Today I finished Volume 2 in Charles Swindoll's Great Lives series, Esther, A Woman of Strength and Dignity. Although this is a rather short Bible book in the Old Testament, a mere 7 full pages and 7 chapters, Swindoll has written a book 200 pages in length to outline and tell the story of this Jewish woman who lived some 2,400 years ago. Nevertheless, even today, there are a lot of lessons, Godly lessons, to take away from this story.
Esther has historically been a somewhat controversial, perhaps misunderstood, book of the Bible. There have been many heated debates about whether this book should even have been included in the canon as it is the one book of the Bible that never mentions or even alludes to God. However, the remarkable and intriguing story surrounding this woman just serves to show that even when God is invisible, He remains invincible.
The basis of the story is the new queen of the Persian empire Esther, who has replaced the old queen Vashti in the huge and powerful kingdom of Ahasuerus. The newly named prime minister is Haman, who has a long-standing hatred of the Jewish people. Spurred on by this hatred, his new position of power, and perceived insults by Esther's guardian Mordecai, he tricks the king to endorse a plan to exterminate all of the Jewish people that were in the kingdom. However, Haman did not know that queen Esther was a Jew, and he did not know of her relationship to Mordecai. Ultimately, Mordecai and Esther devise a wise plan that saves the Jewish people, does in the evil Haman on the very gallows that he had erected to kill Mordecai, and strengthens the position and liberty of the Jewish captives of the empire. The entire experience gave rise to the Feast of Purim, a holiday that is still celebrated by the Jewish people to this day.
As I noted above, Swindoll has written a 200-page book covering a Bible book that spans only 7 pages. Clearly he does not just limit himself to describing the Biblical text. He takes the opportunity to relate how the story of Esther and her heroism tells a tale of selflessness, courage, and Godly behavior that is relevant at any point in any culture. My favorite part of the story is when Mordecai is trying to convince Esther to step up and go and talk to the king. He tells her "who can say but that God has brought you into the palace for just such a time as this?" (Esther 2:14). God wants to use us for his plans and he will strategically place us to give us this opportunity.
Now, on to the next book in Charles Swindoll's Great Lives series, Joseph, A Man of Integrity and Forgiveness.