Oh, I enjoyed the story of the crazy King and Vashti on Monday. Now, let’s hurtle towards chapter 2, where we meet Esther, this “lovely and beautiful” daughter of God. She carries an intense cocktail of pain and growing strength.
What is it we ourselves carry? Something similar I’d say, even though different. I see Esther as a fragile baby bird: Orphaned and snatched. But I also see her as strong as an ox. The 'ox' part comes later.
Putting ourselves in her shoes, can you imagine being taken hostage for the sole purpose of a King's pleasure? It makes me inwardly choke. I wonder how she would have felt; I really don’t know. There was an honor to it, but a powerlessness. After her night with the King, in my mind it gets worse: She was shifted to a different house (v.14). No longer a virgin, she was now an on-demand concubine. Uggh. It seems her husband celebrates her, but after his big Feast of Esther (v.18), the very next verse tells us he gathers a new wave of virgins, a faithless husband.
He might be a King but he’s a distorted one. It goes on today, distortions of relationships. Our world and its ways are so far from God’s heart, we cannot conceptualize the chasm between what we are now and what we should have been. To adapt the words of a Beatles song:
How I wish it were yesterday.
In the Garden of Eden.
I’m not half the man I was meant to be.
As a refreshing breath, I like looking at Jesus, the human God meant us to be. He was radical. He was homeless, for a start -- Voluntarily. That alone captures His difference. I also like to look at his deep love for women, opposite to King Xerxes.
To sit with Jesus, for a minute, I see He had special moments with His male disciples: John leaned on His chest, Peter breakfasted with Him; but there was also VIP treatment for women. The women’s moments are poignant: It was the girls who were the first to preach the Gospel of His Resurrection Life at dawn, and the first to care for his bruised body. Symbolically, this tells me of His honor for women.
Beautiful Esther is not just a champion for women. She represents anyone on the back foot, the weaker vessel; and she shows that such a person can walk with the strength of an ox. Her point of difference is Mordecai. He quietly speaks, speaks into her ear. With that gift – Like the Holy Spirit -- she is as strong as an ox, able to plough the toughest heart soil. The Apostle Paul received that very same whisper:
“And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' ” 2 Corinthians 12:9, NKJV.
I look at her early life and think “Esther, you have no idea yet how much strength you carry.” Indeed, we know the full story. We can see her strength with the King in later chapters, but for now – as a newlywed – that strength is only a seed. Her story mirrors Joseph’s: There is a pit before the favor comes in prison.
Like Joseph, Esther’s favor explodes: She ends up second in the Kingdom, signet rings are distributed, and God’s people (the Jews) are kept safe as a result. In verses 9-10 she pleases the eunuch Hegai so much she is given every provision she could possibly hope for. Why this favor? Could it be that her ancestral promise from Jacob kicks in? She is a Benjamite, and long ago he blessed her:
“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; In the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.” Genesis 49:27, NKJV.
This blessing means she carries a seed of power. Hers is a conquering kind of strength. And, what else does she carry? A scriptural gem within her very name, Hadassah (v.7), which means ‘myrtle’.
“And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree.” Isaiah 55:13.
That verse -- the myrtle verse -- sits within the wider, well known Isaiah 55. It’s a chapter worth revisiting with Esther, and perhaps ourselves, in mind. It makes me want to shout from the rooftops that we can dream big, because that is what both Isaiah 55 and the book of Esther tell us!
SUMites, I can’t wait to chat more in the comments.