February 10, 2016 Intro to Esther

We are moving from the book of Ruth to the book of Esther this week. I decided to do the introduction in my blog because I don’t want to have to rush through it to get to chapter 1.

When you turn from Ruth to Esther, you enter a totally different dimension. You go from a quiet Jewish village to a busy Gentile city, from doing business in a traditional way at the city gate to obeying decrees of a monarch, from the joys of the simple life to the complications of a complex empire.

Ruth and Esther lived in two different worlds, but the same God was in control of their lives, even though his name is not mentioned at all in the book of Esther. Even though the name of God is not mentioned, you can’t read this book without being aware of his presence. In Ruth, God is the God of the harvest, and in Esther he is the God of the feasts. God rules and overrules in the life of a poor gleaner in Ruth and a powerful king in Esther, without violating their freedom. This is a comforting and encouraging thought. No matter where you live or go, God is there and He is always working on your behalf. You can never escape the reach of the hand of God.

One of the major themes of the book of Esther is the providence of God. Kings throughout history would issue decrees that were unalterable, but we see how God overrules and accomplishes his purpose. Strong’s Systematic Theology defines providence as “That continuous agency of God by which he makes all the events of Physical and moral universe fulfill the original design with which he created it” (page 419). Later he added “Providence is God’s attention concentrated everywhere” (page 420). That is so encouraging that we know that God’s attention is everywhere and everywhere includes where we are.

It is interesting that the theme of God’s providence is prominent in this book, but yet his name is not mentioned, when the word king is found over 100 times and the name of the king almost 30 times. Why? It is possible that the Jewish nation at this time were not pleasing God and were under his discipline. The events in this story take place between 483 and 473 BC when the Persians were in control. This book fits between chapter six and seven of the book of Ezra. Xerxes ruled from 485 to 465 BC, and Esther became queen in 479 BC. This took place when a Jewish remnant was attempting to rebuild their nation in the Holy Land, but the people were not truly committed to God.

Though God’s name is not mentioned, He is present and active. He was hidden. This book is such a great illustration of Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This means we can trust God without hesitation of fear and obey his will. This book is included in the canon of scripture because it explains the origin of the Feast of Purim. This is a joyful feast that is celebrated annually on March 14-15. Since this feast is not in the law, it’s meaning would have remained a mystery if the book of Esther were not in scripture.

This book is also a reminder of how God cares for his people and how he fulfills the promise He made
Abraham. If you look back at history you will see how any nation that tried to completely eliminate the nation of Israel was defeated. Purim commemorates the peoples of Israel’s victory over Haman and his attempt to exterminate the Jews in Persia.

Like Ruth, Esther is a powerful example of a woman committed to God. Ruth’s, “where you go, I will go…” is the same as Esther’s. “If I perish, I perish.” Both of these women committed to God and completely submitted to his will and guidance and both did great things. Ruth became part of God’s plan to bring the Messiah into the world and Esther helped save the nation of Israel so the Messiah could be born.

We should never think that those days of “doing great things” has passed. God gives us opportunities today to do his will; to stand in the gap for others. God can use you greatly to influence others and accomplish his purpose, but you have to be fully committed to Him, like Ruth and Esther.