Neither me nor my parents were among a very happy and excited group of Judean exiles. Under the favour shown them by Cyrus, nearly fifty thousand of the children of the captivity had taken advantage of the decree permitting their return. These, however, in comparison with the hundreds of thousands scattered throughout the provinces of Medo-Persia, were but a mere remnant.
The great majority of us had chosen to remain in the land of our exile rather than undergo the hardships of the return journey and the re-establishment of our desolated cities and homes.
More than 20 years passed, when a second decree, quite as favourable as the first, was issued by my father-in-law Darius Hystaspes, the monarch then ruling. God in mercy provides another opportunity for the Jews in the Medo-Persian realm to return to the land of their fathers.
Only afterwards did I realize that God foresaw the dangerous times that were to follow during the reign of my husband, Ahasuerus. In a way I was grateful that I did not transfer to Jerusalem. Unbeknown to me, God was going to use me as an instrument in saving the extermination of my fellow Jews.
God not only wrought a change of feeling in the hearts of our men in authority, but also inspired Zechariah to plead with the exiles to return.
Zachariah 2:6 “Up, up! Flee from the land of the north,” says the LORD; “for I have spread you abroad like the four winds of heaven,” says the LORD. Zec 2:7 “Up, Zion! Escape, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon.” Zec 2:8 For thus says the LORD of hosts: “He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye. Zec 2:9 For surely I will shake My hand against them, and they shall become spoil for their servants. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me.” Zechariah 2:6-9.
When I think back how God wanted to make us the head and not the tail, I feel so ashamed. But now I became was the popular beauty queen and that was all that counted. I was such a terrible backslider that I even kept my identity as a Jewess secret. Ashamed of what a believed and for what I stood for.
Despite my indifference and the indifference of so many of my Jewish friends, the Lord did not relinquish the high standard He cherished for us. During the long years of our exile, He had given us plenty opportunities to return to our allegiance to Him.
It was those “whose spirit God had raised” (Ezra 1:5) who had returned under the decree of Cyrus. But God ceased not to plead with those who voluntarily remained in the land of their exile, and through manifold agencies He made it possible for them also to return.
Most of us who failed to respond to the decree of Cyrus, remained unimpressible to later influences; and even when Zechariah warned us to flee from Babylon without further delay, we did not heed the invitation.
Meanwhile conditions in the Medo-Persian realm were rapidly changing. My father-in-law, king Darius Hystaspes, under whose reign we had been shown marked favour, was succeeded by my husband Xerxes the Great.
It was during his reign that those of the Jews who had failed of heeding the message to flee were called upon to face a terrible crisis. Having refused to take advantage of the way of escape God had provided, we now were brought face to face with death.
When all this happened, I was not in a spiritual condition to face it. But God works in mysterious ways His wonders of redemption to perform. I had a marvellous conversion.
Satan worked through Haman the Agagite, an unscrupulous man high in authority in Medo-Persia, to counterwork the purposes of God. Haman cherished bitter malice against my uncle Mordecai. He had done Haman no harm but had simply refused to show him worshipful reverence.
My uncle Mordecai recorded following about Haman:
“Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead, Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.” Esther 3:6
Misled by the false statements of Haman, Xerxes my husband was persuaded to issue a decree providing for the massacre of all the Jews “scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces” of the Medo-Persian kingdom.
My uncle Mordecai recorded the following shocking event:
A certain day was appointed on which the Jews were to be destroyed and their property confiscated. Little did my husband, the king realize the far-reaching results that would have accompanied the complete carrying out of this decree. Satan himself, the hidden instigator of the scheme, was trying to rid the earth of us, the Jews who preserved the knowledge of the true God.
“In every province, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.” Esther 4:3.
And the shocking fact was that the decree of the Medes and Persians could not be revoked. My husband could not do it neither could I convince him to do it. This was the sad, desperate situation. Apparently, there was no hope; all of us were doomed to destruction. I could not sleep at night.
But the plots of the enemy were defeated by a Power that reigns among the children of men. In the providence of God, I, Esther, a Jewess who feared the Most High, had been made queen of the Medo-Persian kingdom.
In our extremity Mordecai my uncle and I, decided to appeal to Xerxes my husband on behalf of our people. I was to venture into his presence as an intercessor. “Who knows,” said my uncle Mordecai to me, “It’s possible that you became queen for a time just like this.”
The crisis that I faced demanded quick, earnest action; but both of us, Mordecai and I realized that unless God should work mightily in our behalf, our own efforts would not succeed. I took time for communion with God, the source of her strength as I have never done before in my entire life.
I told my uncle Mordecai, “Esther 4:16 “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so, I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”
My uncle Mordecai went his way and did according to all that I commanded him
God was in all this. The events that followed in rapid succession,—my appearance before the king, the marked favour shown me, the banquets of the king and I with Haman as the only guest, the troubled sleep of the king, the public honour shown Mordecai, and the humiliation and fall of Haman upon the discovery of his wicked plot,—all these are parts of a familiar story.
God wrought marvellously for His penitent people; and a counter decree issued by the king, allowing them to fight for their lives, was rapidly communicated to every part of the realm by “The couriers who rode on royal horses went out, hastened and pressed on by the king’s command. And the decree was issued in Shushan the citadel.” Esther 8:14
“And in every province and city, wherever the king’s command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them.” Esther 8:17.
On the day appointed for our destruction, “the Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt: and no man could withstand them; for the fear of them fell upon all people.”
Angels that excel in strength had been commissioned by God to protect His people while they “stood for their lives.” Esther 9:2, 16.
My uncle Mordecai was given the position of honour formerly occupied by Haman. He “Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.” Esther 10:3
Thus did God bring His chosen people once more into favour at the Medo-Persian court, making possible the carrying out of His purpose to restore us to our own land. But it was not until several years later, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes I my son, who succeeded Xerxes the Great, my husband, that any considerable number returned to Jerusalem, under Ezra.
While queen Esther have a little rest, I will step into her shoes and continue with the story.
What Esther did not realize was the fact that the trying experiences that came to God’s people in her days were not peculiar to that age alone. John the revelator, looking down the ages to the close of time, has declared,
“The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Revelation 12:17.
Some who today are living on the earth will see these words fulfilled. The same spirit that in ages past led men to persecute the true church, will in the future lead to the pursuance of a similar course toward those who maintain their loyalty to God. Even now preparations are being made for this last great conflict.
The decree that will finally go forth against the remnant people of God will be very similar to that issued by Ahasuerus against the Jews. Today the enemies of the true church see in the little company keeping the Sabbath commandment, a Mordecai at the gate.
The reverence of God’s people for His law is a constant rebuke to those who have cast off the fear of the Lord and are trampling on His Sabbath.
Satan will arouse indignation against the minority who refuse to accept popular customs and traditions. Men of position and reputation will join with the lawless and the vile to take counsel against the people of God.
Wealth, genius, education, will combine to cover them with contempt. Persecuting rulers, ministers, and church members will conspire against them. With voice and pen, by boasts, threats, and ridicule, they will seek to overthrow their faith.
By false representations and angry appeals, men will stir up the passions of the people. Not having a “Thus saith the Scriptures” to bring against the advocates of the Bible Sabbath, they will resort to oppressive laws to supply the lack.
To secure popularity and patronage, legislators will yield to the demand for Sunday laws. But those who fear God, cannot accept an institution that violates a precept of the Decalogue. On this battlefield will be fought the last great conflict in the controversy between truth and error.
And we are not left in doubt as to the issue. Today, as in the days of Esther and Mordecai, the Lord will vindicate His truth and His people.
A deeper look at the beauty of every word in the book of Esther.