And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” – Esther 4:16 (NKJV)
This week I finished the last two history books of the Old Testament – Nehemiah and Esther. And I was struck by a certain characteristic that each of these remarkable people had.
Nehemiah had been told of the conditions in Jerusalem, and how its wall still remained in shambles after the exile. He became distraught and cried out to God in prayer. Nehemiah knew that he had to go to Jerusalem for the reconstruction of the wall. But he was fearful to approach the king about this, knowing that the king was not to be disturbed with trivial matters. Still, Nehemiah spoke his intentions, and the king granted his request. And though Nehemiah ran into several obstacles along the way, jealous officials like Sanballat and Tobiah mainly, the wall was rebuilt in just 52 days.
Esther came to the position of queen in an unlikely fashion. She had been brought to King Xerxes by her cousin Mordecai, along with several other young women, for the King to audition them to replace the unfaithful Vashti as queen. King Xerxes loved Esther more than the others and eventually appointed her as queen.
Some time later, one of the king’s officials, Haman, devised a plot to kill all of the Jews in the kingdom. King Xerxes unfortunately was ignorant of Haman’s wickedness and signed off on the plot. Mordecai, who was essentially the source of Haman’s anger against the Jews, received word of this and relayed the news to Esther. She knew she had to act, but how ? She had hidden the fact that she was a Jew. Similar to Nehemiah, Esther had to approach the king with caution.
Esther invited King Xerxes and Haman to a banquet on two successive nights without revealing her request. On the second night, the king finally asked Esther what she needed. Esther asked for her life to be spared, and those of her people, as she described this wicked plot that was about to be executed. When the king asked who designed the plot, Esther explained it was Haman. King Xerxes was enraged and had Haman hanged – on the same gallows that Haman had made for Mordecai. The king could not take back his edict, but he allowed the Jews to defend themselves against this plot. And they did and were victorious.
There’s so much to admire about Nehemiah and Esther, but it’s their willingness to take risks that really stands out to me. Both knew that they could suffer severe consequences for approaching the king. And yet they placed the welfare of their people ahead of their own. God was with them and they achieved remarkable results for their people. Most importantly, they glorified God in the process. What a wonderful lesson for us all.