Friday, October 3, 2014

For Such a Time As This

The majority of the people of the Bible who are taught to children as heroes are men.  However, there are many women throughout Scripture that God has used in many ways.  Esther was one of the bravest women in the entire Bible (in my opinion, anyway).  

           She was a Jewish girl who had been exiled to Persia with her cousin, Mordecai, who was raising her.  After Xerxes, the King of Persia, banished his wife, Queen Vashti, because of her disobedience to his orders, he went on a search for a new queen.  Esther was among many young women gathered to “audition” for the position of Queen of Persia.  Of all of the ladies, King Xerxes found Esther to be the lovliest and chose her to be his queen. Mordecai instructed Esther to keep her nationality a secret.

            King Xerxes had a royal official, Haman, who was the most powerful official in the empire.  Everyone was to bow down to Haman when he passed by, but Mordecai refused to.  Haman was filled with rage, and when he found out that Mordecai was a Jew, he went to King Xerxes and asked to issue an royal decree to destroy all of the Jews living in the empire.  And so it was to be done nearly a year later.    The king agreed to the complete annihilation of the Jews.  The decree was issued all across the empire.  When the king issues a decree, it is irrevocable.  When Mordecai found out about what was going to happen, he tore his clothes, covered himself with ashes and mourned.  When Esther sent her attendant to find out what was wrong, he told her of the plan, and requested that she go before the king and beg for mercy and plead for her people. 

However, the problem with that plan was that anyone who entered the king’s inner court without being summoned would die, unless he held out his gold scepter.  Mordecai was asking Esther to risk her life in order to save the Jews.  The king had not called for Esther for a month, so she was not confident that she would be welcomed by him.  Mordecai begged Esther again, telling her, “Don’t think for a moment that because you are in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed.  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 would die.  Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)  Esther fasted, along with her servents and all of the Jews of Susa.  After three days, Esther dressed in her royal robes and bravely entered the king’s inner courts without being summoned, risking her own life to save a nation.  Fortunately, the king was pleased to see his queen and held out his scepter to her.  He offered her anything she wanted, up to half the entire kingdom.   After requesting two banquets with King Xerxes and Haman, Esther exposed Haman, revealed her nationality, and begged the king to save her people.  Filled with anger, King Xerxes had Haman executed on the gallows that he (Haman) had built to have Mordecai killed on.  Since a decree issued by the king can not be revoked, a new decree was issued to the Jews giving them the authority to unite and defend themselves against anyone out to destroy them.  The enemies of the Jews thought they would over power them, but they did not. The Jews were victorious over their enemies.

Esther was a girl of humble beginnings; a simple Jewish girl.  She was not royalty by blood, but she was chosen from among many young women to become the Queen of Persia. Because of her courage, the Jews were rescued from complete annihilation and the blood line of Jesus was saved. 

That is an abridged version of the story of Esther. It is not a long book, and I encourage you to read it all if you have not yet; it is full of intrigue, drama, and suspense.   But here are three lessons that I have taken from this story: 

1.      Growing up in the church, this was not a Bible story that was ever taught at VBS, and it was not taught to us in Bible class to the same extent as the stories of David, Joseph, Joshua, and Samson (who, by the way was NOT a hero at all).  When we skip over incredible stories like these, we do a great disservice to not only our young girls who desperately need a brave, strong woman to look up to, but also, we do not allow our boys to see girls as people who are capable of being strong.  Being the “weaker vessel” does not make the woman completely weak.  Girls and boys need to know this.  Girls need to know how to be strong with beauty and grace, and who better to learn from than someone like Esther?

2.      Our past does not define our destiny.  Esther was not born into royalty, but she was divinely appointed.  She could have kept looking at her past, saying, “But I am just a poor Jewish girl.  Who am I to do such a task?”  But she didn’t.  She took the wise advise of her cousin and she fasted, which would imply that she consulted God about her purpose and destiny, and was willing to die to fulfill it.  All of us have a “for such a time as this” purpose in our lives, and our past, and not even our present define that purpose.  People can not define your purpose for you.  God does.  People might tell us what our purpose is, and they may be right, and they may be wrong.  People often stay in the context of what is culturally acceptable and not have open eyes to what is biblically acceptable.  When taking the advise of others, we need to consult God and be obedient to His will for our lives, not others.  Sometime we have to break the rules our society places on women's roles to step into our God-given purposes.

3.    Esther could have remained unharmed in her palace, without risking her neck to save her people.  However, she saw the bigger picture.  As Mordecai told her, you can save your life now, but you will lose your soul (paraphrased).  If the Jews died, they would die, but they would be delivered eternally.  We have to be willing to risk our lives to save our souls.  It is easy to send out little "I believe Jesus is Lord" emails, or post cute pictures on Facebook when the persecution you face might be having someone make fun of you, and you probably only send those emails to other believing friends and family, but if someone was threatening your life if you confessed your faith in Jesus Christ, would you be as courageous?  Would you prefer to save your earthly life, or your eternal life?  Would you risk your life to save the lives of others?