Saturday, April 21, 2007

Qualities of a Godly Woman, Part 4: Learning from Esther

I have always loved the book of Esther. Maybe it’s because I liked the idea of risking your life for people and for God. Or maybe it’s because I liked the idea of bursting into the palace and exposing the truth (although that didn’t really happen in the Bible, only in that cheesy movie about Esther).

But in all honesty, I think there is a lot to learn from her regarding biblical womanhood. The book of Esther doesn’t get a lot of lip service, yet there is still an example for us to follow in her life. A misconception about Esther can be that she was a sort of pioneering feminist, rising up and liberating her people from the Persians. She did rise up and save her people, but she did not do so in a grassroots movement, rallying-up-the people-type- of way. She did it by listening to Mordecai, her familial head. Mordecai found out information, and then relayed it to Esther, always advising her of what to do. In essence, Esther was never relieved of the headship of her head, Mordecai. He figured out the plot to kill the Jews, he advised her of what to do—even when at first she was not so keen on the idea.

Esther, in the providence of God, was made Queen of Persia, and as Mordecai told her, she had an obligation to save God’s people—yet even if she did not, God would find another person to do the job.

The most telling part of the book, and the part I think we could learn a lot from, is in chapter 4 where Mordecai tells Esther what the consequence will be if she does not help:

“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?” Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4: 14-16).

As we looked earlier this week at Ruth, we can ask the same question of Esther. What makes a woman willingly risk her life and comfort for other people? What makes a woman choose to be a life-giver in this way? Hope in God. Knowing that God is sovereign, He does not make mistakes, and He is the most supreme treasure. Although the book of Esther never actually mentions the word God, we see His providence in every page. Esther did not say “If I perish, I perish,” because she hoped in her own capabilities—she did it because she knew that there was, and still is, an all powerful God up in heaven who will not allow His will and purpose to be thwarted.

That is where our courage comes from. Not in our own strength, but in resting in God.

In closing, notice Esther’s way of bringing the truth to her husband, the King. She does not do so in a militant, “give me my rights” way, nor does she do so in a nagging, tattle-tailing way either. She was smart. She got all of her facts, and she did so with humility, thought, and poise. Through her gentle and quiet spirit she gained the respect of the King and was thus able to bring her knowledge to the table—with boldness. A gentle and quiet spirit does not mean mousy and wimpy. It means discernment and wisdom to know when to speak and when not to speak, and actually requires much more thought and sanctification than a passive and timid spirit ever would.

So as we look at Esther, let’s remember that being a godly woman takes work. It requires us to be discerning, to be aware, and to be willing to stand for truth no matter the cost. In all things we should remember that there is a sovereign God in heaven who is orchestrating our life for our good and His glory. Let’s not be inclined towards the world’s empty praise, but seek to live with a gentle and submissive spirit.

And let’s face it. That’s way cooler than bursting into the palace and falling breathless into the arms of the King of Persia. (I guess you’d have to see the movie…)

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