The unlikely heroine of Purim

This weekend marks the Jewish holiday of Purim. While Christians don’t celebrate the holiday, it’s based on a Biblical story that’s familiar to most churchgoers: the deliverance of the Jews from planned extermination at the hands of the Persian official Haman. The agent of that deliverance is Esther, one of the most famous heroines of the Old Testament.

Esther is the perfect example of a regular person who finds herself suddenly and unexpectedly in a position to do great good—or to refrain from acting, and let terrible evil play out. When she confronts the Persian king to plead on behalf of her people, she is risking her life. When Esther points this out to her uncle Mordecai, he responds with an inspiring challenge:

Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”

When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Given that Purim today is celebrated with feasting and charitable giving, you can probably guess that the story ends happily for Esther. But if you haven’t read the story of Esther recently (or ever), this weekend is a perfect time to do so. You’ll likely never find yourself approaching a Persian king to accuse his favored minister of planning genocide (at least, we certainly hope you aren’t). But as Esther shows us, God puts each of us in positions where we can serve Him, even though that’s often not clear until the moment we’re called upon to act.

Image: Queen Esther depicted by Edwin Long, 1878.

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Posted by Andy

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