I love the book of Esther! Those extraordinary words about her being there “for such a time as this” are endlessly quoted across the Body of Christ. But, as so often happens, the whole context of the Scripture is rarely understood or appreciated. I have just been prompted to read the book of Esther again and found myself being suddenly, and deeply, alerted to a profound lesson as I read the whole verse which contains these words.
This is what Mordecai said to Esther about the fact that all Jewish people were under threat of destruction because of the evil intent of Haman:
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this” (Esther4:14).
The implication of what Mordecai said was that the purposes of God will not be thwarted and if you have been challenged by God to action and don’t do what He is asking of you, then the consequences could be very serious. In Esther’s case she was facing the reality that both she and her father’s family would perish.
Esther faced a critical decision. If she were to approach the King on behalf of her people, without first being summoned, she could come under an immediate sentence of death. Unless the King extended his gold sceptre towards her, and gave her permission to speak, she would die. Mordecai was asking her to risk a death sentence, for the sake of saving the Jewish people. This is the context of those words “for such a time as this”.
Esther was being called by God to do something incredibly risky, an act of life and death importance. This had to be a moment of supreme faith and, at the same time, one of supreme risk. No wonder John WImber used to say that the word faith is spelt R-I-S-K. What a dilemma for Esther! If she didn’t risk it, then there was no hope for all her people across the 127 provinces of the King’s domains. They would all die. But if she did risk it, she could die in the process, if the King didn’t extend his sceptre towards her.
This story of Esther is one of the most profound in the Bible. She risked everything. Lost nothing. And gained not only the freedom of all her people, but the end of Haman and all those who were plotting to kill all the Jews. The story ended well and to this day remembering Esther’s bravery is one of the most celebrated events in the Jewish calendar.
However, it’s easy to remember the story without understanding its wider significance. The children of Israel had left Egypt and were but a short distance from entering their promised land. Twelve spies were sent ahead. Ten came back in fear with the message that there are giants there. And two, Joshua and Caleb, came back with the same information, but urged the people to enter the land, trusting that God would go ahead of them and not to be afraid, saying, “Only do not rebel against the Lord” (Numbers 14:9).
But the people did rebel. They complained and spent forty years in the wilderness until every single one of those who had rebelled were dead. It did not turn out well for them. Only Joshua and Caleb survived to enter the promised land! The ultimate purposes of God for His people were not thwarted, but not one of those who had responded to the challenge in fear, as opposed to faith, survived and all missed out on God’s blessing. This is serious stuff.
When we set these two stories side by side, the lesson is profound and obvious. Faith leads to life – Fear leads to death, but God will not be thwarted and if we say NO to the purposes of God, then He will find another way to do whatever it was He asks of us, but it won’t involve us and we will miss out on the blessings God was waiting to give.
And, following on from the theme of my last blog, I believe this is an Esther/Johua/Caleb moment for us all, and especially for today’s church leaders: Are you going to walk in relational obedience to the living God and courageously fly in the face of godless secularism, fearlessly proclaiming to a desperate nation and the world that God is the Creator of all things? And that He has set in place a plumbline of truth and when we ignore it, then people and the nations suffer?
This may seem a risky thing to do in a world that loves to oppose anything that has God’s stamp of authority and truth on it. Just as it was in Esther’s day, there’s a world out there that is dying. Esther spoke up and saved her people. We desperately need our leaders to speak up and by so doing give today’s godless generations the opportunity to believe differently from the antigod agenda which drives so much of the social and political western world.
These are serious times. Where are the people who need to be raised up in a time of national spiritual emergency “for such a time as this”? People who don’t look at the giants and run in fear, but look at God and trust Him. And at a personal level, how do we respond when God asks us to do something that seems beyond us? Do we look at the problems or do we look at the God who is above the problems and move forward in faith, taking risks and trusting that the God who saved Esther will also be with us?