Today’s reading is Esther 1:1-3:15, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Psalm 35:17-28, Proverbs 21:19-20.
This week we will learn of Esther and her great calling. We will learn of her willingness to used of God, “for such a time as this”. We will learn that God can use our ordinary lives for His extraordinary work. But before we dive into the story of Esther, I want to take a look at a more recent account of an ordinary man being used by God.
Charles Spurgeon was a powerful and famous minister whose anointed ministry began in the mid to late 1800s and the fruit of which is still seen today. Many have called him the “Prince of Preachers”. At the height of his ministry, he spoke twice weekly to thousands of people at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. Yet, in his writings we find that he wrote:
“I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm, one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship.”
Because of the bad weather, he entered a Primitive Methodist Chapel, joining about a dozen people in worship. He wrote that “they sang so loudly that they made people’s head ache,” but he didn’t mind, “for I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they could tell me that, I did not care how much they made my head ache.”
The regular minister did not show up that day, so a member of the small congregation got up to speak. Spurgeon described the impromptu preacher as “a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort…” (In other words, an ordinary man, someone who was an unlikely candidate for the extraordinary.) In fact, Spurgeon went on to say that this ordinary man “was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say.”
The text that substitute preacher had chosen was from Isaiah 45:22, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” Spurgeon describes what happened that day in the following words:
“He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in that text. The preacher began thus:–‘My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pains. It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just, ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. Anyone can look; even a child can look. But then the text says, ‘Look unto to Me.’ Ay!’ said he is broad Essex, ‘many on ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves… Jesus Christ says, ‘Look unto Me.’”
The man continued on for several minutes, until he reached the end of his sermon. Spurgeon went on to say, that suddenly, he saw…
“…the way of salvation. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that work, ‘Look!’ what a charming word it seemed to me! Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me this before, ‘Trust Christ, and you shall be saved.’”
The thing that I love the most about that story is that the person that led the “Prince of Preachers” to Christ was a very ordinary man. He was not a preacher, he was not very educated, but he loved Jesus. And God used that ordinary man to produce extraordinary fruit.
What does this story mean to you? To me? Can it not inspire us to expect extraordinary things in our ordinary lives? God wants to use you. Are you willing to be used despite your ordinary status? God loves to use the ordinary to bring about the extraordinary because then, all the glory is Him alone. Today, let’s offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. Let’s be open to being used be it at home or work, in the grocery store or car line. We may never know until heaven how the Lord uses us. But on that glorious day we will be able to hear those most precious words from the Lover of our Souls…”Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Esther was a young Jewish girl; an ordinary girl who became Queen and helped save her people from sure destruction. It is a great historical account filled with intrigue, suspense and bravery. As I pondered this story it occurred to me that it must be of great significance because it was set apart in Scriptures from the other books.
There are many other wonderful historical accounts of various God-followers found throughout the books of the Old Testament. The histories of many of the great spiritual forefathers are compiled together in the books of Genesis through 2 Chronicles. The stories of better known patriarchs of faith such as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Moses are compiled together in a conglomeration of many important historical accounts, some of which had various contributing authors. Why was this story set apart in its own book, instead of simply being added to the other great historical accounts?
The fact that the story revolves around the life of a woman makes the fact that it was set apart even more significant. This story was set in a time when women’s equality and rights were unheard of. I am sure there is some important reason for it being set apart in a self-titled book, but my own contemplation believes that it is because its message was so important that it did not need to be lost among the numerous other stories. While not more important than the story of our other patriarchs of faith, it must have a message within, historically as well as practically, that merits a pause, a reflection, a remembrance.
My NIV Study Bible states that “The author’s central purpose was to record the institution of the annual festival of Purim and to keep alive for later generations the memory of the great deliverance of the Jewish people during the reign of Xerxes.” Basically, the author of this book had a stone of remembrance to share. Although we do not know who wrote the book of Esther, a study of the story clearly indicates that he was a Jew. He shows great patriotism for his people in his description of the story, and it is obvious that he was not from Judah or Jerusalem but was a resident of one of the Persian cities. So our conclusion about the author might be that he, homesick for his homeland, had a desire to preserve the historical and spiritual implications of this event for the sake of patriotism to his people, and for the sake of his children and grandchildren and even those afar off.
I grew up in a small town in Mississippi which has a significant historical past. The town thrives on its history. Why is it important to remember such things, devoting years of study recalling historical accounts? I believe it is because in looking back we discover pieces of ourselves. History always shows us things that we want to hold on to and things that we can learn from the mistakes that were previously made. And, I believe it is through history that we find the common thread of the faithfulness of our Creator, weaving a tapestry that we are included in as we live out our lives. A significant fact of the Book of Esther is that it is the one book of the entire Bible that makes no mention of God. There is no doubt, however, that evidence of God as sovereign and active deity is woven throughout the story. And the story clearly shows that Esther had a deep, abiding, personal faith, which affected both her actions and the outcome within the story.
What is your history? Think about it for just a moment? What threads of the past did God weave together to create your particular story?
We all have a story. And God longs to write this story with a beautiful, redemptive ending. Some of our stories have lots of twists and turns. Some of our stories are filled with conflict and tragedy. But God is the Author of our stories. Submit your story to Him and let the great Author translate your story into one which becomes a classic in your family, one that is passed down from generation to generation, one that your descendants can reflect upon and say, “Now that was a great story. That changed my life.” Submit your life’s story to Him. You won’t be sorry!