“Esther,” by Jean-François Portaels
When I think of Queen Esther, I remember how little control we have over our circumstances, but how much control we have over our actions within those circumstances. Esther’s people were a minority ethnic and religious community scattered across the Persian Empire. Through a sequence of events that she could not possibly have engineered, she became queen of Persia. Then, a moment of decision arrived. A senior official in the government decreed the death of all Jews in the kingdom. Would Esther risk her own life to save her people?
Here are a few of the lessons that I’ve learned from Esther’s example:
1. God places us in situations where we can make a difference.
As Esther struggled with her decision of whether and how to intervene on behalf of the Jews, her uncle Mordecai asked a question which helped expand her perspective: “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). The question demonstrates Mordecai’s faith that God is involved in our lives. He has missions for us to fulfill, and He gives us opportunities and privileges not only to show His love for us but also to enable us to serve others.
That is true of the blessings we enjoy, but it’s also true of the challenges we face. Esther may not have been in a position to save her people if they had not been conquered by the Babylonians. Here’s a post about how our circumstances, including adversity, stimulate growth, invite miracles, and give us opportunities to help other people: “With Everlasting Kindness”.
2. Sometimes, we have to take a leap of faith.
Esther’s response to Mordecai illustrates both her determination and her apprehension: “I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). This statement reminds me of Jacob’s reluctant decision to send his son Benjamin to Egypt. “If I be bereaved of my children,” he said, “I am bereaved” (Genesis 43:14). In other words, “I know I have to take this risk. I may lose another son, but so be it.” (See my discussion of Jacob’s decision in the following blog post: Bereaved.)
There comes a point when we know what we need to do and we are fully aware of the risks we are taking. That is the moment that counts. Are we willing to move forward, in spite of the potential consequences? Esther’s courage is a model for us all.
3. Fasting can enable us to receive God’s grace.
Even as Esther made this courageous decision, she recognized that she couldn’t do it alone. So she made the following request to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise” (Esther 4:16).
Fasting is a powerful way to invite God’s blessings, partly because it demonstrates how important the blessings are to us and partly because it humbles us and makes us more receptive. I’ve learned a lot about fasting as we’ve studied the Old Testament this year. Here are two blog posts on the topic:
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