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 Sometime later, King Xerxes promoted Haman, son of Hammedatha the Agagite, 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 he still 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 of Xerxes.
7 So in the month of April, during the twelfth year of King Xerxes’ reign, lots were cast in Haman’s presence (the lots were called Purim) to determine the best day and month to take action. And the day selected was March 7, nearly a year later.
8 Then Haman approached King Xerxes and said, “There is a certain race of people scattered through all the provinces of your empire who keep themselves separate from everyone else. Their laws are different from those of any other people, and they refuse to obey the laws of the king. So it is not in the king’s interest to let them live.
9 If it pleases the king, issue a decree that they be destroyed, and I will give 10,000 large sacks of silver to the government administrators to be deposited in the royal treasury.”
10 The king agreed, confirming his decision by removing his signet ring from his finger and giving it to Haman, son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews.
11 The king said, “The money and the people are both yours to do with as you see fit.”
“First they came …” is the poetic form of post-war confessional prose by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). It is about the cowardice of German intellectuals and some clergy, including, by his own, said admission, Niemöller himself. They did not make a stand following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent incremental purging of their chosen targets, group after group.
“First, they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Niemöller became an outspoken critic of Hitler. In 1937 he was arrested and eventually confined in Sachsenhausen and Dachau. He was released in 1945 by the Allies.
These few lines of prose have come to be called “the bystanders’ credo.”
Bystanders are those who are not the target of persecution and are wrong to stand by and do nothing. Instead, they should stand tall and stand up even for persecuted people, even when they disagree with their views. It is the right and courageous thing to do.
REFLECT & PRAY
“If we fear God, we will not be afraid of any man” (Stanley).
Father, prepare me to do all I can to stand firm and then stand firm.
The book of Esther is the only book in the entire Bible that does not mention the name of God. Yet the Father is continually at work arranging situations and circumstances behind the scenes that cause His perfect will to be done. The Book of Esther is filled with irony, cliffhangers, unexpected turns and reversals, and ultimately the deliverance of the main characters and the preservation of the Jewish nation.
There have been many times in history when the nation of Israel has been threatened with genocide. So it was in the fifth century B.C. Persia. A decree had been issued to exterminate all Jews and confiscate all of their belongings and property. The book of Esther describes how this crisis was averted due to the bravery of Esther, the wisdom of Mordecai, and the unity of the Jewish people.
“If anyone ever had reason to fudge on what he knew was right, it was Mordecai. Mordecai had a choice: either bow before a powerful Persian official or lose his life. Mordecai stood strong, however, and refused to disobey God’s commandment against bowing in worship to anyone but Him (Exodus 20:3)” (Stanley).
There are always evil, wicked individuals in the world who, for one reason or another, wish to humiliate, harm, or decimate others. In the story of Esther, pride, anger, and greed were the motives. Mordecai worshiped the Father alone and refused to bow to anyone but Him. People who are associated with the Father, the living God, are repeatedly the target. They are often singled out and harassed because of their allegiance to Him and Him alone.
One of the great lessons of the book of Esther is how to live in a hostile world. In 2006, the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Dr. Jonathan Sacks, delivered a lecture entitled “Living as a biblical people in a secular age.” He provided a model which any child of the King can follow in our post-Christian world. Dr. Sacks emphasized: “the importance of rest, learning, community, trust in times of insecurity and uncertainty, and maintaining a sense of destination (our part in the eternal narrative)” (Debra Reid).
This ancient story is relevant for all children of the King in the coming days.
12 Nation will go to war against nation and kingdom against kingdom.
11 There will be great earthquakes, and there will be famines and plagues in many lands, and there will be terrifying things and great miraculous signs from heaven.
12 But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors, for My name’s sake.
13 But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.
14 So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you,
15 for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you!
16 Even those closest to you – your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends – will betray you. They will even kill some of you.
17 and you will be hated by all because of My name.
It is well worth your time to read the story of Esther in one sitting. The Father is always at work. He is the unseen God who is orchestrating all things. It is easy to forget this when we are caught up in the maelstrom of our personal difficulties and fears. It inspires and challenges us and provides hope and a firm foundation upon which we can base our lives.
1 Samuel 2:30 I will honor those who honor me.
© Dr. H 2023