The Faith of Esther

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, April 15, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

In the movie Open Range, which came out about 15 years ago, Kevin Costner’s character gives us one of those “mic drop” quotes before he walks away from a bar conversation. In the discussion, a group of men are talking about the great injustice that is happening in their town. Costner’s character, Charley Waite, mentions that they could do something about it and a father stands up and says he doesn’t want his sons getting involved because they could be shot and killed. Charley then stands up and says, “You may not know this, but there are things that gnaw on a man worse than dying." He walks away leaving this group of men to think about whether the present issue is one that matters enough to them to be willing to die for it.

We all have things and people we think we’d be willing to die for, but we wouldn’t really know for sure until the moment presented itself. As you think about your life now, is there an injustice in the world for which you’d be willing to give it up? Is there a cause that matters enough to you? Does the will of God matter enough to you? We know that the will of God to make the necessary sacrifice on our behalf to cover our sins mattered enough to Jesus to go through with it even though he knew the suffering and was even tempted to give it up (Matthew 26:39). But there were many people even before Jesus who were willing to give up their lives for God’s will if necessary.

The book of Esther tells us the story of one such person. The title character rose to prominence from humble beginnings during a very difficult time for not only herself but also the entire nation of Israel. She would fit the description of faithful heroes in Hebrews 11:34 “whose weakness was turned to strength." Her “weakness” was not something she was born with. Rather, the difficult circumstances that God allowed in her life led her to a point that would break absolutely anyone. Esther 2:5-7 tells us about it. As you may recall from the posts about Daniel and his friends, all of the Israelites were either killed or captured when King Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army invaded and overtook Jerusalem. The events of Esther take place well after that, as King Xerxes of the Persians is now the authority, but the Jews are still in captivity. We learn that Esther was originally named Hadassah, but like Daniel and his friends she was given a pagan name in the pagan place. She has been raised by her cousin, Mordecai, who had been carried off in exile, because both of her parents have died. The verses don’t tell us for certain, but it’s very likely that her parents were among those murdered by the Babylonians. On top of all that, Esther is a stunningly beautiful young woman, which wouldn’t have necessarily been a blessing given that she is around evil, immoral men with no one really to protect her.

King Xerxes was a very foolish man who literally banished his previous queen from his presence just because she refused to parade herself immodestly in front of him and his drunk friends (Esther 1). Several years later, he and his attendants come up with this plan to find a new queen. Basically, they will round up the most beautiful virgins from all over the Persian empire and have them each come to the king and spend one night with him after they’ve had many months of beauty treatments. And just in case it isn’t already apparent to you, those poor girls didn’t spend that night watching movies and eating chocolate, and they didn’t have the option to say “no” to anything that happened. Their purpose was only to please the king as best they could. This is what we call “rape." They could dress it up and make it seem like a privilege for the girl and do whatever else they want to make it seem normal in their culture, but do not ignore the evil that existed and the fact that it was commonplace in this immoral kingdom.

I also want to point out that it’s not like the king suddenly decided to start forcing women to sleep with him. He already had a harem of women that he could call on whenever he wanted. Like everyone, however, the king started getting bored with his sin and had to take it to the next level. After everything else that has happened in Esther’s life, now she is taken from the one family member who she had left and forced to live in the king’s harem until it was her turn to go and try to please him. Yet, her life is an example to all of us that even the evil deeds of human beings can be used by God to bring about his will. He doesn’t cause it or approve of it, but he does show his dominion over sin by using it to accomplish his purposes.

As the story goes on, Esther is picked out of what scholars believe was about 400 women and is chosen to be the next queen. Esther 2:17 reminds us that it wasn’t even about love, but that the king was “attracted” to her more than any other women. Later in Esther 3, we read about the plot of a man named Haman, who had been elevated to the king’s second in command. He wants everyone to kneel down and pay him honor in accordance with the king’s order, but Mordecai boldly refuses since doing so would be a sin against God. He seems to be following in the footsteps of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Mordecai doesn’t lead a riot. In fact, he had exposed a plot to assassinate the king earlier. He is willing to submit even when he disagrees or doesn’t like the king’s decisions, but the stopping point is when obedience to the king requires disobedience to God. Haman decides he is not just going to kill Mordecai, but ALL of the Jews (Esther 3:6-15). The king gives the edict and the plans are set in place.

Up to this point, Esther has not revealed her true nationality to the king or to anyone else. She has been waiting for the right time and Mordecai sends word to her in Esther 4:8 that basically, it’s now or never. It was time for her to reveal her ethnicity and her people to the king and beg him for mercy. Initially, she responds out of fear and says that if she approaches the king without being summoned, he can have her killed. She also adds that it has been thirty days since she has even seen the king (4:11). As a side note, this shows us that even being queen wasn’t a great life. She had no closeness with her husband and had no right to see him unless HE wanted it. If he went thirty days without even caring to see her, I highly doubt fidelity was part of the equation. After her fearful response, Mordecai reminds her that she is not likely to escape the edict to kill all Jews just because she is a queen, pointing out that she has nothing really to lose by asking the king for mercy. He then shows great faith and tells her that God is going to deliver HIS people one way or another, so she can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. He declares that this critical time might be the whole reason God has allowed her to come to the position of queen! (4:12-14)

In the end, Esther showed her great faith. She may have needed a little motivation from someone who had more faith when she was struggling, but that’s true for all of us. When she agreed to go to the king and put her trust in the Lord, she told Mordecai, “If I perish, I perish” (4:16). Esther and Mordecai were both willing to give up their very lives for the cause of standing up for God’s people, and they trusted that whatever happened would be the Lord’s will. You can read the rest of the story to see how God thwarts the plans of the wicked and saves his people through the strength and faith of Esther, who literally put her life on the line. God’s name is never mentioned in the book of Esther, but he is working behind the scenes throughout it. The same is true in your life. You may feel like he has allowed so much tragedy, abuse, and brokenness in your life. You may feel like he has weakened you. But if you trust him and live in that faith, you’ll see and know that he is still at work to use everything that has been done to bring his plan to fruition. God is always in control!

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