The Journal of Biblical Accuracy

Encouragement from the book of Esther (PDF) PDF version

Encouragement from the book of Esther

I wrote an article on the book of Esther many years ago. It is now time to revisit this wonderful book with new insights I got through some personal experiences fitting to what Esther has to tell us. First of all, before I move on, some background information concerning the book. The book of Esther exists in two versions: the short version coming from the Masoretic text in Hebrew and the longer version coming from the Septuagint, the translation of Old Testament into Greek, done before Christ. The longer version is followed by the Catholic and Orthodox traditions while the shorter version by the Protestant. The difference between the two versions is not affecting the heart of the story itself. It just adds some additional material such as for example the content of the letters of Artaxerxes or a prayer from Esther. In this article we will use the shorter version.

What strikes somebody when he reads Esther is that the name of God is missing from the book. And yet God is all around: we see Him in every page of the book, through His actions. And these actions, done under disguise, using circumstances and people beforehand prepared by the Lord, is not something we see only in Esther. We see this in other places too, such as the story of Joseph in Egypt for example. I have seen this also many times in my life and may be you have seen it in yours too. But let’s take the things from the beginning. The book starts with queen Vashti falling into disgrace (Esther 1) and the king looking for a new queen. This he finds in a beautiful Jewish woman called Esther, the heroin of the book (Esther 2). This is the first happening of this full of happenings book. Esther was raised by her cousin Mordecai. During the contest for who will be the queen, Mordecai happened to sit outside the king’s palace and to become aware of a plot, planned against the king. He informed Esther about it and she then informed the king in the name of Mordecai. The plotters were indeed found and executed. Nothing extraordinary was done to honor to Mordecai, other than his act being recorded in the annals of the Kingdom (Esther 2:19-23). This is the second happening, occurring before what we will read next.

After the above two events a very evil day came for Mordecai and the Jewish people. Haman, a wicked and arrogant man, comes into the scene. Haman wins the favor of the king and everybody bows down to him. All except Mordecai, who would not worship somebody else other than God. Haman cannot accept this. He is angry with Mordecai and decides to exterminate him. But for him this is not enough. He wants to exterminate the whole Jewish people too (Esther 3). So he tricks the king to sign the elimination of the Jewish people on a certain day. The threat is huge. The enemy, being the second to the king, seems invincible. Have you ever come to a position fighting an enemy who seems invincible? The real enemy is always Satan and he was also behind Haman. But this enemy does not come often in person against you. He usually comes through people who have given him access. Have you ever found yourself suffering unjustly from arrogant and full of pride people? Have you wondered where is God in such cases? Where is God when it hurts, as is the title of a popular book? Sometimes He seems to be nowhere. But it only seems so. For, returning to our case, God had done His homework long before Haman showed up. Nobody catches God by surprise. Be sure about it. The enemy you may be dealing with, may seem huge to you, but does not seem so to God. God knew about the enemy before and had already taken action. In the case of Esther, God did two strategic movements before Haman’s advent. First was to put Esther in the throne and second to have Mordecai witnessing the plot and saving the king, without being honored for this. With these two movements God protected, as we will see, His people, before even the threat came. This didn’t prohibit the threat from coming. It didn’t prohibit the afflictions from coming, the trouble to have to deal with an evil person as Haman. God has given freedom of will to people and they can attack the innocent. This does not mean that they will win, even if it temporarily seems otherwise.

When Haman got the degree of exterminating the Jews signed, he seemed unbeatable. He was second to the king. Who could resist him? So let’s see how the whole thing played out. Haman in his arrogance went and prepared a gallows to have Mordecai hanged (Esther 5:14). But God was on the move. In fact He never stopped to be on the move. That night – the night planned as last for Mordecai – the king could not sleep. And what did he do? What better than reading some stories from his annals! And guess which story came up? The story of the deliverance Mordecai brought to the king and for which he was never honored. The morning came and Haman rushed to the king to tell him about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows he had prepared (Esther 6:5). But the king started speaking first, asking him what he should do to honor somebody. Haman in his arrogance thought that the king wanted to honor him. So he gave an extravagant amount of things to be done for honoring somebody (Esther 6). Imagine his shock when he heard that he should do all these things to Mordecai!! So from running to hang the innocent he ends up bowing down to him!! This is our God!! Can you see it? Have you experienced it? Evil people are plotting against you. God does not seem anywhere. But it only seems so, for He is in fact everywhere. It may be that He does not show up clearly from the beginning. People like Haman seem to get their way. But it only seems so. For God does show up, many times in what people have planned to be your last night. The God of deliverance, the all-powerful and righteous Father shows up and who can stand against Him? So He showed up in what was supposed to be the last night of Mordecai, bringing forth the cards He had already prepared long time ago. Remember nobody can outrun God. Nobody takes Him by surprise and your enemies are no exception to this. So the last night for Mordecai was not quite the last! And the next day was the beginning of a fabulous day, being honored by the king and by his own enemy.

But what about the degree which the king under the guidance of Haman had signed? This was still valid. Furthermore Haman was still second in command. So then God brings out his second and strongest card, called Esther. She had become a queen for a “time like this” (Esther 4:14). She was strategically placed there, before Haman showed up, so that God could bring salvation through her to Israel when Haman did show up. God knows!! God cares!! And now was the time for His plan to play out fully. The queen decides to act and invites the king and Haman to a banquet. There she tells the king about the plot of Haman. The king gets mad at him, and when kings got mad at those times, the news were not good at all for the one they were mad at. Haman started begging the queen for his life, while the king left the room. When he came back he found Haman having thrown himself on the couch where Esther was reclining and he thought that he was about to assault her! (Esther 7:8). Then somebody close to him informed him that Haman was planning to have Mordecai hanged. The king didn’t need much more. He orders immediately the hanging of Haman in the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai (Esther 7). As the Scripture says the evil one falls himself into the trap he had planned for the righteous (Proverbs 28:10, Proverbs 26:27). Mordecai and the Jews were saved triumphally. But I want you to note the pattern: God didn’t work in the foreground by performing miracles for Haman or the king to see. His name is not even mentioned in the Hebrew version of Esther. Instead God worked in the background. And man, what work He did! Before Haman came into the scene He made Esther queen and he had Mordecai delivering the king from a life threatening plot, holding his honor for later. When Haman showed up, He didn’t prevent him from plotting and persecuting the Jews threatening even their existence. This is what people call existential threats. They are not simple threats. They are heavy extraordinary threats against your very existence, physical, professional, financial. This is the roaring lion of 1 Peter 5:8. He seems invincible but it is not. For only one is invincible: the Lord. As the deuterocanonical book of Judith says: “I will sing to my God a new song: O Lord, you are great and glorious, wonderful in strength, invincible.” (Judith 16:13). So Haman could plot against the Jews and especially against Mordecai. He had even gallows constructed to hang him there. Existential threat at its highest. BUT God showed up that night, that last night, hours before the planned execution. If you are under attack don’t think that God has abandoned you. He is there watching. He has already done his homework and preparation. Don’t hear the roaring lion. Stay in peace and see the deliverance of the Lord. It may even come in the last minute. So God showed up that night removing sleep from the king and bringing the right annals to him, the ones where the act of Mordecai and the good he had done to the king was recorded. Haman not only didn’t manage to hang Mordecai but he had to honor him on command of the king. Later he had to beg the queen for his life. But it was too late. He fell himself into the trap he had plotted for Mordecai. He died dishonored and the same happened to his family. His position was given to another. To whom? To Mordecai.

Take courage from this story. As God was at work in Esther so He is at work in your life. He has neither left you nor forsaken you (Hebrews 13:5). He has done His homework and nobody can take Him by surprise. Don’t hear the roaring lion. Hold on and wait on Him. He will for sure come even if it is at the last moment.

Author: Anastasios Kioulachoglou