I love the biblical story of Esther. Here’s a good Jewish girl who has lived her entire life in Persia – she’s a an exile living in captivity. She gets chosen as one of the virgins to be brought before the king of Persia, and ends up being the one who captures the heart of the king. “Lowly” Esther becomes the queen of a large empire.
It almost sounds like a fairy tale with a “happily ever after” kind of ending.
Esther’s story is really one of faith and sacrifice. She was willing to risk her life to save her people.
Esther hadn’t gone looking for any of this. It just happened to her.
Yet God knew. He wasn’t surprised by any of it. He knew Esther would obey her uncle. He knew Esther would become queen. He knew she’d be brave and risk her life to save her people. He knew she would choose to do what was right and good.
The timelessness of God, the fact that He is not bound to or limited by the physical laws that govern us, allows Him to know everything about everyone, from the beginning of time to the end. (see Isaiah 57:15, John 4:24, Psalm 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8, or Psalm 102:12).
And that means He knew Esther would be the one person in that moment of history who had influence with the king – the one person in the world who could intervene on her people’s behalf in that moment in time.
Better than that, because God knew Esther would be the one who could (and would) save her people, God prepared her “for such a time as this.” He’d gone before her and made a way. (Deut. 31:8, Isaiah 52:12)
Scripture doesn’t tell us much about Esther’s life before being chosen to go to the palace. We know she was raised by her Uncle Mordecai in Susa during King Xerxes’ reign. They were from the tribe of Benjamin, and their ancestors were among those taken into captivity by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Then there’s:
The girl had a good figure and a beautiful face. After her parents died, Mordecai had adopted her. (Esther 2:7, MSG)
That’s all we get! …except for a few hints to her character dropped like breadcrumbs in her story.
- She was likable: “Hegai liked Esther and took special interest in her,” and “Esther, just as she was, won the admiration of everyone who saw her.”
- She was respectful and obedient: “Esther still did what Mordecai told her, just as when she was being raised by him.”
- She was generous and compassionate: “She sent fresh clothes to Mordecai so he could take off his sackcloth.”
- She had a healthy respect and fear for her king: Esther’s reply when Mordecai asks her to speak to the king about the fate of her people, “Everyone…knows that there is a single fate for every man or woman who approaches the king without being invited: death.”
- She had faith in God: Esther’s response to Mordecai’s appeal, “Go and get all the Jews living in Susa together. Fast for me. …I and my maids will fast with you.”
- She was selfless and brave: “I’ll go to the king, even though it’s forbidden. If I die, I die.”
While Scripture doesn’t spell it out for us, we can look to these very traits to see many of the ways God had gone before Esther and prepared her…from timing to beauty to personality. And faith —
Esther had been raised by a very faithful Jew. Her Uncle Mordecai would ONLY bow to God, not to the man-appointed rulers (such as Haman) of the day. This kind of faith, the kind that defies man’s rules so openly, will most often bring challenge and trouble – which it did to Mordecai and his people. This was the man who had the most influence on Esther in her formative years. If we can trust that kids learn most from what is “caught,” not just “taught,” then we can assume Esther would have “caught” a similar faith as her uncle.
And God knew she’d need a strong faith in Him to be able to face the king uninvited, to do what she knew would surely mean her death. And he had given her just the man to influence that kind of faith.
She demonstrated that faith when she asked for the Jews to join her in a 3-day fast. She sought God and had others seek God on her behalf before she went to the king.
A recent sermon at our church touched on Esther’s story. I loved the challenges our pastor issued us – be spiritually prepared, be bold for God, and engage in those “moments that matter!”
Like Esther, I can look back on my life and see many ways God has gone before me and made a way for me. He put me in this generation; He gave me parents who have been faithful in their love of God and service to the church; He led me to certain schools with particular influences; He gave me my husband and these three specific boys; He has put numerous people in my path who have imparted wisdom and faith and truth into my life…and the list goes on.
It’s more than a little overwhelming to stop and think about all the ways God has gone before me and prepared me for “such a time as this.”
But I think the thing that really side-swiped me in my pastor’s teaching was the notion of “what am I doing to spiritually prepare myself?” The very question implies that I have a role in my own preparedness.
In fact, God and I need to work together on that.
It’s not just me making a plan and doing everything I can to train and equip myself.
It’s not just sitting back and expecting God to send me everything I need to be prepared.
And it’s not just hoping that I’ll be spiritually ready for whatever God calls me to…just because He calls me to it.
I have to be obedient to each call along the journey – fully engaging in whatever He calls me to each day.
I need to seek God (His will, His heart, His way) first – completely trusting He has my best in mind, as well as, the best for others.
I must read His Word. Pray. Fast. Seek wisdom from godly people. Engage in holy conversations. Be open to what He has for me…even when I don’t think I need it…or want it.
I have a role in getting spiritually prepared. And it won’t just happen. I will have to be intentional.
Like journaling some evenings instead of “vegging” in front of the TV.
Like studying the Bible when I’d rather be reading a novel.
Like asking someone who’s hurting to lunch when it’s waaaaay out of my comfort zone.
Bottom line – I need to be more about what God would have me do than what I want to do.
And that’s hard.
But when I’ve done it in the past – it’s been worth it. Maybe I’ll remember that the next time I hear God’s very quiet voice whispering to my spirit to do something. And maybe I’ll choose the good and right thing.
And when I don’t…cuz you know there’ll be plenty of times I’ll get it wrong… I can’t beat myself up over it. I just have to align myself once again under God’s sovereign umbrella and get out of the rain.
How about you? Did you know God has you on a path? That He has plans and hopes for your future – and they’re good? (see Jeremiah 29:11) He does!
And while He will go before you, providing all kinds of experiences and relationships and educational excursions, there will be things you can and should be doing to spiritually prepare yourself.
Won’t it be fun to do that together?!
Esther might have felt alone up in that big, foreign palace, but her uncle and her Jewish family wouldn’t let her be alone. They surrounded her with prayers and encouragement and truth.
And she…well, she went (well-prepared) before the king because she knew she was there for just such a time!