For Such a Time as This
God is our provider. He is our sustainer and guide through life, and yet I have never heard His audible voice. I have never seen Him. However, I see His hand in all that He has made. I hear His voice but only in the silence of my own heart.
God seems silent and distant during some seasons of life. Yet, in retrospect, some of the silent seasons were the times when He was most present.
At times, we question if God is present at all.
Where was God when . . .?
Perhaps you, like me, have been angry with God at times.
The story of Esther is a good place to look to gain understanding.
The book of Esther does not talk about God. Like in our lives, God is invisible, but He is invincible. His sovereign control is clear throughout the story of Esther and in our lives. His hand is visible in all that happens. As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can take courage in God’s sovereign control in all that happens.
Esther 1:1 tells us, “These events happened in the days of King Xerxes, who reigned over 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia.”[i]
The Hebrew name for Xerxes was “Ahasuerus.”[ii] Xerxes reigned from 486 to 465 B.C.[iii] Babylon fell in 539 B.C. Therefore, this was just over 50 years after the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple as is told about in the book of Ezra. Not all the Jews returned to Judah, and, not unlike today, they lived widely scattered throughout the empire.
Before we get into the actual events of the story, let me say that there is a plot to destroy the people of God, the Chosen People. When plots like this surface, we question, “Where is God?” When we feel the effects of such plots, we get angry with God.
I am going to preface our look at this story by pointing out that there is a war going on.
Pharaoh tried to destroy the people of God, and chased them into the Red Sea. Attacks like this have continued throughout history even to modern times. For example, Hitler’s attempt to eradicate the Jews was just another battle in the war.
The target is the Lord and His anointed one. 1 John 4:3 says, “. . . every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” (ESV)[iv] This spirit of the antichrist has been working in the world since the Garden of Eden, and has continually been fighting against God, His people and His plan.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-7 says:
Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. (ESV)
There is a day coming when the man of lawlessness will be revealed. We know this one as the Antichrist. However, notice it says, “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work!” Esther is an example of the mystery of lawlessness at work in the world. It is also an example of the restraining influence of the prayers of God’s people. The One restraining the mystery of lawlessness is the Holy Spirit, who is present in the people of God.
In 486 B.C., when Xerxes was ruler over 127 provinces, the mystery of lawlessness was at work, but so was God.
The story of Esther starts out with the king throwing a huge, 6-month long party. This party culminated in a 7-day feast, which was characterized by unlimited alcohol. Nothing unusual here . . . everybody loves a good celebration. The king decides to show off his very beautiful wife. However, apparently his very beautiful wife decided she did not want to be shown off.
He fired her.
Time passes and the king decides he needs a new wife.
At this time in the story, we meet Esther. She is, of course, the heroine of our story. The celebration, the party and the firing explain how she became queen. God is not mentioned in all of this, but we know His hand was in it.
Along with Esther, we are introduced to Mordecai. Mordecai, an older cousin of Esther, adopted her as a young girl when her mother and father died.
During the process of selection for the queen, on a certain night, Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, and he became aware of a plot to assassinate the king. He relayed the details of the assassination plot to Esther, who, in turn, relayed these details to the king, giving credit to Mordecai for having discovered the plot. An immediate investigation culminated in the execution of the conspirators, notes being made in the official records and then it was forgotten as everyone moved on with business.
In his time around the palace, Mordecai made an enemy. Haman was the prime minister, second only to the king. Mordecai refused to kneel before Haman or pay him honor. Haman was unable to force Mordecai to kneel, so he hatched a plot to kill Mordecai and all the Jews along with him.
A decree went out in the king’s name that all the Jews in the kingdom were to be killed on a certain day.
At times like this, God seems absent.
Mordecai informed Esther of the plot, and persuaded her to ask the king for her life and the life of her people. In persuading her, he says something profound. He says, “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
We are convinced that although God seems absent, He is very much present.
Esther called on all the Jews in Susa to fast and pray for three days before she went in to make her appeal to the king.
This is key.
We, as Christians, are called to pray. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 says:
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.
This is our part in holding back the mystery of lawlessness. When God no longer wants us to do this, He will remove us. It is called the rapture. We will be “caught up,” raptured, to be with Christ.
Plots to destroy the people of God abound. Hate speech, public displays of a religious nature and the Bible are just some of the issues by which the enemy attacks the people of God.
However, we have no reason to fear. Nevertheless, we must pray. We are commanded to pray.
Consider what happens when God’s people pray.
Haman is our example. He hatched the plot to destroy God’s people. He embodied the spirit of antichrist in his day, and it appeared he was having his way.
However, he hated Mordecai. Killing the Jews was not enough. He wanted personal satisfaction. So, he decided to do something about it.
Executions in the Persian Empire were carried out by impaling a person on a pole, standing the pole up in public and leaving the body there for all to see. Haman set up a pole 75 feet tall. Then, first thing next morning, Haman went in to ask the king for permission to impale Mordecai on the pole.
Wouldn’t you know, that night the king could not sleep.
So, he had the official records brought out and read to him, and he discovered he had never honored Mordecai for saving his life. The king decided to rectify this oversight immediately, and who just happened to be in the court early in the morning, but Haman. The king charged Haman with leading the parade honoring Mordecai throughout the city of Susa. And that night, it was Haman who was impaled on the pole he had set up to be used on Mordecai.
This is not clever story telling or just a fine example of irony. This is how God works.
Remember Joseph? His brothers sold him as a slave in Egypt, and at the end of his life he told them:
But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. (Genesis 50:19-20)
Haman intended to destroy Mordecai and his people. His plot backfired and ended up strengthening them. The book of Esther ends with Mordecai as prime minister, second only to the king, working for the good and prosperity of the Jews.
In our personal lives, we are often confronted with what seems like plots to destroy us. These plots seem like a 75-foot pole to us.
What might yours be?
Some horrible pain?
Some threat of illness or surgery?
A relationship broken beyond repair?
An insurmountable loss and overwhelming grief?
Uncertainty about your career or job?
Let me encourage you with the Words of Romans 8:28:
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
I want to close with words from Chuck Swindoll’s book titled, Esther.
Be still . . . deliberately pause and discover that God is God. Stop reaching back into your own treasure of security. Stop trying to pull the strings yourself. Stop manipulating people and situations. Stop making excuses for your irresponsiblities. Stop ignoring reality. Stop rationalizing your way through life. Stop all that! How? You ask.
Initially: Be quiet. The immortal, invisible, all-wise God, hid from your eyes, is at work. Be very still and, for a change, listen.
Ultimately: Be convinced. Say to the Lord God, “I am convinced that you are at work amid the gallows of my life. I can see them in the dawn of the morning sunrise, but I know You’re at work! I cannot change the events, but I know you are there in the midst of them. Rescue me. I come to You through Christ. I come to You alone. I am quiet, and, finally, I am convinced.[v]
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] NLT Bible marginal note for verse 1.
[iv] Scripture quotations marked ESV 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.
[v] Swindoll, Charles R. A Woman of Strength and Dignity Esther. Word Publishing, Nashville, TN. Copyright 1997. pg., 18.