She was raised in exile on foreign soil. Her family was taken captive by invaders and removed from their homeland a couple of generations before her birth. She was a female, in her culture she was considered expendable. She became an orphan at a very young age. As a teenager she was taken into a hoard of women who were made available for the pleasure of a powerful man. As a young adult she was told that she must keep her ethnic identity hidden. She had so many strikes against her. Alone, insignificant, disposable, disregarded, she seems the least likely candidate for someone who would change the world. Yet that is exactly what Esther of the Old Testament did.
Esther could have reasoned that her insignificant life didn’t matter, so what difference did her choices make? It seemed that God had forsaken her so she might as well live for herself. She could have let bitterness infect her heart and poison those around her. She could have justified a chip on her shoulder and taken advantage of others to get what she wanted. She had every excuse to feel sorry for herself, but instead, Esther rose above her circumstances.
It is not a stretch to say that without Esther, the Jews would have been annihilated and God’s covenant with Abraham therefore forfeited. Without Esther, there would be no Jews so no Jesus, no salvation, no hope of future resurrection. Insignificant Esther played a consequential role in history.
Esther, whose name means star, is a star of the Old Testament. You probably know her story. When she found herself in the king’s harem she also found extraordinary favor --- first in the eyes of the man in charge of the harem and later in the eyes of the king himself. When she became queen she learned of the king’s edict that would effectively extinguish the entire Jewish population.
She had a choice. Would she keep her Jewish identity a secret? Would she turn a blind eye to the coming massacre of her fellow Jews so she could hang onto her personal comfort and privileged position? Self or selfless?
Her answer was to fast, and to call others to join her in this fast. She waited upon God. And then with unsurpassed courage she acted with discernment and wisdom.
With twists and turns of irony and surprise, Esther risked her own life and prevented the extermination of the Jewish people.
God is never mentioned in the entire book of Esther. Yet the hand of God is seen on every page --- setting the stage, moving the key players into position so that everything happens in perfect timing. One of the themes of the book is the providence of God ---this literally means that He foresees, He provides for the future. The providence of God does not rule out human freewill. People make choices, but God directs. In the words of Ephesians 1:11, God works all things after the counsel of His will.
The book of Esther presents a keen example of this interplay between God’s providence and man’s free will. Esther is given the choice to hold onto her new status and privilege as queen or to risk her very life and speak up on behalf of the Jewish people. Her cousin Mordecai sums up God’s providence in this way, “If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place…..” Basically he says, you get to choose, Esther, if you want to be a part of this plan or not, but either way, God will prevail. She chose well.
Esther was mini but mighty --- mini because in the world’s eyes her life was insignificant and disposable; mighty because she made the decision to place her trust in the almighty God and therefore changed the world. Esther didn’t wallow in the unfair circumstances that surrounded her life. She wasn’t knocked down by the strikes against her. She trusted in a God who was very much at work, providing and prevailing. She stepped out in faith and the rest is history.
Thank you, Lord, for the wonderful example of Esther. We are not trapped by our life circumstances. No one is insignificant to you. You know all the details of our life. You know all our trials and difficulties. You love us right where we are. Thank you that just as you called Esther to follow you, you have the same call to each of us, our choices and our obedience matter to you. Give us the grace to choose to follow where you lead even when it is hard. Give us the strength to fast and pray until we receive your direction. Then let us move with your timing. Give us the wisdom and discernment to know when to speak and when to remain silent. Take our life circumstances and turn them into blessings.