Grab your Bibles and let’s dive into the life and testimony of Esther.
Esther, the Jewish queen of Persia, rose from humble beginnings to become the deliverer of her people from certain death during the reign of King Ahasuerus. To save the Jews living in Persia while many of the children of Jacob were still living outside the Promised Land even after the exile, she had to overcome her fear of what might happen to her own life. But, to overcome her fear, she had to be convinced to trust in the Lord’s invisible hand of providence and the truth that His people are always under His watchful eye even when they must risk everything for Him (consider Matthew 10:29–31).
We read the story of Esther in the book that bears her name.
Esther 1 gives us the story of a grand banquet that the king of Persia held. In the midst of the celebration, the king decided to call forth his beautiful queen, Vashti, to come and dance before his friends at the feast. When Vashti refused, King Ahasuerus banished her from the court.
In Esther 2, we learn that after Vashti was sent away, the king embarked on a search for a new queen. After searching high and low in his realm, the King’s advisors found a Jewess named Hadassah, who was being raised under the name Esther by her cousin, Mordecai. After many months of preparation, Esther won the king’s favor and became queen.
Esther 3 describes the plot of Haman, one of the king’s important advisors, to annihilate the Jews in Persia because of Mordecai’s refusal to bow to Haman. He bribed the king with a huge gift of money to be given permission to send the summons to have the Jews wiped out. The king took him up on his offer and the order was sent out. Truly, this was a key turning point in the history of redemption. If Haman had succeeded, the Jews would have been wiped out, and there would have been no Messiah and no salvation for the world. So, what happened next was critical for the Jewish people.
Mordecai, and the Jews in the area, went into great mourning that led to Mordecai’s plea to Esther to intervene on her people’s behalf. Fearing for her own life, Esther initially refused. But Mordecai warned her that if she did not involve herself, the Jews would be rescued by the hand of another. However, Esther herself would not escape death if she thought she could preserve her own life by doing nothing. Upon hearing this, Esther vowed to go before the king, even upon threat of death. Her courage was even more remarkable when we consider that the name of God is not mentioned even one time in the book of Esther. Surely, God’s hand of providence is working in ways that are not always immediately discernible to us. Esther trusted this providence even when she had no idea how things would turn out for her.
This is often true for us as well. God’s hand of providence remains hidden from us, and we do not know how things will turn out before they actually occur. Still, we must trust the Lord and do what honors Him even if it will cost us greatly. Why? Because we trust in God and we obey His commands. We need to do this, especially when what is ahead of us is out of sight for us. To do it our own way is to deny the sovereign hand and wisdom of God and to be so arrogant as to pursue our own wise ways even though the future is unknown to us. It is during these times that we must remember that God is ever working for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28); we must trust Him and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).
The Lord Accomplishes His Will Despite His People’s Sin
Yahweh never covenanted to destroy His people Israel completely, even if they were unfaithful. Esther expands on this, showing us that He may freely use even the questionable motives of His people to save them. Esther and Mordecai were compromising figures, and yet God made use of the positions they obtained by dubious means to rescue His people in Persia. Sin is never praiseworthy, but our transgression cannot bind the Lord’s hand.
King Ahasuerus’ reign was viewed as lavish and extensive, but, ironically, this king who was sovereign over the most powerful world empire in his day could not even get his own wife Vashti to follow his wishes. He was the ruler of the known world, but he could not even rule his own house!
The Pride of Man’s Flesh is His Demise
Thinking Ahasuerus wanted to honor him, Haman suggested a fitting way to exalt himself. Yet Haman ended up honoring the one he detested. Our plans are so inferior to God’s. While we may think we have it all together we must realize who truly rules all things.
Throughout the history of mankind, human rulers and governments have often considered themselves infallible, sovereign, and omnipotent, and, therefore, worthy of undue honor. The book of Esther is a display of the faultiness of this delusion.
Esther 8:2 The king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.
Clearly, the author of Esther wants us to understand that God is invisibly, but sovereignly, present in the events he recorded in his citation of the ancestry of Haman and Mordecai. Haman was an Agagite, a descendant of Agag, the ruler of the Amalekites during Saul’s reign. The Amalekites were the first to attack Israel after the exodus, and God pledged to destroy Amalek and his offspring because of their evil. In his day, God commanded Saul to finish wiping out the Amalekites, but he disobeyed the Lord and preserved Agag alive for a time. Thus, God rejected him as king over Israel.
Like Saul, Mordecai was a Benjaminite with an ancestor named Kish. When reading Esther, the exiled Jew would have readily recalled God’s promise to destroy the Amalekite enemies of His people and Saul’s failure to be the instrument of destruction. Recall that Esther, Mordecai, and the other Israelites lived in Persia because they failed to keep the Mosaic covenant. Since the Lord’s chosen people did not obey God, they naturally wondered if He would keep His pledge to destroy their enemies.
The book of Esther shows, again, that God keeps His word even when His people do not. Even in the exile, our Father sovereignly orchestrated history to give His people a second chance to destroy their foes. Saul failed, but another Benjaminite named Mordecai, with the help of his cousin Esther, accomplished God’s purpose against Agag and the Amalekites.
God was in the details of all of these events working His ultimate will. When we look back over our lives, we often find that the Lord was at work in those times when we thought He was absent. During the times when we suffer from doubts about God’s love and faithfulness, we should not focus on whether or not we “feel” His presence. The Lord may not be revealing Himself, but He is there.
In Esther 7, Haman is hanged on the gallows he intended for Mordecai, and in chapter 8, Esther is given the house of Haman.
Esther 8:2 And the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.
What an amazing turn of events!
In Esther 8:3-8, the order to wipe out the Jews was reversed.
In Esther 8:16-17, it says, “The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor. And in every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his edict reached, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them.”
Esther 9:16 Now the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also gathered to defend their lives, and got relief from their enemies and killed 75,000 of those who hated them, but they laid no hands on the plunder.
Esther 10 King Ahasuerus imposed tax on the land and on the coastlands of the sea. And all the acts of his power and might, and the full account of the high honor of Mordecai, to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia? For Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Ahasuerus, and he was great among the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brothers, for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people.
By His grace and for His glory,
Pastor Joshua Kirstine