Stronger in Conflict Day 1: Esther

I have been wanting for a long while now to make a series, and had no idea where to start or what to do it on. I’ve been reading a lot of the Old Testament, surely that has no relevancy to today, right? Well, God used the most logical part of my mind against me again, and showed me that isn’t true. I feel like he was telling me to go back through all my favorite bible stories, and I asked myself why I loved these people. Why did I try so hard to imagine being them, or being in their place? Besides Dreamworks rendition of things, why did I say to myself, I wanna be just like them someday?

Let’s refresh your memory on who Esther is: Esther’s story begins with Xerxes throwing a feast and calling his wife, who had her own party with the wives of the nobles, officers, and officials. He basically just to show her off. She refused, and after a brief meeting with his advisers, she was exiled and he decided he needed a new wife.

Now, Esther’s name is not Esther. In Esther 2:7 we learn her true name is Hadassah, which literally means “Myrtle”, however, upon the King’s decree in his search for a new wife, she told everyone her name was Esther, probably naming herself after the Persian goddess Ishtar (pronounced Esther as well), and she never told anyone she was Jewish. After a long process, she was named Queen. Esther’s cousin, Mordicai, who had taken care of her for most of her life, became a palace official. This was important because he was able to warn Xerxes about an assassination attempt, none of which is recorded in Esther’s book.

Haman is the kings right hand man. I imagine he had more power than Esther, but less power than Xerxes…officially, of course. He convinced the king to give him permission to kill the Jews. Mordecai wandered the streets looking a bit like a crazy person and eventually tells Esther she needs to tell the king.

Esther hesitated…a lot. You see, back then, you didn’t just waltz up to the most powerful person and go “Hey, by the way, thanks for letting your best friend kill my entire family,” Even if your married to him. You have to be summoned and she hadn’t seen him for well into a few months. Still, Mordecai said to try, and this is where my favorite line comes in:

“Mordecai said this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. 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?” Esther 4:13-14 NLT

So Esther tried. The king was more than happy to see her, and told her she could have anything she asked. You would think this would calm her nerves, but it didn’t. She invited Xerxes and Haman to dinner. Twice. Literally, like he’s saying “I’ll give you only 50% of my empire” and she’s like “Oh, btw, I’m cooking tonight.” And then invited them to another dinner during the first one. She finally says something during the 2nd dinner, and Haman dies.

It seems ridiculous that Esther took so long to tell Xerxes, but if we begin to look closer we see why. Esther was probably no older than 18-20 years old, and when she became queen she was probably closer to 16. Xerxes was well into his 30’s or 40’s. It seems strange to us, but back during a time when middle aged was considered 25, and you may live to 50, sometimes 120 if your lucky, there weren’t a lot of options. Plus, Esther was at a prime of life when she was most fertile and could possibly produce an heir. All of this was important.

Esther broke a law by seeing Xerxes without a summon, I imagine she felt less entitled then and there to ask him to spare the Jews. She was already shaking, she could probably barely ask him for a golden ring, let alone the lives of her people! I think she felt that there needed to be a better reasoning than that.

I cannot be certain why this 1st dinner wouldn’t be the perfect time, but maybe I, better than anyone, could start to understand, but explaining is hard. Perhaps, she felt even more anxiety and uncertainty seeing Haman for possibly the first time. Perhaps, this anxiety was so overwhelming that she said whatever popped into her mind, which was a second dinner. I can imagine she felt just as much anxiety during the 2nd dinner, but, I think she finally just forced herself to say it. Perhaps, she was thinking of Mordecai, and his words to her to try and see the king. Perhaps, there was some rage inside her that she kept masterfully hidden.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t like a diary, Mordecai would go on to record the events later in life, though officially, the author is unknown so we don’t know what Esther truly felt or thought of in those moments. I can only imagine the overwhelming anxiety and fear, her brain trying to logically think through each step until the anticipation for an answer comes to a head and she has to blurt out something or force herself to answer, which feels like a very slow process.

In my life, I cannot ask a question without stuttering over my words. Even when I’m upset and I want to talk about it, I find myself talking very slowly as I try to make the person understand my view of a situation. Fear of judgment takes over, an overwhelming anxiety that makes my voice shake. I think to myself all the time whether or not I could have done what Esther did as a teenager. Then I think of what Mordecai told Esther, and it adds to the anxiety more than anything. I guess it’s a fear of letting God down, like I’m letting down a parent somehow, but sometimes its the kick I need to take action. God puts us in perfect positions to do His will, but allows us to make the choice of taking action, or doing nothing. Almost always, doing nothing has greater consequences, because someone else will end up stepping up in one way or another.

You might think this is an easy way out, kick back and let someone else do the work, but the consequences are that God allows mistakes to pile up, until we drag ourselves down so far that we are back where we started, and we’re no longer at a position God wanted us in in the first place. We have to start all over, in a sense.

If a teenager can save her people, shouldn’t I be able to do simple tasks as well? Yes, I should be able to trust God more than my anxiety. If a teenager can save her people, there’s nothing for us to be afraid of if we feel strongly that God is teling us to do something. So, why not just do it?

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” Romans 8:31 NLT

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