Ordinary people ∙
If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this? – Esther 4:14
1 Some time later King Ahasuerus promoted Haman over all the other nobles, making him the most powerful official in the empire.
2 All the king’s officials would bow down before Haman to show him respect whenever he passed by, for so the king had commanded. But Mordecai refused to bow down or show him respect.
3 Then the palace officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why are you disobeying the king’s command?”
4 They spoke to him day after day, but still, he refused to comply with the order. So they spoke to Haman about this to see if he would tolerate Mordecai’s conduct since Mordecai had told them he was a Jew.
5 When Haman saw that Mordecai would not bow down or show him respect, he was filled with rage.
6 He had learned of Mordecai’s nationality, so he decided it was not enough to lay hands on Mordecai alone. Instead, he looked for a way to destroy all the Jews throughout the entire empire.
Anti-Semitism is defined as hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group. The term anti-Semitism was coined in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr to designate the anti-Jewish campaigns underway in central Europe at that time. Although the term is now widely used, it is a misnomer. It implies discrimination against all Semites. Arabs are also Semites, and yet they are not the targets of anti-Semitism (Encyclopedia Britannica).
Captain Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish French artillery officer. In 1894, he was falsely accused of espionage and treason, stripped of his rank, and sent to Devil’s Island. The case became known as the Dreyfus affair. It was one of the most controversial and polarizing political dramas in modern French history. It caused reverberations that were felt throughout Europe. After a global campaign to demonstrate both his innocence and rampant anti-Semitism, Dreyfus was ultimately exonerated, freed, and restored to his rank in the French military. But anti-Semitism is nothing new. Most everywhere the Jewish people have lived for the last 4000 years, it has raised its ugly head. And so it was an ancient Persian (modern-day Iran).
The book of Esther was written about 450 BC. The events in the book take place in Susa, the capital of the Persian Empire during the reign of King Xerxes, who was known as Ahasuerus in the book of Esther. The Jewish people of the southern kingdom of Judah were conquered by Babylon and taken into captivity. Babylon was in turn conquered by Persia. The Persians were very flexible and allowed many conquered foreigners to return to their lands. Many of the Jews had returned to Judah, but a large number stayed behind.
Esther and her cousin Mordecai were among those who remained in the Persian kingdom. They grew comfortable and felt safe. Of all things Esther became a contestant in a beauty pageant and won. She was crowned Miss Persia. She became the wife of Ahasuerus and the queen of Persia. At first, she must have been way outside of her comfort zone. But eventually, she felt safer than ever and fit right in. The fact that she was Jewish seems to have little impact on King Ahasuerus because she was so beautiful. Just like Natalie Portman, Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), or Madeleine Stowe in our day.
In one sense, the book of Esther is unique. It is the only book in the Bible that does not mention the name of God. Although the Father is not mentioned, His presence, faithfulness, and providence permeate the story. The Father was always working behind the scenes and setting the stage for what was going to happen. The Father had a unique and special task for Esther to carry out. Had she not been elevated to the position of Queen she could not have accomplished it.
For Mordecai and Esther, it was “the good old days.” But they were not to last. I had no idea that great darkness was at work in the kingdom of Persia.
An evil man named Haman was secretly plotting to destroy all of the Jews in Persia. Haman managed to shrewdly weave a web of seemingly insurmountable circumstances to entrap, capture, and annihilate all the Father’s Chosen People.
The Father often uses average people and everyday events to accomplish His eternal purpose. Esther and Mordecai were two ordinary people with extraordinary faith and trust in the Father. They placed their lives totally in the Father’s hands and trusted Him for the outcome. They risked everything to save Father’s Chosen People and themselves.
As the story unfolds, the Father is hidden but not hiding. He is the unseen, behind-the-scenes artist of the tapestry of events coming together. He is at work to accomplish His eternal plan. The Father is fulfilling His redemptive promises for His Chosen People. “Providence is God’s attention concentrated everywhere. His care is microscopic as well as telescopic” (Strong). “Kings may issue their unalterable decrees, but God overrules and accomplishes His purposes” (Wiersbe).
REFLECT & PRAY
The Father is everywhere present and actively at work. The challenge for us is to find where He is at work and respond in faith.
Father encourage me to stand up and complete the tasks You have graciously assigned to me with integrity and endurance.
The Father allows the evil villain to arise, knowing his end from the beginning. The Father sees what people cannot see. There would be no surprises for anyone, except of course for Haman. His invisible powerful Hand of Providence is at work in a faithful woman and a faithful man. Against overwhelming odds, way outside of their normal comfort zones, Mordecai and Esther rise to the occasion. When everything was at stake, they chose to stand up and trust the Father with the outcome. This was their time to shine. It was their moment in history.
Mordecai becomes aware of the plot. He must get word to Esther. He could not go to her directly. However, he could do so discreetly by making her aware that he was greatly troubled and grieving.
Esther 4:1 When Mordecai learned about all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on burlap and ashes, and went out into the city, crying with a loud and bitter wail.
His public display was seen by Esther’s servants. They came and told her what was going on. She sent one of her attendants on a fact-finding mission to find out what was troubling Mordecai. He returned to Esther with the shocking truth and Mordecai’s even more shocking request.
Mordecai wants her to approach the king uninvited, at risk of her life. If the king did not hold out his golden scepter, she would be doomed and forfeit her life (Esther 4:11). Mordecai solemnly warns her, if she did nothing she would not be spared. Anti-Semitism would reach even to the palace and she was in danger because she was Jewish. But the Father was faithful and had her back.
13 Mordecai sent this message to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed.
14 If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”
Wouldn’t be great to have someone who would encourage you like that? Undoubtedly fear raced through her heart, there was so much at risk. Remember it was the good old days, life was good, everything seemed normal in the palace. But she stepped way outside her comfort zone.
What did she not do? Esther did not tweet or go on Facebook and rant. Remember, if Satan cannot get us to do the wrong thing, he will try to get us to do the right thing in the wrong way. What did she do, she called a prayer meeting!
Esther 4:16 Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.
Wow! Not only was she in the right place at the right time, but she also had the right heart attitude and immediately responded in faith. If only we could all be just like that.
Haman’s evil law was in place. A bounty was offered for every Jew that would be exterminated. His twisted and perverted plan to eliminate all the Jewish people was ready. The trap was about to be sprung. The Jews were about to be destroyed. The stakes could not have been higher. Haman had already built special gallows to hang Mordecai, the focal point and source of his hatred for anything Jewish.
Would the Father prevail? Would the people of God be spared?
Esther boldly but politely went before King Ahasuerus. Ahasuerus lifted his scepter and welcomed her. Esther believed that the Father had her back and had developed a plan of her own. She invited King Ahasuerus and Haman to a banquet. Haman, totally clueless, thought he was going to be honored. Haman had no idea that Esther was Jewish, or that Mordecai was her cousin.
Esther exposed Haman’s evil plan and destructive goals. The king became outraged and commanded Haman to be hung immediately on the very gallows prepared for Mordecai. What a shocking reversal! The Jewish people of the land were spared. Sadly, hatred of the Jews did not end with Haman. It is with us to this day. Mordecai was promoted to become one of the king’s servants.
The Father’s unseen and unknown eternal plan was implemented. Yet in real-time, the Father heard the earnest prayers of the people and answered. They had prayed God’s will into existence. His will was being done on earth as it is in heaven. Who knew? The Father knew!
The Father is at work, He is at work all the time. He invites you to participate in His plan. The choice is yours. Maybe you also have come into His kingdom for such a time as this.