Sun, 2017-08-20 12:32
The Life and Faith of Esther
We are currently studying the lives of women of faith in the Bible.
Esther was a young Jewish woman who lived in the Medo-Persian empire after the 70 year Babylonian Captivity when Ahasuerus (Xerxes) was king.
Esther’s life and faith is described in the ten chapters of the Book of Esther in the Old Testament. Although not connected through any relationship, Esther’s contemporaries were Nehemiah, Ezra and Zerubbabel.
To understand the amazing life and faith of Esther, we need to be aware of the main characters in the Book of Esther and their respective actions:
Ø King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) king of Persia
Ø Queen Vashti, first wife of king Ahasuerus
Ø Mordecai, older cousin and guardian of Esther
Ø Haman, primary advisor and right-hand man to king Ahasuerus
Initial Sequence of events:
Ø King Ahasuerus held a six months long feast for all his servants and officials at his palace in his capital city Shushan (present day Iran)
Ø After that, he invited all the people of the capital city to a week-long feast at his palace
Ø On the last day of the feast, he asked for Queen Vashti to be brought before him to show off her beauty to his officials and to all the people
Ø Queen Vashti refused to respond to the kings command and decided to ignore his invitation
Ø The King was furious and his counsellors advised him to divorce and banish her, and find another woman to be his wife and the new queen
Ø A call was made to bring beautiful virgins from around the kingdom to the palace to undergo a year-long beauty treatment and be brought before the king
Ø The woman who would please the king the most would be chosen to be his new wife and the new queen
Ø Esther was one of the young women who was brought to the kings palace as a candidate for the queen’s position
Ø She ended up as the king’s favourite, and became his wife and the new queen of the kingdom
Esther 2:15–17 (NLT) ... (Mordecai had adopted his younger cousin Esther.) When it was Esther’s turn to go to the king, she accepted the advice of Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem. She asked for nothing except what he suggested, and she was admired by everyone who saw her. 16 Esther was taken to King Xerxes at the royal palace in early winter of the seventh year of his reign. 17 And the king loved Esther more than any of the other young women. He was so delighted with her that he set the royal crown on her head and declared her queen instead of Vashti.
Now, Esther, an Israelite, had become the wife of a pagan king and the queen of the Persian Empire.
Esther 2:19–20 (NLT) Even after all the young women had been transferred to the second harem and Mordecai had become a palace official, 20 Esther continued to keep her family background and nationality a secret. She was still following Mordecai’s directions, just as she did when she lived in his home.
Faith lesson number 1.
Ø Esther still had mentors – she allowed others more mature than herself to coach her
Ø Walking by faith should never be a lone journey. We should constantly draw on the wisdom and experience of those whom the Lord has placed over us
Mordecai had instructed Esther to not reveal her Jewish roots to anyone. She followed his advice, which became key to her being in the right place at the right time to save the Jewish people in Persia from annihilation.
Sometime after Esther became queen, Mordecai became aware of an assassination plot against the king by two of his guards. He told Esther to warn the king, and the plot was averted and the culprits executed.
(Esther 2:21–23 (NLT) — 21 One day as Mordecai was on duty at the king’s gate, two of the king’s … guards … became angry at King Xerxes and plotted to assassinate him. 22 But Mordecai heard about the plot and gave the information to Queen Esther. She then told the king about it and gave Mordecai credit for the report. 23 When an investigation was made and Mordecai’s story was found to be true, the two men were impaled on a sharpened pole. This was all recorded in The Book of the History of King Xerxes’ Reign.)
Interim Sequence of Events:
Ø The king promoted Haman to the top position over all the princes and advisors, and commanded all his officials to bow and kneel before him
Ø Mordecai refused to bow or kneel before Haman
Ø As a result, Haman became very angry and resentful towards Mordecai
Ø When he found out that Mordecai was a Jew, he tricked the king into issuing a decree to have all the Jews in his domain killed and their assets seized
Ø When Mordecai heard about this decree, he began to mourn in sackcloth and ashes in front of the kings palace
Ø When Esther sent one of her eunuchs to inquire about the reason of Mordecai’s distress, he sent word to her about the king’s decree
Esther 4:6–9 (NLT So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the square in front of the palace gate. 7 Mordecai told him the whole story, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. 8Mordecai gave Hathach a copy of the decree issued in Susa that called for the death of all Jews. He asked Hathach to show it to Esther and explain the situation to her. He also asked Hathach to direct her to go to the king to beg for mercy and plead for her people. 9 So Hathach returned to Esther with Mordecai’s message.
Mordecai asked Esther to intercede before the king for the Jewish people.
Esther 4:10–12 (NLT) Then Esther told Hathach to go back and relay this message to Mordecai: 11 “All the king’s officials and even the people in the provinces know that anyone who appears before the king in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die unless the king holds out his gold scepter. And the king has not called for me to come to him for thirty days.” 12So Hathach gave Esther’s message to Mordecai.
Evidently Esther did not have the confidence to approach the king uninvited for fear of losing her own life. Mordecai’s reply was very pointed:
Esther 4:13–14 (NLT) Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. 14 If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”
Ø Mordecai informs Esther that she had been brought to the kingdom for such a time as this, and for a specific purpose
Ø He told her, in not so many words:
o It wasn’t your good looks that got you here
o It wasn’t your smarts or your charm either
o Don’t even think that you are safe by remaining silent while all the Jews around you are killed
o You were brought to your exalted position by God’s grace and by divine providence - to intercede for the Jewish people at this time even if it costs you your life
Faith lesson number 2.
Ø Walking by faith goes beyond our own security or comfort or just having our own needs met
Ø As people of faith we approach life with a Kingdom mentality and seek the good of others around us
Esther 4:15–16 (NLT) Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.”
Final Sequence of Events:
Ø Esther realised that the fate of the Jewish people rested on her shoulders
Ø She asked Mordecai to call all the Jewish people in the city to fast
Ø She also fasted together with her maids
Ø Then she approached the king even though she had not been invited
Ø She used tact & wisdom when she communicated with him
Ø When the king asked her what her wish was, she invited him and Haman to a banquet to her quarters
Ø At the banquet he asked her again what her wish was – so she invites them for a second banquet (She was a master at choosing the right timing)
Ø Between the first and the second banquet the king had a sleepless night
Ø He called for the Book of the History of the kings to be read to him
Ø He discovered that a Jew by the name of Mordecai had warned the king of an assassination plot, and that nothing had ever been done to honour Mordecai
Ø He asked Haman to honour Mordecai by and leading him on a royal horse around the city dressing in royal robes and speak words of honour before him
Ø On the second banquet night Esther finally made her petition before the king and told him that Haman had sought to destroy her and her people
Ø The king commanded Haman to be hanged on the very gallows which he had built for Mordecai’s execution
Ø Then he gave Esther and Mordecai the authority to issue another kingly decree for the Jews to defend themselves against their assailants on the day when they would be attacked
Ø The Jews had enough time to organise themselves for this day, and ended up slaughtering thousands of their enemies
Ø Mordecai ended up being promoted into the position which Haman once held
Ø To this day, the Jews celebrate an annual feast called the Feast of Purim to commemorate the great deliverance of their people in Persia
Ø All this came about because one woman stood up and, by faith, and at the treat of her own life, interceded before the king for the Jewish people
Esther 4:14 (Ampl) … And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion?