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Defining Moments

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Esther 3–4

It is easy to question why we must suffer through difficult situations. As chapters 3 and 4 of Esther illustrate, however, we can be assured that in the subtle work of God’s providence, He has placed us exactly at the time and place where we can most effectively serve Him.


We’re about to witness the signature moment in the life of Esther. Chapter 3 introduces us to the villain in the book of Esther—a wicked man named Haman. Verse 1 records that King Ahasuerus promotes this man “above all the officials who were with him.” He is second only to the king.

We also learn here that Haman is an “Agagite.” He’s a descendant of the Amalekite king, Agag. The Amalekites were long-standing enemies of Israel. King Agag was executed by Samuel the priest back in 1 Samuel 15 as judgment from God.

Even after King Agag’s death, his descendants continued to spread, and a deep hatred of the Jews spread with them. And now a descendant of King Agag is prime minister in the kingdom of Persia.

We are told back in chapter 2, verse 21, that Mordecai is now an official, “sitting at the king’s gate,” more than likely appointed by Queen Esther. Now “sitting at the king’s gate” does not mean he is sitting at the end of the king’s driveway. The gate is a reference to the administration building inside the palace. Esther 3:2 records what happened whenever Haman, Mr. Prime Minister, showed up for work:

All the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman . . . But Mordecai did not bow down.

Why not? Verse 4 implies that it has something to do with Mordecai being Jewish. I personally believe Mordecai is finally deciding to take a stand for the God of Israel. Bowing would have been akin to idolatry. And he is not going to do it.

Haman is filled with fury over Mordecai’s lack of respect, but he holds back. Verse 6 tells us Haman sees this as the perfect opportunity to “destroy all the Jews . . . throughout the whole kingdom.”

Now you need to understand that this hatred Haman has for the Jewish people—this desire to kill them all—runs much deeper than some old family feud. His hatred is inspired by the unseen enemy of God and His people. Throughout human history Satan keeps trying to destroy God’s covenant nation in order to erase God’s promise of a future nation of Israel in a future kingdom of Christ on earth.

So, Haman’s just another pawn in the hand of a desperate devil who is trying to destroy God’s chosen nation. Haman is not the first person to try to annihilate the Jews, and he certainly is not the last. The hatred for Jewish people traces back to an ongoing, invisible conflict between the Kingdom of Darkness and the Kingdom of Light.

Verse 7 tells us that Haman cast lots, or “Pur,” to determine the perfect day for killing the Jews. That day selected would be eleven months later, according to verse 13.

Now Haman has to get the king on board, so he approaches the king and speaks to him:

“There is a certain people . . . dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces . . . they do not keep the king’s laws, so . . . it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them.” (verse 8)

Haman does not identify the people he is referring to, but he convinces the king that they are a threat. In verse 9, Haman even offers to donate “10,000 talents of silver [to] the king’s treasuries” to cover the costs of this annihilation. This amounts to millions of dollars in today’s economy. No doubt Haman plans to confiscate the wealth of the Jews and pay himself back many times over.

The king agrees to let Haman do as he pleases, and a royal edict is sent throughout the empire, instructing the Persian people “to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children … and to plunder their goods” on this designated day (verse 13).

Satan seems to have won the day; but remember this: even when the devil seems to be moving the pieces around the chessboard of human history, God is arranging it all to fulfill His divine purposes. PQ

Chapter 4 gives us the reaction of the Jewish people. Verse 1 says, “Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes … and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry.” Tearing your clothing was a symbol of having a broken heart; and all throughout the land, there is weeping and fasting among the Jewish people.

Now Esther is secluded in the palace and unaware of this decree. So, Mordecai gets word to her and tells her what is happening. We read here in verse 8 that he urges her “to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people.”

But Esther is not so sure. She sends word back to Mordecai in verse 11 that anyone who “goes to the king . . . without being called” will be put to death unless the king extends his scepter, indicating his favor. So, she has a major legal problem here.

But there is a personal problem as well. Esther admits to Mordecai that she has not been called to see the king for a month now; he might already be displeased with her in some way. So, as far as Esther is concerned, the timing could not be worse!

Mordecai’s reply to Esther is powerful. He delivers three incentives for Esther to act on behalf of her people.

First, he tells her in verse 13 she cannot escape in the palace. In other words, even though it has been about five years since she married the king and he still doesn’t know she is Jewish, the truth is going to come out. She cannot escape this decree.

Second, she cannot erase God’s promise. Mordecai says here in verse 14:

“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.”

Now Mordecai hasn’t exactly been a model of faithfulness, but here he alludes to God’s covenant faithfulness to Israel. He basically says to Esther, “If you don’t help, God will intervene in some other way.”

The third incentive for Esther to act is that she cannot ignore God’s providence. In verse 14 Mordecai delivers that classic challenge: “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

In other words, “Esther, you didn’t win that crown because of your beauty; you won it because of God’s strategy. He placed you in the palace to be His agent of deliverance. This is your defining moment, Esther; this is your moment to stand and speak on behalf of God’s people.”

And let me tell you, this grips Esther’s heart. For the first time, she acknowledges the need to go to God for help as fasting was typically accompanied by prayer.

She tells Mordecai in verse 16:

“Gather all the Jews . . . and hold a fast on my behalf . . . I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”

Wow, what an example for us today. Defining moments for you and me today might not be as dramatic. They might be small steps of obedience that identify us as disciples of Jesus Christ. Defining moments can be those small acts of faith when we simply trust God with our lives.

So, take a stand today; identify yourself with your Savior and the people of God; live with the understanding that you are who you are and where you are, right now, for such a time as this.

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