Esther 4:13–17; 8:3–8comment (0)
May 5, 2011
By M. Sydney Park
Related Scripture: Esther 4:13–17; 8:3–8
Bible Studies for Life
Assistant Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
Use Your Influence
Esther 4:13–17; 8:3–8
Esther’s story takes place during the Babylonian Captivity of the Jewish people in fifth century B.C. Mordecai, along with his uncle’s daughter Esther (Hadassah), was a captive under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon (Esther 2:5–7). Esther, along with Ezra and Nehemiah, focuses on Jewish history in Persia. And during Mordecai’s and Esther’s time in Persia, the king was Xerxes (Ahasuerus).
Recognize Your God-given
Potential for Influence (4:13–14)
The Book of Esther begins with an account of a lengthy festivity (180 days) hosted by Xerxes with all the nobles and servants of his vast kingdom (1:1–5). The setting is luxurious (1:6) and overflowing with the king’s generosity (1:7–9). However, this festive and generous spirit quickly evaporated as his request for the presence of Queen Vashti was willfully denied (1:10–12). She was dethroned lest women of the entire kingdom should follow her example and rebel against their husbands (1:13–22). The vacancy left by Vashti became a fortuitous event that led to Esther’s appointment as queen (2:17). From this place of influence, with information from Mordecai, Esther helped uncover treason against the king (2:19–23).
After these events, when Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman elevated by Xerxes to the highest place in his kingdom, Haman sought to destroy not only Mordecai but also all Jews (3:1–6). Fueled by the sting of Mordecai’s slight, Haman directed Xerxes’ attention to the Jewish singularity of keeping no other laws aside from God’s as a potential threat to his rule and, with the price of 10,000 talents, secured a royal decree for genocide of the Jews (3:5–11). With the news of this decree, Mordecai entreated Esther to go before the king and beg for the Jews’ lives (4:8). Yet this request left Esther in a predicament; to appear before the king unsolicited was to risk certain death unless favorably received by him (4:11). Nevertheless Mordecai’s response to Esther’s dilemma was not an indulgence to her plight; she was neither exempt from genocide nor shame of a coward. And with the promise of support from her fellow Jews (fasting for three days and nights), she resolved: “If I perish, I perish” (4:16). Given Esther’s auspicious position as queen, she had a clear opportunity to exert influence for not simply good but her people’s salvation. And despite the fact that God is not mentioned once in Esther, it can be safely assumed that her appointment as queen was tied to His protection of Israel’s remnant. Esther’s influence extended specifically to the Gentiles. Esther serves as an example for modern-day believers of faithful service within the context of a secular world. She not only brought testimony of submission (cf 1 Pet. 3:1–2) but acted to positively influence the secular rulers for the salvation of God’s people. Are there Esthers bold enough to risk even their lives in an environment hostile to Christians? And can modern-day believers diligently pursue godly influence and testimony without knowing the outcome?
Recognize That God Is the Ultimate Influencer (4:15–17)
Despite the fact that God is never explicitly mentioned in Esther, the fact that the Jews fast for three days and nights indicates that they were fully aware their actions alone could not save. Esther’s story merges human responsibility with divine sovereignty. And most encouraging in this story is not simply Esther’s bravery but the support of all Jews for her.
Use Your Influence in Godly Ways (8:3–8)
And with her people’s support, Esther approached the king in humility and submission (3). If indeed it was divine providence that led Esther to her esteemed position, then she acted accordingly with humility and not arrogance. Esther serves as a challenge to modern-day believers, not only to rise from apathy in the secular world and decline the easy path of flight from unbelievers but also to continue that godly testimony with righteous deeds and character.