Since Vashti has been removed it is decided that a "Miss Persia" contest should be held. The winner gets an all expense paid year at the Palace Spa and the prestige of being the next Mrs. Ahasuerus. Whether they want to enter or not, all the young maidens in Persia are rounded up, put through a beauty regime and paraded before the king. At the urging of her uncle who is a court official, a beautiful young Jewish girl, named Hadassah (Esther is her Persian name) takes part in the contest, wins Ahasuerus’ attention, and is chosen to be the next queen. While this may seem out of character for a devout young woman like Esther, it appears that the turn of events is being orchestrated by Someone much larger than the humans who take center stage in the story.
The plot thickens as Esther's uncle, Mordecai, thwarts an assassination attempt on the king, and a man named Haman is promoted to a high position in the king's court. Haman has a deep-seated hatred for Mordecai. Earlier in Israel's history Haman and Mordecai's ancestors had bad blood between them (Ex. 17:8-16; Dt. 25:17-19; 1 Sam. 15:8). Haman still considers the Jews to be his enemy and he uses his rise to power as a means to take revenge on Mordecai and his people. He casts lots (purim) to determine a date to exterminate the Jews, and that is how this festival gets its name. If you want to know the rest of the story, read Esther!
The Book of Esther raised some eyebrows when it was included in the Scriptures. Its message was clearly in line with all the other sacred writings, but it had one, obvious omission, the name of God! Although God's name is never spoken or written, God is clearly at work across its pages and in some cases He is also hidden within the text through the use of “aliases” and word puzzles (Est. 4:14; 5:8). Observant reading reveals His hand is guiding the events within each chapter. And His Covenant promises are still intact as the Jews come out victorious in the end. It would be easy to read through this book and think that it has nothing to do with us here in the 21st century, but we would be wrong! At a critical point in the story, Mordecai challenges Esther (Est. 4:14) saying she will not be spared just because she lives in the palace. "If you do not step forward to help," Mordecai warns, "Help will come from another place." That little phrase, "another place" reminds Esther of God's sovereignty. God has placed Esther where she can make a difference. The same is true about us.
Have events in your life seemed to spin out of control? Does it seem like God is removed from your situation? The Apostle Paul, like Esther, could have felt the same. Locked in prison and separated from his beloved Philippian church, Paul learned that some people had begun to spread the Gospel, not for God's glory, but to spite Paul. Paul, however, could see God's hand at work in the situation. First and foremost, the Gospel was being shared, and for Paul, that was the most important thing (Phil. 1:12-18). Although we do not face a life or death situation as Esther did, sometimes we have trouble seeing God at work in our lives. Perhaps, in those times, we would do better by changing our perspective just like Joseph learned to change his after years of struggles brought on by the hands of others (Gen. 45:4-8). Maybe there is an opportunity God has placed in your path where you can make a difference. Like Esther, Paul or Joseph, you will need courage to take hold of that opportunity and to recognize God has brought you there "for such a time as this".
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre