Today’s Reading: Esther, Psalm 35
January 22, 1973 marks a time in the history of America when abortion was legalized. It is a day to remember – a day we choose to never forget. Women were given the freedom to end their pregnancies, and those who were alive but not yet born were stripped of their right to life. The motives behind the legalization of abortion were not just about reproductive freedom, their motives included racial targeting. Still today the majority of abortion clinics are found in neighborhoods primarily made up of African-American and Hispanic families.
The book of Esther speaks of a similar day of remembrance in the lives of the Jewish people – the Festival of Purim, a time in history Jews continue to recognize every March. Just like there has been an attack on the unborn for the past 44 years, with evidence the attack is racially motivated, an attack was planned against the Jewish people living in the empire of King Xerxes because of similar racial hatred.
While a large number of God’s people had returned to Judah and Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and the walls of the city, there were still a great number of Jews who had remained in what had once been Babylon. It is not explained why these Jews chose to not return to the Promised Land. Perhaps they had become comfortable in their new homes and chose to stay in the “known” instead of traveling the long distance back to the “unknown”.
We are probably all familiar with the story of Esther and the conspiracy of Haman to destroy all of the Jews in order to curb his appetite for the death of Esther’s cousin, Mordecai. Haman managed to convince the king that it was not in his best interest to let this race of people live. Lots were cast to determine the day in while the Jews could be annihilated. These lots were called “purim” and were similar to what we would think of as dice. This is where the Festival of Purim received its name – a time to remember when a day was set to destroy the Jews, but to also celebrate how God instead rescued His people from their enemies.
I found several similarities between Esther’s role and Nehemiah’s role. Nehemiah was an exiled Jew living as a servant or slave to the king. His role as cupbearer became a blessing as Nehemiah was strategically positioned to be near the King to request a favor for his people. In the same way, the misfortune of Esther to be taken from her home and placed in the palace had become a blessing as she became queen and was strategically positioned to be near the King, giving her the opportunity to request protection for her people.
God intervened on Nehemiah’s behalf and the king noticed that he was distraught. God intervened on Esther’s behalf and the king noticed her standing in the inner court. He welcomed her and held out the gold scepter to her so that she could approach his throne.
Nehemiah saw a need, prayed for the need and then allowed himself to be part of the answer to that prayer. He allowed himself to be used by God. Esther saw a need, feared for her life and yet boldly stepped into the equation, allowing herself to become part of the solution.
Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made the queen for just such a time as this?”
Then Esther set this reply to Mordecai: “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in and see the king. If I must die, I must die.” – Esther 4:13-16
This, too, reminds me of Nehemiah. When faced with opposition while rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in order to protect God’s people, Nehemiah appointed half of the men to work on the wall while half stood armed with swords against the attack. For some laborers, they used one hand to support the load while the other hand held a weapon.
In the same way, God’s people lifted prayers on behalf of Esther while she worked on protecting or rescuing them. She put herself in harm’s way but not until she knew that her family and God’s people were lifting her up in prayer, calling on God to bless her efforts and use the position He had placed her in as an opportunity to reverse the decree and allow the Jewish people to live.
There are days and opportunities when God strategically positions us to be used by Him. There are also times in which God gives us the responsibility to pray for someone else. There may be times in which we feel sorry for ourselves wishing that we were not in a situation or place. Then what once seems like an unfortunate coincidence becomes a God-placed miracle and we find ourselves strategically positioned to be used by Him.
Will we see our situation today as Esther did? Will we accept our calling “for such a time as this”? Will we boldly step into the equation and allow ourselves to be part of the solution? Perhaps our role today is to enter into the presence of our King, as Esther did. Perhaps it is our role today to stand with sword in hand and pray God’s protection on others. Perhaps God is calling you to do something about the issue of abortion. Either way, today is a special day because it represents the chance to allow God to make an unfortunate situation an opportunity for His power to be displayed. It is a day to remember that God has called us as His servants to be used however He desires. It is a day to be called into action.