I’ve never written anything on Esther. Never so much as mentioned her name. But it’s always been one of my favorite stories in the Bible. I remember watching the Veggie Tales version as a child. Captivated by the thought of a pretty girl named Esther marrying a king, saving her people from death, and—well, that’s pretty much all I remember. Only, there’s so much more.
For the next several weeks, I’m writing a series of articles on Esther. But first, I must set the scene. Introduce some people. And clarify some important details. After all, it’s hard to read a book without first understanding where it comes from and how it fits into the rest of God’s Word.
The setting of Esther is the Persian Empire. If you’re familiar with the Old Testament, you know that God’s people are forced into Babylonian exile. You can read about this in 2 Kings 25. In 539 B.C., however, the Babylonian Empire is defeated by the Persian Empire. By the time the story of Esther takes place, King Ahasuerus is over the Persian Empire, and the Jewish people are under his rule.
In Ezra 1-2, we read about a previous king of the Persian Empire named Cyrus and his offer to let the Jews go home. Despite this great opportunity, however, a number of Jews remain in Persia, including the Jews we read about in Esther. Why? Because they’re comfortable in a foreign land. Content with the secular culture and customs of Persia. And this leads to some major problems. But I’m trying not to preach yet! For now, the important thing to realize is that God’s people are in exile under King Ahasuerus of Persia.
Now that we understand some context, let’s focus on the book itself. Unfortunately, we don’t know the author. Some claim Mordecai. Others claim Ezra. But one thing we know for sure: God is the ultimate Author. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16 ESV). Esther is God’s Word; therefore, it’s worthy of our study.
But it might surprise you to learn that God’s name is never even mentioned in Esther. Not even once! In fact, it’s the only book of the Bible that doesn’t mention God. Despite this, He is present. He is working. And He is sovereign. Even in the silence.
In Exodus, God works in obvious ways. He appears to Moses in a burning bush (Ex. 3), sends brutal plagues upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians (Ex. 7-12), and splits the Red Sea in two (Ex. 14). But that’s not how Esther reads. Instead, God uses an orphaned girl named Esther and her cousin Mordecai to save His people from annihilation.
As one commentary explains, “Coincidences in Esther are the fingerprints of God’s hands at work.” What might look coincidental is actually under the sovereignty of a gracious God who seeks to accomplish His purpose among His people.
But how often do our lives resemble the Book of Esther? Where is God when we can’t hear His voice, see His face, or feel His presence? Where is God when stuff seems to be falling apart?
Together, we’re going to discover how God is working even when we think He is absent. He is sovereign in the silence of our daily lives, working through the most ordinary of circumstances and imperfect of people to fulfill His promises. Both for His glory and our good.
Remember, the apostle Paul writes, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28 ESV).
I invite you to join me on this journey through Esther. May God stir our hearts to recognize His presence in the silence of our ordinary circumstances. Even when God seems silent, He is sovereign. And what a glorious hope that is.
Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at www.isaiahpauley.com