18 August 2010 15:19:28

We need to be prepared for battle by arming ourselves with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and prayer.

The life of Esther is an extraordinary story where God’s sovereignty merges with human responsibility and courage. Such a merger shows how God has committed, and to an extent, limited Himself to work with and through human beings.

We see this principle first in Eden where Adam and Eve were given responsibility to “rule” over creation (Gen 1:26–28) and “work in the garden and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15). They were to fill the earth and bring it under their influence and control.

An interesting commentary on man’s responsibility is found in Proverbs 24:30–31: “I walked past the fields of a lazy man and saw that it was overgrown with thorns, covered with weeds and its walls were broken down.” In other words, God does not (normally) step in to make up for man’s laziness or cowardice.

In this context, God has provided seed, soil, water and sunshine – everything necessary for a bountiful harvest. This is an example of His sovereign provision.

The blessing of the harvest will be realised however only when man fulfils his own responsibility to prepare the ground, plant, tend, reap, winnow and bake.

Esther came from humble and obscure origins: she was an orphan and had to rely on the generosity and charity of her cousin Mordecai (Esther 2:7).

It is often said that power and wealth are corrupting influences, yet Esther was untouched by their effects.

Even though she now lived in a palace she never forgot her fellow Jews who lived under persecution.

In fact both Mordecai and Esther realised that God had raised her to a position of influence "for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14).

Here was God's sovereignty; the question was, how would Esther respond – with cowardice or courage? We need to remember that even though she was the Queen, to enter the king's presence unbidden was against the law and punishable by death.

Remember too, that King Xerxes was an angry man who had already deposed one queen because she had displeased him! Esther's attitude is the perfect example of an intercessor.

She was not only willing to identify with her people but also to suffer their fate, even if that meant death.

Esther, as a member of the royal family and government, and as a member of the Jewish race could "stand in the gap" between the two in order to represent them both and plead for mercy.

This is a wonderful picture of Jesus; "God is on one side and all the people on the other side and Christ Jesus, himself man, is between them to bring them together, by giving his life for all mankind" (1 Tim 2:5 TLB).

One of the keys to Esther's life was preparation.

In Esther chapter 2 we read that she was "brought up" by Mordecai, involving preparation of her character, wisdom and education.

We also discover there was a preparation of her physical appearance as she completed a twelve-month beauty treatment and then was prepared by Hegai to be presented to King Xerxes.

When Esther decided to enter the king's presence to plead for the Jews, she went through a period of spiritual preparation by fasting for three days along with her close friends.

Finally, before actually presenting her request she prepared the king by creating two sumptuous feasts so he might be more receptive to her petition.

God too had been preparing the king in various ways, including giving him a sleepless night when he read of his deliverance from assassination by the Jew Mordecai.

The Jews then prepared for the attack of their enemies by gathering together and arming themselves.

Just as preparation was key to Esther's life it is also key to us today. We need to be prepared for battle by arming ourselves with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and prayer.

Above all else however, we have been chosen from humble origins by a King to be His bride for eternity: and we have the wonderful privilege of preparing ourselves with a beauty of character and holiness for that glorious heavenly marriage (Rev 19:7–8).

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