Saturday, August 19, 2006

No mystery here...

I seem to remember hearing that somebody objected to including the book of Esther in the Bible, because nowhere in the text do we see "God" or "the Lord". But today's reading shows God in action more clearly than a simple mention of his name ever would.

Here's the setting. At the request of Haman (his chief of staff), King Xerxes has authorized the destruction of the Jews throughout his kingdom, and Esther's cousin Mordecai tells her to go to the king to plead for their future. This is against the law, and unless the king extends his scepter, Esther is subject to the death penalty. So she tells Mordecai:
"Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish."
Esther 4.16
She goes to the king, and he extends the scepter.

There's an answer to prayer if I ever saw one. The text says "fast" but obviously the element of prayer is there as well. And here's another sign of God's involvement here. Back in chapter 2...
During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were hanged on a gallows. All this was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king.
Esther 2.21-23
Fast forward now to the day the king extends the scepter to Esther.

Haman wants to hang Mordecai, so he has a gallows built, 75 feet high. He plans to ask the king the next morning for permission to hang Mordecai on it. But unbeknownst to Haman...
That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. "What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?" the king asked.

"Nothing has been done for him," his attendants answered.

Esther 6.1-3
Then, as Haman is coming in to ask the king's permission, the king orders him to honor Mordecai.

Now how could this have been a coincidence? The king hears about the incident (where Mordecai saved his life) on the very night before Haman wants to hang Mordecai -- but not on any nights before that. To most of this book's readers throughout history, the message would have been obvious: This is no random coincidence, but there is Someone pulling strings and making things happen.

The rest of the story? You can guess that God manages to save the Jewish people - but that's not in today's reading.

So there's no mystery here really -- God is definitely there. I may have read that once, but now I see it for myself....

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