When my parents gave me the name Esther I’m sure they will have hoped for me to be a strong woman of God, assured that I am loved unconditionally, and fearless in the face of persecution. They will have prayed that I would have the courage to do the right thing, and obey God’s call in my life, even if that means stepping outside my comfort zone. When I read the book of Esther I feel proud to bear her name. She was one of the bravest women I’ve ever known of – risking her life to save her people. OK, so the first time I remember hearing the story was the Veggie Tales version (for anyone who hasn’t yet experienced the beauty that is Veggie Tales, see here - http://veggietales.com/vtmain/ - EPIC!), but that merely shows that it holds a message for people of all ages.
Think contextually: in around 475BC a woman’s role was to be neither seen nor heard unless called, but remain dutiful to her husband in all things. Approaching her husband for a meeting was considered brazen and unacceptable for a woman, let alone voicing her opinion to him. Add to this the fact that Esther’s husband was the king, and you can imagine that the pressures on her were even harder to bear than for other women at that time, with the entire population scrutinising her every move.
As a Persian Kate Middleton, she would have been constantly at the centre of the public’s attention, with almost unachievably high expectations of beauty, grace, obedience, intelligence and dignity placed on her shoulders. Coming from a humble background, she never dreamed of becoming queen until the role was forced upon her by a patriarchal society which allowed the king to choose whichever girl he wanted as a wife, but gave that girl no option of declining.
Nevertheless, Esther humbly embraced her new status and tried her hardest to fulfil her duty and please her husband. When she discovered that his right-hand man, and most trusted servant, was plotting to annihilate the Jews – her own people, unbeknown to the king – her natural instinct would most likely have been to deny her heritage (as did Peter on the night before Jesus’ death). However, Esther knew that she was the only one who stood a chance of saving her people, and bravely chose to speak out in the faith that God would protect her. Let’s not underestimate the magnitude of what she was willing to do: by law, going to her husband unbidden was a capital offence punishable by execution!
Bearing in mind her husband’s previous wife had been banished for refusing to do as he asked, the odds of success in her quest were highly stacked against her. No wonder ‘her heart was frozen with fear’ (Esther with Additions 15:5, RSVCE)! Yet this brave woman was willing to sacrifice her own life for the chance of saving those of thousands more, when she could easily have sacrificed theirs to save her own. She recognised that her life was in God’s hands, and the outcome would be His will – ‘And if I perish, I perish’ (Esther 4:16, NIV).
But how does the story of one girl 2500 years ago relate to today? Esther’s story is one of deliverance. The Lord saved Esther and her people from destruction and raised them up, as with Moses and the Israelites. This shows that God can save His children from the harms of human nature. As Philippians 4:13 teaches us: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’. God’s sovereignty is also evident here – He used circumstances in Esther life to carry out His divine plans for the Jewish people, and so Esther teaches us to trust that God’s hand is at work in every aspect of our lives, we have only to believe and obey.
And the moral of the story? God will protect us when we do His work! Sharing the Good News with our persecutors, standing up for what is right in a world that disagrees and standing out from the crowd by professing our faith may seem like the most terrifying prospects, but with God on our side no harm can come to us. We are on earth ‘for such a time as this’ (Esther 4:14, NIV), and God has a unique plan for each and every one of us. Are you willing to fulfil it?