The Book of Esther is a glorious drama of the sovereign working of God. And many who have read Esther have a single verse in mind, the Sunday School memory verse that we all learn when we first study the book. We walk away from Esther wondering what it might mean for us to be where we are, “for such a time as this.”
Something else in the context of that verse, however, is significant to me as I read through the book again.
Esther 4:12-14 – 12 And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. 13 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Here’s the context. Haman has plotted to destroy the Jews. Mordecai, Esther’s near relative, has learned of this and is sending Esther word. He urges her to approach the king and to seek relief. But Esther is afraid, understandably, for the Persians have a law that says that any person who approaches the king uninvited and is not immediately forgiven by the king must be put to death.
It is true that Esther is a wife of the king. But it has been some time since he has called her to himself. Maybe he is not so into her as he was before. Maybe she offended him. For sure, to go to the throne room with a complaint is taking her life into her own hands.
Mordecai reminds her that, if she does not go into the throne room to ask for help, her life is forfeit anyway. Esther is Jewish. The decree would cost her her own life as well. And Mordecai speaks that famous phrase, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Maybe, dear queen, you have come to power to do this very thing.
I love all of that story. But I notice that we often, when thinking of it, miss something else Mordecai says with complete confidence. In his message to Esther, Mordecai also says, “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place.” Mordecai does not even begin to give Esther the notion that her action or her inaction has anything to do with the question of whether or not the Jews will be delivered from destruction. All Esther’s actions have to do with is whether or not she takes part in that deliverance or her life is just as at risk as the Jew on the street. It is not that her actions are the ultimate decision-maker for the fate of the Jews. But her actions will matter to her, and can be a part of God’s plan.
And here is what first struck me. Mordecai knew, without question, that God would not allow the Jews to be wiped out by the evil scheme of Haman. How? I believe Mordecai knew the promises of God in Scripture. Mordecai knew that God had promised that the descendants of Abraham would survive and bring into the world the promised one who would bless all nations. That promised one had not yet come, and so God would in no way allow the nation to be cut off. In the promise of a Savior to come, a promise that cannot fail, God also wrapped that promise up in a promise of protecting physical Israel as well. God would keep the nation of Israel alive in order to preserve his promise of Messiah.
The second piece that strikes me is that the motivation for Esther to join in the mission had nothing to do with whether the mission would be accomplished without her. Esther was to join the mission for her own good and for the glory of the Lord who had raised her up. I think of that in parallel to evangelism. Those who believe in God’s sovereign predestination realize that we are not the ultimate factor in the salvation of others. Others will be saved without us. But, for the good of our souls and for the glory of god, we join in the work of taking the gospel to friends, family members, coworkers, classmates, and the nations. If it puts you off to think that God could save somebody without you, you are very confused as to who is God and who is not. But if you grasp that the Lord allows your participation in the process, you should be honored and overjoyed to join in for such a time as this.