This is the 2nd part of the “Stand up and Fight” blog I started last week.
If you haven’t read the first part, go back and do so now. It’ll take you 10 minutes or less. It will be time well spent!
This blog looks at ways in which we can actually stand up and fight in spiritual battles. After a quick recap of the biblical story of Esther, I lay out 9 lessons we learn about fighting spiritual battles in the book of Esther. ENJOY!
The story of Esther in the Bible has always been one of my favorites. A beautiful, yet humble girl, raised by a cousin, and who saved a generation through her bravery. I love this story in the Bible because it so beautifully illustrates how God can use anyone for His plans and how we can fight our fears and bring glory to God.
The events in the book take place from 483 BC to 473 BC, during the first half of the reign of King Xerxes.
If you aren’t familiar with Esther, or it’s been awhile since you’ve read or hear the story, you should grab your Bible and read it right now so its fresh on your mind.
The Story of Esther
The story of Esther opens with a lavish banquet at the palace of King Ahasuerus, (also known as King Xerxes). The king had become drunk on wine and commanded that his wife, Queen Vashti come, at once, to show everyone how beautiful she was. Queen Vashti refused to obey her husband and didn’t come when he beckoned. The king was so enraged at her disrespect and disobedience that he decided to remove her from her position as queen.
The king then arranged for all of the beautiful virgins in his kingdom to come forth – a type of beauty pageant – so that he could choose a new queen. Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman who had been raised by her cousin Mordecai after her parents died, was among those who were summoned to the palace. Before she left, Mordecai told Esther not to tell anyone her nationality as it could be very dangerous for her. There were many who despised the Jews. There was a man named Hegai who was put in charge of preparing the women for meeting the king. Hegai was struck by Esther’s beauty and she was given special attention.
When Esther was called before the king to be presented to him for his approval, he immediately was drawn to her for her beauty and placed the queen’s crown on her head. King Xerxes then held a grand banquet for his new queen, Esther.
One night while Mordecai was sitting by the king’s gate, he overheard two guards conspiring to assassinate King Xerxes. Mordecai immediately told Queen Esther of the plan and Esther told the king. She of course, gave the credit to Mordecai, and the two guards were hanged.
The King had a “right hand man”, Haman, who was full of pride. When Mordecai refused to bow down the Haman, Haman was enraged. When Haman found out that Mordecai was a Jew, he decided to kill not just Mordecai, but all of the Jewish people in King Xerxes’ nation. To carry out his evil plan, Haman convinced King Xerxes that the Jews opposed the king and advised that they all needed to be killed for the king’s protection and the good of the nation. The King, relying on his most trusted adviser, agreed and set a date for the Jews to be killed.
Esther 4:14 For such a time as this
When Mordecai learned of Haman and the king’s plan, he told Esther about it. He implored her to approach the king to stop it. Of course, Esther was afraid for her own life, too. No one was to approach the king without being first called before him. Ester tried to avoid taking any action, but Mordecai again pleaded with Queen Esther to do something to save the Jewish people.
Finally, Esther instructed all of the Jews to join her in fasting for three days and three nights. At the end of those three days, she would then approach the king with her request. As promised, Esther went to King Xerxes after the period of fasting. The king asked her what her request was and told her she could have up to half the kingdom if she pleased. Queen Esther requested that the king and Haman join her at a banquet the next day. The king said yes, of course, and asked Esther to tell him her request at the banquet.
Meanwhile Haman was still so infuriated with Mordecai that the morning before the banquet, he set up a gallows whereupon he intended to hang Mordecai.
King Xerxes could not sleep that night and began to read the book which listed all that occurred during his reign. The king was reminded of how Mordecai saved his life by exposing the plot to assassinate him. He decided that Mordecai deserved a reward for this good deed, so he called Haman to seek his advice. He asked Haman what should be done for a man whom the king “delights in”. Haman, being the self-centered, boastful man that he was, thought the king was referring to him. He responded by saying that the man should be rewarded by land, gifts and honor. When the king revealed that the one who he was delighted by was Mordecai, Haman was furious!
The next day, during the banquet Queen Esther had arranged, the king again asked Esther what her request was. Esther, using all of the bravery she could muster, boldly requested that she and her people be spared. She further shared that Haman had been the one plotting to kill all Jews. The king was filled with anger against Haman and had him hanged on the gallows that Haman had set up for Mordecai! Queen Esther and Mordecai were given Haman’s estate and were honored with royal garments. The king also wrote a special decree to protect all Jews.
Whew! What an action-packed story, right? Intrigue, suspense, gratitude, bravery – all in one beautiful story in the Bible.
There’s much we can learn from Esther and her story. Here’s my take on what we can learn from Esther in the Bible.
What we can learn from Esther
1. God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things
Esther lived in a time when Israel was in captivity because of their disobedience to God. She was just an adopted daughter of a cousin living in a foreign land. Other than her beauty, she was not unique in any way. In fact, she was a Jew, which was a minority race that was frowned upon and scorned. On a typical day in the Kingdom of Xerxes, God used Esther to carry out His plan. A plan that He ordained before she was even born. God can use you for His plans. You just need to submit to His will and go when and where He calls you.
2. Beauty should not make us boastful
From all biblical accounts, Esther was a very beautiful woman. And, given a whole year of pampering and beauty treatments, her beauty could only have been enhanced. The king was enthralled with her physical beauty, but her quiet and humble spirit shone through, especially to Hegai, the eunuch charged with preparing the virgins for their time with the king. When the king summoned one of the young maidens, each was permitted to bring in with her anything she felt would help her to be more attractive. Esther, however, took only what Hegai advised and the king was very pleased. So pleased, that he chose her to be his queen. She could have requested anything. She could have been demanding, but she was humble and let her inner beauty and her faith in God shine through.
You may have been born with physical good looks. You may be from a family with power, prestige, and great social standing. You may have powerful and influential friends. You may be very skillful or talented, or very smart. But if your attitude or personality is sour, no amount of beauty (or wealth, power, popularity, or talent) will cover that up. Remember that God has blessed you with your gifts, but it is up to you to treat people with respect, to be humble and gracious, and to remember Who created you.
3. With God’s help, we can step out in faith and fight our fears
Esther was a Jewish woman (a lowly, socially outcast group) who was wife to a powerful king. No one, not even the queen, was to approach the king without being asked. King Xerxes (her husband) had an evil member of his cabinet, Haman, who had already convinced the king to kill all of the Jews. Can you imagine the fear she would be feeling? Her first reaction was hesitation. She did not want to approach the king. Instead, she prayed and fasted for three days and then bravely approached the king.
When you are faced with something scary, do as Esther did: Pray. Fast.
When you are faced with spiritual ware: Pray. Fast.
When you don’t know what you can do to make a difference: Pray. Fast.
And, after you’ve prayed and fasted, bravely face your fears.
4. Our past doesn’t dictate our future
Esther came from a very humble background, but God had a plan for her life. Esther, an orphan, living in a strange country, probably didn’t dream of being queen. No matter where we come from, where we live or what mistakes we’ve made, we can move confidently forward knowing that God has plans for us, for hope and a blessed future. Your past does not dictate your future – only God can! He can take your mess and make it into a masterpiece. Just trust Him.
5. God places mentors in our life to teach us wisdom
Mordecai proved to be a wonderful mentor and parent to Esther. He gave her good advice before she went to the palace with the other virgins (remember, he told her not to share that she was Jewish) and he continued to give her advice after she became queen. Mordecai was also very loyal. Remember that he went to Esther when he uncovered the plot of the guards to murder the king. When he learned of the plan to kill all of the Jews, he asked Esther to go before the king. We now know that this timely advice, from her trusted advisor, saved a nation.
We all need God-loving mentors in our life will advise, correct and at times, rebuke. God places these special people in our lives to raise up the next generation and help them to follow His ways.
If you are facing a struggle, seek the advice of a mentor who will help you discern and guide you with the Bible.
Also you need to look for other people you can mentor. Titus 2 calls for the “mature” women to teach the younger women. The same principle applies to men. You can touch the lives of others by acting as a loving guide.
6. Our strength does not come from us
When Esther was reminded that she may have been made queen “for such a time as this”, she drew on strength to save her fellow Jews, but that strength was not of her own. Her strength came from God. She fasted and prayed and drew on the supernatural strength from God to approach the king and save a nation.
When you feel weak, when life’s struggles seem overwhelming, and you feel like you just can’t do it, don’t try to go it alone. Give it to God and let Him do it for you. Let Him fight your battles. How? Pray about it. Actually say, “God, I can’t do this. I am giving it to you.”
7. God’s timing is perfect. Ours is flawed.
I struggle with this one myself. When I see that something needs to be done, I jump right in. That’s not always the best course of action, however. Sometimes I need to wait on God and let His timing play out. It’s always perfect. Mine timing is not-so-perfect. If I act immediately, sometimes I mess things up. I’m working on stopping, praying, and waiting for God to reveal His timing. I’m a work in progress.
When Esther learned of Haman’s plan to massacre the Jews, she didn’t instantly jump up and run to the king. Rather, she prayed, fasted, and waited for God to prompt her on when to approach the king and how to do it. While Esther, Mordecai and the other Jews fasted and prayed, God was keeping a certain king up at night and pointed him to read the historical record book of the kingdom.
If Esther had immediately approached the king when she heard of the plan to kill the Jews, the king would not have had the opportunity to read the book and be reminded of Mordecai’s good deed of saving his life. This, in turn, opened the door for Mordecai to be honored and Esther to ask the king to save the lives of the Jews.
God’s timing is always perfect. The story of Esther in the Bible reminds us to pray and wait for God to work.
8. Loving others is the most beautiful thing we can do
Jesus reminded us when He paraphrased the Torah and said that love comprises the two great commandments of the Kingdom of God: Loving God and loving others. THAT is what the Christian life is all about.
Esther knew in her heart that her first duty was to love God. You can see this in her statement, “When this is done (the prayer and fasting), I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16). In other words, she was willing to risk her own life to save the lives of many.
While there aren’t too many of us who have been faced with this type of situation, I pray that, if the situation called for it, I would call on God and be willing to risk my own life to save others. Even though we may not ever be faced with the decision to put our life at risk for others, we have many opportunities each day to love others as God commands us. A hug, a smile, a gift, an email, a text message, taking someone out and buying his or her lunch, helping someone with their chores…. There are many, many ways to show people you love them.
9. We can make an impact for that will last for generations
When Esther stepped up and spoke to King Xerxes to save the Jewish people, she couldn’t have known that she would be impacting generations to come. Her selfless and brave act have been celebrated since that time.
Could inviting your friend to church and leading her to Jesus be a catalyst that results in her whole family being redeemed?
Could that prayer you pray for the inmate turn his life around and be the encouragement for him to study at seminary and become a pastor or evangelist who reaches millions of people for Christ?
You will never know how one small act of loving others can make an impact on many.
What can you do today which can impact a generation?