If there was one quality that both Mordecai and Esther had, it was courage. Whether you agree or not with Mordecai’s decision not to bow to Haman, it did require courage not to do so, especially in the face of the pressure he received from the royal officials.
And here, he admonished his cousin Esther to have courage too. When Esther heard that Mordecai was in mourning, she immediately sent her servants to find out what was wrong. Mordecai then told her of the coming disaster, and asked her to intercede for them before the king.
But there was a problem. Esther hadn’t seen the king in a month. Whether it was that he was simply too busy, or that perhaps his attention was being taken by one of his other concubines at the time, not only had Esther not seen Xerxes, she wasn’t sure if he wanted to see her.
One wonders what seeds of doubt might have crept into her heart at that time. Did she start to wonder if Xerxes had found out about her Jewish background, and had passed this law in order to get rid of her?
According to Persian law, it was forbidden to go before the king without invitation. To do so meant death, unless the king extended his scepter to that person. Still, in Persian history, it was not unheard of for a person to send a letter to the king asking for an audience. Esther could have done so, but apparently, she didn’t have enough confidence in her relationship with Xerxes to do even that.
So, with all of these things possibly running through Esther’s mind, you can understand her reluctance to go before Xerxes on behalf of her people, and she told Mordecai as much.
But Mordecai told her,
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 your royal position for such a time as this? (13-14)
Hard words. But Esther did what she had always done, and followed the words of Mordecai. She told him,
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 attendants 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. (16)
People often criticize the book of Esther not mentioning the name of God, but I think there’s little doubt that this time of fasting also included seeking God’s favor.
And God answered. She probably went before the king, heart threatening to beat right out of her chest. But when Xerxes saw Esther, he extended his scepter to her. And with that act began the salvation of her people.
What can we get from this? Sometimes we face hard decisions in our lives that require courage. Sometimes, like Esther, we face hard words that challenge us to do something that we know is right. And it’s so much easier to just do nothing. We make excuses for why we shouldn’t act. Sometimes, those excuses even make a lot of sense. There are (seemingly) good reasons for not doing what God asks us to do.
But courage means doing what God has asked us to do no matter the cost. For Esther, it meant going before Xerxes even possibly at the cost of her life.
There were no guarantees that Xerxes would spare her life. But Esther entrusted her life to God, doing what he wanted her to do.
We too have no guarantees that if we do God’s will, everything will turn out happily. Sometimes life gets much harder. Jesus lived perfectly within the will of God, but he was mocked, beaten, and killed. Many of his followers suffered the same fate, despite being in God’s will.
But as Mordecai said, God has placed us where we are to do his will. So let us follow him, like Esther did, no matter what.
Remember the words of Jesus who said,
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24)