The book of Esther has all the components for a great story, a heroine, a King, a ‘baddie’ and the faithful servant; good triumphs over evil. It is the story of five characters and banquets!! King Artaxerxes, is a powerful king of 127 provinces that stretched from India to Ethiopia, a dictator, what he said was instant law; Vashti is the Kings first wife who experiences the costs of saying ‘no’; Haman is the traditional baddie, the Jew hating descendant of Agag, King of the Amalekites, ancient enemies of the people of God, wrongly promoted to a high position whose arrogance and abuse of power is staggering. Then we have Mordecai, a Jew, an uncle who had taken in his niece when her parents died, a principled and righteous man who will only worship God, who stands alone for truth from beginning to end. Finally we have Esther, the orphan Jewess who married a gentile and became queen, who grows in stature and courage and matures into a woman of God. The book of Esther never mentions God and yet, as Matthew Henry says ‘If the name of God is not here, His finger certainly is’’.
The phrase ‘for such a time as this’ Esther 4 v 14 is one of my life defining phrases. We have a picture in the Vicarage kitchen that was a gift soon after we arrived; it says ‘perhaps this is the moment for which you were created’. It was a reassuring reminder at the start of a new season of ministry that we were in the right place, at the right time and that there was a Godly purpose in it all. Had we been given scriptures or prophetic words? Did anyone say to us ‘Thus says the Lord?’ No but as we traced events that had happened in the preceding months it had all led to us coming here. That is how it is with the Book of Esther – clearly traceable events that come together for a particular time and purpose; God at work in the lives of men and women then as He is today. The Sovereign accomplishment of Gods purposes through ordinary men and women prepared to stand and be counted, prepared to be obedient and prepared to risk everything and trust that God has it regardless of what circumstances might seek to persuade us.
I hope like me that in these studies you will be challenged about how we should live and communicate Gods truth in a post Christian society, whatever our role and position. It carries challenges about our character – how do we hold and carry responsibility whether that is in the workplace, the home or our community? It challenges our prejudices towards those who are not the same as us and our fears when our position is seemingly threatened by another. It challenges my emotions – how do I allow God to change my anger and pride? What happens when I lose self-control? It challenges my identity – wherein does my confidence and self-esteem lie? Do I trust God in desperate times? It also challenges whether I am prepared to speak up and speak out – what is God asking of me in these days? Niemoller said ‘First they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a communist. They came for the Jews and I did not speak up because I was not a Jew; 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 Catholics and I was a Protestant so I didn’t speak up then and then, they came for me and by that time there was no-one to speak up for anyone’.
As this comes after Thy Kingdom Come: a season when we have tried to ‘stand in the gap’ and pray for individuals and households within our parish, as we have prayed for leaders and nations, as we have called on God for His kingdom to come in our land, may we know as a result of studying this together Gods calling on our lives for ‘such a time as this’.
While the primary purpose of the book of Esther was to relate the dramatic origins of the feast of Purim, a greater theme shines through the story. The sovereignty and faithfulness of God permeate each scene. Nothing is truly coincidental, the book of Esther says to us. God’s sovereignty is best summarised in Mordecai’s exhortation to Esther: “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14.
When events seemed out of control to Esther and Mordecai, when the king dictated ruin for their people, when evil was poised to triumph . . . God was at work. He worked through their dark days (Esther was taken to the harem [2:1–16]), their faithful obedience (Esther risked her life before the king [5:1–3]), and their victories (Esther revealed Haman’s plot and the Jews’ destruction of their enemies [7–9]). This message is clear: God is sovereign even when life doesn’t make sense.
God is also the great Promise Keeper. Mordecai said to Esther: “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish” Esther 4:14. Mordecai’s words reflected his faith that God would honour His eternal covenant with Abraham and David.
Life can be hard. Difficult times happen, and pain cannot be avoided. When life doesn’t make sense, do you turn to God or away from Him? Let the book of Esther encourage you that God is always present. Jesus called us “friends” John 15:15, and the Spirit is our “Helper” 14:26. Trust and obey, as Esther did. And watch God silently weave all events for His glory . . . and for our good.
Notes for this Calling & Courage four-part series: with questions for personal reflection & life group sessions included, and a calling & courage spotify playlist to accompany this series in Esther! No obscure Hebrew included!