December 18 – Day 18
Ornament – Esther
Esther and Mordecai belong to the period after the Babylonian exile, when Babylon had been replaced by Persia as the ruling power. The story is set in Susa, one of the Persian capitals, during the reign of King Xerxes I.
Some of the Jews had returned to Judah and lived in the freedom found there. Others, like Esther and Mordecai, were still in exile. As a minority, the Jewish people were viewed with suspicion and lived under the threat of the land’s laws.
When Mordecai perceived all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. And in every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes. Esther 4:1-3
When Esther learned of Mordecai’s distress, she was greatly grieved. Even so, she didn’t understand the depth of his despair. She dispatched a new garment to him. When Mordecai didn’t replace that which was rent, Esther sent a messenger to find out why. It was then that Esther learned of the king’s decree, written in Haman’s hand, to decimate the Jewish people.
Initially, Esther didn’t know how deep the devastation dug. Mordecai’s reply revealed that it sprang from the soil of the throne. He asked that she would go and uproot the seed sown against their people, but Esther refused, believing God could find another way.
Mordecai knew the darkening days held more than palace intrigue. For this edict to be executed was about more than extinguishing the light of a people. It also delivered the dark truth of what the people had not rekindled.
It was the fervent hope of a portion of the Jews placed in Persia to rebuild the Temple and reestablish the priesthood one day. Others carried not the hope that the Temple would be restored as the center of worship in days to come.
Pappa’s people were scattered and dispersed, at odds with themselves.
Among the people there was a constant battle for power and open warfare to obtain it. Over this, Mordecai grieved greatly. Through exile, the people had lost the truth of who they were.
Two royal edicts were in force. Both were issued by the court of Shushan. The first bore the date of the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, as that upon which the Jews’ death sentence would be carried out. The other edict had inscribed the twenty-third day of the third month as the day of sword and slaughter. Edict two however, allowed the Jews to defy death and defend themselves.
Mordecai’s grief was greatened by the knowledge that the people would rather draw a sword than be drawn together. For victory to have a voice, they would need to become a band once more, bound to the purposes of their God. He believed Esther was the one called to extract their hearts from exile.
Mordecai conveyed a final note to Esther, mute and motionless:
Relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14
Now moved, Esther sent word to Mordecai to gather all the Jews in Susa and call them to a fast. A three day fast. A resurrection feast. A reminder of who sets the table, who has sustained and saved them, for this moment.
Esther would go to the king after the fast, even though it would break the law.
If I perish, I perish. Esther 4:16
This was not a statement of defeat. Truly, it was not a declaration of death, for Esther now recognized the fullness of what would be exterminated. Not just the death of flesh and blood, but the demise of the story coursing through their veins, the hope of their hearts.
The Hebrew word for perish is ‘abad’ and means “a meaningless extermination of hope.” If truth is no longer told, life is simply something to survive. To perish means “to halt harvest, hope, home, names and nations.”
All would become funeral’s dirge, if Esther did not live as intended and invited. Every evidence of God’s victory would vanish. Death would find the minds of men, for none would think upon Him again. Without remembrance, celebration ceases. Joy is a consequence of truth. Without it, frailty forgets, hearts fade and earth fails. We cannot rejoice without living His way.
This, these things are what Esther fought for, what Mordecai ached for. Their devotion delivered a decisive day. From that day, they took a course to spread the word, perpetuate remembrance of it, for posterity.
The history was written and dispersed among all the Jews, in all the empire’s provinces, near and far. The first edict severely sent made them aware of the danger. Edict two dispatched the dare of their deliverance. Now two expressions of the extravagance of God were extended from Mordecai and Esther. Two days would be set aside, as human appointment, to be held by the people as holy.
Mordecai and Esther remained resolved to remember. They bound plight and praise to the posterity and prosperity of their people. It is said they wrote it in all authority. In authorization of all that is good. Their authority was wrapped tender.
“If you do so, you shall do well. Be well.”
And the people took the joy of their journey upon themselves. They ordained remembrance to remain. Their common consent has been carried to us, a token of affection to history and hope. Purim.
What child is this who came and made mankind more than we every could have been without His cradle, cross, cave and crown?
Deliverer, Helper, Redeemer, Lifeguard. One who brings salvation so specifically, to all who need. He is utterly unashamed that we need Him, have need of Him to save.
Savior, ‘moshia’ in Hebrew, means “to deliver.” A Savior is not one who takes you away from something destructive or deadly. No, He is one who takes you to where you have always been meant to be, to life. This Saving One, comes for us while binding us to the salvation of an entire people. The entirety of His people. He comes so we might go.
Savior – ‘moshia’ – one who “makes wide” and “makes sufficient.” He sufficiently saves.