The Bible is full of great stories about people who show strong faith in God. A few Sundays ago, one of the readings for our worship service was from the book of Esther. I was unfamiliar with this book, so before the service I decided to read some of this Old Testament book.
Esther is a short book (only 9 chapters). It’s a captivating story of how a young woman used faith and courage to help save her people from annihilation. I thought the story would be worth sharing for those who may be unfamiliar with the story of Esther
The Story of Esther
Here’s a quick synopsis of the story. Esther and her uncle Mordecai were Jewish refugees in Persia and she was a young unmarried woman. The King of Persia, Ahasuerus, conducted a search for a new queen. A selection process was undertaken from all the young single woman in Persia. At the end of this process Ahasuerus chose Esther to be his new Queen.
The King chose Esther because of her beauty and was unaware that Esther was a Jewish orphan refuge. Esther took on her new role as Queen. She faithfully served the King while keeping her Jewish faith and identity a secret.
Shortly after becoming queen, Esther’s uncle Mordecai told her about a plot by the King’s viceroy (Haman) to have the Jewish refugees in Persia killed by offering bounties on a certain day. Mordecai asked Esther to intercede with the King to stop the planned killings.
But approaching the King of Persia was a problem. During Ahasuerus’s reign, a person could only approach the King if they were first summoned by the King. The penalty for approaching the King without being summoned was death. This rule applied to every one including the Queen.
Ester Risks Her Life
Knowing this, Esther prayed and asked her uncle to have all the Jewish people fast for three days. After praying and fasting, Esther risked her life and approached the King. When the King saw Ester he raised his royal sceptre (sparing her life) and allowed her to speak. Esther invited the King and his Viceroy to her house for a banquet. The King accepted her offer. At the banquet, Esther again approached the King. He raised his sceptre and asked what was her request. Esther invited the King and Viceroy to another banquet the next day.
At the next days banquet, Esther approached the King a third time. Again her life was spared and the King asked what was her request. Esther asked the King to halt the royal decree to kill the refugee Jews and asked him to spare her life.
Upon hearing Esther’s request, the King became enraged because he was unaware that the Viceroy has issued such a royal decree. He ordered the Viceroy to be hanged immediately. The King was pleased with Esther and gave her the Viceroys estate and gave Mordecai his signet ring.
Esther asked about halting the decree and pleaded with the King to revoke the royal order. The King explained that a royal decree could not be undone or overwritten. But he told Esther and Mordecai that they could use his signet ring to issue a new decree to “write as you please with regard to the Jews in the name of the King”. Mordecai wrote a new decree to have the Jews gather, arm themselves, and to destroy and kill any armed force that might attack them.
The new decree was sent to all the provinces in Persia and the Jews defeated all who attacked them. Afterwards, Mordecai issued another decree to the Jews that they should celebrate the day that they attained relief from the enemies. The Feast of Purim marks that day and is currently a Jewish feast day that is celebrated each October.
Faith and Courage
I was moved by the story of Esther. The Bible has many stories of how the people of Israel defended themselves with swords, spears, trumpets, and chariots. They had great leaders like Moses, Joshua, Deborah, Saul, David, and Solomon who, with God’s help and guidance, defeated many enemies.
But the story of Esther is different. It’s not about a great battle where the enemy was delivered into the hand of a great leader. The story of Esther is about a young orphan refugee who used faith and courage to help save her people.
To some, it might have been easier for Esther to stay quiet and just enjoy her role as Queen. Or things could easily have gone the other way. Esther could have been killed for hiding her faith from the King. She also could have been killed for approaching the King or for asking him to undo a royal decree. (The previous queen had been banished for a trivial insult to the King).
But, Esther showed great courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is knowing that there’s something more important than the fear. Esther knew the lives of her people where more important than her own. She knew in her role as queen she was the one person who had the best chance of approaching the King to reverse the order.
Esther also relied on her faith. Faith is unwavering belief and complete trust. Upon hearing of the plot to destroy her people, her first action was not anger, fear, or indifference. Her first action was to pray to God and ask all the people to pray.
In Mathew 17:20, Jesus tells his disciples that faith as small “as a mustard seed” can move mountains. Esther’s story shows how her unwavering faith helped save her people.
Faith and courage don’t come easy. But they are not attributes reserved for just a select few. Esther’s story shows us that you don’t have to be a warrior like Joshua or Deborah to have courage. And you don’t have to be a prophet like Moses or Elijah to have unwavering faith.