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Esther 1-4

09.14.2010

 

Uponfirst comparison, at least to the modern reader, Esther gives off a less than favorable vibe.

Xerxes’ wife at the outset of the story, Vashti, gets a raw deal.  When called upon to stand in front of the king’s guests and be ogled, she declines, presumably with a mind toward preserving her dignity.  For this she is dismissed from the king’s household.  In contrast, Esther decides to obscure her Jewish cultural identity in hopes of blending in with the other girls and winning the king’s favor.

Christians always seem to sidestep the issue of how exactly Esther convinced the king in her one night with him that she was ‘the one.’  The fact that she was essentially a concubine comes with its own implications.  My wife always tries to tell me, ‘She probably just sat up all night talking to him.  That’s what set her apart from all the other girls.’

Right.  She says that with the same conviction I have when I tell her that the deer lying on the side of the road has just chosen an odd place to take a nap.

Additionally, when prompted by Mordecai to intercede on behalf of her people with the king, her first concern appears to be not rocking the boat.

I don’t mean to just malign Esther’s character.  Ultimately, she comes around, obviously.  I hope to make that the focus of tomorrow’s post on this story.  But I think it’s useful to take an unbiased look at her character, and see her for the flawed person that she is.  It makes the growth in her character and the glorious work that God does through her all the more impressive.

4:14 | The key to the passage for me comes here, as Mordecai implores Esther to act for her people:

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?

Most commentaries, understandably, focus on the latter sentence.  The notion that we are brought into this world and put in certain positions in order to accomplish a specific divine task is certainly romantic and poetic.  It has that beauty we attach with the ever-popular concept of ‘destiny.’

But I was struck by the first verse.  The message is essentially, ‘God doesn’t need you.  He can do this one way or the other.  This is your chance to be involved.’  This is how I see God calling us into action, to be His hands and feet in the world.  He is not restrained by our willingness to participate in His plan.  We are merely given the opportunity and the honor of being part of His saving mission in the world.  We get to participate in the divine cycle where God acts for His own glory.  I see beauty in that idea as well.

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