The Time May Be NOW
Hear now the reading of God’s holy word
Esther 4:13-17 (NRSV) “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 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.” 15 Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” 17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.
Esther 9:18-19 (NRSV) 18 But the Jews who were in Susa gathered on the thirteenth day and on the fourteenth, and rested on the fifteenth day, making that a day of feasting and gladness. 19 Therefore the Jews of the villages, who live in the open towns, hold the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a day for gladness and feasting, a holiday on which they send gifts of food to one another.
This is the word of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God.
VASHTI (Heb. washti, beautiful woman, from the Persian). Xerxes’ queen whom he divorced because of her refusal to show herself to the king’s guests at a feast. Her place was taken by Esther (Esth 1:11).
Vashti was the daughter of Belshazzar and the grand-daughter of Nebuchadnezzar. Her father, Belshazzar, had a drunken feast, and during this feast he used the utensils they had stolen from the temple, thereby defiling them and his kingdom was destroyed that very night. His daughter, Vashti was captured by Darius and she later married Artexerxes, also known as Ahasuerus, who ruled over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia.
Xerxes had a feast which lasted for 6 months and the people attending were the nobility that stretched across the Persian Empire. During the last week of the feast, Xerxes extended the feast to include everyone, both great and small, and at the end of 7 days of drinking he ordered Vashti to appear before himself and the others wearing only her crown. Vashti refused and was deposed that very night. Some say she was beheaded, others say she was divorced. Before you begin feeling too sorry for Vashti it is important to remember she made her Jewish servants do their household duties on Shabbat( pronounced Chabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, and means to cease) in the nude, so this was almost a case of what goes around comes around.
The king was not just angry because Vashti had refused his order and embarrassed him. His advisors said this is going to be awful if the other women hear of Vashti’s insubordination—all of our wives will refuse our orders. So they persuaded the king to issue a royal decree that Vashti would be replaced and when the women hear of that, all women will give honor to their husbands.
Enter Esther. Esther was a Jew, the cousin of Mordecai but taken in by him as his goddaughter. Esther was her Persian name, for like others during the Diaspora, or dispersement, she was renamed. Her Jewish name was Hadassah. If you remember we witnessed the same thing with Daniel, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
So Xerxes has banished or killed his wife, and a search begins for a new queen. Esther is one of the young women rounded up, and she finds favor in Hegai, the person in charge of the harem, and after one year of cosmetic treatments she is taken into the king.
Mordecai, the uncle or cousin, was clearly Jewish, he did not hide his heritage, but Esther did not make her heritage known. In fact, the book of Esther was almost not included in the Bible because there is not one mention of God in the entire book. Nor is there any mention of Jewish rites—there is a mention of fasting, but again, God is not referenced. Some people even consider the whole story made up, but I will tell you later why I do not think that is the case. One of the King’s top men was Haman and he was infuriated when Mordecai, a known Jew, would not bow down before. So he issued a decree in the king’s name to have all of the Jews killed.
Notice in the scripture that Mordecai did not mourn in private. He tore his clothing, covered himself with ashes and paraded up and down the street, just stopping short of entering the king’s gates. The scripture mentions fasting. It could be that many of the Jews had forsaken their worship of God, but once they were faced, yet again, with the threat of extinction, they began fasting and weeping. I will be honest that until I studied Esther in Disciple One it had never occurred to me that God was not mentioned in this book. When I hear of someone fasting and weeping, I immediately think they are communicating with God both in contrition and intercession.
As we read the book of Esther, we find she had really become quite sheltered from Mordecai and her people. She had heard nothing of the decree to kill the Jews, nor that Haman was the perpetrator of this scheme. But now Mordecai was asking Esther to do the impossible. What did he ask that she do? And why was it so dangerous?
She would be exposing herself as a Jew. She would have to go before the king without being summoned by him, which was punishable by death.
For such a time as this—I love that. Mordecai says if you do not do this, deliverance will come from another place. Now, I think the reference here has to mean God. And who knows, you might be in this position for such a time as this. Throughout the Jewish history, God always put people into place to save the Jews from extinction. Many times these people are the least and the last you would expect God to choose. Esther was in the precarious position of being a Jew, married to a Gentile, and one who was irrational and accustomed to getting what he wanted.
Where once Esther was separated from her people and her identity, she now takes the initiative and tells Mordecai to have all of the people fast for 3 days and she vows to go before the King, and if she perishes, she perishes. She is now a part of the Jewish community and willing to die so that they might live.
Esther prepares a banquet for the king and Haman. It is revealed that Mordecai, on more than one occasion, has saved the king’s life, and it is also revealed that Haman plans to execute Mordecai along with the other Jews. Instead, the king has Haman hanged on the very gallows Haman had built for Mordecai, and instead of the Jews being executed they were victorious and the Festival of Purim was instituted by Esther and Mordecai to commemorate the deliverance of the Jews from the plot of Haman (Est 9:20-32).
I said earlier I was going to tell you why I believe this story is true, and not fictional.
There was a Vashti and she was the daughter of Belshazzar.
There was a Xerxes
There is a Feast of Purim, still celebrated annually. A feast would not be established based upon a fictional story.
Esther was right where God wanted her to be. How do you know you are where God wants you to be?
YOU WILL NOT HAVE TO FIGHT YOUR BATTLES ALONE.
YOU WILL BE CONTENT WHATEVER YOUR SITUATION.
YOU CAN SLEEP IN THE MIDST OF THE STORM.
(JESUS, PAUL & SILAS, DANIEL)
YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE.
(JOSEPH, NEHEMIAH, ESTHER, JONAH)
GOD’S GRACE IS SUFFICIENT.
(JONAH, ELIJAH, PAUL, SHADRACH, MESCHACH, AND ABEDNEGO)
YOUR FAITH IS STRENGTHENED DESPITE ADVERSITY.
(ABRAHAM/ISAAC, PETER [WALKING ON WATER])
I wrote this piece many years ago, but today, 2020, the world is in chaos. Listen to the voice of God. Perhaps you have been chosen for such a time as this.
Receive now this blessing: God never changes. Rely on Him to make straight your paths, to keep the boat from sinking, and if He calls, answer with a resounding, “Here am I, Lord.” Take the name of Jesus with you, and share Him with all you meet. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.