A Remarkable Woman: Esther

Esther is one of those women whose story in the Bible is brief and to the point, but just like all of the Bible, there is so much more than that meets the eye. From her respectful relationship with her cousin Mordecai to her bravery for her people even in the scariest of circumstances, she persevered through it all.

And I can’t even imagine the loneliness she felt throughout this years-long process. As a Jew in a pagan land who has been separated from for years from her only family. And yet in her story, we get no mention of loneliness at all. Maybe it’s simply not recorded or that her faith was just that strong. She knew that she was on a mission sent by God to save her people and that she was never truly alone.

Recap of Esther:

The book starts with a strong image of a very selfish and prideful king who ruled pretty much all of the ‘known’ world at the time. And so this king, Ahasuerus or Xerxes, held a party which lasted 180 days. Can you imagine a 180-day party? And so they all got drunk or “merry with wine” and asked His servants to bring Vashti, his wife, dressed with her royal crown so that he could show her off. That at first doesn’t sound too bad, just slightly annoying, but a lot of people agree that this meant just her crown, in front of the entire party. Which of course any self-respecting woman would adamantly deny.

So the king’s ‘wise men’ persuaded the king to banish her. Not merely because of her ‘disobedience,’ but because they didn’t want other women to hear of her refusal and then feel like they had the right to refuse what their husbands wanted them to do. Throughout this book, we can really see the godlessness of the Medo-Persian empire at this time. From the drunken partying to the subjugation of all women, we see how little they thought of God. But even in their sin, God was at work; without the drunken party there would be no banishing of Vashti; if there was no banishment of Vashti there would be no search for a new queen; if Esther had not been beautiful she would not have been chosen as queen. Even in the King’s objectification of women God was at work to protect his people.

And so the King sought out a new queen. He sent out men throughout his provinces to look for the most beautiful virgins and bring them to him. And so they took Esther from her home and took her to the palace so that she might make herself more beautiful with oils, spices, and perfumes. Which by the way, was a 1-year process. And so after this process, one by one they would ‘spend the night’ with the King and if he liked her he would call her by her name back into his chambers. And so when it was Esther’s turn she did exactly that and she was loved by the King. By God’s grace, she was loved by the king more than any of the other women and so he made her queen.

Now I don’t know about the feelings at the time, but can you imagine how awful this would be? If you were one of these beautiful women you were taken from your family, groomed for sex, and then forced to have sex with someone you’ve never met before in your life. And if he didn’t like you would be sent to where he kept all his sex slaves.

The story takes a different turn; we see that Mordecai foiled a plan to assassinate the king. He told Esther to warn her now husband and because of this, the King liked Esther more.

Now we get introduced to Haman, who is described as ‘the enemy of the Jews.’ He then, in turn, tricks the King into writing a decree that would get rid of the Jews throughout his empire. And so when they heard of this all of the Jews wept and put on sackcloth, including Mordecai. Esther tried to comfort Mordecai, but he would not accept.

I would like to do a little aside about the genealogy of Haman, who according to Esther chapter 3 is an Agagite. Who if you’re a big Bible scholar you might recognize the name Agag. We find Agag in 1 Samuel 15 who was the king of the Amalekites, a cruel and godless tribe. And for years they plundered the Israelites and killed their women and children. And so in 1 Samuel 15, God calls Saul to destroy the Amalekite people entirely, not even spare their cattle. But Saul sinned, and left the livestock alive and kept the king, Agag alive as well in 1028 BC. And then in 478 BC, we see that his family line is still torturing the Jewish people through Haman. Saul could have never known that his disobedience against God would trickle down through the next 500 years. I think this is a good lesson though, many of us know that we shouldn’t sin and that disobedience against God is bad. But do we think about the last circumstances of our rebellion against God? Because Saul didn’t. So I pray that we all take our sin seriously especially in these dark days.

And so Mordecai asks Esther to do something unimaginable. To go into the throne room of the King without being called; which is practically a death sentence during this time. But he reminds her of her Jewish heritage and the death sentence on them all. Even in this time, He stands firm on His God, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place…And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

So by God’s grace, she enters his throne room and finds favor in his sight. And then asks for Haman and the King to come to a special banquet with her that night. That night the King asks her again what she desires. She responds that she will ask Him the next day. After this banquet, Haman talks with his friends and wife with plans to kill Mordecai, who refused to worship him. So he builds gallows about 75 feet tall to hang Mordecai on.

That night by God’s grace the King could not sleep and so he had the book of records read to him. And again by God’s grace, they read the account of Mordecai saving the King from death. And the king asks, “what honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” Then by God’s grace again Haman was walking past the king’s chambers and so the king invited him in and asked, “What is to be done for the man whom the king desires to honor?” And in his pride, Haman thought the king was talking about himself. So he described a glorious reward full of over the top worship of the one who was being honored. And in the first instance of irony, the King tells Haman to do all of this for Mordecai the Jew, whom Haman hated.

And now we have the final banquet where Esther tells the King about the death of her people. The King then asks who this person is who decreed this and Esther says “A foe and an enemy is this wicked Haman!” And in the final case of irony the King command that Haman be hanged on the gallows that he built for Mordecai. And these gallows were built in the courtyard of Haman’s own house. So his wife and his children had to witness his crucifixion.

Esther then risked her life again to come in front of the King and implore him to save her people from death. And by God’s grace, she found favor with him again and He sent out a decree that the Jews be able to take up arms and defend themselves against anyone who might come to kill them. And so for 2 days, the Jews in the kingdom were killed all those who were their enemies. Because of God’s provision and ultimate salvation of His people Mordecai created a 2-day feast to celebrate. This feast is called Purim “because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday…” Esther 9:22

Though the word God is never mentioned in the book of Esther it is apparent that He was at work. His hand guiding Mordecai and Esther toward deliverance while also using the wicked King to protect the Jews. God’s sense of irony and humor is seen so clearly from the first to last chapter.

I love reading through this book and seeing how much one woman was used by God to save her people. I’m so excited to start this series of remarkable women with you all. It’s so encouraging seeing how God can really use His obedient children for His purposes.

What pain are you going through right now?

And are you trusting that God is using it for your good?

What are some ways that God has provided for you in times of trials?

What are you enduring right now ‘for such a time as this?’

Take a minute to look at your life right now. What are some ways that God could be using you for His glory and the building up of others? I think of Esther 4:14 when Mordecai is exhorting Esther to be brave and says “…And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” God has put you exactly where you are for such a time as this. And we know our time right now in the world is evil and wicked. “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16 I always used to say that I was born in the wrong era and that all I wanted to do was be in the 1940s with the beautiful style and fantastic music. But that’s not where God called me, He called me here to Lincoln, Nebraska in 2019 so that I would glorify Him. So wherever you are, make sure that you are giving your entire life to be used by the Lord, because that’s what really matters. “The truth is, you can’t do anything of lasting benefit on your own strength.” Charles Stanley

Redeemed by the King

signature (1)

 

Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash