"Turn ye even to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil. Who knoweth if He will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind Him" (Joel 2:12-14).
Esther Makes Her Choice
When the situation had come to a crisis, Esther was brought to a defining moment in her life by circumstances over which she had no control. It was "for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14) that she was forced to choose between identifying herself with God's covenant people or continuing to live as a pagan in the king's royal court. Apparently no one in the court, including her own husband, knew that she was a Jew. To save her people would mean revealing her own identity as well. She would be admitting that she had not been living as a devout Jew should live. Furthermore, she would be identifying herself as a target of destruction under Haman's decree and an easy mark in the treacherous Persian court.
After her decision to identify herself with God's people, Esther becomes the active agent, commanding Mordecai, planning a strategy to save her people, and even confronting Haman to his face. Her decision energizes her, gives her purpose, and emboldens her to face a threatening and uncertain future. There is a great reversal in Esther's own life, through which consequently comes the great reversal of the destiny for her people.
It is unlikely that any of us will ever be in Esther's dire predicament, but every one of us faces defining moments in our own lives. Certainly the most fundamental of them comes when we hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and decide how to respond to it. The gospel confronts us with the decision either to continue to live as pagans or to identify ourselves with Jesus Christ. Our choice defines who we are and with what people we identify. The decision to be identified with Christ energizes our lives. It gives us a purpose bigger than our own concerns and problems and a hope that goes beyond our death. It transforms us into people moved by the Holy Spirit, human agents of God's grace and love in the world.
However, it sometimes happens that even after coming to Christ, some Christians continue to think and live like pagans. At decision points, they take the path of least resistance instead of making the hard choice to obey God's unpopular Word.
It seems to be human nature that sometimes we will do the right thing only when it becomes too painful to continue to do the wrong thing! Esther finds herself between a rock and a hard place. Her life is in jeopardy by whichever choice she makes. It is interesting to see that even though Esther's decision to join her "fasting, and weeping, and wailing" people was made under duress, she does nevertheless end up identifying herself with God's covenant people. She leads her people to do what God commanded them to do through the prophet Joel in the face of such calamity. In spite of its flawed quality, Esther's right decision enables her to become the agent through whom her people are delivered, in fulfillment of the ancient promise.
Perhaps, like Esther, you have been brought to this moment in your life by circumstances over which you had no control, combined with flawed decisions you made along the way. Perhaps instead of living for God, you have so concealed your Christian faith that no one would even identify you as a Christian. Then suddenly you find yourself facing calamity, either in the circumstances of your life with others or just within your own inner emotional world. Regardless of the straits you find yourself in, turn to the Lord. Rend your heart, not your garment, "fast, weep, and mourn," and return to the Lord your God. His purposes are greater than yours. And, who knows? Perhaps you have come to your present situation "for such a time as this."
—Condensed from Esther by Karen H. Jobes. Copyright 1999 by Karen H. Jobes.
The feast of Purim, celebrated each year in Israel, was instituted by Mordecai. Its name, Purim, refers to the casting of lots by Haman to pick the day of the Jews' destruction. "Purim" is the plural form of "Pur," the Assyrian word meaning "lot." What a study in contrasts that this holiday, named for the random casting of lots, is really a celebration of the providence of God. Truly nothing is accidental with the Lord! —From Following God