“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” -Esther 4:14b (ESV)
It’s Monday morning.
We’ve all been there.
You wake up late, rise from a warm bed, and hurriedly go through your morning routine. You can’t find your keys. You don’t have time to cook breakfast and you forgot to pick up that new box of healthy breakfast bars, so you grab a pack of pop tarts as you rush out the door. You drop your things everywhere as you walk across the porch – your papers, books, pens, pencils, cell phone, and even your checkbook goes flying all over creation. You spill your coffee as you get in your car – another ding to your vehicles ever-eroding value. After you finally get everything piled in and you’re ready to start your car and fly out of your driveway to rush to work, you then realize…..
…you’re still in your pajamas.
Since I was a teenager, the story of Esther has been one of my favorite biblical narratives. The Bible contains many wonderful and miraculous stories of seemingly ordinary men and women who rise from obscurity, hardship, and the difficulties of everyday life to extraordinary offices and roles of service and leadership as part of God’s plan. Those stories never grow old and they never lose their ability to instill awe and wonder as we read, study, and explore them time and time again.
There is something truly unique about the story of Esther, Mordecai, and the extraordinary challenges that befell the Jewish people during the events described in the book of Esther. Her rise to become of the queen of Persia is astounding unto itself. Esther, whose Jewish name was Hadassah, is identified as an orphan under the care of her uncle, Mordecai (Esther 2:7). After the controversy with Queen Vashti (1:10-22), Ahasuerus, the king of Persia, sent for beautiful young women throughout his realm to be gathered so that he could select a new queen to replace Vashti (2:1-4). Incredibly, Esther – the orphan under the care of her uncle who, along with the rest of her people, was a Jewish exile in Persian captivity – was chosen as the new queen of Persia (2:17).
Long live Queen Esther! Right? Well, as it turned out, not necessarily…
While it would be tempting to end the story there and simply say, “…and they lived happily ever after,” the Lord did not do that. The story continues in the book of Esther – as the story continues in our lives today. Divine appointment to an exalted office may be seen by many as the pinnacle (and, thus, the effective conclusion) of one’s life story, but it is not seen by God as such. He, instead, recognizes it for what it is – a new beginning. The question is: the beginning of what?
As it turned out for Esther and her Jewish people, the answer was the beginning of the fight of their lives. Another official in the Persian court, Haman, became enraged when he was promoted, and Mordecai refused to bow down before him due to his Jewish faith (3:1-6). In retaliation, Haman convinced the king to sign an order mandating the execution of the Jews living in Persia (3:6-15). This was a terrifying and unimaginable death sentence against the Jewish people. Not having any other option for the protection of his people, Mordecai interceded on their behalf with Queen Esther.
It would stand to reason that Esther would never have had a second thought about helping her threatened Jewish people, but there was an unfortunate “catch” to being the queen of Persia: the queen could only enter the presence of the king if she was sent for by the king. To enter the king’s presence uninvited would be to risk her own execution. The only positive way for that to end was for the king to show grace and mercy by extending the royal scepter to the uninvited queen – giving grace and implicit approval to her uninvited arrival (4:10-11). Lest we jump to conclusions about Esther’s courage (or perceived lack thereof), understand what was at stake. It was the king who had given the order. It was the king who held the power of life and death in this situation. Manipulated by Haman, the king had ordered the execution of the Jewish people. Further, the king did not know that Esther was a Jew – and there was no telling how he would react to the news once informed. If he did not extend the scepter to Esther, she would die, along with the rest of her native Jewish people. What, then, would she have gained? While Mordecai’s admonishment that she should not think she could escape their fate was certainly true – and certainly a good point – we shouldn’t overlook the extraordinary courage of Esther in taking her life into her own hands by making the choice to intercede.
In the midst of that manic Monday, when everything that can go wrong has gone wrong and you’re questioning all of your life decisions, pause to reflect on something. You’re not where you’re at by accident. From time to time, the Lord allows us those “mountain top” experiences in life where, in the context of a profound moment of awe and reflection, we’re able to make sense of why we’ve gone through all we’ve gone through, why we are where we are, and why we are who we are. However, those moments in life are relatively rare – and that’s by God’s design.
We are called to live by faith (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). Living by faith means exactly that – living (doing life). By faith (trusting and following God). When we’re in the middle of the mountain top experiences of life, relatively little faith is required to see God’s plan and His hand all over the events, circumstances, and lessons of our lives. It is when we’re in the midst of the proverbial valleys – the hard, the challenging, the mundane, the disheartening, the devastating, and even the dangerous (as was the case for Esther) – that we are truly challenged to live by faith. To see and recognize our purpose in the context of those extraordinary circumstances is to exercise the most profound faith in God imaginable: to know who He is, who we are in Him, and exactly why He has placed us where we are.
Esther did intercede for her people. After prayerful and faithful preparation, Esther went to see the king. Not only did the king extend the scepter (5:1-8) but ultimately the king ordered that Haman be hung (7:7-10) and issued a follow up decree allowing the Jewish people to protect and defend themselves in the face of the prior tragic, but irrevocable, decree (8:1-17). The Jews are victorious and destroy their enemies (9:1-19) and triumphantly celebrate their deliverance by inaugurating the Feast of Purim (9:20-32). While the concluding chapters of the book convey a wonderful sense of celebration of God’s faithfulness to His people and their deliverance from what would have otherwise appeared to be certain disaster, we can not forget that pivotal moment upon which everything else hung: the moment of crisis, decision, and, most importantly, faith – for Esther.
Why me? It’s a question we’ve all asked on those bad days – and, especially, in tragic and heart-breaking moments. It’s often viewed as an empty and futile question – a lamenting protest of sorts against the Divine. Why me? Why this heartache? Why this hopeless situation? Why this endless despair? Why this unending suffering? Why this crushing hardship? Why these broken dreams and shattering disappointments? Why this fear? Why this uncertainty? Why….?
Scripture does not tell us, but I imagine this is a question Esther asked herself in the midst of her terrifying dilemma. A good and faithful servant of God placed in an exalted but simultaneously terrifying situation as the queen of a foreign land. Esther didn’t ask to be made queen. Quite frankly, she was made queen regardless of her will in the matter. She was chosen by the king. She didn’t choose him. He chose her. Why Esther? Why her?
Mordecai provided a prophetic answer to this unspoken question in the focal text of this devotion. After warning her that the same fate awaiting the Jews in Persia could ultimately befall her as well, Mordecai pleaded with her: “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:14 ESV)
It has often been said that the two most important days of your life are 1.) the day you are born, and 2.) the day you find out why you were born. Sadly, that has become a cliché for many in our world today, but it is absolutely reflective of biblical truth: we aren’t where we are and who we are by accident.
That doesn’t mean that our sins, failures, and imperfections should be excused or shouldn’t be corrected. Neither does it mean that all of our wrong choices were, in fact, right ones. What it does mean is that the hand of God is at work shaping our lives – through us, in us, and, oftentimes, in spite of us – in ways that we can’t even begin to imagine this side of eternity.
Where you see a dead-end job, God sees an opportunity to witness, serve, and love.
Where you see a small, boring, and mundane existence, God sees the opportunity for a faithful, joy-filled, God-honoring life lived in Him.
Where you see an obnoxious and frustrating task, God sees the Master’s hand – His hand – at work shaping your knowledge, maturity, and character.
Where you see a terrifying and unknown future, God sees glorious blessings and wonders you’ve not yet imagined just a little further down the road.
Where you see broken dreams and bitter disappointments, God sees incredible doors not yet opened – but ready to open in His perfect time.
Where you see a small, mistreated, and forgotten life, God sees a grand design and His beautiful and most prized of creations in you.
That’s right. In you.
So…when you’re sitting in your pajamas in the coffee-stained car, late for work, with messy and chaotic papers, belongings, and materials tossed all around, wondering what happened to you in the course of life and how you ended up “here” on a Monday morning, and you’re asking that inevitable question: “why me?”
Why you? Why your challenges and hardships – big and small? Why those heartaches, hard times, disappointments, and seasons of despair and frustration?
“For such a time as this.”
God has a plan. God has always had a plan. Scripture declares that truth from beginning to end, from Genesis to Revelation. And that plan involves you – His child and His prized creation – and your ultimate good.
“For such a time as this.”