Fate, Faith, and Victory

Bible Focus: Esther

So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the city square in front of the King’s Gate. Mordecai told him everything that had happened as well as the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay the royal treasury for the slaughter of the Jews. Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa ordering their destruction, so that Hathach might show it to Esther, explain it to her, and command her to approach the king, implore his favor, and plead with him personally for her people.
Esther 4:6-8 CSB

Philosophers and theologians like to debate about if and how we humans have free will. It certainly seems that God has given us the ability to make many choices. However, a great many other choices seem beyond our control. Once we become aware of these seemingly uncontrollable forces, we are faced with another choice: we can either keep trying to control them, or we can learn to accept them.

For example, one choice I have never had is the choice to become a great basketball player. I’ve had fun playing basketball, but I’m not built to be good at the game. If you put me on the court in my prime with nine halfway decent basketball players, I would seldom get a touch on the ball unless they were feeling generous. I decided long ago to give up any dreams of playing basketball at the competitive level, and I’m okay with that.

In the same way, once we become aware of God, we’ll face moments of choice where we will either submit to him or resist his will. We can trust and obey him, or we can distrust and disobey him–but we can’t change what God wants or control his power. In the end, no matter what we do, God will win. We can’t somehow maneuver around him. We will either embrace his will or have it forced upon us. We will either celebrate victory with him or go away from him in defeat.

In the end, God will win.

After hundreds of years as a nation, the kingdom of Judah had been completely subdued by its enemies. The Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem and sent the people of Judah into exile. Years later, the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon, seizing control of the territory where the Jewish exiles lived.

One of these exiles was a Jewish girl known as Esther. Her family had originally been deported from Jerusalem to Babylon. When Esther’s parents died, her cousin Mordecai became Esther’s guardian. Mordecai and Esther lived in Susa, which was the home of King Ahasuerus. Mordecai worked in the king’s palace, and Esther grew into a beautiful young woman.

One day, King Ahasuerus became angry with his queen and had her removed. He then summoned beautiful virgins from throughout the land so that he could choose a new queen. Esther was one of those summoned to the palace, and Ahasuerus chose her to be his queen. But at Mordecai’s urging, Esther kept her ethnicity a secret. No one in the palace knew she was a Jew.

Some time later, a man named Haman became a powerful leader under King Ahasuerus. Mordecai refused to pay homage to Haman, probably because Haman was related to some long-time enemies of the Jews. Haman was furious at Mordecai for not showing him honor. When Haman found out Mordecai was a Jew, he devised a plan to wipe out the entire Jewish people in a single day. Haman even cast lots to choose the day of their destruction. The lots landed on the 13th day of the twelfth month.

Haman then put his plan into motion. Without mentioning the Jews by name, Haman asked King Ahasuerus for authorization to write a law to destroy a rebellious people that lived in his kingdom. The king agreed. Haman then issued the order, giving authority to all officials to kill and plunder all Jews on the 13th day of the twelfth month.

The Jewish people mourned and wept when they heard about the law. Mordecai sent word to Esther, urging her to plead to the king for the salvation of the Jews. But the king had not summoned Esther, and if she approached the king without having been invited, she risked her own life.

Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to tell Mordecai, "All the royal officials and the people of the royal provinces know that one law applies to every man or woman who approaches the king in the inner courtyard and who has not been summoned--the death penalty--unless the king extends the gold scepter, allowing that person to live. I have not been summoned to appear before the king for the last thirty days." Esther's response was reported to Mordecai.
   Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, "Don't think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king's palace. If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father's family will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this."
Esther 4:10-14 CSB

Esther sent word back to Mordecai, asking him to gather the Jews in the city to pray and fast for her as she prepared to go to the king. Three days later, Esther defied the law by approaching King Ahasuerus as he sat on his throne. But when the king saw Esther, he was delighted. He extended his scepter toward her and asked what she wanted.

Then Esther put into motion a plan of her own. She invited the king and Haman to come that day to a banquet she had prepared for them. Intrigued, the king quickly found Haman and they went to the banquet. While they were enjoying themselves, Ahasuerus again asked Esther what she wanted, and again Esther put him off. However, she promised to reveal her request to the king and Haman the next day at another banquet that she would prepare for them. At that banquet, Esther finally told them what she really wanted.

Queen Esther answered, "If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if the king is pleased, spare my life; this is my request. And spare my people; this is my desire. For my people and I have been sold to destruction, death, and annihilation. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept silent. Indeed, the trouble wouldn't be worth burdening the king." 
   King Ahasuerus spoke up and asked Queen Esther, "Who is this, and where is the one who would devise such a scheme?" Esther answered, "The adversary and enemy is this evil Haman."
   Haman stood terrified before the king and queen.
Esther 7:3-6 CSB

Haman’s carefully orchestrated plan to destroy the Jews fell completely apart. Haman was executed on a gallows that he had specifically built to kill Mordecai. Haman’s original law regarding the Jews could not be revoked, but the king authorized Mordecai to write a new law. This law gave Jews the right on the 13th day of the twelfth month to defend themselves and fight against those who sought to kill them. So when that day came, those who had hoped to overpower and kill the Jews were overpowered and killed themselves.

Here’s the good news. Those of us who stand by faith under the protection of the one true God cannot really be defeated. Jesus has cancelled our debt of sin, put his Spirit in our hearts, and overpowered death itself. No matter what mistakes we make, and no matter what losses we suffer, our God will never abandon us. We can turn to him today and find hope. We can follow him today and experience victory.

Featured image from Paul Einerhand on Unsplash.

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1 thought on “Fate, Faith, and Victory

  1. Thank you Lord, that when we approach your throne, you always greet us with acceptance.

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