The Choice to Fulfill Destiny
Read the text: THE MEGILLAH (Book of Esther)
It is astounding to think that the actions of one individual can alter the course of history. Yet, the story of Esther profoundly illustrates that truth.
Some five years after Esther was crowned queen, Haman the Agagite presented Xerxes with a plan that would wipe out the Persian Jewish population across the empire. While Xerxes unhesitatingly authorized Haman to implement the plan, the text suggests that his approval to annihilate the Jewish citizenry may have been given unwittingly (vv. 8-9).
None-the-less, letters sent to the provinces a few days later contained directives for the people of the Medo-Persian Empire,
to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions (3:13).
When Esther’s guardian, Mordechai, heard the edict, he joined the kingdom’s Jewish community in intense mourning. In a sign of extreme grief, he traveled through the city wearing sackcloth and ashes until he reached the king’s gate. Although forbidden to enter in a grief-stricken state, Mordechai walked, wept and loudly wailed about the plight of the Jewish people.
Mordechai’s actions attracted the attention of servants who informed the queen of her uncle’s troubling behavior. Esther quickly sent clothes out of concern for him since approaching the palace in mourning was not just frowned upon, but punishable by death.
She may have hoped that in providing fresh clothing, her cousin would come to the palace to speak with her directly. When he refused the garments, Esther was forced to send Hatach, one of the eunuchs, to discover the reason for Mordechai’s display of grief.
Mordechai’s answer was devastating! He revealed Haman’s diabolical plot and provided a copy of the edict instructing Hatach to explain the situation clearly to Esther imploring her to plead for the lives of her people before the king (v. 8).
Esther immediately recognized the gravity of the situation. It was a deathtrap. Entering the king’s inner court without a summons was a capital offense.
The inflexible authoritarian nature of the Medo-Persian legal structure was adopted from the Medes when the two empires united under Cyrus around 550 B.C. The penalty could be waived if the king chose to extend his golden scepter; however, even the queen was restricted by the law.
Vexed by the circumstances, Esther tried to reason with Mordechai. She could be executed if she approached the king without a summons. The king had not summoned her for thirty days. Esther feared she was not in in a position to help.
Mortdechai’s response was sobering:
“Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:13).
His words demonstrate complete trust in the providence of God. He understood God’s covenant relationship with the Jewish people. There was no other option. Esther was the only one strategically positioned to help her people. Whatever the consequences, she must act before it was too late.
For Esther, it was a moment of decision. Though difficult, the choice was clear. She must act in defense of her people regardless of the consequences.
Esther’s response to Mordechai is a courageous and heroic picture of genuine faith:
“Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (v. 16).
For the next 72 hours, Esther must have hoped and prayed that Xerxes would summon her and provide an opportunity to plead the cause of her people. If not, she determined to approach the king uninvited and trust God for the outcome.
Three days later and knowing full well that her life hung in the balance, the queen entered the courtyard of the throne room. With heart pounding and knees shaking, she waited until she had the eye of the king. To the amazement of all, the king raised his scepter extending it to her.
She crossed the courtyard and entered the throne room of the king.
A TWIST IN THE PLOT
When urged to state her request, the queen simply invited Xerxes and his chief minister, Haman, to a private banquet in the king’s honor that afternoon. During dinner, Esther repeated the invitation with a promise that she would reveal all to the king at another banquet the following day.
Feeling secure in the prestige of his relationship with the king especially after banqueting with the royal couple, Haman now determined to seek permission to hang Mordecai on the gallows.
The Boomerang Effect
The next morning, circumstances reversed for Haman. Instead of gaining permission to execute Mordechai, the king commanded Haman to honor Mordechai by leading him through the city as a celebrated hero (6:11).
Haman returned home dumbfounded. Expecting consolation from his wife Zeresh and friends, their response to his public humiliation was unanticipated. The consensus of the group as he recounted what had transpired was staggering:
“If Mordechai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish descent, you will not prevail against him but will surely fall before him” (v. 13).
In the panic of the moment, Haman forgot about his banquet appointment with Xerxes and Esther until the king’s eunuchs arrived to escort him. At dinner, Esther announced her request to the king. Through the fog of his distracted mind, Haman heard Esther say,
“If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. For we have been sold, my people and I, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated” (7:3).
Haman was horrified. He heard Xerxes ask, “Who is he, and where is he, who would dare presume in his heart to do such a thing”(v. 5)?
Queen Esther’s next eight words struck like a lightning bolt, “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman” (v. 6).
It was over for Haman. He tried pleading with the queen to spare his life. But within a matter of hours, Haman hung from the same gallows his wife suggested be prepared for Mordechai (v. 10).
Haman thought he could carry out his diabolical plan with impunity. Instead, the consequences of his actions hit him like a boomerang.
A Surprise Ending
In a surprise move, Xerxes promoted Mordechai and gave him the signet ring of authority that had been used by Haman.
Next, the king commissioned Mordechai and Esther to draft an amendment to Haman’s decree granting the Jewish people the legal status to defend themselves if attacked by anyone in the provinces as previously decreed (v. 11-12).
Thus, the day that had been slated for the destruction of the Jewish people instead became a day of, “gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and for sending presents to one another” among the Persian Jewish community (9:19).
Esther did, however, have a choice. She could speak on behalf of the Jewish people or keep silent.
In spite of mortal danger, she chose to advocate on behalf of the Jewish people and fulfilled her destiny. Esther’s decision to risk death to prevent the annihilation of the Jewish population of Persia stands as a heroic model for all people of faith.
The same spirit of hatred is gaining momentum today. Christians are confronted with a decisive choice as to how we will respond. We can choose to ignore the animus focused on the worldwide Jewish community and delude ourselves into thinking we have no responsibility. Or, we can choose to follow Esther’s worthy example and stand in solidarity with and as advocates for God’s Chosen People.
Your choice is crucial to your God-ordained destiny because every word and action has the potential to change the course of history.
1) Esther Scroll (The Megillah). Israel Museum/Public domain/Wikimedia/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios
2) Detail: Haman and Mordecai. (Image used for illustrative purposes) (Photo credit: By Paul Alexander Leroy/[Public domain]/Wikimedia/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
3) Esther (c. 1869). (Image used for illustrative purposes) (Photo credit: By Jean-François Portaels/[Public domain]/Wikimedia/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
4) Detail: Esther Denouncing Haman. (Image used for illustrative purposes) (Photo credit: By Ernest Normand/[Public domain]/Wikimedia/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
5) Detail: Esther and Mordechai writing the second letter of Purim. (Image used for illustrative purposes) (Photo credit: By Aert de Gelder/[Public domain]/Wikimedia/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
6) Limestone Magen David, Capernaum. (Photo credit: By Charles E. McCracken, Copyright © 2013)
Copyright © 2016 Charles E. McCracken. Repost/Reprint with permission. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.