Through the Old Testament in a Year

Today's Reading – Esther 4 – Mordecai gets Esther to help

Who knows what God might do through a praying people?

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The imperial decree that all the Jews throughout the Persian Empire should be killed had been published in all cities, including the capital city of Susa. The people who read it were perplexed, but Mordecai and his fellow Jews were shocked and dismayed: "there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes" (v. 3).

Soon Esther heard that Mordecai was going about the city in sackcloth and ashes, wailing loudly and bitterly. She was greatly distressed and sent him clothes to put on in place of his sackcloth. When he refused these, she sent one of the King's eunuchs who guarded and served the harem to find out what was troubling Mordecai. Mordecai sent back to Esther a copy of the decree commanding the annihilation of the Jews along with the instruction that she should, "go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people" (v. 8). Esther is queen and has a privileged position in the court of King Xerxes, but she must not forget that she remains a Jew and that those threatened with slaughter are "her people".

It was no easy matter for someone to come into the presence of the king, even if she was his wife. To approach the king without being summoned could lead to instant execution. But when Esther told this to Mordecai he sent back the answer:

Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? (vv. 13-14)

Mordecai's answer expresses his absolute faith that the Lord will come to save his people from threatened destruction. God had chosen Abraham and promised that through him and his descendants all the world would be blessed. God had promised to raise up a Messiah from the descendants of David who would reign over all peoples on earth; unlike the empires of Babylon and Persia, his kingdom would have no end. Therefore God would not permit his people to be annihilated. He would come to save them. But Mordecai also sees that Esther may be the very person whom the Lord has made queen precisely that she might be the means through which that salvation may come.

Esther is overwhelmed by the responsibility that has been placed on her shoulders. She will attempt to speak to the king but she knows that she needs the Lord to be with her and to help her if she is to be successful. So she asks Mordecai to, "gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish" (v. 16). Mordecai goes off to carry out Esther's instructions.

We may not know why, in the providence of God, we have been placed where we are: in our neighbourhood; in our church; in our work; in our family. But we can be confident that God has work for us to do where he has placed us – work that only we can do. We also need to be aware that we will fail in this work unless we do it in dependence upon God – on his direction and on his power. We cannot be effective in the work of God without giving ourselves to prayer. Our Christian friends cannot be effective in the work that God has for them unless we pray for them. We need to pray earnestly and seriously together. We need to pray for one another. Who knows what God might do through a praying people? Who knows what God might do through you?

Lord, teach us to pray in the confidence that your kingdom, the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, will come. Through prayer and waiting on you, and through the circumstances we find ourselves in, show us how we may be used of you to do the work of the kingdom. By your Spirit, give us the Christ-like courage, strength and determination to do your will.

Peter Misselbrook