For Such A Time As This
Written in the same time period as Ezra and Nehemiah, the events in the Book of Esther took place in Persia under the reign of King Xerxes. The Book of Esther is the only book in the Bible that doesn’t mention God by name but His activity is seen throughout. The story reminds us that even when God is not always mentioned, He is still there, his fingerprints are all over our lives. He is the conductor, the author, the weaver of our lives. Human courage and divine intervention are seen to work together for the deliverance of God’s people.
Ness begins this series by introducing us to the book of Esther as a whole, before delving deeper into the first chapter and explaining the radical actions of its characters.
Outraged by Queen Vashti's refusal to attend his party, King Xerxes embarks on a quest to find a new queen to sit on the throne alongside him. This is where we meet Esther. As a beautiful young woman, she quickly catches the attention of the king and a royal crown is placed on her head. Being a queen sounds like a young girl's dream, but the reality was probably far from what we imagine. This talk looks at how we deal with disappointment when our expectations are not met, and how God can use our whole story - lowlights and all - to build His Kingdom.
What does it look like for our primary allegiance to be to God? Refusing to bow down to the King's newly appointed official put Mordecai and the rest of the Jewish people in great danger. Yet he stood by what he believed to be right and refused to pay honour to anyone but God. How can we learn from Mordecai's actions and apply them to our workplaces, schools, and universities today?
Faced with a decision that could determine the safety of herself and the Jewish people, Esther was inevitably scared and distressed. But, Mordecai recognised that Esther had been placed in a significant position, and called courage out of her to use her power wisely. In those moments when we are unsure of our calling, maybe we need to ask ourselves, are we here 'for such a time as this'?
What do you see between chapter 4 and 5? A blank space. A pause. A gap. That white space in your bible represents the days Esther and the Jewish people spent fasting and waiting on the Lord. It is heavy with expectation. Esther knew the success of her request to the King was dependant on the preparation she did beforehand. Listen back to the podcast to find out what happened when she entered the palace's inner court.
Ambition: 'a strong desire to do or achieve something'. This sounds good, right? Godly ambition that flows from calling can be incredible, but in a Shakespearean like plot twist, Haman finds out that ambition flowing from poor ego can have the opposite effect.
When was the last time you were angry? When was the last time disappointment turned into outrage? Has Saturday's frustration ever turned into Sunday's road rage? Your nostrils are flaring, your breathing gets heavier and your fists start to clench the steering wheel. Is this an extreme reaction? Perhaps there is something else going on that needs some attention. The goal is not to eliminate anger from your life, but to recognise it as a warning signal. So the question is, how can you direct your anger?
The book of Esther is in some ways a book of contrasting dualities; the fall of the Jews, the rise of the Jews; the grace of God, the violence of kings. Without unworthiness, without entitlement, Esther approaches King Xerxes once again in an attempt to overthrow the genocide decree which would wipe out her people. As we near the end of the narrative we see that the King’s decision still ends in bloodshed and war. How do we make sense of these difficult passages in the Bible? In an instant age, we must take our time to contemplate scripture, to examine biblical characters and their decisions and to ask God – does this please your heart, or does this grieve your heart?
Anything that makes us work hard to understand God can ultimately lead us to greater revelation. The same can be said of difficult passages in the Bible. After the victories and celebrations that occur throughout the book of Esther, it can be hard to make sense of the story's final chapters. The huge reversal in the narrative throws up questions that are difficult to wrestle with. Is God just? Are we in charge of our own destinies? In the same way Jacob wrestled with God in the book of Genesis, we too must wrestle with the darker passages of scripture.