By: Jenni Walker
“Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
“I did not get on the bus to get arrested; I got on the bus to go home…Since I have always been a strong believer in God, I knew that He was with me, and only He could get me through the next step.” (Rosa Parks)
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“God is always at work around us. He invites us to join Him where He wants to involve us…He is actively and intimately involved in both the affairs of this world and the details of your life.” (Henry Blackaby)
These words powerfully describe a biblical pattern demonstrated all throughout the Bible. Today, we are going to look in particular at the book of Esther in the Old Testament. Queen Esther and her fellow Jewish people were living in exile in the kingdom of Xerxes. Not by accident, she was chosen as his queen. She and her adopted father (a kinship relative) Mordecai were thrust into the middle of God’s activity to save His people from slaughter at the hands of Haman, one of the king’s most honored royal officials. Esther 2:5-7a & 10 gives us the following insights:
“Now there was in the Citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin named Mordecai, son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah. Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman…was also known as Esther…Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so.”
The situation for Esther could have changed quickly had she expressed to the king that she was a Jew. Yet, things were about to get even worse for her people when, just one chapter later in Esther 3:5-6, we are told that “when Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead, Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.”
God was already working in the midst of the Jewish exile in Xerxes’ kingdom. Mordecai walked in obedience to the Lord no matter what the personal cost may have been to himself. But then Haman upped the ante: He would not only destroy Mordecai but also his people.
At this point, Esther has already been chosen as queen. She continues her contact with Mordecai through Hathak, one of her attendants (much like a personal telegram service!) When she finds out about the edict that has been declared against the Jews, Mordecai urges her to approach the king “to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people” (4:8b). She responds through Hathak that this could put her own life in jeopardy as no one was allowed to approach the king without being summoned.
Esther 4:12-14 records Mordecai’s response: “When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: ‘Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 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.’” He concludes his message with these famous words: “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
In the end after much intrigue, personal risk, and fasting by the Jews, Haman’s plan is thwarted, the Jewish people of that region avoid slaughter, Esther is still queen, and “Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews” (Esther 10:3). Is this a coincidence? Of course not. As Henry Blackaby points out, the Bible shows us time and again how God is always at work around us and “invites us to join Him where He wants to involve us.”
Last week, we looked at how we as Christians are called to “bear one another’s burdens” both as a witness to the lost and in service to one another in the body of Christ. Cultivating this godly attitude in an ongoing manner is a beautiful way to do good to those in the family of God and to authentically put the goodness of the gospel on display.
Yet, there may be times that the Lord calls us to something very specific for His purposes in the middle of ordinary life. Blackaby writes, “Many of God’s most profound and history-changing encounters come during the ordinary experiences of life. When you see the unusual in the midst of the mundane, don’t continue business as usual. It may be that God has ordained that moment to be a life-changing time for you and those around you.” Both Esther and Mordecai are striking examples of this spiritual reality, allowing themselves to be used of God to rescue His people from terrible adversity.
Another example in the area of race relations that comes to mind is that of Rosa Parks. We are given insights into her walk with the Lord and her convictions amidst horrific oppression in her book entitled, “Reflections by Rosa Parks: The Quiet Strength and Faith of a Woman Who Changed a Nation.” In it, she writes, “I saw and heard so much as a child growing up with hate and injustice against black people. I learned to put my trust in God and to seek Him as my strength.”
Rosa Parks’ relationship with God was the foundation of her life and steadied her in the midst of many difficulties personally and as a black American in the mid-20th century: “My belief in Christ developed early in life. Prayer and the Bible became a part of my everyday thoughts and beliefs. I remember finding such comfort and peace while reading the Bible. Its teachings became a way of life and helped me in dealing with my day-to-day problems.”
It was in this ongoing experience of God that prepared Rosa Parks for, in the words of Esther 4:14, “Such a time as this.” Again, as Blackaby points out, “Many of God’s most profound and history-changing encounters come during the ordinary experiences of life…It may be that God has ordained that moment to be a life-changing time for you and those around you.”
The day Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus was just such a God-ordained moment. She writes in her book, “I did not get on the bus to get arrested; I got on the bus to go home. Getting arrested was one of the worst days of my life. It was not a happy experience. Since I have always been a strong believer in God, I knew that He was with me, and only He could get me through the next step. I had no idea that history was being made.”
But history indeed was being made, and a move of God was happening through the civil rights movement and the faith and activism of individuals such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Junior, and many others, whether known by name or not to the average American today. Rosa goes on to write of that day, “During the civil rights movement, we were troubled by hatred. We would pray a lot…I felt the Lord would give me strength to endure whatever I had to face. God did away with all my fear. It was time for someone to stand up – or in my case, sit down. I refused to move.”
Ladies, there are times amidst our daily walk with the Lord that the Holy Spirit will invite us to join where God is already working in a very clear way. Psalm 77 declares, “Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” God turns the ordinary into the extraordinary! It may come at a cost, but like Rosa Parks, Queen Esther, and Mordecai, remember in those moments, “It is God who works in you to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
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***Reflections by Rosa Parks and the book of Esther in the Old Testament
***Also, watch for next week’s concluding post on this topic of godly race relations. You don’t want to miss this one!