Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
Mordecai sent back this answer: ‘Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?’
Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’
Dealing with irrational rules is annoying. Dealing with irrational rules from a vain and foolish ruler, whose closest advisor you need to denounce as a narcissist intent on genocide, is a terrifying prospect.
These are the challenges facing a young Jewish woman married to a powerful king in Persia: a truly challenging frontline.
To be the queen of Persia doesn’t guarantee an audience with the king. If Esther goes into Xerxes’ throne room uninvited and he doesn’t give her his sceptre to touch, the punishment is death. So, when her cousin comes to her and says that the Jewish people are in mortal danger and she needs to go to the king about it, understandably Esther’s first reaction is to say, ‘You can’t ask me to do that’.
She’s scared. And she’s not afraid to say so. But her cousin has realised why God has brought Esther to this time. God’s purpose is that she should save her people, and that’s why she is queen, ‘for just such a time as this’. And, with this almost prophetic word, Esther finds the courage to do what needs to be done. With the support of her people as she commits herself to God, Esther will face the danger in saying things the king might not want to hear. She will speak.
There is immense power in having a voice. Esther comes to realise she is the only voice her people have. As she speaks she uses her power. And God’s hand is on the situation so that she is heard.
Esther risked her life to use her voice for others. She is a foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus who gave infinitely more than this to save the world. And following our Advocate, we too need to use the power of our voice for others.
It might be a bullied work colleague. Or an oppressed group, such as those who are forced to work in sweat shops to produce cheap goods. It might be a neighbour, whose demeanour makes you wonder if they are suffering abuse. Write to an MP, sign a petition, talk to line management, buy Fairtrade, discuss your concerns with a safeguarding officer.
If we are blessed to have a voice that will be heard, we need to seek to use it for the Lord’s purpose when he calls us, even to say things the powerful might not want to hear.
What are you using your voice for?
Revd Dr Jenni Williams
Vicar of St Matthew with St Luke, Oxford, and former Tutor in Old Testament at Wycliffe Hall