The little-read book of Esther is a fascinatingly up-to-date account of a woman whom God used at a very crucial time for the preservation and blessing of His earthly people Israel. Her ways are an example for us, although she lived at a time and place quite different from what we know. The Setting Esther lived in the heyday of the Persian Empire. God was no longer using His earthly people, Israel, to demonstrate what it meant to be “a holy people ... a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth” (Dt. 7:6 NKJV). Just as the prophet Hosea had announced, He had set them aside for the time being. Their enemies were now in the seat of power.
God does not allow His name or the word “prayer” to be mentioned openly in this book, yet He works providentially and miraculously for the good of His people – “the apple of His eye.”
Chapter 1 begins in the court of Persia. Queen Vashti refuses to obey her husband’s summons to come to his drinking party to show her beauty to the assembled officials and people. Consequently, she is set aside – never to come into the king’s presence again! This was done according to their law. We note the description of the décor of the palace grounds, the free drinking of wine at the banquets, the emphasis on the proper legal way of doing things that are not pleasing to God and the dreadful beginning of a women’s liberation movement. As we go on in the book we find repeated mention of feminine beauty, talent and immorality. Man’s heart hasn’t changed in all these years. The book of Esther is strikingly contemporary!
The Contest To Become Queen
We are next introduced to Hadassah, a Jewish orphan girl whom we know better as Esther – a beautiful young virgin. She was raised by a relative, Mordecai, as his own daughter. Living in this almost modern world, she and many other young women were taken to the palace of the king who was looking for a new wife. Having been drafted into this contest, these beautiful young women were provided with perfumes, cosmetics and whatever other beauty preparations they desired to take with them when they went to spend their night with the king. He would personally select the winner from among the contestants – she would become queen. The other young women would receive as a consolation prize the privilege of lifelong membership and maintenance in the royal harem.
We are not told that Esther aspired to the honor of becoming queen. She “was taken” to the king’s palace, quickly obtained favor with the official in charge, submitted to all the required preparations and asked for nothing but what he advised. Indeed, “Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her” (Est. 2:8-9,15). We would say today that she cheerfully submitted to what was required and her personality and attitude were a good testimony to all with whom she came in contact. She did not push herself forward to try to win at any cost, but remained in humble, loyal association with Mordecai who had adopted her.
Well over a century and a half earlier God had told the prophet Jeremiah’s friend and secretary, Baruch, “‘Do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,’ says the LORD” (Jer. 45:5). This is still excellent advice for believers, both women and men, today. Our hope as Christians is higher than a mere position or place in this world. Our citizenship is a heavenly one and our life is hidden with Christ in God.
Relationship With Her Benefactor
Esther did not allow her new position to go to her head. She maintained her close ties with Mordecai and reported the plot against the king which he had discovered. Her position as wife of the king did not allow her to speak to Mordecai directly, but only through her servant, a eunuch. Esther was open to Mordecai’s counsel, and at his urging she was willing to risk her life in an attempt to save her people. Her high position did not diminish her love and respect for her benefactor.
Her Life On The Line
Haman the Agagite (Agag was the title of the kings of Amalek, a long-standing enemy of Israel and Israel’s God ? Ex. 17:16; Dt. 25:19) had become prime minister of Persia. The king had ordered all his servants to bow down before this official. Because Mordecai would not bow down to him, Haman had secured the king’s consent to command that all the Jews, Mordecai’s people, be killed. Mordecai sent word to Esther about this threat and asked her to go in to the king and plead with him for her people. Esther let him know that to go into the king’s presence without being summoned by him meant death to the person, unless the king held out his golden scepter to his subject. She had not been called to go to the king for the past thirty days. When Mordecai told her that perhaps God had called her to the kingdom for this very purpose, she agreed to put her life on the line and venture into the presence of the king. She asked Mordecai to ask the Jews in Shushan to fast for her while she and her maids did the same. She would willingly risk her life for her people.
Esther acted with wisdom and did not simply blurt out her purpose for venturing into the king’s presence. How important it is for us to pray – seeking wisdom and discretion from God for any matter of service to Him and His people! He “is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or think” – and so He did in this dire situation. God used Esther’s faith, patience and artfulness to completely frustrate Haman’s wicked purpose and to save Esther and her people. He is a great God who loves to show what He can do in answer to faith and dependence.
Gratefulness And Further Activity
Esther’s work was not completed with the execution of Haman. She told the king how Mordecai, who had saved the king’s life, was related to her. The king made him, the man whom he delighted to honor and in whom we can see one of the many pictures of our Lord in the Old Testament, prime minister in place of Haman. Since royal edicts could not be revoked, with the king’s full permission a new decree was made, sealed with the king’s ring and sent through the entire realm, authorizing the Jews to defend themselves against their enemies and even to seize their property. Esther did not rest until she did what was necessary to save the lives of her people.
When all had been successfully accomplished Esther joined with Mordecai in commanding their people, the Jews, to institute a new feast – the feast of Purim. While active in doing good, she did not work independently, but in happy fellowship with Mordecai. In full harmony together they sent a letter to their fellow Jews to confirm this feast of Purim.
There are feasts that God has commanded His people, but there are other occasions too when God’s people can join together in grateful remembrance of the great things He has done and still does for them. Sisters can certainly work together with brothers to remind their fellow believers to be thankful to the Lord for the great things He does for His people. It is a wonderful privilege that we have even today – to be able to encourage the Lord’s people to thankfully celebrate His goodness to them!
By Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.
Not long ago a pagan woman was converted chiefly by hearing the Word of God read. But, she then suffered much persecution from her husband. One day a missionary asked her, “When your husband is angry and persecutes you, what do you do?”“Well, sir, I cook his food better; when he complains, I sweep the floor cleaner; and when he speaks unkindly, I answer him mildly. I try to show him that when I became a Christian I became a better wife and a better mother.”
The result of this was that, while the husband could withstand all the preaching of the missionary, he could not stand against the practical preaching of His wife. He gave his heart to God!
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org