If you were to publish the book of Esther in a mass paperback edition, the cover might look like one of those bodice-ripper romances, and there’d be a hangman’s noose swinging ominously in the background.
Esther is a beautiful young Jewish woman who wins a beauty contest and becomes queen of Persia. Her cousin Mordecai learns of a plot to massacre Jews throughout the Persian empire. Mordecai tells Esther she must persuade the king to stop it.
She hesitates, explaining: “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law: all alike are to be put to death. Only if the king holds out the golden scepter to someone may that person live. I myself have not been called to come in to the king for 30 days.”
Mordecai replies: “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish.”
He adds: “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”
Esther tells Mordecai to call all the Jews in the city to three days of prayer and fasting.
She says: “After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
On the third day, Esther puts on her royal best and approaches the throne. The king is pleased to see her. (Reality check: Why wouldn’t he be pleased to see her? She’s the most beautiful woman in the empire.) He holds out the golden scepter and vows to give her whatever she requests.
Happy day! The plot against the Jews is foiled, the perpetrators are hanged, and Jews live in relative security in Persia from that day on. (Read Esther 4:1-5:3)
The Jews are saved not only because of Mordecai’s warning and Esther’s bravery. Though God is never mentioned in the story, the providence of God is implied in Mordecai’s statement to Esther: “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”
Today I want to ask that “Who knows?” question of all of us. For what moment has God been preparing each of us? For what moment has God been preparing you?
God surely has prepared you for many things leading up to this moment. For what other things has God been preparing you?
Janice McLain spent many years in Africa as a United Methodist missionary. When she retired to the Paola area a dozen years ago, she said that looking back on her life, she could see how God was always preparing her for what came next.
She said: “It makes me wonder. What is God teaching me today that is going to be of use to me in the future that I don’t know about?”
I’ve always appreciated that approach to living. For what future is God preparing me that I cannot imagine today?
Mary Lou Redding, former editor of The Upper Room magazine, has a new book out titled God Was With Me All Along. It offers dozens of stories from everyday folks who look back at the events of their lives and realize that God was never far, in bad times as well as good.
Her thesis is that God is weaving a tapestry of love and redemption for the world. Each person’s story is a part of that tapestry. She asks, how does my story fit into this tapestry? Again, for what future is God preparing me?
There is at least one moment of decision and action for which I am uniquely prepared. What is it? When will it come? How can I be sure I’m ready?
Irenaeus, an ancient church theologian, once said that the glory of God was a human being who was truly alive.
John Eudes, a French priest who lived 400 years ago, expanded on that thought.
He said that each of us should base our lives around the thought, “I am the glory of God.”
We are each the glory of God, he explains, because we are where God chooses to dwell. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Our spiritual life involves making space within ourselves where God can dwell and where God’s Spirit can grow stronger and God’s glory can shine for the world to see.
Eudes asks, “Where is the glory of God?” It’s right here, he answers, in each of us. I am the glory of God. You are the glory of God. Just as God has been preparing a place within each of us to dwell, God also has been preparing each of us for a mission, for a specific moment, or for a succession of specific moments, times in which God’s glory can shine for the world to see.
For what moment has God been preparing you? How can God’s glory shine in you?
I am retiring from church ministry, so this is my last post based on a weekly Sunday sermon.
This post is a partial transcript of a message delivered June 13, 2021, at Edgerton United Methodist Church, from Esther 4:1-5:3.