Beauty pageants — you either love them or hate them. And how about one instituted by a king who banished the previous winner when she refused to flaunt herself in front of a crowd of his drunken friends? Sounds like a competition to avoid at all costs.
It wasn’t until a number of years ago that I was meeting with a group of women and we discussed the details of Queen Esther‘s story that I began to read between the lines and gain a deeper understanding of the vulgarity that this Jewish heroine experienced. An orphan girl whose people had been exiled to the empire of the Medes and the Persians, and being a virgin, she was brought into the harem where she was prepared to audition for the role of replacement queen. At the bidding of the king, she comes and goes to him, and in the end, wins his heart.
What does Author God have in mind?
At first glance, the story of Esther might make us think that God approves of the controlling behavior of the king. After all, he holds the power to act however he wishes. But if we look closely at the story God is telling, the real theme of Esther seems to be one of redemption. Similar to the story of Joseph that we looked at several weeks ago, Esther does not appear to have a choice in her destiny; and yet God grants her favor in the eyes of the king, raising her up to bring life into a deadly situation.
Throughout this story we see God’s desire for justice. His people have been taken captive, and now a noble named Haman devises a political scheme to annihilate the Jews. Under the guidance of her uncle Mordecai, Esther makes a counterattack move against Haman from within the palace, successfully foiling his evil plan. Just when it would seem that the Jews would perish, God provides a way of escape. God reveals Himself as the Advocate; He does this for Esther, for her uncle, and for His people. He is writing words of justice and mercy across every trafficking situation found in Scripture.
What do I learn about myself?
For many of us, Esther is a heroine who represents courage in the face of danger. And while I heartily agree with this perspective, there is much to be learned from all of the characters in the story. Sometimes I have courage and face my fears like Esther, but I can also be controlling like the king. I can see greatness in people and spur them on like Mordecai, and when I am at my worst, I can act like Haman and allow hatred in my heart. What’s encouraging to me is that other than Haman, the characters in this book demonstrate significant acts of faith. Esther learns to use wisdom and discernment in the face of evil. Mordecai remain steadfast in his beliefs while coaching his niece in spiritual matters. Even the king seems to soften, receiving Esther with kindness and humility.
What I take away from the collective cast of Esther’s story is a deep longing for change in areas of darkness.
How can we respond?
Esther’s story is a classic example of hope rising up from places of despair. Even in the midst of impending doom, we see God rescuing His people. And this care is not just for Israel but for all of us. Because of Jesus, all of humanity is invited into the eternal hope of salvation.
Over these past weeks, we’ve focused on human trafficking and attempted to speak words of life. If you’d like to respond further, here are 20 Ways that the U.S. state department suggests you can help end human slavery in the world.
Written by Heidi Sadler, © 2016 Heidi Sadler, All Rights Reserved.