Esther – Chapters 4:15-5:8 (NLT)
Chapter 4 ends with Esther’s commitment to act. This may not have been a religious conversion by Esther. On the one hand, Esther urges all the Jews in the surrounding area to fast and commits herself and her maids to fast as well. On the other hand, the text mentions no renewed sense of the divine nor is there recorded a specific prayer or religious practice associated with Esther’s fasting. What we do know for certain is that Esther has accepted the divine call to use the position in which God has placed her to respond to Haman’s wicked plot.
In the same way, a great spiritual awakening or attaining some level of Christian maturity is not necessary for a Christian to engage culture. Sainthood is not a prerequisite to action. We are tempted to think “I am too flawed and not adequately qualified to represent the God of the universe.” Esther teaches us that God not only calls the compromised, but our credibility as Christians does NOT depend on ourselves. As Paul explains to the Philippians, his qualifications are rubbish when compared with Christ’s knowledge (3:8). This does not take away personal responsibility. The Life Application Study Bible explains, “God was in control, yet Mordecai and Esther had to act. We cannot understand how both can be true at the same time, and yet they are. God chooses to work through those willing to act for him.”
Esther’s first action is to enlist the help of others, “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me” (4:16). Esther recognized that it was not good for her to act apart from the support of her fellow Jews. Esther acknowledges a basic premise that many of us forget: when we must stand upon our faith it is best when we have others who pledge to stand with us. We need our community of believers, a trusted group of confidants, or an accountability partner to support us with prayer, fasting, and wise counsel.
By arraying herself in her royal robes (Esther 5:1), Esther prepares. It was not enough for Esther to simply add her situation to the prayer board and believe that her work was complete. After Esther “prayed up” she steps up. A common criticism of modern Christians is that they simply offer “thoughts and prayers” with no practical action or real concern attached. While this criticism overly minimizes the role of prayer, prayer without action, without effort on our part can be seen as an empty activity. By arraying herself in royal robes and strolling boldly into the inner sanctum of the king, Esther is putting the exclamation point of practical action onto her faith that God is in control.
Esther touched the scepter (5:2). This is such a familiar story and such a pivotal moment that we often fail to recognize that when given the opportunity to speak, Esther spoke. She reached out and touched the scepter and took the holy opportunity that God provided to her. How often does God open up an opportunity for us and we simply fail to touch the scepter? While we might be expecting God to intercede with some supernatural act, God is prepared to act through us if we would only take the opportunity.
Upon reaching out and touching the scepter, Esther could have presented her plight and begged for the mercy of King Xerxes, but instead she chose to invite the king to a banquet. She demonstrates her value. Want to speak to a troubling situation? It is important to sweeten our criticism with the value of proven wisdom, a tender heart, and true understanding. This does not mean diluting our message, but it might mean being patient in its presentation, offering a viable alternative, or volunteering our own discomfort or work in order to make a solution possible. To seemingly demonstrate this point, Esther prepared two banquets. She is patient. She is not merely buttering up the king to get her own way, rather she is extravagantly generous to her king and to her especially invited guest, Haman.
Esther spoke with sincerity. “Esther replied, ‘This is my request and deepest wish’’ (5:7). She came before the king with sincerity and depth of feeling. She was not rehearsing a speech or doctrine or position statement which Mordecai had drafted for her. Christians are sometimes guilty of engaging culture by sharing a pithy meme, a video accompanied with gentle piano music, or their church’s official statement on an issue. Are we speaking with sincerity or aping the company line? A jaded world, like King Xerxes, can tell the difference.
The king responded. He accepted Esther’s invitation. God had opened the door and a miracle was ready to step through.
- What excuse do you use for failure to speak up or act?
- Thinking about the actions steps Esther took (enlisting others, preparation, speaking out, sincerity), which one do you think the church does the best? Which one do you think we need to work on?
- How can Christians increase our cultural credibility? What are some practical steps?
 Life Application Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.