We are continuing in our lessons on courage while facing great threats in this week’s lesson.  This week’s lesson is going to take us into the book of Esther where we get to see the courage Esther had in standing before the king at a critical moment.  Esther is not a book that we often focus on so our lesson this week should be very interesting.  This week’s lesson is being taught from Esther 4:6 – 5:2.

Background on Esther

The events that take place in the book of Esther took place in the years following a couple of the returns the Jews made to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon.  The exile to Babylon was not completely over as we saw in last week’s lesson.  Let us remember that Nehemiah did not return back to Jerusalem immediately, but returned with the third group two decades after Ezra’s return.

Esther was a Jew (her Hebrew name – Hadassah).  Both of her parents died and she was raised by her cousin, Mordecai (Esth. 2:7).  Esther eventually was chosen to be the queen of Ahasuerus (Xerxes I, King of Persia) when he had Vashti removed from being queen for disobedience (Esth. 1:19, 21).

Haman’s Hatred Against the Jews

Our lesson picks up after Haman, a man the king had promoted to a position above all the princes (Esth. 3:1), desired to kill all of the Jews (Esth. 3:8-11).   This desire to kill all of the Jews came from the fact that Mordecai would not bow to Haman (Esth. 3:3).  So because Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, would not pay homage to him, Haman was filled with hatred towards all of the Jews in the provinces of the king and wanted to wipe them all out.  We have seen this kind hatred and antisemitism towards the Jews throughout history and even in our recent history.

When Mordecai had heard of this decree against the Jews, he became distraught and to the point that it caught the attention of Esther who had no idea what was going on.  This is where our lesson picks up today, with Hathach, her assigned eunuch by the king, being sent to find out what was troubling Mordecai (Esth. 4:5).  Mordecai tells Hathac of Haman’s evil plan against the Jews, and provides him with a copy of the decree to give to Esther (vss. 6-9).

Esther’s reaction

So, as queen, Esther now has a very important decision to make.  Up until this point, Esther, on Mordecai’s charge to her, had not told the king or his people of who her people were (Esth. 2:10).  Xerxes had actually let Haman sign the decree with his signet without knowledge of who the people were that Haman desired to destroy.  Not only that, but he had no knowledge of who Esther’s people were as well.

So, for Esther, this was a situation that was likely very frightening.  The Babylonians had conquered the Jews in Jerusalem and the Persians had conquered the Babylonians.  So, as the book of Esther describes Xerxes in the first chapter, he was a very powerful man with wide ranging power throughout his provinces.  He had already removed one queen for her disobedience, so Esther could have also feared what he would do to her should he feel that she was being disobedient to him.

We see this dread in the first message she responds with to Mordecai.  She says, “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days (v.11).”

Her fear is that if she goes to the king without him having called for her, she would be put to death because of his one law, even though she is the queen.  So, we could say that in her initial response, we see Esther thinking of self preservation.  Is there anything wrong with that?  In my opinion, she was valuing her life and, honestly, I don’t think any of us would be upset with her valuing her life.  She, I believe, did not want to act recklessly, and I can’t be mad at that.

Mordecai’s faith

Mordecai has a response for Esther to which I believe was a word of encouragement.  He says, “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews  For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this (vss. 13-14)?”

Mordecai essentially tells her, “don’t think that you will survive as a Jew just because you live in the palace.”  This may sound harsh to some but I do believe what Mordecai has said here could certainly be true.  After all, we have already seen how Xerxes had the previous queen removed for her disobedience.  So, it is certainly possible that Xerxes could view Esther’s actions as disobedience, and there could be no telling what she would do in response.

Mordecai also said to Esther that if she remained quiet, relief from the present trouble would still come and it would come from elsewhere.  I believe that Mordecai was still very confident in the Lord’s deliverance from Haman.  Yes, he had been distraught about the decree but what is clear is that he believed deliverance was still coming.  Not only that, but we see him say that he believes Esther, as queen, was meant for this moment.

Again, we’ll see through Mordecai that faith has a way of encouraging others.  Mordecai’s faith in this moment encourages Esther to move forward and face her fear.  All of us should surround ourselves with other believers that will encourage us, wisely, when it comes to facing our fears.

Esther’s courage

So, Esther responds again to Mordecai to let him know that she is going to fast for three days and she desires for all the Jews in the land to fast as well (vss. 15-17).  In that day, one would fast for spiritual needs.  Fasting was a way to meditate, communicate and draw near to the Lord in order to gain spiritual clarity and strength.  To me, I believe this to be a sign of Esther’s faith – she has been encouraged and now she’s moved to seek the Lord’s guidance.  

Not only that, but we also see her wanting for others to join in with her.  This was essentially like when we ask for others to pray for and with us.  I believe our prayers are powerful when we pray alone to the Lord, but it is something about when we can come together and pray with each and for each other.  Dad used to speak about pray like building a fire, and he would say that there is nothing wrong with others adding wood to build up the fire.

Esther was ready to go before the king and if she perished, she would perish.  I mentioned this in a recent Sunday School, but Jonathan showed this kind of faith and the three Hebrew boys showed this kind of faith when facing the fiery furnace.  Some will view Esther saying, “if I perish, I perish” as a statement of giving up or not caring, but that was absolutely not the case.  No, Esther was essentially ready to move forward and she was ready for God to guide her in the matter.

As this lesson comes to a close, we see Esther on the third day put on her royal robes and go to see the king.  When she went to see him, Xerxes did not kill her but called her forward – she did not perish (vss. 1-2).  Not only did Esther not perish but outside of our lesson, Esther and Mordecai continued to stand firm in their faith.  Haman eventually died at the gallows he had built for Mordecai (Esth. 7:1).

Mordecai would go on to be honored by the king, ironically, Haman, before he was hanged, was the one that had to parade Mordecai around (Esth. 6).  Esther was given the house of Haman and Esther appointed Mordecai over the house of Haman (Esth. 8:1-2).  They both made a feast to honor the two days the Jews defeated those that sought to destroy them – the name of the feast being Purim (Esth. 9:26-28), which is still kept by the Jews to this day.

Again, we see how we have nothing to worry about when we are facing what we perceive to be great threats and danger.  This is easier said than done, but what is really good for us is to surround ourselves with people who will keep us encouraged in those moments.


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