The book of Esther fascinates me for many reasons:
It features the famous Persian King Xerxes (remember the “300” story?).
It takes place well outside of Israel, in the Persian winter capital of Susa.
It never mentions God or uses the word “Yahweh” (which contributed to the book’s canonicity being hotly debated by both Jews and Christians for many centuries).
It has an amazing plotline, akin to a NYT bestseller.
And I could continue, but for brevity’s sake, let’s just say I really like this story!
So through a series of coincidental events, a young Jewish orphan living in exile (Esther) becomes the queen of the most powerful ruler in the world (Xerxes I).
Later, when a diabolical plot is hatched by one of the King’s top officials to exterminate all the Jews in the vast Persian Empire (which would essentially be ALL Jews), Esther is in a unique position to intervene.
But what would she do?
As her cousin Mordecai explained to Esther the gravity of the situation facing the Jews and as Esther expressed her fear of approaching the great King with her request, Mordecai said this,
“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14 ESV).
Pretty powerful stuff right there.
Well, as I stated earlier, God is never overtly mentioned throughout the book of Esther. However, anyone looking for him in this story will certainly see his hand of providence throughout. Above, as Mordecai speaks to Esther, he is essentially saying, “God WILL deliver the Jews. The question, Esther, is will you be a participant?”
In the end, Esther does overcome her great fear and her selfishness. She does so by placing her trust in God and allowing herself to be used for his will and not her own. Her request before the King to spare the Jews is ultimately granted and the Jewish people celebrate the story of the deliverance to this day in the festival of Purim.
In the book of Esther, consider how remarkable it is that God created a unique woman, put her in a specific time and location within history with a certain set of gifts and talents, and placed her in the necessary position to bring about the deliverance of his people.
What an amazing testimony of the hand of God in human lives!
Now, imagine all of that and also this: It was ultimately Esther’s decision of whether to play. Yes, after all of that, it came down to whether Esther would trust God and act or deny God and take the safer path.
There are certain events that transpire in the course of our lives that, when faced with them, we recognize almost immediately they will change us forever. In these times, we are defined by our actions. A loving God created each of us for a purpose. We are uniquely crafted by his hand with a certain set of gifts and talents that He will ask us to use for his glory. When the time arises and God calls on us to act, what will we do?
Who knows whether we have not come to the kingdom for a time such as this?
We face colossal challenges in the world today and they can often seem absolutely daunting.
So what is our response as Christians? Shrink from the challenges and play it safe or pray for the revelation of God’s will to us and ask if He has placed us
Right here, Right now, for such a time as this?
God is always in control and God is always at work.
Nothing is impossible with God.
Nothing is impossible WITH God.
Are we WITH God?
The Bagram base chaplain I mentioned earlier in this story was WITH God that morning in Afghanistan as he faced an armed soldier intent of taking his life. He immediately confronted the young man and convinced him to put the weapon down. He told him how important his life was and how much he was loved. He took him to get appropriate medical attention and stayed with him for a great length of time, praying that God would give him words that would speak directly to this depressed soldier’s heart.
An undeniably unique set of circumstances placed the undeniably uniquely qualified chaplain there that morning. The chaplain responded to the situation by placing himself in God’s hands and the result is that the young man’s life was saved.
We are uniquely qualified by God to answer when He calls and it will undoubtedly be an important call, but will we be listening?
Will we stand for him and not for ourselves as Esther did; as the chaplain did?