Here for Such a Time as This – Esther’s Story

God draws straight with the crooked lines of our lives. We are not always faithful and obedient – just like many of the people in the Old Testament story didn’t always get things right. We might be pretty ordinary but that doesn’t stop God from being able to use us in such times as the ones we live in right now.

This is Session 3 in Series 3 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 3 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story


There were a bunch of times when it appeared that God’s centuries-long plan to restore what was lost at the beginning was really close to being a total fail. God kept using normal people who often got scared or lost their way to work out his plan. Somehow, despite what often looked like randomness, the plan stayed more or less on track. God kept drawing straight with the crooked lines lived out by the people he chose.

Here’s another story from the time the people of Israel were stuck in exile because of their inability and refusal to keep their side of the Covenant – God’s Relationship Rescue plan. It’s from the book of Esther in the Old Testament.

It’s about 480 BC, the Israelites have been carried away from their homes and dumped in Persia. Once again, there’s a king in charge who has more power than sense. Here’s a guy who gets really angry, really quickly and loves writing decrees that can’t be changed that seriously mess with other peoples’ lives. What could possibly go wrong with a guy like that in charge?

In that mix are two Israelite people who find themselves caught up in the action. Here’s how things unfold (in dramatically shortened form):

King Ahasuerus throws a seven day booze-fest after which he is so ‘merry with wine…’ that he decides to show off his beautiful Queen Vashti to his guests. Vashti isn’t that keen on being a fashion accessory and refuses to come.

The king is SHOCKED and APPALLED! Husbands everywhere start wondering if their wives will also stop obeying their every command. An example must be made of the naughty queen.

The queen is banished and the king looks for a replacement. Rather unsurprisingly the king decides to select his favourite from a bunch of beautiful young virgins but only after they’ve spent a whole year in a beauty spa.

The plot gets a bit less runny: Esther, a Jewish orphan, is volunteered by her adoptive dad, Mordecai, to be part of the contest. She wins and becomes the new queen.

In the meantime, Mordecai discovers two guards plotting to kill King Ahasuerus. He tells Esther, who tells the king. The guards are killed and Mordecai gets his name written in the book of heroic deeds.

Enter a guy called Haman who, for some reason, gets promoted by the king to the most important job in the land. There’s lots of power and money – and sex probably – which all goes straight to Haman’s head. He loves making people bow down and tremble before him. Everyone does, except one – Mordecai.
This makes Haman pretty mad. How mad? Mad enough to concoct a scheme to kill ALL the Jews in the entire empire (that’s quite mad).
Mordecai is gobsmacked. This is all his fault! He tears his clothes and sits in a pile of ashes (as you do). Then he gives the details of the genocide plan to Esther. This puts Esther in a bit of a bind. She can’t just drop in on the king and tell him what your problem is (you get killed if you try). She has to wait until the king calls her – which hasn’t happened in a month …
(we’re going to slow down for the next bit cos things get really interesting…)

Esther is not keen to get killed for approaching the king without permission. Mordecai has some blunt words for her: ‘listen Esther, you are in a prime spot to do something about this evil plan – and you will be killed too if the plan goes ahead. If YOU don’t do something then someone else will and, who knows, don’t you think it’s possible that you’ve been put in the powerful spot you have precisely for such a time as this?’

Esther gets it. She decides to risk her life by breaking the law and going to the king uninvited. To boost her chances of surviving she gets her friends to fast for three days. Esther decides the best way to the king’s heart is through his stomach and prepares a two-day feast for him and Haman. Remember, Haman is the bad guy responsible for the plot to kill the Jews. He’s also planning to publicly execute Mordecai on gallows he’s having specially built.

On the first night the king can’t sleep (indigestion, or something else?) and, instead of counting sheep, starts reading the book of heroic deeds. He finds the part about Mordecai stopping the guards from killing him and realises Mordecai never got rewarded for that. Then, and you really can’t make this up …, the king asks Haman to suggest the best way to reward someone for outstanding loyalty. Haman is convinced the king is planning to shower good stuff on him, so he proposes a spectacle full of royal robes and horses and parades – his own little power fantasy. I would so love to have seen Haman’s face when the king says ‘great idea! Now go do all that for Mordecai’

Things get worse for Haman when Esther tells the king about Haman’s plan to hang Mordecai. Guess who ends up getting hung on his own gallows? Mordecai is then named as his replacement…
It turns out the king’s first decree to kill the Jews can’t be undone so Mordecai writes another decree allowing the Jews to defend themselves. They do this with spectacular, gory success. It’s a brutal day but they completely destroy everyone who tried to knock them off.

And that’s pretty much how it ends. Cool story hey? Here’s something I thought was especially interesting: did you notice in the whole story God never gets a mention? It’s like that in the whole book of Esther. At the same time it’s clear that God is a silent character involved in every part of the story (just like in Daniel’s story.)

Everything that happens to Esther is wrapped up in what God was working out in the lives of his people in exile: being adopted by Mordecai, being beautiful enough to win the king’s heart, being smart enough to play the right games with her enemies, and being saved from death for breaking the no-entry rule. When there was no hope for the people of Israel, God placed Esther right where she could do something about it. She was there for ‘such a time as this’ …

Esther and Mordecai had to play their part too. It took great courage, faith in God – and lots of fasting, but they take the risks they need to and make the crafty plays that help to swing things Israel’s way.
The other thing I love about this story is what it reveals about God’s character. God keeps to his word and doesn’t let his people off the hook for their rejection of him. They go off to a harsh exile because of their stubborn rebellion just like God warned them many times through the prophets.

But … look at how God is actively involved in that place of exile. God never stops caring for his people, keeping them safe and using ordinary people like Esther and Mordecai to get the job done. We’ll see in the next story how God keeps promising that their exile won’t be forever and that God will give back to his beloved people everything they lost – and more…

God draws straight with the crooked lines of our lives. We are not always faithful and obedient – just like many of the people in the Old Testament story didn’t always get things right. We might be pretty ordinary but that doesn’t stop God from being able to use us in such times as the ones we live in right now.

redperson

Leaders Toolkit


In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.

Click on the time bomb to see how you could run this session in 15 minutes, 30 minutes or longer.
timebomb

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind

Can you think of an event or two in your life where you’re like: ‘wow, I ‘d really like to go back and do that over’?

What did the after effects of that moment look like for you?

Would you say those times are more like obstacles to your personal growth or could they be things that make you stronger?

theWordSpace_cropped

Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts in the next tab.

o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?

o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?

o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh

Read the post in The Story tab.

replay
Some questions to help you replay your story 
The Bible tells us in places like Malachi 3v6 and Hebrews 13v 8 that God is the same today as he was all those years ago (check out this song by Jesus Culture ). God is at work in our own lives – often behind the scenes – giving us the things we need and putting us in places so that we can be his hands and feet in a world that desperately needs God’s restorations and healing.

Can you point to a time where God was doing something like that in your life? Maybe in the life of your city or country?
What does God need from us to be able to make a difference through us? Look at what Esther and Mordecai were like: they were faithful, they were savvy (even a bit crafty!), and they were prepared to take risks. Are there situations you’re in right now that require a bit of those things?

Isn’t it amazing to think that God actually wants to change things by working through us? How awesome is it to be considered worthy of that by God!

Re – draw your picture of Jesus
One of the clearest ‘here-for-such-a-time-as-this’ moments in Jesus’ life is recorded in Luke 4v14-20. Jesus takes an ancient prophesy about someone who is 100% sold out for the cause of giving life and hope for people fighting for survival in the brutal back-end of our world – the poor, the prisoners, the sick, the victims of injustice. Jesus – the second person of the Trinity, the king of the Universe – commits himself completely to the cause of those who have the least amount going for them in this world.

How does thinking about that for a moment help you re-draw your picture of who Jesus is and what he is like?

How might that help you understand the way Jesus feels towards you right now?

remix

What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?

Re-pent …
Have you encountered something in Esther’s story that makes you want to say to God: ‘sho, there are some things I need to rethink about my life. Sorry for the times I’ve kept my head down and played things safe when I could have been more obedient. Help me figure out what I might be able to do for your Kingdom in the places I live.’?

Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it!
Some questions to help you remix your story …

o Here’s an idea: think of all the people you come into contact with regularly. Who are the people who might listen to you if you decided something needed to be said?
o Have you been placed among those people and caught up in those issues ‘for such a time as this’? What are the things you are uniquely able to do because of the places you go to and the people you know? What would it take for you to actually begin to do a few of those things?

From the WordSpace


Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

 

I love the story of Esther in the Old Testament. A stunningly beautiful woman (who knows what that looked like back then?) Esther becomes queen to the powerful king Xerxes. The tale gets dark when the king signs a law that will kill all of Esther’s people. Esther is scared to get involved but her father Mordecai says: ‘surely Esther, you have been placed here for such a time as this?’

How does God view you? I think it’s as someone who is uniquely placed in your family, school, neighbourhood for such a time as this. Do you see yourself as significantly as God does?

What could God be calling you to do today?

Read Esther here: http://bit.ly/1jYZE6h
#andrewv
#Godsviewofyou

Esther is a great story about how to put faith into action too. Esther (Mordecai’s adoptive daughter? or cousin? see 2v7, 15) has a tough choice to make: do nothing or risk her life and talk to the king? She fasts, then goes for it, God comes through and thousands are saved.

What are the things around you that don’t seem right? Have you been placed where you are ‘for such a time as this’? What are the things you are uniquely able to do because of your faith and the people you know?

Be bold and courageous!

Read Esther here: http://bit.ly/17fCYZW
#faithworks

#andrewv

Have you ever felt like nothing ever goes your way? And that when plans change that it always affects you more than others?

From a human perspective, it seems that plans are always changing to hurt or break us. But in the bigger picture, God knows exactly what he is doing in our lives. And even when things seem really bad God says in Hebrews 13v5 that, no matter what happens, he will never leave you or abandon you.

Keep in mind that Gods timing is perfect – and even bad plans will be worked for our good! (Romans 8v28)

Read Hebrews 13 here: http://bit.ly/1491dVz
#teens2teens
Daniel Mitchell, Cape Town

The Bible is about God, right? Then how can a whole book that doesn’t mention him make it into the Old Testament?

The book of Esther doesn’t mention God once. Does that mean he isn’t part of the story? Oh course not! God is a part of every story. And not just the ones that make it into the bible, either. He’s part of every story that could ever be told about this world.

Just because God’s name isn’t being mentioned somewhere doesn’t mean you won’t find him if you look for him. Just because you didn’t pray yesterday or read your bible, doesn’t mean he wasn’t active in your day. Sometimes God is ignored, sometimes he is silent, but he’s never absent.

#esther
#roblloyd

Do you agree that the way we view ourselves can be REALLY fragile sometimes? Just one critical comment, a bad mark, a squeaky voice moment, getting dropped or dumped and suddenly you are a useless, hopeless person. On other days we feel we’re great but it’s really just because something went well for once…

Here’s what God sees you as: a masterpiece. Not only has God made you but, if you have faith in Jesus, God has made you alive and ready to do significant things in partnership with him. And God’s view of you doesn’t change – no matter what might come your way this week.

Read Ephesians 2:8-10 here: http://bit.ly/13YAMlV

#GodsViewofYou
#andrewv

God, things at home aren’t going so well. I feel desperate. Do you see what’s happening? Can you hear me? ‘I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety’ (Psalm 61v1-4 http://bit.ly/13kz4NZ).

You’re here with me in the midst of it all… comforting and loving me, showing me the truth through your word… you’re the place where I can hide now. And you know what hurts. Could you also please show me someone ‘safe’ who I can share about my home situation with… someone who won’t judge, someone I can trust? Thanks, my God-rock.

#FridayFeedback
#wendyb

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