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Esther: An Incredible Story of Faith

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Esther: An Incredible Story of Faith

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Esther’s story can be especially encouraging and instructive to young women as a role model for their own lives. While there are faith-testing elements of her story, she is an example of how to respond in trials, how God uses a person (young or older) who is obedient to Him and who looks to Him in faith.

No matter what a person is going through, know that God certainly does work in your life as a teen or preteen.

Background

Esther’s story takes place near the end of the events described in the Old Testament. Both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah had fallen and been taken into captivity in Assyria and Babylon, respectively. Esther was born into a group of Jews of the tribe of Benjamin who had been brought as captives to the ancient land of Persia years before. Her parents died when she was a child, and her cousin, Mordecai, cared for her as if she were his daughter. She respected him as an adopted father, honoring him and obeying him.

Reality check: Esther’s life had some very difficult situations. She was an orphan, living as a captive in an enemy land, and then taken from her cousin’s care to essentially become part of a king’s harem. These are not things that we generally like to think about happening, but they do happen. The key is not how difficult our situations may be, but how we respond to the challenges we’re faced with. When life didn’t turn out as she had hoped, what did Esther choose to believe about herself, her people and her God? Read on to find out.

Esther learned from her adopted father Mordecai the customs of their people. She observed the dietary and clothing laws and developed lady-like, demure behavior. She became a beautiful young woman.

Esther becomes queen

The book of Esther introduces us to a great king of Persia known as Ahasuerus or Xerxes (pronounced “zerk-zeez”). He was very strict and demanded obedience to his commands. When his Queen Vashti refused to appear at a feast where he wanted to display her beauty, he took her crown. He ordered that beautiful ladies be brought to the castle and judged for the Queen’s crown. Esther was one of them.

Mordecai warned her not to tell she was a Jew. She obeyed, while she and the other young women went through 12 months of grooming before being presented to the king. She became a favorite of Hagai, the chief custodian of the young women. He advised her in cosmetic preparations, and she was given seven maidservants and special living quarters. When Esther was presented to the king, he favored her above all the other women. The king chose Esther to be queen and gave a big banquet in celebration.

Mordecai’s courage

It was Mordecai’s habit to sit inside the gate of the courtyard. In doing so, he overheard a plot against the king by two of the king’s men. He told Esther, and she told the king, naming Mordecai as the source. The king had the conniving men hanged and made Haman (a high official, in effect the prime minister of the king) his main helper, ruling that everyone bow to him.

Subsequently, when Mordecai refused to bow to him, Haman became angry. Upon learning he was a Jew, convinced the king that all Jews in the land should die. The king ruled that it should happen at the end of 12 months across the entire realm. Orders written by Haman were sent out by horseback.

For such a time as this

When Mordecai heard of this terrible news, he and the local Jews put on sackcloth and ashes and fasted. Esther sent a servant to learn the whole story. She was told and urged to go to the king. She replied that if she went to him without being called, she could die, unless the king held out his scepter to spare her. Esther 4:13-14 Esther 4:13-14 [13] Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with yourself that you shall escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. [14] For if you altogether hold your peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but you and your father's house shall be destroyed: and who knows whether you are come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
American King James Version×
states: “And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: ‘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?’”

Reality check: Esther was willing to listen to sound advice, take personal responsibility and do her part—in faith. She took note of Mordecai’s faith that God would send deliverance for the Jews from somewhere. And he felt strongly that Esther was to be part of that—if she was willing to act. Her thinking matured rapidly. In a moment of incredible pressure, she made Mordecai’s faith her own faith in the God who delivers, as we see in Esther 4:15-16 Esther 4:15-16 [15] Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, [16] Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast you for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in to the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.
American King James Version×
: “Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!’”

Esther’s courageous decision

On the third day, Esther put on her royal robes and went to stand in front of the king. He was glad to see her, held out his scepter and asked what she wished. She said she wanted the king and Haman to come to a banquet she had prepared.

Reality check: Imagine fasting for three days without food or water and walking into a potential death sentence. She had little strength left, but she had faith. Without God’s intervention, her life could end within minutes. But because she was walking in faith, she knew that her life was in God’s hands, not the king’s.

The king and Haman came to the banquet. Again, the king asked Esther what she wanted. She said she would like the two to come back the next day for another banquet. They both agreed, and Haman went out joyfully. Then began a whirlwind of events.

Miraculous turn of events

Haman had built gallows for hanging Mordecai and the Jews. Meanwhile, the king learned that Mordecai had not been rewarded for uncovering the plot against the king. (Esther 6:1-4 Esther 6:1-4 [1] On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king. [2] And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. [3] And the king said, What honor and dignity has been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king's servants that ministered to him, There is nothing done for him. [4] And the king said, Who is in the court? Now Haman was come into the outward court of the king's house, to speak to the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him.
American King James Version×
). Haman came wanting to ask the king to hang Mordecai. Instead, the king asked what should be done to honor a man? Thinking it would be himself, Haman described a fancy event (Esther 6:5-9 Esther 6:5-9 [5] And the king's servants said to him, Behold, Haman stands in the court. And the king said, Let him come in. [6] So Haman came in. And the king said to him, What shall be done to the man whom the king delights to honor? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honor more than to myself? [7] And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delights to honor, [8] Let the royal apparel be brought which the king uses to wear, and the horse that the king rides on, and the crown royal which is set on his head: [9] And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king's most noble princes, that they may array the man with whom the king delights to honor, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.
American King James Version×
).

The king said, “Do so for Mordecai” (Esther 6:10 Esther 6:10Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as you have said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sits at the king's gate: let nothing fail of all that you have spoken.
American King James Version×
). Haman did so and went home. Later, the king’s men came to bring Haman to the banquet. During the banquet, Esther revealed the plot to have all the Jews killed, including her. The king then had Haman hanged on those gallows (Esther 7:1-19 Esther 7:1-19 [1] So the king and Haman came to banquet with Esther the queen. [2] And the king said again to Esther on the second day at the banquet of wine, What is your petition, queen Esther? and it shall be granted you: and what is your request? and it shall be performed, even to the half of the kingdom. [3] Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request: [4] For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for slaves and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king's damage. [5] Then the king Ahasuerus answered and said to Esther the queen, Who is he, and where is he, that dared presume in his heart to do so? [6] And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen. [7] And the king arising from the banquet of wine in his wrath went into the palace garden: and Haman stood up to make request for his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king. [8] Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine; and Haman was fallen on the bed where on Esther was. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? As the word went out of king's mouth, they covered Haman's face. [9] And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who spoken good for the king, stands in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon. [10] So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king's wrath pacified.
American King James Version×
).

Esther asked that letters be sent out allowing Jews everywhere to band together to protect themselves. The king ordered Mordecai to write them and use his signet ring to make it official. As a result, groups of Jews resisted, killing many. Esther and Mordecai named the day Purim. Mordecai became the king’s main advisor and became very powerful. God blessed Esther for her great faithfulness and her love for her people. She put her life on the line for them.

Reality check: When all looks bleak and we are weak, never lose hope in God’s power and mercy to turn events and people around. Proverbs 21:2 Proverbs 21:2Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD ponders the hearts.
American King James Version×
states, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.”

Life is by nature challenging, and God allows us to be tested so that we can grow. But no matter how big or small the challenges, like Esther you also can walk toward, not run from, life’s difficulties by believing in God and seeking His will for your life. Trust in Him to work out the best outcomes and He will—for He is your guide and your deliverer, just like He was for Esther.

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