Monday, April 2, 2012
The Book of Esther
The Life Project: Esther
A lot of my friends have been going through a hard time lately. They have been facing things that are difficult, seemingly insurmountable obstacles. They have faced tragedies, difficulties, circumstances beyond their control. And I know that many of them are wondering, “Where is God?” I know they are wondering this, because I have wondered this when I have faced my own difficulties.
Four years ago last December, I drug Matt to the emergency room. He had been feeling sick for months, but that weekend, he didn’t even have the strength to lift his head off the pillow. The ER doc told us the news, Matt was in kidney failure; he had only about 5% function left. I remember at the moment thinking that God would work a miracle. But as my husband continued to suffer and the doctors continued to be baffled by his decline, I wondered if God had forgotten about us. Here we were struggling church planters with 3 little boys. We were on God’s team, doing His work, so why hadn’t He come through? Why hadn’t He rescued us? What could possibly be taking Him so long? Was God absent?
The book of Esther, I believe, is a book about a seemingly absent God. Do you know Esther is the only book of the Bible where the name of God isn’t mentioned? Read it, God is NOT in there. Now believing that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, infallible, we must believe the author of Esther left God out on purpose. Many scholars believe it was a literary tool that was used to accentuate the point of the book. The point being, when God is unseen, He is still at work providing for His people.
Think of the ways God provided for His people in the book of Esther. First of all He gave Esther favor in the eyes of the King when Xerxes was looking for a new wife. God put His gal in the game. Then when Mordecai saved the King, customarily he would have received a reward. But God caused the King to forget Mordecai’s reward so that it could be issued later when it would be most needed. Next God allowed Esther favor when she went before Xerxes unrequested. Esther should have been put to death for her requests, but instead she was honored. Then when Mordecai was set to be murdered, God caused the King to remember that he had yet to honor him. When the Jews were on the verge of annihilation, God provided a way of salvation. When you know the end of the story, it is easy to see the ways that God has provided.
But let’s not forget that the characters in Esther were people like you and I, and they did not know how the story would end. Esther was ripped from her home and given as a wife to a violent and vile man. Her uncle’s murder was being plotted and her loved ones were being persecuted. She was taking risks that might end in her death and she was given no assurances. It seemed a very bleak situation. Esther probably asked herself once or twice if God was absent. Mordecai probably wondered if God had abandoned them.
So how do we deal with our stories when we don’t know how they will end? How do we deal with the unpleasant, unexpected and unwelcome events of our lives? What do we do when God seems absent? First we must be honest with God, with others and with ourselves about the doubts we are facing.
Psalm 22:1-2 says
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
These are words penned by King David when he was facing persecution and attempts on his life. It is interesting that these are also the words of Jesus as he is hanging on the cross. It seems not even our Savior escaped the feeling of being forsaken by God. It is natural to feel abandoned when we are going through our darkest trials. It is honest and human to express our doubt. I believe this is why the Bible includes passages of scripture like this Psalm.
Once we have been honest and cried out to God, we must be willing to accept God’s perspective. We have to remember that the end of the story, which is unseen, is still within God’s control. The apostle Paul after facing great persecution and attempts on his life says this in 2 Corinthians 4:16 -18; “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
And finally, when we are facing trials, we must rest in Jesus and lean on God’s word. The following scriptures are good reminders about the grace and strength that Christ offers us. When we feel like God is absent, let us remind ourselves that He is near.
"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18 "Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." Isaiah 41:10
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." Psalm 23:4
If you are facing darkness today, facing unimaginable trials, remember that you are in good company. Esther, Mordecai, David, Paul, even Jesus faced trials and loads that seemed too difficult to bear. Remember also that you are living in the middle of a story. And what seems impossible to you now, God will somehow work for good in the end.
Suggested Reading For The Book Of Esther
Monday- Esther 1 and 2
Tuesday- Esther 3 and 4
Wednesday- Esther 5 and 6
Thursday- Esther 7 and 8
Friday-Esther 9 and 10
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