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By Stephen Green (First published in Christian Voice December 2004)
Esther 4:13 Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews.
14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
15 Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer,
16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.
17 So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE
We all know the story, or we should: Esther had become queen to the Persian king Ahasuerus (more usually known as Xerxes) because of the disobedience of queen Vashti. The Jews in Persia had come under a sentence of death because of the machinations of the evil counsellor Haman. Esther was challenged by her uncle Mordecai to go into the king and 'make supplication' for her people. They both knew that if she went into the king and he did not acknowledge her, she would die. Would she rise to the challenge?
There are several lessons we can apply to the situation in which Christians find themselves in Britain today. The first is not to think you will escape if you keep your head down in what appears to be a safe place. When legislation such as the Gender Recognition Bill or a Religious Hatred Law is placed on the statute book it affects everyone. Churches might think "That will never affect us" and the next moment it has done exactly that. No-one is safe in such a climate. Evil laws are bound to affect us and our families. And if we are as proud of our Saviour as we ought to be, then hearing his name used as an expletive, let alone blasphemed in the name of 'art', will wound us in our hearts.
GOD WORKS IN ANSWER TO PRAYER
The second point is that God is working His purpose out and that His intention cannot be thwarted. Wesley famously said "God does nothing but in answer to prayer," and that statement includes the understanding that God desires us to have a part in what He is doing. He does not wish to act alone, but in fellowship with and in answer to His faithful people. He generously wants us to share in His success. God could of course do much better without us, but of His grace, He chooses to bring us in as partners to His works.
Of course, if we are listening to God, and open to His leading, seeking His face, He will put the very prayers He wants to hear into our hearts and onto our lips. He is capable of raising up the right man at exactly the right time to pray the right prayer. That means God has put the whole chain in process in the first place. But it still remains that God is still asking a simple human being to be part of His divine purpose. What a privileged people we are to be entrusted with such a work and to pray such prayers as God Himself would pray.
DOING WHAT ONLY YOU CAN DO
The third point is that Esther has to do something. She has to take action. Sure, she is going to pray, but that does not mean she is not going to act. Someone has said, "When we work, we work. When we pray, God works." That can be used as a get-out from actually doing anything except praying. The story of Esther shows that when we work and pray, God works miracles. In the same way that faith without works is dead, prayer without action is dead. God will never do something we can do ourselves. It might sound silly, but if a bulb blows, try asking God to make it work again. In most circumstance you will hear Him say, "You go the cupboard, put a new one in, and make it work yourself." God will not get you to the station on time if you have physically not left yourself enough time. God will work miracles, but He will not be taken advantage of, and He is no man's debtor. God was not going to go and tell Xerxes Himself. That was the responsibility of queen Esther, and she knew it. God would bring the deliverance, but if He has challenged you to be part of that process, He will be less than impressed if you duck the challenge. And God did indeed work a miracle in response to the prayer and fasting and Esther’s promise of action. We read in chapter 6 that the king woke up in the middle of the night and sent for the chronicles. That is the hand of God. In the books the king found that Mordecai had not been honoured for a previous service. That discovery changed the whole course of events.
ESTHER HAS TO TAKE A RISK
Fourthly, taking action carries a risk. Not all the action we take puts us at the same risk of death as Esther took, although for some brave folk it would be. It was for Patrick Hamilton, the first martyr of the Scottish Reformation, burned at the stake in St Andrews in 1528 at the age of 24 for passing on the teachings of Martin Luther. For others of us, action may carry the risk of humiliation or insult. There may be a financial cost, or a personal one. Keeping your head down is certainly safer. In the short term, that is.
What is not valid is to be aware of those personal risks and then to rationalise that taking an action might mean that you will be seen as a nutcase, or a bigot, or whatever and that people will be 'turned off' Christianity by your action. That is the philosophy of men, and has no Biblical backing that I can find. In fact it is equally possible to argue that standing up and being counted, if done in a righteous and gracious way, brings respect for the Christian faith and for you personally.
THERE FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS
So Esther rose to the challenge, and went in to the king. She dressed in her finest clothes, even though inside she must have been in turmoil of grief. Xerxes raised the golden sceptre towards her and she was safe. Those following the Lamplight Bible-reading plan will already know what happened next, and how deliverance came to the Jews because of the prayers of thousands of God's chosen, and the actions of a couple of people. It is interesting that in this case, many prayed and a few did the work. In the case of the battle with Amalek, recorded in Exodus 17:8-16, it is the other way round. Just three people are praying, and thousands acting.
Esther was there in the kingdom for a particular moment in history. She was there "For such a time as this." But if we think about it, we are all here for such a time as this, all placed in positions where we can advance the kingdom of God in some way. The fact is, each one of us is totally unique. By the simple common grace of God's institution of sexual reproduction, we each have a distinct genetic make-up which has never been prototyped and will never be repeated to the end of time. Even identical twins, who share the same genetic material, are psychologically and physically different.
GOD HAS A PURPOSE FOR YOUR LIFE
It is a sobering and challenging thought, and also a privilege, to realise that there has never been anyone like you in the whole history of the world and there never will be again. You have one life, and your whole duty is to fear God and keep His commandments. And the keeping of His commandments must include not just the keeping of the law, but finding out what is His will for you personally in the life He has given you, and then going all out for that with all your might. God has a purpose for your life. God does not make mistakes. This is your time. You are here for such a time as this.