Meanwhile, Back In Babylon.
“Dispatches were sent by swift messengers into all the provinces of the empire, giving the order that all Jews—young and old, including women and children—must be killed, slaughtered, and annihilated on a single day. This was scheduled to happen on March 7 of the next year. The property of the Jews would be given to those who killed them.” – Esther 3:13 NLT
Not every Jew returned to the Land of Promise with Zechariah and Zerubbabel. In fact, only a small portion of the Jews living in exile were part of those who decided to return. That left tens of thousands of Jews still living in captivity, now under the rule of Xerxes, the king of the Persians, who had defeated the Babylonians. The story of Esther is the story of God’s dealings with those who remained in exile. He had not forgotten about them. While He was busy assisting Zechariah and those who had returned to Jerusalem with the restoration of the Temple and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, He had not taken His eyes off of those who had been left behind. These first three chapters set the stage for a dramatic confrontation between God and the enemies of the Jews. It is a snap shot of what has been going on for centuries and reflects the intense hatred for God’s chosen people that has manifested itself in a variety of ways since the day God called Abram out of Ur and promised to multiply his seed and make them into a great nation.
The book of Esther is all about the sovereignty of God, yet it reflects the remarkable fact that He chooses to use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. The main heroine of the story is Esther, for whom the book is named. Esther is a young Jewish orphan living in Babylon with her uncle, Mordecai, who had adopted her after the death of her parents. In a bizarre act of fate, Esther is chosen to join in what was, for all intents and purposes, a beauty pageant. King Xerxes had banished his queen for having refused to do what he commanded her to do. King Xerxes was a powerful man who was accustomed to getting what he wanted. He was wealthy and prone to excess. He was a hedonist, who loved the finer things in life and enjoyed displaying his power and possessions any chance he could get. After banishing the queen, he set about looking for her replacement by having all the beautiful, young virgins in the land brought to his palace where they were subjected to a six-month “makeover.” Esther was one of these young women. So the story begins. A young, obscure Jewish girl suddenly finds herself living in the palace of the king. Is it luck, or the sovereign hand of God? That’s the point of the whole story.
This entire book is written to the people of God to remind them of the sovereign, protective power of God. He is ALWAYS in control. He is ALWAYS working behind the scenes in ways we can’t see or even imagine. In a miraculous turn of events, Esther passes her “audition” and is crowned the new queen by Xerxes. She went from orphan to concubine to queen in record time. Meanwhile, her uncle Mordecai had scored a job on the palace staff as a gatekeeper. One day, while on duty, he overhears two men plotting to assassinate the king. He reveals this news to Esther, who tells the king. And all we’re told is that this act is recorded in The Book of the History of King Xerxes’ Reign. Enter Haman, the second-most-powerful man in the kingdom. He is a megalomaniac who ends up with a hatred for Mordecai because he will not bow down and worship him. So in a fit or rage, he convinces the king to sign a decree setting a date one year into the future when every single Jew living in the land will be executed – on a single day. Where did this come from? How did the simple slight of a single man turn into a plan to annihilate an entire race of people?
So the stage is set. The young Jewish girl, Esther is the new queen. Her uncle Mordecai finds employment at the palace where he has a run-in with Haman, the most powerful official in the kingdom. King Xerxes signs a decree, giving Haman the power and the resources to pull off his plan to kill every single Jewish man, woman, and child living in the land of Babylon. What’s going to happen? How will this story end? And where is God in all of this? It is interesting to note that God is not referred to in the entire book. That fact caused many in the early days of the church to question whether it should be included in the canon of Scripture. But I think the absence of God’s name is purposeful. While we do not see His name in the book, we see His hands all over the events taking place in the story. We don’t have to see His name to recognize His handiwork. We don’t need to be told who it is that is causing these things to happen. It’s God. No one else could orchestrate a plot like this in order to accomplish His will. Things are looking bleak. The situation looks completely out of control. But wait. God’s not done yet.
Father, I shouldn’t have to be told that You are working. I should simply see it and intuitively know it. Your name is written on every second of every single day of human history. You are silently, yet sovereignly working Your divine plan to perfection. You know the ending of the story. You know how all things are going to turn out. Nothing is a mystery to You. So while the king and Haman sat down to drink, You were busy putting Your plan into action. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men