Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.” “If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.” “Bring Haman at once,” the king said, “so that we may do what Esther asks.” So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared. As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, “Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.” Esther replied, “My petition and my request is this: If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question.” (Esther 5:3-8)
Before we dive into the details of today’s passage, let’s first establish some context for the Book of Esther.
The book is set in the kingdom of the pagan King Xerxes who is quoted above. After banishing Queen Vashti from his presence forever, Xerxes regretted his decision and set out to find a new queen. To make a long story short, Esther—a Jew living in exile—became that queen.
Esther is clearly held up as a hero of this book, for good reason as we shall see throughout this series. But she is an imperfect hero to be sure.
For starters, we are told that Esther deliberately concealed her Jewish faith in her new place of work (see Esther 2:10). Then, when a royal official named Haman led a plot to exterminate God’s people, Esther initially refused to ask the king for help (see Esther 4:6-11). Finally, when Esther did decide to speak up for the Jewish people, today’s passage shows us that she got cold feet—twice! The king made it clear that he was ready to give Esther whatever she requested, but she punted, deferring her answer to two subsequent banquets.
As we will see next week, Esther had courage, but it was clearly what author Jessica Honegger calls “imperfect courage.” And yet, God was able to use that imperfect courage to save his people.
This is a theme we see throughout Scripture: God choosing the timid, the weak, and the imperfectly courageous to do his work. You see this in the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Rahab, Noah, and David just to name a few.
Is there sin in your past that is subtly keeping you from believing that God can use you for his redemptive purposes in your place of work? Is there something you know God is calling you to do at work (report a fraud, invite a co-worker to a Bible study, etc.) but you’ve been waiting around for the perfect time and courage to do it?
Be encouraged by Esther’s example. God doesn’t use perfect people or perfect courage to do his work in the world. He uses ordinary, broken people to do extraordinary acts of redemption so that he alone will get the glory.