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The uniqueness of the Book of Esther

The uniqueness of the Book of Esther

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The Book of Esther is unique, because it is a story where the main character is never named, never speaks, but is present and active. Consider it.

It is easy to assume that Esther is the main character, but she is not. She is, however, an important and pivotal character in the story. The book has her name after all! The main character of the book of Esther is God. This may seem odd to us. How can there be a main character in a story if the character is never mentioned at all? Does a character exist if their being and actions are just assumed, but never stated?

Friends, it is this paradox, the contradiction of God’s presence and action when God seems absent and silent, that is at the heart of the book of Esther. It’s what makes Esther atypical of the all the books of the Bible, but also typical of the scriptures. The scriptures repeatedly assume the existence of God and God’s continual work within the world. What is atypical of the book of Esther is that it neither names God nor does God speak directly to someone.

What we can learn from the book of Esther is that God does not have to be explicitly named nor does God have to directly speak to someone for God to be at work. The story of Esther proves that God’s action is unceasing, and that God is always speaking! Integral to the story of Esther is that God works through events and speaks through people!

Think about the story of Esther. It’s the Bible’s version, and in my opinion a better version, of the Cinderella story. Like Disney’s Cinderella, a beautiful and impoverished orphan is chosen to become queen. It’s the rags to riches story we all love; only, unlike Cinderella the story begins instead of ending there. Becoming queen not only saves Esther from a life of hardship, but her newfound position gives her the unique opportunity to save the entirety of her people from an ancestral evil. Esther learns of this evil through someone she trusts. Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, speaks God’s truth into Esther’s life throughout the story. Even the most famous and frequently quoted words from the story are a testament to how God speaks into the lives of his followers through the words of another. When genocide threatens God’s people, Mordecai challenges Esther to risk her life and to plead with the king. He advises, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). God’s truth is that God has always worked salvation for God’s people, not because of who they are, but because of who God is. God keeps promises, and God speaks through Mordecai when Mordecai suggests that Esther may have important role to play because of her position, but Mordecai is equally right when he says that if she won’t intercede for her people, God will find someone else. Salvation will come whether or not Esther chooses to be a part of it, because God, the unnamed and unheard main character of the story, will make sure it happens.

Esther responds with courage and faithfulness to Mordecai’s request, and her invitation to all of Israel to fast and pray brings Israel back into faithful relationship with God. God uses Esther to save the people of Israel.

What we can learn from the book of Esther is that God is at work around us, in us, and through the lives of those who faithfully follow God. We don’t have to audibly hear from God to hear God speak through someone else. We don’t have to immediately see that God has placed us in a particular situation, for God to use us for God’s good purpose. When we believe that God is always working, we can trust that at some point we will be challenged to answer at, “such a time as this.”

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