How many people have heard a sermon on Esther? Probably very few of us which is a tragedy as Esther is a great book, with the sex and violence of Game of Thrones and the cunning and intrigue of the House of Cards! I can’t believe Hollywood hasn’t made it into a film!
The story starts with a sleazy King wanting his wife to dance got humans his nobleman, she refuses and so the King raged and sought a new wife. The ultimate beauty pagent with the ‘prize’ becoming the Queen. One of the girls was called Esther, who was Jewish, raised by her uncle Mordeci, and it is she who the King chooses to become Queen.
Alongside all of this the villainous Prime Minister Haman has a spat with Mordeci -who somewhere in the midst of all this manages to save the Kings life- Haman manages to persuade the King for embark on ethnic cleansing genocide against the Jews (massively abridged version of the story).
Esther herself was probably safe in the palace, no one there knew she was Jewish. Here we see here a biblical theme of personal alignment, Nehemiah was safe as a cupbearer to the King and yet he chose to align himself with the suffering of Jerusalem, Moses was safe as a Prince in Pharaoh’s palace and yet chose to align himself with the Israelite slave people and here Esther could have use her privilege of self preservation but instead chooses to stand alongside her endangered people.
Esther knows where her loyalty lies, but in our individualistic, capitalist and fragmented society we are in danger of loosing belonging and loyalty.
Esther could have shrugged her shoulders and said “there is nothing I can do!” because in that patriarchal society she appeared no have no formal power or influence.
Yet, she does the most vital and crucial thing any of us can do when we are confronted with a situation bigger than we can manage in our own strength, she fasts and she prays, in fact she gathers others to fast and pray too, in fact she called the whole Jewish community to fast and pray for three days and nights.
She is one of the best biblical examples of what Stephen Cotterell describes as “hitting the ground kneeling!”
Prayer for Esther is not the last resort once everything else has failed, but rather it is her first response.
The Bible says “we have not because we ask not” -these guys were banging on the door of heaven and imploring God in their prayers, fasting for three days (which is really tough) this is serious prayer, not going through the motions prayer, crying out to God in desperation for him to act and save his people.
She boldly went to talk to the King. It was a courageous act, no one was allowed into the Kings presence uninvited, and intruding would probably result in execution.
“When this is done, I will go to the King, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish!” (Esther 4.16).
Yet she courageously went to speak to him, risking her life for the sake of her people, as she approached the King held out his sceptre welcoming her into his presence.
Choosing danger of comfort, risk over security, Esther knew that she was doing a dangerous thing for the sake of her nation, she must have been terrified, and yet she still went and did it.
In times of crisis we have a choice to either step up, or back down; courage or cowardliness.
Bravery does not mean feeling no fear, but rather despite the fears still doing the right thing.
Esther was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of her peoples safety.
The “No Fear” marketing team once had a poster which said “if you haven’t found something worth dying for you haven’t found something worth living for”, Esther knew what mattered and what was worth giving her life for. Too often we live in a comfortable, apathetic world devoid of passion, commitment and fire.
Too often we lack the courage of Esther, to do the right choice even -or maybe even especially- when the right choice is not the easy choice, but the costly and more difficult path, knowing the dangers, knowing the consequences and still being brave and doing the right thing, because it is the right thing to do.
In many ways Esther’s bravery echoes with Jesus’ in the garden of Gethsemane choosing to sacrifice safety, comfort and security out of love for God’s people, the “not my will but yours” words of Jesus could have been spoken by Queen Esther.
Esther approaches the King, and he holds out his sceptre to her, bidding her to come to him, she takes time to build a relational connection with him, before pleading the case for her people.
Esther’s bravery saved a nation, and saved her Uncle too (and also saw an evil Prime Minister get his comeuppance!).
Esther a leader who knew where her loyalty lay.
Esther a leader who chose to place herself in harms way.
Esther a leader who prayed and fasted.
Esther a leader who called people to pray.
Esther a leader who made the courageous choice even at the risk of great personal cost.
Esther a leader who build relationships, that allowed her to ask the difficult question.
Esther the leader who bravely plead for her peoples salvation.
A leader who could have said “what can I do?” a leader who appeared powerless and yet saved a nation.
So, let’s embrace the story of Esther and learn these great lessons for an amazingly brave and faithful follower of God.