Esther 1­­–5

I came across Esther in my reading yesterday, and found it very surprisingly relevant. I have just a few thoughts to note.


1: Back-story
2: How the Jews ought to live in this society
3: The plot, and response
4: Esther’s providential position to be used
5: Plot development­—dénouement tension builds



The book seems to come in chunks of two types: those telling us about the plot and what is going on, with plenty to learn about God’s providence; and those showing us how the Jews lived out their identity in the new Persian culture. This chapter is one of the latter (with a note coming tomorrow about some of the other type).

It is not easy to draw out a neat and easy conclusion from the way Mordecai acts here. It is tempting to think it is irrelevant, or that there must be clear applications to life today. Unfortunately, this is life most passages for us in the New Covenant: they give ‘law-light’, a bare-minimum attitude, not instructions. So, we have to take note of what the author is trying to show us about how Mordecai realises he must live.

The strongest contextual element we have had in ch. 1 is not so much the plot as the non-Jewish culture. Mordecai’s problem is to know how to respond to what is around him and live in that society without losing his identity in Adonai. What he realises is shockingly contemporary.

Public displays can be damaging

We see a lot these days about people demanding to wear Christian jewellery, or be ostentatious about who they are. There is a certain measure in which that is important, so far as it does not prevent integration. Mordecai stops Esther from explaining who she is because he does not want her to suffer prejudice or be harmed, which is to say that this is a perfect example of being discreet about identity to help integration. As Jerram Barrs explained at the Hope Greatham weekend away two weeks ago in an excellent sermon (Listen to session three), the challenge for the church as culture and kingdom diverge more widely in their actions, the challenge is in maintaining integration, not in staying distinctively Christian.

Mordecai still cares

Even though Mordecai must be worried at seeing Esther go to the harem, he still is concerned for her and waits for her at the gate. His adopted daughter has been sent out into the world, and he has let her go trusting that is how God wants us to live really in our culture, but he still has all the same care and does what he can to help her.

This is real kingdom-building at work, making heaven on Earth by acting for the good of the society around us rather than building an enclave! Mordecai’s actions tell us about more than just patriotism. This is a second study of exactly the same topic the book addresses of how to live in an alien culture. The Jews in Jesus’ time had lost this message with their constant emphasis on rebellion and discontent with the Romans, but this is a fuller expression or rendering unto Caesar than just paying taxes. There are a lot of applications for the powerful message of these three verses.