I tend to be impatient when someone tells me a story. While the storyteller rambles on about this or that, I think to myself, “Just get to the point, bro.” (Though, in all honesty, it’s usually a gal). But you can only imagine how I feel when my TV show is interrupted by a commercial. To be honest, I have a hard time imagining it, too, because I never watch TV. But you get the point.
I say all of that to say this: reading Esther 5 reminds me of being caught in the plot of a great story, only to find intermittent pauses here and there. And I’m tempted to say, “Okay, just cut to the chase.” Until I’m reminded that this is God’s Word, and those pauses serve a good purpose.
So, let me quit rambling and get to the text.
If you remember, Esther 4 ends with Esther fasting for three days and nights. Why? Because she’s about to approach King Ahasuerus and speak on behalf of her people who are under Haman’s plan of death.
“On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace” (Esth. 5:1 ESV).
Let us first notice that Esther actually does what she sets out to do. Her prayer and fasting lead to action. And I think we would do well to learn from her example.
You see, I think we often use prayer as an excuse. Instead of taking the steps we know we should take, we keep praying about it as if prayer justifies our inaction. And before long, we’re praying for God’s will in a particular situation without even looking for or expecting an answer. I’m not negating the importance of prayer, but I wonder sometimes what kind of intentions we have when we do pray. Rather than “sleeping on it” for ten years, Esther takes a step of faith.
“And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter” (v. 2 ESV).
Well, she survives. That’s a good sign.
“And the king said to her, ‘What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.’ And Esther said, ‘If it please the king, let the king and Haman come today to a feast that I have prepared for the king’” (v. 3-4 ESV).
So, here’s the first commercial break. Rather than asking the king to spare her people at that moment, Esther invites Ahasuerus and his evil sidekick to a banquet. But Esther, by the grace of God, is walking strategically before the king.
Iain Duguid observes, “Esther was playing the king like a trophy fish, taking her time and not rushing to reel him into her net.” Perhaps her drawn-out approach is due to the size of her request. After all, as Duguid notes, “… she was asking for the reversal of an irreversible law, which had been sponsored by the most powerful man in the empire and signed with the king’s own signet ring.” Let alone Ahasuerus’s loss of ten thousand talents. And his reputation. Besides, hasn’t Esther concealed her Jewishness up to this point in the story? I mean, her concern for the Jewish people will certainly reveal how she herself is a Jew.
“Then the king said, ‘Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther has asked.’ So the king and Haman came to the feast that Esther had prepared. And as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king said to Esther, ‘What is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled’” (v. 5-6 ESV).
The curtains have been drawn. The spotlight focused on the queen. And the announcer begins, “And now, ladies and gentlemen, the moment you’ve all been waiting for.” As we stare with eager expectation, awaiting her request. Only to realize there’s another interruption.
“Then Esther answered, ‘My wish and my request is: If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my wish and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come to the feast that I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said’” (v. 7-8 ESV).
But God is working—even in the interruptions. And His timing is perfect. After all, despite Haman’s dumb plan and Esther’s wise approach, God is sovereign.
“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov. 21:1 ESV).
Things are about to get intense. Stay tuned. But until next time, let’s prayerfully seek the Lord, take the steps we know we should take, and trust in His perfect timing.
Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at www.isaiahpauley.com. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.