The story of Esther takes place within a political culture where the Jews are second-class citizens in the Persian empire (Modern day Iran/Turkey).
Esther is one of those Jews who, because of her beauty, becomes the queen to King Xerxes. With the help of her cousin Mordecai, she thwarts Haman's plan to eradicate the Jews from the face of the earth.
She must go before the king uninvited to reveal Haman's plan to Xerxes which meant risking her own life. Mordecai encourages her to go before the king and with some reluctance she goes with the attitude of "if I perish I perish."
Through several twists and turns Haman's plan turns against him and Esther and Mordecai are able to save the Jewish people.
There's a lot to love about this story...here's my top four:
1. How Esther goes from an orphaned, Jewish, second-class citizen to queen over all of the Persian empire. Who doesn't love a rags-to-riches story? What I especially like about Esther is how her character is slowly revealed throughout the story. When we are introduced to her she's beautiful and that's all we know. As the story unfolds we learn about her faith, courage and wisdom.
2. The twists, turns and character development. Here's a few:
-The way Xerxes is portrayed as just a pawn in the story even though he's king over all of Persia.
-The timing of Xerxe's dream leading to the ironic twist of Haman honoring Mordecai on behalf of the king.
-Haman builds an execution device specifically for Mordecai that ends up being his own undoing.
-The reversal of power between Haman and Mordecai
3. Even though God is silent, he's still at work throughout the story. From Esther being chosen among hundreds of women, to Xerxe's dream at just the right time to Haman's plot to destroy the Jews and how it ends up bringing favor upon Esther and Mordecai, God is orchestrating events without ever being named. When I preached this before, it led to this main idea: Our feelings do not determine God's presence
4. When Mordecai challenges Esther not to be silent within a political climate where silence would be the safe option. Within our modern political culture there's so much tension. For the sermon yesterday I asked: how should Christians respond? It led to this main idea: You don't have to compromise your convictions to show compassion. Too often Christians are the initiators and "continuators" (new made-up word) of division and conflict regarding political and social issues. It saddens me that we aren't known for what Jesus said we should be known for: our compassion and love.
As a Christian we should have convictions that we are willing to stand up for, however, our convictions should never come at the expense of our compassion. There's a way to love people even when you disagree with them. you do'nt have to be a prick to have convictions and you don't have to be a pushover to have compassion.