Esther and Persecution

Whilst we can understand Haman’s anger at Mordecai’s refusal to bow down to him, nothing prepares us for the full extent of his malice. He is intent not only to destroy Mordecai, but all the Jews (Esth 3:6).

Of course, Haman couldn’t just go about ethnic cleansing without some kind of legal justification, so he portrays the Jews as being rebellious against the king, following their own laws (Esth 3:8). As with many false accusations, this one succeeds because it contains an element of truth – the Jews did indeed live by another law, but as we have already seen, it was unfair to characterise them as bad citizens. It is interesting to note that Haman’s strategy is to portray God’s people as those who “should not be tolerated” – a phrase we are starting to hear increasingly in our own day.

I’m sure we know that persecution is sadly as prevalent as ever. A couple of weeks ago our church received the shocking news of the murder of pastor Artur from Daghestan (please pray for his family and church). Countless other stories of modern day persecution could be told, ranging from the extreme of martyrdom to more small-scale intimidation and discrimination increasingly faced by believers even in supposedly “tolerant” countries.

Behind this persecution surely lies the devil, who wants to eradicate Christianity. His strategy is threefold: to “kill, steal and destroy” (John 10:10). Literally, in some countries Christians are killed for their faith, as the devil, like Haman, seeks to wipe out the people of God. He also attempts to steal the truth of the gospel from us, to make us powerless and ineffective, and defeat us from within. And he seeks to destroy the church’s witness by undermining its reputation, whether by slanderous accusations, or by tempting its leaders into sin.

The New Testament calls on us to expect and endure persecution (1 John 3:13; Heb 12:13). This does not mean we are not to pray for protection for ourselves or those in dangerous places, but it does mean that we need to be those living with an eternal perspective who can say, with Paul, “to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil 1:21).

More resources on persecution

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