The key to the book of Esther seems to be that God's promises stand even if the circumstances say otherwise. The promises are hidden and only revealed in the confidence of some of the characters - chiefly Mordecai and Zeresh, and to a lesser extent Esther. The book is very pertinent for our age. A time where the church looks finished. Where the Amazon bestseller is Dawkins new book that preaches that God is a dellusion. A world where people fear global warming and North Korean nukes rather than the judgement of God because God's promises seem distant and most people aren't even aware of them.
Xerxes the Muppet?So, what's the story?
Xerxes is defied by his wife so he banishes her. He holds a contest to find a new wife, the only qualification is beauty. He uncovers Esther and gives her a lifetime contract. Meanwhile Xerxes is defied by some subjects, Mordecai saves him but then defies the prime minister. Therefore Xerxes sentences Mordecai's people to annihilation at the end of the year. And chapters 1-3 end on this cliff-hanger.
Why is this happening? Why didn't Mordecai bow? Why did Mordecai allow his adopted daughter to marry the king but wont bow to an official? Why didn't he keep quiet about a Jew? How will the Jews survive - they survived Nebuchadnezzar's exile but this looks like too big an ask? What about God's promise that his people would fill the earth?
Why doesn't Mordecai bow?
This is obvious to any Jew reading it, but we probably miss it. Genealogy is everything for a Jew. It matters less for us today. My Brazilian relay is married and her name includes the surnames of both her parents, and her husband. My English relay carries both of his parents surnames, which isn't all that normal in our culture. The fight in Esther is not really Mordecai vs. Xerxes. It is Mordecai vs. Haman. More significantly it is Mordecai Son of Kish, Benjamite and Jew vs. Haman the Son of Agag, the Amalekite. Which clarifies things doesn't it?
Step back a bit.
Exodus 17. Israel are fresh out of Egypt. Rescued by Yahweh. Then King Amalek comes up against them to stop them. This was the moment where Moses prayed from the hilltop - when he prayed they won, when he stopped praying they would lose. After the battle, the LORD declares a war forever between the Jews and Amalekites.
1 Samuel 15. King Saul is up against Agag the Amalekite. The LORD says wipe him out. Saul doesn't and so Saul is deposed by the LORD, he fails to kill of the Amalekites.
And now Mordecai finds himself back in that old battle. The old war is revived. He cannot bow to an Amalekite. And Haman knows it. Haman has the power and takes his advantage, but Mordecai could not let it pass. He wont submit to an Amalekite. He knows that God has promised the survival and restoratiom of his people. But it's a conundrum.
What's the solution? What hope?
1. Mordecai is a hero with his name in the book of Xerxes.
2. One Jew will survive this holocaust, the secret Jew who is sleeping with the King.
Haman appears to have the advantage but our questionable heroes have some angles available - but they're tiny opportunities. But, more than that this book is in the Bible. This book sits among God's promises. Promises through Jeremiah of a restoration. Promises to Abraham of a globally blessed people.
Esther 1-3 force us to believe those promises against the might of the United States of Ahasuerus and the venom of Haman. They ask us to believe that when everything else says God's promises have failed that they do stand irrevocably. Esther is a book that asks us to believe God's promises, against the circumstances. Circumstances say that the story is over for God's people. But the promises disagree.
As we look back at these events through the cross of Christ we see God's yes. God did save them. It all looked to be over but God keeps his people. The cross shows us God's great unlikely YES to his promises. God will make good on his promises. The church will flourish, even if opposed. God's promises stand firm. They are YES and Amen in Jesus Christ....
...do we trust in our circumstances, or God's promises?
to be continued in Esther 4-7, where confidence in God's promises leads God's people to say "risk is right"
tags: promises esther james transformation prizing the prominses of God treasuring Christ