Day 16—God Preserves His People
Read Esther &:3–8:8
Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”
King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who is he? Where is he—the man who has dared to do such a thing?”
Esther said, “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!”
Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen. The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life.
Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining.
The king exclaimed, “Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?”
As soon as the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, “A pole reaching to a height of fifty cubits stands by Haman’s house. He had it set up for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.”
The king said, “Impale him on it!” So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai.
Then the king’s fury subsided.
That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came into the presence of the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her. The king took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai.
And Esther appointed him over Haman’s estate.
Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping. She begged him to put an end to the evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews. Then the king extended the gold scepter to Esther and she arose and stood before him.
“If it pleases the king,” she said, “and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king’s provinces. For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?”
King Xerxes replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Because Haman attacked the Jews, I have given his estate to Esther, and they have impaled him on the pole he set up. Now write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring—for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.”
In 539 BC, nearly 50 years after the Israelites were exiled to Babylon and their temple and city were destroyed, they were allowed to return. God moved the heart of Cyrus, the king of Persia—which had conquered the Babylonians—to permit the Israelites to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. In the book of Ezra, we can read the list of about 50,000 exiles that decided to return (many others stayed where they were) and the gold and silver they were given to take back with them. It took 23 years for the Israelites to complete the temple and just under two months for the walls surrounding Jerusalem to be rebuilt under Nehemiah’s leadership in about 445/4 BC. During this time of Persian rule, God continued to preserve and care for His people, whether they returned to Jerusalem or remained in exile.
The book of Esther, one of just two books in the entire Bible named after a woman, tells one story of how God preserved His people during the exile through a young Jewish woman named Esther and her older cousin, Mordecai. (The Israelites came to be known as Jews—from the word “Judah,” the tribe from which the remaining Israelites descended—while they were in exile.) Esther was chosen to be queen by King Xerxes of Persia, and in today’s passage, we read of the great courage she exercised in risking her own life to request that King Xerxes overturn a law his underling, Haman, signed requiring all Jews to be killed. Though God’s name is never used in the book of Esther, the orchestration of events we see in Esther leaves no doubt that He intervened to protect and preserve His people.
• God uses ordinary people to carry out His purposes on earth. We’ve seen this throughout our journey through the Bible so far, and Esther is no exception. What do you think is required for God to use someone to carry out His purposes? How do you desire for God to use you?
• Who comes to mind for you when you think of a courageous person? Why does that particular person come to mind? In what way are they courageous?
• What’s the most courageous thing you’ve done? Are there things that have required physical courage and things that have required emotional or relational courage? Which was harder?
• What does today’s passage reveal to you about God?
God, the preserver and sustainer, thank You for preserving Your people throughout the generations and specifically during Esther’s day. And thank You that You use ordinary people like me to carry out Your purposes in this world. Help me to act with courage and faith when circumstances seem dire or overwhelming. Open my ears to hear You as You guide my thoughts, words, and actions, and extend Your love and goodness to everyone I encounter. Amen.