For those just joining us on our pilgrimage, we are searching out the thread of grace that is woven through the Bible. I have grown to love exploring the Old Testament and learning the many lessons that it has for those who study it. Today is a favorite story of mine. It is about a young lady named Hadassah, better known to us as Esther. Hadassah lived in the fortress of Suza with her uncle Mordecai. Mordecai had takn Hadassah in and adopted her as a young girl when she was orphaned. He along with many others from Jerusalem had been taken captive when the King of Babylon had conquered Jerusalem and had captured the King of Judah and taken him into exile.
In those days, the King Ahasuerus was over the region of Suza. He and his queen had recently parted ways because of a request that the queen did not obey. The King had decreed that she not be allowed in his presence and another be given her royal position. A search began throughout the entire kingdom for young women who were candidates for her vacated position. These women were gathered into a haram at the fortress of Suza where they were subjected to beauty treatments and eventually one who found favor with the King would be chosen to be his queen. Hadassah was one of the young women chosen and taken to the harem quarters at the palace. At this point, Hadassah became known as Esther. Her uncle had instructed her not to reveal that she was Jewish or where she was born.
Esther, along with the other young ladies was placed under the care of the king’s eunuch, Hegai. In Esther 2:9, scripture tells us that Esther found favor with Hegai. “The young woman pleased him and gained his favor so that he accelerated the process of the beauty treatments and the special diet that she received. He assigned seven hand-picked female servants to her from the palace and transferred her and her servants to the harem’s best quarters.” (Esther 2:9 HCSB) This was nothing less than God’s unseen hand of grace upon Esther as we will see further in the story. Each of the contestants for the queen’s position underwent one full year of beauty treatments in preparation for meeting the King. When one of them went before the King, she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the harem to the palace. After a night with the King, she was taken to a second harem and remained there as a concubine. She would not go before the King again unless he desired her and called for her by name.
When Esther’s night came, she didn’t request anything to take with her but only took what Hegai suggested. “The king loved Esther more than all the other women. She won more favor and approval from him than did any of the other young women. He placed the royal crown on her head and made her queen in place of Vashti. The king held a great banquet for all his officials and staff. It was Esther’s banquet. He freed his provinces from tax payments and gave gifts worthy of the king’s bounty.” (Esther 2:17, 18 HCSB) The lovely young woman, who had been through the tragedy of loosing both of her parents and had been raised by her loving uncle was now the queen of Suza, though she did not yet know what God’s plan in all of this was for her. God’s hand was also on Mordecai. Not long after Esther became queen, Mordecai overheard a plot to kill the King. He was able to get word to Esther in time and the plot was thwarted and the persons responsible caught.
So, what purpose could God possibly have for this young woman? There was a man who was second in command to the King, his name was Hamen. Hamen hated Mordecai and all the Jewish people. He was set on their destruction! Because of Haman’s position, people were expected to bow to him, as they would the King. Mordecai refused, he bowed only for his God. Hamen went before the King with a false tale about the Jews, citing their differences, and accusing them of disobedience to the King. Haman was able to convince him of the danger and arrange a decree to have the Jewish population destroyed. Mordecai got word of the news and got word to Esther asking her to speak to the King. Esther had not been before the King in some time and she knew not even the queen went before him without an invitation; to do that could cost her her life. Mordecai was quite convincing. He sent this message to Esther: “Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:13, 14 HCSB) Esther called for a fast among all the Jewish community and she and her servants also fasted for three days and nights there would be nothing to eat of drink. She said, “After that, I will go to the king even if it is against the law. If I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16 HCSB)
Esther went before her husband, he lowered his scepter allowing her to approach. He accepted a dinner invitation for himself and Hamen. They enjoyed a nice dinner and Esther again invited them the following night at which time she would make her request for her people to the King. When they met again, Esther revealed her ethnicity and the plot against her people. Hamen receive his deserved punishment and lastly a new decree was made allowing for the Jewish community to defend themselves against Hamen’s evil plot. Because of Esther’s courage and faith many lives were saved.
One of the interesting facts about the book of Esther is that God is not mentioned by name once in the entire book. However, though He is unidentified in the Book of Esther, His hand of grace is there woven beneath the surface throughout the entire book. There is certainly no coincidence that a young girl who is orphaned, adopted by her uncle and living in this kingdom at this time marries the King without his knowledge of her ethnic background and is placed in a position of favor in order to save her people. Only the grace, mercy and plan of God could accomplish such a thing!
He who loves purity of heart and whose speech is gracious, the king is his friend. Proverbs 22:11
Grace and blessings to you!
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