Saturday, February 25, 2017

Queen Esther: A Destiny Fulfilled. Day 8, For Such A Time As This

Queen Esther:
A Destiny Fulfilled
Day 8
For Such A Time As This

Haman has succeeded in securing an edict against the Jews. They will be slaughtered on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month of the year. Esther's uncle Mordecai is devastated. "When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. But he went only as far as the king's gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it." (Esther 4:1-2) It was against Persian law to appear inside the courtyard of the king or in the palace itself while in mourning. The sight of a mourner might dampen the king's spirits. 

Mordecai bears some personal responsibility for the tragedy at hand. He refused repeatedly to bow to Haman and show him honor, apparently because something about the way he was commanded to do it went against the laws of God. This is similar to Daniel's refusal to bow down and worship Darius the Mede or forego prayers to God for thirty days. It also reminds us of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who remained standing when everyone else in the capital city was on their knees before Nebuchadnezzar's ninety-foot golden statue. In those cases only the offenders were threatened with death, not all the Jews living in the Medo-Persian Empire. Mordecai may have expected personal repercussions for his actions, but I don't believe it ever entered his mind that this would be the last straw for a man like Haman. He never dreamed Haman harbored a genocidal hatred against all the Jews or that he would be able to procure a death sentence against them.

All the Jews in the kingdom are in a similar condition as Mordecai, "In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes." (Esther 4:3) The name of God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, but the people observe the custom of fasting. Fasting in the Bible goes hand in hand with prayer and it is often used in when an important decision must be made or when people are facing disaster. The name of God may not be written on the pages of Esther, but His name was on the lips of the people as they cried out to Him for deliverance.

"When Esther's eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. Then Esther summoned Hathak, one of the king's eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why." (Esther 4:4-5) The queen and the royal harem have not been informed of the king's edict. Xerxes is not in the habit of consulting his wives or concubines when signing bills into law. He does not feel it necessary to keep them up to date with everything he signs because in his "man's world" these things do not concern them. Some of Esther's attendants spot Mordecai outside the gates, weeping and wailing in a grief so great it has no words, but Esther has no idea what's wrong with him. 

"So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king's gate. Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king's presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people. Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said." (Esther 4:6-9) Mordecai himself cannot gain an audience with the king. Even if he were not in mourning he would not be welcome in the palace now that Haman has persuaded Xerxes to believe the Jews are in opposition to his rule over them. 

Mordecai hopes that Esther, the queen chosen out of all the most beautiful women of the land, will have more influence on Xerxes than anyone else. But there is a problem with this and she sends Hathak back to her uncle with bad news. "Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 'All the king's officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.'" (Esther 4:10-11) Xerxes and Esther have been married a little over four years by this time and the newness has worn off their relationship. The honeymoon is long over. Xerxes has so little interest in Esther that he hasn't even set eyes on her in a month.

What Esther sees as an insurmountable barrier is brushed aside by Mordecai. Her decision means life or death in more ways than she realizes. It means life or death for her people, for Mordecai, and even for Esther herself. "When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: 'Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For 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 your royal position for such a time as this?'" (Esther 4:12-14) 

Some commentators believe the relationship between Esther and Mordecai was suspected either by Haman or by those in the palace. I don't see how it could not have been suspected by the eunuchs, the attendants, and the ladies of the harem. They saw the way Mordecai came by to check on Esther every day before she was chosen queen. In today's passage they are able to observe that messages are being taken back and forth between the queen and the grief-stricken Jewish man in the torn robes. If she does not reveal her nationality now, someone will snitch on her. Someone in the harem who is jealous of her will tell a eunuch who will tell a guard who will tell someone in the palace who will tell the king. Or someone who guards the gate and harbors prejudice against the Jews may report that a certain Mordecai carries on a correspondence with the queen. Haman himself may have noted that Mordecai lurks about the courtyard of the harem and he might decide to find out why, only to be informed Mordecai keeps asking about the welfare of the queen. At that point Haman could perform a background investigation on the queen and find out who she really is. One way or another, if Esther does not reveal her heritage to the king, the king is going to find out. 

Mordecai says, "Esther, this is your destiny! Why else would God take a poor orphaned Jewish girl and raise her up to be Queen of Persia? The Lord has placed you exactly where you need to be so He can use you in the saving of the Jews. Of course it's a monumental risk to enter the king's presence without being called, but to remain silent would be to condemn your people to death. And it will also condemn you to death. If you refuse God's calling on your life, someone else will accept His calling and deliver the Jews, but you will not be spared because you are the queen. Yes, you may lose your life if you go before Xerxes, but you will most certainly lose your life if you do not. There are others God could have called to do this great work, but He has called you, a Jew, a woman, for this specific time in history and for this particular purpose. Are you woman enough to say yes to God? Are you strong enough to step out in faith? Will you accept your destiny?"

When this message reaches Esther, she is convicted in her heart. She knows she must answer God's call no matter what the cost. She finds within herself the courage and the faith to say to the Lord, "Not my will, but Yours, be done." "Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 'Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.' So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther's instructions." (Esther 4:15-17) 

Esther wants all the Jews fasting and praying together, in one mind and one accord, for three days before she goes to the king. The name of God is not mentioned, but He cannot be missed. There is no purpose in fasting ahead of Esther's brave visit to the king if it is not accompanied by prayer. Before she enters the throne room of Xerxes, the Jews must enter the throne room of Almighty God with prayer and supplication. If God does not go with her, Esther goes in vain. But with God on her side, who can be against her? (Romans 8:31) With God on her side, what weapon formed against her can prosper? (Isaiah 54:17) With God on her side, who is there to fear? (Psalm 27:1) With her mind made up, Esther bows on her knees before God, accepting His calling on her life, believing He crowned her Queen of Persia for such a time as this.

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