Esther and Revival

There is a remarkable statement in Esth 8:17 which says that “many people of other nationalities became Jews”. What does that mean? Did they really convert to Judaism, worshiping the Lord and being circumcised? Or is it that they just claimed to be Jews, or were supportive of the Jews, or respectful towards them? A clue to the fact that these conversions may be less than genuine is that we are told that they were motivated by fear.

But why side with the Jews now? In ancient times, it was taken for granted that the gods of a subjugated nation were considered weak and powerless. But all of a sudden, Mordecai the Jew has become Prime Minister and Esther the Queen is also revealed to be a Jew. Suddenly, Yahweh, the God of Israel was recognised to be a powerful God. It is reminiscent of the incident in 1 Kings 18:38-39 where Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal, and as the fire falls on Elijah’s sacrifice, the people cry out “the LORD, he is God, the LORD, he is God”.

Several ingredients common to many revivals are to be found in the Esther story:

  • It starts with a desperate situation. Things reach rock bottom for God’s people.
  • As a result, God’s people start fasting and praying. A recognition that we need God to break in.
  • God raises up an unlikely hero. Often the people God uses in revivals are very ordinary, otherwise unremarkable people, who were simply surrendered to do his will and hungry for him to act.
  • God shows up in power. In the Esther story it is by God sovereignly reversing the fortunes of Haman and Mordecai so they effectively trade places, resulting in the deliverance from annihilation of the Jewish people.
  • People are converted. It is of course uncertain as to how many genuine converts there were in Esther’s time, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to assume that there were some. And surely it resulted in many backslidden Jews returning to God wholeheartedly.
  • Society is transformed. Even those who are not converted are often impacted by revival, as Biblical values and practices start to shape community life. We are told that Mordecai continued to use his influence for good (Esth 10:3).

I believe we are living in an time where once again we need to cry out to God for revival. May he stir our hearts to seek his face more and more in these days, that his glory would be seen and his name exalted among the nations (Ps 96:3-5).