News about Haman’s edict has spread like wildfire throughout the Persian Empire. The author tells us that “in every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes” (4:3 – NIV). Who could blame them? Fear can play a significant role in our faith life. Like Esther, there will be times for us where it will be painful, confusing, and costly to identify with God’s people. Like Esther, God will call us to things that are bigger than ourselves and require total dependence on Him. Will we respond like Esther with faith and obedience?
Haman is one of the most, if not the most, notorious enemies in the history of God’s people. Haman’s utter hatred for the Jews fills the pages of this book. He directs his blind, prejudicial rage right at God’s chosen people. To this day, traditional Jewish people despise Haman. At Jewish festivals, like the festival of Purim, when a teacher reads Haman’s name aloud, modern Jews will hiss and jeer. One of the important things to keep in mind when we study the stories in God’s word is to look for ourselves in the characters’ weaknesses. As God’s people, we have to carefully ask ourselves, do we carry any blind prejudices? Are we walking in any foolish pride? We can have hope to overcome those things because Jesus has defeated our greatest enemy. Like Haman, Satan hates the people of God. Like Haman, Satan accuses us. Like Haman, Satan seeks to destroy us. But Jesus has come to destroy the works of the devil.
Esther and her cousin Mordecai were living in Persia as Jewish exiles during the unraveling of this story. Cyrus, king of Persia, had given the Jews permission to return to Jerusalem during His reign (see Ezra & Nehemiah). Still, some Jews decided to remain behind and continue to live in exile in the Persian Empire. Perhaps they were afraid of the journey or maybe they had grown accustomed to life in Persia. We don’t know for sure. Whatever the case, Esther’s family decided to remain behind. As followers of Christ, this world is not our home. We belong to a holy city and a High King. We live as strangers bringing light to a world that is in darkness. The book of Esther teaches us that even though we live in this dark world, and sometimes also contribute to the night, God does not abandon us but saves us for his glory.
The book of Esther is a unique book. It is set during a season of silence in which it appears that God is nowhere to be found. The people of God had been permitted to return to Jerusalem following 70 years of captivity, and yet many chose to remain in exile in Persia. Life for the refugees had become increasingly dry spiritually. King Xerxes ruled over them with extreme wealth and little concern for anything other than his lavish lifestyle. If you continue to read through the book of Esther, you will see that God is not missing but that He is hard at work behind the scenes. Instead of working through His visible hand of miracle, God chooses to work through His invisible hand of providence in Esther.
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