MDB 19: Esther 5

Mark Johnston Articles

This fifth chapter in the story of Esther becomes a study in contrasts: between a humble and thoughtful queen on the one hand and on the other, a proud and reckless official. The life and conduct of each in their own way says a great deal about how they relate to God as much as how they relate to other people around them. The old adage, 'actions speak louder than words', says more to us than we might imagine about how our Christian testimony comes across to those who know and observe us.

For Esther, though she was queen, she faced the daunting prospect of seeking an audience with her own husband, the king - which, under ancient Persian protocols could have fatal consequences. She does not face the challenge without fear; but she knows she does not face it alone. Hence the request to Mordecai and her entourage to fast as she does so (4.16). Why fast, if it is not coupled with prayer to the God of her fathers to go with her and keep her safe? This not only enables to go boldly where not even a queen would dare to go alone, but it also enables her to show due respect to her husband and speak to him using the courtesies of the day. She knew that he was complicit in Haman's plan to exterminate the Jews, but that did not stop her acting with the shrewdness of a serpent and the gentleness of a dove. We could all learn something from her display of godly wisdom.

The other side of the study in contrasts unfolding in these verses is Haman. His arrogance knows no limits. Not content with the thought of the holocaust he has planned, he singles out Mordecai for special torment and conspires with his wife to come up with a particularly morbid end for him: impalement on a stake 75 feet high. Haman's delight that brings the chapter to its close is a grim prelude to what will happen next for him - but for that we have to wait another day.

We are left in suspense as we wait for tomorrow; but as we do so, we can't help but be struck by the grace and beauty in Esther's demeanour in the face of crisis on the one hand and the warped ugliness of Haman on the other. There are many situations in life when faith and assurance speak for themselves ad point those around us to Christ.