My family and I once spent a holiday at a beach resort in Mombasa, Kenya. To my kids’ delight, the resort had an amazing swimming pool. I can’t swim, but for some bizarre reason one morning I decided to jump in. Rookie error! I immediately started drowning. One of my sons noticed me floundering and heroically – thankfully! – dived in and saved me.
A person who’s drowning, as I was, doesn’t need a swimming lesson from someone standing safely on the edge of the pool. The soaking, sinking person needs someone who, seeing the impotence of the drowning person, identifies with their plight by jumping in themselves to intervene and pull the drowning person to safety.
That’s what the book of Esther is about. Esther’s story parallels the gospel and is a stunning picture of our spiritual redemption through Jesus.
First, the book depicts our hopeless impotence – our inability to save ourselves from sin and death. Second, it reminds us of Christ’s identification with us through His incarnation. Third, it portrays Christ’s intervention, through His death and resurrection, to win for us eternal life.
Today we’ll reflect on the first truth: we’re born into this world saddled with a legacy of spiritual death that we’re impotent to change or reverse.
The events in the book of Esther happened in the capital city of the Persian Empire – the superpower of the day – during the reign of King Xerxes. At that time, the exiled Jews were scattered throughout the Persian Empire. Fascinatingly, Esther is the only book of the Bible in which God’s name isn’t mentioned. Neither is prayer. Yet we see the undeniable sovereignty of God at work in the background of national events to shape history and protect His people.
From start to finish, Esther is a gripping page-turner. In chapter 1, Queen Vashti is deposed for refusing to be paraded before the king’s all-male party. In chapter 2, we meet Esther, an orphan, and Mordecai, the older cousin who raised her. They’re descendants of the Jews who had ended up in Persian captivity 100 years earlier. Esther gets picked as one of the virgins who will audition for the role of Vashti’s replacement. She finds favour with the king and is crowned queen. Next, Haman becomes vice-president and gets everyone to bow down to him. Except, Mordecai doesn’t. Haman is enraged. He decides not just to kill Mordecai but to wipe out all the Jews in the empire.
By the end of the third chapter of Esther, the Jews were impotent to do anything about their fate. By the end of the third chapter of Genesis, so were we. We’re all born falling short of God’s glory and deserving of death (Romans 3:23, 6:23), unable to do anything to change our spiritual circumstances. Our churchy activities won’t save us. Neither will our education or expertise. Like the Jews of Esther’s day, we need a Saviour to dive in, rescue us, and reconcile us to God. Thank God: He came!
- Esther 1
- Esther 2
- Esther 3
- Romans 3:23
- Romans 6:23