The turning point of the book of Esther happens between the two feasts she invites Xerxes and Haman to. But how did Esther know that two feasts, rather than one would be appropriate? She could never have predicted what would happen in between. Why did she feel it necessary to refrain from making her request at the first banquet?
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 favour and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfil 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." (Esth 5:6-8 NIV)
I can think of three possibilities. First, she simply lost her nerve and used delaying tactics rather than coming out with the request. It would hardly be surprising as Xerxes was a volatile and unpredictable character. If this is the case, then we see an example of God’s providence at work, sovereignly orchestrating events according to his purpose. What appeared random was all part of the plan.
Second, maybe this is an example of great wisdom on the part of Esther. Maybe she discerned that the king was not yet in a place where he would be receptive to her request, and she needed to delay. Maybe Esther had been praying for wisdom, and this was the way in which God had answered her prayer.
Third, could it be that she was supernaturally led by the Spirit? Perhaps as she had been praying and fasting, God had spoken to her, indicating what she needed to do. This type of guidance is often criticised by non-charismatics since it is notoriously subjective. It certainly does need to be weighed and tested in the light of the Scriptures, but there is ample Biblical evidence that God is able to speak and guide through supernatural means such as visions, dreams and prophetic words.
We cannot know which of these was the case for Esther, but it is worth pointing out that God is able to guide us through our lives using a combination of these methods. Sometimes, the Spirit may prompt us directly to take a specific course of action, but in most instances, we simply have to make the wisest decision we can based on the information we have available to us and the principles of God Word. And at other times, in his grace, God works despite the decisions we make out of weakness, and uses them anyway for his glory.