Text: Esther 4:1-17
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
“Can I help?” Those are the words of my daughter as she walks into the kitchen and sees me getting ready to bake a box of brownies. Shay loves to cook. She loves to be a part of what we’re doing. She wants to be in the middle of things, and that’s good. I love that. So I’ll tell her, “sure, you can help, go wash your hands.” She disappears for a couple of minutes, and then returns wearing her little apron. While I get the ingredients ready, she pushes the step stool over to the counter so she can reach. “I want to crack the eggs,” she tells me. I realize there’s a pretty good chance some of the shell will end up in the bowl, but that’s okay, I can remove them. So I let her. We measure the oil, and whatever else the recipe calls for, then hand her the spoon. “Mix it up good,” I say. When she’s finished I stir it a little more to make sure the batter isn’t too lumpy. We pour it into the pan, and place it in the oven. I handle that part myself. I don’t want her accidentally bumping her hand on the hot stove. When the brownies are finished baking, I give her a high five. “Good job Shay, you made wonderful brownies.”
It’s good involve our kids in what we’re doing… to give them a chance to participate… to allow them to help. It might be easier for me to bake the brownies on my own, without her “assistance.” I could probably get it done more quickly if I just did it, and wouldn’t have to worry about egg shells falling into the bowl. But I want her to have that opportunity. She learns new skills, and we get to spend quality time together in the process.
In the same way God chooses to accomplish his work through his people. He gives us opportunities to serve him in so many different ways. It might be bringing encouragement to someone who is struggling, or sharing the gospel with someone who doesn’t know the Lord, or bringing a box of food to the poor. He wants us to be involved in what he’s doing in the world. This is pretty amazing when we stop and think about it. He is the almighty God, who doesn’t need anyone. He could snap his fingers and make things happen, without us. Yet he chooses to accomplish his purpose through you and me.
You might feel small or insignificant, but God wants to use you to make a difference in the world. We see that in the example of Esther. God worked through her life to save an entire people from annihilation.
I know we’re jumping into the middle of the book but let me summarize what has happened so far…
- The events of the book take place during the reign of King Xerxes, also known as Ahasuerus, who ruled from 486-465 BC over the Persian Empire.
- At the time, this was the most powerful kingdom in the world. His empire spanned 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia.
- His palace was located in city of Susa, which would be in the southwest corner of the modern country of Iran.
- In what seemed like a completely random series of events Esther became queen of the Persian Empire.
- Her cousin Mordecai walked to the palace each day to see how she was doing H suggested that she keep her Jewish identity a secret. There were a lot of people in the world who didn’t like the Jews, and it would go much better for her if she didn’t tell anyone about her heritage. So she followed his advice.
- Meanwhile, one of the leaders in the Persian government had a problem with Mordecai. A man by the name Haman was the king’s right hand man. He was a very proud individual, insisting that everyone bow when he walked into a room, but Mordecai refused. “I’m a Jew, and I can only bow to the Lord.” Haman was furious. He not only hated Mordecai but the Jewish people as well, and came up with a plan to destroy them.
- One day he said to the king, “there is a group of people living in your kingdom who do not follow the law. They are rebellious, and a threat to national security. You should wipe them out before they become a problem. In fact, I’m willing to contribute ten thousands talents of silver, from my own money, as a reward for anyone who will hunt down and kill the Jews.” The king listened to Haman, and issued a decree sentencing all of the Jewish people throughout the empire to death.
- When Mordecai found out about this, he was devastated. He put on sackcloth, and poured ashes over his head, and walked through the city crying out in a loud voice. He stood outside the palace walls, hoping someone would listen. Esther heard about this, but didn’t yet know about the decree, and so she sent her attendant to find out what was wrong.
- Mordecai explained what has happened. Their people were in danger, not just in the city of Susa, but throughout the world. Their enemies wanted to wipe them out… men, women, and children, without mercy. Hundreds of thousands of lives were hanging in the balance. Esther had to do something. He begged her to talk to her husband. “Maybe you can change his mind. Maybe you can convince him to spare our lives.”
The passage shows us that God places us at the right place at the right time to make a difference.
Look at the end of verse 14. Mordecai wanted Esther to intervene on behalf of her people. He says, “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” This was a lot for Esther to process. She wasn’t sure she was the right person for this task. “I’m not sure if I can do anything to help.”
Mordecai explained that she was exactly the right person. It was no accident that she was there. God had placed her in a position to influence the king. It was the Lord who had given her great beauty. It was the Lord who caused the Persian officials to notice her. It was the Lord who brought her to the royal palace. It was the Lord who stirred the affection of the king towards her. It was the Lord who elevated her to the role of queen. The hand of God had been working behind the scene, this entire time, orchestrating events, so at just the right moment she would be exactly where she needed to be to save her people. Mordecai believed that it was no coincidence she had become queen. It wasn’t dumb luck or random chance that led to this moment. God placed her here for a reason.
We don’t always pause to consider God’s purposes for our lives. We might go through life imagining things just happen without any rhyme or reason. But every once and awhile we catch a glimpse of how the Lord is guiding the circumstances of our lives according to his purpose.
It might be the seat you happen to be sitting in on the airplane. You didn’t choose that seat, it was assigned to you when you bought the ticket… row 12 seat b… You plop down in the chair hoping the flight goes quickly. On your left, there is a businessman reading through documents. On your right there is a young woman who looks sad. As you strike up a conversation you find out that her father has just passed away, and she is flying home for the funeral. You express sympathy, and tell her you’ll be praying for God’s comfort to minister to the family. That leads the conversation towards spiritual things, and she seems interested to learn more about your faith. You have a chance to tell her about Jesus, and read some verses from the Bible you’ve brought with you in your backpack. You almost packed the Bible in suitcase, but chose to put in your carry on in case you had time to read. Now you’re glad it’s there. You have a couple of hours, before the plane lands, to witness to the woman and you see the Holy Spirit working. It almost seems like a coincidence, you happened to sit next to someone who is hurting, searching for answers, ready to hear about Christ. But you realize it is no accident. God has orchestrated the entire thing. He placed you at the right place at the right time to lead her to the Lord.
Or maybe it’s the kid down the road who happens to stop by while you are out in the front yard raking leaves. “What are you do mister?” he asks. “I’m trying to tidy up the lawn,” you tell him. “I’d be happy to rake your leaves for $10” he offers. That doesn’t sound like a bad deal, and it would give him a chance to earn some money, so you agree. As you get to talking to him, you find out that his home life has been kind of rough. His dad isn’t around, and his mom is always at work. He doesn’t have many positive role models he can look up to. He desperately needs someone to take an interest in his life. You realize that it wasn’t a coincidence he walked by your house that God. The Lord led him to your house so that you could encourage him.
These are just a couple of examples. Everyday God is working behind the scenes in little ways, preparing us to serve him.
The NT tells us that God prepared us to take part in his good works. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV84) says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” That’s an interesting verse. It’s not just telling us to go out and find something to do to. It’s telling us that God has prepared good works for us, in advance. He has a plan for you. You have an integral part in what he is doing in the world. He wants to use you in some way to make a difference in the lives of those around you.
It will be different for all of us. There probably won’t be a neon sign advertising God’s plan. But he will place you where you need to be, and the Holy Spirit will give you a nudge. We need to pay attention. Ask yourself, “How does the Lord want to use me for his glory? Where has he strategically placed me to make a difference? It might be in my home, or in my school, or in my neighborhood, or in my workplace. Who are the people he has brought into my life that need to hear about his love? Who knows whether you have attained your position [whatever it is] for such a time as this?
Esther also shows us that God gives us the courage to make a difference.
Look at verse 11. Mordecai asked Esther to go to her husband and plead for their lives but she was nervous. She said,
“All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live. And I have not been summoned to come to the king for these thirty days.”
Esther was afraid. Yes, she was the queen, but that position didn’t come with as much power as you might imagine. She couldn’t just barge into the throne room and demand an audience with her husband. There were certain protocols that had to be followed. The laws of Persian forbid anyone from approaching the king unless they were summoned. You want to talk to the king? Great, take a number. He will ask for you when he’s ready to talk. Don’t call him, he’ll call you. If a person dared to show up unannounced, they could be put to death. You didn’t walk into the royal court and demand an audience with the most powerful man in the world without an official invitation. Not even the queen could drop by unless she was invited. Esther told Mordecai, “you want me to do what? I know he’s my husband, but that doesn’t matter. I haven’t seen him for a month. He hasn’t stopped by to talk. He hasn’t sent me flowers. He hasn’t asked me to dinner. He hasn’t even sent someone to find out how I’m doing. Why do you think he will want to see me today? If I go in there, and interrupt his business, I’d be putting my life on the line.” Mordecai tells her this is a risk that she needs to take if she wants to help save their people.
There’s a saying that goes, “no risk, no reward.” A young person might decide he doesn’t want to try out for the school choir, because if he tries there is a chance he might fail. He doesn’t to deal with the disappointment, so stays home, he doesn’t show up at the audition. But that’s a silly way to look at things. If he won’t try, he has already failed. The same is true in our Christians lives, when it comes to serving Christ. We might be nervous to witness to others. What if we fail? If we don’t try, we have already failed.
It takes courage to follow Christ. It takes courage to live out our faith for the world to see. It takes courage to tell others about Jesus. It would be a lot easier to remain anonymous, keep our mouth shut, and do nothing. But God hasn’t called us to take the easy path. There is always a risk in sharing the gospel, but isn’t it a risk that’s worth taking?
A woman has been asked to help teach a Sunday School class at church. She is nervous. What if I’m not ready? What if I don’t know how to connect with the children? What if a student asks me a question I can’t answer?” It would be easier to say, “no, I don’t think I can do that.” But what if the Lord wants to use her to change the lives of the young people in that class, communicating his love to boys and girls, teaching them lessons that will stick with them throughout their entire lives? There is a risk, but it’s a risk worth taking.
All throughout the Bible, Old and New Testament, God is constantly telling his people to take courage. He calls them into situations that might be frightening; they are often nervous and uncertain, but he promises to go with them and give them the strength they need. In Deuteronomy 31:6 (NASB95) God tells the children of Israel, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” And in Acts 18:9–10 (NASB95) he encourages the apostle Paul, “…Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you…” God’s plans for your life might seem intimidating, but he will give you the courage you need to accomplish his work.
The book reminds us that God could accomplish his purpose without us, but we would miss out on the opportunity to make a difference.
Go back to verse 14. Mordecai tells Esther, “
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”
Esther could have chosen to do nothing… to hide in the palace hoping that her Jewish identity remained a secret so that she at least might escape the catastrophe about to fall on her people. She could have chosen not to participate in God’s work delivering his people, thinking it was too risky, not wanting to get involved. But that would have been unfortunate.
Somehow the Lord would rescue the Jewish people. It seemed obvious that God was planning to use her. If she was unwilling, he would find someone else willing to serve, but she would miss out on the opportunity to make a difference. If Esther had refused to go to the king: there would be no book in the Bible named after her, she would not have become a powerful example for future generations, she wouldn’t have fulfilled God’s purpose in her life, she would have looked back one day with regret.
What about us? God is creating opportunities in our lives every day to be a blessing in the lives of others. What if we stay silent? What if we ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit? We might just waste an opportunity to be used by God.
Imagine a believer who feels the Lord tugging at his heart to witness to a friend from work. He sees this man every day, sits with him in the lunchroom, sometimes they even get together on the weekends to watch the football game. He has gotten to know his friend, and is pretty sure he doesn’t go to church. He isn’t sure if he is saved, and this concerns him. He really wants to talk to his friend about the Lord, but just hasn’t found a good time to bring it up. He keeps saying, “next time we get together I will invite him to come to church with me.” But he keeps putting it off, and makes excuses. Then, one day, he shows up at work and finds out his friend has been in a car accident. He is in critical condition in the ER, and the doctor’s aren’t sure if he’ll pull through. All of the sudden he realizes he may never get another chance to share his faith with his friend. Maybe the Lord brought someone else into his friend’s life to witness to him, but the man will spend the rest of his life wondering about his friend’s eternal destiny.
I don’t want to miss opportunities like this to make a difference in someone’s life. I don’t want to look back with regret knowing I had a chance to be used by God but didn’t because I was too busy… or was too scared… or I wasn’t paying attention… or I thought I had all the time in the world. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. All we have is today. Don’t let it get away.
In the NT we are reminded to make the most of our time, it won’t last forever. Colossians 4:5 (NASB95) “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.”
Esther had a decision to make. God placed her in a position to make a difference. Would she act? In verse 16 she tells her cousin Mordecai,
16 “Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.”
She found the courage she needed in the Lord. The rest of the book goes on to tell us how God used Esther to save her people from destruction. She went to the king, and he received her warmly, welcoming her visit. She invited him to join her for a special dinner that evening, asking that Haman his top official come along. Haman felt pretty special to receive an invitation from the queen to a banquet. While they were eating the king asked Esther what was on her mind. He promised to do anything for her, he would give anything her heart desired. That’s when she revealed her situation. Skip ahead to Esther 7:3–6 (NIV84)
For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.” 5 King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who is he? Where is the man who has dared to do such a thing?” 6 Esther said, “The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman.” Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen.
When the king realized that Haman had tricked him, threatening the life of the queen, he was furious. All the evil Haman planned to do the Jews, was done to him instead. He was hanged from the gallows. Immediately, the king issued another decree, allowing the Jews to defend themselves against their enemies, and they were saved.
God wants to accomplish his purpose through his people, but we have to be willing. Ask yourself “how might God want to use me for his glory?” Where has he strategically placed me to be a witness? Who are the people he has brought into my life that need to experience his love? What is his purpose for me in this world? Pray for God to give you the courage you need, to overcome fear, because it will be intimidating and we will be tempted to pull back, keep silent, stay to ourselves. Don’t miss out on opportunities he creates.