Today: Monday, December 09, 2019

Inspirational women #5: Esther    (8/9/2009 1)

A beauty queen; an assassination plot; a sleepless night; a hangman's noose; the sacrifice of one for all… these are the ingredients of a real thriller, and they're all in the book of Esther.

In the fourth century BC, in what is now Iraq, Jews from Israel have been captured and taken into exile. Some have gone back home but among those who have stayed are an elderly uncle, Mordecai, and his young cousin, Esther. The king holds a beauty contest to select a wife for himself, and Esther is chosen—but she never tells the king she's a Jew.

Prime minister Haman hates Mordecai due to an ancient family feud. But Mordecai has won favour with the king after uncovering an assassination plot against him, which is all recorded in the court chronicles. Enraged, Haman plots to kill not just Mordecai, but all the Jews.

Haman, thinking himself in good standing with the king, requests that all Jews be killed. The king—not knowing that his queen is also a Jew—agrees, and sends out his decree: that all Jews should be killed on a certain date, selected by lots cast by Haman.

But one evening, unable to sleep, the king rereads the court chronicles—and (coincidentally?) turns to the page about Mordecai saving his life. Realising Mordecai was never rewarded, he calls for the only courtier present at that moment, Haman, and asks how a man in the king's favour should be honoured.

Haman, thinking the king means him, suggests a reward he himself would enjoy—but the king gives it to Mordecai! Utterly humiliated, Haman goes home and builds a huge gallows from which to hang Mordecai.

Meanwhile, Esther has not been idle. It was forbidden for her to appear unbidden before the king but, challenged by her uncle to act on behalf of the Jews, she does so. She arranges a couple of banquets to which she invites only the king and a very flattered Haman. But during the course of the meal, during which she reveals the genocidal plot against her people.

Discovering that his wife is a Jew, and that Haman was behind the plot, the king hangs Haman on the gallows built for Mordecai—and thus Esther saves her people.

Those who still tried to rise up against the Jews were defeated, and the Jewish festival Purim (meaning ‘lots', because of the way Haman had cast a lot) began. Mordecai, meanwhile, rose to be second in rank to the king.

There is no direct mention of God in the book, but he was always at work behind the scenes. Even in their enslaved exile, God was placing people in positions where they would be best able to serve God and save his people. Esther's God-given courage made her able to risk her own death—for the good of all—just as Jesus died to save all of mankind, 400 years later.

Where has God placed you? Whoever and wherever you are, and whatever your role in life is, God will use you to his glory—if you are willing. Sometimes this may be in small ways, or ways we never see; sometimes mightily, like Esther. Read her story and be ready to imitate her courage, integrity and obedience, and always be ready to serve God.

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