There are two books in the Bible that bear the names of women. One is Esther, and the other book is Ruth. Both are short and both tell us a story of some point in the history of Israel, with very significant meanings. Ruth was a Moabitess (a gentile woman) who had faith to go back to Bethlehem with Naomi, and as a result, was one of the ancestors of King David, and the Lord Jesus Christ. The other, Esther, was a Jew who, at the instruction of Mordecai, hid her identity as a Jew in a time where the Persian Empire ruled the province. The book of Ruth is full of the mention of God, the Lord (Jehovah), but the book of Esther has no mention of God, or Jehovah, or reading the Word, or prayers, although fasting, renting the garments and sackcloth is mentioned in chapter 4.
Esther, in fact, is the only book in the Bible where God, His Word, or prayer (at least directly) is not mentioned at all. Why is that? We may remember that after the captivity of Babylon, and after that empire was defeated, Cyrus, King of Persia, gave way for the Jews who wanted to depart, to go back to their homeland (Ezra 1:1-4). Not many people chose to return. In fact, those who chose to stay in Babylon were the majority, who had already been established there. Many of those from the captivity were born in Babylon and had no knowledge about the grace and mercies of God. In an atmosphere that typified the world today, there is no thought of God, reading His Word, going to church, or even praying.
However, it may not be clear that there is a gospel message in this lovely, short book. Remember, that ALL Scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16) and is profitable for us. What brought about the gospel message in Esther? The name Esther means ‘star’, but she hid her identity and did not reveal that she was a Jew. In chapter 2, the king delighted in her and made her queen instead of Vashti. Then at the end of chapter 2, Mordecai saved the king’s life and it was recorded in the chronicles. In chapter 3, we have a different player on the scene, Haman, who was a descendant of Amalek, the lasting enemies of the Jews (Ex 17:16). It was there in chapter 3 that Mordecai refused to bow to Haman, and when daily asked, he told them that he was a Jew (Esther 3:4), and Jews do not bow to their enemies. When the word came to Haman, it was then that he devised the idea to exterminate all the Jews in every province of the king, and that included Mordecai and Esther, who had become the queen earlier on.
Let us examine the first part of the gospel. It is a decree from God, a decree of death to all mankind since the fall of Adam. In Genesis 2, God commanded Adam not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and told him that in the day he eats it, he shall die (Gen 2:17). Now this was not an instant death, because we all know that Adam and Eve lived, and out of them, people were born into the world. As a result of Adam’s disobedience, sin entered the world, and as a result, death reigns over all who do not know Jesus Christ as their Saviour. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23) and since Adam sinned, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). If we look at Esther 3:12-15 when the king gave the command, even the king of Persia could not change the law once he sealed a command with his signet ring (see Dan 6 when the men enticed the king to put Daniel in the lions’ den). Note that in verse 12, the command was sealed with the king’s ring, and in verse 15 the couriers went out being hastened by the king’s commandment. When God pronounced judgement on Adam, he first cursed the serpent in Gen 3, then gave the words to Adam and Eve. However, He preserved them in light of what His future plans were, in giving His Son to die on the cross and take the judgement that was due to mankind. The judgement was, and is, still there, God never took it away.
What happened after the commandment went out? In chapter 4 we read that Mordecai rent his garments and put on sackcloth, which is a picture of humiliation and crying out to a Person who has the power to overrule. Mordecai then engages Esther to fast and make her petition to the king, and this is a picture of when the situation of mankind is bad, and there is no remedy, what do we do? We can cry out to the Lord and ask Him to save us. It was not the king who would save them, but God working behind the scenes to make certain events happen. We see a parallel between Mordecai and Adam. Mordecai was obedient, yet he was the cause of this command to destroy all the Jews in the province, and God intervened as we will see later on. Adam disobeyed, and caused the whole world to be under God’s judgement (Rom 5:12) but God also intervened and delivered His only begotten Son to take the place of mankind.
Back in the book of Esther, we see events that happen in the lead up to the solution that God will provide for His poor people who were facing execution on an appointed day. Hebrews 9:27 tells us that it is appointed for man to die once, and after this the judgement. In Esther 5, the queen went to the king, and he held out the golden sceptre. What would have happened if he did not? She would die under the law of that empire, as she stated herself in chapter 4:11, but at the end, she put her life at risk to make the petition to the king. It is all clearly God’s hand behind the scenes in this. Then she tells him about a banquet. Then in chapter 6 God caused sleep to flee from the king and he commands to bring out the chronicles, and it was found that Mordecai saved his life. When nothing was done to honour the Jewish man, the king did it, much to Haman’s shame and embarrassment. In chapter 7 we see Haman, the enemy finally judged and hanged for his wicked devices.
However, there is still a problem. The death sentence on the Jews is still out and the enemies, the people who wanted to see the Jews dead, were still going to carry out the king’s command. There was nothing the king could do. Do we see a resemblance here? After Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected, the judgement is still there, for those who do not accept that they are in need of salvation. How to escape this judgement? God did not reverse His decree to Adam, and this decree is still valid today. God gave His solution, and everyone who puts their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, is saved from that judgement that will still come on the world. Many verses like John 3:14-16, Romans 3:24, 5:8, 8:9, 8:13 have been quoted to show the good news of the gospel.
Let us go back to Esther, after Haman had been judged and hanged, and see what Esther requests of the king. This is in chapter 8:5-6, and the king clearly answers her in verse 8 that a command with the king’s sealed ring cannot be reversed. However, he found a way of escape for them, and told her to write for the Jews what seems good to her and her people. The solution is verse 11, where the Jews had permission, sealed with the ring of the king, to stand for their lives and retaliate against the enemies who would come to destroy them. Look at verse 14, that the couriers mounted on horses of blood, and were hastened AND pressed on. Do you notice the difference between this verse and chapter 3:15? There is extra urgency here, so that the Jews in all the province of the king would get the message before the appointed day and defend themselves.
Now here is a little message in all of this. God gave us a solution to our problem of sin and the need for salvation. It is clear that anyone who does not believe in the Son of God and put their trust in Him is under judgement and will be condemned (John 3:18, 8:24 are examples). What would have happened if the Jews in Esther did not defend themselves after the second command went out from the king? Simple, they would all be executed. The first command of the king was still valid, and anyone who would not defend themselves would die. God’s command of judgement in Genesis 2 is still valid. Today, we do not defend ourselves and kill the enemies who seek to do us harm, but we have the assurance of salvation from the Word of God (John 10:27-29 for example) if we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour and trust that His finished work on the cross alone is sufficient to save us from our sins. There is no addition or subtraction from the work of Christ. When we genuinely cry out to God, He will hear and save us, and we will be sealed with the Holy Spirit, never to lose our salvation. What a great Person, and what great work of the Lord Jesus on the cross! This invitation is for everyone, you can never be too bad or too good for God. The completed, perfect work of Christ is sufficient for everyone, there is no one excluded. The Lord says that anyone who turns to Him, He will in no wise cast away (John 6:37).