A summer sermon series on classic stories of the Bible has landed me in Esther. Truth be told, Esther’s story may be one of the lesser known of the well-known bible stores (most of which are about men), but I was determined to tell the story of a woman. Deborah, Rahab, Delilah, Elizabeth, Eve, and all the Marys popped up in my mind, but I have always loved Esther’s story because she reminds us that we can find ourselves in a place we never expected, doing a thing we never thought we would do, and suddenly, it all comes out okay. This was my exact experience when I did five years of jail ministry. God indeed has a tremendous capacity for pushing us out of our comfort zone.
You may remember that Esther was the winner of a beauty contest that she had no intention of joining. She was selected by the Persian King Xerxes to replace his fallen queen, and she was installed as the new queen. Unbeknownst to the court, Esther is an exiled Jew from Jerusalem, and had no business being there. Her nationality and family were a secret, but her faithful cousin Mordecai, who brought her to the court, is able to keep an eye on her.
While waiting at the King’s gate to check in on her, Mordecai overhears a plot to assassinate the king, and immediately tells Esther. She tells the king, giving credit to Mordecai, and the would-be assassins are killed.
But trouble begins to brew for Mordecai when he refuses to bow to Haman, the highest-ranking nobleman. Much like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Mordecai takes a stand against bowing to anyone but God. Haman responded by putting out a decree that all the Jews should be killed, and he tricked and bribed the king into sending it out under the king’s seal.
In desperation, Mordecai sends word to Esther. He asks her to intercede, but for Esther to approach the King when she hasn’t been sent for would mean certain death, according to the law.
Esther 4 (New King James Version)
11 “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days.” 12 So they told Mordecai Esther’s words.
Mordecai sends word back to Esther and urged that she reconsider her leverage in this matter:
13 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Such a beautiful sentence, one which makes us pause to consider OUR purpose and place in the kingdom.
For such a time as this, you have been called to speak out.
For such a time as this, you have been instructed to intercede.
For such a time as this, God invites you to take a stand.
Where and how does this speak to you? Is God calling you to act? Are you in a place you never meant to be? Are you meant to step way out of your comfort zone to do something big, new, and scary?
If this relates to your situation, read this next part carefully. Every big change of direction requires a period of silence, prayer, discernment, and perhaps even fasting. Watch what Esther does:
15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”
We have to admire this woman’s boldness, but also recognize that it was a matter of submission to the mission God had given her.
Do you have a mission? Submit, and you will be blessed.