Cross Words: Identity, justice, and the grace of God

By Isaiah Pauley

I’m not one to write about current events. I wholeheartedly believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, and my goal is always to present it faithfully. My object in writing this week is nothing more or less than that. But the connection between Esther 7 and the current upheaval of our American society is striking.

For the past fifteen weeks, I’ve been writing on the Book of Esther. And today, I’m continuing with chapter 7. If you remember, Haman has just been humiliated. Upon devising a wicked plan to kill Mordecai, he visits the king early one morning to discuss the matter (see Esth. 6:4). Much to his disappointment, however, Haman is summoned to lead a parade in honor of the very man he seeks to kill (see Esth. 6:10).

Afterward, Haman runs to his home in tears, seeking pity from his wife and friends (see Esth. 6:12-13). While all of this is happening, Esther is preparing a banquet for Haman and King Ahasuerus. Why? Well, because this villain named Haman is also plotting a genocide against the Jewish people. And with that in mind, Esther wisely holds a feast to confront Haman’s sin and save her people from death (see Esth. 4:16).

“So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. And on the second day, as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king said to Esther, ‘What is your wish, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.’ Then Queen Esther answered, ‘If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king’” (Esth. 7:1-4 ESV).

It is here, after several years of hiding her Jewishness (see Esth. 2:10), that Esther identifies with her people. And this connection is the first I seek to make between Esther and the current state of our country. After all, the concept of identity is trending.

Since the unjust death of George Floyd, thousands of protestors have gathered in support of the black community. Signs reading “Black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe” have covered cities across America for days. Why? Because people are trying to identify with those who have suffered the heartbreaking consequences of racism. And by identifying with the vulnerable, they intercede for change.

The same is true of Esther in chapter 7. Identifying with the Jewish people is the first step in her plan to save them from unjust death. But that’s not all she does.

“Then King Ahasuerus said to Esther, ‘Who is he, and where is he, who has dared to do this?’ And Esther said, ‘A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!’ Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen” (v. 5-6 ESV).

Esther seeks justice. Talk about another hot topic in the news today. The concept of justice is filling headlines left and right. But how are we to seek it?

In Esther 7:7-10, we see justice being served. The Bible says, “So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the wrath of the king abated” (v. 10 ESV).

So, what does Esther teach us in our pursuit of justice? Well, her approach is commendable. Earlier in the book, we find her calling upon every Jew in Susa to hold a fast on her behalf for three days and nights (see Esth. 4:16). Rather than rushing into something, Esther carefully lays down an effective plan.

Then, she courageously approaches the king, inviting him and Haman to a banquet (see Esth. 5:4). But wait, there’s more. As the banquet draws to a close, the king asks Esther for her wish. But instead of confronting Haman then and there, she invites them to another banquet the next day (see Esth. 5:8). And as we know, during this second banquet in chapter 7, her plea for justice is met.

With prudence and patience, Esther crafts her words. With God behind her, she seeks justice in the right place at the right time. And this leads to the beautiful display of justice in the Book of Esther that causes anyone to smile.

Because we’re made to love justice. God calls us to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with Him (see Micah 6:8). But our idea of justice will always be skewed until we recognize the depravity of our own hearts. You and I are just as guilty of sin as the most racist man in America. But God, in His grace, has given us His Son to make us right with Him. And just as King Ahasuerus’s wrath abates upon the death of Haman, so God’s wrath against us abates upon the death of Christ (see Gal. 3:13).

We must identify with the vulnerable and seek justice where justice is due. But make no mistake about it, justice cannot be understood rightly apart from the Word of God. And the beauty of grace is that a sinner like me and you can find forgiveness through Christ. I pray that fuels our fight for justice in this country both now and forever.

By Isaiah Pauley

Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.

Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.