Esther was an undercover agent. Esther wasn’t even her real name. She was really called Hadassah (the Hebrew name for the myrtle plant) originally by her Jewish parents. Who, by the way, we never get to hear much about. Nor does she disclose her Jewish identity while in the court of the Persian king Artaxerxes, until absolutely necessary. She was the opposite of showy and brash, just like her namesake, the lowly myrtle bush. She was humble and unassuming, modest and delicate. However, her codename totally suits her – Esther means “star”, like the tiny star shaped flowers of the myrtle, and sounds just like the Hebrew word “hesstair”, which appropriately means “secret”, or “hidden”. There are wonderful lessons to be learned from this Biblical woman of mystery!
In the shadows…
A well-known fact about the book of Esther is that God also hides between the lines of the story, and his name is not even mentioned once. However, there are countless clues to indicate his activity behind the scenes.
1 Corinthians 10:11 explains that the stories of the first Testament were written down as examples to learn from. The very set up of the story: An ornate palace with woven hangings, silver and golden vessels, furniture, poles and clasps, in “inner room” into which one must not go (or else face death) unless they have met certain strict requirements… An all-powerful king enthroned inside who can grant requests, and royal robes as essential dress code to approach the king in his chamber… all reminds us of the tabernacle, the temple, and of the protocol of our meeting God himself in his throne room.
Approaching the throne with confidence
Esther speaks up on behalf of her people, and the myrtle in Scripture is a picture of intercession. In the story, she asks the Jewish people to back her up with three days of prayer and fasting (three days and three nights – how about that) and then dares to go boldly into the throne room, hoping she will find grace. And the kind king does indeed hold out his sceptre to her, inviting her to approach with confidence.
In that meeting, she finds favour in his eyes, and he encourages her to ask for whatever she likes, even up to half the kingdom.
Which, if you have forgotten, included 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia.
This sceptre itself is very significant, and this symbol is mentioned in a few key places in Scripture. As usual, the very first mention holds the key to its meaning:
“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples”. (Gen 49:10)
This prophecy that Jacob gives to his fourth son, Judah, is a messianic prophecy. The Messiah, as king, would come from the tribe Judah and rightfully hold the sceptre. In Psalm 60:7 and 108:8, God calls Judah his sceptre, and another key prophetic passage is in Numbers 24:17. This prophecy was spoken by Balaam, unaware of the powerful truth of his words:
“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel…”
Yeshua the Messiah did indeed arise out of Israel, out of Jacob. Only through Yeshua is it possible for us to approach the throne of God.
The fate of Israel’s enemies
Balaam later prophesied the destruction of the Amalekites, Israel’s enemy who attacked them mercilessly as they straggled out of Egypt. Years after that, God commanded King Saul to finish them off, but Saul flunked. But then, oddly enough, some descendants of Saul (Mordecai and Esther) were given another chance to carry out God’s instruction, since the evil Haman was a descendant of the Amalekites, still bent on wiping out the people of Israel. It is almost as if the whole scenario had been planned and orchestrated from long ago.
There have been many attempts to destroy the people of Israel as the enemy of our souls plots to eradicate the apple of God’s eye from the earth. Pharaoh tried, the Amalekites tried, and Hitler was filled with the murderous spirit of Amalek, after the same old goal. The people of Israel have always been surrounded by enemies, hostility and death threats, and even today there are political leaders who speak openly of “wiping Israel off the map”. But just as God was covertly pulling the strings to create a supernaturally orchestrated series of events to save Israel in exile back in Esther’s day, so he will keep them today. The Protector of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.
God’s activity in the book of Esther may be only hinted at – a curious nocturnal desire to read the record books, a “chance” midnight meeting in the palace courtyard… but we also read that prayers were sent up from the Jewish people, which implies God was the recipient of those prayers. There is even awareness of God among Haman’s camp – his wife warned him that fighting against Israel is a pointless endeavour:
“If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.” (Esther 6:13).
They understood that the Jewish people had an unassailable supernatural force on their side. As God promises in Zechariah 12, those who come against the Jewish people will only harm themselves in the end.
The King invites us to come
God called Esther to stand up and intercede for the Jewish people, and thanks to her courage and wisdom, the people of Israel were saved. The line of Judah continued, and the Messiah arrived in Israel safe and well in the passage of time. As Mordecai warned Esther, if she did not take that stand, then God would surely just find another way to save his people that did not involve her. But what an invitation! What an incredible privilege Esther was given! And a similar invitation is before us today.
Jesus tells us that it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom (Luke 12:32). Thanks to our Messiah, the sceptre of God, we have the right and invitation to come boldly before the throne of God and ask whatever we wish.
Would you like to step into the legacy of Esther, and intercede for Israel before the King? You are welcome to join us as we petition God for the protection of Israel and for spiritual awakening. Whether you focus on praying on behalf of Israel or for your own people, I think that’s a prayer we can all join in with!
Picture by Paul Morris on Unsplash