If you haven’t read the Book of Esther, I invite you to do so; it is not very long. Esther’s story is one of great faith. She had faith that the Lord God would provide her with the bravery to face an immense danger and almost certain death – not just her own death, but that of every Jewish person in the Kingdom of Persia. This devotional is a brief summary of Esther’s awe-inspiring story.
Esther’s story begins with King Xerxes, the ruler of the Persian Empire, hosting a large banquet. This is the same King Xerxes who invaded Greece and defeated King Leonidas of Sparta at the Battle of Thermopylae but eventually lost the war at the Battles of Salamis and Plataea. At the banquet, King Xerxes sent for his queen, Vashti, so he could show off her beauty to his guests. She refused his command, so he banished her in his anger. His attendants convinced the king to search his kingdom for her replacement. They rounded up many beautiful virgins from the kingdom and placed them in his harem.
One young woman among those rounded up was Hadassah, also known as Esther. She had lost her parents as a child, so her cousin Mordecai adopted her. Mordecai later thwarted a plot to assassinate King Xerxes. Esther was described as lovely and beautiful. She eventually became the king’s favorite and he made her his new queen. Mordecai checked on Esther every day. He told her to not divulge to anyone that she was a Jew and she obeyed him. A little while later, the king promoted a man named Haman as his second-in-command. Many bowed to Haman to show their respect, but Mordecai refused to do so. This infuriated Haman so much that he planned the genocide of the Jewish people – all men, women, and children – in all of Persia.
Haman convinced King Xerxes to allow him to use the king’s signet ring to issue an order for the annihilation of the Jewish people in all 127 provinces of the Persian Empire. The edict was sent out and everyone in Persia knew (including the Jews) that the Jews were marked for death, all on the same day. Mordecai sent word to Esther about Haman’s evil plan and asked her to plead to the king to stop the mindless slaughter before it started. Persian law at the time stated that if anyone approached the king without him inviting them, they were to be put to death immediately unless he extended his golden scepter to them. Knowing this, Esther sent her refusal to Mordecai. He sent her a second message saying, “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 your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13–14).
This was a crucial time for Queen Esther. She had a clear choice in front of her: She could either take the cowardly path and not approach King Xerxes, which would condemn her people to death, or she could take courage that her Lord God would spare her life when she approached the king. She decided to put her fear of the king aside and embraced a fear of the Lord instead. Esther told Mordecai to have all the Jews in the province of Susa fast along with her for three days and nights, and then she would approach the king. She added, “And if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16). Esther knew that her brave words and actions were provided to her by God Almighty. This was almost 2,000 years after God had spoken to Joshua, telling him to be “strong and courageous.” (Joshua 1:9). Esther was the next influential Jew in line to be strong and courageous for her people.
After the three days of fasting, Queen Esther put on her royal robes and went to stand in the king’s courtyard. King Xerxes was pleased to see her and extended his scepter. He asked her what she wanted, up to half of his kingdom. She asked for a banquet, also inviting Haman. At the banquet, the king asked Esther again what she wanted. She asked for a second banquet for the king and Haman. That night, Haman saw Mordecai again, who still refused to honor him. Haman then planned to impale Mordecai on a 75-foot-tall pole he had erected. Also that evening, King Xerxes discovered that Mordecai was never honored for exposing the assassination plot against him. So, he asked Haman what he should do to honor the man who saved his life (without Haman knowing this was Mordecai). The king then ordered Haman to do all that he had suggested for Mordecai, adding to the offense.
At the second banquet, the king asked Esther a third time what she wanted. She exposed Haman’s evil plan against her people and asked King Xerxes to spare her and her people. The king was infuriated at Haman and impaled him on the 75-foot pole erected for Mordecai. He also had the ten sons of Haman impaled on poles. King Xerxes then promoted Mordecai to second-in-command and let him send a new decree in the king’s name to all the provinces of the Persian Kingdom. This new decree instructed the Jews to defend themselves when attacked. The Lord God was with the Jews that day and they triumphed over all their enemies; killing tens of thousands of their attackers. Mordecai established the Feast of Purim, a celebration that still takes place today, celebrating God’s deliverance of the Jews from Haman’s evil plot.
Against all odds, and facing total genocide, the Jewish people were fully protected by God. Queen Esther faced her fear of losing her own life at King Xerxes’ hands and allowed her fear of the Lord to prevail. God offered Esther and the Jews hope and demonstrated His faithfulness by guarding them from their would-be destroyers. God has not stopped offering us hope and He continues to show us His faithfulness today. Trust in our faithful Creator, He will deliver us too.