The first time my interest was drawn to the Book of Esther was when my friend was speaking about how she wanted to be favored like Esther. Favor…hmmmm. We all crave for it. As a Christian, I am well acquainted with it. After all, isn’t that what is assured to those who follow God? Although Esther did not know Christ, she knew of His Father, Yahweh, and was acquainted with His promises towards those who heed His commandments and she knew what would ensue – favor. Sometimes, however, merely knowing something may not sustain you, right?
I am part of an amazing Christian book club which read the Book of Esther some days ago. We shared our insights on what touched us from the chapters and then had an external speaker share his own insights. At the end of the session, we just had to give glory to God. Indeed God’s words are true that where two or more are gathered, He is in their midst and iron sharpeneth iron. During this year, please do all you can to stay in fellowship with brethren and heed the words in Hebrews 10:25 not to forsake the gathering of believers.
I often warn those who heed to the notion of “sola scriptura” that this may limit their full appreciation of Scripture; more so when this is done in isolation of other books in the bible. Scripture is to be read contextually and there are several influencing factors to the Word which may be extrinsic to the biblical text, handed down from rich traditions and history. The speaker highlighted the importance of the Amalekites in the story of Esther. At first, when he mentioned Exodus 17:13-16 we thought he had misquoted and was going on a tangent. Herein, he stressed God’s vow that He would completely “blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens.” This fatal destiny of the Amalakites is repeated by Balaam in Numbers 25:20 when he says “first of the nations is Amalek but their end is to perish forever.” Why is this reference to Amalek relevant? Because Haman was an Agagite; he was a descendant” of Agag, the enemy of Israel and king of the Amalekites. Thus, the enmity between Mordecai and Haman was generational and it was no surprise that Mordecai could not bow down to Haman and Haman wished him dead.
Yahweh Is My Banner
To put this in perspective is everything. Haman was not supposed to be alive if Saul had obeyed the instructions of God. The nation of Amalek was meant to be obliterated as commanded in 1Samuel 15:3 but Saul disobeyed by sparing the king and animals. Esther’s job was to finish up what Saul had failed to do. The speaker pointed out that the altar which was raised by Moses named Yahweh-nissi, (Yahweh is my banner) was still alive and speaking. It would not stop until God’s words had achieved its purpose – the obliteration of the descendants of Agag. This reminds me of what I posted last year on the importance of raising altars and the consequences.
In Esther 9:10-15 we see the fulfillment of God’s word and the effect of the altar raised generations earlier. The 10 sons of Haman were struck down by the Jews who had raised the banner of God during the time of Moses to fight their forefathers. This banner was raised again and God’s word executed fully by God’s people. Psalm 149:9 says “to execute the judgements decreed for them – such is the glory of all God’s faithful, Hallelujah!” This willingness to carry out the divine will is something with which I constantly struggle. Would I have done the same thing as King Saul? Perhaps? I would have used my logic to try and explain why I didn’t kill Agag and the animals, but that would be disobedience and how can you be favored when you disobey He, from whom you seek favor? As God’s people, God is expecting us to execute His instructions fully. He has made commitments to us and some of us may have raised altars to Him. These altars have life and they will continually speak. They are meeting places between you and God where God will continually speak with you and to you, honoring His Word and expecting you to honor yours.
The speaker then pointed out the meaning of the name Esther which means secret or hidden. Esther was favored from the very start when she was adopted by Mordecai. Her favor continued in the harem and culminated in her selection as queen. Initially I thought this was the level of favor to which my friend was referring until I continued reading. Esther’s favor was truly supernatural. There are 2 versions of the Book of Esther – Hebrew and Greek. The Greek version gives a much deeper insight into the climate in which Esther found herself before King Ahasuerus. Esther 4 describes the king as being “clothed in full robes of state, so that he inspired great awe.” Since those who entered the inner court of the king without an invitation were doomed to death, it describes the scene thus: “As he looked up in extreme anger, his features fiery and majestic, the queen staggered, turned pale and fainted…But God changed the king’s anger to gentleness.” He ended up springing from his throne, comforting her and embracing her, saying, “Speak to me.” Amazing; King Ahasuerus moved from extreme anger to being vulnerable to her.
As if this favor was not enough, God endowed Esther with more to the point that the Jews were spared and she took over the household of Haman who was killed. Favor. Esther was called to do God’s work just like Saul was and just as we are called to do same. The difference between her and Saul was that she hated evil and resisted it with all her being to the point that she did not give in to fear as seen in Esther 4:16 when she exclaims “If I perish, I perish!” Saul admitted to Samuel that he feared his men and so did not fully obey God. Esther feared the King but her fear and reverence of God surpassed that fear of the king. This makes me wonder the extent to which I hate evil and whether I allow political correctness turn me into a Saul. The speaker reminded us that we are to say the truth always and to hold fast to what is right just like Mordecai who refused to bow down before Haman. This steadfastness attracts favor as seen in the fate of Mordecai who was elevated and Esther who was honored as seen in Esther 8:15-17 and in today’s celebration of the Feast of Purin.
The speaker mentioned that God is a master planner and we see this in the unfolding of events. One of my favorite verses in the Book is when Mordecai tells Esther of the plight that awaits the Jews due to Haman’s scheming. Esther 4:12 says: “Even if you now remain silent, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another source…who knows – perhaps it was for a time like this that you became queen?” The notion of being made for “a time like this” has always been on my mind. Last year during the first lockdown in Lagos, I was tempted to fall into angst and discontentment but the Spirit of God kept nudging these words in my heart- “perhaps you were made for a time like this.” Indeed. Our purpose is our purpose. We are where we are because God has a purpose for us just like He had a purpose for Esther. As the Master Planner, His Will shall always be fulfilled. It is up to us to take up the mantle as Esther did.
The faith of Mordecai is remarkable, though. He was certain that help would surely come to the Jews even if Esther did not rise up to the occasion. His faith was rewarded as we see that all things work out for those who walk in God’s ways. God is always working behind the scenes, fulfilling His Word. As the fate of Haman shows, no matter how long passes, God’s Word will always come to pass and He protects His own.
The Prevailing Word
It was upon this realization of God being the Master Planner that I understood that the Book of Esther was more than a book on favor; it was about the prevailing Word of God. God’s word over His people will always stand and it is up to us to key into it. Therein, lies the favor – when we stay faithful to His Word. The speaker challenged us to provoke God to the point that He makes a pronouncement over us. What would you like God to say over you? Provoke Him. Press into Him. Remind Him of His faithfulness throughout the ages to those who cling to Him. Provoke Him. As Isaiah 55:11 assures us; “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me, achieving the end for which I sent it.” God’s word prevails until it is fulfilled. The Amalakites were blotted out as vowed by God and accomplished by Esther.
Esther 8:17 shows how God’s word can also have a multiplying effect as seen in the evangelism which came about, wherein “many of the peoples of the land identified themselves as Jews.” As God’s word prevails in your life, what is your response? Do you testify to His goodness to all people? Till date, the Jews celebrate the feast of Purin, held in February or March each year. They testify of God’s faithfulness and prevailing Word. Do you?
One of the discussions that came out of the speaker’s insights was the effect of the prevailing word on descendants of Agag like Haman and his sons. Did they deserve to die for the abominable act of their forefathers committed over 400 years earlier? The answer to that lies in the truth that God is God and that He decides the fate of all men. We know that God is also merciful and that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all negativity and has the power to destroy all altars speaking against our destinies as said in 1John 1:7. This is what Haman did not have, but we have in Christ Jesus . Haman was also set in his evil ways and seemed to follow the path of his forefathers by not walking in the light as the passage enjoins us to do.
Rest assured that once a pattern of setbacks is identified in your lineage, but you make efforts to align to God’s ways and plead the precious blood of Jesus, the altars against you are doomed for destruction. The speaker admitted that some cases are more difficult than others but God is faithful and we must remain undeterred. He referred us to Psalm 139:5 which stresses just how much love God has for us: “You have gone into my future to prepare the way and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the harm of my past. With your hand of love upon my life, you impart a blessing to me.”
I left the session impacted and revitalized. Remember at my introduction I said that knowing something may not always be enough to sustain you? Well, it depends how deep you want to pursue that knowledge and be obedient to it. The more you delve into Scripture and pursue God, the more His Word will give you life and He will assure you of His faithfulness and love. In short, the more you will find favor.
So will you join me in this journey of pursuit? Esther knew her God and chose to delve deeper and for that, she was bestowed with more favor and honored. God has given us exactly what we need to pursue Him and to operate in His favor. It is up to us to take up the mantle and to pursue in obedience. I choose to join Esther. Do you?