Like last month I have so many places in this book marked, I'm not quite sure where to start. I was drawn to one chapter in particular, so much of what I'm likely to type will be related to that. As before, I'll share what I read first, followed by my personal application.
Re: God's timing.
"We tend to think that if God is really engaged, He will change things within the next hour or so. Certainly by sundown. Absolutely by the end of the week. But God is not a slave to the human clock. Compared to the works of mankind, He is extremely deliberate and painfully slow. As religious poet George Herbert wisely penned, "God's mill grinds slow, but sure."
Raise your hand if you wish God would solve your problems faster than He typically seems to! And then raise your hand if you become annoyed by the speed at which He operates! And then raise your hand if you've complained to Him about it!
Yeah, well, we're none of us perfect. It's a good reminder to hear that God is not in a hurry. I am. But He's not. I should probably hush up and wait patiently because whatever He DOES end up doing will be more effective than anything I could dream up.
Re: The way Mordecai brought the news of Haman's plan to kill the Jews to Esther's attention.
"He didn't lose control of his emotions; he didn't exaggerate. He was careful with the information he communicated." (Chapter 5, page 82)
Mordecai didn't try to pound his way to Esther's door with tears and sobs. He didn't make a play for her sympathy. In fact, Esther had to send her servant out to Mordecai to find out why Mordecai was upset. When Mordecai was questioned as to his sorrow, he gave Esther's servant a copy of the edict and said, "Have your queen read this."
"Why do I make such a point of this? Because we live in a day of hearsay, when few people pass along information that is precise and reliable. Do you? Are you careful about what you say? Do you have the facts? Do you offer proof that the information you are conveying is correct? While there are occasions when its appropriate to pass along needed and serious information to the right sources, I'm finding more than ever a growing preoccupation with rumor and slander. Half truths and innuendos become juicy morsels in the mouths of unreliable gossips. There is no way to measure the number of people who have been hurt by rumor and exaggeration and hearsay." (Chapter 5, page 82)
Re: Esther having to make a choice over whether to defend her people, or keep her own identity a secret
"So when Hathach (the eunuch in charge of serving Esther) comes to [Mordecai] with Esther's answer, Mordecai tightens the sash around his sackcloth and says the hard thing. He appeals to her character.
. . .
"Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, "Do not imagine that you in the king's palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether or not you have attained royalty for such a time as this?" Esther 4:13-14" Chapter 5, page 84)
Swindoll then points out the fact that Esther could have chosen to save herself. She could have given into the idea that she was "just one person" and what can one person do? Well, one person can change history. One person can choose to stand for truth, regardless of whether anyone else is doing it or not. This was hugely inspirational to me.
But then Swindoll goes further. He quotes from one of my personal heroes. (Heh heh!)
"Let us brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonweath last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour." - Winston ChurchillCourage was what Esther was called to. She rose to the occasion beautifully. But she didn't 'grab the bull by the horns' and go marching into the king's court waving banners and flags and demanding answers. Oh no. She asked for prayer. She waited on God to lead and direct. She was, at first, silent. Then, when she felt God has given her direction, she went in His direction, trusting on His wisdom and guidance.
"Amazing things happen to our courage while we're waiting. Rather than getting more fearful, we become less fearful. Rather than losing heart, we gain confidence. The Lord becomes more important. His presence overshadows the threatening, even intimidating, circumstances that would otherwise immobilize us or paralyze our thoughts." (Chapter 6, page 108)We can count on the Lord to lead us if we wait on Him and on His timing. The thing that struck me the most about Esther's response is that she didn't say, "I don't want to do this. It's too hard. I might die. Why can't this task fall to someone else?" Instead she said bravely (my own little paraphrase here), "I'll do it because I can see that it's the right thing to do. And if I perish, I perish." She trusted God to work His will in the world. She had only one thing to do and she didn't shirk from it because of fear or because it would require something more than laziness for her. She COULD have hidden her identity and played it safe. But she didn't.
Lastly (for this post anyway!), Swindoll points out that Esther suffered pain that brought her into this position. She was orphaned. She was taken from her uncle's home. She was placed in the king's harem without any assurances that she would be made queen. For all she knew, her life was going to fade into oblivion. She had to hide who she was and was removed from people who understood her. And for what?
To save a nation. To tend to something bigger than just herself.
Swindoll points out this quote from A. W. Tozer in which Tozer says:
"It's doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply."
Life in Christ is not easy and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you something. We each have crosses to bear and deal with in our lifetime. However, before we start complaining we should remember Jesus, who laid down His life on the ultimate cross - for us. As Jesus hung on the cross, he didn't say, "Wait, wait! Too hard! I change my mind! Let me down off this thing!" He suffered and He endured to the end - and what a glorious end it was, being that of a new beginning!
Yes, life stinks sometimes. Yes, life is hard. We should never expect it to be easy. But here's a question: if your faith doesn't cost you, is it really worth having?
These are the thoughts and questions I directed towards myself as I read. Even though the questions are hard, honestly I walked away from reading Esther encouraged and refreshed. That's the beautiful thing about scripture - we can read it knowing that others have walked our same path before we have. There is nothing new in my life that God hasn't dealt with before. And in His word we find encouragement, rest, chastisement!, and HOPE to face today and all of our tomorrows.
And so, we sing!
This "review" is also being linked up to Semicolon's Book Club discussion on the same title. To read what Semicolon and others thought of this book, click here.