Wednesday, June 29, 2005

For such a time as this

Last night I read through the book of Esther. Esther is an unusual book to be in the Bible, because it does not mention the name of God once. For this reason, Luther sought to have it removed from the Canon of Scripture, but the Church has retained it, because, while God is not explicitly mentioned, his providence and loving kindness can be seen through the book.

The story, in brief, is as follows: The people of Israel, the Jews (for Jews, read God-fearers and God's people) are in exile in Babylon. The king, Xerxes has a falling out with his wife because she is disobedient, and he fears that all wives would become disobedient if they heard of his wife, so he takes her crown from her, and launches a beauty contest to find a new Queen. A sort of Queen Idol, or some such reality programme. Esther, a Jewish girl, wins the contest and becomes Queen. In the meantime, her guardian Mordecai, who was her cousin, foiled a plot to kill the king. But one of the king's top men, Haman, hated Mordecai, and therefore hated the Jews (without knowing that queen Esther was also one), and he hatched a plot for men everywhere to kill the Jews in their locality on a certain day, using the king's signet ring to make it official. The Jews fasted, and mourned because their destruction was in view.

Mordecai urged Esther to approach the king (itself a risky business, with the punishment of death if the king didn't call for you or want to see you), which she did. She held a banquet for the king and Haman, saying she had a request to make of the king, which she would say the next day, when they all gathered again for another banquet. That night, the king could not sleep, and just happened to want the chronicle of his reign to be read to him, and the very section that told of Mordecai foiling the plot was read, when the king realised that he hadn't rewarded Mordecai. At the same time, Haman built a huge gallows on which to hang Mordecai, because he hated him.

The next day, the king talked with Haman, and asked him... 'what should the king do for the man he wants to honour?' Haman, thinking it was him, advised elaborate honour and the best of everything. So Haman actually then had to lead Mordecai about the town, calling out that he was honoured by the king. Then the feast came, and Esther revealed her wish - that the king would revoke the order given to slaughter her people, and when the king heard of it, he asked who had done such a thing. Well, the responsible boyo was sitting opposite him, and he was ordered to be hanged from his own gallows. Moredcai was then given the position Haman had occupied, and Esther was given the estate of Haman. The king allowed Esther to countermand the order previsouly given, so that the Jews could take up arms to defend themselves should anyone attack them - and so no Jews were killed.

The key verse, though, which shows the providence of God is found in chapter 4, in the words of Mordecai to Esther:

"Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:13,14)

What circumstances has God brought you to, in order that you might work some good? Just this week I have seen the providence of God, in that, in the eleventh hour, as it were, word has come through that I might now have a summer job in the group - something that seemed unlikely this time yesterday morning. The Lord be praised!

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