This week is Purim. It is the celebration of the deliverance of God’s people which was accomplished through a young woman named Esther – Hadassah in her Hebrew language. A series of events paved the way for this young woman of integrity and holy character to hinder the plans of the enemy of God’s people. I briefly touch on this in the post Purim.
After the King calls for the Queen to present herself, and she refuses, she is removed and shamed for her disrespect never to be in the King’s presence again. The King is assured that if the Queen behaves this way without being reprimanded, she will encourage all women to ‘ look at their husbands with contempt’. He also decrees to give her position to one better than she.
In comes Esther. Along with many other women, Esther undergoes a year a beauty treatments. These treatments are purifying and healing. Basically, if she was impure and pregnant…you would know in this time. If she had a disease, either it would manifest itself or she would be cured. During her time of purification, Esther was winning favor with everyone around her. So when her time came to be presented to the King, (where he would determine whom he wanted to marry), Esther asked the eunuch in charge of the women for his advice as to what she should bring with her when presented to the King. As the King’s eunuch, he probably had some insight as to what would catch the King’s attention. Whatever happened, it ended with Ester gaining the King’s favor. In Esther 2:17 it says that “the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”
Esther’s Uncle, Mordecai, who was captured during the same time Esther and the other women were captured when the King was looking for a new bride, found out about a plot two of the eunuchs had made to kill the King. Mordecai tells Esther who then tells the King. It is investigated and found to be true. The men are executed and Mordecai’s act is written in the book of chronicles before the King.
After some time, Haman is promoted by the King to be over all the officials with him. Even the King’s servants were commanded to bow down to him. But Mordecai would not. Day after day Mordecai was tested and when Haman found out that Mordecai was a Jew, his hatred grew for all Jews and wanted them all destroyed. Now Haman had casted lots, (Pur – where Purim gets it’s name), to determine which day would be good to set his scheme in motion and it arrives at the month of Adar. The plot thickens…Haman tells the King of a group of people scattered throughout the kingdom who hold to different laws, even when opposed to the King’s. He asks the King for permission to destroy them and the King grants it not knowing that his Queen is also a Jew.
The decree was issued in every language of every providence, sealed with the King’s signet ring, given to Haman. All Jews were to be killed.
Mordecai, as well as Jews all over the kingdom mourned, fasted, and wept. Esther and Mordecai exchanged information via a eunuch in charge of her care. Esther explains to Mordecai that no one may enter the King’s inner court without invitation and He has not called for her in 30 days. The legal penalty is death unless he holds out the golden scepter. I can’t speak for anyone else, but if my husband had not called for me in 30 days I might be a little more than fearful. I would be lacking confidence of his love for me. I would be worried that I lost favor with him. Never mind telling him… “Honey, you know that decree to kill all the Jews? Well, guess what? I am a Jew too.”
In Esther 4;13-14 Mordecai tells Esther… “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Wise and faith filled Mordecai. He knows that God will not let His people be completely destroyed.
Esther responds in verse 16… “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”
I am trying to put myself in Esther’s shoes here. I might be thinking, “I’m going to be killed anyway as soon as he learns I am a Jew.” I might even think that being killed for being a Jew is one thing, but to be sentenced by my husband, the one whom I shared the most intimate moments with, is more than I can bear. But I also think that after three days of fasting, Esther was possibly convicted that she was to do this. What an amazing level of love for her people and for God Esther must have had to be willing to face her own death head on. We have only seen a glimpse of Esther’s character up to this point but it is enough to know there was something more to this young woman. But now we begin to see something deeper. She is a woman who is willing to set aside her pride, her human instinct to preserve her own life, and approach the King without invitation.
The King must have seen this character trait in her because when she enters in the inner court he holds out the golden scepter to her. Not only does he do that but he asks what her request is and promises to give her up to half his kingdom should she ask for it. Think about this for a moment. He banished the previous Queen for disrespecting him. Now he is offering her, (in a traditional gesture reflecting that he will grant her favor generously), up to half his kingdom!
What was it about Esther that made the King willing to be so generous towards her? After the horrible experience with Vashti, the King would not want a repeat situation, especially in his inner court. I can only assume that Esther did not make a habit of being disrespectful or rude. She obviously treated people with respect and continued to be in good favor with those around her. No one in the court would have mistaken her act as one of defiance. Therefore, the King would easily not be worried about Esther negatively influencing the kingdom and so he held out the scepter.
Esther invites the King and Haman to a feast and the King accepts and calls for Haman to join them. While at the feast, the King asks Esther… “What is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” (Esther 5:6) She responds by inviting them to a feast on the next day and promising to tell him her request then. Haman walks away pretty full of himself and bragging about how only he, along with the King, was invited to the Queen’s feast. And, having seen Mordecai once again not bowing to him, he ordered gallows to be built – at his wife’s suggestion – so that he may hang Mordecai.
That very night, the King was unable to sleep and had the book of chronicles brought to him. When he read about how Mordecai had saved his life, the King asked what honor had been given to him. When the king heard that nothing had been done for Mordecai he asked who was at court. As it happened, Haman had just arrived to seek the King about hanging Mordecai. The king calls for Haman and asks him… “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?”(Esther 6:6) Haman, totally full of himself, thinks that the King is talking about him and suggests all these wonderfully extravagant gestures.
Esther 6:7-10 “And Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set. And let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.’” Then the king said to Haman, “Hurry; take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned”.”
Can you imagine the shock Haman must have been in? Here he is trying to get Mordecai hung on the gallows and the King goes and gives him all these special honors Haman had coveted for himself…and it was to a Jew, destined in Haman’s mind, to be killed. After Haman walked Mordecai through the town he went home with his tail between his legs…I mean mourning with his head covered…where his wife and wise men let him know he was going to be in trouble. In the middle of this, he is taken to his feast with the King and Queen. Maybe he thought this was a sign that everything would work out for him. He just had to wait for the day the Jews would be killed. Little did he know what awaited him.
During the feast the King again asks Esther her wish and request. Esther replies… “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king.” (Esther 7:3-5)
The King asks who had done this and she tells him it was the enemy, the wicked Haman. The King was angry and went to his garden but Haman, knowing he was in deep water, stayed to beg Esther for his life. When the King returned Haman was falling on the couch were Esther was and it looked to the King as if Haman was trying to take advantage of the Queen. Needless to say, it didn’t end well for Haman and the gallows he built was used to end his life.
Esther told the King who Mordecai was to her and she and Mordecai came before the King. The King gave Mordecai his signet ring that had been in Haman’s possession and Esther set Mordecai over Haman’s household. Esther again came before the King, at his feet weeping for the lives of the Jews. The King AGAIN holds out his scepter to her. When Esther pleads to him, he tells her that the King’s decrees can not be revoked however, since he has given her Haman’s household, (and therefore the authority that came with it), they could write a decree in the King’s name in regard to the Jews and seal it with the King’s signet. It would be a decree that could not be revoked.
Here is a King who had just been duped by Haman, and had been disrespected by his previous Queen, giving total authority to write a decree in regards to the Jews as she saw fit. He didn’t worry that she or Mordecai would take advantage of the offer. He didn’t worry because he knew their character. She didn’t store up hatred that he had to be concerned that she would be unfair or cruel. She didn’t try to win him over with flashy displays but with meekness and humility. Even when she had a dire need, she sought to show him her esteem and respect for him as husband and King.
The scribes wrote as Mordecai commanded…”Then he sent the letters by mounted couriers riding on swift horses that were used in the king’s service, bred from the royal stud, saying that the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included,and to plunder their goods, on one day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.” (Esther 8: 10-12)
Mordecai went out in royal robes and a gold crown rejoicing through the town. People willingly declared being a Jew and fear came over the kingdom.
On the 13th of Adar, the day the enemies of the Jewish people had hoped to overtake them, the Jews overtook their enemies. What man had planned for evil, turned and brought harm upon themselves.
The King asks Esther again what she requests and she asks to allow her people one more day of victory over their enemies and it was granted in Susa. She also asked for Haman’s sons to be hanged. (Keep in mind they were already killed in the fighting.) The Jews in Susa rested and feasted on the 15th, while those outside of Susa rested on the 14th.
Purim was then set as a feast.
“And Mordecai recorded these things and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year, as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor.” (Esther 9:20-22)
The King sent a letter declaring how Haman had brought this evil upon himself with his evil schemes and that Haman and his sons were sent to the gallows. Esther also sent a letter confirming these things to the people. As for Mordecai, he was a great man of power whose acts were recorded in the chronicles.
Whenever I read this book I am in awe of how God can use any situation for His good. Much like Joseph and his brothers, God used a terrible situation to accomplish great things for His people. No matter what your situation looks like, you can have confidence that God is working behind the scenes for the good of those who love Him.
Do I really trust Him with my life? Am I willing to risk it all for His purposes, even if I can’t see what He is doing? Am I willing to face my fears to serve him?
Ladies, our character is not about appearances. You can appear to have it all together but without Godly character it is of no value. You can be surrounded by “yes men” like Haman but that is of no value. You can be put in a position to impact one or one million for the Lord, but without the Godly character of humility, it will be of no value as God can not use those who seek their own promotion.
Esther earned her reputation quietly and without fanfare. She gained favor winning over one person after another starting with those closest to her and the word spread. I’m guessing based on what the Bible says that she didn’t gossip, spread rumors, engage in slander, criticize, treat others with cruelty, but that she treated everyone kindly and with respect from slave to King.
As we approach Purim later this week let’s take some time to reflect on Christ’s character and seek to be more like Him. Maybe some will decide, much like Esther, to take 3 days to fast and seek the Lord. No one wants to look at themselves and dig out the yucky stuff. At least I know I don’t. But when we are willing to face the yucky parts of ourselves, handing them over to the Lord to refine us, He is then free to move through us and accomplish His will. That is a greater reward than any other we can have on earth.
P.S. Now go make some Hamantaschen cookies.
“Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”