Esther, woman of God
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: Esther 4:14c
Devotional text: Philippians 4:13
Last week, in honor of Mother’s Day, we began looking at the life of Queen Esther, a young Hebrew woman who became the Queen of Persia. Her story is told in the Old Testament.
Today, we will begin where we left off in the story. We have learned that Haman, who held a high position under King Xerxes, was set on killing Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, along with the entire Jewish nation living in the Persian Empire. Mordecai was also Esther’s father, having adopted her after her parents died.
In chapter 3:8-11, Haman had tricked the king into allowing this to happen by misrepresenting the Jews, calling them a “dispersed and scattered people … who do not obey the king’s laws.” All this was because Mordecai would not kneel before Haman to show honor to him. Mordecai, a believer in the one true God, would bow before no man.
Mordecai asked Esther to intervene with her husband to save her people. We find in chapter 4:14c Mordecai’s words to Esther: “And who knows but that you have come to a royal position for such a time as this?”
The queen knew no one was allowed to go before the king, even his wife, unless they were summoned. So, she went to stand by the inner court. When the king saw her, he invited her in, because he loved her very much. Asking her what she wished of him, he added he would gladly give to her up to half the kingdom.
Esther knew that to boldly confront the wrongdoing of Haman would not be welcomed by the king. Instead, she simply asked that the king, along with Haman, attend a dinner she would prepare. Meanwhile, Haman, who was full of himself and excited about being invited to dinner with the king, had a 75-foot gallows built for the death of Mordecai. It seemed the death of Mordecai would be imminent.
Going to chapter 6, that night King Xerxes had trouble sleeping. He got up and started to read some past reports, discovering the report that told of the failed assassin attempt against his life. The report told how Mordecai was the one who discovered the plan of the assassins and reported it, thus saving Xerxes’ life.
The next day, taking Haman aside, the king asked Haman’s advice on how to properly reward a man to be honored by the king. Haman, believing the king was talking about him, answered with an elaborate plan to honor such a man with “a royal robe the king has worn, and a royal horse ridden by the king with a royal crest on its head … and to lead the man through the city proclaiming, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor’.”
The king was pleased with Haman’s response. Then, to Haman’s shock and fear, in verse 10, the king commanded Haman to go at once and do it all for Mordecai, the Jew.
Can you imagine this scenario? The very man that Haman was planning to put to the gallows, the king was honoring. Haman, who used the king’s own decrees in a deceptive way to punish Mordecai, was soon to have his treachery exposed.
In the next chapter, again the king and Haman are invited to dinner with Esther. She had told the king at their first dinner that she would tell him her request at the second dinner. Once again, the king offered her up to half the kingdom.
This time, however, Esther responded with the request for King Xerxes to save her people. Her words in verses 3-4 are: “ … If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life; that is my petition. And spare my people; this is my request … ”
We have to remember here that Xerxes is the king over all the land. No one tells the king what to do. It is best if the king comes to his own conclusion in matters. Esther knew this very well. As she was used by God to save her people, the Holy Spirit gave her just the right words to use. These were the words that angered the king, causing him to ask Esther to name such a villain. Esther, of course, named Haman.
Haman, the proud, the haughty, the one who wanted people to kneel before him, was hanged on his own gallows.
Continuing to the end of Esther’s story, Mordecai received Haman’s estate and position from the king, making him only second to the king himself. A new edict was announced by the king for the safety of the Jewish people who dwelt in his land.
As noted in chapter 10, Mordecai became pre-eminent among the Jews and was held in high esteem “because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.”
The great Queen Esther had broken through the cultural norms of the time. Women were to hold their tongues and serve within their homes. As queen, she had access to the leader of the nation, yet that only went so far. Even the queen had to be invited to come into the king’s presence.
It was the words of Mordecai, as prompted by God, that gave the courage to Esther to speak her request to Xerxes. She was the only person in the right place and at the right time to save her people from destruction. With the boldness presented by the spirit of God, Esther stepped outside of her cultural role and risked her own life to save her people.
This is our lesson in the story of Esther. God uses us, if we let him. God can do important things through the least of us, if we but answer his nudgings and take a step, a risk, to answer his call.
Esther did it. She wasn’t even a Persian woman, yet she found great favor with the king, so much so that he gave her the queen’s crown and even offered her up to half the kingdom. Esther answered God’s call and placement on her life not to become wealthy and powerful, but to remain faithful to God and to be used to save the Jewish people.
It is said that God uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary. We can all take this lesson from Esther, the queen of Persia.