Saturday, July 5, 2014

Grace and obedience

Esther 2:17 NRSV "The king loved Esther more than all the other women; of all the virgins she won his favor and devotion, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti." 
The book of Esther has great historical significance for the Jewish religion because it provides an explanation for the Jewish Purim festival.  A brief synopsis of the book of Esther can help us to understand how this story is a parable of God's unending grace.  Esther is a Jewish orphan who is raised by her Jewish cousin, Mordecai, who was an official in the court of the Persian king, Ahasuerus.  The king was angered by his queen, Vashti, who refused to present herself at a royal banquet.  Ahasuerus removed Vashti as queen and began a search for a new queen.  Many beautiful women in Persia were required to enter the king's harem and prepare themselves for presentation to the king.  The woman who pleased the king the most would become his queen.  Esther was the woman who won the king's favor and became queen.  Haman, who was also a prominent official in King Ahasuerus' court, hated the Jews and planned to destroy them. Mordecai, with the help of Queen Esther, uncovered Haman's plot to destroy the Jews, and exposed this plot to the king.  The king hung Haman for this crime. 
Esther's beauty was more than just her physical appearance.  In Esther 2: 8-11, we learn that Mordecai personally sent Esther to the king's harem and checked on her every day to learn how she fared.  Queen Vashti lost her place because she was disobedient, and Mordecai knew that Esther had an obedient quality that would be recognized by the king. Esther  earned favor with the eunuch in charge of the harem, and obediently submitted to the beauty preparations that were required.  After Esther became queen, her obedience was put to the test.  As the plot to destroy the Jews thickens, Mordecai said to Esther  “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other JewsFor if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” Esther 4: 13-15.  Esther risks her life requesting an audience with the king.  

Through obedience to customs and seeking to honor the king in all that she did, Esther gained the favor of the king for the Jewish people. In this story, obedience, in spite of life risking obstacles, opened a path for the grace of the king to work in the lives of all of the Jewish people.  Likewise, our obedience to God opens a pathway for His grace to pour into our lives.  Obedience does not earn, it opens.