8. Stepping Up: Esther
Is God leading you to step up and take action? You can live boldly and faithfully when you live in light of God’s ultimate power and control.
For if you keep silent at this time, liberation and rescue will arise for the Jews from another place, and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this? -Esther 4:14
It’s easy to comfort others with the sovereignty of God; but isn’t this truth difficult to believe when we’re the one struggling? In the book of Esther, we find the story of a woman facing adverse circumstances that bring her to decide whether or not she trusts God.
Esther is a Jewish woman who has remained in Persia, the place of Israel’s exile, even after many of her people have gone back home. In a series of events, Esther wins a contest to become queen and wife to the king of Persia! But this is far from a fairy tale. The book of Esther depicts this king as godless, degrading and immoral. Esther hides her Jewish nationality from the king and those around her, fearful of what might happen if people knew her true identity.
Later on, an advisor to the king named Haman becomes enraged when Esther’s Jewish uncle, Mordecai, refuses to bow to him. Haman plans to kill Mordecai and convinces the king to issue a decree that sentences all the Jews of Persia to death! In response, Mordecai urges Esther to convince the king to reverse the decree by revealing her Jewish identity. But Esther is afraid. Approaching the king without being summoned is an act potentially punishable by death!
Mordcai tells Esther that if she doesn’t act, God will deliver the Jews in another way. But rather than condoning passivity, Mordecai is highlighting God’s ultimate power and control to inspire Esther to action! “Maybe God put you in the position of queen for this very time,” he suggests.
Esther decides to step in, and in a series of events only explainable by the sovereign control of God, the Jews are saved. Mordecai happened to overhear a plot to kill the king and reported it to save the king’s life. The king happened to have the royal chronicles read to him the night before Haman’s planned execution of Moredcai and so happened to hear of how Mordecai saved his life. So, when Esther reveals her Jewish identity and tells the king that Mordecai is her uncle whom Hamaan had planned to kill, the king is outraged. He takes Mordecai’s side and sentences Hamaan to death. Because of his affinity for his Jewish wife, who got into this situation in the first place because she just so happened to win a contest, the king issues a decree that allows Esther and her people to live.
Too many coincidences abound for this outcome to be chance. Though his name is never mentioned in the book, it is abundantly clear that God, the true hero of the story, has been present, working behind the scenes to save his people.
Esther’s story would have inspired hope in Jews still waiting for God’s promised King and Savior to come. In her story, hope was not dependent upon external circumstances or even God’s people but upon God’s sovereignty: his ultimate power and control. God was at work to fulfill his purposes, even when His hand was unseen.
God did indeed fulfill his promise by sending Jesus, the ultimate deliverer. Like Esther, Jesus identified with us his people, stepping in on our behalf at a great personal cost and going to the cross for us. With his death and resurrection, Christ delivered us from spiritual death!
Sometimes when I look around at my own life or at events happening in the world, it can be easy to wonder, “Is God really in control here?” Do you ever have that same thought?
When we lack bravery, we can look at God’s deliverance in Christ! The cross reminds us that there is a plan and purpose for our lives and for the world! It reminds us that God has already secured the victory, and he is stronger than anything we’re up against. When we trust in God’s sovereignty, we receive the courage to step off the sidelines and engage in bold and faithful action.
RESPOND: Is there an area of your life where you feel God leading you to step up and join him in his work? Take a moment to contemplate this with God in prayer.