Today was the final in the Esther series at chapel. Peter concluded by speaking about the double pain of the story of Esther.
The first reason this story is difficult is it shows us the dark side of one of the world’s richest cultures. With all the creativity, sophistication and wealth of the Persian empire came sexual exploitation, an easy decision for genocide and gross abuse of power. I think this is closer to home than we may realise. There’s a compelling argument to be made that Australia’s prosperity was gained in part by the wiping out of indigenous nations.
While the story is difficult for the depravity it showcases, it’s also difficult for the deliverance it celebrates. In Esther, God rescues his people from destruction. We may ask then, about the instances when he doesn’t deliver them – the holocaust springs to mind or those suffering for their faith around the world.
Peter suggested that for those who know their Bibles well, there are signs of God’s fingerprints all over the book.
Fingerprint #1: God’s people are a blessing to the nations. This is the promise God gave to Abraham right back in Genesis 12. It carries on into Israel’s law-code as well. Here in Esther, we see Mordechai stopping a plot to kill the king – a blessing indeed! There are also some Jews who join the people of God.
Fingerprint #2: God’s people are persecuted by the nations, most obviously by Hamaan’s personal persecution of Mordechai and from that his plot to annihilate the Jewish people altogether.
Fingerprint #3: God protects his people. In Esther, we see Hamaan’s plan frustrated, the Jews allowed to defend themselves and Mordechai raised up to an honorable position.
If these things are true of the Jews, they are even more true of the king of the Jews, Jesus. In him, we see that salvation is of the Jews, from him! We see him persecuted and even crucified. We see that he is not protected from death but through death.
The apostle Peter picks up on how these things are true of those who follow this Jesus, king of the Jews. He writes to his readers as the exiles of the dispersion because the story of the Jewish dispersion is the Christian believer’s story: we live in exile yet we have been chosen to be God’s treasured possession, his holy nation and royal priesthood. We are to be a blessing to the nations living productive lives among them, proclaiming the good news, entrusting ourselves to God and doing good among the nations. We are the people of God. In our lives, like in Esther’s we see the fingerprints of God. We are both persecuted and protected and in both situations, are to be a blessing to the nations.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.