My granddaughter and I are memorizing 66 verses together, one from each book of the Bible. It started out as a lofty goal on my part, as I over-enthusiastically planned for us to be finished in one year’s time. Well, it’s going to take us longer than I thought, but it’s proving to be time well spent.
Verse #17 is one of our favorites so far. It’s about a brave young Jewish woman named Esther who was exiled with her people in the Persian empire under the rule of King Xerxes. One day, Esther’s life takes a very unexpected turn.
Here’s how the story plays out.
The King of Persia Throws a Celebratory Banquet
The year was 480 B.C. The emperor called for a six-month war-planning summit, after which he hoped to be able to conquer his neighboring nation of Greece. When the plans were complete it was time to blow off some man-steam, and Xerxes planned a week-long, extremely extravagant banquet for them to do it.
Things get loose around the palace, and Xerxes decides to parade his wife before all the guests. However, Queen Vashti was completely unwilling. As we say today, Vashti wasn’t having it. This was a crowd of mostly men, mostly drunk, and Vashti just wasn’t having it. Can you imagine the looks on the faces of her attendants? The gasps? They most assuredly whispered words of utter disbelief. She’s not going to obey the order of the King of Persia?? Uh-oh, hes gonna be M.A.D.
If Vashti had realized what was going to happen next, she might have been a little more accepting of her husband’s party game, but she stuck to her principles and laid down the law in spite of what might befall her choice. Xerxes was furious. He saw her action as insubordinate, and furthermore, as a possible precursor to a woman’s movement that would lead all the women of the land down the path of feminine resistance.
Queen Vashti Gets Dumped
So what happened to Vashti? She was demoted. Scooted all the way out of the big bed. Dropped like a hot Persian potato. No longer was she Queen Vashti, the empowered. In the blink of a fully-clothed eye she had become just plain ol’ everyday, just like everyone else Vashti.
Four years go by before King Xerxes gets around to finding a replacement for the royal seat next to his own. Of course, he was busy for a while with those war efforts he had planned, but when things settled down, it was time to find a new queen.
The Original Reality Show – Bachelor (B.C.)
Scripture tells us that the king’s advisors came up with a plan. They would round up a mega-sized group of virgin girls and appoint someone to be be in charge of making them ready to present to King Xerxes. When her name was called, each young girl could be invited to spend a night with the king, but, unless he gave her a call-back, she was one and done.
I’m sorry that’s so crude, but it’s true. One date was all each girl got. One night was all she had. Each young woman’s future hinged on when her name was up and whether she could one-up the girl who came before her.
In the middle of 50 million people governed by the Persian ruler Xerxes, we meet a faithful Jewish man named Mordecai and his younger, orphaned cousin, Esther. The search for a new queen had now become a far-reaching process of interviewing 400 beautiful virgins – the most beautiful in all the land. Guess who was collected into the group? Esther.
An entire year of spa days were planned for all the girls. Facials, hair treatments, waxing, eyebrow defining, pedicures, you name it. These little maidens of the land got their teeny little toesies rubbed with royal jelly for a solid 12 months. Have you ever seen an episode of Bachelor? Uh-huh. This was the ramped-up version.
Esther Makes it to the Finals
Esther had so pleased Hegai, the guy in charge, that the Scripture says she “gained his favor so that he accelerated the process of the beauty treatments and the special diet she received.” It was clear that one young woman had surfaced as the favorite.
While this might have been the giggly dream of every other girl in the gaggle, for Esther, it was so much more. She wasn’t like the others. She wasn’t Persian. She was Jewish, and no one appeared to know it. Mordecai had instructed his adopted cousin not to breathe a word of her heritage to anyone inside the palace. In fact, Esther’s guardian who had raised her since the death of her parents, was never far from the palace. Every day she was there, he had taken a walk in front of the harem’s courtyard to learn how she was doing and what was happening inside the walls.
Persia Has a New Queen
Out of all the young women who had bowed in anticipation before the King, it was Esther who made him take notice. He “loved yer more than all the other women” and won more favor and approval from him than did any of the other virgins. Xerxes placed the royal crown on Esther’s head and made her queen. Another banquet was held, but this time, it was all about Esther.
Trouble Begins to Brew
Mordecai is still never far from the palace gates. One day, he overhears some men planning to assassinate the king, so he gets word to Esther, who reports the plot to the King on Mordecai’s behalf. The report checks out, the would-be avengers are hanged on the gallows, and the King’s life is spared.
Sometime later, a man named Haman is promoted to a high position. In fact, it’s so high that he he feels justified in requiring that everyone acknowledge his superiority with a bow. Haman, however, because of his faith in God, refused to bow. Haman’s anger burned against Mordecai to the point of planning his death AND the death of the entire Jewish race.
When Mordecai learns of Haman’s plot for the genocide of God’s chosen people, he sends a very wise message to Queen Esther, the Jewish queen of the Persian people.
Mordecai Warns Esther
“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.” – Esther 4:13
Then He Issues a Challenge
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance 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
Esther Rises to the Occasion
Having kept secret the fact that she was Jewish (at Mordecai’s instruction), Esther now becomes fully and completely aware that she, and she alone, must use her favored influence to save her own entire race from an underhanded plot for their demise. She is the only one who can stand in the gap for her people. Every particle of her pre-ordained purpose will now come together into one courageous act of heroism.
Esther Didn’t Wear a Watch, But She Knew the Time
The amazing story of what happens after Esther receives Mordecai’s message can be found here, but the pivotal point of the whole kit and caboodle is the one verse I chose for us to memorize from this entire book. What I want Kynzie to deeply grasp as we recite this verse over and over in our list of 66 are these three things:
Girls Need a Mordecai
I pray that Kynzie will always seek out the counsel of godly men who will warn her when danger looms, who will challenge her to protect the things and people of God, and men who will encourage her to fulfill her destiny.
Beauty Isn’t Just for Beholding
You can spend a whole year doing nothing but getting facials and spa treatments, but without some inner beauty, you’re just going to be another pretty face. Inner strength and sense of purpose always make a woman beautiful. I would imagine that’s what made her so appealing to the king. I hope Kynzie always uses her beauty for good, and I pray she fully understands that beauty treatments may get her into someone’s palace, but it’s really the favor of the King of Kings that sets her completely apart to do amazing and powerful things.
“For Such a Time as This” Wasn’t Just for Esther
God also intends for my granddaughter and for yours to gain favor from unlikely sources, receive words of warning and wisdom, prayerfully prepare, and then to use whatever influence they might have, wherever they may be, with whomever they may have it, and whenever they may need it, to do the great and mighty things God has preordained for them to do!
Encouraging intentional adventure – for such a time as this,
PS – Memorization idea #1: If you have several grandkids, or if the whole family will join the fun, assign them parts and let everyone act out the story of Esther. When Mordecai speaks the words from chapter 4 that motivate Esther to action, everyone can recite the verse together. Enjoy some after-performance hummus and veggie sticks outside on a chalk-designed Persian rug.
Memorization idea #2: Take your granddaughter or grandson shopping for a new watch! Hold on to that sweet wrist with your left hand, and hold your right hand toward heaven as you pray a special blessing of purpose and direction upon this child you love so dearly.
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Kynzie and “Uncle Keaggy.” Keagon was 12 years old when she was born. He helped build her baby swing and has always been one of her favorite people. May Keagon always be a Mordecai to Kynzie, encouraging her to walk into her God-ordained destiny with his wise and timely words.