FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS
Reading the book of Esther is like watching a thriller. The plot is inundated with twists and turns, euphoria and enigma, setbacks and stunning returns. Every scene is satiated with strategically orchestrated drama and keeps you fixated as mystery and marvel unravels with artistic imagination. There are heroes and villains, supporting actors, and extras. And then there is God, the Divine Director who never makes an appearance in the plot but whose role in the salvation story is unmistakably evident.
As the plot unfolds, Esther, an orphaned Jewish girl is raised, single-handedly, by her cousin Mordecai in the lowly province of Persia. Their quiet world soon crumbles to the ground when the egotistical Persian King Xerxes, issues an edict to dispose his queen and exploit young women as a suitable replacement.
Young Esther finds herself favoured, standing at the finale of a royal pageant, taking on a role as Queen. But Israel is not the only people stunned. Haman, a descendant of one of Israel’s long-standing enemies, is venomously angered over the newly established events and decides to exterminate God’s people, including Esther’s uncle Mordecai. Xerxes approves Haman’s plan and the role-play begins, with Esther taking centre stage.
What will Esther do? Will she ignore Haman’s deceitful plans and choose royal perks instead? Will she remain silent under the authority of a fickle and heartless king or will she speak up and take a stand for truth?
Behind The Scenes
I realize it is easy to focus on Esther’s happy ending and ignore parts of her life that are muted and hidden under the cloak of poverty and lack, uncertainty and marginalization. We wonder…. Why was Esther raised by her uncle? What was it like to be raised in an exile land with no female support? Could there have been a significant tragedy that is never spoken of in Scripture, because it was unspeakable?
There are things that have happened to us that have left us with deafening silence, things that have exiled us, isolated us. We have hoped for happy endings only to be harrowed down by an unfaithful spouse, a debilitating disease, an unexpected divorce, a wayward child, sudden losses and shattered dreams.
How often have we been tempted to look upon the trenches of our life and mistake it for God’s passivity?
But God is always working, though we see His activity in our lives only in hindsight. Esther’s loss of her parents, her forced marriage to a pagan king, and her muted life made sense only much later. Perhaps Esther too felt God silent and distant during those traumatic years. But God was not silent, He never is. Neither is He removed from the daily affairs of our lives. God’s silent ways behind-the-scenes is anything but silence. These are grounds God trains us for His higher purpose. These are places where we learn trust and surrender. These are schools where we are shaped for life altering assignments.
God is the unseen director, not only in the sublime scripting of the Book of Esther, but also in the intricate details of our own lives, unfolding our purpose, leading our destiny.
The Sacred Space Of Prayer
As Haman rolled dice to determine the day on which his despicable plan for genocide would take place, Esther drew strength from another source.
Between Esther sending word to Mordecai and entering the king’s presence uninvited, there is a grand pause, a space of suspense where nothing is recorded and no words are spoken. Esther knew these were life-and-death stakes, not just for the Jews but also for her family. She understood that breaking the law by voluntarily interrupting the king will only mean death. For three days Esther prepared to enter the presence of the king, fasting and praying. She gathered a community of believers. She yielded to the source of her victory, the Lord of the battle. She waited.
If I’m honest, waiting is something I would prefer to avoid on any level. Waiting pushes me to forgo the familiar, the foreseen, and parts of my life I have learnt how to fix. But waiting also forces me to come to terms with my own weakness.
I cannot live the Christian life alone.
There are some battles which can only be overcome, together. This is where I need community. I need shared adversity. I need trusted friendship. I need a place to vent troubles and offer my vulnerability. We need power – for our families, for our marriages, for our children, for the Church, for an uncertain world wrecked under the peril of an ongoing Pandemic.
If Esther, who lived before the Cross, knew the criticality of prayer and the confidence before a God who listens, how much more we, who have access to God because of the blood stained sacrifice of Calvary?
At Such A Time As This
Pampered with jewellery, clothing, perfumes, cosmetics and whatever she wished for, Esther’s life didn’t need to include dishes and cooking, laundry and errands. Esther was royalty. But she never took advantage of her high-flying life to escape her responsibility as a daughter of an exiled nation. Esther saw her position as one of great influence and used her royalty for the benefit of her people. When Mordecai reminded her, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13–14), Esther knew that her pivotal moment had arrived. She stepped forward, revealed her Jewish identity, and petitioned the king to protect her people. Xerxes pleased with Esther, overturned his prior decree of genocide and Haman’s plot was foiled, saving Esther’s people.
There are times in our life where what God has called us to do can feel meaningless. That feeling of futility can often spiral into regret and resentment, not only towards self but also towards God for not assigning us to something more manifestly purposeful and productive. When we are tempted to label and limit our tasks as trivial or meaningless, we can find hope through Esther’s story. God works in all things — daily chores and careers, losses and lavish power, even in false accusations and failures — for our good. (Genesis 50:20)
Maybe you’re stuck in the same workplace for the last 5 years. Maybe you run the same errands at home each week. Maybe you pour hours of investment into small groups with no individual spiritual progress. Or maybe you’ve devoted years into a children’s school class that only seems to derail weekly into the chaos of tantrums, messes, and accidents.
Yet, God has placed you right where you are for a purpose beyond your circumstances. He has empowered you with skills only you can influence. He has chosen you for such a time as this to do what only YOU can do.
What can you offer today? What talents has God blessed you with that you can contribute for the building of His kingdom?
Sister, we don’t always know the full script all at once. But we will when we stand face to face with our Redeemer. For now we can trust in His Resurrection Power, we can enter boldly with confidence and we can be rest assured that He, who knows our end from the beginning, entered our sin-stained story, to redeem and restore, to save and to ensure we arrive safely on the other side of our happy ending.