Saturday, October 12, 2019
Winning Favor through Character: Esther 2, verses 1-11
As we saw in Esther Chapter 1, keeping up appearances at all costs can have unintended and even disastrous consequences. How much better for those who don’t have to worry about what others think, because their integrity and excellent character bestowed by God’s grace naturally turn strangers and acquaintances into friends and allies! Such was the case with Esther, who was blessed by God not only with these virtues but also with being in the right place and at the right time to accomplish His perfect will (Esther 2).
King Ahasuerus, ruler of the Persian Empire, may have truly loved Queen Vashti and felt sorry that his own foolishness resulted in him having to banish her from the kingdom and from the marriage just to save face. But once this plan had been inexorably set into motion, a replacement had to be found. In contrast to conventional wisdom, shown for example by King Solomon (1 Kings 3:1), choosing a new queen would not be based on political alliances, diplomacy, or even the graces and experience that would suit a ruler’s wife, but solely on her physical beauty and appeal to the king. Thus began a kingdom-wide beauty pageant, with Ahasuerus the only judge (Esther 2:1-4).
But God can use even the self-gratifying motives of a pagan king to accomplish His perfect will. From before the beginning of time (Jeremiah 29:11; Ephesians 1:4) He had chosen Esther, an orphaned Jewess under Babylonian captivity, to win the heart of Ahasuerus, and with it influence that would ultimately save God’s chosen people from destruction.
Although God’s Name does not appear anywhere in the book of Esther, we can see His hand at work on every page. When the beautiful maiden Esther lost her parents, she was adopted by Mordecai, a relative who loved and raised her as his own daughter. Praise the Lord that He Himself provides for those who are orphaned or abandoned by their parents! (Psalm 27:10)
Being under Babylonian captivity must have given both Esther and Mordecai a strong heart for their people and a deep desire for their deliverance. God orchestrated their roles in His plan by placing Mordecai on the palace grounds, where he was well positioned to learn of what was going on there, and by moving Esther into the king’s house, under the custody of Hegai, keeper of the virgins who would be brought before the king (Esther 2:5-8; Jeremiah 24:5).
Although Esther was very beautiful, Hegai was likely a eunuch and therefore unaffected by her physical attractiveness. Nonetheless, her noble character, warmth and integrity must have won him over, for he was especially kind to her, giving her seven handmaids, expediting Esther’s required physical purification, and giving them the best rooms and position in the king’s house (Esther 2:9).
Through God’s grace, He had lifted up Esther from the Babylonian captivity into a position of influence in the king’s palace, just as He later would elevate a humble young girl, the virgin Mary, to the honored position of being the mother of Jesus Christ, the promised Savior of the world. Only He could be the perfect, sinless sacrifice to die on the cross in full payment for our sins, to be buried, and to rise again on the third day so that all who trust Him will have eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 3:16)..
God chose and exalted Mary despite her modest position in life because she was willing to obey Him and follow His perfect plan, considering herself to be the handmaiden, or servant, of the Lord (Luke 1:38; 46-53). This is in keeping with God’s ability to humble the mighty and wealthy while giving riches and power to the poor and helpless (1 Samuel 2:4-8), just as He did for Esther.
Once Esther found herself in favor in the palace, she could easily have turned her back on Mordecai. Instead, she obeyed him, and in so doing followed God’s law to honor your parents (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; Proverbs 1:8-9; Matthew 15:4; 19:19; Ephesians 6:2). Mordecai had advised her not to reveal her Jewish heritage (Esther 2:10), which could be regarded as a slight to God’s chosen people. Rather, Mordecai in his God-given wisdom knew that this was not yet the right time to disclose her Hebrew identity, for God appoints the times and seasons for everything, for reasons unknown to man (Ecclesiastes 3:1-10).
Esther’s obedience to her adopted father, and by extension, to God Himself, and respect for their wisdom speak to her integrity and noble character (Proverbs 19:8). Her love for Mordecai was reciprocated, as he looked after her from afar, walking before the court of the women’s house every day to inquire about how Esther was doing and her future in the palace environment (Esther 2: 11).
As we contemplate the book of Esther, may we be reminded not to trust in worldly values of wealth, power or social standing, but to trust only in God (Psalm 56:4). With Him, all things are possible! (Matthew 19:26). If we follow His Word and His will, He will direct our paths to His chosen destination (Proverbs 3:1-6), and He will mold us into His own image (Philippians 3:10). Then, like our Lord Jesus Christ, we can grow in favor with God and with our fellow man (Luke 2:52).