Summary: The true story of Esther illustrates truth about Jesus' ascension: God reigns over all for the benefit of his people.
The Miss Universe competition is in its 62nd year now. How many winners of that competition can you name? None? That’s what I thought. And yet every Christian should be able give the name of at least one beauty queen: Esther. She is well known to Bible readers as the woman who saved her people, the Jews, from a man named Haman. He wanted to kill all Jews and would have succeeded had it not been for Esther. Actually, that’s not quite right. It wasn’t Esther who saved the Jews; God did. Esther was simply a beauty queen in service of the King of kings. As we take a closer look at the Old Testament book of Esther we’ll see how it illustrates the truth of Jesus’ ascension – that God reigns over all for the benefit of his people.
The true story of Esther takes place about 480 years before the birth of Christ and about 50 years after the time of Daniel. While some Jews by this time had returned from Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem, many remained where they had been taken captive. Only now the Babylonians were no longer in control. The Persians were under the kingship of Xerxes. Life wasn’t bad for Jews living in the Persian Empire. They were able to carry on business and worship the true God. Some Jews even served the Persian king. That seemed to be the position of Mordecai, a relative and guardian of Esther. It was this Mordecai who urged Esther to campaign for the position of queen when King Xerxes deposed the previous queen, Vashti. Esther won the competition but didn’t let anyone know that she was a Jew.
Not long after Esther’s crowning, Mordecai learned about a plot against the king. He reported it to Esther who in turn told Xerxes. Mordecai was given credit for saving the king though he received no reward at the time. Life seemed to be good for Mordecai and Esther until Haman came along. Xerxes made Haman the chief among nobles and all the other nobles and servants were to bow in his presence to show respect. But for whatever reason Mordecai steadfastly refused to do this. This bothered Haman so much that he plotted the death of not only Mordecai but also the death of every Jew. And so Haman approached Xerxes and offered to donate a large sum of money to the treasury if he would be allowed to “rid the empire of a meddlesome people.” Unfortunately Xerxes didn’t ask any questions and assented to the plan.
Haman’s plot was not just a threat to the Jews; it was a threat to God’s plan for mankind. Why? Because he had promised that from the Jews the Savior of the world would come. Haman’s threat then was not unlike King Herod’s when he tried to kill the baby Jesus. But like King Herod, Haman would also be thwarted by the King of kings. Let’s find out how.
When Mordecai learned of Haman’s plot through the king’s decree, he publically mourned and carried on until Esther sent a messenger to find out what the matter was. Mordecai explained and urged Esther to advocate on behalf of her people. Esther, however, was reluctant. Even though she was the queen she couldn’t barge into the king’s presence whenever she wanted. If the king felt like it, he could have her put to death for the perceived insolence. Mordecai, however, warned, “…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 royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
That is the closest mention of God that you’ll find in the book of Esther. But God’s fingerprints are all over this true story. Three days after the exchange between Esther and Mordecai, the king had trouble falling asleep so he had read to him the recorded events of his reign and “happened” to hear about the plot that Mordecai had uncovered and reported. When Xerxes found out that nothing had been done to honor Mordecai, he jumped out of bed and asked if there were any royal advisors in the hall. Haman had just walked in to the palace. He had come to ask the king if he could hang Mordecai on gallows he had just built. You see, Mordecai had continually refused to bow down to Haman driving the man insane with anger. But before Haman could make his request, the king asked him what should be done for a man the king wants to honor. In his arrogance Haman thought that the king must be talking about him. And so he said that the king should dress the man in robes the king himself had worn, put him on a horse that the king himself had ridden, and then parade the individual through town. It’s a wonder Haman’s heart didn’t stop when Xerxes said next: “Go at once…Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew… Do not neglect anything you have recommended” (Esther 6:10).