Summary: Four practical lessons we learn from the life story of Esther, one woman who’s faith saved a generation and changed the world.
For Such A Time as This
The book of Esther is set in the fifth century BC, in the Persian Empire during the reign of Xerxes, son of Darius and grandson of Cyrus. Xerxes reigned from 486-465 BC. We know quite a lot about his kingship from secular sources.
Those dates may not mean much to us, so let me put this in biblical perspective. The book of Esther occurs after the Exile. Remember, the Babylonians conquered the Jewish people, destroyed Jerusalem and carried many people captive back to Babylon to live. That was 586 BC, or 100 years before Xerxes.
The Jewish people lived in exile for 70 years. The book of Daniel records some of the plight of the deported Jews during those years.
Just before those 70 years were up, in 539 BC, Babylon fell to the Persians, and soon afterward, Cyrus, king of Persia and grandfather of Xerxes, allowed deported peoples to return to their home towns to rebuild their temples. The Jews did so, and the book of Ezra records the work of Zerrubabal and Ezra. Later, Nehemiah returned to returned to rebuild the walls.
The events of the book of Esther happen between the work of Ezra and that of Nehemiah.
The story of Esther is a fascinating story. Let me give you the Cliff Notes version of what you need to know for this morning.
King Xerxes is throwing a big celebration, probably around planning the invasion of Greece. One day he summoned his Queen, Vashti, but, for some reason we are not told, she does not come. As a result, Vashti was deposed and a new queen sought. (I toyed with preaching about the dangers of wives not obeying their husbands, but Dean thought it might not go over very big—especially with Doris.) The method for finding the new queen begins with inviting all the beautiful young woman of the empire to go through a year of beautification and then Xerxes would pick one.
We need to know that Many Jews who had been carried to Persia stayed there, even after they were allowed to return. Life there had been good, for the most part. Some had risen to respectable positions in commerce and government. One such Jew was Mordecai. He served in the King’s court. Mordecai had an orphaned cousin whom he raised. Her name was Hadassah, or more commonly known as Esther.
Well, short version here. Esther is chosen as Queen. After a few years, Mordecai learns of plans by the evil Haman to lead a pogram against the Jews. He alerts Esther, and she agrees to tell the king. We read this part in Chapter 4 for our reading this morning.
Esther, taking significant risk, enters the king’s chamber, and alerts him to the plot. In a strange twist of events, the evil Haman has to honor the righteous Mordecai, and then Haman is impaled on the very stake he had prepared for Mordecai.
Anyway, the Jews are saved, and the feast of Purim is born, which Jewish people celebrate until this very day.
What’s in this account for us today? Well, it is Mother’s Day, and although Esther was not a mother, she is a woman who made a significant contribution to our world. I thought it might be fun to look at her life for a lesson today.
As I read and reread this book over the last few weeks, I came to see four overarching things we learn from the story of Esther. Let me share them with you.
The Sovereignty of God assures us that we are where he wants us to be
One of the interesting facts about the book of Esther is that it nowhere even mentions God. That’s unusual, since the book of Esther is one of 66 books that comprise a larger work, called the Bible, that is all about God. However, even though his name does not appear in the book of Esther, it is clear that God shows up on every page. One way we see him his through the lens of his sovereignty.
The events of the book of Esther are not random or without plan or purpose. God’s presence hovers over the book like the Spirit of God hovered over the waters of creation. So it is with God, and with life as we know it. There are no coincidences and no accidents in God’s scheme.
To speak of God’s sovereignty does not mean we believe in fatalism. Fatalism is the idea that God maps out every choice and event and we have nothing to do but march through life like Eveready bunnies.
Not at all. Trusting in the sovereignty of God means we walk in the confidence of knowing that God hovers over our lives at every turn. No choice we make takes God by surprise. Every choice we make—and they are truly our choices—are factored into the plan of God for our lives. God does not determine our every action, but his will for our lives takes every one of our actions into consideration.