This is one of a series of posts called Milk Runs which are intended to provide short, clear teachings from the Bible and their application for Christians. For more information about the series, please see the explanatory post. Now to the regularly scheduled programming:
When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”
Esther 4:12-14 (NIV)
The book of Esther is a little strange. It starts with some background info that tells of King Xerxes wanting to show off his queen, Vashti, and have her dance for his nobles, and how her refusal enraged him and he kicks her out of the palace. After all this, we are introduced to the titular character, Esther. She’s taken into what amounts to a dark beauty pageant which is undertaken to select the new queen, and she is chosen to replace Vashti.
Then, Esther’s cousin Mordecai uncovers a plot to destroy the Jews in the country. He warns her of the danger and urges her to beg the king for mercy. In her response, Esther notes that it could cost her her life if she were to enter into the presence of the king without a summons. Up to this point, it sounds like the plot for a soap opera. Actually, God isn’t mentioned in the whole book, making that similarity even more striking.
If this were a modern show, Mordecai’s response to her concerns would go something like this: “Well, yes, it’s dangerous and scary, but sometimes you have to have a stiff upper lip and do the right thing and think about other people.” Or if it were Christian media, “God knows you’re scared, but you just have to do what He wants and it will all turn out okay.” The hero would sniff and would decide that he will do the right thing. Mordecai doesn’t say either of these things, though. Instead, his answer reveals something more profound.
Mordecai clearly believes in the promises of God to Abraham. In Genesis, God told Abraham that his descendants would one day rule the world. Because of this promise, Mordecai knows that God’s covenant people cannot be destroyed. Which is why he so confidently states that relief and deliverance will arise from another place because he knows that God will raise it up.
Then he contrasts that confidence in deliverance with confidence in Esther’s perishing if she chooses to remain silent. Up until this point in the story, Esther has kept her identity as a member of God’s covenant people hidden. By requesting mercy from the king, she would be outing herself. Effectively, Mordecai warns her that she must either identify with the people of God and receive a blessing He gives, or with the world and receive the curse.
Finally, he ponders that perhaps her royal status is a tool she was given specifically for this moment, to mediate mercy on behalf of the Jews. His question hangs in the air, then we see a profound shift in Esther. Up to this point, all we know about her is that she’s beautiful, winsome, and skilled in what it takes to advance in the Persian Empire. Now, she steps into her identity as a member of the people of God and becomes dignified, bold, and majestic. Through her and Mordecai’s work, the Jews are delivered from their enemies.
Here’s the good news: we’re not Esther. Through unlikely means, God raised up Esther to mediate deliverance for His people in the Persian Empire. We see in Christ the Great Mediator, who was raised up through unlikely means to the seat of power and who mediates deliverance for all of God’s people in the world. Just as in Esther’s story, just as it seemed the enemy would win, a reversal occurs, and now the people of God are simply awaiting the day when Christ brings the ultimate, perfect safety.
Do you see how good God is to work through ignominious or ordinary means to fulfill His plans? Will you identify with Christ by rejecting the false safety and comfort of the world and awaiting His return?
Many thanks to the wonderful insight of Christopher Ash and Nancy Guthrie, available on The Gospel Coalition’s website.