#19 Women of God: Esther and lockdown
I don’t want to think of how many exasperating weeks we have been in COVID lockdown in Sydney with police and army enforcement. However many there have been does not compare to the lockdown a young girl found herself in during the reign of the ruthless, pagan Persian king, Ahasuerus, during the 5th century BC.
Ahasuerus had dismissed his queen (because she had been disobedient to him) so to find a new queen hundreds of beautiful young virgins all throughout his empire were taken to his palace. These young maidens were put into hard lockdown under custody for 12 months to prepare them for a single night with the king. After sleeping with the king they were moved into another part of the palace where they were to remain in lockdown amongst the concubines until their dying days, perhaps never getting to see the king again and certainly never being able to marry another.
Esther had already lost her mother and father and was being raised by her uncle. Under the palace rules she could no longer have any direct communication with him. She was amongst young ladies from a different culture to her own. What’s more – she was amongst exquisitely beautiful young Persian ladies with no other reason for their existence, now, than to be the next queen! Such competitiveness and hostility must have been rampant in that palace! Esther had every reason to be bitter, but she was anything but.
Her sweet disposition came to the notice of the head eunuch and he gave her more beauty preparations than was her due, the very best maidservants and put her in the best section of the house of the women. When it was her turn to spend a night with the king, she “obtained grace and favour in his sight than all the virgins” and Esther was made the new queen (Esth. 2:17).
I want to know how she kept that sweet spirit! I want to know how she rose above her circumstances in lockdown and became such a soft-hearted, biddable and self-sacrificing woman, for she ultimately put her life on the line to rescue her Jewish people. Here’s my thoughts.
God alone was worshipped and supplicated. When she wanted to petition the king she called on all the Jews in Shushan to pray and fast with her for 3 days. She believed her uncle’s words that God may have brought her “into the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esth. 4:14).
She didn’t fawn around others or grasp at objects to get undeserved honour or favour. I think it is significant that the record says, almost with surprise, that when she went in to the king she took nothing with her except what the king’s eunuch gave her (Esth. 2:15).
Obedience to all the obligations and impositions placed upon her in her role in the harem meant she “obtained favour in the sight of all who saw her” (Esth. 2:15). Refusing to emulate and integrate with the ungodly Persian women in the harem resulted in her actually living apart from them in the palace.
Total submission to her God-given authority, her uncle, meant that she risked her life to defend her people saying, “If I perish, I perish!” (Esth. 4:17).
Lockdown may be temporarily frustrating you but if you trust in Jesus to deliver you, you won’t perish. This is the good news that will keep your spirit sweet! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).