Thought for the Week - 18th OctoberVanda Hopkin
I want to reflect on a well-known story in the Bible, that of Esther. Many of us will know it and would have read it. However, perhaps we will have forgotten the specific details.
Esther lived about 486 years before Christ. There was a Persian king called Ahasuerus who lived in the province of Shusan, which is in modern day Iran. He ruled over 127 provinces, which went all the way from India right the way through to Ethiopia. The expanse of his rule was massive across the world at that time. Within his area, right in the middle of Babylon, there had been Jews taken into captivity many years before. So there were Jews living in that province.
In the third year of his reign he gave a 180 day feast for all his officials and their servants. People came from the 127 provinces – from as far as Ethiopia and India – on camel and horseback for this feast. It was really to show how powerful and wealthy he was. He wanted to show his riches.
His wife was queen Vashti. She held the feast at the same time for the women in the royal palace. Women and men in those days were very different in those days. Women had to “know their place”. They didn’t have a voice. They were chattels of men.
After the 180 day feast, he held a second feast for seven days for the people who live in Shusan. The drinks were overflowing. He was very wealthy – even the cups were made of gold. On the seventh day, he called for his servants to bring queen Vashti to show her off. He’d shown everything else off. Queen Vashti was extremely beautiful. He sent for her to come with her crown so he could show her off. But she refused. He was absolutely annoyed. He called for his men and advisors to decide what to do. They were concerned that if she was referring to come when called, all the women in Shusan might follow her lead and refuse to obey their husbands. He made a decree that every man should be the ruler of his own home, and should say whatever he pleases. After his anger had died down, he decided that Vashti couldn’t be trusted and that he should have a different queen. She went and we don’t read of her again.
He decides to have beautiful young virgins brought before him for him to look for a new queen. There was a man living in that province called Mordecai. He was a Jew. His ancestors had been brought over in captivity and he brought up and looked after his cousin, who we know as Esther. Esther was very, very beautiful. Mordecai decided to take Esther as one of these beautiful virgins, a possible wife for the king. He told her not to say anything about being a Jew, as it would ruin her chances of being a queen and she could be killed.
There were huge preparations. All these young girls went through the same things. Only the most beautiful would be chosen. They had to be perfect in looks and figure. They had 12 months to prepare before going before the king. There were 6 months where they were bathed in oils such as myrrh, and another 6 months of beauty preparations with perfumes etc. Then they would be brought before the king.
She was taken before the king in the seventh year of his reign, four years after his party. He loved Esther more than anyone, and made her his queen. In those days they had concubines, but only one queen. He made her queen. She had to go to him in the evening, and go back to the concubines in the morning, staying there in the day. She was only allowed to approach the king when he called for her. She couldn’t approach him of her own volition. She had to stay until called.
Mordecai would parade every day in front of the palace to make sure Esther was okay and ask the Eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines, about how she was doing. Right throughout this time, he looked after her welfare. One day he heard two Eunuchs plotting to kill, or harm, the king. He gets a message to Esther to tell her what was happening. These two men are hung as traitors.
The king had a palace official called Hamon. For some reason the official is promoted, but straight away it goes to his head. He thinks he’s better than anyone else, and men should bow in subservience before him, as he’s only one from the king. He notices Mordecai and is incensed with him because Mordecai won’t bow down to him. He finds out that Mordecai is a Jew, and while he can’t kill him, he makes a plan to trick the king into making a decree that all the Jews in that area and across the 127 provinces will be killed. He personally offers 10,000 silver talents for the people who will do this job.
Mordecai gets a message to Esther, telling her that she has to do something and has to tell the king. Esther to tell the Eunuch to go back to Mordecai and tell him (Esther 4: 11):
“All the king’s officials and even the people in the provinces know that anyone who appears before the king in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die unless the king holds out his gold scepter. And the king has not called for me to come to him for thirty days.”
Esther hadn’t seen the king for thirty days and couldn’t just go to see him. Mordecai sent her this reply (Esther 4: 13-17):
13 “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed.
14 If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”
15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai:
16 “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.”
17 So Mordecai went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.
Esther calls everyone to fast. She then makes a banquet and invites just Haman and the King. That night, the king couldn’t sleep. He reads his chronicles, the book of records of things that have happened. He remembers that Mordecai had once saved his life. The king then goes to Haman the following morning and asks what he’d do for someone who should have all honour. Haman is so arrogant, he thinks the king is speaking of him. Haman replies that he’d give him the royal robes, give him his royal seal ring, and make him one next to the king. The king agrees, and says he’s going to do that for Mordecai. Haman was furious. He thought all the glory was going to come to him.
At the end of the story, the tables turn against Haman. He is killed. Then ten sons of Haman are all hung. The king makes a decree that all the Jews can attack those who were going to kill them. Still today, the Jews celebrate the feast of Purim which started here, when the Jews were saved from Haman.
I started to think this week about Esther and what she could or couldn’t have done.
She was in a place where she thought she was safe. She was queen. Yes, she could have been set aside, she might have thought she was okay. Yet Mordecai tells her she will be treated like all the other Jews. God will look after his people, but she would be killed if she didn’t do her part. All of a sudden she’s in a very difficult position, between the devil and the deep blue sea. She has a position that she’s never had. She’s got all the wealth and riches of a queen. She had a king who loved her. Yet she knew that if she approached him, even that in itself could mean death. At the least she could be cast aside. She was under tremendous pressure. The emotions and feelings she would have had would’ve been running high with the decision she had to make at this time.
Mordecai says “you were born for such a time as this”. It’s a phrase we use for ourselves quite often. I believe that we were born for such a time as this. We weren’t born a hundred years ago, or a hundred years in the future. We were born now to the parents we should’ve had. We were born now in the place that we should be. Yet, with that, and the plans and the purposes that God has for our lives, if we believe there are no coincidences, we are born for such a time as this. We have plans and purposes that God has for each and every one of us, for this time.
If we believe this, it puts us in a very unique position. It also puts us in a unique position, that if we think that, then we have a huge, huge responsibility. That responsibility really struck me this week. If we believe that, then we are not meant to amble aimlessly through life. Actually, what is our plan and our purpose?
We are significant to God. So often we forget about that. How significant we are to God. And how those plans and purposes we forget that God has them for us.
We do sometimes fall off the sharp edge. We do sometimes wander aimlessly away. We do sometimes think is this all that God has for us. Sometimes, like Esther, we feel ourselves in positions where we’re between the devil and the deep blue sea, and whichever way we go we’re in a difficult position. Esther found that choosing the right road led to life not death. If she’d gone the other way it would’ve meant death.
Not one of us are outside that huge responsibility that every single one of us has. We’ve heard the good news the Gospel of Christ. We’ve accepted Christ as our saviour. We’ve heard what our responsibilities, God’s call, God’s ambitions and purpose for our life is. We’re not wandering aimlessly through life because we know that God has a plan for us. We cannot, through ignorance any longer, forget that He has a plan.
Some plans are known. Some plans are unknown. It’s not for us to go searching out those plan or making them up or making them happen. It’s for God to bring them to us. It’ll happen without us even having to look.
It only takes one person to do great and mighty things. Queen Esther was only one person. We, on our own, are only one person. We may not be in a prominent position like Esther, but we’re just as important as Esther. We’re king and queens within our own right before God.
We can no longer pretend that God doesn’t have a plan and a purpose for us. Many of us know what those are. Many of us might choose not to look for it. Although we may not choose to follow after the plans or accept that God has a plan, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. It doesn’t mean that we can ignore the fact that God has called us.
There’s a seriousness about that responsibility. To carry the small anointing that God has given us. To search for that anointing. To search for God to deepen that anointing. To live in a way that God can give us that anointing. The same God that chose Esther to be in her position has chosen you and me to be in our position here. To have that deliverance ministry, evangelism ministry, and healing ministry. It’s there for us.
Sometimes we lose our way because we get caught up in so many other things. We take our eyes from what God has got for us. That anointing is to be sought hard after, with every fibre of our being is calling us to search for that anointing.
Where do we start? We come and search after God in our private lives, in our quiet time. Where we are and where God has put us, we’re faithful in those small things. We don’t look at what anyone else is doing or not doing. That is between them and God. The devil wants us to be focused on everything and anything, where we become so complacent that we don’t need God in our decision making or don’t need God at all. God says no. He will build His church. Our place is to be faithful. Faithful to Him above all things. Faithful to others. Faithful to our fellow beings. Faithful to our leaders. Obedient. This isn’t heavy shepherding, it’s being faithful to God. There is an anointing that comes with being faithful to God in our small area.
How big is our God! We need to fall down on our knees before the God Almighty! We make Him so small. We become like Haman and make ourselves so big! It becomes about us and what we want. We can become so caught up in why we have to do this and that. Why do I have to die to what I want when no one else seems to be doing it? Don’t look at others, look at Him! Look at His face. Jesus chose to do the will of God and killed Him, literally. There is a love to pour out upon His people. There are blessings untold. There are blessings untold for individuals, anointings, ministries, glories yet to come.
Hudson Taylor talks in his book about going out to China in a boat with his family and workers. As he sails, a dozen a day people are saved. For a month, nobody is saved. He seeks God to find out why people have suddenly stopped being saved. God shows Him. God showed him a lack of unity among his workers – they were all arguing and quarrelling. He calls them together and stops it. Suddenly, it starts coming back. People stop looking at each other and bickering. The love of God comes back and they start seeing people saved.
Our actions and our reactions are seen in heaven. They reverberate right into the heavenly realms. We may say things in private and do things in private, but they are seen and they’re carried, and they’re taken. God Himself in the throne room of heaven sees them. Suddenly things change within a work or a church. God says stop. This work is for Him not for us. It’s not for our benefit, although we will benefit – like Queen Esther we’ll take that right road. We will choose to do the will of God. We will choose to take the right road and stand up.
The king’s decree gave the Jews in every city authority to unite to defend their lives. They were allowed to kill, slaughter, and annihilate anyone of any nationality or province who might attack them or their children and wives, and to take the property of their enemies.
The time has come to kill, annihilate and attack anything in our lives that is causing us a downfall. Anything that’s causing us to be attacked by the enemies. Take hold of what satan has taken from us and stand up to him. Say no. We say there is a life of God for us. There is a plan and a purpose, who we have been called for such a time as this. We no longer will be held captive to him. Everything that the enemy does to knock us off track we stand up against him and we annihilate. The anger that we sometimes feel towards another, is turned towards the enemy who wants to bring us down.
There are others who need us to bring Christ to them. Remember your responsibilities. We can no longer live for ourselves, or we face the consequences. We live to Christ, the one who saves us. We bring Him into every situation in our lives. We’ve kept Him out for so long, bring Him in. The rushing flood of God will come through as we seek Him.
We may pretend to others or ourselves that we don’t know what God is calling us for, or that we’re alright with God. We know our hearts. God knows. We can no longer make excuses when we choose everything else before Him. Come. The God that has put the stars into space, but also put us into creation for a reason. No longer ambling around, but for a reason.
No longer feel insignificant before our fellow man. We are significant in the eyes of God. That significant brings a responsibility for each one of us.