Grow Deep - Heroes Edition Volume 6 week 3
Week 3: August 5-11
Esther, the Queen
“… And who knows whether you have not come
into the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14
The most amazing thing about Esther is that there is not one mention of God in the entire book! This makes it a lynchpin in our canon that is otherwise full of burning bushes and healing the lame. It is the book that reminds us ordinary people who struggle with ordinary things that God is here, even when He’s not sending doves down in clear signs or marking stone tablets with instructions. Personally, I have always struggled with doubt, with wanting to believe in a God who loves and works all things to the good. It sometimes feels like a fairy tale. Knowing the path her life took, I think that Esther probably had some of the same thoughts and doubts as I have had. Still, God was able to use her in a powerful way.
One important thing we see in Esther is that God is not limited to our own strength of faith: He keeps His promises even when He is not mentioned … even when those who do have faith in Him are purposefully hiding it. This is not to discount those of us who have chosen to follow Christ and act upon our faith with good works and loving patience … in fact, not to discount faith in the one and only Christ at all. Rather, this shows how complete Christ’s atonement is, that God can (and does) shower His grace upon all people … even the likes of the king of the conquering Persians. The completeness of God’s atonement is further explored in 1 John 4:7-12. This passage says that Christ is the atonement for all sins—not just for those of us “in the club.” It says that those who act in love are born of God, not just those who follow the social norms of the church. This is the crux of our belief system in Christ: that God is all-powerful but also full of grace. His grace is freely given whether we are strong in our faith, as Mordecai was, or whether we struggle with fear and doubt as Esther did.
Sunday, August 5
Read: Esther 2:5-18
These verses chronicle Esther’s heritage and strange journey to queenship. It is tempting to read through this passage as benign, but we must reflect on the trauma depicted in these verses. Esther was orphaned and taken into a strange land of a new religion. She was then more or less forced into the king’s bed for a trial night and was at risk of being “discarded” if the king did not desire to see her again. Rather than focus on the trauma of her story, though, realize instead that Esther may have feared for her life more than once, doubted her God as reigning supreme over the Persians and wondered if she and her uncle would survive with their purity and faith intact. But, in spite of all of that, she was chosen to be queen. God turned this evil circumstance into one where He—and not a dictator’s decision—would raise her up for good.
Reflect: Recall a time when you experienced great loss. Perhaps you even felt despair about all that was lost. How did your faith in God pull you through that time?
For the Family: Esther kept a secret from the king. When is it okay to keep a secret? When is it not okay to keep a secret? Why? How was Esther’s secret used by God?
Monday, August 6
Read: Esther 3
We see Mordecai save his conquering king’s life in one passage (Esther 2:19-23) and then disagree with and disobey this same king’s decree a few verses later with dire consequences. Haman begins his plot against the Jews because of Mordecai’s civil disobedience. As you read, try to discern why Haman felt his best course of action was to target Mordecai’s people rather than Mordecai himself.
Reflect: Was this the right place for civil disobedience on Mordecai’s part? What can we learn from Mordecai’s actions as godly people? Why is it important to pray for and empathize with the ordinary humans in leadership positions even if we disagree with them?
For the Family: Why did Haman want to hurt Mordecai and his people? How do you feel when someone does not treat you the way you think they should? How does God want you to behave toward them?
Tuesday, August 7
Read: Esther 4
Esther gives an excuse for why she cannot help. Mordecai helps her realize that her choice is not between life and death but whether she dies as a passive observer filled with fear and saving no one or dies as God’s instrument to save many lives. In verse 14 we see Mordecai’s faith: he believes God will deliver His people. Esther sees danger and fear, instead. Mordecai wants Esther to be the one who goes to the king so that she and he himself might also be saved from death. So she girds herself with the courage that purpose brings and prepares.
Reflect: Clearly, Mordecai had a strong faith. What role do you think Mordecai’s faith had upon Esther’s courage to push to save her people? What role might have her own past faith experiences had in this situation? How have you been motivated by the faith of others and your own experiences? What helps you to push past your fears?
For the Family: Esther knew she had to do something dangerous to save her people. What was it? What did she ask her people to do for her before she went in to see the king? How did that show that she trusted God?
Wednesday, August 8
Read: Esther 5
Esther enters the king’s court unbidden, and the king extends to Esther the golden scepter that saves her life. Even though the name of God is not mentioned in this book, imagine the grace of Christ in that scepter. Just as Moses raised a mounted snake in the desert to spare the Israelites, so a scepter of grace is again extended, foreshadowing a greater grace in the purpose of Christ. As sinners, we cannot enter the court of our Holy King without punishment of death. Christ’s sacrifice is God’s golden scepter.
Reflect: What would have happened had the king not extended the golden scepter? As you pray, visualize yourselves approaching God’s throne. How does the sacrifice of Jesus give you confidence to approach Him more and more? How does this story encourage you?
For the Family: God’s inner court is so holy that even the simple act of bowing our heads before dinner to talk to God is made possible only by Christ’s sacrifice. How can we help ourselves appreciate the vastness of that privilege more in our daily lives?
Thursday, August 9
Read: Esther 6-7
The same king who blindly signed an order in Chapter 3 that would kill an entire people also spends a sleepless night trying to learn more about his kingdom. He remembers Mordecai’s aid in saving his life. Concerned that Mordecai had been forgotten, the king instantly honors him. He learns of Haman’s plot at Esther’s banquet, and in a moment of blind anger, he has Haman hung on the same gallows Haman had planned for Mordecai. King Xerxes is an ordinary man: capable of both great things and terrible things, living blindly with no knowledge of the true God. But God still uses him as a tool for saving His people.
Reflect: Who are some secular leaders in our history whose deeds God has used for good? How can this give us hope for the future? How does it shape your view of Christian citizenship?
For the Family: What did Esther ask the king to do for her? How did the king respond? God used Esther to save His people. How does God save us through Jesus? Give God thanks for saving you and your family.
Friday, August 10
Read: Esther 8
A problem for the king is recorded in verse 8: he had previously signed a law giving people permission to harm the Jews on a certain day, and it could not be revoked. Even a king in Persia could not revoke his own law. Still, he realizes he made a mistake and to honor Esther’s request, he gives the Jews permission to fight back should anyone try to harm them. The king shows favor to the Jews, and many Persians convert to Judaism.
Reflect: In spite of her background and reluctance to put herself in harm’s way, God used Esther to save His people. In what ways has God used you, an ordinary person, to help those around you? Read 1 John 4 beginning with verse 7. In what ways does God want you to share His love with those around you in the future?
For the Family: Who did Esther want the king to save? What did the people do after being saved? How do you celebrate with your family what God does for you every day?
Saturday, August 11
Read: Esther 9-10
Haman uses something like dice (pur) to decide the fate of the Jews. However, God is in control from the background protecting them. In verse 22, Mordecai changes days of violence into a celebration of God’s salvation, a feast and time for ordinary people to help others by giving gifts to the poor. That feast is still celebrated by Jewish people today. It symbolizes that their trust is in God and not in the dice (pur).
Reflect: Many will fall under the curse of Haman’s evil, yet the king turns to his chosen, queen Esther with favor (9:12). How has the curse of sin impacted our God and King’s household? How has He shown you favor in exchange for His suffering?
For the Family: Why was Mordecai held in high esteem by the king and his people? How does God show His “high regard” and deep love for you every day? Pray with your family to thank God for His love.