Purim: God’s Providence in Esther
By Jeremy Poyner
As most of us are probably aware, the book of Esther in the Bible is known for not mentioning God by name even once. However, upon reading Esther, it is pretty obvious that God’s presence is felt and hinted at throughout the story. In my eyes, the biggest theme in the book seems to be the belief in and the presence of God’s control. This theme is especially poignant now since we are in the season of Purim, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from destruction in Persia. We can reflect on a few instances of this in Mordecai’s dialogue with Esther in Esther 4:8-17.
First, we see a belief of God’s control at a national level. In the story, after learning the plan of state-sanctioned genocide against the Jewish people, Mordecai pleads with Esther to talk with the King. Esther then tells Mordecai that if she sees the King without being summoned, she will be killed. Mordecai replies that she will perish whether or not she speaks out, because of the national decree to kill all the Jewish people. Yet in the midst of his warning of pending danger, notice his words in verse 14: “If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place…”
Incredibly, Mordecai is certain that the Jewish people will be saved, even if Esther doesn’t do anything! This shows that Mordecai believes in God’s providence, as there would seem to be no other way to understand this statement. Mordecai’s belief in the providence of God would certainly be based on an accurate understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. God has always promised to preserve the Jewish people (e.g. Jer 31:35-36). That promise is still in effect today, and we have seen that the Jewish people are still around, despite the plans of wicked men like Haman through pogroms, the Crusades, the Holocaust and many other attempts to wipe out the people of God. Testifying to the everlasting nature of God’s protection of Israel, Paul tells us in Romans 11:1-5 that not only will there always be Jewish people, but that there will always be Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus)!
Secondly, we also see in the book of Esther how God’s control affects us on an individual level. Mordecai tells Esther that if she does nothing in the face of danger, she will die anyway – but encourages her, saying, “who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (v. 14). Mordecai believes that God may have actually ordained Esther to be the means of the salvation for the Jewish people in that situation! Challenged and inspired by her cousin’s words, Esther then says that she will take the risk and see the king, remarking, “If I perish, I perish” (v. 16). It seems that Esther is leaving the matter in God’s hands; she had declared a fast earlier, of which prayer would have been a central part. Her faith in God’s control allowed her to step out into the firing line, so to speak. This is a lesson for all of us as believers, whether Jew or Gentile. Believing that God is in control of all things means we don’t need to fear anything or anybody. Therefore, we are free to live obedient and sacrificial lives for Yeshua’s glory, as servants in a hostile world. Things may not turn out for us the way it did for Esther, and we are not promised that we won’t suffer. Rather, we’re promised something far greater – that the God who is in control of all things will work them for our good, so that we will be conformed to the likeness of Yeshua, and ultimately to be glorified with Him in eternity (Rom. 8:28-30).