Sunday, May 18, 2008

Esther's Courage at the Risk of Death

Mordecai Asks Esther to Help

Esther 4

1When Mordecai heard about all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put
on rough cloth and ashes, and went out into the city crying loudly and painfully.
2But Mordecai went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one was allowed to
enter that gate dressed in rough cloth. 3As the king’s order reached every area,
there was great sadness and loud crying among the Jewish people. They gave up
eating and cried out loud, and many of them lay down on rough cloth and ashes
to show how sad they were.

4When Esther’s servant girls and eunuchs came to her and told her about
Mordecai, she was very upset and afraid. She sent clothes for Mordecai to put on
instead of the rough cloth, but he would not wear them. 5Then Esther called for
Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs chosen by the king to serve her. Esther
ordered him to find out what was bothering Mordecai and why.

6So Hathach went to Mordecai, who was in the city square in front of the
king’s gate. 7Mordecai told Hathach everything that had happened to him, and he
told Hathach about the amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the
king’s treasury for the killing of the Jewish people. 8Mordecai also gave him a
copy of the order to kill the Jewish people, which had been given in Susa. He
wanted Hathach to show it to Esther and to tell her about it. And Mordecai told
him to order Esther to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and to plead
with him for her people.

9Hathach went back and reported to Esther everything Mordecai had said.
10Then Esther told Hathach to tell Mordecai, 11“All the royal officers and people
of the royal states know that no man or woman may go to the king in the inner
courtyard without being called. There is only one law about this: Anyone who
enters must be put to death unless the king holds out his gold scepter. Then that
person may live. And I have not been called to go to the king for thirty days.”

12Esther’s message was given to Mordecai. 13Then Mordecai sent back word
to Esther: “Just because you live in the king’s palace, don’t think that out of all
the Jewish people you alone will escape. 14If you keep quiet at this time, someone
else will help and save the Jewish people, but you and your father’s family will
all die. And who knows, you may have been chosen queen for just such a time as

15Then Esther sent this answer to Mordecai: 16“Go and get all the Jewish
people in Susa together. For my sake, give up eating; do not eat or drink for three
days, night and day. I and my servant girls will also give up eating. Then I will
go to the king, even though it is against the law, and if I die, I die.”

17So Mordecai went away and did everything Esther had told him to do.

The Holy Bible, New Century Version

Esther's faith expressed in fasting (Esth. 4: 16). Esther asked Mordecai to "gather all the Jews" and fast for three days and nights. She and her maids would do the same. In the Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (1985), Larry Richards identifies four reasons given in the Old Testament for fasting. The fast Esther requested was that "undertaken in times of deep trouble and underlined the seriousness of personal and national appeals to God" (p. 265). Without doubt prayer accompanied such fasting.

Mordecai urged Esther's faith-response. Mordecai warned Esther: "If you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place" (Est. 4: 14). This confident assertion could only be made by one who was fully aware of God's covenant commitment to Abraham and his descendants (Gen. 12:1-3), and whose trust in God was complete. Clearly Mordecai expected Esther to share these convictions and act on them.

Esther's relationship with Mordecai. Mordecai was a surrogate father to Esther, and Esther showed him the respect that Scripture teaches a child should show to a parent. Esther looked to Mordecai for advice, and so respected his opinion that she overcame her fear and took the initiative to approach the king.

It would be wrong, however, to see Esther as a person unable to make decisions. Rather, in a time of crisis Esther relied on a wise parent who had proved his love for her over the years and whose judgment she had come to respect.

Esther stepped out in faith (4:16). Esther determined to do as Mordecai asked, and she approached her husband. Her statement, "If I perish, I perish," is not fatalistic abandonment but a conscious trusting of herself into God's hands. Whatever happened, God would be with her, and He would welcome her into His presence. Her faith was not unlike that of Abraham who trusted God with the life of his son Isaac. Her choice prefigures Jesus' remark to His disciples, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13).

Xerxes’ unpredictability was illustrated by his inaccessibility (4:11). People were not allowed to approach the king unless he sent for them. Anyone who did so was to be put to death – unless the king raised his golden scepter and pointed to that person. Even Esther, who had not been called by the king for thirty days, was terrified at the thought of going to him. If ever a woman had a difficult marriage it was Esther!

(From Every Woman in the Bible by Sue and Larry Richards).

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