Have you ever read the book of Esther? The more I study it, the more I like it.
One of the most interesting things about Esther is that it’s the only book in the Bible where the name of God is never mentioned…not even once.
Not only that, there is no prayer, no reference to Scripture, no worship, no condemnation of sin, no lifting up of the moral standards of the law, and no indication that the actions of the leading character, Esther, who seduced the king before marriage, are wrong.
It’s a reminder that God works through some very sinful and flawed people to do some amazing and wonderful things. Even when they didn’t do what they should have done, they were still his people. God never forgot or rejected them. And he used them to change the course of history.
Can we talk?
Moses was a murderer and, even after being called by God in an amazing and supernatural way, was not zealous to serve him.
Abraham pawned his wife off as his sister so that Pharaoh would have his way with her. The whole institution of the covenant people of God (by the way, people God called stiff-necked and rebellious) in the Old and New Testament is built upon a con artist who lied to get this whole thing going.
And then there was David and Bathsheba, Jeremiah and his whining, and the prophets who didn’t want to serve.
Paul called Peter a hypocrite (and that was long after Peter had become the leader of the church).
It’s a reminder that God works through some very sinful and flawed people to do some amazing and wonderful things.
Paul himself was in a major church fight with Barnabas. The first assistant missionary bishop of the church and the writer of the book named after him, John Mark, couldn’t cut it on the field and fled in the middle of the night.
There was a prostitute in the genealogy of Jesus and the people with whom she hung out with were not much better. He was, after all, a friend of winebibbers and sinners.
Do you get the feeling that God is trying to tell us something?
I don’t know about you, but let me tell you what God is telling me.
Erik told me the other day how glad he was to be a part of Key Life and to see God work through this ministry. Then, almost as an afterthought, he asked me, “Steve, do you ever find yourself surprised at what you’re doing? Like wondering why you aren’t repairing bicycles?”
“Yeah,” I said. And then, because I was studying Esther, I said, “It’s insane that I should be doing what I’m doing. If I were God, I would be the last one I would choose to do this. But God didn’t have a choice between good, pure and obedient people…and sinners. All he had were sinners.”
Another thing I’ve learned from Esther is that God is there even when it seems like he’s gone away on vacation and left us alone.
God’s presence is everywhere with his people. He is there when we aren’t following him too closely, when we think that everything has fallen apart, and when we aren’t even thinking about him. He is there—caring, loving, forgiving, redeeming and (can you believe this?) changing us into the image of Christ, using us to reach out to a world that desperately needs to hear from those who know he’s there even when it doesn’t feel like it.
One final thing I’ve learned from Esther is that God likes to party. And when you party, you don’t have to make it a “religious” party either.
In the book of Esther, God protects his people, kills off the bad guys and then calls for a celebration.
Mordecai institutes a yearly party celebrating what God has done: “And Mordecai recorded these things and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year, as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday…that these days of Purim should never fall into disuse among the Jews, nor should the commemoration of these days cease among their descendants” (Esther 9:20-22, 28).
God said to the Jews something not dissimilar to what Jesus told us in his Last Supper, “Remember…and be glad.”
He knows you—all your secrets and secret sins, all your fears, all your insecurities, pain and failures—and he still wants to use you to glorify his name in the world. He has promised that he will always love you and never leave you or forsake you. Even when you don’t think he’s there…he’s there.
And that’s all reason to celebrate. So go out and have a party.
Time to Draw Away
What do you think of our family? Can you identify? The fact is we’re all sinners and sufferers in need of God’s grace, love and forgiveness. And then comes the surprise: God actually chooses us to pass along his grace, love and forgiveness to others. We really do have much to celebrate.