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Esther: The Making of a Queen 2: Humble Beginnings

Esther: The Making of a Queen Day 2: Humble Beginnings

Scripture reading: Esther 2:5-11

Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite, who had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away. He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter. So when the king’s order and his edict were proclaimed, and when many young women were gathered in Susa the citadel in custody of Hegai, Esther also was taken into the king’s palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women. (Esther 2:5-‬8, ESV)

As a child, it might have seemed that many of Esther’s circumstances were working against her. Her people lived in exile under the rule of Persia in the city of Susa. Both of her parents died, so her older cousin, Mordecai, stepped in to become her adoptive father. Little did Esther know that God was arranging her early life to prepare her for a profoundly important future. 

There is no indication that Mordecai was Esther’s next of kin or was in any way required by the laws of Israel or Persia to become her guardian. But the text makes a point of saying twice that he “took her as his own daughter.” Throughout the story, he is invested entirely in caring for her well-being and instructing her in wisdom. It is clear that Mordecai successfully raises Esther to be a woman of character, teaching her the Jewish law and impressing upon her the value of virtue. 

Despite her status as an orphan, a commoner, and a foreigner in Persia, Esther ascends to the highest place in the land through the mysterious workings of the Lord. When we look closely, every main character in the story also experiences a grand reversal that reflects the providence of God. Haman begins as a prominent and powerful adviser to the king and ends up hung on the gallows he built for his enemy, Mordecai. Mordecai, a humble Jewish scribe, then replaces him as the most prominent adviser to the king. The Jews who are suddenly sentenced to annihilation are just as suddenly given all they need to protect their people and secure a victory over their enemies. Vashti begins as queen and ends up expelled from the palace chambers because through disobedience she pushed her status as queen too far. Vashti’s removal opens the door for the young Jewish orphan, Esther, to become queen over all Persia.

Humble beginnings, rather than being deterrents to usefulness for God, are most often the very circumstances He uses to equip us for the tasks ahead. Esther’s life illustrates this truth, along with countless other Biblical and historical figures. It is easy to feel insignificant and inadequate when we compare our circumstances with the circumstances of great influencers and heroes. However, we must remember that we often naturally focus on only the high points of their stories—victories in battle, acts of courage and selflessness, or grand speeches and performances—and pay much less attention to the setbacks that came before and after those moments. Every moment matters. It is obedience in the smallest things that paves the way for obedience in matters of critical importance. 

The world may tell us that heroes need to be radical individualists who answer to no one and bravely go where no one else has dared to go before. After all, book after book has been written to show us how to break free from the limitations of our upbringings and embrace a future of liberation and self-actualization. But the book of Esther and the Scriptures as a whole offer us a radically different understanding of heroism and freedom. True heroes are the ones who willingly offer themselves for another, who follow devotedly in the footsteps of wise leaders who have proven themselves to be faithful, and who gladly relinquish the goals and desires of their fallen self to become disciples of the one true King. True freedom is obtained only by surrender to and dependence upon a God who made us, knows us, loves us, and has a sovereign purpose for every circumstance in our lives. 

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:5-‬7, ESV) ‬

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