I got a little behind in my Bible reading plan and got motivated to catch up when I came upon one of my favorite books: Esther. Esther, as you may recall, is a slim book in the bigger Bible. It’s a gem, slipped into the wisdom books like a little sip of cool, refreshing water between toiling on the crags of wisdom.
Esther is one of the few female heroes in the Bible.
Adopted by her cousin Mordecai, the beautiful orphan girl originally named Hadassah (meaning “myrtle”), lived with her people among the Babylonian captives. Mordecai renamed her Esther, meaning “star”. He raised her as his own.
I won’t bring in all the back story here. You can read it and fill in the blanks.
Esther, most disenfranchised of all people, one of a conquered people suddenly thrust into the spotlight, takes the prize: new queen of Persia.
She’s fasted for 3 days, along with her handmaids (Esther 4:15). What struck me today was the scene in Esther 5 where Esther goes in to the king to ask him to save her people. She put on her luxurious royal robes – she is queen now, after all – and enters the inner court of the palace, across from the king’s hall (5:1). To enter into the king’s hall without being summoned brought penalty of death. For anyone.
The scripture says when the king saw Queen Esther standing there, glowing in her royal raiments, he welcomed her and held out his scepter (5:2). Esther approached and touched the end of the scepter. Acceptance offered, acceptance received.
“What is your petition, Esther? Anything you ask is yours, up to half the kingdom!”
I am no Bible scholar, though I played one on TV. Yet what I see here is that the king missed her. He had a lot on his plate, dealing with the affairs of state and political maneuverings within his court. Seeing Esther refreshed his heart. Esther brought him joy. Imagine: he sat on his throne, probably most of the day, intervening in squabbles and bringing down the final judgment on wrongdoers. Kind of a drag, I would think. Esther became a bright spot, a place he could turn towards for a little beauty in his daily grind.
What I see here is that we do the same for our Father. He watches over the earth’s affairs all day long. He is never weary and doesn’t mind helping others. But us actively seeking His face brings Him joy. He longs to connect with us. We put on our garments of praise and enter His presence (Isaiah 61). God hears our hearts and receives us. He extends His scepter of grace – the sacrifice of Jesus – and we are in the beloved.
This vignette from Esther provides a short respite in what must have been a scary, uncertain time. The Jewish people’s fate rested on one girl doing the right thing. King Xerxes had a temper. He banished his former queen and chose Esther out of a lineup of hundreds of beautiful virgins. He is not a perfect example of God’s merciful nature. Yet because of Esther rising up in “such a time as this”, he became instrumental in saving an entire people group from annihilation. Esther reminds us we are truly the apple of God’s eye.