(O.T. Book of Esther)
Our society has a fascination with heroes. A good example of this is the popularity of super-heroes found in D.C. and Marvel comic books and movies, such as Superman and Spiderman. There are, of course, also super-heroines like Wonder Woman and Supergirl.
What intrigues and excites readers and viewers are the supernatural powers of the super-hero/heroine. They revel in the way these superheroes/heroines skillfully employ their great powers to defeat the villain.
But then, all these heroes are fictitious. Also, because of society’s fixation on heroism, there has been a tendency to label someone a “hero” who has not really performed genuine heroics. Nevertheless, there certainly are real heroes who display tremendous courage in dangerous situations and make great sacrifices for the sake of others’ safety.
Holy Scripture provides us with numerous examples of real heroes. We might think of the young lad David, who battled the giant Goliath with sling and stone for the honor of the Lord. Or the prophet Daniel, who was thrown into the lions’ den because he was unwilling to compromise his faith. Or the apostle Paul, who stared death in the face for the sake of the Gospel.
But it wasn’t just men in the Bible who displayed courage as heroes of faith. There were also women whom the Lord blessed with such a praiseworthy spirit. One of those biblical heroines has an entire inspired book in the Old Testament that tells her story. The title of this book is Esther. Esther is the Persian name for a Jewess whose birth name was Hadassah.
Esther had been orphaned while living in exile under Persian rule. Her cousin Mordecai, who was a government official, raised her like a daughter.
Even though the name of God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, nevertheless we can see His hand at work behind the scenes, causing things to work out for the good of His people. Esther had been blessed with extraordinary physical beauty and womanly graces, which the Lord made use of in His providential rule of protecting and preserving countless lives. When the Persian king Ahasuerus (Xerxes I) banished his wife after being slighted by her, Esther was chosen to replace her as queen.
A grave and deadly threat to the entire Jewish race arose when Haman, one of the highest officials in Persia, devised a scheme to annihilate the Jews. Mordecai, being a Jew, would not bow down to Haman as others did. As a result, Haman hated Mordecai and all the Jews. Haman went to the king and falsely accused the Jews of being lawless subjects. Promising to fill the king’s treasury with silver at the expense of the Jews, Haman persuaded king Ahasuerus to issue a decree which—if carried out—would cause the extermination of all the Jews throughout the kingdom. This genocidal plan not only threatened to eliminate a whole race of people, but also jeopardized the fulfillment of God’s promise—the promise that He would send His Son into this world, born of the Jews, in order to redeem every race, people and nation.
Mordecai persuaded queen Esther to use her influence in pleading for the lives of their people, posing this important question to her, “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:14).
This proposition involved Esther risking her life, for if she came to the king without being summoned, she would be put to death unless the king held out the golden scepter to her and allowed her to approach. Esther replied to Mordecai (4:16), “And so I will goto the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” Putting her life at risk for the sake of preserving a whole race of people was indeed courageous heroism! Such a spirit was surely instilled in Esther by the powerful working of God (Philippians 2:13).
The Lord caused His will to be done by seeing to it that the king not only granted Esther the courtesy of approaching him, but also consented to her requests. Esther used a very wise and ingenious approach in persuading King Ahasuerus to issue a decree which, in effect, nullified a previous decree that otherwise could not be set aside.
On the date the Jews were to be attacked by their enemies, they would be allowed to defend themselves. Not only would the Jews be allowed to fight in their own defense, but also “all the officials of the provinces, the satraps,
the governors, and all those doing the king’s work, helped the Jews” (9:3).
As for Haman, the king had him hung on the very gallows that Haman had built for Mordecai.
Esther was indeed a real heroine, for through the working of the Lord she had the courage to put her own life at risk in the hope of saving the countless lives of God’s chosen people! Praise, honor, and glory be to God who causes all things to work out for the good of innumerable souls!
Mark Gullerud is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Bowdle, South Dakota, and Zion Lutheran Church in Ipswich, South Dakota.