Esther and Providence

Most commentators agree that if Esther teaches any kind of theological “lesson” at all, it is the doctrine of providence. Providence is the term used to describe the way that God orchestrates the seemingly random events of life to fulfil his wider purposes.

The clearest example can be found in Esther 6:1-6. It is the turning point of the book, yet strangely enough, neither Esther nor Mordecai, the book’s “heroes”, do anything in this section. Maybe God is the hero after all in this book that never even mentions him.

At just the right time the king had a sleepless night. He happened to choose just the right thing to do – request that the chronicles be read to him. They happened to read from just the right place – the story of Mordecai. Despite trying to fall asleep, Xerxes happened to be paying attention at just the right moment. He happened to ask just the right question – had Mordecai been rewarded? Haman then happened to show up at just the right time – too late to realise that it was Mordecai who was in line for being honoured. And Xerxes’ question was phrased in just the right way for Haman to misinterpret it.

None of these things were “miracles” in the sense of being scientifically impossible. On their own, there was nothing surprising about them. But in combination, they were highly improbable. An incredible string of “coincidences” combined to reverse the respective fortunes of Haman and Mordecai.

What does this mean for our own lives? It means that we should be willing to look for God in the ordinary as well as the miraculous. Maybe your life has not been marked by dramatic interventions of God. But that does not mean that he is not working through the apparently ordinary. In fact, even in our disappointments (such as Mordecai being overlooked for reward, or Esther having to join the harem), God may be positioning us to be in just the right place at just the right time. Are we ready to believe that, like Esther, we have been placed in the circumstances we currently find ourselves in, not by chance, but by God, “for such a time as this?" (Esth 4:14)

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