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Esther: The Making of a Queen 4: The Big Problem

Esther: The Making of a Queen Day 1: Vashti, The Predecessor

The Big Problem

Scripture reading: Esther 3-4:11

And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was filled with fury. But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus. … Then the king’s scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and an edict, according to all that Haman commanded, was written to the king’s satraps and to the governors over all the provinces and to the officials of all the peoples, to every province in its own script and every people in its own language. It was written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king’s signet ring. Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. … And the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was thrown into confusion. (Esther 3:5-‬6,12-13,15b, ESV) ‬‬

We have all probably had days that began just like any other but quickly etched themselves permanently in our memories. Some of those days’ sudden events we remember with joy—like the long-awaited birth of a child or a husband’s marriage proposal or the stunning athletic victory of an underdog. Some we remember with grief—like the unexpected death of a family member or a shocking medical diagnosis or the discovery of a spouse’s affair or even the first sight of tragic footage of natural or sociopolitical disasters. These marked moments of past crises or celebrations then set the rhythms of our lives from that point forward.

Esther certainly knew this. Her life was likely marked out by the memories of losing her parents and being taken to the king’s palace. As a young child, her world had been drastically changed when Mordecai took her in; then, her life as a Jewish woman was drastically changed when she was chosen to be the bride of a Persian king. What must she have felt on the day of her coronation? Fear, confusion, and overwhelming pressure (at the very least) would certainly be understandable. Yet she had no way of knowing that her greatest crisis would arrive soon after.

Esther’s crisis came crashing into the palace via the vengeful scheming of one man, Haman the Agagite. Haman’s intense hatred for Mordecai arose from his insatiable hunger for political power and influence. He could not abide by any man who would not offer him reverence. Since Mordecai was a devout and faithful Jew, he firmly determined that he would bow only before his God and his king. In response, Haman frames his rationale for a full-scale annihilation of the Jews in Persia as a necessary action to protect the king’s authority:

Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them. If it please the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed (vv8-9).

Even Haman’s request to the king reveals the book’s focus on the concept of authority. In Haman’s view, Mordecai and the Jews challenge his own authority, so he is sure that if he presents them to the king as also challenging the king’s authority, his scheme to destroy them will succeed. 

The struggle to decide whose will would be obeyed is the overarching conflict in the book, and it is this choice that decides Esther’s fate and the fate of God’s people. What will this new queen do? While her beloved cousin wails for his people outside the palace gate in sackcloth and ashes, will she wait silently in fear of rejection or risk disobeying her king in order to save them all from genocide? As she has trusted and obeyed the wisdom of Mordecai throughout her life, will she also have the faith to trust and obey the plan of God?

You may know the answers to these questions in Esther’s story—we will get to those tomorrow. But, how would you answer in your own story? In whatever crisis you may be facing, small or large, are you going to linger in fear or lean on God in faith? Are you willing to trust and obey God’s authority, even when the cost could be higher than you want to pay?

For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. … Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:3-‬5,12, ESV)

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