How would you react if you were in a foreign country? A country where you were not allowed to worship your God. A country where you felt inferior.
What if you were also an orphan? Your parents had died, and you lived with a distant, authoritarian relative.
The King of that country then forcibly took you into his harem, repeatedly raped you, and did not allow you a voice, threatening you with death if you spoke out of turn.
How would you respond?
When we think of Esther in the Bible, the statement “you were born for such a time as this” usually comes to mind.
The two verses that are repeated about Esther are Mordecai’s response to Esther in chapter 4:13-14 “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 your royal position for such a time as this?”
We rarely put it into context with what was occurring emotionally for Esther or look at the atmosphere in the world around her.
In a matter of a few months, there was conspiracy, betrayal, jealousy, pride, drunkenness, anger, murder, greed, lust for power, sorrow, fear, mourning, and persecution.
We must remember that Esther saved her nation from genocide.
Imagine raising a future nation saver.
When we think of how we want to raise a child like Esther “who knows her purpose and is born for ‘such a time as this’”, we need to also look at the bigger picture.
The main characters in the book of Esther in the Bible:
1. King Xerxes was the reigning King over Persia. Embarrassed by his wife, Queen Vashti, when she refused to dance nearly naked in front of him and many of his subjects when they were all drunk, he reacted impulsively in anger and embarrassment by banishing her from his presence. A character lesson just in that!! He often listened to unwise advice and did not appear to have any discernment.
2. Esther, a young Jewish girl, forcibly removed from her adopted home and taken to the palace to live in a harem for the King, kept her nationality and beliefs a secret.
3. Mordecai, a Jew and Esther’s older cousin who adopted her and raised her as his own. Esther honoured him as a ‘father figure’ and looked to him for advice. Mordecai was a government official and reported an assassination plot against the King, thus saving the King’s life. The King eventually rewarded him for his loyalty and devotion.
4. Haman was a descendant of King Agag, an enemy of the Jews. The King honoured him, but Haman’s pride and lust for power drove him to try to annihilate anyone not bowing down to him. Because Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman, Haman sought revenge on all the Jews by devising a plot to murder them all.
The character traits that Esther displays:
1. Trust and reliance on God
Esther responds to Mordecai to instruct the Jewish people to fast for three days on her behalf as she seeks the Lord before she approaches the King. She had a belief that God was in control and that nothing was impossible for God. She believed that God was a miracle-working God and could change horrific outcomes. Esther does not doubt God, even when her life depends on it. This is apparent when she approaches the King after three days of prayer and fasting. If the King did not raise his sceptre towards her, she would be killed. Yet she is prepared, after prayer and fasting, to do this.
2. Considered and Self-controlled
Esther was not impulsive. She weighed her decisions, which was in stark contrast to the King, who impulsively acted out of anger and embarrassment. Esther also did not show her plans before the appointed time. She held two banquets for the King and Haman. At the first banquet, Esther did not reveal her plan. Instead, she chose to woo them and gain their confidence. She could keep a secret, that of being a Jew. She could be trusted to keep secrets.
3. Clear judgement, strategic and ability to discern wise advice
Esther followed her adoptive father, Mordecai’s advice. She did not ask the nearest person, as the King was in the habit of, of asking anyone’s opinion. She was considered. She could discern good and bad. Esther was strategic in how she approached the King and the timing of the two banquets before she revealed her purpose. She also realised that she needed divine intervention, thus the request for all Jews to fast for three days and nights beforehand.
4. Stood up courageously to fight for justice
Esther used her voice and her position to right a huge wrong. But it was difficult. It could have cost her her life. But she was still prepared to go through with it. She did not forsake justice, even though her life depended on it. Esther was prepared to sacrifice her life for the greater good. She took responsibility for her choices, decisions and actions.
5. Obedient to her adoptive ‘father/protector’
Esther had a choice. When Mordecai sent word to her about the annihilation all Jews were facing, she could have simply turned her back on them and kept quiet. Esther could have chosen to ignore her fellow Jews. She was apparently ‘safe’ and secure in the palace and with her ‘secret’ identity. But both Mordecai and Esther knew that she was in this position for a reason. She could use her position for good. Despite the incredible fear of losing her life by approaching the King, Esther was willing to take that chance. She was in the ‘right’ position and place at the ‘right’ time.
It wasn’t really about Esther. It was all about God. When we realise that where we are and the call on our life, we understand that God is sovereign and can do the impossible with what He has given us and positioned us for.
Esther had everything a young girl could wish for – beauty, position, wealth, favour. She could have forsaken her people and her responsibilities, but she didn’t. She remembered who she was and whose she was.
Realisations from Esther:
1. Our past does not dictate our future
It could appear that Esther and Mordecai were not godly Jews as they didn’t return to Jerusalem after the exile. They chose to stay in a foreign land. Esther and Mordecai also lied and covered up their identity. Esther participated in a sexual relationship with the King, whether by force or willingness. Did this stop God using them? No. Our past, and present disobedience, does not determine our future. God is the God of second chances.
2. Impact on others for generations to come
What we do and how we live our life affects the world for future generations. We have a responsibility, in how we live our lives and the decisions we make, for those coming after us. Esther used her position for good. She did not use her position of influence to tear down or manipulate. Esther used her position for the greater good to protect her people. Esther magnificently influenced her world in Kingdom values.
3. Realised the BIG picture
Esther realised her purpose and why she was on earth. Esther realised that she had a part to play, but that there was a far greater power at work. The verse in chapter 4:14 “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…”
Mordecai believed that even if Esther didn’t help them, God would send help from a different way, that’s how much he trusted in the power of the Lord. He understood that our positions in life were not at all about us, but only about what God could do through those significant places.
The story of Esther is a fantastic historical story to share with your children. I encourage you to even act it out with your family. Talk about doing the ‘right’ thing at all times, the grace of God, that what we do has implications for others.
I would love to hear your thoughts on Esther and what you glean from the Biblical account regarding those principles you apply in your parenting. Please feel free to comment or email me.