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Esther – For such a time as this

“If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. What’s more, who can say but that you have been elevated to the palace for just such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

Esther is the story of the unlikely Queen of Persia, a Jewish orphan raised by her cousin, who God used to prevent a disaster. One young woman, her cousin, and the loving providence of God, saved Israel, this time not from exile, but from total ethnic cleansing.

At the crescendo Esther must speak to the King, reveal her identity as a Jew, and plead for her people. At risk, of course, is rejection and death. She makes a plan and entreats Mordecai, her cousin, to ask people to fast and pray.

Interestingly, in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, there are more verses than more modern translations, including intercessory prayers by Mordecai and Esther. For example, after Mordecai tells Esther what she must do, Esther pleads to God on behalf of the people. It is a beautiful prayer from a desperate heart, part of which says:

“Grant to my mouth proper words in the presence of the lion… Save us by Your hand, and help me who am alone and have no one but You, O Lord.” (Esther 4:17r-s LXX)

God answered her prayer, gave her the plan, gave her mouth the words, and saved the people.

There are times in life when you will find yourself in a similar situation. Not exactly the same as Esther with the lives of a nation in the balance, but times when you’re on your own. No one else can step up, or maybe no one else will, or they just don’t see it as you do. God hasn’t revealed the gravity of the moment to them and you can’t convince them of it. He’s whispered to you, chosen you, positioned you. But you’re not alone. God is with you. With a humble and repentant heart and a will that is surrendered to Christ, He will help you, put the right words in your mouth, lead you to speak before lions, use you to love, serve, heal and restore.

Esther stepped up. And God saved His children. What if she hadn’t? Well, Mordecai was rightly convinced that God would save them some other way, and He would have. But God has chosen to work primarily through people, and getting to be a small part of His restoration plan in the lives of others is such a humbling honor that it is hard to imagine wanting to do anything else.

For a moment, consider the implications of Esther’s intervention. The book of Esther comes after Nehemiah in the Bible but the events in Esther happened about 30 years before Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall. Thirty years before Ezra led the revival in Jerusalem. If Haman had his way and the Jews were annihilated would there have been anyone with Nehemiah’s skills left? Would Ezra have been alive to write it all down?

And we believe, like Mordecai, that God would have brought deliverance another way, but the point is that our choices and decisions have implications that will extend far beyond our solitary lives. Things we do affect others for good of for ill. What, then, is the path of wisdom as you try to do as little harm as possible and as much good as you are able?

Jesus summed it up for us and the implications of what He said go deeper and stretch further than most of us are willing to consider – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

That is, everything in the Old Testament, the Exodus, the Law, the Promises, the courage of Esther – it all comes down to this, love God with your entire being, with all that you are, and love your neighbor as yourself.