In the month of May, we will be studying the book of Esther as a church. When we read this book, our focus is on the heroine, Esther, a captive Jewish girl who won the favour of a king with her beauty and, eventually, saved God’s people from genocide with her courage.
We are inclined to focus on Esther not only because the book is named after her, but because it seems that God, the rightful hero in scripture, is absent in the plot line. It is the only book in the Bible in which God is not mentioned by name. This has caused some people to question whether it should have been placed in the Biblical canon, but it is actually in keeping with the theme of the book. Power, wealth and beauty are on display while something of great significance is happening behind the scenes.
On the face of it, Esther was a victim of circumstances, first in exile away from her home country, held captive in Persia. Then, to add insult to injury, she was abducted and forced into a harem. If ever there was a “wrong place,” Esther was in it.
And yet, we will see that Esther’s circumstances are a means of redemption for the people of Israel. Seemingly insignificant “coincidences” and other moments of perfect timing, move Esther from powerlessness into power. If ever there was a “right time,” Esther was aware of it.
Esther’s solid identity as part of a people set apart for God is paramount to her ultimate victory – she never sways from this understanding and it informs her actions. Which lays out the challenge for us as believers today. What is our response to the culture around us where beauty, wealth and power are exhibited and exalted? Do we identify as a people set apart for God? Do we trust in God’s perfect timing in our circumstances as difficult as they may be? Do we believe God is at work behind the scenes?