Far more powerful and enchanting, to me, than any fairy tale, is the simple, yet epic story of a young Benjaminite, who grew up amidst the turmoil and temptation of the most powerful civilization of her time, the kingdom Persia. You may have heard of this great woman. Though her name was Hadassah, she later became known as, none other than, Queen Esther. We honor her as the woman who risked her very life to save her people from certain death. Yet, is it just that one deed that we should study about and honor her for; or is there more to her story? I would tell the world that her story does, in fact, go beyond that small, yet, an important moment that is so often spoken of. There is much we can learn from this most noble woman …
Esther or Hadassah was a daughter of the House of Israel, an ancient and covenant people of the Lord. More than a hundred years before her birth, Hadassah's people, due to their great wickedness, had been carried into captivity, by the Babylonians. The Babylonians were later conquered by the even greater civilization if Persia. Now, many years later her people were allowed to return to their homeland. However, many chose to stay in this foreign land (for it had become their new home). This choice to stay angered many people, some in very high places of power and authority.
And now we come to Hadassah's story. When she was still young both of her parents died. Yet, even during (through) this tragedy, Hadassah was blessed. She was taken in by her older cousin Mordecai, who raised her as if she was his own daughter. Mordecai was a very faithful man of God. Under his guidance, Hadassah grew in wisdom, beauty, and faith. She was taught to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to be a covenant daughter of God. She was taught that if she remained true and faithful, then she could, at any time, call upon her God, and know that not only would her prayer be heard, but that it would be answered, as well.
Then, an event occurred that would change her life forever. Vashti, the then queen of Persia, had somehow displeased her husband, and had been put aside. Now the King of Persia, the mightiest civilization of their time, was in want of a new wife. All the fair young maidens were taken by order to the palace harem. Due to her beauty, Esther was sure to be taken. However, before she went, Mordecai changed Hadassah's name to Esther and made her promise not to reveal her heritage to anyone. I have often wondered how she managed to keep her covenants without revealing her identity. Yet somehow she managed. Even more so, she found grace in the sight of the King. Out of all who had been brought to the palace, Esther was crowned the next Queen.
Now, some might think to end Esther's story there. After all, have we not heard aplenty, the story of a commoner finding favor with a prince or king and being crowned the next queen? Do not all those stories end with, “and they lived happily ever after."? This was not the case with Esther's story. If anything, her life became even more difficult. With one misstep she could displease her husband and be stripped of her crown and banished like Queen Vashti before her. She could not appear before her husband, without his summoning her to his presence first; for the penalty of doing so was death. And on top of all this we cannot forget who she was; Esther was a covenant daughter of Israel who was now married to an unbeliever who was also a king with great power. Now, more then ever, she had to keep who she was a secret, even from the man to whom she was given in marriage. I wonder how isolated her life became due to this secret, and what weight she had to bear in silence.
Yet, she trusted in the Lord. Though she did not know the reason why, this must be her lot in life, she trusted that He did. Not long after her marriage, because of a warning from her dear Mordecai, Esther was able to save the life of her husband. Her life would surely change now for the better? After all she had saved the king's life, and he must have been grateful. If that is what you think, then unfortunately you are wrong. The king quickly forgot and life went on as before.
And then it happened. The King, her own husband sent a decree throughout all the land declaring that on a certain day all the Jews (Esther's people) would be put to death. How would you have felt if you were Esther, at that moment, knowing that soon all of your people; men, women, and children, were going to die, and there was nothing you could do to stop it? Even though you were Queen, you held no power. And again how would you feel, if, like she, you were sent a message, from the one person you loved and trusted the most in the world, the one who had raised you, telling you that your people's lives, were in your hands, and that you needed to go before the king to stop this tragedy? Would you have sought to forever hide who you were, in order to save your life, when everyone else would die? Or would you have sent word back reminding Mordecai like Esther did; reminding him of your position, of your helplessness to do anything; for it is death to go before the king un-summoned?
And how would you have felt to have this told you in response, "…Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
At those words Esther knew what must be done. She also remembered the things she had been taught in her youth that if she remained worthy (which she had) that she could call upon God who would hear and answer her prayer. So, she sent word one last time unto Mordecai to have all the Jews join with her and her maidens in fasting and prayer for three days, at which time, she would go before the king, un-summoned though she was saying to them, "…and if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16)
For three days, Esther joined with her people in prayer and fasting. She prayed not for her life, but that of her people. She must have prayed for wisdom to know what to say and do. And that when all was said and done, that the heart of her husband would be softened, and the lives of her people spared. When the three days were completed, she went before the king, knowing that she could die, but also knowing that whatever happened, the Lord was with her, and that. He would deliver her people.
The Lord did hear, and answer that prayer. Esther was inspired in how to approach her king, her husband. She became an instrument in His hands. She watched as her husband's heart was softened. Her life was spared, and people were saved. Esther had discovered her purpose and with that she was released from her secret and could live for the world to see as a true daughter of Israel.
So yes, Hadassah became known to the world as Esther Queen of Persia. Yet, I cannot help, but wonder, if more precious to her, than the title of Queen, was the title of Daughter of Israel and Daughter of God.