The book of Esther is one of the best reads in the Bible. If you haven’t read it, I highly encourage it. The book never mentions God, prayer, or any overtly religious practice, yet it tells a story that can be explained no other way.
The Jews had been in exile for 150 or so years, and many of them probably thought God was done with them. They were far away from Jerusalem, and they figured God was far away from them. It was a low point in Jewish history.
The events of Esther showed all of God’s people that He was there, that He remembered them, and that He was for them.
Esther and Mordecai, the heroes of the story, were Jews living in Susa in the Persian Empire. Amazingly, Esther had become queen after winning the favor of everyone, most importantly the king, in a beauty pageant of sorts. Mordecai advised her not to mention that she was Jewish, and she obeyed him. (Read the whole episode in Esther chapters 1 and 2 here. The links in this post will take you through the book of Esther. If you know the story of Esther feel free to skip to the end.)
About four years later the Jews all across the Persian Empire found themselves targets under an edict fashioned by evil Haman and put into effect with the signet ring of the clueless king. After the edict went out, “the king and Haman sat down to drink but the city of Susa was bewildered.” (Esther 3:15) You can say that again.
Mordecai went to Esther for help, and after a couple of rounds of conversation, he said the words for which he is best known: “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Esther then agreed to do what she could, and she asked that all the Jews fast for three days. She and her staff would do the same.
On the third day of her fast Esther invited the king and Haman to a banquet, which resulted in an invitation to another banquet. God arranged a humorous bunch of “coincidences” on behalf of the Jews in the intervening night. At Esther’s second banquet she made her pitch to the king on behalf of the Jews, and evil Haman was hung on the gallows that he had built for Mordecai.
Mordecai and Esther wrote an edict to empower the Jews to defend themselves, and sealed it with the kings signet ring. This new edict went out to all the people in all the provinces, and the Jews had a chance. They had an excellent chance. The feast of Purim is celebrated to this day to remember God’s preservation of the Jews.
It’s surprising that in a book with no mention of God he can so easily be seen.
Perhaps that’s how we feel sometimes. God’s miracles were astonishing and his presence clearly felt earlier in Bible history, but where was he in Esther’s day? Where is he today?
Studying the book of Esther reminds me that God is with us, even if we don’t know it, even if we are not paying attention to Him.
God physically saved the entire Jewish race through Esther and Mordecai. More importantly, he spiritually transformed them while doing it. Every Jew was under a death sentence, and I’m sure God was working in them as they faced the prospect. Esther had become a strong woman and a spokesperson for her people as the result of these events. Mordecai went from being nobody to being second in command to the king, and he “worked for the good of his people.”
Everyone’s faith grew stronger.
God was very present and active during the days of Esther. He is present and active in your life too.