Summary: Courage is God’s power working through committed people in challenging circumstances.
Title: How to Find Courage When You Need It
Text: Esther 4:11-14, 15-17 and 7:3-6
Thesis: Courage is God’s power working through committed people in challenging circumstances.
The Bible in 90 Days Whole Church Challenge
It feels like we are literally leaping through the bible in our goal of reading through in just 90 days. This week we have leapt from the last chapter of Nehemiah, through the books of Esther and Job and landed on Psalm 89. However, in our teaching today, we revisit the incredible story of God’s continued care and protection of his people. The people in our story are those of Israelite heritage who did not return to Jerusalem with Ezra and Nehemiah… choosing rather to remain in their homes in exile. Essentially, though distinctly Jewish, they were living as immigrants live in an adopted homeland, blending into the Persian culture of the land we now know as Iran.
It is a convoluted story characterized by stunning reversals and ironic twists. It is the story of how God used a young Jewish girl to save her people from annihilation.
In 2003 I read an incredible book titled The Bielski Brothers by Petter Duffy. It was the story of three brothers, living in eastern Poland during WWII. In 1939 Hitler and Russia had signed a nonaggression pact in which Germany and Russia divided up Poland. Hitler later broke the pact and invaded the Soviet Union. The Nazis then confined the Jewish population of Poland to “urban ghettos” and in December of 1941, 4,000 Jews were murdered. The Bielski brothers’ parents and families were among those killed.
Their story is the story of resistance and rescue of Jewish people. Over the next three years the Bielski brothers gave shelter to and protected 1,200 Jews from Nazi annihilation. They literally built and sustained a Jewish, bunker-like community in a swampy-forested area of Belarus. (Just last week I watched the film “Defiance” which is the cinematic retelling of their resistance of the Nazis and the rescue of Polish Jews during WWII.)
It is a quite a story and stands as a sharp, historically documented contradiction to the claims of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that “the holocaust is a myth” perpetuated to justify the existence of the nation of Israel. (Lloyd de Vinews, Iran President: Holocaust a Myth, AP (CBS News), December 14, 2005)
Interestingly enough, our story today takes place in what was then, the Persian Empire, presently the Nation of Iran. It is the year 483 B.C.s version of the 1940s plan to annihilate the Jews. In our story a young Jewish woman named Esther is the counterpart to the Bielski brothers. Because of her actions thousands of Jews are spared a well-planned genocide of the Jewish people living in Iran in 483 B.C.
Our story is a story of incredible courage in the face of daunting circumstances.
The question today is, “How do we find that kind of courage when we need it?”
I. Find your calling in your crisis
“And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:11-14
Before I begin, please be aware that there is much more to the story than the parts I will be sharing, so if you are at all intrigued to know all the details… the Book of Esther is only 9 chapters in length and reads like a modern day p[ice of fiction. The story begins with how the young Jewish girl, we know as Esther, happened to be in a position to be able to save the Jewish people.
It began with King Xerses throwing a massive party. As the revelry progressed the King decided he wanted to show off his arm candy, trophy wife, Queen Vashti. So he sent for her to come so he could have her parade about so all the men could gaze on her beauty. Queen Vashti, to her credit, refused to be objectified by her husband and the revelers at the feast, which raised the king’s hackles, so much so that he had her deposed for life.
However, when he sobered up he missed having a queen so his counselors suggested an empire wide beauty pageant in which all the most beautiful young virgins in the realm were brought to the palace. And as the story goes, the one who “pleased” the king most would become the new queen. So, each in her turn spent a night with the king. If she did not sufficiently please the king, she then went to live in his second harem where she would live the rest of her life as a member of the king’s harem.
It seems there was no end to the objectifying women as the king sought his “pick of the litter” from the vast reaches of the Persian Empire.