There is an incident recorded in Old Testament Scripture in which the Jews, exiled in Persia, faced annihilation by a wicked man named Haman. The king of Persia had married a beautiful woman, who was secretly Jewish. Her name was Esther. The king loved her very much. Esther was favored by the king but still had a lot of restrictions, one being she could never initiate an approach to the king. She had to be summoned into his presence at his discretion.
Esther learned from her Uncle Mordecai of a plot by Haman, who sought position and power through any means possible to destroy the Jews. Haman especially hated Mordecai. Haman sought to be honored by the king, but instead Mordecai was honored for saving the king’s life, infuriating Haman even more. Haman deceived the king into signing a death warrant for all Jewish people, including Mordecai.
Mordecai discovered the plot and secretly discussed the problem with his niece Queen Esther. He told her she could save her people by talking to the king on their behalf. To do so would mean she would expose that she was Jewish and potentially be numbered among those decreed to be killed. She would also have to approach the king, which could very well mean banishment or even death. It was a risky proposition for Esther.
Mordecai served God and realized that, in spite of the evil plotted by Haman, God was faithful and would provide a rescue. Mordecai encouraged Esther saying “For if you remain silent at this time, 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).
The year 2020 has started out to be a very challenging year for all of us. I saw a meme recently that asked if we could unplug 2020 and re-plug it in to reboot the year and start over again. Pandemic and civil unrest, fear and uncertainty cause us to wonder why us? Why now?
I am sure Esther and Mordecai wondered the same thing. But they realized that they were living in unprecedented times. So are we! Our generation has not seen such as time as this. And we are smack dab in the middle of it. As much as we wish it would just all go away, we are stuck with it for now.
How do we choose to deal with this? Run away and hide? Pretend it doesn’t exist? Ignore it? Retreat into our little corner and justify it all away with some simple platitudes. Maybe Esther considered some of those options. But Uncle Mordecai gave Esther a reality check and said “This is real and you have to do something about it.” “Who knows but that you have come to this place in your life for such a time as this.”
I considered the last time the United States faced a pandemic and learned that it was the influenza pandemic, also known as the Spanish flu of the early 1910s. That meant that many of our grandparents or great-grandparents went through this same thing. I remember reading the Sunday School statistics of my grandfather’s church during the influenza. The attendance records recorded who was present and who was sick with influenza. It brought home the reality that half the class was sick making me wonder how many died.
I am thankful today for medical people working diligently to care for the sick, for those other “front line workers” who keep life going so we can keep going. And maybe some reading this are some of those critical people making a difference these past few months. Whether your role has been recognized or not, you are appreciated. And maybe you were raised up for such a time as this. Maybe you were raised up for such a time as this to begin dialogue about race relations and how we can truly learn to love our neighbor “with liberty and justice for all.”
For Queen Esther, she did not face the difficult circumstances alone. God was with her and encouraging her and giving her courage through her faithful Uncle Mordecai. She talked to the king and her people were spared. Haman was punished for his plot and deception.
God is with you, too. And I pray God sends you a “Mordecai” to encourage you and also to give you courage to face the days ahead. Hebrews 13:5-6 reminds us “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’”
• Dan Wiese is pastor of the Church of the Nazarene. “Living Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.