Esther: “No Risk, No Reward” by Ellen Parr

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Read Esther 3-4, 7:1-4

Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed . . . Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this? (Esther 4:13-14).

Mordecai had made an enemy. Because he repeatedly refused to bow before the pompous Haman, the king’s right-hand man, Haman’s pride persuaded the king to create an edict. This edict ordered the impending annihilation not only of Mordecai but of all his people, the Jews (see Esther 3). Mordecai knew that the only way this edict could be reversed would be through Esther, the king’s beloved wife. Esther was caught with a difficult decision to make. Her situation required tact and diplomacy. She needed her husband to rethink his decision without making him feel that she was showing him disrespect. The whole kingdom knew that the king had the authority to kill any person who entered his presence without being summoned first (see Esther 4:10-12). Esther hadn’t seen the king in thirty days, and she realized this next uninvited meeting could be their last. 

When Esther first heard of the plight of her people, she refused to go before the king. But Mordecai sent this message to her: “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 queen for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14). If she refused to go to the king, she would die. If she went, she and her people had a chance to live.

Esther’s bold response to her father figure sparks courage and strength in our hearts: “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 to see the king. If I must die, I must die” (Esther 4:16).

We have the benefit of hindsight, so it’s easy to look back on the pages of history and feel like Esther waved a magic wand and all was well. But if we walk through the scene with her, one step at a time, we feel a different story—one of fear, tears, doubt, anxiety, and confusion. Step into the palace. It was an ordinary day for Esther in the palace when she received a message that her cousin was weeping bitterly outside the gates of the palace in mourning clothes. What could be so terrible? She sent him clothes quickly to replace his burlap, but he refused them. She waited anxiously on her messenger to return. His message was one of terror and confusion: “Our family is going to be murdered on March 7 of next year” (see Esther 3:13). Stunned, she felt her chest tighten and stomach knot. But then tacked to the end of the message was this: “You alone must approach the king and beg for deliverance!” What? Me? Why? I can’t! I’ll be killed! Messages were sent back and forth between the two, ending in the agreement that Esther would approach the king. Three days of agony passed. Sleepless nights, no food or drink, a rehearsed request, she got dressed slowly in her royal robes. This could be my last day. Heart pounding, forced deep breaths, slow second-guessed steps, she approached the inner court. She saw him. She forced a smile, hoping to gain permission to move forward. Would the king let her?

Sometimes our lives feel a little like this. We know what we should do and what we have been called to do, but it feels risky, uncomfortable, and possibly even frightening. We weigh the outcomes, realizing that people may judge us or make us feel rejected and alone. Perhaps the outcome could involve financial or relational repercussions. As limited beings, we cannot know the outcome of situations. As much as we would jump at the chance of controlling our future, we can’t. Esther’s resolve inspires us to take that next step forward in faithfulness with the knowledge that the God of the past, present, and future walks with us. What step do you need to take?

 

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