(Today’s post by Wayne Bunting)
The book of Esther takes place during the time when the Jews were being held captive in Babylon. They had been deported to this land after repeatedly disobeying the Lord and breaking the covenant that they had with Him. Now they find themselves under the rule of a foreign power, one that was not always friendly to them.
During this time the king of Babylon was a man named Xerxes. If this name sounds familiar to you it probably is. This is the same guy as the bad guy from the movie 300. King Xerxes was a powerful king who “ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush (Ethiopia)” (Esther 1:1). He could also be a ruthless king who crushed all of those who opposed him, as seen in 2:23 where he impaled on a pole two of his advisers who plotted against him.
In chapter one, Xerxes threw a week long party for everyone who lived in the city of Susa (Xerxes’ fortress city). On the last day of this party Xerxes wanted to show off his beautiful wife to everyone, but she refused to show up. This made Xerxes furious and caused him to make it illegal for the queen to be in the presence of the king so that her defiance would not cause “disrespect and discord” in the land (1:17-18). This legal maneuver by Xerxes is important in understanding what will transpire later on in this book. In addition to this, Xerxes sought to replace the queen with another woman, and began gathering women from across the land to potentially become his new queen.
Also during this time lived one of the Jews who were taken into exile into Babylon named Mordecai. Mordecai had a cousin, whom he adopted, named Esther (hence the name of this book). Esther was chosen to be part of Xerxes’ harem of women who would potentially be his next wife. Verse 2:17 says that “the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti (the former queen).”
This is the context that 2:19-3:15 is in. In chapter 3 Xerxes promotes a nobleman named Haman above all other nobles in his kingdom. When all of the royal officials bowed down to Haman, Mordecai refused (probably because in those days reverence to a king or to an official meant that you were to revere him as a god, and this would have been idolatry). This act of defiance caused Haman to want to kill not just Mordecai, but all of the Jews. So far the nationality of Mordecai and Esther had been hidden from others, but now it was known, and because of this Haman wanted to slaughter all of the Jews.
Haman convinced Xerxes that this was a good thing, who in turn let Haman do whatever he wanted to the Jews. Verse 3:13 says that “Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.” This seems to make Hitler look pretty tame.
Mordecai’s steadfastness should be a lesson to God’s people in any age. As believers we will always be faced with opposition from the world. In this day and age we are seeing a rise of darkness in the western world. The church finds itself being faced with opposition to the truth of Christ that we follow as well as to specific moral standards. Just as Mordecai chose to refuse a forced obedience to idolatry, so too must we be firm in our refusal of Godless things that surge against God’s church. It is our charge and duty to resist Satan and all of his attacks. This includes any and all pressure against the church that comes by way of other people or ruling entities. The true doctrines of God have persisted through the history of the church because brave men stood up and fought for the truth.
History has proven the worth of those who claim Christ in midst of great trials. As the society in which we live is plunged further into darkness, and the light of the truth goes out, we are to stand firm and be the light of the world to a world that is lost in sin and darkness. The gospel that we are to represent and preach to the world is the same no matter how dark or light the world around us is. But in midst of a great darkness suffering for the sake of the gospel may be necessary, and the facing of all sorts of trials may come against those who love God and live for Him. For example, the preaching of the gospel would have met far less resistance 50 years ago than it does today. This is because our society has rejected God and has espoused darkness. Darkness is blindness, and because of that people do not know the truth, namely Christ. Expect this to get worse, and expect your duty as a Christian to involve standing your ground just as Mordecai had to do.
Our focus should be eternal, not temporal. In other words we should not trade our eternal focus on God for temporary comfort in this life just because we are faced with some sort of pressure because we follow Christ. After all, it is not about us, or what we can attain in this life, but about Christ and what we can attain for Him eternally. Store up treasures in Heaven and not on earth.