Friday, June 1, 2012

Lessons from a Star



Esther.  Estrella.  Estella.  They have the same origin—a star.  A magnificent star shines throughout Hebrew history, a bold star, bright and beautiful in its contrast with the wide expanse of midnight in the Persian Empire.  Such was Esther.  Undeterred by the inky blackness of the wicked Haman, Esther displayed scintillating courage.  Unhesitatingly, she approached the throne of her husband, knowing that his refusal could mean her death.

Some Bible scholars have wondered what excellent character qualities could exist in a woman who joined a beauty contest that would bring her into the king’s harem; they argue that she wrongfully appeared before the king.  While her participation in such a pageant may not be able to be supported biblically, one glowing aspect of her character clearly shines forth:  her submission.

Like other beautiful young women, Esther no doubt had plans for her life, plans that probably did not include being married to an old, angry king who had so recently divorced his queen for her refusal to obey him amidst his drunkenness.  But Esther’s humble acquiescence illustrates the very opposite trait of the divorced Vashti.  In the exact way that Vashti had exited the king’s graces, Esther entered.  Whereas the former queen scorned her husband’s command to display her beauty, Esther heeded her uncle’s leadership to do just that before the king.

Such obedience graced her life, characterized her very existence.  When Haman plotted the Jews’ destruction, Mordecai wept.  But one ray of hope glimmered yet upon the forlorn palace grounds:  Esther was queen!  And as she had submitted to her uncle’s leadership in gaining that position, even now she yielded to his authority as she approached the throne.  Would Ahasuerus extend the golden scepter?  Would she be granted entrance into his throne room?

And when she does appear before the king, note Esther’s characteristic carefulness.  Imagine, beautiful Esther, lovely as the morning star, entering the king’s presence.  Her silk gowns whisper as she walks, rustling with a quiet echo through the palace hall.  And then she arrives, standing before the throne room door.  A guard opens it, surprised to see the queen.  Her soft satin scarf tied about her neck glows amidst the deeper, darker hues of the royal room.  And then she speaks, so quiet that the king does not hear.  But he sees.  And then the deciding moment comes.  The golden scepter he holds in his right hand—ah, there!  It acknowledges her, greets her, welcomes her warmly.  But all Esther requests is the king’s presence at a banquet. 

And the next day such a scene is similarly repeated.  Like the stars night after night so patiently illuminate the world, so Esther too demonstrates patience.  She will wait out the king, bring him to a banquet, repeat the process, and then—at a banquet—will explain her heart.  It was at another banquet where the king had been wroth and now again, his characteristic temper is displayed.  Haman would be destroyed; the Jews would be allowed their liberty.  And even today her book is read, this feast is continued in Hebrew tradition.  For one bright star dared illuminate the blackness.

What other night exists for us, her sisters of the future?  Politically, is there a cause worth defending, a darkness worth illuminating?  Christ beckons us to be lights in the world.  Paul exhorts us to do all without murmuring and disputing, that we may be blameless…in the midst of a crooked …nation, among whom we shine as lights in the world”!  Is there not a cause?  Then although we may not boast Esther’s beauty or position, let us imitate her submission, her boldness of character.  Let us engage ourselves in battle, doing “all the good we can,” in the words of John Wesley, “to all the people we can” every day that we can.

What other nights might be dispelled if Christian women would sense the call to become, like Esther, bright lights amidst the darkness?

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