A WINNER OR A LOSER?
Lord, we know that You have a grand strategy.
Read ESTHER 2:15–23
15 When the turn came for Esther (the young woman Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail) to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her. 16 She was taken to King Xerxes in the royal residence in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.
17 Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. 18 And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality.
Mordecai Uncovers a Conspiracy
19 When the virgins were assembled a second time, Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate. 20 But Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up.
21 During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthana[a] and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. 22 But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. 23 And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were impaled on poles. All this was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king.
a Esther 2:21 Hebrew Bigthan, a variant of Bigthana
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“How good is the God we adore! / Our faithful, unchangeable friend: / his love is as great as his power / and knows neither measure nor end” (Joseph Hart, 1712–1768).
You will gather that I have been struggling somewhat in my reading of Esther this time around! I don’t think I have heard this section treated in church without hearing something like “how wonderful that God so blessed Esther that everyone admired her, the king liked her better than anyone else, so she was able to win the contest.” Of course God can use all kinds of circumstances that fall short of what he desires for his people or his world. It may be that you want to concentrate on and rejoice in God’s sovereignty. Surely, however, there is something not quite right with this argument and maybe the lack of mention of God is again significant. The account is clear as to what happened, but we need to ask more questions about the significance of what is actually recorded. The king has found himself another beautiful wife to showcase, thereby demonstrating how clever and attractive he must be. So, he throws another banquet to display his “royal liberality” (18).
However, does this unfortunate state of affairs mean that it represents God’s best plan for Esther? Or is God’s concern for the future of those Jews—who deliberately chose not to go back to the Promised Land but decided to remain in Persia—more significant than his concern for one Jewish girl? Scripture is clear that God is sovereign and that ultimately his purposes will be worked out, but it is also clear that sometimes God lets us bear the consequences of our own actions and that sometimes innocent people suffer as a result. The text here does not allow those for whom it raises ethical questions to blame God necessarily for what was happening in Persia at this time.
Do we sometimes use our conviction of God’s sovereignty to excuse things Scripture itself makes clear do not reflect God’s character? Is this a good way to argue?
Lord, truly we can’t understand Your plan sometimes, but, like Esther, we do believe that You have our ultimate well-being in mind.
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