Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday in Pentecost, Proper 20: Providentially placed

Opening Sentence
I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord." Psalm 122:1

Day by Day

Collect of the Day
Grant us, Lord, not to anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things which are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 80

Lessons: Esther 4:4-17; Acts 18:1-11; Luke 1:1-4, 3:1-14

Strangely absent throughout the book of Esther is any mention of God. His name is never invoked, never spoken, even by the devout Jew Mordecai, Esther's uncle. Yet, in this reading, the hand of God is evident in every detail.

The Jews, dispersed throughout the kingdom of Ahasuerus (the king's title, not his name), are to be exterminated. The evil Haman has prevailed upon the king to issue a decree because he is angry with Mordecai for refusing to bow to him. Mordecai, however, appeals to Esther, whom Ahasuerus had chosen as queen in place of Vashti, to plead the cause of her people before the king. Esther is initially reluctant, citing the law that one must be called by the king in order to enter his inner court. Having not been "called to come to the king these thirty days" (v. 11), Esther does not wish to imperil her own life.

But imperiling her own life is exactly what Esther will be doing if she remains silent. "Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews," Mordecai warns her. "For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish" (vv. 13-14a). Mordecai has faith that God, though his name is not mentioned, will deliver his people in some way. He knows the decree against the Jews will not have its intended result, but he also knows that Esther, being providentially placed in a position of authority at a time when she can be used as God's instrument of deliverance, would not be saving herself but condemning herself if she fails to act. "And who knows," asks Mordecai, "whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (v. 14b).

Mordecai's response emboldens Esther. She calls on all the Jews in Susa to fast on her behalf as he prepares to approach the king. Being a Jew in the palace will not protect her from the king's decree. But her presence there is no mere coincidence. God, though his name is not mentioned, has placed her there for the purpose of saving his people and making his name known throughout the kingdom.

Because He Lives