Human beings were created to live in fellowship with God for they were created in the image of God. This is the reason that a basic human need is to have a relationship with God; people need to get connected with God. In his work in the world, God chooses to work invisibly. This is the reason that when people need him most, God seems to be absent. However, when people seek God, they discover that God has never been away; when they seek him, he can be found, “When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the LORD” (Jeremiah 29:13-14). Only seekers will find him.
Esther and the Absence of God
In Persia, Esther lived a very difficult life. As a young woman, she was taken away from her family to live in the palace of the king. She was taken against her will. She was taken to please the king sexually, with the possibility that she could become the queen, if the king were pleased with her.
Esther was an outsider, she was the “other.” The “other” is the person who is socially and culturally different from those who live in the same society. Esther lived in a community of Jews, strangers in a foreign land. Esther was a Jewish woman living in a foreign country. Jewish culture and religion were fundamentally different and alien from the culture and religion of Persia. Esther was an orphan. She had no living parents. Her cousin adopted her as his own daughter.
In many ways, as Esther was separated from her family and from her community, she felt that God was distant from her. To Esther it seemed that God was absent. In the seclusion of the harem, Esther sensed God’s distance. This sense of divine hiddenness may be one of the reasons why God’s name is never mentioned in the book.
It is possible that Esther assumed that God was absent, unaware of her plight. But God was at work in the events that brought Esther to the palace. In fact, God’s providence is the main message of the book. In his providence, God was working in Esther’s life. God was close to Esther and active in preparing her for the purpose for which he had chosen her. God was working behind the scene to prepare Esther to become an agent of salvation for her people.
God shows his providence by working through other people. People are the avenue by which God works to bring his presence and his love to other people. The person whom God chose to help Esther in her time of need was Mordecai, her adoptive father.
The author of the book of Esther introduces Mordecai as one of the persons who lived in Susa, the capital of the Persian empire: “Now there was a Jew in the citadel of Susa whose name was Mordecai, son of Jair son of Shimei son of Kish, a Benjaminite. Kish had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with King Jeconiah of Judah, whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had carried away” (Esther 2:5-6).
The name Mordecai is derived from the name Marduk, the main God of Babylon. It is possible that Mordecai had a Jewish name as Esther did (Esther 2:7), although his Hebrew name is never mentioned in the book. It is probable that Mordecai adopted a Babylonian name in order to serve in the court of Ahasuerus. One of the Jews who returned from exile with Zerubbabel was named Mordecai (Ezra 2:2; Nehemiah 7:7).
Mordecai was a Benjaminite, the son of Jair and a descendant of Kish. Both Shimei and Kish are associated with Saul, the first king of Israel. Kish was Saul’s father (1 Samuel 9:1). Shimei was a man from Saul’s clan (2 Samuel 16:5). The author of the book of Esther is intentionally providing the genealogy of Mordecai to indicate that he belonged to the clan of Saul. He did so in order to prepare the reader to Mordecai’s dealings with Haman, the enemy of Mordecai. Haman belonged to the family of Agag, the Amalekite king whom Saul overthrew (1 Samuel 15).
The reading of the NIV implies that Mordecai was taken into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (Esther 2:5-6 NIV). Such a reading would indicate that Mordecai was 115 years old in the third year of Ahasuerus’s reign (Esther 1:3). The reading of the NRSV says that it was Kish, a descendant of Mordecai, who was taken into exile with King Jeconiah of Judah.
Mordecai was Esther’s cousin and her adoptive father. Mordecai became the portal through whom God could minister to Esther. Mordecai was God’s providential gift to Esther. God reached Esther through Mordecai in three ways: through Mordecai’s advice, through his comfort, and through his love.
God shows his love to people through other people. In the case of Esther, God showed his love to her through Mordecai: “Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is Esther, his cousin, for she had neither father nor mother; the girl was fair and beautiful, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai adopted her as his own daughter” (Esther 2:7).
The Targum says that Esther’s father died while her mother was pregnant and that her mother died in childbirth. Confronted with the tragedy that Esther’s faced, growing up without parents, Mordecai adopted her as his own daughter. There is no law in the Old Testament regulating the adoption of orphans, but the practice was common in the ancient Near East. Mordecai adopted Esther not because he was allowed by Babylonian customs, but because he was motivated by the love of God to show his love to that little orphan girl.
Esther was loved because Mordecai had the love of God in his life. We, as Christians, are God’s avenue to show God’s love to other people. Our mission in the world is to express God’s love to others through the love of God which is in us: “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12).
People are precious to God. God shows his love to people when we show God’s love to people. When we share our love with others, God becomes real in their lives. When we love people, we bless them with the love of God which lives in us.
“Every day Mordecai would walk around in front of the court of the harem, to learn how Esther was and how she fared” (Esther 2:11). Every day Mordecai wanted to know how Esther was doing. He was agonizing for her. He kept in touch with her; both because he was interested in her fate and because he wanted to comfort her in her struggle for survival.
It is probable that Mordecai had developed a relationship with Hegai, the eunuch who was in charge of the harem (Esther 2:8). The king’s harem was his private property, and no man was allowed to visit the harem. Since Hegai was providing special treatment to Esther, it is also possible that he allowed Mordecai to see Esther and even speak to her under his supervision. Mordecai used these daily meetings to comfort Esther and to give her words of encouragement.
Esther knew that her father was worried about her. She was comforted by knowing that her father was there for her and that he cared for her. When people go through difficult times, they need comfort. Mordecai was the portal God used to provide Esther with God’s comfort.
We can be a portal to provide people with the comfort of God. Paul said, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
God is the God of all comfort. He comforts us “so that we can comfort those in any trouble.” God comforts us as we comfort others. People need people in their lives who can express God’s love to them. When people are in pain, when they are struggling with the problems of everyday life, God wants to send his comfort to them, but he sends his comfort through us.
“But Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up” (Esther 2:20).
When Esther was taken into the palace of Ahasuerus, she did not reveal her nationality or her family background, because Mordecai had advised her not to let people know that she was a Jewish woman.
By not revealing her nationality, Esther, the queen of Persia, did not make known her relationship with Mordecai, who was now serving as an officer in the palace of the king of Persia. Although Esther was the queen, her noble position did not change her heart. She was still the daughter of Mordecai. Mordecai had told her not to reveal her nationality; as an obedient daughter, she obeyed. Her obedience was providential for the salvation of her people as they were threatened with extermination.
God expresses his providence through advice and words of wisdom people give to other people. God was giving advice to Esther through Mordecai. As Peter said, “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God” (1 Peter 4:11).
We are the portal through whom God gives advice to people. God speaks to people through us. When we speak in God’s name to people in need, we are, as Peter wrote, “speaking the very words of God.” When Esther needed love, encouragement, and advice, she found them through Mordecai. God reveals his love and comfort through people who are committed to be vessels of blessings to others. That is our mission in the world.
My pastor, Jeff Griffin, Senior Pastor of The Compass Church in Naperville, Illinois preached a sermon on November 1, 2020 titled Esther: For Such a Time as This – Our Mission. The post above is based on his sermon.
Jeff finished his sermon by encouraging us to be a doorway, a portal so that God can give his love and comfort to others through us. He also encouraged us to be aware when God is using others to speak to us. The providence of God becomes real in our lives when God uses godly people to minister to our needs. Be aware when God is using others to speak to you.
“Esther: For Such a Time as This – Our Mission.” A Sermon by Jeff Griffin.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Other Posts on Esther
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