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Esther

Providence

Esther 2

Lesson audio

The book of Esther has no mention of the name of God; it proclaims no miracles – and yet it exhibits like no other book the concept of the providence of God. For those who expect God to work in nothing but a miraculous way, it is a wholesome corrective.

After these things when the anger of King Ahasuerus had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her. Then the king's attendants, who served him, said, "Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king. "Let the king appoint overseers in all the provinces of his kingdom that they may gather every beautiful young virgin to the citadel of Susa, to the harem, into the custody of Hegai, the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let their cosmetics be given them. "Then let the young lady who pleases the king be queen in place of Vashti." And the matter pleased the king, and he did accordingly. Now there was at the citadel in Susa a Jew whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite, who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem with the captives who had been exiled with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had exiled. He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, his uncle's daughter, for she had no father or mother. Now the young lady was beautiful of form and face, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter. So it came about when the command and decree of the king were heard and many young ladies were gathered to the citadel of Susa into the custody of Hegai, that Esther was taken to the king's palace into the custody of Hegai, who was in charge of the women. Now the young lady pleased him and found favor with him. So he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and food, gave her seven choice maids from the king's palace and transferred her and her maids to the best place in the harem. Esther did not make known her people or her kindred, for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known. Every day Mordecai walked back and forth in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and how she fared. Now when the turn of each young lady came to go in to King Ahasuerus, after the end of her twelve months under the regulations for the women--for the days of their beautification were completed as follows: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and the cosmetics for women-- the young lady would go in to the king in this way: anything that she desired was given her to take with her from the harem to the king's palace. In the evening she would go in and in the morning she would return to the second harem, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She would not again go in to the king unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name. Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her as his daughter, came to go in to the king, she did not request anything except what Hegai, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the women, advised. And Esther found favor in the eyes of all who saw her. So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus to his royal palace in the tenth month which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. Then the king gave a great banquet, Esther's banquet, for all his princes and his servants; he also made a holiday for the provinces and gave gifts according to the king's bounty. When the virgins were gathered together the second time, then Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate. Esther had not yet made known her kindred or her people, even as Mordecai had commanded her; for Esther did what Mordecai told her as she had done when under his care. In those days, while Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king's officials from those who guarded the door, became angry and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. But the plot became known to Mordecai and he told Queen Esther, and Esther informed the king in Mordecai's name. Now when the plot was investigated and found to be so, they were both hanged on a gallows; and it was written in the Book of the Chronicles in the king's presence.

(Est 2:1-23 NASB)

 

In this passage we see three concepts which may be taken as guideposts for the typical Christian:

  • The need for watchfulness
  • Living in humility and modesty
  • The providence of God.

Watchfulness

Often is the Christian told to be watchful. We are not told the future; therefore we are not privileged to wait for it in idleness. There are three examples in this passage:

  1. Mordecai takes in his cousin, Esther. It is the diligence of ordinary holiness, a kindness to the family and obedience to the law of God. No great insight is required; simply obedience to God’s command whenever such a circumstance might arrive.
  2. Mordecai sits at the gate – or paces in front of the wall of the harem. His care for Esther is such that he wants to know what is happening in her life. This is a man of duty, of watchfulness. This is why he’s in the right place at the right time – because he’s always in the right place.
  3. When the plot to murder Xerxes is revealed, Mordecai doesn’t decide to sit still. Nor does he join it; rather, he does what a citizen duty-bound should do – he reports it. No thought of reward, no big deal – just a man doing what he should be doing.
Commanded to the Christian

Is watchfulness commanded to the Christian? You better believe it!

  • Over and again, Christ tells us to watch for His return.[1]
  • We are taught to watch ourselves, lest we fall to temptation.[2]
  • Indeed, watchfulness is so important that our Lord tells us to examine ourselves before Communion.[3]
Reward

Watchfulness seems so dull. One veteran pilot in World War II bomber raids described combat as “hours and hours of sheer boredom, interrupted by minutes of sheer terror.” Such boredom needs motivation, and our Lord provides this in the rewards he promises us:

·         He promises us full reward for such faithfulness at His return.[4]

·         He also promises us blessing in this life as well.[5]

But there is a pitfall here too: we need to watch our watchfulness – so that we do not become proud of how humble we are.[6]

Modesty

Webster’s dictionary gives us these definitions of the word “modesty”:

That lowly temper which accompanies a moderate estimate of one's own worth and importance. This temper when natural, springs in some measure from timidity, and in young and inexperienced persons, is allied to bashfulness and diffidence. In persons who have seen the world, and lost their natural timidity, modesty springs no less from principle than from feeling, and is manifested by retiring, unobtrusive manners, assuming less to itself than others are willing to yield, and conceding to others all due honor and respect, or even more than they expect or require.

And, particularly relevant to women, Webster tells us this:

In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy fortified by education and principle. Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor.

May we extract from this a few principles?

  • Modesty means that we are to claim for ourselves less honor than others would willingly concede.
  • It also means that we would concede to others more honor and respect that would be expected.
  • In women, modesty also means a purity of mind and manners.

It goes without saying that modesty is no longer fashionable for men or women; we must, therefore, seek our examples from the Scripture:

  • See the modesty of Esther; she does not reveal her people, at the command of Mordecai. The man is in place of her father; she honors him by complying with his advice.
  • She also honors the eunuch by taking his advice, instead of relying on her own wisdom in dealing with the king. The social status of a eunuch is not all that great – particularly in a harem full of young girls.

Note the result of this: she “found favor” – the phrase occurs three times in this chapter – with all around her.

Do you wonder why? Look at the concept of modesty in the New Testament:

  • Paul tells Christian women[7] to dress modestly – in good works, not in fancy hair-do.
  • Peter tells women that the “hidden person of the heart” – what a phrase! – should be adorned with a “gentle and quiet spirit.”[8]

The Christian who lives the watchful and modest life soon discovers that God’s work is not displayed in miracles alone – but in His providence.

Providence

The word itself comes from the word “provide” – which itself comes from two Latin words:

  1. Pro – meaning before
  2. Video – meaning to see

So it is that God’s providence is God looking ahead of us, and acting for our good. Noah Webster defines it this way:

In theology, the care and superintendence which God exercises over his creatures. He that acknowledges a creation and denies a providence, involves himself in a palpable contradiction; for the same power which caused a thing to exist is necessary to continue its existence. Some persons admit a general providence, but deny a particular providence, not considering that a general providence consists of particulars. A belief in divine providence, is a source of great consolation to good men. By divine providence is often understood God himself.

We have two examples of that providence here. The act of reporting the murder plot sets the stage for a providence of God we will see later; the other providence is seen, surprisingly enough, in the genealogy of Mordecai and Esther. Both, it turns out, are descendants of Shimei. Shimei is a relative of King Saul, and when David flees Absalom, Shimei greets him along the way with stones and curses.[9] David eventually prevails, and Shimei begs for (and receives) mercy[10]. But as he dies, David gives Solomon instruction to see that Shimei dies no natural death.[11] The providence? Shimei lives long enough to raise his children, and dies violently in his old age – after providing the children whose descendants will include Esther and Mordecai – by whom the entire Jewish nation will be saved.

The providence of God is indeed a mysterious thing; it is not always apparent that God is providing. Indeed, we are taught that His ways are higher than our ways. One of the ways God provides is, paradoxically, through the wicked.

·         God tells us that wicked simply will not understand at the time what they are doing for God.[12]

·         Indeed, He will use the evil of man for His providence – and they never will “get it.”

·         One powerful way we know this: His habit of bringing a greater good out of an evil.

Think about that last one. Why is it that God tolerates evil in this world? It will not always be so, but as long as it is, we need to know why God permits it. The answer is simply this: he permits no evil out of which He cannot bring a greater good.

This is great comfort to the wise. As Paul puts it,

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

(Rom 8:28 NASB)

 

Does this apply to great saints only? No, it applies to all who love God – the ordinary, day-to-day Christian who watches and prays and walks humbly before His God.


[1] E.g., Matthew 25:13

[2] For example, greed. See Luke 12:15

[3] 1 Corinthians 11:28

[4] 2 John 1:8

[5] Proverbs 8:34-36

[6] See, for example, Matthew 6:1

[7] 1 Timothy 2:9-10

[8] 1 Peter 3:4

[9] 2 Samuel 16:5-13

[10] 2 Samuel 19:16-23

[11] 1 Kings 2:36-46

[12] Daniel 12:10

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