Ornament of Grace

Ornament of Grace
April 5, 2016

Esther’s Unforgettable Example

The sixteenth book of the Bible reads like an ancient fairytale in a faraway land.  Displeased with his queen, King Ahasuerus (secular historians call him Xerxes) of Persia banished Vashti from the palace and began a nationwide search for her replacement.  It may have sounded exciting to some young women, but to others, hearing news of this royal quest was downright terrifying! In that day and time, a young woman had no choice but to be uprooted from familiar surroundings, if a messenger of the king happened to come knocking!

Through a series of events, Esther, a Jewish orphan girl, was brought to the palace grounds and kept in court, waiting, along with other young women, until the time appointed when she would be summoned to appear before the King.  For some, the “fairytale” aura of becoming a finalist in the “Find-a-Queen” contest was fueled by the constant beauty treatments and 24/7 maid service the prospective royal candidates received.

For Esther, however, the vanity of her surroundings carried different meaning than it did the other women.  You see, it wasn’t just her extraordinary beauty that set her apart.  She truly was different.  Learning the ways of Jehovah God from infancy gave Esther the ability to look at life beyond the surface, in a far deeper, more meaningful way.  Not surprisingly, compared to all the others, the “difference” in this Jewish maiden did not escape the notice of the powerful King Ahasuerus.

In time, as events unfolded, it was proclaimed that Esther had been chosen as the one to assume the role of queen.  According to the Biblical account, she neither sought nor chose this position. Furthermore, the egotistical king, convinced of his authority and control, believed he was the one “calling the shots,” but we know differently!  Almighty God was in total control and had placed Esther in the palace for His purposes- eternal purposes- of which, at the time, even Esther was unaware!

I have often wondered what emotions must have filled Esther’s heart when she received the news that she had been chosen to fill a role for which she had no prior experience and no voice in the matter! How drastically different would her life be once she became queen over the entire Persian Empire? I think it is safe to say Esther must have felt very nervous, inadequate and certainly fearful! Who could blame her for experiencing a host of varying negative emotions, which could have easily escalated into sheer panic!  However, in keeping with the character of a benevolent God, Esther also must have been able to look back and trace God’s Hand at work in her life and heart, preparing her for this daunting task, even when she did not necessarily understand what was happening.

Like Esther, as God’s children, we can often find ourselves in situations we would never have chosen!  Life can be very stressful and can go beyond difficult to tragic! Who would choose to lose a spouse to death, be involved in a terrible accident, receive news you’ve contracted an incurable disease, or find you have been betrayed by a loved one? These situations occur every day in our world! Who am I to think none of these things could ever happen to me? Life is not perfect for anyone, and oftentimes it is actually very, very hard!

For God’s children, the source of joy, happiness and contentment does not lie in our life circumstances. It is rather more about how we respond to those circumstances! Do I fret and worry? Do I become critical and blame others for my difficulties? Do I imagine the worst and begin to doubt that God is aware of what I am going through? Do I become accusatory, thinking He doesn’t even care?

Rather than becoming fearful and fretful, I need to keep the right focus, remembering that a Sovereign God allows and/or orchestrates ALL the events of my life! Whether I “feel” it at the moment or not, God does care, and is, and always will be, in control of His creation!

Let me share something I’ve discovered about my “inner self:” when disappointments occur, I’ve been known to tell myself things like, “I didn’t really think God would do that for me anyway,” or “I’m just not smart enough. I wish I had the ability or talents of “so-and-so.”  Being totally honest about it, most of us probably need to admit that our “self-talk” is often negative and defeating! Furthermore, it is usually SELF focused and not GOD focused! How much better to think like David when the Bible says he “encouraged himself in the Lord” (1 Sam. 30:6), rather than defeating himself in the flesh!

Most of the time, we just need to be obedient to the Biblical commands we already know!  Many places in Scripture God tells us how to think, what to do when trials come, etc. Philippians 4:8 is a perfect example: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report: if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Reading, memorizing and meditating on God’s Word is the way to keep my focus where it should be- on Him- rather than on myself or my circumstances!

While it is true that God allows certain things to come into our lives, I believe there are other times when God literally designs situations for His children to step into, solely for His purpose to bring about some pretty amazing things!

This is where Esther found herself when her cousin, Mordecai, revealed the sinister plot Haman had hatched to rid the kingdom of the Jewish nation. Before Esther was ever brought to the palace, God had predetermined He would use this beautiful, albeit obscure, Jewish maiden to save her people!  Although it was God’s plan, it still boiled down to Esther’s choice. Was her faith strong enough to support a decision to put her very life on the line?  She understood it was beyond risky.  It was actually against the law for Esther to enter into the king’s presence, uninvited! She was well aware that her fate could end up being worse than that of her predecessor, Vashti!

It is notable that prayer was the first decision Esther made. No doubt it was from spending time with her God that she gained the confidence to make the hardest choice of her life!  The stakes were high. She could be killed. The Jewish nation faced annihilation. What would she choose to do? Everything rested upon her willingness to take a huge step of faith! What an emotional moment it must have been for Mordecai, when he received Esther’s message, inscribed with these words, “I will go in unto the king, and if I perish, I perish.”

What about us modern-day, Christian women? We like to organize our lives down to the smallest details, and we want assurances things will turn out exactly the way we planned, do we not? Taking risks, putting ourselves “out there” with no guarantees, is not really in our “play book,” as the saying goes!  Some in our ranks try to cloak their “control freak” tendencies in more respectable terms like “goal setting” and “planning”. The truth is genuine faith is a loss of control and a relinquishment of our will. Instead of “overscheduling,” we should be more concerned with just taking the “next step!” Daily, ask yourself, “What does the Lord want me to do today?” That, by the way, is really all you’re responsible for. We women find ourselves overwhelmed when our priorities are out of balance!

Life has seasons. Learn to discern exactly what the Lord wants you to do in each particular “season” of your life. The “job descriptions” can be very different! If you are often stressed and a slave to your schedule, I have to wonder if you are trying to do things God doesn’t intend for you to do! You might need to check up and see if your true responsibilities are being met. What if the Lord had other plans for your day? Does this thought cause you anxiety? I wonder how many blessings we miss, because we think our schedule just cannot be altered?

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with uncertainty. We don’t like negative uncertainties like flat tires, drop-in company that seems to have no concept of time, etc.  On the other hand, we like positive uncertainties like flowers for no reason, an unexpected dinner out instead of having to cook, and so on.  Because of our inability to foresee the future, our lives will always be full of uncertainties! This is where faith comes in. It has been stated that “the greatest moments in life are unscripted, unrehearsed, unplanned, and unpredictable. These are precisely what make them unforgettable!”

Studying Esther’s life provides some great lessons for today’s women. Only God could take an obscure, orphan girl, acquainted with tragedy, with no royal training, and elevate her to one of the highest positions in the then-known world! In spite of her feelings of fearfulness, inadequacy and insecurity, God used Esther, because she was willing to exercise faith. Clearly, she arrived at the palace “for such a time as this” and was used by God to save her people, the Jewish nation, from destruction! All of these events came at the cost of her own personal plans being disrupted. Looking back
over the pages of Biblical history, we would all agree that Esther’s unforgettable example of faith and devotion to her God still ministers to hearts today.

I have a feeling she would agree that everything she went through was totally worth it, don’t you?