“Drama, power, romance, intrigue – this is the stuff of which best-selling novels are made.”
This is the opening line for my Bible’s commentary on the book of Esther, and they’re right. But they’re also missing a word: gentleness. You see, I could go on and on about how heroic Esther was and how inspiring her bold choices are, but something that is so often missed is the way in which she became queen and saved her people. Yes, she took daring risks and it took a tremendous amount of strength and power to do what she did…but she wasn’t brash, nor was she arrogant or boastful. Instead, she approached her fears, and the mountain that stood before her, with gentleness.
One thing that’s really cool about Esther, is that she has an entire book in the Bible dedicated to her story. Unfortunately, though, I can’t fit it all into here, so I’ll do my best to summarize for you. (Though, I highly suggest you read through this book…it’s phenomenal.)
So there was this king, Xerxes, who reigned in the citadel of Susa, and by his side was the queen, Vashti. On the last night of a seven-day banquet, Xerxes called for his wife to come before him and she refused. Fearing he would lose all respect, both as a king and a husband, a decree was written.
“Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.” (Esther 1:19-20 NIV)
When the king was no longer angry, he realized what he had done. His attendants proposed this:
“Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful girls into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. Then let the girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” (Esther 2:2b-4 NIV)
This is where Esther comes in.
“Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah. Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.” (Esther 2:5-7 NIV)
Esther was among the many women who were brought to the harem, and after spending a year in preparation she finally, and humbly, went before the king. Long story short, she won the favor of everyone who saw her…including the king’s. She pleased him more than the other girls, and so he made her queen and held a banquet for her. Later down the road, she even helped her cousin Mordecai expose an assassination plot against the king!
In the third chapter of Esther we see Mordecai refusing to bow before Haman, who had been given a seat of honor from the king. This enraged Haman and he began to look for a way to destroy not only Mordecai, but his people as well – the Jews. When Mordecai learned of this, he mourned greatly. And when Esther heard about Mordecai, she ordered one of the eunuchs assigned to her to find out what was troubling her cousin. Esther knew she should not approach the king, for she could be put to death, but Mordecai’s response to her worry was this:
““Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”
Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”” (Esther 4:13b-16 NIV)
Now, I know there’s a good possibility that I’m totally overloading your brain with all of this information, but did you see what just happened there? Do you see how willing Esther was to give up her own life, for her people? And yet this is only the beginning. In the course of the next four chapters, we see it all unfold.
“On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the golden scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the scepter.” (Esther 5:1-2 NIV)
(In case you’re wondering, the answer is yes. Esther did just risk her life to stand before the king.)
“Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.”
“If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.”
“Bring Haman at once,” the king said, “so that we may do what Esther asks.” (Esther 5:3-5 NIV)
The king and Haman join Esther and again Xerxes asks Esther what her request is, but her response is the same…that the king and Haman join her for another banquet. Before we move on to the next banquet, I want you to notice how Esther’s attitude is during these last scenes. Esther knew she had to be courageous to go before the king, but instead of storming in she simply waited for his attention. Every action she takes toward the king, and every word she speaks to him, is done with gentleness, and in a way to please him. I wonder what our lives would look like, if we were to be intentionally gentle in everything we do and say. Not weak, but humble and graceful, like Esther.
Now, the king and Haman go to two more banquets, and during the last one Esther reveals Haman’s plot to destroy all the Jews. Long story short, Haman is punished and Esther’s people are saved. Which is an enormous deal, but not what I’m focusing on in this article. And I’m not going to lie…focusing on Esther’s gentleness instead of her courage, is hard to do. But it’s still so important.
In 1 Peter 3:4 (NIV) it says, “Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
This describes Esther so perfectly…as someone with a “gentle and quiet spirit”. Winning the favor of so many people was a huge part of Esther’s journey, yet her worth was not found in them. Her approach to such a huge challenge in her life was not to be bold in anger or react brashly, but instead to be bold in the form of gentleness and to use her quiet spirit to win the favor of Xerxes, and save her people.
My challenge for you today, is this: be like Esther. Don’t let your circumstances or a bad situation threaten who you are in Christ, or dictate your reactions. Instead, let gentleness rule your thoughts. Let it take over when the anger creeps in, and let it be the foundation of your boldness.
Esther chose gentleness to fuel her courage… will you?