Friday, February 5, 2010

Esther - Women of the Bible


Esther was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin. The name Esther means 'star'. This is a derivation of the root name of the goddess Ishtar. Esther was also known as Hadassah which means 'Myrtle'. Myrtle branches signify peace and thanksgiving1.

Esther first appears in book of Esther Chapter 2. She is an orphaned Jew brought up by her cousin Mordecai.(ESTHER 2: 5 - 7).


The story
The book of Esther teaches much more than the life of one lady.There are five main characters in this story King Xerxes, Queen Vashti, Mordecai, Esther and Haman. As you read the story in Esther chapters 1 - 10 make sure you understand the roles of these five characters.

In this short study we will concentrate on the life of Esther.

In Chapter one of the book of Esther king Xerxes decided to display his abundant wealth for 180 days followed by a seven day feast. A lavish display of his power. On the seventh day King Xerxes calls Queen Vashti in order to display her beauty to the people. She refuses to come and is eventually banished from the kings presence for life. A new Queen is sought.

The book of Esther is unique in that the name of God is never directly mentioned.

In chapter two Esther is chosen to be Queen. She goes through the normal twelve months of beauty treatment before meeting the King. God still prepares us for His work today (1 Peter 3:3-4).

Chapter two also records the good deed of Mordecai in saving the Kings life by alerting him of an assassination attempt on his life. This deed is recorded in the record books and later serves as a blessing for Mordecai in the future.

God never forgets our labour of love (Hebrews 6:10).

In Chapter three Haman is honoured by the King and given a high position in the kingdom. Haman is annoyed with Mordecai because Mordecai refuses to kneel down to him. Haman's anger leads him to plot the execution of all the Jews in the kingdom.

In order to prevent the execution of all the Jews Mordecai calls on Esther to intercede to the King. The only problem here is that the King does not know that Esther is a Jew. Esther has no ideal of how the King will respond to this news. Although God is never mentioned in the book of Esther we can see His acts in the background. Nothing takes God unaware.

Esther's reluctance to approach the King is met by stern words from Mordecai. In Chapter 4:14 he say:


For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Esther eventually agrees to appeal to the King. Prior to this she asks Mordecai to organise a time of fasting for her. She is well aware that she needs God's favour if she is to succeed.

Fasting is a godly exercise which bring us closer to God.

In Chapter five Esther approaches the King and invites him and Haman to a banquet. This is an attempt to get the timing right before she informs the king about Haman's plot to kill the Jews of which she is one. Esther had hid the fact that she was a Jew from the King on Mordecai's advice.

God's timing is always best. We need to wait for God's timing in doing things. It is dangerous to jump out before time.

Meanwhile Haman's hatred for Mordecai is growing and on the advice of his friends and wife he has a special gallows prepared beside his house on which to hang Mordecai. In Chapter six God moves to save the Jews. The King cannot sleep and asks for the record books to be read aloud to him. The deeds of Mordecai in saving the king in the past are read out.

In an extraordinary change of events the King asks Haman what should be done to a man who the king wants to honour. Haman, in his arrogance, thinks the king is referring to him and advises a lavish display of wealth and honour to be bestowed on the man publicly. The King orders Haman to do this to Mordecai. Can you imagine the shock, horror and humiliation Haman must have suffered! (You must read the book of Esther)

In chapter seven Esther reveals to the king that she is a Jew and that Haman has plotted to kill them all. Haman is hanged on his own gallows. In Chapter eight, nine and ten all the Jews are saved and Haman's children are killed.

Esther saved the Jews. Her life teaches us these vital lessons

1. There is a preparation time.
She allowed herself to be prepared for the task. God's preparation time can sometimes be long and uneventful. Moses spent 40 years in the desert looking after sheep before coming to deliver the Israelites. The refining of our characters is very essential to God's plan for our life. God cannot use a proud woman (or man).

2. We need the favour of God.
Esther found favour with the King and so did Mordecai. Even Jesus grew in favour with God and man (Luke 2:52). When you live a life pleasing to God, by obeying His will you will find favour with Him. God will also give you favour with people.

3. God works in His own time and season.
Esther also got her timing right. Maybe God has put it on your heart to do something for Him. Don't just jump into it but wait for his time. Joseph was in jail until it was God's time for him to be released. God will move in His time when we remain faithful and alert to His leading.

4. Your background does not hinder your future with God.
Esther was an orphan. God still exalted her and used her. Some of Jesus' disciples were fishermen, tax collectors and one was a doctor. Your background does not determine what God can do with you. Your faith does.



Questions

1. Who was Esther?
2. What role did King Xerxes, Queen Vashti, Mordecai, and Haman play in the book of Esther?
3. What preparation did Esther go through to become Queen?
4. What preparation does God take us through?
5. What is the importance of God's timing in our life?
6. How did God turn Haman's plot around?
How can God turn bad situations in your life around?
7. What effect did Esther's background have on God's plan for her life?
8. What hinders people from walking in God's plan for their life?

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