Our church is studying Esther. When it was my turn to share, I covered from the end of chapter two to the first part of chapter five. (See a video of my message here. The sermon starts at about the 20 minute mark). Esther opens with King Ahasuerus (AKA Xerxes) hosting a lavish feast. During the feast, he calls for his wife, Queen Vashti, to come to him so he can show his guests how beautiful she is. Vashti refuses so the king banishes her from his presence and takes her crown.
In an ancient variation of “The Bachelor,” young women throughout the kingdom are brought to the king’s palace so he can select a new queen. Esther is chosen, and she has a different mindset than Vashti. Vashti functioned according to her own mind, perceptions, and desires. Esther sets herself aside and defers to others.
This is clear in a couple instances. Esther was raised by her older cousin, Mordecai. Chapters one and two mention how it was her habit to obey Mordecai. During her time in the palace, she didn’t reveal she was Jewish because Mordecai told her not to (Esther 2:20). Verse 2:15 says when it was Esther’s turn to be presented to the king “she did not ask for anything except what Hegai, the king’s trusted official…suggested.”
To be clear, Esther’s mindset is not a matter of gender roles. Her spirit is the same as that expressed by Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane: “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). “Not my will but your will” was the motive of Jesus’s entire life; Esther also puts her will aside in order to express the will of others.
Moving into Esther three and four, king Ahasuerus commands that everyone around the palace bow to Haman, a prince in the realm. Mordecai refuses to bow, and Haman is bitterly offended. Instead of just doing away with Mordecai, Haman decides to kill all of Mordecai’s people, the Jews. Haman tells Ahasuerus the Jews won’t follow his laws and should be destroyed. To sweeten the deal, Haman offers Ahasuerus 375 TONS of silver. (Hmmm…someone else was famously betrayed for pieces of silver….Mark 14:11). Ahasuerus agrees and commands that all Jews be slaughtered in the last month of the year.
When Mordecai hears this, he goes about in sackcloth, mourning, & asks Esther to speak with the king on behalf of her people. Esther protests that if anyone comes before the king uninvited, they can be executed. Mordecai presses the matter, and Esther says, “I will go to the king even if it is against the law. If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Truly, this is Esther’s Gethsemane. Her conversation with Mordecai is just like the one between Jesus and the Father. We can hear her saying, in essence, “I don’t want to do this if there’s another way, Mordecai. If not, then not my will but yours be done.”