The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
Esther’s early years may have been difficult. With scant detail the Bible describes her as an orphan taken in and raised by her cousin Mordecai. But when she became a young woman her life took a decidedly positive turn. Her beauty caught the attention of a royal commissioner and she was taken to the palace of Xerxes, king of Persia, who had deposed his former queen Vashti and was looking for a replacement.
By the providence of God Esther not only found herself among the Persian queen candidates, she fell into favor with the official in charge of the king’s harem, who went out of his way to guide her through the selection process. Esther “won the favor of everyone who saw her” (2:15) and “the king was attracted to [her] more than to any of the other women. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti” (v. 17). The king then held a great banquet in Esther’s honor and made the occasion a national holiday.
Life looked good from Esther’s vantage point—until Haman entered the picture. He, too, had found favor with the king and was given “a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles” (3:1). He had wealth, honor, prestige—everything a man could want. With one exception. While everyone else in the kingdom was bowing down to Haman, Esther’s cousin Mordecai refused. Haman became enraged by Mordecai’s behavior and launched a plot to destroy not only Mordecai, but his people as well. This was not a smart move, because Mordecai’s people also happened to be the people of God.
Although the story has a happy ending (unless, of course, you’re Haman), we should remind ourselves that no one knew the outcome of his or her actions as the events unfolded. Mordecai had no idea what would result from his refusal to bow down to Haman. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, he simply may have chosen to bend the knee to God alone, come what may.
The same applies to Queen Esther. When Mordecai revealed Haman’s wicked plot and urged Esther to take her people’s plight to the king himself, she did so without regard to her personal safety. Entering the king’s presence uninvited brought the death penalty—unless the king made an exception. Esther was risking her life to go before the king seeking protection for the nation of Israel. But she went nevertheless, resigning herself to death if necessary: “And if I perish, I perish” (4:16).
Believers don’t anticipate death any more than the rest of the world. We embrace our hope and look forward to spending eternity in the presence of the Lord, but most of us also take precautions to protect and preserve our lives on earth. We’re ready for death, but we don’t mind waiting.
Here is where Esther’s example is most helpful. We should enjoy the life God gives us and use our time on earth to honor him. But if the Lord should call us to lay down our lives for his sake and for the gospel, we must be prepared to obey. Looking forward to our heavenly inheritance, we too must be able to say, “And if I perish, I perish.”