It is very instructive to read through the book of Esther with special attention to key relationships in the story. Our goal is to glean from the story how relationships matter. In chapter 5, we are entering the peak of the action of the story where Esther’s relationship with King Xerxes has the potential of saving or obliterating the Jewish race. Today we’ll look at Esther and Xerxes’ relationship during this most important historical set of events. After consulting with Mordecai, her cousin and guardian, Esther responds with fear and trepidation: “If I perish, I perish!” As a newly minted royalty, young and beautiful, she decides to address the threat to her people’s safety at the court of her husband, the capricious King of Persia. She recognizes the fact that God has allowed her to be in a position of influence for such a time as this! The enemy—Haman, descendant of the Amalekites, Israel’s age-old enemies—is plotting to have Mordecai hanged. The survival of the Jewish nation is at stake—and so is the future coming of the promised redeemer, Jesus.
Esther is determined. She mobilizes her countrymen to pray and fast while she and her servants do the same. With great courage and abandon to the will of God, she approaches King Xerxes and invites him and Haman to a banquet she has prepared for them. Xerxes (who could have had her killed her for the “impropriety” of approaching him without first being asked) is curious to know what is bothering her. Without giving a reason, however, Esther postpones the banquet and instead invites Xerxes and Haman to come back the following day. The delay turns out to be providential, as that very night Xerxes, unable to sleep, reads through the chronicles of his reign and is reminded of Mordecai’s loyalty in exposing an assassination plot to the king. The next day at the banquet, Esther reveals Mordecai’s predicament and begs the King to spare his life. The King consents, and while Haman is identified as the vile culprit and hanged for his crime on the very gallows he had prepared for Mordecai, Esther’s cousin is promoted to Haman’s position. Later that day, Esther requests that the King overturn Haman’s evil plan against the Jews, and in a poignant reversal, the Amalekites (including Haman’s ten sons) are destroyed in place of the Jews.
While the scriptural record of Esther yields many spiritual lessons, our focus here is on relationships, in particular that of Esther and her husband the King. Several things stand out to me. It is inspiring to observe Esther’s humble submission to Mordecai and the God she serves, along with the keen insight and discernment that characterize her actions. Consider her wisdom in judiciously following the advice of a trusted advisor; her surrender to God’s purposes for her; and her bold approach to the problem all the while yielding to the sovereignty of God and pursuing prayer and fasting to undergird her efforts. Esther was at once ready, responsive, creative, and sacrificial in addressing the desperate need of her people. Her interactions with her husband reveal a careful and intimate knowledge of his strengths and weaknesses, which helped her approach him with a mixture of patience, self-control, and spiritual sensitivity. Her discernment and wisdom also aided her in making significant decisions especially regarding the timing of the all-important conversation with the King that saved her people. And whatever Esther’s motives were when entering Xerxes’ harem in the first place (we may wonder why Mordecai had her do this and why she subjected herself to the harem experience), it is clear that Esther used the position she acquired for great good.
In our relatively mundane and comparatively uneventful lives, I pray that we can gather vision to live with purpose in whichever relationships we find ourselves, yielding to the providence of God and the truth that “whoever loves his life will lose it and whoever lays it down for Jesus’ sake and that of the gospel will find it.” May we be emboldened and strengthened to be deliberate, godly, and fully reliant on God’s purposes for us in our relationships.
Read Esther 5-8 for the full story!