Throughout the past couple of weeks, we have seen many people rise up and fight injustice which is prevalent throughout our land. While we continue to stand together and fight for change, I would like to use this time to look at biblical figures who fought injustice. I hope it will be an encouragement for us all, wherever we may be in life, we all have a voice that needs to be used. We have God-given strength and wisdom, that we use to bring the light and truth of the Kingdom of God into this world. A kingdom where no one is suffering at the hands of another. Where we love and respect each other for who God has made us to be. While the stories may not correlate directly with the exact issues we are fighting now. They share many of the same themes. We are going to look at Esther within this blog, who fought for the injustice of her own people the Jews. Some ideas I want us to think about as we go through this blog, the importance of where we have been placed. Is it merely coincidence or is there purpose within the placement? Secondly, where is God in all of this? It may be a question that is dominating our minds, especially as we continue to watch everything unfolding at the moment. There are many challenges that go into using our position, but I will look at four throughout this blog: fear, sacrifice, speaking up/action, and triumph. While there are many other factors, these are prominent ones.
Before we begin by looking at the main challenges, let us begin with a little bit of context. There is not too much background to the character of Esther. The event takes place around 100 years after the Babylonian exile, the Jews were living in a land which was not their own. Esther was taken care of by her cousin Mordecai who were both Jews and they lived in the citadel of Susa. The book of Esther begins with Queen Vashti losing her royal position, due to her not adhering to the command of the King. Not only does she lose her position, but a decree goes out before the land, which will stop any woman from following the example of the queen. The decree calls for every man to be the ruler of his own household using his whole native tongue. This all unfolds, leading to the queen’s position needing to be fulfilled again. Esther goes forwards into this beauty pageant while being forbidden by her uncle to reveal her national identity or her family history. Long story short, after many months of preparation, Esther wins the approval of the King and becomes queen.
The story is only beginning, as the events unfold when Haman who is appointed into a high position is left furious when Mordecai refuses to pay him any honour. This leads to Haman making an edict with the King, to annihilate all the Jews from the youngest to the oldest in all the King’s provinces. The Pur was cast to select the date of this event, it was to fall on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month which is the month of Adar. This is where we begin.
The first challenge that we all face, in any position, is fear. We all fear the unknown and we fear the consequences of our actions, especially when we see what has happened to those before us. The reason I start with fear is due to Esther having a huge responsibility put upon her shoulders. As soon as Mordecai finds out he goes into a state of distress and mourning, putting on sackcloth and ashes. Mordecai sends a request to Esther along with a copy of the edict, she is instructed to go before the king and plead for the life of the people. This is a huge request especially when Esther knows the law of the Kingdom.
Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, “All the King’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned by the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the King.’ (Esther 4v10-11)
This law put a huge barrier between Esther and the King, with a huge price if it did not fall in her favour. Esther knew fear because she was now queen due to replacing the old one, after Queen Vashti was disobedient to the King’s command. Esther knew that her role was dispensable, even if she was queen it did not give her authority and power. In reply to her fear, Mordecai speaks plainly of Esther needing to play her role.
When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “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 a time like this, 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 4v12-14)
Esther’s fear was understandable, but Mordecai wants her to realise that she cannot hide behind it to protect herself. She is in a place which has full access to the King’s throne, she is in the position to plead for the life of her people. She is being given the chance but if she will not take it, someone else will rise up in her place. In rising up, she will lose out on so much. Some of us will find Esther very relatable, we do not see the potential we have to change what will happen. We allow our fear to speak louder and believe someone else will accomplish what needs to be done. We forget that we do not have to be a powerful or influential figure to bring in change. What we need is one voice that joins in with many, which actions change. Let us return to Esther and the next challenge that she faces.
Esther now has a choice to make, she can let her fear rule or make a sacrifice which could cost her life. Esther makes the choice to go before the King but asks for the Mordecai to call a 3 day fast from the Jews of Susa, which Esther and her attendants will also do. Then she will go before the King.
Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the King, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish. (Esther 4v16)
Esther knew the cost and knew that she could not do it within her own strength. Although it was only her who could before the King, she needed community around her who supported and identified with what she was fighting for. There is a sacrifice made in the fasting, the surrendering of everything that was needed to strengthen each individual, in the realisation that it was not a battle they could fight within their own strength. They were in a land which was not their own, under oppression simply due to who they were. This was a situation they had dealt with before.
For the history of the Israelites is rooted in their oppression in the land of Egypt, in which Moses came by the Lord’s command to free them. Moses who felt unequipped for the job, was the man who led the people out of Egypt.
And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt. (3v9-10)
Although Moses felt that he could not accomplish this task, the Lord promises to be with him and promises him that certainty in which the Israelites would be coming out of Egypt.
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be a sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3v12)
Although the circumstance was familiar to the Jews who were facing persecution, it was a different time. After the three days of fasting, it was now time for Esther to go into action which started with her going before the King. Esther positioned herself before the king, knowing the possible outcome from this act. Her position led to her being acknowledged and gaining acceptance into the king’s presence.
When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court standing in the court , he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. Then the King asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given to you.” ( 5V2)
Now comes the time when Esther is called to speak up, where she has to face the truth that she is being called to cry out for the lives of her people. This takes place by Esther asking the King, along with Haman to come to a banquet she has prepared. However, throughout this banquet, she does not make her request but asks if she has found favour, that the King and Haman would join her tomorrow for another banquet.
Between the two banquets, a lot of events unfold between Haman and Mordecai, which calls for more of an urgency to the injustice which Esther is fighting. Haman’s power has gotten to his head and due to not being challenged on any of his behaviour or edict, he continues to use his position of power to oppress those who are not favourable towards him. This is directed at Mordecai, due to the disrespect that comes from him not honouring Haman in the way that Haman believes he should. Haman is so big-headed with pride at all the honour he is receiving but cannot be satisfied due to the dishonour that he is shown by Mordecai who refuses to acknowledge his authority.
“But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.” His wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Have a pole set up, reaching to a height of fifty cubits, and ask the King in the morning to have Mordecai impaled on it. Then go with the king to the banquet and enjoy yourself.” This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the pole set up. (Esther 5v14)
This was how Haman was planning to have the upper hand but as this was going on in one area, within the palace there was a different event taking place. We need to travel back to earlier in the story when Mordecai discovered a plot by two of the King’s officers. Mordecai revealed this to Esther, who reported it to the King giving Mordecai full credit. This event was recorded in the annuals of the King but there was no recognition at the time for Mordecai who had saved the kings life. This event is recorded in (2v19-23). Back to the palace where the King was having a sleepless night and had asked for the record of his reign to be read. In discovering that Mordecai had received no recognition for his act, he asks Haman who is coming in what should be done for a man who the king would like to honour. Let’s remember Haman is inflated with pride and believes that the king is wanting to honour him. Wrapping this up, Haman suggests all the ways that he believes he should be rewarded only for it to be all for Mordecai. Haman then has to lead Mordecai who is being honoured and praised for his heroic act. This leads Haman to fall into grief at his power being quickly diminished by the one he hates.
This leads us back to the second banquet; this is where Esther speaks up for the lives of her people. Esther courage enables her to speak plainly and truthfully of everything which has been happening. When she uncovers the plans, she names the culprit which leads to a quick and complete downfall for Haman.
Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favour with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life- this is my petition. And spare my people- this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. (7v3)
Esther said, “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!” (7v6)
This leads to the death of Haman and authority being given to Mordecai and Esther to put into action decrees to save the lives of their people. For no decree which has been written in the King’s name and sealed with his signet ring can be revoked. Therefore, they issue a decree, which enables those who are going to be killed to be able to defend themselves.
The King’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies. The day appointed for the Jews to do this in all the provinces of King Xerxes was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar. (8v11-12)
Although they would still have to face the oppression that Haman had planned, they were no longer defenseless and alone. It led to a great victory for the Jews as those who rose up to destroy them, ended up meeting the end they had desired for the Jews.
In their triumph, there was a festival called Purim which was established as a reminder of all that had happened and been achieved. This was a feast that was to take place on the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar.
As the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month where their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor. (9v22)
Through all the trials and through all the hardship, there was joy and elation through the triumph of the Jews. Although for Esther it was terrifying, to begin with, by using her position she was able to bring life and joy back to her people. Esther could have allowed her fear to stop her from speaking out, for she knew the consequences could have meant death. However, she knew that a sacrifice needed to be made. She needed to take the risk to see if it could work out and her people could be saved. Even where Mordecai was positioned was important, for he heard of the plot to annihilate the King and was in a position that enabled him to serve his people and work alongside Queen Esther.
Even the position of Haman tells a common story, of someone who gains power and authority but uses it to oppress and belittle those who they do not like. When this position is not challenged it allows those in this position to get worse as they think they can continuously get away with their actions. It is an abuse of power and is a common trend we see still throughout the world. The position of the King highlighted how easy he was led by the pressure and influence of those around him. A man who simply did what was going to give him power and money. It was not until he was challenged that he saw the extent of allowing decrees to be passed which he was ill-informed about.
I hope that we can be encouraged through this story to realise the importance of where we have been placed. For many of us are in places where we see a lot of injustice or hatred which is being stirred up, even in everyday conversations. May we have the courage to speak up and act the injustice, racism, prejudice, and many other factors that contribute to the oppression and hate which many people will face. Do not believe you have to do it on your own, for there are those who will stand with you and support you. The first step is going beyond that fear and using your voice and resources at hand to make the difference. There will be many people along the way who will use their position as an abuse of power to those around them, but we cannot simply allow this stand. May we continue to learn, grow, and advocate together.
My second question for us to think on, where is God in all of this? For God is not mentioned within the book of Esther but is his presence not seen without? For the places in which each individual was placed was purposeful and the plans to save the Jews fell into perfect place. Although God is not named his hand can be seen throughout all the events which take place. Especially through the lives of Esther and Mordecai who worked faithfully for the lives of their people.
This may be a question, some of us are struggling with today. Where is God amongst all the hate and death that has been afflicted on the black community especially and many other ethnic minorities? While I cannot give you a definite answer, may I share with you where I see God? I see him moving in the many people who are rising up to speak and act to fight the injustice that so many have had to bear. I see God in the minds that are being changed and the ignorance that is being removed, which has blinded many of us from seeing the true reality of what the black community has had to face for hundreds of years. I see God through every petition, donation page, and speaker who is fighting to protect and receive justice which many have been denied for too long. I see God moving through churches as they have conversations so that their members know how much injustice cannot stand within the church or outside it. I see God moving in each and every one of us as we choose to stand up and lift our voice, as a community to bring freedom and justice for those who greatly need it and should have always had it. Similar to last week, I will leave resources at the bottom of the page in which we can do our part to fight injustice.
May you have a blessed week. Let us learn, grow and advocate together. God bless, Victoria. xx