6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: Esther, Pt. 5


This year (Feb., 2006), PBS aired a documentary on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The calendars of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Episcopal Church in America commemorate him on April 9, the date on which he was hanged in 1945. Who was this man who had inspired Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu and millions of Christians around the world?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945) was the German Lutheran pastor and theologian paid dearly for resisting the Nazis, especially Hitler, before the Second World War. Banned from preaching and teaching, he headed an illegal seminary for pastors of Confessing Church, which opposed the anti-Semitic policies of Adolf Hitler.

In 1939, Bonhoeffer joined a hidden group of high-ranking military officers to overthrow the regime and assassinate Hitler. He was arrested in April 1943 after money used to help Jews escape was traced to him, and was charged with conspiracy and sent to prison for a year and a half. Adolph Hitler’s failed assassination in 1944 led to the execution of more than 200 people. Bonhoeffer’s connections to the conspirators were discovered. He was moved to a series of prisons and concentration camps, ending with his hanging just three weeks before the liberation of the city. Also hanged together with him were his brother and his two brothers-in-law.

In the mid-1990s, the German Government officially absolved him of any “crimes” he might have committed. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietrich_Bonhoeffer

Esther is a compelling story to share but a difficult passage to preach, especially from Esther 5 on. Today we are not in any resistant mood, mode or movement to begin with. We are not a political group; we do not have a social agenda; and we are not in a war, a revolution or an anarchy. So how do we understand this chapter? What are the principles and implications for us today? Christians are agents of change regardless of time, place and event. Rarely can we sit on the sidelines, but how can we change things and not force things?

Be Prudent, Not Pushy

5:1 On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. 2 When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. 3 Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.” 4 “If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.” 5 “Bring Haman at once,” the king said, “so that we may do what Esther asks.”

Many have heard of “The Prayer of Serenity” written by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971). It is one of the most famous prayers written. Alcoholics Anonymous adopted it as its official prayer.

The prayer reads:

“God, give us grace to accept with serenity

the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things

which should be changed,

and the wisdom to distinguish

the one from the other.”

The effort of Esther in rescuing the Jews was critical to stopping Haman, but she thought long and hard and decided to do things her way – no more running to Mordecai. Further, had Mordecai know of her plans he would have advised her differently. The thing about Esther was that she used her head more than her heart in her preparation. In contrast to Vashti, who reacted to Xerxes’ demand for her to parade herself, Esther was careful and meticulous in preparation. If her life was at stake, she had better chose the weapons of war. Her weapons of war were calm, patience and wisdom.

Esther, contrary to expectations, did not rush into the inner court, demand to see the king, and threatened, whimpered and cried, “Choose me or Haman.” Instead, she put on her regal best for the occasion and waited till the king was by himself, had time for her and was in a good mood before she went. She understood what hurry, expectations and pressure did to Vashti and Xerxes’ relationship. She knew she was Queen Esther (v 2) on the king’s good day and good side and merely Esther or the former Queen Esther if the king was in a grouchy, gloomy and griping mood.

To readers she might appear to be a fool not to strike while the iron was hot. The king had promised her half his kingdom in vain to the non-taker Esther. She wanted, however, to do two things. First, that she was not motivated by revenge or bloodthirstiness. She was motivated by reason, and not self-serving reasons or selfish reasons. Second, she wanted to gain the king’s trust in her decision-making. She wanted to see if the king was serious about his promise and if the offer was good for another day, or if the king was impulsive and temperamental. If he regretted his decision later, her head was at stake. Yes, she had won his favor or pleasure (v 2), but would she win his trust? She had no intention to be the flavor of the day or his reason for regret tomorrow.

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