The week before last, as I had a few minutes alone in my hospital room after having my beautiful daughter, Leighton Renee, I felt a tiny nudge to start reading the book of Esther. I believe Shannon had gone out to grab some food and I thought why in the world would I read Esther right now? But, having learned from experience to just go with it, I opened my Bible to a book I have read before…
Today, almost 2 weeks later, I finished reading the 3rd chapter. I know why God has led me to the book of Esther and I am amazed at how He is speaking to my heart…I am amazed at His patience with me and very, very grateful that He is able to reach my heart and help me to hear what I need to hear! If you have never read the book of Esther in the Old Testament, I encourage you to do so! I am not going to include the first 3 chapters here on my blog today, but I will give you a snapshot to the story so far and why I believe God is having me read it…this being one of those “real” moments of life…
King Xerxes is having a blow-out party for all of the officials and top brass so he could show off the wealth of his empire. On the seventh day of the party the King is drunk and orders his personal servants to fetch the Queen in her royal crown so he could show off her beauty to his guests. Well, Queen Vashti refused.
The King, seething with anger, consulted his counselors to determine what could be done with her. The counselors all agreed this could not be tolerated lest all of the women become as insolent and disobedient as she, and so she was banned from the King’s presence. Now, I really love the first verse of chapter two in my Message Bible: “Later, when King Xerxes’ anger had cooled and he was having second thoughts about what Vashti had done and what he had ordered against her…” Yes, the King was suffering regret. And so his attendants stepped in and got the ball rolling to find a new and even more exquisite Queen among the kingdom’s most stunning virgins. Enter Esther.
Esther is a Jewess having been raised and cared for by her cousin Mordecai. Esther was among the beautiful young women taken to the palace. Once King Xerxes laid eyes on her there was no turning back. She was the chosen one, however, she kept her race to herself upon the advice of Mordecai who was a God-honoring man. The Bible says she still did what Mordecai told her, just as she did as he was raising her. The Bible also says when she was called upon for her night with the King, she did not request or take with her anything extra or special…she went just as she was.
Mordecai hung around the King’s Gate along with the King’s servants but refused to bow before the King’s highest official, Haman, when he came by. Once this was brought to the attention of Haman, he became furious that a Jew was refusing to bow before him. He then cooked up a plot to have not just Mordecai but all Jews throughout the kingdom murdered on a particular day. When Haman approached the King, he gave him a few details about an “odd set of people scattered through the provinces of your kingdom who don’t fit in.” (ch 3) Haman then described how they showed disregard for the King’s laws and offered up a plan to destroy them and pay for it himself! King Xerxes, without looking into the situation himself, gave his approval. At the end of chapter 3, the King’s command to eliminate all Jews was being sent out to all the people as he and Haman sat back to have a drink.
So far, I see three major elements in this story that I probably haven’t noticed before quite so clearly : pride, offense and impulsive behavior. The King was full of pride which is what motivated him to throw this huge party and show off. When his wife refused to be drooled over by drunken men the King’s pride was hurt, he was greatly offended and then impulsively had her banned from his presence forevermore. We know that he regretted his impulse by the verse I highlighted above. Next, we have Haman who is also full of pride and then becomes greatly offended when one Jewish man refused to bow before him as though he were a God to be worshipped. In his offense he crafted an evil plan and our King Xerxes once again impulsively gives Haman his approval because of pride…not yet knowing the wife he now prefers and “loves” more than all the others would be a victim herself.
In contrast, Esther, chosen and honored by the King, continues to seek the advice of Mordecai. She has not become puffed up with pride or arrogance. She comes to the King just as she is…she continues to search out and follow the advice of Mordecai by not revealing her heritage. Esther has remained humble and pliable. She is not making it all about her.
I don’t know about you, but I have times in my life when I am hurt or disappointed and a part of me wants to settle, for just a little while I think, into the hot embrace of offense. Perhaps I have not been treated fairly or with the love and kindness I expected and I experience valid hurt feelings. But what happens next? See, my awesome Creator nudged my heart toward Esther sitting in a hospital room because He knew what I needed to see. Even if I’m hurt or disappointed, I don’t have His permission or blessing to make it all about me. There is this fine line between disappointment and offense. When my disappointment becomes less a prayer between God and I and more a conversation between another person and I, chances are I am sliding into offense. My pride is stirred up because my needs or expectations weren’t met the way I wanted. Then I, like King Xerxes, become impulsive with complaints and let my mind make a final judgement on the motives of others. And like Xerxes, I will soon find myself carrying the weight of regret as offense and pride and this “it’s all about me” mindset begins to press in on me.
Hurt can be hard. Disappointment can be damaging. As a Jesus-follower I have experienced the freedom in letting God deal with my heart and hurts…knowing I cannot control others and the worst thing is for me to strap on offense and the hardness of pride. I yearn to live freely. I’ve been there and there is no sweeter way to live!
I am so imperfect. I struggle with the hurt in my hands and heart until I let God break and shatter my pride…until I once again reach the place of letting go…knowing it’s really not all about me…knowing even if life, people and situations are disappointing sometimes my Creator never disappoints me. And in a way that can only be described as super-natural, His Spirit within me enables me to let go…to resist the urge to build fences around my heart when I am hurt…to continue loving others just as if I have not been hurt. How can this be?
Because I love a God who whispers to my heart “read Esther” as I sit in a hosptial gown with a few quiet moments and although I can’t imagine why I am quickly blown away…Yes, He’s that personal. He’s that concerned with the details of my heart and life. He’s that powerful. He’s that wonderful…