If you think the Bible is just a book of God blessing people, or of God smiting people, think again. It’s filled with stories of war and romance and real people living—and often messing up—real lives. But it’s also filled with stories of God’s grace and protection of His people, and that theme is never clearer than in the life of Queen Esther.
When you hear Esther’s name, who do you think of? Myself—I think of a vegetable with a thin neck and annoying piece of hair that’s always in her face, but Veggie Tales, I’ve learned, tells a very tame story of one of the Bible’s bravest women – and it leaves a lot out that wouldn’t be safe for children’s ears. In reality, Esther was a real human girl who lived a real human life. She was an orphan who became a queen, and a queen who acted with a courage that God used to save the Jewish people.
Let me give you some background: Esther was chosen as queen from among all the girls in the kingdom—a turn of events which, by itself, revealed God’s hand in her life (because King Ahasuerus was only supposed to marry a Persian woman). This wasn’t an ordinary marriage, though. Esther couldn’t just walk into her husband’s presence whenever she wanted begging for new shoes or a new robe. The law stated that anyone who entered the king’s presence without permission (including his wife) would be killed, unless he stepped in to stop it.
Then there was Haman, the king’s right-hand man. Some biblical scholars have declared Haman a Persian Adolf Hitler; he was so set on genocide that he tricked the king into signing a law condemning all Jews to be killed on a set day.
That’s when Esther’s part in the history of the Jewish people really began, because when word of the impending slaughter got out, Mordecai her cousin asked her to step in, telling her it was likely she was placed in her position as queen (by God, although His name isn’t actually mentioned in the book of Esther) “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Esther was the only hope of her people. But can you imagine being asked to do something that—by law—was grounds for death? Can you imagine walking into the presence of the most powerful person in your country to tattle on his right-hand man? It would be like sneaking past the Secret Service to tell the president that his vice president had—unbeknownst to him—signed a death order for a whole group of American people. Can you imagine having the courage to do that?
I sure wouldn’t be fearless, and I probably wouldn’t ever dare to do it at all. If I were Esther, I would probably try to hide and pretend I wasn’t Jewish. I’ve doubted God when far lesser things were at stake than my life and the lives of my family. There’s a difference between courage and fearlessness, though, and Esther was far from fearless about the task at hand. She argued with Mordecai when he suggested that she should enter the king’s presence to tell him of Haman’s plot, and, even once she did, she had to invite Haman and the king to dinner two nights in a row before she got up her nerve to ask for the salvation of her people. She was afraid. She wasn’t naïve, and she knew the risk she was taking. But that’s when her bravery and her steadfast trust in God to take care of her were revealed. Her words of courage when she made her decision to risk her life for her people show a disregard for life outside God’s plan: “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish” (4:16).
Miraculously, the king (the same one who got rid of his former wife because she wouldn’t come to dinner to flaunt herself in front of his drunk friends, mind you) did not order her killed when Esther disobeyed his law and walked into his presence. Rather, he offered to give her anything she wanted, “even up to half the kingdom” (5:3). After the second dinner when Esther finally told him of Haman’s plot, instead of allowing the Jews to be killed, the king ordered Haman killed. (Or, umm, if you’re watching the Veggie Tales version, banished to “the island of perpetual tickling.”) Either way, Esther’s bravery was the doorway through which God accomplished great things for His people. God used a young orphan girl—not an army of Jewish men—to save them. God used Esther. God can use you.
So how can we be Esther today? How can we learn to trust God so deeply that we will stand against any human force necessary to follow Him? I know most of us won’t have an arranged marriage and be named queen of all the king’s wives (and personally I wouldn’t want to be). But let me ask you: Can you show Esther’s courage in your school, in your job, in your family? Imagine what the world could be if young women like us had Esther’s guts. You want to see a real army of God? That’s it.