Esther saves her people
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: Esther 1-10
Devotional text: Esther 4:14c
This is the week we celebrate Mother’s Day, on Sunday, May 9. It has been celebrated on the second Sunday in May since President Woodrow Wilson established the official date in 1914.
It is a time when women in the United States receive special blessings from their loved ones: perhaps breakfast in bed, flowers, dinner out, handmade gifts from the children, a present from their spouse or any number of expressions of love.
Today, celebrations to honor mothers take place in numerous countries around the world. Celebrating a special day to honor the women in our lives helps us to remember our mother’s love and care, how she raised us, taught us about life and how she kept us safe.
As we read our Bibles, we find mention of a number of special women in both the Old and New Testaments, who, by their trust in God, have become heroes of their time. They may not have received special attention or honors for their actions, but their willingness to trust and act boldly in faith make them especially stand out in our readings.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like us to consider the life of Esther. She is one of only two books in the Bible named for a woman (the other is Ruth). Her story can be found just before the book of Job.
Esther, a member of the Jewish nation, became Queen of Persia in 479 B.C., during the time of King Xerxes. She, and others like her, was part of the Jewish people living in Persia following the time Cyrus of Persia freed them from captivity in Babylon in 538 B.C. While many of the Jewish exiles returned home, there were some who stayed in Persia.
So, how did a Jewish young woman become the queen of a foreign government? This story is one of both intrigue as well as of the sustaining hand of God.
To begin, Esther and her cousin, Mordecai, were in Persia. After the death of her parents, Mordecai adopted the younger Esther as his own daughter. It happened one day in patriarchal Persia, that the king’s wife defied the king by not coming to him at his command. He was in the midst of a festival and wanted the others to see what a beautiful wife he had, but Queen Vashti refused to come.
The queen’s refusal enraged King Xerxes and, as he sat with his advisers, his feelings about the situation grew worse and worse. The advice from his counselors was to have Vashti banished from his sight forever and a new woman to be chosen queen. Their reasoning was that, if it got out that the queen disrespected her husband and he did nothing about it, other wives would start treating their own husbands likewise.
King Xerxes took their advice and began searching for a new queen. Many of the young and beautiful women of Persia were brought together for the king to make his choice. Esther was one of the women who was invited to the king’s palace. Mordecai told her she should go but warned her not to speak of her Jewish heritage.
After a time, it was to be Esther who would win the king’s favor. She was exceedingly beautiful and asked for little from the king. These qualities made the king grow very fond of her, and he set the queen’s crown upon her head.
Meanwhile, in a side story in chapter 2, Mordecai overheard a plot to assassinate the king while he had been waiting for Esther at the king’s gate. The resolution of this plot was that Mordecai told it to Esther; Esther told it to the king; and the assassins were found and killed.
Now, we come to Haman, an aide to the king who was named to the highest seat of honor one could receive. Haman thought very highly of himself, and a command went out that all should kneel before Haman to show him honor. However, Mordecai, a God-believing Jew, would kneel before no man.
Haman became very angry at Mordecai’s refusal to kneel before him and plotted the death of Mordecai. Going to the king, Haman, without naming the Jewish nation, complained to the king in chapter 3:8-11 that there was a “dispersed and scattered people … who do not obey the king’s laws.” Haman asked the king to order their deaths, and the king allowed Haman to handle it anyway he would like. Thus began Haman’s plan to kill all the Jews in Persia.
When Mordecai heard the news, in 4:1b “ … he went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly … ” After Esther discovered his source of distress, Mordecai asked Esther to go to the king to ask for mercy. The only problem with that plan was that no one could just go see the king. One had to be invited into his presence, even the queen.
Now we come to the statement from Mordecai to Esther that could be stated to anyone at anytime who finds themselves in a position to create change for the good. He said to her in 4:14c, “And who knows but that you have come to a royal position for such a time as this?”
That is exactly what God does in our lives; he puts us in the right place and at the right time to do the one thing that only each of us can do.
You don’t think God has a plan for your life? Think of Esther, a young Jewish girl, good and kind, who became queen. Not only that, but God knew Esther had a particular skill with words that King Xerxes would respond to.
My dear reader, I am going to leave you hanging here for the rest of the story until next week, because I do not want to end the story with just a short synopsis. The scripture is too important to do that. So, next time, we will see exactly how Queen Esther saved her people.