I have not posted about my reading in a long time. It’s definitely my fault. For a few months now, I have been reading the book Esther and Ruth, a commentary on both books of the bible. I would have posted about the book months ago, but it’s really hard to finish a book when you decided to start reading Slaughterhouse-Five and Swann’s Way at the same time. I mean, Proust is a literary genius, but come on man how long and packed do your sentences really have to be? But I digress, check back with me in a year to see how I’m doing on that one.
Anyway, after finally coming face to face with some things in my life I had a funny feeling were coming, one of the few things getting me through my sadness and confusion came from Esther 4:14 – “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 whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?“
The vernacular translation often circulated for this verse is simply put “perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.”
This became all I could think about. Everything appeared to be falling apart on the outside, yet on the inside it was as if everything was falling into place, even if absolutely none of it made sense. I had been praying God would work within me and my situation to bring more glory to His name than ever imaginable. Suddenly I felt I was in the exact place I needed to be.
So how does the commentary for Esther and Ruth fit into all of this? Well I read it for encouragement and it was certainly what I needed to hear, specifically Esther.
Esther’s commentary is titled “The Hidden God Delivers,” which is fitting since the book of Esther does not mention the name of God at any point in the story, yet His intervention is everywhere visible.
Simple overview of the story of Esther:
- King is mad at queen therefore he seeks a new one
- Esther becomes queen but hides she is a Jew
- Mordecai saves the king’s life but is overlooked for it
- Haman, the king’s right hand man, gets mad at Mordecai for not paying homage to him
- Haman seeks to destroy Jews
- Mordecai convinces Esther to intercede to the king on behalf of the Jews
- Haman looks to kill Mordecai himself
- Esther outwits Haman by finding favor in sight of the king
- Haman is hung on the gallows he created for Mordecai
- Esther is open about being Jewish, the people are saved, and Mordecai takes Haman’s place
Obviously there is more to the story than that, as I said, it was a simple overview. However, nowhere in the story is God mentioned. The Jews lament at the thought of being destroyed, they rejoice when they are saved, Mordecai and Esther intervene, but never do we hear of anyone turning their eyes vertically. Everything in the story is on a horizontal level yet God’s plans were carried out anyway.
Often times we struggle with the invisibility of God. We seek for the God who parted the Red Sea and raised his son from the dead. We desire a burning bush as Moses received (though often times we really mean a burning mountain) to see where we need to go.
We see the plans for our lives thwarted and we wonder why our prayers cannot come to fruition. God simply doesn’t make sense. Even further, it can feel as if we are abandoned.
Yet in the story of Esther, God is the invisible hand working behind the scenes. Timing is essential in the work of the providence and even though fate seems gloomy for the Jews and Esther seems to care less about her heritage, God is nonetheless at work accomplishing his own ends. Like Esther, we come to realize perhaps God has brought us to where we are today so we may serve Him in truly unique ways.
Tragedy strikes. When tragedy strikes it becomes increasingly difficult to remind ourselves God is in control of all things. We know he works all things together for His glory and our good, yet our hearts are still troubled. We become derailed by circumstances appearing to conspire toward our downfall. As Esther learned, we cannot serve both God and our idols. We have to decide what and who will be our refuge during the storm.
The book of Esther epitomizes the subtleness of God. No sea was parted, no one was thrown in a fiery furnace or into a lion’s den. God did not send down lightning from Heaven to smite people, and still his plan proceeds. All the characters in the story continue to act as they normally would. God does not play with them like dolls nor does He set them into motion only to sit back and watch. They are subject to our own temperaments and desires, even so the end result remained what He purposed from the beginning.
All in all, possibly the biggest lesson I learned from the commentary on Esther ties back into our verse from the beginning. God will place us where we need to be. A great excerpt from the book says this:
[Esther] could glorify God by perishing as well as by convincing the king. It was up to God how to glorify Himself through Esther’s obedience, whether by delivering the people through her or allowing her to be martyred in His service, but He would be glorified one way or another.
Remember that prayer I prayed? That God would use the circumstances of my life to remarkably glorify Himself? This is where I was hit hard. I followed God as obediently as I could and felt pretty crazy in the process. I mean, it was one of those “really God? You’re telling me to do what?” moments. I wrestled a lot with Him. I even tried to abandon it from time to time, only to find things coincidentally pop back in my life, reminding me of all He had spoken to me before.
Then I was hit with this. I’m the person that likes to know where I’m going and how things end because I can be quite the control freak at times. However, we can never know ahead of time how God will choose to use us. The author goes on to expand this idea by saying this:
He may heal our diseases, transform our broken marriages, and plant thriving ministries through us. Or He may sustain us in obedient submission to Him as our earthly hopes are dashed and our lives our poured out for apparently little purpose.
That’s a hard pill to swallow yet it was everything I needed to hear. All I wanted was for life to return to a seemingly lifeless circumstance, but I had to come to realize God would work the glory for Himself in the best way possible. Overall, His glory trumps my plans.
Esther reminded me God is sovereign no matter what. We cannot outrun God and His plans for our lives. I still don’t know “why” I have been placed in the circumstances I am in. I certainly don’t have a clue what God is doing because I feel like my walk with Him was hit with a sharp right hook. However, what I do know is like Esther, no matter how big or small, God will answer my prayer and He will use me to bring glory to His name.