Hope for when Life Grows Dark-Reflections from Esther 4

In Esther chapter 4, we see that Mordecai and the Jews have just learned about the decree that Haman has passed that proclaims that within a year, all of the Jews will be destroyed. We are faced from the very first verse, with a man in mourning. Mordecai, after learning of the edict, tears his clothes, puts on sackcloth and ash, and begins to weep bitterly.

Mordecai makes his way to the front of the king’s gate (he doesn’t go inside, for it was Persian Law that people clothed in sackcloth and ash were prohibited from entering the king’s gate). We see that Esther, the queen to Xerxes, is informed of her cousin’s mourning and she attempts to ease his pain through offering clothes to cover him so that he can enter the gate. However, he refuses. It’s at this point that Esther sees that there is something deep going on in the life of her cousin. It’s interesting to note that up until this point, she has no idea of the proclamation that has gone forth about the imminent destruction of her people.

How isolated she must have become from her people. She has adapted so well to the ways of the Persian kingdom and has covered her Jewish identity incredibly that no one has thought to inform her of the horrible news. After much back-and-forth between her and her cousin (through Hathach), she receives Mordecai’s request that she go before the king to plead the Jews’ case. She initially refuses because it was Persian law that anyone that enters into the inner court uninvited and unannounced will be put to death. In fact, it’s been 30 days since she has been invited into the king’s chamber (And we know that man wasn’t sleeping alone!).

Mordecai is disheartened by the queen’s response, but he presses further. Essentially, he says, “Don’t think that by your silence you will preserve your life. In fact, your silence will condemn you and destroy you.” We end chapter 4 with Esther calling for a 3 day fast. After the fast, she will go before the king and plead the Jews’ case. We, like the original readers, are left at the end with the question, “Will the Jews be preserved? Will God be faithful to His covenant with Israel?” In order to answer that question, one must read ahead.

However, Although we are left with a cliffhanger, there are many applications that one can pull from this text of Scripture. We will look at three pieces of application that we can pull from Esther 4.

First, we must answer the question, “Where do we turn when life grows dark?” Mordecai and the Jews were faced with great affliction. He turned to his cousin Esther instead of running to God. When “life” happens and we are faced with trials and afflictions, where do we turn? Too often, running to God through His Word and through prayer is not our first reaction to trials and affliction. We may turn to substances, food, material possessions, and others.

We may seek counsel from others before seeking counsel from God. It’s not wrong for us to seek wise counsel. In fact, the Bible tells us to do this very thing. We read in Scripture that, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice (Prov. 12:15).” And, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed (Prov. 15:22).” We can see that it’s not wrong to seek out wise counsel, however, that’s usually where we stop. We go to our friends, family, or trusted colleagues for advice, without ever running to God first. The problem with this approach is that we make messiahs out of people that were never meant to be messiahs. We end up receiving advise from others without first casting all of our anxieties on Christ (1 Pet. 5:7).

We also may turn to money, food, material possessions, and love from others to help us through difficult times. These things aren’t inherently bad. The problem is, they make horrible gods. We know from Scripture (1 John 2:15-17) that the idols of this world make terrible gods because they cannot give us what we need, they cannot give us what they promise, and they cannot give us what will last. They cannot give us what we need because what we need in this life is the love of the Father that can only be found through His Son Jesus Christ. They cannot give us what they promise, because idols always overpromise, yet underdeliver. They never leave us truly satisfied. In fact, many times, idols leave us feeling emptier and more depressed than before. Third, they cannot give us what will last because this world and all of its desires are passing away. Idols will never give us a sure foundation and the confidence we need when we stand before a Holy and Righteous God. Therefore, the question remains, “where do you turn when life grows dark?”

Second, we see from Esther 4 that we must pick a side. Esther was confronted with the realization that she could no longer play both sides of the fence. She could not live for the world and live for God at the same time. In the same way, we cannot play both sides if we desire to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Now, we may never find ourselves in the dark situation that Esther was in, but we will all have “life-defining” moments. There will come a point in our lives where we must pick a side. When we are faced with the persecution from the world, in all of its forms, we must decide which side of the line we will take a stand. When we hear lies being proclaimed from the world, we must take a stand for the truth of God’s Word. What does our silence or voice say about the team that we are on? There’s no room for people to be on the fence in God’s kingdom. You are either with God or you are against God. We are not allowed to “play Christian” on Sunday and live throughout the week as part of the world. There’s no such thing as a “Sunday only Christian.” What does your life reveal about the community that you are a part of? The lines are drawn. We are either on the side of truth or we are stand with the opposition to God.

Third and finally, we see that Jesus is a better mediator. In Esther 4, we see that the queen was isolated from her people. Jesus was not/is not isolated from His people. In fact, Jesus stepped into our world and willingly aligned himself with us. God took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus stepped out of the glories of Heaven and became flesh for us (Philippians 2). Also, Esther said, “If I perish, I perish.” Her words displayed the possibility of death. She may die if she goes before the king. For Jesus, His “If I perish, I perish” did not mean the possibility of death, but it meant the certainty of the cross. Jesus came to save sinners. Esther was hesitant, Jesus willingly laid down His life. Esther was hesitant to plead the cause of her people, but Jesus willingly pleaded the case of His enemies.

Jesus is a better mediator also in the sense that his intercession was not an isolated event in history, but it’s one that continues this day on our behalf. We know from Hebrews 7 that, “Consequently, He is able to save the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (v.25).” Satan loves to stand and make accusations against us. However, the accusations fall upon deaf ears in heaven, because Jesus’ work on the cross paid our sin debt in full; therefore, God always sees in His children the perfect righteousness of Jesus. To this we shout “Amen, Halleluiah, praise the Lord!”

In this life we will face affliction and trials. Jesus tells us that in John 16:33. We may not be able to control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it. Where do we turn when life grows dark? Let us be a people that can echo the words of Charles Spurgeon when he said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throw me against the rock of ages.” Let us be a people that can joyfully echo the words of the song “Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor,” when it says,

Christ the sure and steady anchor,
As we face the wave of death;
When these trials give way to glory,
As we draw our final breath.
We will cross that great horizon,
Clouds behind and life secure;
And the calm will be the better,
For the storms that we endure.

Christ the sure of our salvation,
Ever faithful, ever true!
We will hold fast to the anchor,
It shall never be removed.

May the gospel of Jesus Christ be the anchor of our souls in the darkest of nights.

Soli Deo Gloria

Josh Chambers

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