in Susa (the capital city), and 75,000 men nation-wide. And this time, the king approaches Queen Esther to ask her if she has any further requests.
“’If it please the king,’ Queen Esther responded, ‘give the Jews of Susa permission to extend the terms of the order another day. And have the bodies of Haman’s ten sons hanged in public display on the gallows.’” Esther 9:13 (The Message)
The king honors her request and another 300 enemies of the Jews are killed in Susa while the deaths of Haman’s sons are made very public.
The actual end of the nightmare Haman created has finally come! The oppressed people have become the victors. They were not only rescued from death, they were empowered to take out their enemies for good. Can you imagine the relief? Verses 18 and 19 tell us that when it was all over, the Jews rested and made a day of feasting and gladness. And then Mordecai instituted the date as a Jewish holiday, Purim, that is still celebrated today!
A hotheaded king.
His fed-up queen.
A beautiful Jewish girl.
Her wise cousin.
An evil man.
A brave request.
A gracious response.
A heartfelt plea.
Victory over the enemy.
Fasting to feasting. Oppressed to empowered. Tragedy to triumph. All because of a sovereign God, whose heart could be trusted even when His hand could not be traced.
This, my friends, is the story of the book of Esther. The big, beautiful story of Esther.
*If you’ve enjoyed unpacking Esther’s story this week, you have to download and read John Piper’s narrative poem, Esther. You’re going to love it!