The book of Esther is unique. It is the only book in the Bible where the name of God does not appear even once. Yet, at every turn in the story, God’s presence seems to shine ever more brilliantly, like the sun’s rays piercing through the clouds. It is God’s sovereignty, his faithfulness, and his commitment to deliver his people that drive the book of Esther.
God’s hand in the confluence and the timing of events is unmistakable.
God gifts Esther with beauty and with something far more important: God gives Esther favor. God gifts this favor, as in a game of chess, to purposefully and quietly position Esther as queen, well before Haman begins his move against the Jews.
Haman’s personal vendetta against Mordecai has grown into a full-blown hatred of all Jews. As prime minister, he finances a campaign to destroy, slay, and annihilate every Jew in the kingdom. Others in the court, namely Esther’s eunuchs and maids, are aware of Esther’s relationship with Mordecai. However, almost inexplicably, Haman does not learn that Esther is Mordecai’s niece and a Jewess until the die is already cast against him. Full of pride and vanity, which are only fueled by the queen’s invitation, Haman is unaware that his plans could be checked.
In chapter 6 we see God at work in the most extraordinary cascade of events. On the night before the day Haman is planning to have Mordecai hanged, this night of all nights, the king cannot sleep. The king, who could have asked for many things, asks for the book of memorable deeds to be brought. Then, of all the deeds, the one read is of Mordecai’s role in foiling a plot to kill the king. Desiring to bestow an honor on Mordecai, the king asks, “Who is in the court?” just as Haman enters. In a moment of sweet poetic justice, Haman is given the humiliating task of publicly proclaiming the king’s admiration for Mordecai, hinting at the great reversal that is to come.
Even though God’s hand is so clearly seen at every turn and intersection in this book, the people do not seem to be robots marching to a predetermined beat. Esther can choose to act or stay silent. Given her perspective, she cannot see how perfectly God has positioned her and everyone else around her. She does not see God’s full plan rolled out before her. Esther has to move before she is certain she has the favor of King Xerxes (a.k.a. Ahasuerus). Yet, it has been made clear that, with or without her, God will deliver his people.
She may not be sure of Xerxes’ capricious favor, but she does have hope in the steadfast favor of the King of kings. Her “if I perish, I perish” lacks the robustness of faith of her kinsmen before the fiery furnace, but she still moves forward. A dimly burning wick he will not quench.
Like Esther I need favor that does not depend on a great well of faith within me. I need favor that does not turn with the whims of a capricious king. I need favor that does not come because I deserve it.
The book of Esther paints us a picture of God whose favor hinges on his character, his faithfulness, his steadfastness—not ours. This book is but one part of God’s great story of deliverance. As he moved heaven and earth to save these Jews exiled in Persia, so he moves heaven and earth to save us. Jesus’ death and resurrection are our unshakeable assurance of God’s favor. And that assurance moves us forward from wherever God has placed us.