This morning we begin a four-week series on women in the Bible. We will unwrap the stories of two women in the Old Testament and two women in the New Testament. All of these women are named, which is a small minority of the women who are mentioned in the scriptures. By and large, women in the Bible are unnamed due to their low place in society.
Esther is celebrated by Jews and Christians for her courage, her wisdom, her commitment to her people, and her political savvy—all of which she uses to remove the threat of extinction for Jews living in the Persian empire. The book is laced with historical inconsistencies and improbable stats (like a 180-day drinking party and a 75 foot gallows), and should not be viewed as historical narrative, but more like historical fiction that is set in the 5th century BCE when the Jewish people found themselves as a threatened minority. The same storyline is repeated in recent history for Jews in Germany, Poland and the rest of Europe under the regime of Adolf Hitler, another proud, selfish and paranoid leader with great power. Sadly, there was no Queen Esther to arrange for a reversal of the holocaust.
Through the exchange of letters we heard read this morning, Esther names very realistic fears about asking King Ahasuerus to change his mind about wiping out the Jews. She knows that just busting in on the King without being summoned could get her killed. And she would have to reveal her Jewish identity if she spoke up for her people. And she would have to confront the evil Haman, the king’s manipulative right-hand man who was the originator of the whole idea to exterminate her people. Mordecai admonishes her to be courageous. He says: “For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” Mordecai sees Esther as being in the right place at the right time. Although God is never explicitly mentioned in this entire story, here is one of the places that God’s guiding hand and God’s loving care for God’s people is implied. This is not a time to be afraid, but a time to be bold and full of courage. Mordecai lays it all out: if Esther won’t rise to the occasion, he trusts that God will send someone else. So, will you take the challenge or not?Continue reading “Summoning Courage”