For such a time as this
Mordecai stood up for what he believed in and refused to worship the man who wanted to be god
Last week we left off with power hungry Haman, planning an annihilation of the Jews. All because the guardian of the Queen, usurper of treason and our male role model of this book, Mordecai, (literally) stood up for what he believed in and refused to worship the man who wanted to be god. For that he earns the entire Jewish people a death sentence. Haman is so enraged that for his own personal revenge he persuades the King that there is a group of people who are a threat to the King’s authority. Haman does not say who they are, nor does Xerxes ask. With little thought Xerxes hands over the money for the deed and gives Haman his signet ring (the equivalent of a signature today). The dotted line is signed and the news of their imminent destruction is sent out to all the Jews (3:8-14). Haman is happy. His work is done, his authority back in position and he sits down for a pint (v15).
Killing of the Jews as a power reaction is not something unique to the book of Esther. We see it in Exodus 1, Mathew 2, and in Nazi Germany. In the planned holocaust under King Xerxes we are taught about power.
Power for Haman is seen in his authority to have an entire nation bow to him, and at the nod of his head an entire people wiped out. He is powerful. Where Haman seeks to fight with misuse of power and violent action, God’s people turn to ‘fasting, weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in a sackcloth and ashes’ (4:3). They stop eating, cry hysterically, wear rags and cover themselves in dirt. Right. Where’s the power in that?
Perhaps this time the power balance is a bit one sided, maybe Mordecai had bitten off a bit more than he could chew. After all, one bow could save an entire nation. Would it really have been so bad? But as Sam talked about last week the Lord of our lives is Jesus Christ. If Mordecai were to bow to Haman he would be denying the life he lived under the ownership of God.
Esther is often known as the book that never mentions God. So where is He?
But the King has spoken: the Jews are set to die. Has God forgotten His chosen people? Esther is often known as the book that never mentions God. So where is He? As we reach chapter 4 we reach a turning point, a realization that, despite the lack of naming God, a series of key events have been ordained by Him.
Esther, a Jewish Queen with a hidden identity, is inside the palace. Mordecai manages to inform her of the plans to kill the Jews and commands her to ‘go to the King to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people’ (4:5-9). Esther foresees a problem. She may be Queen but the King still holds the power to have her killed if she approaches him unasked for (v11). The power of authority continues.
Mordecai points out that, Queen or not, she’s still a Jew and subject to the mass murder to come. But, he reassures her she doesn’t have to go. ‘If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place’ (v14). Mordecai has faith; the God of his people has not forgotten them. The ultimate power of authority belongs to Him. Mordecai also has wisdom enough to see something perhaps Esther cannot. God may have placed Esther as Queen ‘for such a time as this’ (v15). Esther was not just picked at random to become Queen to the most powerful man on earth. She may have been fit, but she first and foremost belonged to God who would have more planned for her than she could possibly imagine. The same goes for us. When we submit our lives to Christ, we come into the knowledge that we are chosen ‘for such a time as this’.
As the pieces fall into place we see why Esther may be there ‘for such a time as this’. As we saw earlier, one man’s powerful authority was enough to wipe out an entire nation and they could seemingly do nothing. Yet chapter 4 verses 15-16 prove that God has bigger things in mind when it comes to power.
‘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.’
Esther agrees to do what is commanded of her. But not without bringing it before God in prayer and fasting.
Esther agrees to do what is commanded of her. But not without bringing it before God in prayer and fasting. Though prayer is not mentioned explicitly here, in the Old Testament prayer always accompanies fasting (Ex 34:28, Jug 20:26). Esther chose not just to do this alone but asks all the Jews, her community, to join her in praying to God for what was to come. Either way she turns her options seem to be death, she’s terrified, yet she realizes the importance of the task and also the power of prayer not just in her own pleas but also in her community.
In the next two weeks we shall see the events evolve from day three of prayer and fasting, and the power that prayer truly has. Power that comes from a true authority and will destroy the false, power that ensures the will of God and not the will of man. The importance that Esther and the Jews gave to prayer is no different for us and our praying churches today. God placed a prayerful girl in a position of power, surrounded by a praying people. In the same way God has placed you, a prayerful guy/girl, in a position of power (as a child of God in the world) surrounded by a praying people (the Church). Just as Esther realized the importance of prayer, when she and the entire city prayed for 3 days without ceasing, so we must be steadfast in our prayer. It is easy for us for drop God a line once every now and then, ‘Lord I pray for so and so’, and then forget about it. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says we must ‘pray without ceasing’. Our life in Christ means that we are always welcome before Him. God does not set an alarm to make sure he’s there for our quiet times, or sit with a notepad while we pray in church. Unlike Queen Esther with King Xerxes, we may approach our King with our requests at any time.
God has placed you, a prayerful guy/girl, in a position of power, surrounded by a praying people
Through the Spirit we may always be in communication with God. In our joy and in our struggles, in our belief and in our doubt; in our quiet times, in our youth groups, at church, on our way to school, for the people who surround us, for the thoughts that pass through our heads, through our lessons, sports, eating, hanging out etc. God has opened up the channel for us to share our lives with him in constant prayer. And it is powerful.
‘The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working’.
When we pray in the Spirit, we pray with expectation to see God at work in our daily lives.
We pray both by ourselves and also as a community in our churches, for the sick, the poor, the world. Esther chose not to undergo her struggle alone but to be supported by other believers. If the prayer of one righteous person has great power, then surely the prayers of many righteous people also have great power. Just like the Jews in Susa, we are not only united in belief but are called to be united together in prayer. To be constant in our approach to the throne and expectant of God’s presence, to pray as we live and to live as we pray. To show the power of God through us, placed here ‘for such as time as this’.